Welcome Back, Commander
Developed by Firaxis Games and Published by 2K Games, the XCOM 2 Collection tasks players with liberating Earth from alien occupiers. Feral Interactive brought XCOM 2 to Android, precisely translating what works and, unfortunately, some things that don’t.
XCOM 2 takes place after the titular XCOM failed to defeat the alien invasion from XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The plot picks up 20 years later and tasks players with rebuilding XCOM, uniting the isolated resistance factions and liberating Earth from alien oppression. The XCOM 2 Collection includes the War of The Chosen, Alien Hunter, Shen’s Last Gift, Anarchy’s Children, and Resistance Warrior DLC’s. War of the Chosen stands out for being as much an overhaul as an expansion and disables the unique missions from Alien Hunter and Shen’s Last Gift. Fortunately, you can reenable them in the advanced options when starting a new campaign. It slightly unbalances the game, but the extra content is worth playing through at least once.
It’s also worth noting that XCOM 2 may not perform well on every Android phone and tablet. You can find a list of officially supported devices on the Google Play page or Feral Interactive’s website. The XCOM 2 Collection will still run on many unsupported devices, but there’s no guarantee of stability.
Like the other games in the long-running franchise, XCOM 2 consists of turn-based tactical combat and pseudo-real-time strategic management. The latter takes place in the Avenger, XCOM’s mobile base. Players recruit and equip soldiers at the Avenger, which also contains XCOM’s mobile research and manufacturing facilities. Players decide which new technologies to research and spend Supplies on new items and upgrades.
You can also spend Supplies to build new compartments, which confer a range of benefits. The Proving Ground, for example, lets players convert alien artifacts into experimental weapons and armor. Players can also recruit and assign Scientists and Engineers to boost facilities’ effectiveness. XCOM doesn’t have infinite resources, though. Players need to think strategically when deciding what projects to pursue.
XCOM’s reach is initially limited but players can expand it by upgrading the Avenger and contacting local resistance cells. Periodically, these cells will indicate points of interest scattered around the globe. Exploring these locations may reveal valuable salvage or even talented recruits. Expanding your Resistance Network also opens more opportunities to counter alien activities. In return, you’ll need to defend your new allies from alien attacks.
On the Ground
Ground missions are turn-based and take place on procedurally generated maps. Combat relies heavily on the angle of attack and line of sight, though stats still matter, and there’s an element of RNG. Effective use of cover and elevation are central to victory, and the destructible environments encourage you to think outside the box. Feral Interactive also did a fantastic job of redesigning the interface to work well on mobile. In combat, players can select a soldier by tapping their portrait on the top of the screen. Tapping twice on the screen sends them to the designated location. You can then order them to attack either by tapping an enemy’s icon or selecting an ability from the left side of the screen. The tactical combat is challenging, but extremely satisfying when you pull off that brilliant flanking maneuver or cleverly placed ambush.
Soldiers have different weapons and abilities depending on their class. For example, Rangers can specialize in stealth or close combat, while Sharpshooters prefer to fire from elevation and extreme range. Grenadiers can control the battlefield by destroying walls and laying down suppressing fire. Specialists, meanwhile, can heal and buff allies, hack security systems, and debuff enemies. Later, players can train telepathic Psi Operatives and build SPARK combat robots. Players can also recruit special soldiers from allied factions that they can’t train otherwise. And, of course, each soldier’s appearance is fully customizable. The system has been greatly expanded from the previous game, and players can easily spend hours crafting their perfect alien-hunting team. Just be careful about getting too attached since they’re gone for good if they die.
Down but Not Out
While the game’s tactical combat is a lot of fun, it can also be very unforgiving. One mistake can quickly spiral out of control into a dead squad and failed mission. Losing your best team is, as often as not, the beginning of the end of your campaign. The missions themselves also rely heavily on strict turn limits to create an artificial urgency. As I understand it, Firaxis wanted to encourage a more aggressive playstyle. However, it conflicts with the cover-based combat, which rewards a slower, more cautious advance.
War of the Chosen improved things somewhat but also created new problems. I’m not a fan of the Supply Raids in ruined, zombie-infested cities. It’s a race to steal alien crates before they’re moved, or you’re overrun. These missions are a nightmare in the early game when it’s impossible to snag more than a handful of crates without your soldiers getting eaten or shot. By the time you’re advanced enough to get a useful number of Supplies, you no longer need them. War of the Chosen also added sewer levels to the pool of random missions. Not only are they visually dull, but having them reduces the number of city, town, and forest maps, you’ll encounter. All of which are more interesting and fun to play.
Do these issues make the XCOM 2 Collection unenjoyable? Of course not. They only represent a fraction of the whole game, but they are a significant fraction. Still, I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of missions, and base management is just as satisfying as in the previous game. XCOM 2 was never perfect, but it remains a solid title whether on PC or Android. And at only $25 it costs about $75 less.
Is It Hardcore?
The XCOM 2 Collection, was never completely flawless. Still, Firaxis’ turn-based tactics game remains just as great on Android as it on PC, and for significantly less money.