Welcome back, Commander.
Those are the three words gamers have been waiting to hear ever since Firaxis Games’ less-than-subtle hint arrived last week, implying that an XCOM sequel was on the way. Yesterday, they finally rumbled through computer speakers around the world, confirming the rumors and introducing the first real look at XCOM 2. The exciting in-game trailer showed off a dark future where the XCOM organization is forced to fight guerrilla-warfare-style against a controlling alien presence; not only does the game look great, but by all accounts, it seems like Firaxis listened to its fans and added many features to XCOM 2 based on players’ feedback.
That’s not all, though. Today, lead developer Jake Solomon shared more information about XCOM 2, and outlined the new game’s approach to soldier classes, enemies, gameplay, and customization.
Firaxis Games revealed that, in the new canon plotline for the XCOM series, the world’s governments surrendered to the invading alien force. While the XCOM organization was never defeated, it was forced underground, forming a small resistance force that lurked in the shadows. Now, 20 years in the future, XCOM starts to make bolder moves, attempting to free Earth’s citizens from alien oppression.
Fans of the original XCOM series should be excited to see the return of the Snakemen, which have evolved into a new unit called the Viper. Much like the seekers from XCOM: Enemy Within, vipers can cover long distances and wrap themselves around XCOM soldiers, strangling enemies to death. Unlike seekers, it looks like vipers will be able to yank soldiers out of cover, making them an enemy that must be eliminated before they get too close. Vipers pose a threat from a distance, too, as they wield what appears to be plasma-based weaponry.
Sectoids have also evolved sinceXCOM, doubling in size and sporting a much more humanlike appearance. The new, creepier-looking sectoids feature a much stronger psi ability, and each one will be capable of mind control. As such, they’re no longer an enemy that players can use to level up panic-stricken rookies.
The Advent are the armor-clad security forces that routinely scan human citizens, and protect cities from the impending XCOM threat. Firaxis Games hasn’t revealed whether or not the Advent are alien in origin, and it looks like they’re actually human-based, although the trailer implies that Advent forces could be mind-controlled by nearby sectoids.
There will be five different soldier classes in the upcoming sequel, although Firaxis Games is keeping one of them secret until the game is closer to launch. The other four are evolutions of classes from Enemy Unknown:
- Sharpshooter: Replacing the sniper class, these are long-range sharpshooters who can also use a pistol for close-range combat.
- Ranger: Replaces the assault class, with a strong focus on close combat weaponry. Rangers will be able to use melee weapons like swords.
- Grenadier: Replacing the heavy class; as the name implies, Grenadiers deal with explosives. Grenade launchers look like a new addition to the XCOM.
- Specialist: Replacing the support class, these soldiers control drones that can stun enemies. Specialists can also hack terminals from further away than other classes.
In terms of mission objectives, players will have to face secondary objectives for the first time in XCOM history. In the previous title and its respective DLC, players only had to deal with a single objective, before either evacuating or eliminating all alien resistance. That won’t be the case in XCOM 2. Many missions will emphasize shock-and-awe tactics, making players rush in, secure objectives like hacking terminals or a VIP, and make a hasty retreat before alien reinforcements arrive. It’s a dramatic change of pace for XCOM, and it’s one that looks like it’ll challenge even veteran players.
Stealth will play a large role in XCOM 2, and players will have a huge advantage if they’re able to ambush unsuspecting targets. In Enemy Unknown, alien pods activated by player movement would immediately hustle for cover, which prevented players from being executing ambushes. In XCOM 2, players can position their squad stealthily, which will dramatically change how combat unfolds. Maps are also procedurally generated, which will ensure fresh gameplay and, according to Solomon, much better alien AI.
Solomon also confirmed that customization will continue to be a focus in the series. Naming soldiers and developing emotional attachments to them was part of what made Enemy Unknown so exciting (and unforgiving). This time around, players will also be able to change their soldiers’ genders and nationalities. It’s a light touch, but it makes a large difference when players are trying to model soldiers after their friends and family. Instead of switching outfits entirely, players will be able to tweak individual pieces of soldiers’ uniforms, ranging from their headgear to individual sleeves and pants, creating much more unique-looking soldiers.
There are plenty of more details still out there, and more information about XCOM 2 should arrive during the Electronic Entertainment Expo later this month.
XCOM 2 is currently slated for a November 2015 release, exclusively for PC.