MOD SPOT­LIGHT

Tom Se­nior plays the com­pre­hen­sive XCOM 2 re­fresh Long War 2.

PC GAMER (UK) - - Contents - By Tom Se­nior

The word ‘mod’ un­der­sells Long War

2. Mod im­plies an aes­thetic tweak, a UI cor­rec­tion, a new weapon per­haps. In fact, this is

XCOM 2 as de­vel­oped in a par­al­lel uni­verse. Long War 2 does add lots of new weapons, classes and skills, but all these ser­vice a set of be­spoke de­sign aims that turn

XCOM 2 from a sur­vival strat­egy game into a grad­u­ally paced army and ter­ri­tory man­age­ment sim with ex­panded com­bat en­coun­ters. For play­ers who have mas­tered

XCOM 2’ s story and power arcs, or now find them pre­dictable, Long War

2 is an es­sen­tial down­load. The mod forces you to break out of your habits and re-en­gage with the game again at the most ba­sic level. Even sol­diers are val­ued dif­fer­ently. You can field up to ten in a mis­sion, and you start with a large ros­ter. Con­se­quently, los­ing agents isn’t the body blow it can be in tra­di­tional XCOM, and you have more room to ex­per­i­ment with abil­ity and weapon com­bi­na­tions across your force.

Your whole stance as a re­sis­tance com­man­der feels dif­fer­ent to or­di­nary XCOM 2, which forces you into a re­ac­tive po­si­tion with must-fight emer­gency mis­sions. In

Long War 2 mis­sions are more like leads that you can choose to spend time and re­sources to fol­low up. Or­di­nary mis­sions are pre­ceded by an in­fil­tra­tion pe­riod that asks you to de­vote a squad to a lo­ca­tion for a vari­able num­ber of days. If they achieve a high de­gree of in­fil­tra­tion (rep­re­sented by a per­cent­age marker that ticks up­wards daily), they face weaker forces in that mis­sion.

This in­tro­duces some new con­cepts to XCOM 2. Firstly, you can take a pass on mis­sions. Se­condly, it’s en­tirely vi­able, and of­ten use­ful, to send an un­der-strength squad to a mis­sion, be­cause smaller squads can in­fil­trate more quickly and ef­fec­tively. This cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing sep­a­ra­tion within your ros­ter, be­tween large teams of new­bies and small teams of highly lev­elled, well-equipped crack spe­cial forces op­er­a­tives. Mov­ing be­tween sub-squads in­tro­duces more va­ri­ety to com­bat en­coun­ters as well. In XCOM 2 you’re likely to de­velop a small team of pre­cious war­riors. In

Long War 2 you nur­ture a broad, di­verse sta­ble over a longer pe­riod.

busier com­bat

Even if you de­cide to de­ploy a small squad, com­bat en­coun­ters tend to be busier. En­emy re­in­force­ments can drop in while you’re wait­ing for ex­trac­tion. If a mis­sion is go­ing badly and you choose to ex­tract, you have to wait longer for your ship to ar­rive, and thus fend off more en­e­mies. There are new en­emy va­ri­eties too, such as colour-coded ver­sions of or­di­nary Ad­vent sol­diers with dif­fer­ent load­outs and be­hav­iours.

The mod forces you to break out of your habits and re-en­gage with the game again

These ex­panded fire­fights have an in­ter­est­ing ef­fect on the way chance op­er­ates. By grow­ing the num­ber of chance rolls the game makes, the ef­fects of vari­ance are re­duced over time. You will still see mas­sive swings of good and bad luck, of course, but the length of the cam­paign and the re­duced value of sol­diers soft­ens the harsh­est el­e­ments. The ex­tra bit of ab­la­tive ar­mour that re­cruits wear also helps.

The ex­tra sol­diers and the glut of mis­sions give you more room to en­joy the new classes. The sword­wield­ing Shi­nobi shares some sim­i­lar­ity to the as­sault class, but with a much greater em­pha­sis on

stealth and am­bush tac­tics. At high lev­els, with the right skills, Shi­nobi can break stealth, at­tack mul­ti­ple en­e­mies and re-en­ter con­ceal­ment, or mit­i­gate dam­age with buffed eva­sion rolls (dodg­ing an at­tack means you take a small amount of ‘graze’ dam­age, far prefer­able to the full-whack when fight­ing mid-tier en­e­mies or higher). They are sup­ported by knives and swords, and ben­e­fit from the new SMG weapons, which let you sac­ri­fice mid-range ac­cu­racy for speed. There’s also a new Tech­ni­cal class, mem­bers of which wield a wrist-mounted flame-thrower/rocket launcher sec­ondary combo weapon, which is as amaz­ing as it sounds.

There are plenty of new mis­sion types for these new sol­diers to tackle, in­clud­ing prison break­outs and en­emy base as­saults. The re­wards for these mis­sions have been re­designed to af­fect the heav­ily re­worked map layer. You still fly the Avenger around the globe to camp on spots and suck up re­sources or ac­ti­vate mis­sions, but

Long War 2 in­tro­duces an ad­di­tional layer of ter­ri­tory man­age­ment. Once you’ve made con­tact with the re­sis­tance in an area, you can as­sign re­sis­tance mem­bers based there to dif­fer­ent jobs that gen­er­ate sup­ply and in­tel. You can as­sign en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists to re­gions to sup­ply ad­di­tional boosts. Re­sis­tance mem­bers can also fend off alien in­flu­ence in an area, and Ad­vent moves troops around on the map in an ef­fort to in­stall new alien bases and move the Avatar project for­ward.

pace change

The changes bring a dose of 4X strat­egy to XCOM 2. This slows the pace con­sid­er­ably – this is Long War, af­ter all. This di­lutes the im­pact and drama of an XCOM 2 cam­paign to an ex­tent. The way the core game gives you a nar­row stream of high-stakes de­ci­sions is one of the rea­sons I loved it so much when I re­viewed it last year. How­ever, I’ve found it fas­ci­nat­ing to see how XCOM’s core me­chan­ics work in this new con­text.

Long War 2 is a thought­ful and ef­fec­tive re­work­ing of the XCOM 2 for­mula, and the new weapon, class and mis­sion ad­di­tions are slick and well-in­te­grated – they could have come from Fi­raxis.

Speak­ing of Fi­raxis, it’s great to see stu­dios work with mod­ders, par­tic­u­larly in in­stances where the mod team wants to sub­stan­tially re­work the stu­dio’s orig­i­nal vi­sion. The re­sult is a neat Earth-B take on the con­cept that un­locks hun­dreds of hours of ex­tra play­time.

“It’s just a scratch, sarge. I didn’t need that in­tes­tine.”

No won­der they’re knack­ered, they just fought 20 gi­ant alien snakes.

Look out for the lat­est alien threat – evil mir­ror­balls.

It still feels like your sol­diers miss 90% of the time.

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