Xenonauts 2, a turn-based strategy/tactical game by Goldhawk Interactive for PC recently released in early access, and we received a copy of the game from them. I’ve spent over a week with it and have a great feel for the direction of the game, so let’s take a look at where the game stands now!
Xenonauts 2: XCOM Reborn! Again! Strike That; This Is The Third Time. Fourth?
As you may have gathered from my Aliens: Dark Descent review, I am a long-time fan of the XCOM franchise. I even played the Microprose original as a thirteen-year-old. Though, at the time, I quickly bounced off it and returned to Masters of Orion. Not so much due to difficulty or complexity; I love those…it was all the death.
Your troops in the original XCOM were fragile. Even armored troops could die from an errant splash of plasma from the start of the game. As an idea, I love the concept. Theoretically, it makes each mission tense and lends weight to your choices.
But in practice, I just kept reloading until everyone lived. Eventually, I reached a point where I couldn’t manage to keep everyone alive and quit playing altogether. Many years later, I picked up a copy of XCOM Enemy Unknown and loved it. Still play it to this day. But even if I found the experience much smoother, I still regret losing a lot of the freedom of those earlier games.
If There’s Already a Remake of XCOM, Why Do We Need Xenonauts 2?
Solid point. The fact that there are at least two other follow-ups to XCOM does raise the question. There’s Enemy Unknown, then a sequel, and then a spin-off. It was so successful it created many imitators (see my review of Miasma Chronicles for a great example). They are amazing games, but they streamline a lot. Unlike the original game, you only have one base to manage, your troops are much tougher, and the combat is less complicated, with your troops being limited to two actions each turn.
I know this is supposed to be about Xenonauts, and usually, I’d apologize for getting so off-topic. But Goldhawk Interactive has been very clear about their inspiration for Xenonauts 1 and 2, and where Enemy Unknown has made significant changes, Xenonauts holds the line. That’s not to say the games are identical. There are still many changes, but the core of their game is far closer to the original XCOM games.
You can (sorry, I mean you must) set up multiple bases. Instead of a two-action point system, each troop has time points that give you much more flexibility. Depending on the weapon, they can often fire multiple times in a turn. Most faithful to the original is that soldiers will die. You will fail missions. XCOM is not a breeze, but compared to Xenonauts, it’s a lovely day in the park.
Xenonauts Versus Xenonauts 2
Much like XCOM, when I bought the first Xenonauts I couldn’t finish it. If anything, I gave up even quicker. It was clunky and dangerous, dropping you right into the action without teaching you anything. But I could see the promise there, so I jumped at it when given a chance to try out the sequel. And this time, it clicked with me. Why?
They have added new aliens, weapons, weapon modes, maps, and mission types. But honestly, I hadn’t gotten far enough in the previous game for that to mean anything to me. What sold me is that there are tooltips now and a host of ease-of-use upgrades for the controls, and most vitally, it has tutorials. The first game had a story told only through research result screens. Here you have actual characters that talk back and forth about recent events. It’s not groundbreaking, but it goes a long way toward making the world feel immersive.
I should also say that this is not a continuation of the plot of the first game, but rather a total re-imagining, Evil Dead 2 style. This means if you haven’t played either, I would highly recommend you just start with 2.
A Few Caveats
Note, however, that this is an Early Access release, so some chunks of content are still missing. The UFO dogfighting is pretty simple, and the game warns you that it’s yet to be fully implemented. Some of the research options currently need flavor text. However, the worst issue when I played it was the load times. Any time a game’s load times are noticeable, you have a problem. These were ridiculous. I’d tuck my son into bed and return to find the game still loading.
I could not find a definitive source from the studio itself as to when they plan for the game to leave early access. Still, the load times are a high priority on their roadmap, and they were my major issue. Even so, it’s an excellent experience now, so if you can deal with the long wait times and you are intrigued by an alternate take on XCOM, I have few qualms in recommending it. I have high hopes for the game looking forward, so watch out for a full review once it does finally release!
Thanks so much for reading! Please let me know below what you think of the XCOM – Xenonauts 2 debate.