Turn Based Strategy

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    XCOM 2 
    Developer: Firaxis Games
    Publisher: 2K Games
    Release Date: Feburary 5th 2016
    Available on: PC
    Number of Players: Single player for Campaign up to 8 players for multiplayer online 
    Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
    Rated: T for Teen: Blood Use of Tobacco and Violence
    Price: $59.99 
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    The famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote:  "Two possibilities exist: we are either alone in the universe or we are not  both are equally terrifying", that quote has never been truer than in the universe of XCOM.  If you have ever played the original XCOM game titled XCOM: UFO Defense  then you know how much fun it was.  However, if you're like me and got the remake, that works too.  

    The story of XCOM 2  takes place twenty years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Unknown.   Instead of winning the war against the alien threat, the leaders of Earth have surrendered and XCOM the praetorian guard of Earth is defeated. It seems that all is lost right?  Wrong!  XCOM may be down, but not out after being rescued by Centeral Officer Bradford who was the Commander's right hand man in the first game. The player resumes the role of being commander of XCOM, except this isn't your ordinary XCOM,  this is a rebellious fighting force  instead of the first line of defense against alien invaders.  On the surface the aliens seem benevolent providing advanced medicine and are even revered as saviors from the stars. They  even go as far as spreading lies that XCOM struck first; which is a lie if you played the first game in order to follow the story.  There is a mention of Elders of course, but that is a nod to the Ethereals  from Enemy Unknown. Though they don't make a physical appearance, they do appear in ghost form. 

    Throughout the game your objective is to reclaim Earth from the aliens and the ADVENT coalition. Now these aliens are far more nastier than their Enemy Unknown counterparts by a long shot.  XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game.  It's  like playing a game of chess except it's against aliens. You can use the turns to either get into cover, fire your weapon of choice, overwatch, or use the specific soldier class abilities against the aliens.  But beware, if you make a mistake and if you lose one of your troopers it's permanent, so the first rule in XCOM: Stay in cover!  The game is a bit violent, but you are defending Earth against the entrenched aliens.    Fortunately the violence is turned down to a Teen rating  whereas  Enemy Unknown had a rated M rating for strong language and violence. 

    XCOM 2

    Strong Points: Amazing story, new classes, new aliens  a new base and choosing which class you want your soldiers to be in
    Weak Points: Lagging frame rate sometimes the enemies are glitchy at times but that's excusable
    Moral Warnings: Violence, Aliens specifically Elders which have god-like status, Zombies when Sectoids  resurrect fallen comrades or fallen XCOM operatives  

    The graphics, for an XCOM game are a work of art; imagine if Ridley Scott was a game developer instead of being a film director.  A lot of care and patience have been put into the game.  And it shows like you wouldn't believe, from the sterile ADVENT cities, to the rugged terrains of the woods, and even the Avenger itself which is a former alien supply ship now your base of operation in the game. Though XCOM Enemy Unknown had decent graphics, XCOM 2 blows its predecessor out of the water.    

    The music is spectacular; my personal favorite in the game is the Avenger theme. With the synthesized  music  mixed just right,it has a robotic tone but at the same time it feels like a mix of Hans Zimmer's music of the Dark Knight from the Christopher Nolan trilogy and Vangelis' music of Blade Runner. Tim Wyn the composer of the soundtrack of XCOM 2 was brilliant in composing the music, but I like  the Enemy Unknown composer Michael McCann better.  Interesting to note Tim Wyn helped compose the music for Enemy Unknown as well but decided to fly solo which is understandable. As for the mood of the soundtrack it sets the tone perfectly and it makes you feel like you're part of the action.

    XCOM 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    Each time you board the Avenger (which is your base in the game) you get a chance to meet some of the new characters like Dr. Richard Tygan a former ADVENT scientist who serves as Dr. Vahlen.  You'll also see Lily Shen, the daughter of the late Dr. Raymond Shen, who is determined to take Earth back from the aliens.   The new XCOM is different then Enemy Unknown because you're a freedom fighting force not a government supported paramilitary organization so choose your battles carefully.   

    One amazing thing about XCOM 2 and its predecessor that I nearly neglected to mention was customization of your soldiers. While XCOM Enemy Unknown was limited XCOM 2  expands on customizing your troopers even going far as to customize them after your friends and family.    You  can even add mods to XCOM 2 there is so much you can try out for free to download.  There's even DLC as well like the Resistance Warrior pack which comes with the game (if you got a hard copy of the game like I did) Anarchy's Children and coming soon Shen's legacy which adds more face paint, masks, tattoos, cigars and cigarettes.   There is multiplayer in the game, but sadly I haven't played it yet. Once my youngest brother has the game him and I can test our skills on the field.  I can't play multiplayer offline since it doesn't work like that. 

    Here's the million dollar question: Did I beat the game?  No I haven't, being a perfectionist I always had to try again and want a different result since I can't abide the idea of losing my squad.  I forgot to mention that if you fail the game, XCOM is defeated for good. That's the bad ending, try not, to let the Avatar project reach the danger zone, this is a race against the clock!

    Is XCOM 2 safe to play morally speaking?  In my mind absolutely, I recommend it to people who love Turn based strategy games and science fiction.  But if you're new to the whole Turn-Based Strategy game genre give XCOM 2 a try.  You might be surprised on what you see. 

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Xenonauts 2
    Developed By: Goldhawk Interactive
    Published By: Goldhawk Interactive
    Released: June 20, 2018
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1 offline
    Price: Free combat demo, different Kickstarter tiers for different levels of access.

    In the recent years, there has been a surge of turn-based strategy (TBS) games hitting the market, but there was once a time that there wasn’t too many to choose from. Back around 2010, there weren’t many coming out. It was during this time that Goldhawk Interactive’s Xenonauts was first released. It was a decent game, though it did have some problems, but it was one of the few TBS options you had at the time. It also played more like the original X-Com than Firaxis’s then recently released XCOM Enemy Unknown. Now, Goldhawk Interactive is working on Xenonauts 2 which is supposed to be like a remade Xenonauts with altered setting and a better engine. At the time of writing this, Xenonauts 2 is currently on Kickstarter seeking funding and has already achieved two times their goal. They also released a free combat demo which is what we will be checking out.

    This demo contains one mission. Each time you play, you will get the same map and the same units, but the aliens do appear to spawn in different areas. I have played this mission about four times and each one has felt different. Sometimes, all eight of my units will survive, and others I’ll surfer heavy casualties. I do appreciate how each of my attempts felt different. It made me more encouraged to play through it multiple times. I also like how they released this little demo to the public so you can test out what the game has to offer before you give it some money.

    The bulk of this demo is the ground combat and it feels pretty solid so far considering that it is for a Kickstarter. It plays pretty similarly to the original X-Com and the first Xenonauts. You still have your time units (TUs) which you use to move around and shoot and you still have some of the extra things Xenonauts added into the formula like suppression. You also have some new features such as being able to queue up a move and check your shots from that position. Another new feature is full camera rotation. With the engine being changed over to Unity, and the game now being 3d instead of 2d, you are now able to rotate the camera which is really nice after coming from a single, stuck isometric view.

    Combat is still as lethal as it was in the previous game. Just one shot from an enemy is enough to fell a soldier. The enemies present in the demo still have a longer sight radius than your soldiers have so you can still expect some shots from the dark. Don’t let this get you to thinking that your people are helpless though. This demo, while it does pre-equip your units, does give you a decent selection of the starting weapons. When I normally play these types of games, I stay away from the shotguns, but since I had to use two soldiers with them I got to test out something I normally wouldn’t. It is nice since I will now probably try using them because they seem more effective than I remember them being. It is also nice being able to test the grenade launcher which is a new weapon type for the Xenonauts series. Overall, for a lot of things being the same as the first game, there is a decent number of things to try out for the new game.

    Xenonauts 2

    Strong Points: Challenging combat; great atmosphere; nice 3D graphics; free demo so that you can test it out; unique sounding setting.
    Weak Points: Demo is not the most optimized; game might be too challenging for some; not many options present.
    Moral Warnings: Game contains a lot of violence; corpses persist; damaged units leave behind pools of blood; enemy will actively try and kill civilians; aliens.

    As mentioned above, the game has moved from 2D to 3D. While the art in Xenonauts is really good, I‘d say most things look a bit better in Xenonauts 2. It also helps that things have a little bit of animation attached to them. For instance, the units have a little bit of idle animation and the rotors on the dropship are slowly rotating casting a moving shadow on the ground. Another cool thing is the setting. The setting for this game is still the Cold War, but one that has lasted until the 2000s and there is a nice mixture of old and new. For instance, the cars look like an old station wagon while the buildings have LCD monitors.

    The lighting is very atmospheric. The mission present in the combat demo is a nighttime mission so you have a lot of interesting lighting going on. You still have a little bit of light coming from the moon which is casting shadows from the various structures. You have a couple different buildings which are nicely lit by some interior lights, but there is one garage type structure which has no lights on, which is almost pitch-black inside. I really like the way lighting works so far and I’m looking forward to getting some flares to be able to chuck around and see how they do. One final nice art detail is now your bullets leave behind a little smoke trail. It’s a very nice little detail that I wouldn’t be expecting to see at such an early state, but it really adds to experience.

    There isn’t much to say about the sound right now. While it is present, most of it is from the first game. Now, none of this is really bad, but none of it is anything new and I’m pretty sure most of it is placeholder. I at least know the music is placeholder since they have talked about bringing in the same person to make music again for this game. I’m really looking forward to that since the music in the first game is really good. It’s not the kind of music you’d normally listen to, but it is great at making tension and helps to define each of the different types of missions. If they kept the same sound effects that would probably be okay too. The only one that sounds a bit off is the human death sound, but most of the time when a human is killed it is by a plasma gun so that might make them sound a bit different. Overall, everything in the demo sounds good, but I’m just not sure how well it will represent the final product.

    Xenonauts 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 88%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The stability of the demo I’ve found to be quite high. I haven’t experienced any crashes or bugs. Other people have reported some issues so be advised that they do exist, but they do seem to be fairly rare. My main issue so far is with the graphics setting. This game doesn’t have fully set up graphics options. Currently, there is just the basic Unity thing with basic options like fantastic, low, etc. My computer is pretty decent, but if I go anything higher than the lower settings the game starts to slow down a bit. It is most noticeable when it is the enemy’s turn when the camera normally won’t pan over to the enemy so you can actually see it do its action. It’s not that bad of a thing since I can just play one of the lesser settings, but it isn’t a great first impression if you immediately go and jack up your graphics to the best setting. I do hope this is something they look at fixing at some point since the game is very pretty so I’d like to be able to play it at a setting to best view it.

    So far, there isn’t much to judge for the morality of this game. All you have is the little bit of combat present in the demo which, while being a big part of these types of games, is not the only focus. As for what is present, the game can be a bit violent. Now, this is pretty abstract with it being a TBS game, but you are going to have people dying. This style of game is almost impossible to play without suffering any casualties. That doesn’t just include your soldiers either. There are missions with civilians on them and the aliens will actively try to kill them. Anything killed, unless they are really exploded, leave behind a corpse on the ground. Units shot also leave behind pools of blood. Another moral thing to consider is that the enemies you are fighting are aliens, although this time around they appear to be more alien looking than human, like they were in the first game.

    Xenonauts 2’s combat demo, while being a tad small, works really well as a preview of the game. I’ve played some of the previous versions of this demo that has been released over the past year or so and I’m really amazed by all of the stuff they added in. A lot of the stuff present in here is really art focused and serves as a nice showing of what all they were able to improve by changing engines. At the time of writing this, Xenonauts 2 is currently running its Kickstarter campaign and has already secured well over its funding goal. This free combat demo is available both on its Kickstarter page and through Good Old Games for you to try out. I’d highly recommend heading over to one of them to try it out for yourself and see what you think. That should be a good way for any parent to see if this game is good for their kid or if it is the type of game they themselves might want to play.

    - Paul Barnard (Betuor)

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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