Published on January 9th, 2014 | by Tony Odett0
X-COM: Enemy Within Review
Summary: Firaxis takes an outstanding game and makes it that much better.
Erica was cutoff, and in my mind, left for dead. Someone had to activate the transponder to bring in the airstrike, but now two deadly Chryssalids had moved in between her and the rest of my squad. With the airstike incoming, I couldn’t go back for her. In a game of nail-biting decisions, I had to make this sacrifice. My squadmate, named after one of my twitter friends, was doomed to die.
Firaxis hit a homerun with 2012’s reboot of X-COM. The combination of nail-biting turn-based squad combat, customizable soldiers, and accessibility resulted in one of the best strategy games of all time. With the X-COM: Enemy Within expansion, the development studio proves that they know what made the game great, by fleshing out the game’s most compelling areas in a way to provide a fresh experience. X-COM has yanked me back in.
The game begins much the same as Enemy Unknown did. However, shortly after those first few encounters, you’ll discover the aliens possess a substance called meld, a new collectible that is used to augment your soldiers in a variety of ways, from genetic mutations to the constructions of powerful mechs for use on the battlefield. It is also a subtle way of increasing the tension during the missions. Enemy Unknown provided very little incentive for players to move at anything other than the slowest, safest pace. Enemy Within forces the player to take risks to acquire the meld, as the canisters self-destruct after a short time. They are quite valuable, which forced me often to choose between safety and the huge benefits of more meld.
Enemy Within also introduces a variety of new mission types and enemies. There are some new aliens to face off with, but the real attraction here is that of EXALT, a group of humans using the alien invasion as cover for their own insidious plans. The new covert ops missions expand the game and provide a bit of respite (except when EXALT comes after you). It’s nice to face off against a new enemy, but nicer still to experience a much wider range of environments (they got very samey in Enemy Unknown). And some of the new missions (especially the Nova Scotia investigation mission) are absolutely fantastic. The newly designed missions all focus on that one goal: ratcheting up the tension, forcing the player to make more and tougher decisions than ever before. And it works in stunning fashion.
Soldier upgrades are improved through the use of medals. Medals are earned team-wide, and provide certain bonuses to the soldier the player elects to award them to. I found myself awarding medals, not as an upgrade, but as a reward to a soldier who had particularly distinguished themselves in combat. Erica, whom I left behind, was able to shotgun her way out, and reach safety just as the airstrike hit its mark. I couldn’t help but award her the Council Medal of Honor, for distinguished bravery and general badassery.
X-COM: Enemy Within does all the things a good strategy game expansion should do: harness what was great about the original and make those things better. The additional missions, enemies, weapons, upgrades and environments really provide players with a reason to go back to what was one of the best games of 2012.
X-COM Enemy Within was reviewed using a code provided by the developer.