XCOM: Enemy Within Review: Splicing genes without the probes
Some of us had to blow off the dust that had been building up on our XCOM: Enemy Unknown copies to install the newest DLC XCOM: Enemy Within. XCOM is one of those games that is so challenging and involving that once you start, it’s nearly impossible to stop without getting completely lost in what you were doing. I can’t even imagine playing for a few days, not playing for a week, then expect to be right back in it. TLDR: Good to addicting.
So what is XCOM: Enemy Within besides a very similarly named expansion to XCOM: Enemy Unknown? My abridged answer is a similar game with tons of new options and opportunities. If you’re even the tiniest fan of Enemy Unknown, I can’t even fathom you not being in love with Enemy Within. Human enemies, genesplicing, and mechanical men, oh my! Basically, Firaxis and 2K took already amazing game and found a way to make it more spectacular. Spoiler alert, I enjoy this DLC.
In the very first mission, you’ll come across a new alien substance called MELD. Think of MELD as millions of nanites that can be used to do one of two things: enhance human genetics, or mix flesh with machine. This is the backbone to the DLC. With the new resource MELD, as the commander, you need to decide where to collect, distribute, and save your MELD reserves. If you splice up one of your favorite soldiers and then he dies… that’s a risky investment. During missions, you have time limits to get a soldier to the MELD location and extract it. If you don’t make it in time or shoot it, you lose it. Killing every alien on the map automatically collects the MELD for you.
While at first, it seems like you’ll only be able to really delve into either genetic experiments or cyber-men (DELETE!) technologies, you can build both facilities in your base. Similar to how psionics work, you have to lose that specific character for a few days while they get… err… upgraded. If that troop is key, you could find yourself neck deep in Sectoids without their aid. Genetically enhanced soldiers have choices in what they want advanced while MEC Troopers get parts upgraded into them - though psionic characters can have either of these changes. Still, no MEC Trooper is complete without their very own MEC. Each cost is a separate transaction and can get expensive, so be careful with them. Both genetics and MEC upgrades are discovered through various research projects.
If you’re wondering, yes, there are new types of aliens to deal with. The brand new stealthy aliens, Seekers, aren’t horrifying whatsoever. They're only balls of tentacles that are invisible and want nothing more than to strangle your troops. The turn after you see them you’re going to want to put a few troops in overwatch to blast them the moment they become visible. Pray those watching your backs don’t miss. Oh, and yeah, if you have massively large MEC Troopers, guess where you stole that technology from? To think you thought Mutons were a problem.
You can’t bring up new enemies without speaking of the most dangerous force in all the universe, humans. These whack-job Exalt terrorists want to make your life miserable. Fighting aliens is one thing, but fighting other humans with similar tactics as your own stirs the pot much more than you’d expect. Just when you think Earth would take a cue from movie like Independence Day, the entire world does NOT come together to defeat the aliens. After all, it is humanity that makes us so human.
The very first time my newly “upgraded” MEC Trooper charged a Sectoid with a feminine, mechanized, French accent – I got shivers. Not only did I create this abomination of flesh and steel, she kicked some serious a@#. When my sniper got into position with genetically enhanced eyes to headshot a poor unsuspecting Thin Man, it felt right. Even though this DLC feels very very familiar to Enemy Unknown, I got that same feeling of advancing my troops through technology in a new unique way. While I totally dig this, you’ll still run into abduction after abduction missions that you’ll curse their name each time they appear – that’s just XCOM for you though.
Besides some of the repetitive missions (IN WHICH A BELOVED CHARACTER CAN DIE DURING A RANDOM CRIT – NO I’M NOT BITTER), my only other gripe with the game was the install. It may have been a fluke incident, but after the DLC loaded, I couldn’t access it. On both my home and work computer I had to completely uninstall the game and reinstall it to gain access to the Enemy Within. Over all I love the new flavor, am happy to be playing XCOM again, and love the challenge. Like I said, if you have any love for XCOM in your heart, pick this expansion up. Be awarded medals and give them out to those brave anti-extraterrestrial warriors who’ve earned them.
We’ll be watching commander.