The Bad Guys Aren't Just Aliens Anymore: An XCOM: Enemy Within Review
Loading XCOM for the first time since downloading the expansion seems pretty much the same as the original game, save one major difference. Everything that used to be blue is now in a haunting orange hue. I'm hoping the game will follow this subtle change by still playing like the old game with only a few differences that make the entire game replayable from start to finish.
I notice the little things...
One of the first things that caught my attention while loading up a new game was the option to finally tell that stupid scientist to keep her mouth shut when you start using grenades and rockets. All the other DLC options are still there along with your usual pregame options such as Ironman.
XCOM is now complete. When you feel like chucking grenades and watching alien bits fly, the scientist keeps her trap shut.
Several changes seem like they could have just been made with a patch, but they are still well placed in this expansion. A welcome addition is the Area of Effect or AOE indicator. It kindly highlights all the enemies, allies, and even the terrain you will be destroying with your explosives.
The game started just like a normal game with a random starting mission that has only a few enemies. This mission, if you ask during setup, will also introduce you to MELD, a new substance that the aliens are leaving behind during abductions. Each instance of meld has a self-destruct timer that starts at the same time as the mission. If you can reach it in time, you can left-click to collect the MELD.
Just like bystanders in a terror mission, you automatically collect any MELD left on the map when the mission is over. It can also be very easily destroyed. A stray shotgun shell or bullet will take out this valuable resource. The MELD pylons seem to be present at every mission except Council missions. If you want to collect any of it, I suggest moving to it as soon as you see one. It's unlikely that you will be able to collect all the pylons on the map, thanks to their self-destruct mechanisms.
Speaking of maps....
My game also started with something I was hoping would be part of the expansion--a new map. While the game always tried to freshen up a map with varied starting locations and mission objective placements, nothing beats a brand new map. After going through five missions or so, all new maps have greeted me on each mission. They seem to be larger than before, giving you and your enemies more places to hide. UFOs have started to crash land in urban areas instead of always landing out in the woods.
I noticed few more subtle changes by my second mission. Several of the buttons on the interface have been changed, just slightly, to allow a better view. For example, while looking at the "build facilities" menu, the "excavate" button no longer covers the entire space. Another thing I didn't even know I wanted showed up here, an option to remove all items, armor and weapons from squad members that aren't currently selected for the mission.
After seven missions, I have yet to see a reused map. Excellent!
The AI has become more tactically engaging. It was probably a simple change, but a single alien will likely run from your squad to a better position or to get some backup. The little buggers got smarter. This adds a little more search and destroy to the game when one little Sectoid manages to escape and find a new hiding spot.
There seems to be an autosave whenever you are flying back from a mission, but I don't see how to access those saves. I'll keep saving the old fashioned way....
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
With all the small changes the game has made, very little of the core game has changed. This is a great improvement. The last thing you want to do to a good game is make so many changes that you can't recognize it anymore. Every change I have noticed so far only serves to improve the game. No jumping the shark here!
The only thing I'm really surprised they still haven't done is make the overwatch and reload buttons in the same place on the action bar while new abilities get added to the end. I look forward to fighting off the new opponents and trying out the advantages of cybernetics. Well done, Firaxis.
Want to get a leg up on the encounters in Xcom? I'll be posting guides as I play through the game.