XCOM: Enemy Within Review
I’m not sure how long it’s been since Enemy Unknown came out but I do remember it was one of my favorite games that year. It might have even been among our personal GotY back then. The new expansion just came out and 2K was generous enough to supply us with a review copy. Enemy Within does not disappoint and expands upon an already fantastic game.
Usually when I hear about an expansion pack I assume the content takes place after the original, but that’s not really the case with Enemy Within. It adds a bunch of stuff on top of the already existing game which I suppose makes sense. The original game’s story was already a minor aspect of the game which in the end was more about playing through multiple times, etc. Kind of like playing through a game of civilization where you’re really making your own story. So it does of course retread through the original game’s content but there are a lot of nice additions that make playing and replaying fun again.
I’m going to break down most of the new stuff here. Read on!
MELD – A new resource has been added to the game and you will start collecting it pretty much immediately. You will notice now on most levels that there are 2 MELD beacons that can be found and harvested but only if you get to them before they count down and destroy themselves. It definitely makes you pick up the pace as you try to advance quickly enough to get the stuff while also avoiding charging headfirst into a pack of Mutons. The placement of the beacons seems fair most of the time but every now and then there does seem to be one that detonates way too soon and the only way you could have gotten there would have been to recklessly charged in.
Genetic Enhancements & MECs – Once you actually acquire some of the stuff you can use it to “meld” technology with your units. There are two ways in which you can advantage of this and you can opt for one or the other or both if you really want. Genetically enhancing your soldiers can provide them with several different kinds of boosts. I think there are 5 or so categories (Eyes, chest, legs, etc) and each category has 2 options that you can choose from. These can be anything from boosting your aim, letting you jump onto roofs, to stuff like mimetic camo. It’s really cool stuff and it’s nice because it enhances your units while seemingly taking nothing away.
Your other option is to go a little more tech heavy and turn your soldiers into MECs, which is pretty much just what it sounds like. Their limbs get removed and they basically get the Robocop treatment. They won’t have any of their past class abilities but each soldier class does bring over a special perk once they get the MEC treatment. Once you have your MEC soldier you have to build specialized suits for them, which are what the big Mech looking things are. The MEC suits start out with a basic minigun and either a flamethrower or powered-up melee attack but you can upgrade them to do more stuff like heal or launch grenades super far. They also get access to their own skill tree when they level which has useful abilities like boost jets that let you get to higher places and the ability to turn your MEC into a piece of high cover for another unit. I really like these things are they are a lot of fun to play around with. The only real downside is that they can’t take cover, which is probably obvious, and they can get pretty expensive. One thing that does bother me a little bit is how you can gain access to them almost immediately. It just seems odd that you can have mechanized dudes running around but it still takes a little bit of research and time before you get access to those little mobile weapons platforms.
New Maps, Encounters, & Aliens – There seems to be several new maps added which is awesome. The ones I noticed first were the crashed alien ships. No longer does it seem like EVERY single one of those things gets shot down in the woods. Now you can encounter them in cities, ruins, and even farms. I’ve probably seen more but that’s all I can think of currently. There are tons of other new maps as well which makes replaying through parts of the game more enjoyable.
You also get some new encounters and operations. The council will at one point offer you a new operation which is similar to the slingshot op in the original version. There’s even a part in the game where the XCOM facility gets breached by the alien forces. That really took me by surprise and ended up costing me my best sniper unit.
There are also two new alien threats. The first you’ll likely encounter is the Seeker, which is a flying tentacle thing that can cloak. When you run into one, or rather two since they always seem to come in pairs, it will immediately cloak and somewhere down the line it will ambush one of your units but wrapping itself around and strangling them. I think they might have a an additional ranged attack but you probably won’t see it often since they like to sneak up on you while your already engaged with other enemies. While they are choking your soldier it can’t move or act and takes damage each turn. The only way to dislodge it is to shoot it. So if you have a guy separated from the pack or far away sniping then be careful because these things will screw you over.
The other new alien is the Mectoid. Just when you thought you were past the threat of these annoying little grey guys these show up. You’ve probably already guessed what it is: A sectoid in a MEC suit. These guys will seriously mess you up if you let them. They can fire TWICE in a single turn if they don’t move which is usually enough to take out almost anything you got, like my high ranking sniper I mentioned earlier. Not only that but they are usually accompanied by at least one of their annoying little sectoid brothers which will mindmeld with them or whatever and give them BONUS ARMOR and DAMAGE REDUCTION. These things already had like 20 life so that is just overkill and if you take out their little mindmeld buddy all it does it cancel their shield and do slight damage rather than killing the Mectoid. Hurray…
A New Threat: Exalt – Now you not only have to deal with alien forces but human sympathizers as well. These guys will be a major thorn in your side and seem to amp up the difficulty on an already intense game. You have no idea what country they are operating out of but they have cells everywhere. If you leave them unchecked then they will wreck havoc on you by stealing your funding, sabotaging research, and increasing panic. In order to combat these guys you need to send in a solder on a special covert operation to find details about the location of their base. The unit takes NO armor and only gets a pistol and item. After a few days pass the covert unit will require extraction which leads into a new mission type.
In these missions your covert unit will either have to hack consoles or you will need to defend areas to prevent hacking. Thankfully you get to bring your squad along because that covert guy with the pistol is borderline useless. You face off against waves of Exalt troops rather than aliens and these guys are beastly. They are pretty much exactly like your own troops. In fact, their weapons’ stats are exactly the same as yours and you can even acquire some after the mission. They change things up, though, by going rather heavy on the gene mods. They seem to get access to a lot of really good stuff that you can’t even get.
You really want to put these assholes down as fast as possible before they end up causing you way too many problems. Once you have collected enough clues about the location of their base you can attempt to accuse a country of harboring them. If you make a false accusation the country will get super pissed and pull out of the XCOM project or cause panic across the continent if they were already out. Once you do actually find the location you can assault their base and take these guys out for good.
More Items, More Upgrades – Along with all of this stuff is the addition of new upgrades and items. I probably haven’t even seen it all but there are lots of new things like flashbangs, spike grenades, poison grenades, breathing devices, cloaking grenades, some kind of enemy luring device, reaper bullet rounds, and probably other stuff I’m forgetting. There are also a few new upgrades, not counting all of the stuff in genetics and MECs.
One thing that I actually noticed was that autopsies actually seem way more beneficial now. These seem to be what unlock most of the genetic upgrades that you can get. I thought that was a nice touch since I never felt like they were super important before.
So yeah, a lot of really cool new stuff has been added to the game. I covered as much as I could think of but I probably missed something. The amount of stuff they added can be a little overwhelming and I had to restart like 5 playthroughs before I could really get my groove back. The game does seem a lot harder than it was and I’m only playing on classic/ironman. I can’t imagine how hard it must be on impossible but maybe I’ll work my way up to it.
If you enjoyed XCOM: Enemy Unknown then you will likely find a lot of new stuff to love here and if you never tried it then you really should. The expansion adds tons of great new stuff that will steal hours and hours away from you without you even knowing.