XCOM 2 Collection (Switch) Review
On the Switch, XCOM 2 Collection is a rough but totally serviceable port of the hardcore sci-fi tactical experience you all know and love.
If you’re unfamiliar with XCOM 2, the basic premise sees you fighting back against an alien takeover of Earth, leading a resistance known as the XCOM initiative. In line with the XCOM series, this involves managing a base of operations while recruiting pockets of resistance fighters by partaking in missions around the globe.
Player choice is a significant component of XCOM 2; you choose how to upgrade your base and militia, in addition to choosing which missions to participate in. Every decision yields flow-on effects, both positive and negative, that make each 20+ hour playthrough feel tangibly different.
For example, choosing to fight in one of several limited-time missions will prevent the aliens from gaining a boost to their efforts, such as another point towards the doomsday clock of the Avatar Project, completing which will end the game. However, the missions you ignore will create other headaches, such as halved income for an in-game month, or alien soldiers acquiring upgraded weapons. XCOM 2 is relentlessly brutal, but never unfair.
And we haven’t even covered the combat yet.
For Nintendo Switch aficionados who haven’t played XCOM before, think Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle; each battle takes place on a grid where teams take turns towards achieving their objectives. Unfortunately, while XCOM 2 doesn’t have Donkey Kong, it does have a devilishly deep combat system. Battles involve four XCOM soldiers (which can be increased via upgrades), taking to self-contained maps in order to complete objectives such as eliminating all hostiles, hacking alien technology within a time limit, or rescuing civilians. In between you and the goal are countless alien variants who are all equally well-versed in murder. To survive, it’s absolutely necessary to plan squad composition, make smart use of cover, and hope like hell the weapon accuracy random number generator smiles upon you.
XCOM 2 deals in absolutes. Death is permanent, so every mistake you inevitably make is magnified tenfold. That soldier you’ve kitted out with the best resources and upgrades available? They’re one critical hit away from losing it all. Not to mention the emotional investment forged with your scrappy soldiers; spending time customising and naming members after your real-life friends adds an extra level of devastation when they bite the dust.
Importantly, as the XCOM 2 Collection title suggests, the Switch version includes the previously released DLC – most notably, the War of the Chosen expansion. In short, there’s a lot of gameplay here. Many online forums and threads discuss the best way to experience XCOM 2, as you can choose to enable or disable DLC when beginning a new game. Some folks recommend playing through the base version of XCOM 2 before wading into War of the Chosen, while others believe diving immediately into the expansion is the definitive way to play. I played the base game first before trying War of the Chosen and found this to be a solid approach in assessing the many changes between the two experiences. As far as an expansion goes, War of the Chosen is not a simple extension of the core gameplay designed as a standalone experience. Instead, it feels like a remix, a director’s cut that introduces a staggering amount of content and additional story elements. Considering how fully-realised the base game feels, it’s impressive how seamless the expansion’s changes integrate. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you choose to play the XCOM 2 Collection – it’s all highly compelling tactical content.
However, I recommend researching XCOM 2’s DLC before making a decision. Particularly when playing the base version, the Shen’s Last Gift and Alien Hunters DLC packs appear way earlier in the game than you’re realistically ready for. Frustratingly, both DLCs don’t adequately telegraph how difficult they are or recommend when you are ready to take them on. Especially Alien Hunters, which features some extravagantly powerful aliens easily capable of wiping entire squads out, crippling your progress. The War of the Chosen expansion integrates these DLC more effectively, but they can be easily ignored or turned off altogether if you’re keen to play the base game.
Aside from the DLC integration, my main frustration with XCOM 2 Collection on Switch is its performance. Of course, this is a game best suited for keyboard and mouse PC play, I understand that. However, the Switch version is riddled with long loading times, graphical glitches such as flickering textures, frame rate drops, and an agonisingly small UI. All of these issues I easily dismissed by virtue of XCOM 2 being a turn-based game and being playable in handheld. Except for the UI. In handheld, the UI is way too small for comfortable viewing in addition to lacking sharpness. Even navigating the XCOM base is made more difficult than necessary while playing portably. While XCOM 2 needs to communicate lots of information, perhaps some UI scalability or custom options to control how much is shown at once could have eased the strain.
In reality, it’s damn impressive that the XCOM 2 Collection runs on Switch at all. In spite of its visual and technical issues, there’s an incredible (and challenging) tactical experience to be had. Perhaps exercise some patience and invest in some glasses to get the best experience.
+ Tactical gameplay at its finest
+ Plenty of content and different ways to play
+ Deeply rewarding and challenging combat
- Graphical glitches and frame rate drops
- UI way too small in handheld & lack of customisation
- DLC integration isn’t super clear