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XCOnned

Historically, I’ve never been one for impulse purchases. Especially when it comes to video games.

In an industry where ‘standard’ releases retail for £50 apiece, it’s essential to shop around for a bargain and know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Sometimes though, you can find a great title at a great price, and still end up feeling ripped off…

With that in mind, last week I picked up XCOM 2.

XCOM

I won’t lie. I struggled in the early game.

Whether I was extracting scientists from war zones or disarming bombs on freight trains, I spent the opening levels of XCOM burning through new recruits faster than ammunition. How my Commander wasn’t immediately court-martialled and tried for war crimes, I’ll never know.

Naturally, I assumed my rookie mistakes were responsible for the team’s multiple massacres. Accidentally directing soldiers through windowpanes didn’t exactly help keep them concealed. Forgetting to reload weapons led to some pretty poor ambush attempts. Being blindsided by Advent patrols because my soldier’s vision cones barely exceeded that of subterranean mole-people was frustrating, but it was a mechanic I felt I’d learn to work with.

I was wrong. And as I scraped my way through subsequent encounters, the frustrations continued to pile on.

XCOM

RNGesus clearly had better things to do than watch over my woefully underpowered team. Point-blank shots missed spectacularly, soldiers were hit with criticals just as often as they were fired on. I started to snap at the little things, like the arduously long animation sequence that played out every time the squad was spotted.

“Yes, I know I’ve been seen. I know I’ve f****d up again! I don’t need a sodding cutscene every time it happens!” I barked at my monitor.

“And what the f**k’s up with these sodding Stun Lancers?! How in the name of Beelzebub’s fetid arsehole do they get to sprint halfway across the map AND attack in the same goddamn turn?! Oh, look! Everyone’s been knocked out again, apart from my grenadier who’s been mind-controlled by another Sectoid! That’s just swell! Promotions all-f*****g round, gang! Home in time for tea and medals, right?!”

Ahem. Sorry…

XCOM

In frustration, I began ‘save-scumming’ missions.

Following each successful encounter, I’d hit quicksave and create a restore point for when things inevitably went tits-up again. But after my fourth or fifth attempt to circumvent one fight in particular, it dawned on me that regardless of how clever I tried to be or how much I tried to cheat the RNG; my troops were going to be spotted and they were going to die.

So I abandoned the mission and turned the game off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to an element of randomness and a steep difficulty curve. But so many mechanics in XCOM feel as though they’re utterly beyond my control.

In ten hours of play, I barely feel as though I’ve progressed at all, and the game’s ‘doomsday’ clock is already so close to running up (which I understand means a campaign-game-over), it feels like there’s no point carrying on.

With all hope lost, I’d order my team to shoot themselves and just have done with it… if I wasn’t totally convinced that they’d miss.

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

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