In case you didn’t already know, I love XCOM, both the original Microprose classic and the brand spanking shiny new one released by Firaxis towards the end of what is now last year. The new one is absolutely fantastic and well worth your money, although it isn’t quite as deep as it’s venerable ancestor in several places and also feels a wee bit shorter (says a man who’s put 44 hours into it so far and is still playing). Until today a lot of fans were using a nice a little mod that re-enabled a bunch of additional options left inactive in the final game that let you impose various conditions on your playthrough, Civ-style. One in particular was something called “Marathon Mode” and effectively doubled the length of the game in return for making it literally unwinnable unless you used a workaround.
As of today Marathon Mode and a whole bevy of other options are available to XCOM players with “Second Wave”, a free update for PC and console players that lets you impose conditions and modifiers on your next new XCOM playthrough. Some of the new options are available for fresh-faced virgin rookies while others are only unlocked after you’ve saved the world once or twice-over at different difficulties. It might not sound like much but more options is always a good thing when it comes to strategy games, and a far more welcome addition than some jumped-up “hero” character with a unique voice pack. The full list of options is as follows.
- Damage Roulette: Weapons have a wider range of damage.
- New Economy: Randomized council member funding.
- Not Created Equally: Rookies will have random starting stats.
- Hidden Potential: As a soldier is promoted, stats increase randomly.
- Red Fog: Combat wounds will degrade the soldier’s mission stats.
- Absolutely Critical: A flanking shot guarantees a critical hit.
- Marathon: The game takes considerably longer to complete.
- Results Driven: A country offers less funding as its panic level increases.
- High Stakes: Random rewards for stopping alien abductions.
- Diminishing Returns: Increased cost of satellite construction.
So if you’re one of those Strategic God-Machines who found the game too easy for their computronic android brains then slap Damage Roulette, New Economy, Not Created Equally, Marathon and Diminishing Returns onto your next Impossible difficulty playthrough and see how you like them tactical apples. I’ve removed two of the new options from the above list because they’re technically kinda spoilery and I don’t want to spoil anything about this fantastic game for people who’ve never played it. For the benefit of hardened XCOM fans the two I removed refer to a certain “gift” you get access to later in the game: one makes said gift extremely rare and the other makes it so it can only be acquired by interrogating certain aliens.
It’s good to see Firaxis release more DLC like this that plays to the game’s strengths and “personality”, especially considering it’s free. Unlike the paid-for Slingshot DLC and its pre-scripted rote story missions, which was like trying to force a scripted storyline and set encounter list into something like FTL: Faster Than Light or fixed map layouts into The Binding of Isaac. More DLC that enhances what’s already in the game rather than inserting incongruous elements is something I completely support. Incidentally Firaxis, I am one of those weird die-hards who’d actually pay for a language pack so my soldiers don’t all sound American. Hint hint.
Some modding tools wouldn’t go amiss either Firaxis. I want to try and make a classic X-COM “cabbage farm” map whilst encouraging some enterprising mod team to recreate XCOM: Terror From the Deep. Assuming you’re not planning something along those lines yourself of course.