X-COM: Enemy Within

An analysis of various major gameplay elements of X-COM: Enemy Within and its base game, X-COM: Enemy Unknown. The focus is mostly on how well these elements do or do not work, with some comparison against the original game and some commentary on the narrative elements when they're particularly intrusive.


For whatever reason, I elected to start out talking about the stuff you slap atop your soldiers, instead of talking about the soldiers first. I couldn't tell you what drove that decision anymore; it made sense at the time?

Weapons. The stuff you shoot aliens with.

Armor and Items. The stuff you use to bolster durability, mobility, and add on more esoteric benefits to your troops.

Gene Mods and Medals. Stuff Enemy within added in to customize your soldiers. The concepts are both cool, the execution is much more dubious.

Interceptor Gear. The stuff you use in relation to the minigame of shooting down UFOs. It's not very deep.


Then I covered your actual soldiers.

Assault. Call 'em in when you absolutely, positively, need a flank right now. They're also good at just shooting things to death in general, but especially in the enemy's face.

Sniper. Make everything die without ever getting a chance to fight back... well, until it's time to fight indoors, at which point they're one of your weaker classes.

Heavy. Your general-purpose shooty class, though the devs seem to imagine it as more your explode-y vs Suppress-y class.

Support. Here to support your other troops. Mostly by healing them when they take damage, let's be honest.

Mec. Incredible power, but reliant on your limited supplies of Meld. I'd love to say it's 'at great cost', but that's only really true as far as the aesthetic/plot elements, and even then the game largely glosses over it. Still, the dynamic is functional if uninspiring.

SHIV. Disposable robots (Other than costing way too much money) that were difficult to justify in the base game and are almost flatly invalidated by Mecs in Enemy Within. Man, Heavy Weapons Platforms are ashamed to be associated with you.

Psi. Not really a class per se, but whatever. Your soldiers get mind bullets. The whole thing is much less interesting than in the original game, but at least it's not as broken either.


The evil bad people you should feel no guilt about shooting, blowing up, or subjecting to horrific experiments For Science. They started it. You have the moral high ground.

Part 1: The basics. The aliens you encounter early on, which are mostly not very dangerous. Mostly.

Part 2: The later ones. The ones that show up later on, and are generally more dangerous than the ones that came before, some of them more or less outright replacing earlier counterparts.

Part 3: Enemy Within. EXALT -the titular 'enemy within'- and a couple of new aliens, both added by Enemy Within. The Mectoid is the only one that's not kind of disappointing.


The rest of it.

Second Wave. A bunch of ways to vary your games, most of which are boring and irrelevant, but Training Roulette exists so all is forgiven.

Multiplayer: xcommies. Your elite alien-fighting force and their attendant gear. In competitive play, they're mostly overpriced, bizarrely enough, so you should shy away from them if you're trying to be serious about multiplayer.

Multiplayer: aliens. Some of them are terrible, some of them are so expensive it's difficult to justify them, but others make up the bulk of your staple Good Options, pushing aside XCOM soldiers by being cheaper, harder-hitting, and throwing in special qualities for free.

Multiplayer: Enemy Within. Multiplayer gains some new toys to play with, some of which are actually pretty good. Then there's EXALT, which gives you one-and-a-half dudes who don't suck.

Denouement. My final thoughts

I mean, they're not actually final-final, but most of my later posts afterward are basically just me ramblingly repeating stuff I said in the prior posts, but with less of an anchor to contextualize what I'm saying. Here's some of the actually worthwhile ones;

Unnerving characterization. It's surprising just how creepy the remaquel's staff are. It's especially striking when they so obviously exist to give faces and names to the organizational body under you, so that Engineering isn't 'that place that spits out gear for my troops' but rather is 'Shen, that old guy who helps me make stuff to kill aliens better with'. An act of personalization like that is generally meant to increase sympathy and likability, and the remaquel manages to subtly and not-so-subtly get that backwards.

Design space. The remaquel's surface-level details hold up poorly because the foundation it's built atop is so much worse than the original game's, in short.


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