XCOM Enemy Within Review: I’ll Stop The World And Meld With You [PART ONE]

So good. So, so good.
So good. So, so good. FIRAXIS

Like most of the gamers who purchased XCOM: Enemy Within in the last 24 hours I am huge fan of its predecessor, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. And, like many of you, I had some doubts about the new XCOM DLC would ruin a formula that is as close to perfection as you can find in strategy games. XCOM: Enemy Unknown changed my thinking on turn-based strategy games, a genre I avoided for years because of a deep-seated prejudice that they were "slow" and "boring." I was wrong, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown showed me that. I became absolutely addicted to the game and it is the only title I ever purchased for multiple platforms so that I could play it nearly everywhere I went. I was excited for XCOM: Enemy Within but I was also very, very anxious.

After six hours with the DLC I feel like I can relax. A little.

The first thing I noticed, sadly, is that there is no character import of any kind. XCOM: Enemy Within really stretches the definition of what DLC is, particularly on consoles where it's sold as a standalone disc. So erase any thoughts you had about getting to use that killer squad you've groomed over the last year or so. XCOM: Enemy Within has you starting from scratch.

There are tweaks you'll notice right away. My favorite, though, has to be the "Make All Items Available" button that strips all equipment off of soldiers not currently queded for a mission. This is going to be a HUUUUGE time saver once I get more squad members and more equipment for them to use. I know I'm not the only on who's wasted time scrolling through my roster looking for soldiers wearing titan armor or carrying scopes. It's a small change, but it shows that Firaxis really went into the fine details when looking for areas to improve upon.

The early stages in XCOM: Enemy Within are similar to Enemy Unknown, but it doesn't take long to experience new content. From the very beginning you'll have your squad members collection Meld, a nano-cyborg building material that is required for upgrades at the new Cybernetic Lab and Genetics Lab. Meld is scattered across levels and each canister has a self-destruct timer. Just like bomb-diffusing missions, you have to deploy a squad member to the canister and manually collect the Meld before time runs out.

If you hated the bomb diffusing missions then you're going to hate collecting Meld. Personally, I like the way it creates a sense of urgency and forces me to think about more than making conservative movements with my squad. However, I'm still in the early stages. I think Meld gathering might become more of a chore once the missions become more complex.

Speaking of difficulty, I feel I should mention I'm playing the game on Classic. This is why I haven't anything to report on the functionality of the Cybernetics and Genetics Labs. Both are reasonably priced and accessible early, but my resources are devoted to satellite production. I don't have anything to report on the new abilities just yet, but I'll get to them in the next part of this review.

What I can report on, though, is a wicked new enemy type that debuts early in the game. The Seeker. They're terrifying. Imagine a giant flying robotic squid. Scary, no? Now make it invisible and you've got a Seeker on your hands. It has two attacks. It can fire plasma shots from a distance, or it comes in close under stealth and strangles your squadmates. The strangulation takes place across several moves so once a Seeker latches onto a soldier you need to send rescue ASAP. Unless the Seeker has latched onto a sniper or a soldier sneaking around a flank and there is no backup nearby. Suddenly those solo runs become much, much riskier. It was great to see a new enemy type change my play style from the very beginning in XCOM: Enemy Within. It raised my excitement and has me anxiously awaiting some of the other baddies in the DLC, like the Mechtoid.

I also LOVE the new medals perks you can dish out. XCOM: Enemy Within grants you medals that you can award to different soldiers and each medal comes with a different perk. Perks are great, obviously, but the concept of medals really plays into the sense of attachment many devoted XCOM players feel towards their squad members. It's nice to be able to reward heroics instead of just telling a non-existent soldier that he's awesome before you give him a badass handlebar mustache.

I've put in six hours with XCOM: Enemy Within and I plan on putting in a lot more. It truly feels like I've barely experienced any of the new content and I'm looking forward to see where the new storylines and squad changes take me. If you liked the original, buy XCOM: Enemy Within. If you never played the series before don't worry, the standalone DLC makes for a great introduction on any console.

It's hard to improve on perfection, but Firaxis seems to have done it with XCOM: Enemy Within.

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