XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM’s gameplay is so good and addictive, that no one ever pauses to talk about the game’s less shiny sides. So I’ll dare to give it a shot. When Enemy Within was announced as an expansion for Enemy Unknown, I was already a little bit disappointed because it would be the same known story. But I thought for sure it would at least be more elaborate this time around. After all, this expansion was initially sold at a full game price, surely then they wouldn’t just add an amount of content companies like CD Projekt RED give away for free… But IMHO, that’s exactly what happened. Enemy Within features 2 new enemies, Meld enhanced soldiers, EXALT, new/reworked maps and… I think that’s it. I hope I forgot something though – with it being such a short list! There are no new guns, no new armors… That’s really not that much stuff, for almost the same price of the original XCOM. Is the new stuff good? Yes. Is the new stuff fun? Yes. Is it comparable to stuff others give away for free? Yes.
One of the most intriguing new features of EW, to me, was EXALT. They are an organization like XCOM, but with opposing goals – I’m guessing. They have cells operating in the 16 council countries. An operative can be sent on covert missions to disrupt those. After this operative has almost completed the mission, he’ll be extracted. Each of those missions adds info on the whereabouts of the EXALT HQ. Making sure to attack the correct council country (attacking the wrong country results in it leaving the council, just like panic does) takes some time and builds up a desire for a proper payoff, once it’s finally possible to strike (at the correct location). Then, when the long-yearned-for “big moment” comes, nothing really happens. You’ll shoot some guys, mission over. In my case, their HQ didn’t even have more enemies than any other mission. The whole EXALT arc has no boss, no secrets, no surprises, no reveals whatsoever… And the kicker is, after the raid the EXALT options are removed from XCOM HQ like it never happened, the menu returns to the form it had before Enemy Within. I was quite stunned and never would have expected such an outcome. You’d think that with a gigantic project like XCOM, they could afford some writers. Funny, because that is (and was) almost the sole department in which you could seriously still enhance this game. To this day I have no idea what the aliens actual plan was. I have a rough idea, but my guess is as good as anybodys.
The original version already managed to disappoint a lot with DLCs that should introduce unique characters and Slingshot was definitely advertised as such and yet all it did deliver, was one mission with a few seconds of dialog from the “special” character (yes it has another but there is no dialog for this character in it and nothing extra happens if you bring him along!). An expansion should have been better than this and not continue to disappoint in the exact same places. Just imagine XCOM with characters like in Jagged Alliance, that could have made even XCOM at lot better than it already was. It wouldn’t have been necessary to remove the more generic soldiers, instead a couple of “hero units” (or something) could have been added.

And now it’s probably time to replay it, maybe in the highest difficulty setting? :)

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