XCOM: Enemy Within Review
✔ A great game just got better
✔ Human enemies (EXALT) and new missions mix things up
✔ New resource adds a tactical aspect
✘ At its core still the same game
✘ Late game is now even easier
✘ New resource is easily ignorable
The DLC (downloadable content) “XCOM: Enemy Within”, released in November 2013, provides some extra content to what was already established in XCOM: Enemy Unknown developed by Fireaxis back in 2012 (Check out our review: http://www.geekedoutnation.com/videogame-reviews/xcom-enemy-unknown-flashback-review/). Enemy Within brings about new enemies, a new resource to collect for use back at HQ, new maps, some general tweaks and some new missions. However, for the price is Enemy Within worth adding onto what is already a great game?
Little has changed to the core parts of the game. The game still primarily has you command a group of Earth’s best and brightest who work together towards the XCOM project, a project funded by various countries with the primary purpose of fighting off the aliens who have recently started a worldwide attack of the planet. You still switch between managing your HQ, keeping tabs on country panic levels, deploying your soldiers for combat, starting up research projects, creating new gear, building facilities and so on. However, there is now even more to focus on in Enemy Within, with one of the first things you’ll notice early on being the newly introduced resource to the game, “Meld”.
Meld pops up early on in either your first or second combat mission as a side objective to the usual goal of wiping out all aliens in the area. For most missions, there are two (only ever two in my experience) containers of meld placed randomly on the map with an automatic self-destruct sequence activated that will destroy the Meld after a set number of turns have passed. In order to prevent the Meld from being destroyed, a soldier must reach the container to be able to deactivate the self-destruct device and collect the Meld stored inside. Therefore a player must decide whether to rush forward rather than taking it slow in order to obtain all the Meld and risk bumping into alien forces with their pants down (so to speak). Back at base, Meld is then primarily used to either provide mechs for your soldiers, basically transforming them into a unique tank class, or just modify their abilities through gene modification, providing them with passive boosts such as increases to critical damage, aim or the ability to leap up a 2-story building. The idea of Meld certainly adds more depth to what is already a fairly complicated system, but it is for the most part completely ignorable. If anything, Meld just makes the later part of the game even easier by providing you with a way to give your squad extra buffs without really providing extra late game challenge to match.
Probably the most challenging thing the new DLC does add however is the inclusion of an entirely new enemy, perhaps even the greatest enemy known to the universe… humans! Enemy Within introduces a new organisation known as EXALT which is comprised of a group of people who delay XCOM where possible in support of the alien invasion with the hopes that the alien’s attack on Earth will allow them to step out from the rubble and take over the world. While certainly an insane concept, the sad thing is it’s believable that there would be a bunch of people crazy enough to think that they would be able to seize power from not only the aliens with technology far more advanced than their own, but also the people defending them from the alien threat. While it’s possible to ignore EXALT completely and focus on the aliens, it’s not in the players best interest as EXALT will frequently attempt to delay the player where possible, such as reducing their research speed for new technology. In order to deal with these, to put it nicely, douchbags, an intel scan must be initiated from the situation room to locate hidden cells scattered throughout the globe.
Upon identifying a hidden cell, a soldier can then be sent on a covert operation in an attempt to uncover the location of the main EXALT HQ. This process takes a few days and upon completion, an extraction team must be sent to complete the process, with combat missions then requiring you to, for example, protect a beacon as it transmits information to XCOM or protect the covert soldier as they hack nearby devices to gather information they can bring back home (assuming they survive). The missions are certainly a refreshing change of pace from the usual killing of aliens and the number of EXALT troops that tend to appear can be quite overwhelming with EXALT’s tactics seeming to revolve around having greater numbers as opposed to strength. Upon the successful completion of a covert operation, locations that do not contain the main EXALT base HQ are revealed with the purpose of these ops being to allow you to slowly determine the country that is housing them. Once a player believes they have determined the location of the EXALT main base, they can accuse a country of holding them and attempt a raid on the base, however false accusations come at the cost of the withdrawal of said country from the XCOM project. The location of the EXALT base is randomised each play through and a set amount of intel must be gathered before a player can randomly accuse countries which prevents this system being overly exploited. It keeps the game interesting and is certainly a positive addition to the overall game design.
With Meld and the EXALT being the primary additions of the DLC, there are a few other things that have been changed from the original game. A new alien enemy known as the Seeker makes an appearance with the ability to go invisible upon being spotted and an AI that makes it automatically seek out soldiers who are alone and strangle them. While doing little damage and generally not being a major threat to your squad unless you like to isolate your soldiers for weird reasons, their constant invisibility makes them an extremely annoying foe early game and they can be quite unpredictable. Later on in the game there are ways to reveal them, but until you acquire the technology to do so they serve as debatably more of an annoying then challenging foe. There is also a giant mech enemy that you can encounter with lots of health and damage but little movement (basically the same as the Mech you can create), providing the aliens with a tanking class that can defiantly change the tactics a player needs to implement in order to take it down while avoiding casualties. Special missions appear over the course of the game as well as new locations to fight through which do a great job of mixing up what was already a quite varied game. Without giving too much away on the special missions, expect to be fighting zombies one moment and protecting one of the most important locations in the game the next. Other tweaks include some improvements to the multiplayer squad set-up, now allowing for multiple squad creations to be stored, and a couple of new advanced options to provide the game with even more variety.
XCOM: Enemy Within adds even more good content to what is already one of the best strategy games ever released. The new Meld resource adds an extra tactical level to combat and base management but is mostly ignorable with its use simply making the later parts of the game easier. The new human enemies, EXALT, make for a nice variation from the normal alien killing and give players even more to do back at HQ. Seekers are more annoying than challenging to engage, the alien mechs can force you to mix up your tatics, the new locations further increase the variation of combat and the new missions that occur throughout the game are exciting to complete. In closing, if you haven’t got the money to spare and your happy with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, there isn’t any particular reason to go out of your way to get this DLC as most of the core elements are the same. However, for those willing to pay for it (at around $30), Enemy Within gives XCOM fans an even better excuse to do another 15 hour play through by adding just enough elements to make the whole experience thrilling all over again.
Note: Featured image taken from Google images.