After teasing the official announcement of XCOM: Enemy Within at the beginning of this month, 2K and the team at Firaxis have revealed that, as expected by many, it is an expansion pack to last year’s much praised reboot of the classic strategy series, Enemy Unknown. And the best part is, this really is shaping up to be an expansion of the best kind, with a plethora of content being added to the main game to make it more than worth your while to return to, from a gameplay perspective, anyway.
Narratively, it is little more than a return to the invasion laid out in the original game and is not a sequel in any way, shape or form. Not that this piece of news is likely to be of interest to most. The story in the original wasn’t much to write home about, with it doing little more than attempting to add context to the mechanics. It is these, deservedly, that remain the core focus.
Now, rather than having soldiers level up in a linear fashion, players are presented with the option of granting them additional augmentations, with a choice between genetic or cybernetic. The former involves perks including automatic healing, the ability to leap to the tops of buildings without a ladder or an ability to reflect psi attacks, while the major takeaway of the latter is the ability to pilot combat mechs armed with flamethrowers, proximity mine launchers and other such heavy weaponry.
These augmentations are powered by a new alien element called Meld, the incorporation of which is intended to prompt players to change up their strategy a bit. It always made an easier route in the original game to take things slowly and cautiously, ensuring that you were capable of dispatching a foe before seeking to engage. No longer will this be the case, as Meld is contained in canisters with a self-destruct countdown timer attached. As it is a valuable resource, this timer mechanic is designed to create a risk/reward system, where players might be willing to run the gauntlet for a chance to improve their soldiers’ abilities later.
For the player then, this expansion is offering more choice to a game that was already rife with it, but you will still never be overpowered. Also being introduced are new enemy types, with the Mechtoid (the alien equivalent of the new Mech units) being the only one revealed thus far, new weapons, including Poison and Needle Grenades (the latter of which has a large blast radius but cannot penetrate or destroy cover) and new maps (47 are currently being promised).
In terms of scope, this really is an old-school expansion, but it will also be retailing at a premium price. It will go for $30 on PC, while console gamers get the $40 Commander Edition, which also includes the original game and a couple of the previously released minor content packs. You can pick it up from the 12th of November.