I bloody love XCOM 2. For my money it’s one of the best tactical games ever, and so it doesn’t exactly take much to draw me back in. Last year’s War of the Chosen expansion pack grabbed my attention heartily enough to see me put another 100 hours into the game – and now Firaxis is back with one last hit of that sweet, sweet, UFO defense action. If you can’t tell from my tone, by the way, it’s a good hit.
The Tactical Legacy Pack is essentially an update for XCOM 2 that makes use of existing assets in exciting and interesting ways to provide a few new experiences. The biggest new addition is Legacy Ops, a series of smaller, bite-sized missions focused around specific combat challenges. These aren’t just random missions, however: the team has gone back to the lore, recording new voice over in order to have these missions tell previously untold stories in the XCOM world, including an explanation of exactly went down with your right hand man Bradford between XCOM and XCOM 2.
All of this feels surprisingly fresh and new. The Legacy Ops missions are awash with new voice acting, but it also mixes up the XCOM formula by doing away with the base entirely. Each time you complete a mission you’ll be given a branching choice between a few sets of upgrades for your soldiers, while your incentive to avoid injury is through a high score system that’ll encourage you to play these scenarios a couple of times.
Layered atop all this is some recycled content – all of which is making a welcome return that doesn’t feel cheap or unearned. There’s nearly thirty new maps, many of them remastered from XCOM Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within. Similarly, the fact that some Legacy Ops take place between games is a great excuse for the return of weapons and armor that featured in the first game but not the second – so the likes of the Kevlar and Titan armor make a remastered return, as do certain types of weapon. Once you’ve completed the new Legacy Ops missions you can also take these new additions back into the main XCOM 2 campaign for a replay.
Best of all, in fact, is the newly-added soundtrack option – giving you the choice between the XCOM 2 and Enemy Unknown soundtracks alongside an all-new addition – a soundtrack inspired by and remixing music from the original 1994 XCOM: UFO Defense – which again can be used across all modes.
Other tweaks are welcome too and appear to just be a way of giving XCOM 2 a new lease of life – so the Skirmish mode lets you create and play custom missions, resistance archives offers some real high-end tactical combat challenges and there’s now an offline version of the challenge mode with over 100 different missions. It’s all good stuff.
To be honest, XCOM 2 was hardly a game that needed much in the way of expansion, especially in the wake of War of the Chosen. It’s a hefty, complete experience with a campaign that requires some real commitment to make your way through – but that’s also why these additions are so important. Legacy Ops and Resistance Archives seem like a bit of an experiment on the part of the developers, in fact – a test run to see what can be done with more bite-sized experiences that require less long-term investment but have no less of the tactical stress and strain of proper XCOM missions.
On top of that, there’s some subtle shifts to how the story is delivered in these missions, with more named characters dropping more rich voice-over than one is typically used to from these games. Bradford is one of the few significant, named characters in XCOM and the only one to have a significant role in both games – here he is fleshed out more than he ever has been, another nod, one suspects, to intentions to beef up the narrative in whatever comes next for XCOM.
In this the additions of the Tactical Legacy Pack feel like a real success, and it’s easy to see how they could potentially form some of the foundations for some more quick-fire modes in the seemingly inevitable XCOM 3, or Terror from the Deep, or whatever they decide to call it. In the meantime this is a great little tribute to the original nineties XCOM titles, the success of Enemy Unknown and also to the fans – and for a free update, it’s surprisingly significant.
The Tactical Legacy Pack won’t be free forever, however. XCOM 2 owners can grab it on Steam (it’s PC only for now) for nothing until December 3, and after that it’ll be $8 – which actually seems perfectly reasonable for the amount of content. If you’ve never tried XCOM (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) now is the time, too – it’s free to play for the next 48 hours, and is on sale if you decide to keep it.