It’s strange to think that Firaxis Games’ XCOM 2 was released just four years ago. In the time since, the tactical strategy game has received such acclaim and a dedicated following that it feels like a gaming classic from many years ago. XCOM 2 made its way to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the months following the PC launch. Now, the game has been ported to Nintendo Switch for fans to enjoy on the go.
The new hybrid
The biggest draw of the Nintendo Switch is its hybrid functionality. Allowing players to easily jump in and out of games, as well as take them wherever they go, is a perk exclusive to Nintendo’s home console. Playing XCOM 2 on a handheld felt foreign at first, but I quickly got used to it. Being able to take the game into the kitchen, or having it with me as I play in bed was awesome.
That being said, I wish XCOM 2 utilized the Switch’s touch screen. The device offers a number of technological alternatives to other gaming systems, and the touch screen would have been a great fit for Switch. Specifically when managing the Avenger, having touchscreen capabilities would be really convenient.
One of the biggest criticisms of XCOM 2 on consoles is its performance issues. Unfortunately, these problems are still present in the Switch port. XCOM 2 on Nintendo Switch is capped at 30 fps, but barely manages to reach that in some cases. There are big framerate drops during cinematics, transitions, and other intense moments. These issues weren’t as prevalent when playing in docked mode. Of course, there’s not a single person out there expecting XCOM 2 to hit the same level of quality on Switch as on PCs, but the problems should be known.
A modern classic on the go
Despite some graphical/performance issues, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with XCOM 2 on Switch. It’s simply one of the greatest tactical strategy games ever made. The gameplay is incredibly challenging. Never have I been completely wrecked by a game, yet couldn’t stop playing. Every time I lost a soldier, I was upset and frustrated - but I knew where I went wrong. I immediately knew what decision (or lack thereof) led to their demise. Even on the easiest of missions, XCOM 2 doesn’t relax. You’ve got to stay engaged and on your toes to not get massacred by ADVENT soldiers.
It’s this level of difficulty and challenge present that make XCOM 2 feel so rewarding. Making it out of a mission with an “excellent” or “flawless” rating feels like a true achievement. Whenever I win, I know that it was my strategy and effort that led to victory. There are so many layers to XCOM’s turn-based combat that I found myself constantly learning brand new things even after dumping hours upon hours into Firaxis’ tactical game.
Assembling the Avenger
For me, the most boring part of strategy games are the times spent outside the heat of battle. Sitting at an HQ allocating resources always felt like time between matches. In XCOM 2, commanding the Avenger is nearly just as interesting as the battles themselves. Navigating the ship across the planet is its own entirely separate challenge. With time quickly passing by with every move made, I have to give strong consideration to every choice I make. Choosing which missions to pursue, the best ways to get intel, and how to best manage your time takes tons of learning and experience.
Within the Avenger, the science, engineering, and armory branches are a direct companion to what goes down when you take the battlefield. The science area allows the player to research different weapon families and alien corpses, unlocking new equipment to be crafted in engineering. The engineering section allows players to create new facilities that provide quality of life bonuses. For example, the Advanced Warfare Center doubles the rate at which wounded soldiers heal.
The armory is the hub for the soldiers that make up your forces. Here you can view your soldiers, along with giving them promotions. XCOM 2 also allows you to customize your soldiers, and even give them nicknames after reaching a certain rank. It’s these qualities that made me grow an attachment to so many of those who fought under my rule. My heart was ripped out on several occasions whenever one of my favorites was killed in action. At least I can visit the armory’s memorial to honor our fallen heroes.
Firebrand returning to base
As a port, XCOM 2 on Switch is serviceable. The developers did the best job that they could putting such a graphically intensive game on a platform not known for its graphical prowess, but issues with performance are still clear. However, having XCOM 2 on the go is an invaluable perk, and that privilege now lies exclusively with the Nintendo Switch. This may not be the ideal way to first experience XCOM 2 for newcomers, but fans of the series will be overjoyed with the latest iteration of this modern classic.
These impressions are based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. XCOM 2 is available on Switch for $49.99 USD. The game is also available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $59.99 USD.
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, XCOM 2 Switch impressions - Close encounters of the man kind
If I was into the switch, I would get it. I’ve played it on the consoles and pc and due to its turn based nature, it’s completely playable even with the poor frame rate.