The original Star Wars trilogy is, at its core, the story of a group of rebels (The Rebel Alliance) fighting against an oppressive regime (The Empire).
The plot followed a ragtag group of heroes using whatever they could scrape together to defeat the better armed and armoured bad guys. Oh, and there were aliens.
XCOM 2 is the story of a group of rebels (XCOM) fighting against an oppressive regime (ADVENT). You get to control and lead a ragtag group of heroes using jerry-rigged weapons and technology to defeat the better armed and armoured bad guys. Oh, and there’s aliens.
Not completely off my rocker, am I?
Okay, hear me out. Star Wars: Battlefront is both a terrible Star Wars experience and a terrible videogame in general. Does it look like Star Wars? Hell yes, it’s eye-wateringly beautiful. And the sound assets? Absolutely superb.
But it doesn’t feel like Star Wars. It wears the façade of the franchise like a slick doppelgänger. Imagine if your parents were replaced with robots that could perfectly mimic them. They’d get the job done, sure, but deep inside you’d know they were soulless and cold.
That’s the best way to describe Battlefield. The only “struggle” you get to partake in is involves broken mechanics, a more than broken spawn-point system, and the broken-to-the-point-of-being-a-puzzle-set flying mechanics.
Where’s that once in a lifetime improbable shot that blows up the Death Star? Where’s the fight against overwhelming forces only using cunning and skill to win? When the hell do I get to have fun in a high sci-fi setting with lasers and aliens?
You could say it’s buried behind gameplay checks, team balances and the bugs that seemed to have enveloped a lot of the Triple A game industry respectively. Or, you could say it’s all in XCOM 2.
Unlike XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where you were the dominant force fighting off an invasion, XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the last game and it imagines a scenario where XCOM – you – lost.
The invaders took over (defeated The Republic) and formed ADVENT (The Empire) to keep a cold, stern hold over Earth (the galaxy far, far away). Now you need to fight tooth and nail using whatever scrap you find on the corpses of your enemies (and the corpses themselves) to take the fight to that overwhelming force.
It’s in XCOM’s battles and strategy elements that you are plunged into that desperate struggle the original trilogy made so appealing. That 50% accuracy shot that put your entire squad’s lives on the line, popping a few too many pods of enemies that leaves your small squad outnumbered and out-gunned. And, if you survive, you get to go back to a floating battleship and reverse engineer alien tech to build lasers and robots.
Back in Star Wars: Battlefront, you earn some tokens to unlock a gun that feels just like your previous one and hope to whatever God is listening that it helps you beat players who camp until they get the hero unlock. Oh, never mind, Darth Vader just pitched up and pulled a Darth Maul on me.
It comes down to this: Battlefront pretends to be Star Wars. XCOM 2 feels like Star Wars because of that lump in your throat as a new, embattled world is opened up to you and you are responsible for its liberation.
I had that feeling when I first saw the opening scene in A New Hope where a pair of robots had to escape a lightsaber-wielding space samurai. I felt it again in XCOM 2 when I ran up to an Sectoid and chopped it in half with a glowing energy sword.
[Image – Platoon’s Workshop]