I have a love-hate relationship with XCOM 2. When it was first announced Firaxis gave the pretty strong impression that the game would not be coming to consoles. And that made sense. Despite XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within both being released on consoles, the game was a much, much bigger seller on PC. Most of their sales and profit had come from PC, while the console release was a dud.
So me being a huge fan of the first game, looked into if my PC could handle it. It turned out that my computer met the bare minimum requirements except for the graphics card. So I upgraded my graphics card so it could also handle the minimum requirements, and then waited patiently for release. And in February 2016 I got to play XCOM 2 on my computer!
And it was a mess.
I met the minimum requirements, but boy howdy were they minimum. Loading times were ridiculous (which weren’t just related to my computer – the game itself was poorly designed for loading times), the framerate was disgusting (10 frames per second, anyone?) and the graphics were pretty bad (is that a Muton or a bush? I can’t really tell, they’re all blurry and green). But I played the heck out of it anyway. It was a torturous but fun experience because XCOM 2 improved upon everything that the first game did. I knew it was partly my own fault for being cheap and not fully upgrading my PC. But I was enjoying myself. I thought it was well worth the effort to play such an amazing game.
Then a few months after I’d had my time with the game, Firaxis announced that the game was coming to consoles. Insert deep sigh here from me.
Of course I double-dipped and bought it again. This time, though, I could see what I was doing and the framerate was better. Loading times were still obnoxious (and somehow worse on console) but the game itself played fine. I started a Let’s Play series of it on my YouTube series, slowly making my way through the long campaign on Ironman. Again, top tier enjoyment. One of the best strategy games I’ve ever played.
Then in 2017, Firaxis announced a meaty expansion to XCOM 2 – War of the Chosen. This was going to add a whole bunch of new content to the game – the strategical layer would change, there would be new enemies, and managing your soldiers would be even more important. It sounded awesome and the Chosen themselves sounded terrifying – finally a “boss” alien in XCOM that could really screw you over. I was all for it. The expansion released on PC a week before it came to consoles, and in that week everyone on PC raved about it. The expansion update not only improved the game itself, but it also improved the quality of life of the game. The load times were reduced by a bajillion, there were less graphical glitches, etc. Everything about the game was just plain better. So understandably I was hyped to get to play it myself.
And then it turned out the console version of the expansion was a mess.
Just a few glitches here and there.
The expansion update not only didn’t fix the load times, but it actually made them slightly worse. The game chugged when a lot of stuff starts happening on screen – something that didn’t happen much when it was just the base game. And most importantly, it started crashing on me on a regular basis. This is especially bad because I started a game in Ironman mode – a mode in XCOM 2 where you only get one save file and it autosaves – you have no control and can’t make backup files or multiple saves for a game. It’s supposed to reinforce that decisions matter and make it so you can’t save scum bad rolls or times you make a mistake in positioning.
But XCOM 2: War of the Chosen on console makes Ironman even more hardcore. Because sometimes the game crashes while it’s saving the file, and this crash causes the save file to be completely deleted.
Yep, that’s right, you can lose all your progress due to the game crashing.
And yes, this happened to me several times.
Now luckily, because I have a PS+ membership, whenever I put my console into rest mode my PS4 will auto-upload my save files to my cloud account. But it only does it when the console is put into rest – which means multiple times I lost several hours worth of playtime (which can account for three or four missions in-game) because the game crashed towards the end of a night of playing and deleted my save. It was annoying and happened several times over several different Ironman campaigns (I had run-ending mission failures in several playthroughs requiring me to start a new campaign each time) – to the point that my cloud account had multiple saves of the same Ironman game because I was reloading from the cloud so many times due to crashes.
I persevered, though, because this game was so addictive, so fun, and so…me. I loved every minute playing it. And yes, I could have turned off Ironman – but the fact of the matter is a game mode that is included in the game should not have a bug as huge as deleting your entire save. I’m stubborn. I’m also a perfectionist and knew if I did a playthrough without Ironman I would restart every time a soldier died. And I didn’t want to be that guy.
But then the worst catastrophe happened.
I’d managed to get decently far into the game – I’d defeated all the Chosen and was on the last legs of the main story part of the campaign. Defeating Ironman on the Classic (Hard) difficulty was within my grasp. Then in the middle of a mission, the game crashed and my save got deleted. I went to the cloud to re-download my previous save – and the cloud save was corrupted and wouldn’t download onto my PS4. I did everything I could short of wiping my entire PS4 drive to see if I get it to download properly. Nothing worked – and to this day that save is stuck in some sort of cloud limbo. The closest save I could download from the cloud that actually worked lost me a week+ of progress in real time and months of progress in-game. I would go back to only one Chosen defeated and lose a good chunk of my progress.
Needless to say I was cursing up a storm at this point. I uninstalled the game completely and shelved my copy in anger. For the next few months I played a bunch of other games in my backlog – I even got a Switch!
But the game sat on my shelf, taunting me.
I found this propaganda poster photobomb hilarious. Even zombies want their picture taken.
I started getting the itch again right before Christmas break. I held off as long as I could – but I still love this game to death. I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I was going to finish this classic Ironman War of the Chosen campaign if it killed me.
So I downloaded the save from the cloud – my loss of progress hurt less after several months away – and refamiliarized myself with my crew of soldiers. I slowly started working my way through the game again. This time I’m super paranoid – after every important mission I’m saving my file to a USB stick on top of letting it save to the cloud. The game’s already crashed on me once since I restarted – but it didn’t delete my save file. I think it knows I’m watching it now.
I’m proud to say that I’ve emerged victorious over the second Chosen and only have one more to defeat (again) before I can start plowing through the endgame. My guess is at some point the game will find a way to light my USB stick on fire when I plug it in to save – that’s the only way I can see this playthrough not finishing. I’m battle-hardened now. Neither the aliens nor the bad programming will defeat me this time.
I’m coming for you, aliens. Watch your back. And please don’t blow up my USB drive.