Hi all!

Last Friday (December 4th 2015) I got the chance from 2K Netherlands to attend a Press Event about XCOM 2. Besides getting a look at the game and an interview chance with Griffin Funk (Associate Producer with Firaxis Games on XCOM 2), I actually got a chance to play the game for myself!
Below you'll find my impressions and the results of the short interview I did. I tried to collect questions from the forums beforehand and asking those specifically.

For the people reading this, who don't know me yet. I'm a Volunteer Community Moderator for 2K Games and Firaxis Games on, among others, the 2K Forums, Steam Forums for 2K Games, Firaxis Twitch Stream and 2K Twitch Stream. I'm doing this for several years now.

Griffin Funk is an Associate Producer on XCOM 2. He works with Firaxis Games now for 5 years and started out in QA. Then went to be a QA Lead and now Associate Producer. He spends part of his time still coordinating with the several QA's over the world.

WARNING: This post is going to contain spoilers about the very beginning of the game and some missions later on!! If you are okay with that, keep on reading

When I arrived at the press event, I was welcomed by 2K Nederland and we got a small introduction as we waited for everyone to arrive. We then first got to see a short presentation by Griffin Funk. This went over some stuff we already know, but he also explained a few things about the missions we would be able to play after.

So, a few new things:

  • The aliens have their own project that they try to achieve in order to win. In the beginning this is called the Avatar Project. That's all we know about it when we start the game. There is a tracker at the top of your screen when you are in the strategic view to show you how far they are along. As soon as they finish that project, it's game over for you as the player. The tracker looks a bit like the doom tracker from XCOM:EU/EW.
    Avatar tracker
  • On to the Dark Events. We have heard of this before. Now there was a bit more information. These events are a big part of what makes your XCOM life hard. You will have to choose. And certain events will progress the Avatar Project, others are hunting down XCOM and others are side missions and information. If you fail the hunt-XCOM-down event, it's also game over for the player. Others can just make the enemy harder and give for example armor or defense buffs, or give them better weapons.
  • All the classes will have two skill trees right from the start. You can mix and match these skills. So if you for your first promotion choose something from the Medic tree for your Specialist, you can perfectly fine select something from the Hacking tree for the next promotion. Although that will be of the next level. So there isn't going back a level to pick that perk.
  • Just to confirm, the Ranger class is the successor to the Assault class from XCOM:EU/EW.
  • Another confirmation, with the release of the SDK they will be releasing all the art assets. This is about 50GB worth of data for modders to play around with and use in their mods and creations.

Then I went on with playing the game. We first got a tutorial mission to get an explanation of the controls and what the units can do. What I found very pleasing here is that the controls are very similar to XCOM:EU/EW. So I was quickly adapted and able to view the battlefield. The tutorial also introduces Central Bradley to the game and is basically played where the prequel novel ends. This mission is also not played with the player as the Commander. That comes after the tutorial mission.
In this mission you get an introduction to the stealth mode in which most missions will start, you also get a few on what the advent soldiers are. They were once human, but not anymore. Their DNA has been altered by the aliens.

After that I got to explore the base a bit. This works very similar to the base in XCOM:EU/EW. The actions you can do in the different chambers is quite new though. For example if you want to have more power, instead of building new power cells, you can add gremlins to the current power station to have it output more. This goes for the other rooms as well. I also got to take a look at customizing your soldiers and weapons. The sheer amount of ways you can customize stuff is amazing! Besides that a number of them are purely visual, there are also ways to upgrade your weapons with actual modifications. These are per weapon! So you can for example mount a scope you collected from the battlefield on a sniper rifle. But only on that one rifle and it's permanently fixed to that. That means you can give the entire weapon to another soldier, but not just the scope.

After exploring the base, I opted to try the really hard mission after that (we got a choice between an easy, after tutorial mission or a more advanced, hard mission). Since I wanted to see more advanced aliens and use some of the more advanced weapons that were available in the save game we got for that. In my case I got an upgraded sniper rifle and an Exo-Skeleton armor. The armor I put on my Grenadier and my Sharpshooter obviously got the sniper rifle. And off I went into India to investigate an Advent facility.
Advent Facility

In my first attempt I tried to hack a turret but failed miserably. Which meant the negative effect of failing a hack came into play. Each time you attempt a hack of any mechanized enemy unit (be it turrets or alien MEC units or any other mechanized unit), it gives you a chance on successful pulling it off. If you fail there is a positive effect for the enemy. So in the first run I went for taking control (the difficult option for the hacker) and failed. The turret then got a buff to defense and its armor. In other words, it became even harder to kill and my unit was already close by. Another effect that was displayed was on failing the hack, there would be an extra dropship with reinforcements for the aliens.
Hack interface

Another thing I underestimated was the reach of the snake alien. I got my Sharpshooter in place on a roof thinking it would not be able to reach my in its first action. Unfortunately it was. So before I even made my first shot, my Sharpshooter (strongest unit in the squad) got grabbed from the roof and in the second action crushed to death. From there on it went from bad to worse and soon after I saw myself abandoning the mission to reload the save.
Viper tongue grab

When loading the same save game, doing the same stuff and launching the same mission, the map was completely different. That was impressive! The aliens patrolled different routes, the roads were in different places, the buildings on the map, turrets, and thus all tactic places were different. All the while, the main objective was inside a building and for story purposes still in the same place. This was awesome! It wasn't simply going through the same thing over again until I hit the point where I died. It was different and dangerous from the start again!
This time it went very well, I only had to sacrifice one rookie of the 5 squad members to be able to kill three aliens. The sequential over watch works quite well!
A tip for when we all get this game, on hard missions, take a Specialist with you that has a Gremlin with the remote healing perk. It's so much better to just send your Gremlin to heal that soldier several tiles away than to run across that field with aliens on over watch and getting shot. The Gremlin doesn't trigger over watch.

One final nice thing I noticed, is that reloading no longer takes both actions. So I was able to reload my Grenadier minigun and rip a MEC units armor to shreds. On that, units now have an armor stat as well. And regular bullets aren't very effective on armor, you will need something more powerful to counter that. For example grenades, the Grenadiers minigun, etc.
The armor stat is visible here, on the alien MEC, the yellow dots represent his armor.
Armor showcase

So after playing with the game, I got a bit of time to ask Griffin a few questions. I tried to get these questions from the forums to try to get answers to some hot issues. To temper your expectations a bit, he wasn't allowed to answer quite a few of them yet. Those answers will come in due time though!

[donald23] What can you share about the 5th soldier class?
[GF] I know we have announced 4 classes big laughter. Nothing further yet unfortunately.

[donald23] What new feature is your personal favorite?
[GF] Procedural maps is definitely the highest on my list. The replayability caused by this is huge!
[donald23] From playing the game earlier, I can definitely agree! I played the same mission twice and got the feeling I played two different mission if not for the goal which was still the same.

[donald23] Can you give us the system requirements or tell us when they will be available?
[GF] I do not know those yet , that will be much closer to release, when they have them firmly locked down. Then we will announce them of course.

[donald23] Is there a chance for a demo to be available of the game before or at release?
[GF] Hmm, I do not know that. {glances to 2K PR} Do you know?
[2K PR] We can't comment on that.

[donald23] Will there be a Collector's Edition like said earlier and can you give a hint on what will be in it?
[GF] I do not know anything concerning a Collector's Edition and therefore cannot comment on that.

[donald23] Can you share an anecdote from the development of XCOM 2 with the community? [GF] I obviously play the game a lot. On one of his morning runs in the game this happened. There had been talk about the Faceless alien to be included in the game, but at this point it wasn't scheduled to be done yet.
And this one morning he was playing the game. Going well in a civilian rescue mission. And all of a sudden one of those civilians transforms into the Faceless. Griffin totally wasn't prepared for that {big laugh}. The position of his soldiers was not so that he could counter the alien and in one swoop the Faceless took out two of his men.

[donald23] For testing this game, besides Firaxis' own QA and 2K's QA, did you use any other groups? Like closed beta groups, focus testing groups?
[GF] Focus groups were used. And now they have arrived at a time that almost all of the art is done and they have these artists now also playing the game way more than before. That gives a lot of useful feedback too.

[donald23] Can you name a feature that got added or changed because of feedback from the community? And can you tell something about how you listen to the community?
[GF] We go over the several communities. For example the XCOM reddit and 2K forums.
Another thing where the community is very much present in their office is this wall in one of the offices where they collect the various kinds of fan art. They print those and hang them there. For example several images of various depictions of the Snake Alien. There are a few there that got a raised eyebrow from HR when they walked by {laughing}.
Definitely the biggest feature they got from the community are the procedural generated maps. There were so much threads and fans asking for that. It simply couldn't be ignored.

[donald23] Thank you for your time!