If it wasn’t for a damn cold a few days before, I would have actually been on time with this GOTY list. For my #1 game, it’s a master class of improving a game that was already excellent to begin with.
#1: XCOM 2 War of the Chosen
I’ve said it before, but Firaxis’ take on X-COM has been the closest to being the perfect game for me. With Enemy Within, they managed to take an already great game and made it even better.
War of the Chosen follows that same model, but so much more. When I talked about Asura, I mentioned how much the post release support helped to elevate the game. For games that had a shaky start, it’s very easy to connect the dots in terms of what areas to support, but both Asura and XCOM 2 were great from day one.
Being able to take a look at a great game and say, “Where can we go from here?” is not an easy task. This is compounded when you’re not just adding more content, but changing how the game gets played.
War of the Chosen, like Enemy Within, follows the same template of adding in supplemental content — Content designed to create more variety, not length. The three new “hero” factions provide some early game muscle and unique tactics. While the aliens get new units designed to mix up their general strategy.
But of course the real star in terms of content would be the Chosen themselves. Taking a brilliant page from Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system, the Chosen become procedurally generated boss fights over the length of your campaign. By interfering with the tactical and strategic layer makes them more than just a new enemy on a mission.
If this was it from War of the Chosen, it would have been a great expansion, but Firaxis took things further. The reason why it gets the #1 spot comes down to the complete teardown and reconstruction of just about every system in the game. Firaxis as a company is not known for rushing out patches and updates to their games. Instead, they go for massive patches that try to fix any and all issues found.
War of the Chosen in that regard is an “uber-patch,” with the team doing everything they could to improve the game. When I said every system received an update, I meant every system. The new UI takes a page from the community mods to make the game easier to play. You can now send squaddies out on missions for new bonuses and promoting them without needing to go to a tactical battle.
The personalization options in XCOM 2 were already fantastic, but War of the Chosen takes things even farther. The new propaganda posters you can create add a brand new layer of storytelling for people to build their game around.
Once again Firaxis has taken a game and made it better by giving us stuff that we didn’t know we wanted, but now we can’t live without. And the fact that all the improvements in War of the Chosen were original and not just copied from Enemy Within is astonishing.
In interviews, designer Jake Solomon said that the expansion could have been considered an XCOM 3 for the company given all the work and improvements they did to the game. Having played the game, I would not argue with that.
If it wasn’t for my computer being on the old side and having more games to play, I could have spent most of 2017 going through and enjoying this masterpiece of a game.
And that does it for 2017; hopefully I won’t get sick to push back the 2018 list whenever that may be.