XCOM: Enemy Within replaces Enemy Unknown’s opening Arthur C Clarke quote with a pearl from American polymath R Buckminster Fuller. “Those who play with the Devil’s toys will be brought by degrees to wield his sword.”
It captures the central theme of this major expansion: how far are you prepared to warp your soldiers with alien tech before they lose touch with the race they’re defending? Fuller’s words do fall slightly askew, though. It’s not a sword, it’s a giant rocketpowered robot fist.
That fist belongs to Rebecca ‘Freya’ Berry, a US soldier strapped into a ten-foot-tall mech suit. I’m playing through a battle at Firaxis HQ, Maryland, surrounded by a squadron of design leads, all quietly waiting to see what I’ll do with this destructive new toy. The XCOM fundamentals remain unchanged: you build a base, research alien tech, conduct autopsies and invent new gear for your soldiers to utilise in turn-based human vs alien skirmishes. Enemy Within introduces new enemies, units, classes, gear, abilities, maps and more to grow that base game into something bigger, tougher and full of giant robots.
Mech-Freya is standing next to a tractor in the dark. I’m using my robo-soldier as a unmissable lump of bait, but I’ve played XCOM. I know how this goes. You throw a lone soldier forward and before you know it they’re knee-deep in little grey men blasting them in the flanks. Not today. I select my nearby assault soldier, Marco ‘Maestro’ Bruno, and have him take a covering position in the back of a pickup truck a few feet behind Freya. To my delight, he confirms the order in Spanish. Soldiers speak their native tongues in Enemy Within, rather than the generic US voices of old. XCOM’s team of international super-warriors will finally sound that way..