A couple of months have passed since we last sat down with the brilliant but slightly sluggish Xcom 2. Since its launch in February, Firaxis has had plenty of time to optimise the experience and update it with some paid-for DLC. We've not written much about the game since we slapped a well-deserved 10/10 on it, so the recent release of Shen's Last Gift, the third and final content drop from the Reinforcement Pack (read: season pass), seemed like a good opportunity to rectify that.
We'll start with the most recent DLC and then work back to include all the content that has been released for the game since launch. Shen's Last Gift features a new narrative mission set on a bespoke map, and more importantly, it adds a new mechanised heavy class to the game.
The mission itself is an enjoyable story-driven romp through an abandoned robotics facility housing mechs, turrets, and an entertaining boss battle. There's only one mission so we'll try not to spoil too much, but we will say that the plot involves you taking chief engineer Lily Shen into combat in order to discover more about her father's legacy (who veterans will remember from the 2012 original). Another inescapable spoiler is your reward for completing the mission: the new Spark soldier class.
During the mission a mechanised unit joins your ranks, and upon completion can be selected for battle like anyone else. You also have the opportunity to make more (resources allowing - they ain't cheap) should you want extra metal in amongst your more fleshy tactical options. The first Spark unit is available for selection straight away, but your second needs to be built in the proving grounds. Not only can you draw added satisfaction from building the thing yourself, it's also a very entertaining addition to the team. There's an AI character introduced during the story mission that then becomes part of the Spark created by Shen and her engineers. We'll not say anything other than confirm that this new character is quite amusing.
In battle the new Spark class packs plenty of punch and offers new tactical options. They come equipped with a rocket launcher and a heavy machine gun. Like any other soldier, as you level up you're presented with options to choose from that allow you to tailor the unit to your play-style. We gave our mechs the ability to act as full cover for other soldiers, which balances out the fact that they themselves can't take cover and are thus more vulnerable to attack. We also equipped them with a potent melee attack, which with their other weapons gives them options across short, medium and long range. On top of the skills that you unlock over time the Spark units come with plenty of health and armour as standard, and the ability to jump over terrain, making them an excellent option to lead the vanguard of your attack. However, they could have done with more customisation options (even if we did get them looking fantastic via garish colour schemes).
The score below is really only for the Shen's Last Gift DLC, but there's two more packs to tell you about quickly. The Alien Hunters DLC is less successful. It introduces new ultra challenging alien bosses that react to your every action with their own turn, making them extremely dangerous opponents. If you're playing on Ironman (luckily we were not on the occasion of our first meeting) they have the potential to ruin a whole campaign in just a few turns, especially if you encounter this content early on when your soldiers aren't as potent as they could be. There's a story mission included in this DLC too. It's solid enough and focuses on another character from the first game (Dr Vahlen) but we thought Shen's Last Gift was better.
You also get some cosmetic upgrades with the Alien Hunters DLC, though not to the same extent as you get in the Anarchy's Children DLC. In the first - and cheapest - of the content drops you get a lot of customisation options for your soldiers, but not a lot else. It's great if you want to differentiate your troopers, but it doesn't add anything meaningful to the game beyond that. All together that means a season pass comprising of three content packs and totalling £15.99, although out of the three the only one we'd consider anywhere near essential is Shen's Last Gift.
So that explains the decent score below and our hearty endorsement of the new expansion. If you've still not dipped in and snapped up the earlier content, we'd suggest caution before doing so, but we've no such warning for this latest DLC. The story mission is fleeting but decent, and the new soldier class will change the dynamic of any mission in any future play-through. It's well worth drafting in some mechanised help as you continue to wage war against the alien overlords.
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