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Running an Insurgency

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In XCom 2, the aliens have won. They’ve conquered the Earth, and most of humanity is dead. Those who remain, far from living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, live in glorious futuristic cities provided by Advent, the ruling body set up by the aliens. Obedience is the price of the technological miracles and safety offered by Advent. The fight to defend the Earth is over. The job in XCom 2 is to rally humanity against Advent, and ultimately boot the aliens off our damn planet.

In XCom 2, you lead an insurgency. And it hits some neat notes.

No one expects to make it to the other side

War in XCom is total. If you lose, you all die, get mulched down into nutrient soup and have your genetics recombined into soldiers for the enemy. Advent issues whatever propaganda they like, and civilians go about their business until they too are mulched. No one troubles themselves too much over what happens after the last of the aliens falls over in a hail of gunfire and plasma bolts because lifting the yoke of that oppression is hard enough in the moment.

In a fight that all-consuming, what happens after is a non-sequitur. It serves only to distract with wishful thinking, and the default assumption is that everyone involved will be dead before the end is even in sight.

We have to matter to each other

One of the things that War of the Chosen introduced was soldier bonds, as well as additional resistance factions. The fight accepts a diverse set of approaches, but also demands that every faction be willing to put themselves on the line. Make no mistake, these aren’t allies, they’re accomplices. United in purpose, if not position.

The game consistently reinforces the fact that the insurgency requires more than the desire to fight. Encouraging bonds and the formation of complementary teams, reconciling factions once in opposition, and reminding you that your allies in the field are consistently under threat, and consistently willing to take risks for you.

Communications are more important than combat

Special game hint: you can win every mission and still lose. XCom has a strategic element as well as tactical, so you’ll create a global network of allies and resources. With that network, you can fail mission after mission and still come out on top in the long run. Connections are what see you through to the end.

We’ve been running our own insurgency on stream for a few months now, and learning all kinds of things about what life might be like at the edge of everything. Turns out empathy matters more than firepower. also some things are thinly veiled metaphors.

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