The translation to the Nintendo Switch has been a tricky process for some developers. While the likes of The Witcher 3 and Cuphead impressed on the console, others have had less than stellar success. And to be honest? The release of the XCOM 2 Collection was one of the ones I had the biggest concerns over. It was a title that struggled on the PlayStation and Xbox One at launch, so I don’t think I was alone in being wary. Although things did get better, Firaxis Games and Virtuos Games certainly had their work cut out for them with this port.
As the title would imply, XCOM 2 Collection houses the entirety of the XCOM 2 saga. This includes the base game, as well as every piece of DLC that was released for the sequel. There’s the expansive War of the Chosen expansion, plus four additional content packs: Shen’s Last Gift, Anarchy’s Children, Alien Hunters, and Resistance Warrior. Just including War of the Chosen is impressive, as it is one very meaty expansion for the title, but the additional DLC packs are a nice bonus to get. 2K Games spared no expense in bringing the acclaimed strategy game to the Nintendo Switch.
For the uninitiated, XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the events of the previous game, Enemy Unknown. Unfortunately for all of us, the titular squad failed to repel the alien invasion. Betrayed by the Council, XCOM was shattered by the invading alien forces. With humanity now under the thumb of the extraterrestrial ADVENT Administration, the remnants of the squad must rebuild their strength of they are to take back Earth. It won’t be easy, but no one ever said it would be.
Even considering the myriad of problems it faced, I enjoyed my time with the previous console release of the title. Firaxis Games has figured out a way to make strategy games work on these platforms in ways that other developers haven’t quite been able to crack. The controls are intuitive, and the UI layout works well on a large screen. This sequel also managed to improve upon aspects of the first in the revived series in smart and creative ways. The wonky aiming issues that the series is known for can be annoying to deal with, yes, but that only makes the tension of each battle that much more overwhelming.
If for some reason, you played the original release but skipped War of the Chosen, you can hop right into that from the main menu. I personally wouldn’t recommend it unless you are one of the few who falls into that category, though. The expansion fleshes out the series’ lore while also introducing various new mechanics into an already deceptively complicated franchise. The titular Chosen prove to be a formidable opponent for the XCOM squad, but the additions to the class variety serve as an effective counterbalance. With the amount of excellent content included, it feels like a throwback to the glory days of expansion packs and not just an overpriced piece of DLC.
A lot of work clearly went into making this port the best possible port it could be. Unfortunately, it was never going to be perfect, and the results show. The first thing you’ll notice is that the visuals have taken a pretty big hit. The environments are muddy and rife with bad texturing. There’s a good amount of noticeable pop-in, both as you are beginning a mission, and as you move forward. The character models look off as well, with facial features being particularly hard hit. You are given a ton of customization options, but the XCOM squad is always going to look a little off.
The frame rate struggles to keep up with the action, which is a little surprising considering this is a turn-based strategy game. Moving around the battlefield can get pretty choppy depending on what’s on-screen. It’s not necessarily something that affects the gameplay, but it can get frustrating watching everything slow to a crawl. Massive slow down even plagues the moments outside of battle, as just moving around the Avenger can take longer than expected. The load times of the title are also absurd. No matter what you are doing, you are almost guaranteed to be hit with a decent sized wait.
One issue exclusive to playing handheld is that the UI seems too cluttered at times. As you progress through the game, there is an abundance of things to keep an eye on in the heat of battle. Unfortunately, in order to fit everything on the screen, things had to be made smaller than desirable. As someone with already shoddy eyesight, having to sit with my face close to the screen just to plot my next maneuver was an unwelcome surprise. To be fair, without radically changing things, I’m not sure how this could have been alleviated, so I’m sure the two studios that worked on this did the best they could.
All things considered, I do think Firaxis and Virtuos did an admirable job in bringing the XCOM 2 Collection to the Switch. The amount of content offered here is a massive bargain, and the series makes an excellent fit for taking on the go. However, it’s difficult to ignore all of the issues and downgrades that had to happen in order to make this port work on the console. The slowdown both in and out of battle is consistently on display, the graphics are significantly worse than those on the other consoles, and the UI doesn’t work as well as it should on the Switch’s smaller screen. It’s still a fantastic, intense title, but this compilation is still a lesser version of it.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by 2K Games.
Although far from a flawless port, XCOM 2 Collection is still a hearty dose of one of the best strategy titles of the past decade.