Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 15, 2016
Mods and cheats for XCOM 2

I've been playing a lot of XCOM 2 since it came out. The first couple of games all ended in failure because I had taken wrong economic decisions in the "outer" game that connects the various battles. While XCOM 2 lets you select a difficulty level, the choice isn't very detailed, and if you want harder battles, you also get a harder resource management game with it. That isn't exactly what I want, I don't like if the resources in a game are so tight that there is only one possible sequence of decisions which doesn't lead to disaster. But for the battles I like them to be a bit more challenging. In the previous XCOM game I solved the problem with a cheat program which gave me more money at the start. In XCOM 2 it turns out that cheats are now called "mods" and are very well integrated in the game interface.

On the very first screen of XCOM 2 you can instead of pressing the "play" button go to the Steam Workshop instead. And already there are hundreds of mods you can find there. Once you download a mod, the same start screen allows you to select which mods you want to have active, and which ones you don't, similar to the addon selection screen of World of Warcraft. The whole exercise of downloading and using mods is rather painless, with the most difficult part being finding the right mods for you in the Steam Workshop (which really could use better sorting options).

Of course some of the mods are cosmetic. But a good number of them directly address all the points any player ever complained about. You don't like turn limits in missions? There is a mod to turn them off (I didn't download that one). For my problem of resource management there are several mods that increase starting resources, including a very useful one that gives you a single scientist and engineer at the start because you can derail your whole game if you don't get enough of them early, especially the engineers. I went for a mod which changed the starting resources via an .ini file that I can edit, because I don't want the resource management game to be *too* easy either. I just want a bit more wiggle room to be able to buy a fancy toy on offer without that causing me to lose the game ten hours later. There are also a number of mods that modify the loot tables, or increase the usefullness of the looted weapon mods (they *are* a bit weak in the original).

While some mods can also make the game harder, like doubling the number of aliens, many of the mods make the game easier. Which, strictly speaking, would qualify them as "cheats". But as this is a single-player game, the purpose isn't so much cheating, but rather modifying the game to fit your individual preferences. The previous XCOM game, especially after the expansion, had a lot more options to individualize gameplay in the new game menu. XCOM 2 replaces that with the mods system, which is infinitely more flexible. The only downside of that is that people don't play the same game any more. Bragging rights for beating the game at high difficulty go out of the window if you could have used mods that made the game a lot easier in reality. But the upside is that a system that enables you to get rid of any game element that frustrated you personally makes the game far more accessible to everybody.

It's the perfect system. It doesn't even disable achievements. It's feasible to cheat/ahem, mod your way to nearly 100%. (You still have to win a multiplayer match, I think.)

Of course, I'm sure there are some folks who will froth all over everything as they writhe in apoplexy of RAGE at the fact that someone out there might be enjoying themselves with the aid of cheats without knowing how HORRIBLE A NOOB SCRUB they are for doing so, but the practical impact for me is basically in its function as a custom difficulty setting.

I avoided any of the difficulty stuff until I'd got at least one playthrough completed, but now I have free reign to roleplay.

On a related note, I'm in love with the cosmetics mods. My rag-tag crew of lethal misfits is going to get new life after I import them directly from the character pool for my 2nd run.
"It doesn't even disable achievements."

This is kind of surprising, it is more or less universal that games disable achievements while using mods. I wonder if this was an accident and now it's too late to fix? I understand that what I do in my single player game doesn't affect you, but even single player accomplishments can be comparatively competitive. The analogy would be golf, where you don't technically play against anyone, but you are still competing. If you claimed the course record by saying you got a hole in one every single hole, a lot of club members would be quite upset.
Steam achievements are fully non-competitive, there is no player ranking at all, you don't get anything out of them. To see the achievements of another player you have to visit his profile. Only interesting thing about them is comparing yourself to global rate of completion and for completionists to do them.
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