This seems like a poor option, commander.
XCOM 2 is one of the finer strategy games I’ve gotten to play, but even on PC it had issues with poor optimization. Though patches would smooth out a lot of the issues over time, the PC version launched with long load times and a tendency for the action to slow down a lot when processing AI actions. A lot of these issues were exacerbated by console ports to Xbox One and PS4 a couple years ago, and sadly the Switch version is no different. It’s a shame, because XCOM 2 on Switch retains everything that makes it one of my favorite strategy games, but it’s all presented in a package that makes some serious concessions in order to run on a portable system.
We’ll start with the good stuff. XCOM 2 is a turn-based campaign strategy game where you’re leading a rebellion against a hostile alien force that conquered Earth 20 years ago. Gameplay is split between combat and management phases, with the actions you take at headquarters requiring just as much forethought and strategy as those you take on the battlefield. The XCOM organization has limited resources and limited time, so you’ll need to figure out which upgrades need to be prioritized and which you can afford to let fall by the wayside. Even choosing one combat mission over another is a tough decision, since you can’t do all of them, and they all have rewards for completing them and consequences for ignoring them. Adaptability is the name of the game, since XCOM is almost like a competitive single player game; you can just straight up lose in the campaign as your resources run dry and poor strategies lead to hopeless situations, giving it something of a roguelike flavor.
Once you’ve got boots on the ground, things get even more hectic. You start the game with a maximum of four soldiers per mission, but eventually you can expand your squad to six units that each have unique abilities based on their class. Battles play out in a turn-based grid format that Nintendo fans would recognize as being very reminiscent of Fire Emblem and strikingly similar to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle; Kingdom Battle actually takes a lot of cues from the XCOM franchise. The two staples of combat are cover and overwatch. Cover is split between full cover and half-cover, and it’s the most important part of positioning your units as it gives you a substantial defense bonus. Meanwhile overwatch allows your soldiers to attack any enemy units that move into their line of sight instead of taking an attack action that turn, giving you the opportunity to react to your opponents instead of running head-first into danger.
Of course, battles will rarely go as planned. Enemy reinforcements can appear from any angle to flank your units, and cover can be destroyed to leave your soldiers exposed to enemy fire. There’s also a wide variety of alien forces with their own unique abilities and attributes that need to be accounted for. The included expansion pass, War of the Chosen, also features three unique mini-boss units that can appear at any time to throw a wrench into your plans. Adaptability is the name of the game, and if you can’t think on your feet in the middle of a fight, you could be going home with a lot of friendly casualties.
Unfortunately, the Switch port of XCOM 2 just does not hold a candle to the PC version. The usual graphical downgrades are present, such as low resolutions, muddy textures, and a reduction in particle effects, but the biggest offender is the load times. Getting into a mission takes a while. We did a side-by-side comparison (which you can check out on our YouTube channel ), and if you launch a mission on both Switch and PC at the same time, the PC version will be ready to start by the time the Switch version even finishes loading the loading screen. This also applies to loading your save file, which unless you’re playing an iron man run you’ll likely be doing pretty often as things go wrong on the battlefield. If you’re struggling with a particular mission, those loading screens could eventually add up to a significant time sink.
Literal loading screens aren’t the only issue though. XCOM 2 also takes a lot of time to process events and load things on-screen in the middle of battle. Enemy turns are a big offender here as the game slows to a crawl to process everything it wants the AI to do per turn. Even with the “zip mode” option enabled to speed things up, there’s still a lot of downtime padding out enemy turns, which can take multiple minutes on average. The time it takes for the game to update the fog of war can also be pretty bad. Fog of war is a staple of strategy games, and since it can take upwards of thirty seconds for the game to light up a room after you open a door, your options are either to rush headlong into potential danger or sit around and wait until the game allows you to play again.
XCOM 2 is a wonderful strategy game, but the Switch version makes it frustrating to play what can already be a pretty stressful campaign in the best of circumstances. It felt like I was spending more time waiting for the game to load or process than I was actually playing, and eventually I just ended up with a strong urge to redownload it on Steam and play it there instead. Since XCOM 2 is entirely turn-based, the poor performance doesn’t really have an effect on the gameplay, so if you can put up with it then the game is still just as good as it ever was. I couldn’t really put up with it, though, so sadly this is one Switch port that really drags down an otherwise excellent game.