XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a game about choices. Make enough of the right ones, and your ragtag group of soldiers will triumph over the unbeatable alien invaders. Fail in that, and well, you’ll end up in the story of XCOM 2 apparently.
How does XCOM 2 handle the ending of the first game?
The sequel to the 2012 game chooses a pretty bleak outlook for humanity as its predecessor’s canonical ending, presenting a world where the aliens defeated the XCOM organization.
It picks up 20 years after the end of that war. The aliens (now going by the name, The Elder) have chosen not to wipe humanity from the face of the Earth. They have instead occupied the planet, even establishing a Vichy-esque proxy government to maintain the illusion of being benevolent overseers.
This makes sense given what we learned in Enemy Unknown‘s final mission, and there’s even mentions of the aliens building “gene therapy centers,” presumably to continue their mission of Uplifting humanity to be ready for “what lies ahead” (I really hope we find out what that is in this game).
What happened to XCOM itself?
XCOM has been officially dissolved, with the world’s governments replaced with the “Advent Administration.” The Advent has human representatives, but it’s clear that it exists to perpetuate the aliens’ control of the human population. Media outlets also appear to have been co-opted, serving as propaganda mouthpieces for the notion that the aliens and humans are living in a peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship.
This idea isn’t completely false. Although humanity now lives in what amounts to a global police state, the Advent has succeeded in curing all disease and eliminating crime using alien tech. These sorts of advances have probably made it easier for the population to swallow the alien propaganda that humanity is the one that started the original war, and that the aliens had originally come in peace.
That’s a hot load of bullshit of course, but the aliens are taking the story and running with it.
They’ve rewritten the narrative so that the end of the war wasn’t a hostile takeover, but a unification of the two species. They’ve even installed a worldwide holiday called “Unification Day,” celebrating the official ceasefire.
So how does this tie into the game itself?
XCOM 2 opens on the 20th anniversary of Unification Day, with the unveiling of a prominent new statue. The remnants of XCOM haven’t been idly standing by these past two decades though, they’ve been underground preparing; scattered, but not yet defeated. They engage in hit-and-run missions when they can (labeled as terrorist activities by the Advent, of course), but so far, they haven’t had the ability to commit to a full-scale resistance.
The Advent’s revisionist history will actually impact your place in this new world, with most of humanity openly hostile to XCOM’s existence. You’re nothing but terrorists to them, attempting to destroy the “gifts” that our alien benefactors have given us.
On this particular Unification Day though, a group led by Central Officer Bradford from the first game decides to emerge from the shadows. They launch an attack on the newly erected Advent statue as a show of protest, hoping to rally any human dissenters, and show them that the war is far from over.
This is where you come in, taking command of this squad, and eventually, an alien supply ship that XCOM has retrofitted into a mobile base of operations called the Avenger.
It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here. Can humanity finally win the war? What is the deeper mystery of the aliens’ goals? And will any of the end-game stuff from Enemy Unknown be acknowledged?
I really just want to find out where the hell that Volunteer went.