XCOM 2 has held a place in my Steam ‘Favourites’ list since it came out essentially. I’ve popped into it time and again based on various prompts and triggers. The trigger this time was a desire to play through as many titles as possible to investigate how they handled the craziness of a 32:9 screen.

In fact… Why not? A quick diversion first into what I’ve tried and how they’ve coped.

  • Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey — Displays on full screen during play with only minimal fish-eye distortion at the outer edges. Beautiful HDR implementation as well!
  • Remnant: From the Ashes — At launch was unplayable on 21:9 let alone 32:9 — UI now displays on screen, books don’t only show the middle third. Basically ‘fixed’, but some FoV tweaking necessary to avoid intense distortion at the edges.
  • ELEX — Occasionally can tell screen is being cropped top/bottom in cutscenes when character faces/heads are offscreen while talking — but in general play looks good and occupies full screen. Didn’t expect that!
ELEX: Chapter 1
  • MOTHERGUNSHIP — Fun game, but not built for 32:9. Unfortunately it stretches the 16:9 display out across the entire display. Boo.
  • Hellblade: Senua’s SacrificeAmazing. No distortion. Full screen — even in cutscenes. If it is cropping the display, it is non-obvious as faces and other focal points are always framed correctly.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice — It was actually difficult selecting a screenshot!
  • Telltale Batman Series’ 1 & 2 — I’ve now finished series 1, and first couple of episodes of season 2. Huge (massive) black bars surround an otherwise 16:9 game display port when played fullscreen.
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance — Some fish-eye effect at screen edges. Heads sometimes cropped off in cutscenes. But an amazing play experience nonetheless.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance — Before the proverbial hits the fan.
  • Destiny 2 — I had some very weird HDR issues with this one to start with. And the HDR calibration tool wouldn’t budge the settings at all. Eventually resolved by deleting config and allowing game to generate a new one. And then? Then it looked amazing. No distortion. Performed well. Tried to convince myself I was into it as a game though and couldn’t quite do it. Something about Destiny 2 leaves me a bit cold. Not sure why.

Those are the ones I actually ‘played’ (excluding XCOM2, which I’ll get to soon). I also opened a bunch of others ‘just to see’, like No Man’s Sky, Battlefield V, Project Cars 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Essentially it’s been quite a bit like when you get a new PC and then go back and revisit the games you couldn’t perhaps play quite as well as you’d like to before. :)

Anywho — that was quite the diversion, back on track!

XCOM 2 — Back and Modded More than Ever

You know, it took me a while to notice… But uh… Why is he looking down his heavy machine gun like it needs to be scope fired?? … Anyway…

Like I said at the beginning of the post — original intent was just to open it up and see how it went. And if you’re wondering — it goes well. The full 32:9 screen space is used in-game, although cut scenes reduce down to 16:9 with black bars.

But then I happened across the fact that earlier in the month Christopher Odd — one of my favourite XCOM YouTubers from wayback — had recently started an ultramodded Legend difficulty campaign. And had put the mod list up for all to subscribe and use.

Some 8.4GB of mod downloads later — and I was good to go! … er, go to a crash report screen that was. D’oh.

Some quick checking around, and I discovered that a number of the mods in this list actually required the ‘side’ DLC I’d not bothered with in the past. The non-expansion story packs.

So now — some 3+ years after their release — I bought them. The Reinforcement pack would’ve been $29.99 NZD, but the full ‘XCOM 2 Collection’ ended up being cheaper than that since I owned every other part of the collection. Steam bundles are a bit weird sometimes.

I got to watching a few episodes while the download did its thing.

I could have very happily played an entire campaign with this gigantic mod-setup, I think. And I only say ‘I think’ because I have a tendency to restart XCOM campaigns like they’re going out of fashion.

But it was not to be. It was instead to be poisoned by the fruit of knowledge. Knowledge that all these years later, The Long War 2 mod would rise again. The Long War isn’t to everyone’s taste. Its stated purpose is to make an already difficult game and make it even more difficult.

The original for the first XCOM reboot was received so well that the developers were brought into the development of XCOM 2 to develop The Long War 2 in parallel. The additional access allowed for the team to implement whole new game systems.

The War of the Chosen expansion brought a mixed bag of emotions. It was an undeniably fantastic experience in its own right. To this day I’m amazed at how skillfully the team weaved the original campaign story with the new additions. But on the sad side — the Long War 2 mod was confirmed as no longer receiving any additional development efforts from the original team.

It was never going to come out in a WoTC ready form.

Well… You know. ‘Never’ until it did.

At some point in the intervening years, the Long War 2 team released the source code and blessing to the community to go forth and try adapt it if anyone was so inclined.

A few attempts were made, but the array of quite significant balance conflicts brought these attempts to an end.

Until they didn’t. A project kicked off earlier this year by Peter Ledbrook hit beta 1 last month. It isn’t yet on the Steam Workshop, so the install process is quite manual and involved. But hoo boy.

It’s baaaa-aack. And best of all? My pool of custom soldiers was still there! I played through the first mission of a brand new Long War 2 campaign with 8 named rookies heroes in the making.

Looking forward to playing more!