TL;TL;DR;DR

Some evidence of an expansion coming, but no official word yet. But E3 is coming…

FINAL UPDATE: Our prayers have been answered! A new expansion is on the way, named War of the Chosen, featuring a new set of characters, classes, factions, maps and enemies, and much more coming on 29 August! You can catch the details from the trailer below or on the newly-released Steam page.

UPDATE 23/5/2017: It looks like Take-Two are “not really showing products” at this year’s E3. Our hopes may be dashed…

UPDATE 9/6/2017: A recent tweet from the official XCOM Twitter seems to be hinting at a long-awaited XCOM 2 expansion. Ready your hype engines, and make sure you tune in to the PC Gaming Show on June 12 at 10am PT at E3! 

 

Read on below to get the full story on the first hints of upcoming changes and what this new expansion could include.

TL;DR

  • There have been changes on the Steam store that could indicate something new is coming for XCOM 2: potentially an expansion pack similar to Enemy Within.
  • No official announcement yet. The likeliest moment was PAX, which has now passed. However, Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Firaxis, has representation at E3. This would be an ideal time to announce an expansion.
  • Timeline for a possible expansion matches that of the original XCOM reboot.
  • If there is an expansion pack, it may continue the story from the vanilla game with Terror from the Deep, hinted at the end of the main game.
  • This would not follow the previous trend of weaving additional content into the main gameplay – and Terror from the Deep might be the topic for a sequel, rather than an expansion.
  • More likely is that it will be based around the adventures of Vahlen, as this allows for a new secondary plotline, new enemies and new mechanics while still weaving the expansion into the main storyline and also tying up a major loose end.

Long version:

XCOM: Enemy Within is easily one of my favourite expansion packs. Though, to be honest, any title that gets an expansion that includes cyborgs that rocket-punch aliens into the stratosphere is going to be a good one in my books.

But it did so much more than that – no one-trick pony here. In an industry dominated by microtransactions and small DLCs, it really warmed my cockles to experience a true-to-God expansion pack. And one that delivered on both quality and quantity at that. Seriously, if you haven’t played Enemy Withinit needs to be on your list.

While the additional content for XCOM 2 hasn’t been disappointing exactly (barring the terrible Anarchy’s Children off-tone bullshit), they still haven’t quite delivered the same level of quality that Enemy Within managed to achieve. Yes, we have robots now; yes, we have snek hats, and of course Long War 2 has been there to fill the void in a big way.

But when you get a game as good as XCOM 2, it’s hard not to want more.

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Not more of this though, please.

It’s understandable, then, that my hype train engines (and many others) are getting heavily revved as rumours of a possible expansion pack for XCOM 2 start getting some tantalising (though not rock-solid) evidence.

Here’s what we know so far:

Steam file ch-ch-changes

The rumours for an upcoming expansion pack have been around for months. Many were expecting that Jake Solomon would announce it during the PAX East stream – but it didn’t end up happening.

However, there is a new hope on the horizon; some new tidbits have been spotted by reddit user jeep-eep on SteamDB. Their eagle eyes found that some interesting new files have begun compatibility testing in Steam. We even have an internal name for the possible expansion: Oz.

Screenshot_1
Yes, I steal things from reddit just like a ‘real’ journalist.

Compatibility testing is quite late-stage, so if we’re lucky (and the hype-train is on the right track), we could be seeing an announcement as to what this Oz business is all about quite soon.

Age is just a number

WARNING: This section contains amateur-ish interpretation of statistics data.

You might be thinking: “XCOM 2? Didn’t that come out ages ago? Why would they release an expansion pack now? Would it really be the right time to do so? Aren’t they just working on the sequel by now?”

If you are thinking that, firstly: aren’t you the curious cucumber?

Secondly, you’re right. XCOM 2 was released in February 2016, more than a year ago now. It cracked 130,000 concurrent players shortly after release – nothing to sniff at for sure – and currently has about 1.4 million owners. It was a popular game, and got a pretty great critical reception. The playerbase has now dropped to about 5,000 to 10,000 a week; not bad for a game more than a year old.

But here’s the thing about expansion packs: they can create an enormous surge in popularity. Even those who might not be interested in the original game might purchase it, and those who played the game in the first few days, then disappeared, may return. Sometimes they even double-dip, buying a gold edition of the title to catch up on all the DLC they have missed. I did that with Enemy Within on console, and I know that I’m not alone.

We have momentum for the hype train. Why wouldn’t they release an expansion pack at this stage?

Just look at how well Enemy Within did to boost the numbers of the original XCOM reboot. It went from 5,000 concurrent players (about 7% of the original playerbase) to a huge 30,000 (almost half the original playerbase). If XCOM 2 could achieve something similar, that could translate to 65,000 players all jumping on board with the expansion pack. Many of these would likely be new purchasers. Ding ding ding, money for the developers!

What’s more, this timeline for a full-blown expansion pack isn’t actually all that unusual. Remember, it’s not a DLC! Enemy Within was released a year and a bit after the original. We’re now a year and a bit after the release of vanilla XCOM 2. Plenty of players have jumped back on due to the release of Long War 2 as well. 

We have momentum for the hype train. Why wouldn’t they release an expansion pack at this stage?

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Please just give me back my rocket punches.

What would the expansion pack even be about?

***SPOILER WARNING FOR XCOM 2 VANILLA. STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT THE ENDING SPOILED. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER BIG BLOODY SPOILER DON’T COMPLAIN IF YOU READ PAST THIS POINT HERE’S THE SPOILER WARNING THIS IS A SPOILER WARNING OH LOOK AT HOW WONDERFUL THIS BIG FUCKING SPOILER WARNING IS***

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You’ve been warned.

We’ve basically been purely speculating at this point, but now we’re going full-blown fantasy land. In reality, we have no idea what an expansion pack for XCOM 2 would be about.

But it’s fun to pretend we do, isn’t it? Here’s what I reckon:

Terror from the Deep?

At the end of XCOM 2, after defeating the Elders/Ethereals and their Avatars, we get to revel in the ultimate success of the Resistance movement. However, the Elders leave us with a dire warning; that something even worse than them is coming, and that we are not ready for it yet.

Under the ocean, we catch a brief glimpse of some kind of crack in the floor, from which purple tendrils (or perhaps tentacles) are reaching out – similar in many ways to the psionic gate we just closed. It appears that something terrible is coming… some kind of… Terror from the Deep…

ROLL CREDITS!

You can see what we’re talking about below. Skip to 3:50 if you’d like to get to the crux of what I’m talking about.

This appears to be some kind of set-up for a sequel – a harkening back to the original XCOM series which featured a game titled Terror from the Deep. This game was set four decades after the original UFO: Enemy Unknown (much like how XCOM 2 is set years after the XCOM reboot), and rather than aliens coming from the sky, they were coming from our deepest oceans.

It’s all a little bit too neat to be a coincidence:

  • XCOM 2 is the sequel to a critically acclaimed reboot.
  • Terror from the Deep was the sequel to the critically acclaimed original.
  • The beasties came from the ocean in the original, and they appear to be coming from the ocean in the ending.
  • Those glowing tendrils are very Lovecraftian in a way, and the Terror from the Deep aliens also played a great deal on the same themes.

This could easily be the topic of an expansion pack. Considering the Oz name could be referencing Australia i.e. going “down under”, some have inferred that this is evidence of an upcoming underwater adventure.

However, it could also be the setup for a sequel rather than an expansion.

It’s all a little bit too neat to be a coincidence.

Switching the gameplay up enough to be fighting different aliens, pursuing different goals, with different maps and probably different technology trees, abilities, assets and so on, is a huge task. I don’t think it could be done justice with just an expansion pack, and 2K and Firaxis will know that too.

Enemy Within added some new enemies and some new mechanics, sure, but they played on already-established processes rather than having to invent entirely new ones. They weaved the new content into the established plotline – extremely well, I might add. That’s not going to be possible with something as enormous as recreating Terror from the Deep.

For those reasons, I don’t think any expansion pack for XCOM 2 would be based around Terror from the DeepFar more likely is that this will be the story of XCOM 3.

The outcome that even Tygan could predict

What’s more likely is that the expansion will continue the trend the DLCs have started. First, we had Bradford coming along on a special mission (Alien Hunters). Then we had Shen suiting up for her own story arc (Shen’s Last Gift). I can’t see Tygan grabbing his gun and his gear and setting off for his own adventure, and Shen Sr. is dead. So who does that leave?

Vahlen. Dr Vahlen, of the original XCOM team.

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This Teutonic lady.

This is even hinted at in Alien Hunters. Vahlen is out there, somewhere, having previously been working to create the genetically modified alien monarchs that turn up out of nowhere and wipe your best squad for no reason at all fuck you RNG. We never really get to hear the conclusion of what exactly happened to her, or Big Sky (the original pilot from XCOM) for that matter, whom is also hinted at in that DLC. Too many loose ends left untied, and I sincerely doubt this was unintentional.

Perhaps we’ll find Vahlen and rescue her, opening up a new slew of genetic modifications for our soldiers. She could even be an antagonist, being brainwashed into fighting against the Resistance (or actually choosing to work for ADVENT). Whatever way they choose to go, this option allows an easy way to introduce new plotlines (finding Vahlen), new enemies (genetic modification), and new gameplay features (tinkering with our own troops, utilising the alien’s technology against them).

Perhaps we’ll find Vahlen and rescue her, opening up a new slew of genetic modifications for our soldiers.

The fact that they didn’t deal with Vahlen’s story within Alien Hunters is, to me, a big sign that this will be the central plot of any new expansion that gets released. Not Terror from the Deep; that’s going to be the sequel. Not disappearing off to other planets, even if Bradford does hint at that during Avenger chats – that would also be sequel material.

No. Chances are, it’s going to be Vahlen. What capacity she appears in, and what new mechanics would be introduced, are another matter entirely. But considering Firax’s previous behaviour and the quality of (most) of the work they’ve put out in this series, it’s probably going to be a goodie either way.

One last thought: If the books are canonical, then Vahlen escaped from ADVENT by going out to sea. And who would be the most suitable person to discover the new threat from the deep? Yeah. Vahlen’s tale might just be a part of XCOM 3, rather than an expansion. But let a poor guy dream, okay?

Summary

Phew, bit of a long one! I’ve put a TL;DR at the top, but here it is again to save your scrolling finger:

  • There have been changes on the Steam store that could indicate something new is coming for XCOM 2: potentially an expansion pack similar to Enemy Within.
  • No official announcement yet. The likeliest moment was PAX, which has now passed. However, Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Firaxis, has representation at E3. This would be an ideal time to announce an expansion.
  • Timeline for a possible expansion matches that of the original XCOM reboot.
  • If there is an expansion pack, it may continue the story from the vanilla game with Terror from the Deep, hinted at the end of the main game.
  • This would not follow the previous trend of weaving additional content into the main gameplay – and Terror from the Deep might be the topic for a sequel, rather than an expansion.
  • More likely is that it will be based around the adventures of Vahlen, as this allows for a new secondary plotline, new enemies and new mechanics while still weaving the expansion into the main storyline and also tying up a major loose end.

Do you think there’s an expansion on the way? What gameplay mechanics do you think will be included? Let me know in the comments below!

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