Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
 BLOG ABOUT THIS

The Bureau: XCOM walks a tightrope of strategy and action

2:30 PM on 07.17.2013 // Abel Girmay

Now if we can just get some psionics in here...

Once considered the flagship reboot of the XCOM franchise with a side meal strategy game to go with it in Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has found itself playing second fiddle in the eyes of many series fans. Straddling the line between action and strategy, The Bureau is making deliberate strides to blend the core tenets of the series into a modern third-person action game.

And you know what? It works. It really does work.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: 2K Marin
Publisher: 2K Games
Release: August 20, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

While we've covered the game before at length, I've since had a few lingering questions. One of the bigger ones was seeing how far permadeath would go. Since this is the XCOM series' first big push to have a storied campaign with a central protagonist and supporting cast, would things get as crazy as to allow story-centric characters to be killed? Speaking with creative director Morgan Gray, "We push most of our story through characters who won't be risked on the battlefield. Agents are characters with little 'c,' but they're not crucial to any major narrative beat of the game."

Permadeath may not be as far reaching as to have an effect on the plot, but it's looming threat is very real in combat. Still, even there it can be shimmied around with quick work of the save system. Gray continues, "Because we're straddling a couple different genres, trying to be an on-ramp for brainier and more technical forms of combat, certainly in the third-person space, we decided we'll let people vote with their time."

This tradeoff is not unlike what many players would have experienced in last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown. While the threat of permadeath is real, smart use of the save system will be able to cover you, so long as you're okay with a trial-and-error experience. Even at higher difficulties, you will be able to reload saves as often as desired, as the brunt of their challenge will lie in smarter enemies and shorter revive times. There's no official word on whether or not The Bureau will have a save-exploit-killing Iron Man mode.

"[Reloading saves] is as not as harsh in its consequences, but we put a lot of consequences in the game," explained Gray. "We ask for a lot of you, and there is a lot of learning in this game ... just that concept of Iron Man mode, we will probably not have something that is so punishing and hardcore, primarily because of the genre we're going towards as a third person game." 

While you may find ways to get around some of The Bureau's systems, others -- namely the upgrades -- are set in stone. There is no characters respec option at any point in the campaign. In standard XCOM fashion, you will have to choose from a binary skill tree to determine how you will play your agents. Since you can have multiple agents from each class, this isn't the biggest issue. However, since the player character, Agent Carter, has a skill tree all his own, you'll want to think things through.

In my time with The Bureau, I saw myself favoring skills that played to the strengths of my preferred agents. Since I found a certain affinity for the support and engineer classes, my Carter was decked with skills to decease the cooldown of my healing ability, perfect for my engineer who I'd put out in front to lay mines. To assist my support agent, I'd opt for the ability to levitate enemies out of cover, giving the agent a clear line of sight to inflict high damage.

It's in the ways you play around with your squadmates that The Bureau's strengths really start to shine. A lot of the success of the game's marriage between real-time combat and the cerebral tactics expected of XCOM is due to the Battle Focus system. Playing The Bureau as a straight third-person shooter simply isn't an option, and the game is quick to punish players who don't respect the strategy involved. At the same time, the Mass Effect-esque command wheel that is Battle Focus won't give you total reprieve from battle.

Going into Battle Focus slows down time to ten percent of its usual speed. This may sound like it's just as good as time fully stopping, and in the most comfortable of situations, it can be. In other situations, I found myself frantically trying to get my support agent to throw down a shield for my engineer as enemy drones hovered above his half cover, chewing through his health. While this is all going on, I somehow miss the two Outsider aliens that were moving in to flank me and am quickly introduced to the game-over screen. 

Walking a tightrope between genres is a challenge for any game to get right, but a challenge made greater for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, as it comes from a series firmly associated with one over the other. It is, however, walking that rope really well. Battle Focus retains much more of the series' tactics than some may have expected, making the perspective change more welcome as an alternative way to explore the franchise. The muted sense of permadeath will be a disappointment for some, but if you're one of the many who exploited saves in Enemy Unknown, you'll find it works similarly here.

Now, about those psionics...

Photo Gallery: (13 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys



Abel Girmay, Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Born and raised in Oakland, CA. Avid fan of FPS, RPGs, and Little Caesars Pizza.  more   |   staff directory





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified


  Aug 08

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified devs discuss art style

New developer diary focuses on tone and visuals


  Jul 27

Dominic Monaghan is an agent for The Bureau

The LOST and LOTR star is the hunter or is he the prey?


  Jul 22

This trailer for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is spooky

And that's not just because it has a clown in it.


  Jun 19

Post-release DLC for The Bureau hits Xbox 360 first

And a first look at the 'Codebreakers' bonus mission


  May 13

XCOM Declassified is still a strategy game at heart

Defend America against the foreign invaders


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Cool site never heard of before

Gravity Rush: The 6th generation game you didn't play

The Witness Review

Waifu Wars: Rei Ayanami (NGE)

Gaming's Beautiful People #3: Waifu Warfare (Bloggers Wanted)

Understanding How Street Fighter is Played

Cblogs of 2/05/16 + Digital Preservation

Music Notes: "Tied Down" by Forever Still

Desert Golfing - The Model Mobile Game

Review: Pony Island

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
And another one. And another one. And another one. You smart.
ooktar avatarooktar
When did the Waifu War turn into a Pokemon debate?
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
I think about this a lot for some reason.
Parismio avatarParismio
This is a PSA: Never trust anyone who doesn't wet their toothpaste before brushing their teeth! Those people are clearly evil and their waifus are probably shit too!
Lawman avatarLawman
Going back to Gravity Rush, I think I forgot how much I love it. The visuals, the interesting designs, the dreamy music, likable characters, and of course, just floating all over the place like it's no big thing. It blends together so well.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
One of my personal favorite pokemon.
taterchimp avatartaterchimp
I had a rough night and I hate the fucking Eagles, man
Niwannabe avatarNiwannabe
Okay, here's one last Fuck, Marry, Kill to determine the truest of waifus. Donald Trump, Jed, Dreamweaver. Go.
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
I don't normally bitch about life on the internet, but I need to vent. It's been a REALLY shitty week. Hopefully life's been treating my fellow 'toiders better.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Mandatory reading
Joe Parlock avatarJoe Parlock
Ursaring is the best pokemon, followed shortly by Meganium. Duh.
Roxas1359 avatarRoxas1359
Gotta go with Vaporeon as it is absolutely adorable and makes for a great Water-Type. I'd upload a photo, but my internet is being screwy.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Regice!
Jcan avatarJcan
Cool site never heard of before
Torchman avatarTorchman
absolutfreak avatarabsolutfreak
My new least favorite type of team mate in Heroes of the Storm: they guy that declares the game is over after the enemy succeeds on one objective completion.
Heat avatarHeat
Gengar!! Poison type FTW!
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
Luxray is the only best Pokemon.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Quick post your favorite Pokemon!
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Hell yes. Nekro just pulled this from a Pokemon card booster pack. Don't judge me, I find the game to be fun, even if my deck is terrible.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -