Things seemed to end pretty happily ever after in the 2012 edition of XCOM. The aliens were vanquished, victory was secured, and Earth could rest easy and get back to making the reality television that had become its chief cultural output. So why has everything gone so wrong in XCOM 2? As IGN explains, Firaxis changed the game by changing the past, and in this particular version of history, mankind lost. Badly.
"When the aliens showed up, XCOM suffered massive casualties, and governments around the world crumbled in face of popular support to surrender. Then, the Earth was quickly overrun," Creative Director Jake Solomon explained. "And so, 20 years into the future, the world is a very different place. The aliens rule Earth from giant shining megacities where all the people of Earth are flocking; that’s where they’re promised an easy life, a secure life free of disease."
At the head of a group of hardened resistance fighters rather than an elite military unit, players will take control of a different sort of XCOM that doesn't have access to the advanced technology that gave it a fighting chance in the last game. Classes will be similar to those of Enemy Unknown, but with their own unique twists; the Sharpshooter is much like the Sniper but can wield a pistol as a primary weapon, while the Ranger operates much as Assault soldiers did but comes equipped with the deadly blade that made such a memorable impression in yesterday's announcement trailer.
They'll also be customizable to a much greater degree than those of the previous game, allowing adjustments to individual components like arms and headgear, as well as nationality and gender. In a similar vein, missions will also be more flexible; players will often have the element of surprise, allowing them to use the new concealment system to scout and set up attacks, and there will be variable victory conditions in some cases, rather than the usual "kill everything that moves."
The IGN article digs into quite a bit more detail, looking at things like changes to inventory and looting, the evolution your alien enemies, and some big differences in mission structure; if you're at all interested in XCOM 2 (and you should be), it's definitely worth a look. XCOM 2 is slated to come out in November.