We are slightly over a month away from the release of XCOM 2, the sequel to the hit XCOM: Enemy Unknown turn based tactical game, which itself was also a reboot of the original X-COM sci-fi strategy game.

In other words, there have been many ways that fans can enjoy the games in the series, and while we could be replaying the first title with Long War installed, or feeding ourselves silly with the numerous gameplay teasers out there, we thought it would be more productive to sit down with Greg Foertsch, the Art Director for XCOM 2, for a more in depth discussion of the game.

Greg Foertsch

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You might have grown up playing anything remotely related to Sid Meier or Firaxis, so you’re likely to have interacted with Greg’s game designs in the last 15 years. His touch has influenced everything, from Sid Meier’s Pirates to Alpha Centauri, and these days, one of the original founder of Firaxis Games has been busy with the latest XCOM titles.

The surprising things was that XCOM’s reboot was but only small details on the table when Greg started working it out with Jake Solomon.

“That beginning time was a lot of fun, working out the overall look and design of the game, and then gradually building up to the launch in 2012. Since then I’ve had the good fortune to keep working on XCOM as a series.”

xcom 2 sniper

If you found that the soldiers within the latest XCOM game look like awesome action figures, you would have to thank Greg for that.

When it comes to aliens, Greg points out that he and his team looks mainly towards pop culture and sci-fi lore to gain design inspiration. His premise is to take things that are familiar to the player, and then giving them a more unique and fantastic twist.

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xcom 2 the faceless

“The Faceless is a great example of this. With him, we drew our inspiration from 1950’s sci-fi movies, like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and we mixed that with something more contemporary, like the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth.”

The end results are imaginative aliens that do look like derivatives of existing monsters and alien creatures.


Fans of the original X-COM game would then appreciate the appearance of the Viper, considered to to be the new and improved version of the Thin Man. To the newcomers of the series, the Thin Man was first seen in the reboot, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and had the same abilities of the Snake Man from the very first X-COM.

Unfortunately, fans of the game should not expect more visual variety between aliens of the same species in XCOM 2, as the lore states that the alien army is made from the cloning of species.

As far as canon goes, XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after the events of the rebooted Enemy Unknown, with humans losing the war with the aliens. But this means the resistance is still alive, and spoiling for a fight.

Before we head into the meaty and serious stuff, we just had to ask how exactly has the aliens and their Advent corporation aided mankind since the fall of the XCOM coalition. Have they been able to realize our dreams of self-lacing shoes ala Back to the Future?

Greg shares that XCOM field operatives have to seek out local resistance cells in order to give them support and also reliant on stealing resources from the aliens plus salvaging things off the battlefield. However, when it comes to critical personal equipment, like shoelaces, old tech is the best tech.

“You don’t want your alien-designed self-lacing technology to break down on the battlefield, or betray you at the worst-possible moment.”

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To Greg, this illustrates how disinterested the aliens are in solving all the ‘real’ problems faced on Earth. And it just gets dark from here on.

“They just see humanity as another species that they can manipulate and warp into their own plans. They’ve never cared about the well-being of their subject species before. Why make an exception for humanity? They may talk about caring for humans, but that’s just a front for something more sinister.”


That being said we haven’t seen much of our common grey aliens, the Sectoids, much in the trailers in comparison to the other alien races. The Ethereals pulling the strings have also taken a big backseat but have a big role to play; Something that Greg revealed but wasn’t too keen to elaborate on.

Manipulation is the name of the game when it comes to the Ethereals and despite the Sectoids getting their own upgrade in the form of the Mechtoid, they are but pawns in the bigger scheme of things. Greg explains that everything in the galaxy is for the Ethereals to simply exploit.

One thing Greg didn’t explore further was the use of face scanning, to place players directly into the game itself.

“That’s some cool technology, but we’d have to have our engineers try it out and see if it would work with the game as we have it now.”

This feature would be a fantastic addition if it was included on the robust mod tool support that has already been announced. First things first though, XCOM 2 is riding on a high of positive  community sentiment right now and let’s hope the base game delivers.

xcom 2 crysalid

Wrapping things up, we shared that the new Chryssalid looked absolutely evil art wise, we cannot imagine how pleasing that must have sounded to Greg.

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Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There's nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!