Xenonauts 2 (Early Access)

Posted:  Jul 19, 2023
SDHQ BUILD SCORE: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Cloud Saves

Review

Xenonauts 2 was provided by Hooded Horse for review. Thank you! The game is in early access and could change massively throughout development. This review is strictly regarding the initial early access release.

Aliens are invading and it is up to you to defend Earth and resist the invaders. Xenonauts 2 puts you in the role of a commander who sets up covert bases throughout the world and takes on invaders from another planet. Customize your bases, outfit your aircrafts, research new technologies, and recruit/train your soldiers to get them ready for turn-based battles where a wrong move could mean the death of your units. Your foe may be stronger and more technologically advanced, but with your control and the right decisions, you can be victorious.

I have been playing a chunk of turn-based strategy games like Xenonauts 2 lately, but the intricacies of the base building, along with aircraft customization and soldier outfitting, make this game feel a couple steps ahead. I love the amount of customization and control I have over my buildings and units, it makes me a bit excited to dive in and really take the time. I also like how my choices really feel like they make a difference, making me really think about what guns my units had, balancing it out, and what research I went into next.

This is not a forgiving game either. Yes it does have a lot of auto saves and you can go back, but one wrong move that puts a unit in crosshairs accidentally can kill them. Especially with alien tech being more advanced, I had 3 of my units one-shot due to poor planning and it was devastating. To me, this just means the developers have done a great job so far with developing a challenging, engaging experience that I kept wanting to come back to. And for the most part, it can play quite well on the Steam Deck.

Xenonauts 2 - Steam Deck Performance

When it comes to Xenonauts 2, there are two very peculiar things I discovered that directly impacted performance. First, the graphics quality. There are 6 different graphics presets: Fantastic, Beautiful, Good, Simple, Fast, Fastest with "Fantastic" being the highest setting and "Fastest" being the lowest. Oddly though, the top 4 all looked and behaved almost identically, while the "Fast" and "Fastest" preset behaved similarly to each other. These two groups were wildly different though with shadows and other details being affected, but they carried massive changes in power draw.

Compare
Higher Quality Settings
Lower Quality Settings
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Lower Quality Settings
Higher Quality Settings

In one heavy scene, the higher quality group had around a 17W draw, but on the lower group, the same scene had a 10.8W draw. It is also more stable, which leads us into the next spot I noticed: framerate draw. Generally, higher framerates use more power, which makes sense, but the push of 60 FPS feels significantly larger here than in other games. I am used to seeing a 2W - 3W difference when going from 50 FPS to 60 FPS. But in Xenonauts 2, it is closer to a 5W difference and some instability, regardless of settings. Though outside of fighting, the game will rest around 7W - 8W for both builds.

Other than that, there is going to be some slowdowns when enemies take their turns and when moving around the map too quickly, but this doesn't detract from the game. Overall, it is definitely playable and with the previous issues noted, there are two builds that can be provided for this early access review:

Recommended/Battery Build

After testing, I decided the recommended build will utilize the "Fast" graphics preset to save on battery and keep as much stability as possible. The downgrades of the game's visuals were minimal compared to the massive savings in harder areas of the game, which increased battery life by an average of 1.5 - 2 hours and kept temps low thanks to being able to handle a TDP limit of 7. With the aesthetic the game is going for, this is what I would expect from battery life.

Quality Build

With the quality build, there wasn't much I could effectively change other than TDP limit to maximize the battery I could get. On some simple maps, I was getting as low as 10W drain, but on others, it could bounce to 21W. With a 50 FPS limit, this was reduced to 18W and kept as much smoothness as possible. It also allowed me to set a 10W TDP limit without there being any issues.

Xenonauts 2 does support 16:10 resolutions and does have cloud saves, but the text can be a little on the small side and controller support doesn't exist at this stage. We can mitigate some smaller parts of it to make playing with a gamepad a bit easier.

Community Control Scheme

To make tactical combat a bit easier, I made a couple small changes to the controls to make it a bit easier for me. The first, and most important, changes I made was to make the B button end your turn and RB and LB to swap to different soldiers. Then, I made the Dpad completely control the camera, making the left and right buttons rotate the scene while up and down went up a floor and down a floor respectively. Lastly, I made the Y button open up a selected soldiers inventory. You can find this layout in the community schemes for the game and it is called "Simple Steam Deck Layout".

Xenonauts2ConrolScheme

I decided against going into something more intricate for a couple reasons, but the main one is that I just ended up using mouse controls way more often. It is the only way to select where your soldiers will go and navigate the map and aerial combat easily, so I ended up just using the trackpads and left and right triggers for mouse clicks. I might do a more intricate control scheme once the game has a couple early access updates, but this worked well for me for now!

As I did just play Jagged Alliance 3, which is a similar turn-based strategic game, I would love to see full controller support be implemented in a similar fashion. There is no confirmation of this, just something I would like to see.

Conclusion

Xenonauts 2 is a fantastic start to a game that could easily take up hours of my time. Being able to configure so many aspects of my station, all of which feel meaningful and can help to some degree, is such a wonderful feeling and holds my attention more than I expected. I feel like there are many ways to head into each battle and campaign, but if you take your time and think about your strategy, you can be victorious. It works well on the Steam Deck with some controller compromises and minor stutters here and there, but these can be ironed out through early access. Personally, I am willing to stick on the optimistic side as this is a game I would love to have more support on handheld devices!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Xenonauts 2 is shaping up to be a great game when it releases and hopefully, by that time, we will see more optimizations on the Steam Deck.

Build Score

Performance: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
VISUALS: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Stability: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarNo StarNo Star
Controls: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarNo StarNo Star
Battery: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Community Rating

Let us know what level of playability you consider Xenonauts 2 (Early Access) to be. Help our community determine the viability of playing this game on Steam Deck!
Steam Deck Compatibility
Current Price: 
$27.99
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Proton DB Rating

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Other Builds
Quality Build
SteamOS

Limit

50

Refresh Rate

50

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

10

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Graphics Quality: Fantastical

Vsync: Enabled

Anti Aliasing: FXAA

FXAA Mode: FXAA1PresetA

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

11W - 18W

65c - 73c

2.5 - 3 hours

related Settings

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