eXcursions

Friday eXcursion: XCOM 2 – War Of The Chosen

It has been a long and arduous journey to get here, Commander. You have finally discovered the secret of the Elders after a brutal final battle at their secret headquarters deep below the surface of the Pacific ocean. Your avatar is barely able to hold the teleportation gate open for your elite squad to escape this hell. But something seems off. You’re just not sure what… Yet.

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XCOM 2: War of the Chosen by Firaxis is not a sequel. It isn’t even DLC content. It is a full-on expansion in the form of a reboot of the vanilla game. This is nothing new for the veterans of the new XCOM series from Jake Solomon. The development team did this once before when they released XCOM: Enemy Within for the vanilla version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Anyway, let’s not get sidetracked with naming schemes. Why should you care about WotC? Simple. It is amazing and completely changes the first 2/3 of the base XCOM 2 experience. How does it manage to do that? Well, it incorporates all of the DLC (that you might need to acquire, if you haven’t already) that came out for the base game. It plugs in the cosmetic post apocalyptic aesthetic of Anarchy’s Children, Resistance Warriors Pack, and Reinforcement Pack into the vanilla experience. WotC also adds new weapons, armors, and boss aliens with the Alien Hunters story DLC. Finally, it rounds out the game with a new class in the Shen’s Last Gift story pack.

What’s New?

WotC brings us three new enemies and the three factions that fight them, some new alien and ADVENT troops to battle, and the “Lost.” They’ve also thrown in some new options to further customize the Avenger.

In addition, there are more mission types, mechanical changes to the game, additional environments, an updated strategic layer, a photo-booth (for propaganda and fan service purposes), added replayability, and continued mod support. There’s even a whole new game mode. All in all, this new expansion adds A LOT.

The Chosen

Who are the new enemies? Well, not to spoil too much, but they are the new “Avatars” of the Elders who appear to be a human/alien hybrid guerilla force that was put together to battle XCOM and the other resistance factions. What, you thought XCOM was the only enemy the aliens faced on Earth?

First up are the Chosen. They’re very powerful, especially early on, so don’t let them have their way or you will pay for it. But be smart, because you will lose many Special Forces Operatives (SFO) to their attacks if you aren’t. Whatever you do, don’t wait. Expand, research, recruit, and prepare. The Chosen are leading the ADVENT Coalition now. Let’s take a closer look.

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I’ve got the powaaaaa….

First, we have the Warlock. He is an unhinged psionic martyr who worships the Elders and wants nothing more than to please them with your demise by his hands. This guy is unforgiving. He can make psi-zombies, he can mentally break your strongest SFO, and even make copies of himself while he “takes a break.”

Next is the Assassin, which is another hybrid that wants to capture and return the commander to her Elder masters. She does this by sneaking around the map and disabling or offing your SFOs one by one. She can cloak. She can hit multiple troopers with a wave attack, and she can chop you up into little bits with her blade.

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Ooohhhhhmmmmm. Ooohhhhhmmmmm.

Finally, there’s the Hunter. He’s an easygoing serial killer with a wry sense of humor that you get to experience as he stalks your SFO during their escapades on the now occupied Earth. He can track you practically anywhere on the map. He zips around using grappling hooks and puts your troopers down with his sniper rifle.

Each Chosen is unique. They have their own style, behavior, and various mannerisms that they exhibit throughout the campaign to you and each other. That’s right, each other. They are actually competing with one another, and whomever wins (by destroying XCOM and returning the commander) gets to keep the Earth.

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Don’t mind my rifle.

They all share a couple of new abilities like summoning support units, immobilizing your SFO in order to extract knowledge about the Commander and XCOM’s whereabouts, being immortal until you find their lair, and more that I will leave for you to discover. Oh yeah, if they complete the hunt for the Commander, they get a special mission type, and boy, that is a fun and brutal experience. The Chosen also have a lot of health, which grows as they battle with you. They also like to sabotage the Avenger and your contacted regions. Finally, they use some unique weapons that you can claim, assuming you can kill them. So watch out for that.

Now, as I said, each Chosen has a unique skill set like being impervious to explosions, overwatch fire, and being harder to hit, amongst many other possibilities. They also have weaknesses such as being easy to damage from elevation, psionic attacks, and melee damage as well as others. This is all randomly determined at the start of the game, but like your SFO, they improve over time. They can shore up their weaknesses, sabotage the Avenger, and generally make your life miserable with their surprise visits and calls for reinforcements during an already tense mission.

New Enemies

That’s not all, folks! The ADVENT Coalition has not been idle. They added three new units to their ranks. One is the ADVENT Priest. This is a psionic variant that likes to celebrate with “touchdown” poses, uses psionic attacks, and generates impervious shields instead of dying in combat. The ADVENT Purifier is a specialist in close range combat that likes to use flame-throwers to burn all of its targets and has a special affinity for explosions and incendiary grenades. Finally, you have the alien Spectre. This is a fast moving unit composed of what appear to be nanites that can dodge attacks and help kill your operators with Shadow Clones. Don’t even get me started on these vile things.

The Lost

Remember the gas that poisoned, immobilized, and killed the vast majority of humanity during the first invasion in XCOM? Yup, that’s where The Lost come from. They’re a bunch of zombie-like humans that “survived” the first alien invasion. They stand around and are attracted by any noise, especially the explosive kind. They hate fire, but that’s about it. They travel in packs, and they are never-ending. There are a couple of new mission types that take place in the abandoned cities and tunnels, and that is where The Lost can be found. Do not let them swarm you or you will not survive for long.

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Save u…. Er, Braaaaains.

New Faction Hero Units

Do not despair. You get help too. You now have three new resistance factions to woo in an attempt to recruit heroes to join your ranks. Sure, the new enemies are strong, and at times feel very overpowered, but that’s okay. They start off weak in comparison to the beasts they can become later as they train (randomized each game) to improve themselves to battle the upstart XCOM. With each new campaign, you have a random chance for which resistance faction becomes a mortal enemy of a particular Chosen (unless you start with the story – a tutorial of sorts). Basically, it’s XCOM 2’s version of the Nemesis system from other popular titles. There’s a lot of back and forth chatter with this system, and the Chosen and resistance faction leaders have a good memory. Another thing the new factions have is fantastic voice acting that should be familiar to any Star Trek or modern Sci-Fi fans. The likes of Jonathan Frakes, John de Lancie, Marina Sirtis, and others really give the new characters some personality.

The Reaper

The story behind the Reapers is that they left the city centers to live in the wild and the abandoned (by ADVENT) regions of the Earth. They’re very secretive and known to be incredibly flexible in their diet. They’ll kill just about anything and then eat it. Are they cannibals? Maybe, but we won’t go there. There are a lot of references to them eating their alien kills. The ADVENT as well as the Chosen are very wary of them. This gives a new “new” meaning to ADVENT burgers, eh?

These are the stealth fighters. They like to sneak about and their skills let them blow things up. As they level up, they become more and more dangerous. They can help you expose unactivated ADVENT patrols, hidden Chosen, or the location of various targets in the corresponding missions.

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We always come prepared.

These Reapers have many advantages when it comes to laying traps too. They carry a specialized explosive similar to a claymore. They have a slightly different sniper rifle. It is less powerful than the regular sniper rifle, but it is also smaller and quieter. This weapon also gives them the (upgraded) ability to kill while stealthed, as well as enhanced movement. If they are discovered, they have plenty of unlockable abilities that let them re-enter stealth mode. If you want to try to play a stealthy game, you must have a reaper in your squad because they are sneaky and fun. Their skill-set lends to a very assassination-tango type of gameplay.

The Templar

Oh my, did you feel that the psi-aspect of XCOM 2 was lacking? How about the melee combat? Well, your prayers have been answered. This new faction is all about both of those. The Templar, for lack of a better descriptor, is a psi-tank. They can soak up damage because of their skill tree, or deal it out up-close-and-personal. This is all done via Focus. Focus is life-force. When a Templar kills its intended target, Focus is generated, and the Templar can absorb it to boost his/her own strength. This lets him/her deal more damage, deflect the first incoming attack (in most cases) and even create clones of themselves for a short period of time. Focus is the fuel they need to power many of their specials.

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Let’s boogie…

As Templars gain experience, they unlock additional skills that let them deal a lot of damage, or switch places with foes and friends alike. That’s a real nifty trick if you have a well placed enemy that thinks itself safe. The Templar can also channel his/her Focus to fire out a sort of force-lightning. Something similar to the Sith, but with XCOM odds to hit.

Templars do like to get their gloves dirty, but they also have a small arms automatic pistol. It is similar to what the Sharpshooters carry, but with lower chance to hit because the Templars are not as accurate as other troop types. For a long time, this was my favorite of the new Hero units. They are very powerful when used correctly, especially when dealing with the Chosen. All you need is a mind-shield to protect your hero from Mind Control and other direct psi-attacks, and the Templar is a perfect unit to handle all psi-based enemies.

The Skirmisher

So far, we have discussed a melee specialist and a stealthy scout. That leaves us with the Skirmishers. Like the name implies, Skirmishers are very flexible. The are mid-range beasts. When I say beasts, I mean it literally. The Skirmishers are actually ADVENT troopers that escaped their yoke by somehow removing and/or inactivating their implanted mind-control chips. The ADVENT coalition is actually made up of human/alien hybrids, and the Skirmishers are the best that are on offer.

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Ready to Rock’n’Roll!

If you do the story mission that comes with WotC, you will understand more about the Skirmishers, but here is a quick primer. Mind controlled ADVENT troops were forced to commit some serious atrocities. Once their chips became inactive, their humanity manifested itself once again. Now the Skirmishers want revenge.

So how does that translate into gameplay? Well, you have a unit that is not particularly fast, but is still incredibly mobile at the same time. The Skirmisher can use a grappling hook (on a cooldown timer) to traverse the map very quickly without spending an action point. They can use the same hook to “grab” a humanoid enemy – think of the tongue grab by the SNEKS and Scorpion of Mortal Kombat fame – or pull themselves to a unit to deliver a melee attack. Right, so what? Well, they can attack more than once in the same turn if they have the action points. Their skillset also gives them ample opportunities to increase that through upgrades. Are you seeing what I’m getting at? The Skirmishers, when played correctly, are probably the strongest XCOM unit on the map at any given time.

The Skirmishers’ primary weapon, though, is their machine gun. It is a medium range weapon that gives them a lot of flexibility, especially as they level up. Others would say that their main weapon is the grappling hook, because it grants them mobility and puts them in a position to deal some serious damage (when upgraded). This hook can also act like an electrified whip when dealing with mechanized units. But that’s not all. On the arm that is opposite their hook, they have a set of X-23-like blades that can be used to deliver a low blow.

I’m sure that at this point, you are starting to see how much WotC improved the base game. We have all kinds of new mechanics to play with that significantly improve the tactical layer of the game. I could go into greater detail discussing every aspect of the skill tree for the Chosen, Hero units, and basic XCOM operators, but I think that it is more fun to discover the many possible combinations.

The Avenger Is All New… Sorta.

So, let’s discuss what has changed with the strategic part of XCOM 2 with the addition of War of the Chosen.

The new resistance factions bring with them some changes to the strategic layer because you must first find them and then recruit one of their heroes. Each faction brings something different to the table like faster healing when you park the Avenger nearby. But first, let’s look at the Resistance Ring. This is a new module that you must add, ASAP, to the Avenger. The “room” lets you assign orders to the various resistance factions with which you are in contact. Each order takes time to accomplish, and the rewards are as diverse as they are satisfying.

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Fight the power and don’t forget to bring some friends along.

Is the doom-counter close to filling up? No problem. There’s a mission you can complete (when available) to reduce it. Have your supplies been diminished through a regional crackdown by local Chosen? No biggie. You can find a mission that rewards you with supplies. Was one of your operatives captured by a Chosen ambush during a Supply Raid, or a Haven Defense? That’s a cinch. You can now try to rescue them, assuming the mission is available to you. As you do more and more missions and build up your relationship with the various faction leaders, more interesting missions become available.

That’s all great, but what else does this new Resistance Ring do? As your operatives perform more daring and interesting actions to rid Earth of the alien invaders, they are rewarded with a new type of experience points to further diversify them. Firaxis lifted some interesting ideas from previous games and current XCOM 2 mods to improve how organic the growth of each SFO is. Not only that, they also created a new relationship mechanic to exploit.

This new mechanic is an absolute blast! The same way you become attached to your operatives from various campaigns, your operatives can now form bonds with each other like the Fire Emblem series. These bonds can result in extra actions, dual kills, and acts of revenge if your “bondmate” dies. The ability to build these relationships is developed in the new Training Center. After, you can use it to further the bonds between the SFO, train and retrain abilities, as well as just watch them hang out in the ant farm called the Avenger.

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Now these are friends you can depend on!

This new addition to the tactical part of the game can really change the landscape of battle. Let me give you an example: Let’s say that you are exploring the battlefield looking for the first ADVENT pod or a last remaining unit, and you just overextended yourself with a poor movement choice, or maybe a misclick. In most cases, all you hear is Jake Solomon saying “That’s XCOM, baby” in your head as you watch your SFO take fire and probably die. Damn, that was rough.

But what if this operator has a bondmate? No, not a secret lover (or maybe yes…), but a BFF. If this is a level one bond, your BFF could save your life with an extra action point assuming they have any left. That single action point can really be game changing. A level two or three bond opens up even better options.

Alright, that’s good, but what else can you do with it? Okay, so say your SFO is stunned because of a damned Stun Lancer, or maybe a Chosen has just waylaid your group. A level two Bond can help you recover because the bondmate has a special magic “touch” or maybe it’s their presence nearby… Anyway, your bondmate just brought you back from the brink of death or abduction. Did I mention that one way to get rid of the Chosen, besides killing them or dying yourself is to let an operator get abducted?

But let me discuss another new mechanic: Fatigue. Yes, that old chestnut. WotC implements it differently than how Pavonis Interactive did it with their Long War 2 mod for the vanilla game. Basically, your SFO’s Will stat is used for more than just resisting psi-attacks. Throughout the mission, as the various horrors faced by your SFOs accumulate, they become mentally fatigued.

This has three impacts. First, a fatigued operator is more susceptible to mind control. Second, fatigue makes them less likely to follow orders and just do their own thing since they must pass a roll-test sometimes (think pen and paper roleplaying games) as a result of what they’ve witnessed or the commands they are given. Third, and this is crucial, fatigued operators are likely to develop phobias at the end of a mission. These can range to being afraid of: the Lost, Chosen, specific ADVENT, or other fun stuff. These new negative traits can be removed by spending time in the Infirmary, but in the meantime, you’re going to deal with a lot of very troubled operators.

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Ruuuuuuuuuunnnnnn!!!

War of the Chosen is not a walk in the park. You have a lot of new mechanics on the tactical and strategic layers to contend with. But thankfully, Firaxis gives you the tools to deal with them. If your SFOs have developed some bad habits, like not following orders or PTSD, a quick trip to the infirmary and some R&R, meds, or possibly more invasive methods can help with recovery. How about the overpowered enemies and their handlers? A trip to the Training Center where you can polish up abilities, learn something new, or maybe just redo it all. Hypno-training anyone?

But… All the propaganda that the ADVENT Coalition is bombarding you with is too much! Nah, that’s why we have the Propaganda Center and the Pirate Radio. You can have your troops pose for posters to plaster all over the Earth and taunt your enemies as well as encourage your friends and try to recruit them. The Pirate Radio brings a positive version of events and truthful message to encourage you while you put down a few beers at the bar.

There is also a new Challenge mode where you can try a Firaxis curated mission once a day to see how you compare to the community at large. I never got into this mode, and I’ve heard that cheaters have figured out how to win it with no effort at all. That one thing has put me off it completely.

What’s Stayed The Same

There is much that hasn’t changed, but if you want to know about those mechanics, just read my old eXcursion. This write up is not about that. The most important parts of what’s unchanged are the end-game and the modding scene.

The last third of the game is basically the same as the vanilla game. Your SFOs are superheroes. Even with the fatigue mechanic, you have two or three squads at most and they are all maxed out. Their skills are at their limits. Their weapon and armor kits are just fantastic. You’ve heard all the lines and some of it becomes repetitive. You’ve seen every mission. You’ve probably killed all the Chosen and the Alien Rulers, who are nothing more than speedbumps now.

That’s where we go to the Steam Workshop and download some mods. Though Nexus Mods is a great place to get them as well. We have some new A.I. behaviors, difficulty adjustments, game mechanics, voice packs, weapons, armors, some new allies, new enemies, mission types, clothing options, and so on and so forth.

Firaxis supports the community pretty well, though this expansion broke a lot of mods and only a herculean effort from the mod developers brought back a lot of the mods I mainly use and love. Unfortunately, Pavonis Interactive hasn’t updated Long War 2 for WotC just yet. I miss it a lot and hope to see it soon.

Firaxis released several hotfixes and patches to address issues that the modding community fixed temporarily (that we appreciate), but there is more that needs doing. All in all, this is an amazing expansion, and I doubled my hours played and will probably triple it if not more before I’m done. XCOM 2 was my most played game of any genre on my PC in 2017.

What more can I say? I’m a huge fan. But that shouldn’t be news to anyone.

The warpgate slowly closes and you open your eyes, “Commander? Commander?” as you look around, you find yourself back on the Avenger, and the Elders are defeated… But are they really?

TL:DR; XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is a full-blown expansion with a lot of content. Is it $39.99 good? Yes, I think it is. You have a lot of new enemies to contend with as well as the necessary tools to do that with. Major changes to the Tactical and Strategic components of the game make it better for 2/3rds of the experience. The game is deeper, harder, and much more engaging from the get go. So, yes, it is worth it for sure.

You may like this game if:

  • You are a fan of XCOM 2
  • You’ve always wanted more operator classes from Firaxis
  • You wanted more choices in the tactical part of the game
  • You wanted more choices in the strategic part of the game
  • You love (the actors from) Star Trek: the Next Generation

You may NOT like this game if:

  • You want a completely bug free experience
  • You thought XCOM 2 was too hard
  • You want to play X-com with newer graphics
  • You wanted the last third of the game to be improved
  • You wanted the odds to improve in your favor… That’s XCOM baby!!!

Nate’s copy was provided by Vaultwolf (an eXplorminate community member) which he played for 425+ hours of XCOM 2 of which 250+ of them were using the War of the Chosen DLC on a Sager NP-8153S (XoticPC Built) Laptop: 15.6″ FHD IPS Display, 6th gen Intel i7-6820 HQ Skylake CPU, 24GB DDR4, GeForce GTX 1070 w/ 8 GB vram, 250 GB Samsung EVO SSD, 1 TB 7200 RPM HD.

4 replies »

  1. With War of the Chosen, XCOM 2 solidified its place as my favorite XCOM style game in the long (and often sordid) history of XCOM sequels, clones, spiritual successors, and reboots.

    Though I suspect my opinion there may change when Phoenix Point comes out.

    Liked by 1 person

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