XCOM 2 – War of the Chosen Preview
Big Changes Are Coming to XCOM 2 With War of the Chosen
XCOM is a game series with turn-based strategic combat as you guide a group of soldiers through a map defeating powerful alien forces to get to your objective. The XCOM name has a history too, with then developer Mythos Games releasing UFO Defense in 1994. In more recent times the IP passed to Firaxis Games, famous for Sid Meier’s Civilization series and in 2012 the strategy developer released Enemy Unknown on PC and consoles where it was well received and stands as a rare example of a strategy game done right for consoles. Similar to Enemy Within – a significant expansion for Enemy Unknown – the latest game in the series, XCOM 2 is receiving plenty of post-launch content with War of the Chosen, an expansion that will change how players approach their campaigns.
Reapers, Skirmishers and Templars
One of the most notable additions to XCOM 2 with War of the Chosen is three new factions – Reapers, Skirmishers and Templars. Each faction can provide a hero class soldier to help your team in missions and each also has their own philosophies and abilities. Commanders can obtain these special soldiers by undertaking a new mission type for XCOM 2 called Covert Actions involving just two of your soldiers performing a mission for a given faction and gaining influence which can then be used to hire a faction’s special hero unit. Factions also offer bonuses called Resistance Orders which do a variety of things such as removing a block of progress from the Avatar project per month. Players will start with one of these bonuses but can unlock more as the campaign progresses.
The Reapers focus on stealth and sabotage. Their Shadow Shot skill gives them a chance to stay hidden when firing from concealment making them ideal for flanking enemies. They can also throw claymores from stealth, use Remote Start to detonate a car for 2x damage and radius as well as use Banish, a powerful ability that unleashes a full clip of ammo at an enemy. Reapers essentially operate in a similar way to snipers but with some very powerful abilities to aid your squad.
Skirmishers are an interesting addition to XCOM 2 and are actually human-alien hybrids that have defected from the nefarious ADVENT. These dangerous soldiers can dish out a lot of destruction and gain a free action if they are attacked. Skirmishers can use both actions to shoot and can use Overwatch on items like grenades. Their Battlelord ability when activated gives them a free action when an enemy takes any action. The ability to dish out a lot of damage in one turn will certainly be useful against the tougher enemies in War of the Chosen.
Finally, Templars are powerful Psionics who can only attack using melee. Despite this limitation they can still be highly useful on the battlefield. Attacks generate Focus which increases damage dealt, distance and defence. Their Ionic Storm ability casts lightning at foes meanwhile Ghost creates a clone of themselves which is useful when needing to provide a distraction from your squad.
The Chosen and The Lost
Partially inspired by Shadow of Mordor‘s Nemesis system, the Chosen will morph and react to encounters and grow in strength over time. To provide an additional challenge, Firaxis Games have made their skillset change after each encounter meaning you’ll have to think carefully during your actions. They aren’t just a threat on the battlefield either and can potentially end your playthrough. The Chosen gain a resource called Knowledge from performing certain actions such as kidnapping one of your soldiers. Should the Chosen gain too much Knowledge they can assault the Avenger and attempt to capture the Commander resulting in game over. The three Chosen are siblings with different specialities and should you manage to defeat them you can gain access to their equipment, some of the most powerful the game has to offer.
Another new enemy in War of the Chosen is the Lost – mutated zombie like humanoids which can attack either XCOM or ADVENT on the battlefield and are especially dangerous in the new map type – abandoned cities. In a callback to the previous game, cities will be playable maps again and the Lost will be found in greater number here. Drawn by the sound of combat, the Lost will attack in swarms and can easily overwhelm players. Luckily there’s a new mechanic to help you in your fight against this new enemy type. Players can chain attacks or headshots to take down multiple Lost in one turn.
Solider Bonds, Customisation and New Buildings
Anyone who’s a big fan of XCOM will tell you that the permadeath and ability to customise your soldiers leads to players growing attached to their squad. Firaxis Games is embracing this concept further with Soldier Bonds which allow compatible soldiers to form a relationship offering strategic advantages. For example they might be able to fire simultaneously or negate debuffs when in close proximity to one another. Be warned however, the death of one of the bonded team mates can send the other into a rage state, similar to the panic state. These Soldier Bonds should be a nice addition for those who enjoy the role-playing aspects of the game.
Further customisation is available in the new propaganda and Photobooth. Players can write on posters and craft mottos using Photobooth to pose their soldiers with different filters and backgrounds. These posters will then turn up on missions as propaganda. Speaking of which there is a new Avengers DJ who will be heard discussing mission successes and defeats as well as an ADVENT news channel which will try to cover up XCOM’s treacherous acts.
There are a couple of extra new gameplay elements Commanders will also have to deal with in their campaign too. Quirks are developed by soldiers from time to time such as obsessive; meaning they want to have a full magazine at all times and will ignore instructions to do so. These Quirks can be cured in one of the new buildings called the Infirmary. Fatigue is now a factor as well, send a certain soldier on too many subsequent missions and they will need to rest forcing players to rotate through their roster more often.
In the lab, scientists can now have Breakthroughs and Inspirations. Inspirations result in a reduced research time for a particular project while Breakthroughs can provide bonuses for researching a certain project such as higher damage. However, both of these new features must be accepted when offered or will be lost forcing players to choose between what they want to research next and extra bonuses.
Finally, there are a couple of new buildings for the Avenger such as the Resistance Ring where you launch the new Covert Missions. The Training Centre can be used to purchase new abilities for Faction Heroes which are bought using ability points – generated by performing flanking actions etc. with a faction hero. These abilities in turn can also be taught to regular soldiers too.
As you can see, War of the Chosen promises to change a lot about XCOM 2 and how players navigate through the campaign.
What do you think of War of the Chosen so far? Will you be jumping back into XCOM 2 when it releases on August 29th?