Ryu’s Musings – XCOM 2: War of the Chosen (PC)

Posted on September 5th, 2017 by Ryu Sheng |

B1xYk2dz9eS._AC_SX215_Language: English
Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: 2K
Format: PS4/PC/XB1
Type: Strategy
Demo Box: PC
Synopsis: XCOM® 2: War of the Chosen, is the expansion to the 2016 award-winning strategy game of the year.

XCOM® 2: War of the Chosen adds extensive new content in the fight against ADVENT when additional resistance factions form in order to eliminate the alien threat on Earth. In response, a new enemy, known as the “Chosen,” emerges with one goal: recapture the Commander. This expansion includes new Hero classes to counter the “Chosen”, new enemies, missions, environments and increased depth in strategic gameplay.

Firaxis seems to have this thing going on with regards to XCOM, their initial DLC a pretty ‘meh’ and their full sized expansions are mind blowing good.

To say that War of the Chosen is game changing is an understatement, it makes the base XCOM 2 game into something totally different.

Content wise the amount of stuff added to the game is insane! First we have three new factions, Reapers, Templars and Skirmishers (that last having the worst name ever IMO!!) Each of these factions are at first blush rather OP, but are countered by some limitations that make them more reasonable.

Reapers are stealth gods, regardless of modifiers they start in stealth, and they also have one of the largest movement ranges of all the starting characters. What’s more they use a sniper rifle, and can shoot even after moving; unlike XCOM snipers! However this is countered by not having as good starting aiming, or damage output when compared to the XCOM snipers. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention they can re-enter stealth once per mission!

Templars are psychic melee, and frankly are the weakest of the three new factions (IMO). To the point I just didn’t use them at all. They have an ability called rend that does the same initial damage as a rangers sword. But they have a chance of gaining focus that increases the damage of subsequent attacks. They also have parry that prevents damage, after they’ve used parry. Sadly their side weapon, the machine pistol is pathetic and doesn’t seem to upgrade a lot as you progress through the game.

Skirmishers, I love these, if only because the first one you recruit is voiced by Worf!! They’re mid range combat specialists that use a bullpup, which allows them to move, and then shoot twice per turn! However this is countered by the fact they’re pretty much useless at long range, and have limited ammo, like shotguns. They also have a second ability called justice, which is basically Scorpion’s ‘get over here’ attack from Mortal Combat!

Each of the new factions slip into the combat ranges of Long, Medium and Short, and have a decent amount of OP-ness despite having some limits that stops them from dominating and out classing the XCOM soldiers. They’re limited also by the ear upgrades they have. Each faction has a faction armour that only they can wear, and you can’t change. Same with their weapons, though they can be upgraded! Though Templars seem to get screwed with neither their armour nor weapons being upgradable.

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Next bit of content is the expansions name sake, the Chosen. These three are seriously over powered and will kick your arse from one side of the map to the other once they turn up. Which thankfully is only now and again.

The first Chosen is an assassin, and frankly this one was the most frustrating and annoying one to deal with. She disappears and reappears as she wants. She’s got a evil melee attack that’s also an area attack hitting several of your guys at once if they’re in close proximity. The attack sends them into a daze and another of your guys has to get them on their feet, or you face having the soldier captured. The fact she starts off invisible, runs in and attacks, then runs off, all without triggering attacks of opportunity or overwatch (an annoying ability she has!) makes killing her damn hard. To offset the OP-ness she has she’s weak to explosions and to Reapers, though I personally find this not much of an offset and as I said this was the hardest and most frustrating battle.

Second up was the hunter, who likes to hide and shoot you from anywhere on the map

Finally we have the mad psychic. This guy is nuts and believes himself to be a god. He also uses a rifle, summons and psionic abilities.

These three Chosen make for a good amount of stress and fun as you rush to figure out where there hideout is before they figure out your tactics. This is a form of the Nemesis system first seen in Shadow of Mordor and not seen since. Just like in the original form, the Chosen gain traits as time goes by and they learn more and more about XCOM, making it a rush against the lock to kill them before they kill you!

I loved this aspect of the game, and just like in Mordor, it brought a novel and new breath of life to the game. However it wasn’t taken to the full depth as it was in Mordor, which is a shame. I would have loved to have seen more of the system added.

However I did find that once they were dead the pressure pretty much disappears and the game became a cake walk again. The balance of difficulty between the Chosen being alive and dead is a little off.

Content wise Firaxis went full throttle when it came to the maps. XCOM2 (and the original) had only a limited amount of maps, even in the expansions you still only had a limited amount of maps. With this expansion they went mad and crated a load of maps, which look amazing!

Tied with the maps is a new mode, sort of. On the retaliation missions they added a new variant which has groups of resistance soldiers included as well. On this version of the map you have to aid the resistance in defending groups of civvies. So instead of it just being you and the aliens, you also now have the resistance in the turn mix, killing aliens as well. This speeds up the retaliation missions, and adds a new dynamic into the mix. Of course you do still have the same old retaliation mission as well, but change is good!

This is also true for the other mission types, they’ve added some different dynamics to them which can both increase the difficulty slightly, but also make you more cautious as you try and complete the various sub objectives of the mission.

The Bond System they added at first blush looked awesome, but after the initial one, I didn’t really bother with it. Frankly I never used it again, I never saw the point, or rather I never felt the need to use it. I’m guessing with harder difficulties the ability to give you bond mate extra actions would be beneficial. Guess we’ll see when I replay it on veteran!

The Propaganda System took me by surprise, as initially I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. However I actually spent a lot of time every time it came up. Creating posters of your teams and having them pop up in missions was actually highly satisfying. I was also surprised by the fact it added to how much I was attached to characters. Memorialising them when they died and having those memorials pop up in missions was also awesome. This system also came into play for the Bond System, when you bonded your guys you could make a propaganda poster for it.

 

Finally we have the scourge of the game, the Lost. These zombies appear in some of the abandoned cities, have low HP and usually die in one hit. In fact a new mechanic is added to the game just for these guys, headshot which if it kills them (90% guarantee, cause it’s still com lol) gives a free action. As a result you can end up chain killing zombies, so long as you have ammo. If you’re a sniper or Templar you get to use your pistol which has unlimited ammo, which leads to unlimited killing.

Without this mechanic I have to admit that the Lost would get overwhelming and frustrating rather fast, thankfully this doesn’t happen. I also love the fact that they do target the aliens, and the aliens do target back. However there does seem to be an imbalance between them. I’ve had a bunch of Lost spawn right onto a pod of aliens, ignore them and charge across the map towards me. I do get they want to have the player being the focus of the battles, but I personally feel they should have a more balanced approach; or at least have pods that spawned on or close to other pods (friendly or alien) attack those first, as mindless zombies would do.

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That said though I do like this mechanic as it once again adds an interesting dynamic to the game!

Next up we have covert missions, these are run with the cooperation of the new factions and have various outcomes. From reduction to the Avatar Project, research, intel etc etc. You send a couple of troops off for these missions losing them for around a week. At the end you get the result and a bit of a reputation hike. The reputation you gain allows you to add wild cards that boost various things. For example proving ground projects instantly completing, faster research and so on and so on.

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Now lets talk about the performance. XCOM 1 and 2 both ran like arse, even on beefy systems there were frequent slow downs, graphic disconnects and hitching. Thankfully given the style of game, turn based, they weren’t a huge issue (though still a pain). With this expansion Firaxis ripped the engine apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. The end result is one of the smoothest running games I’ve come across. In fact the only hitching I’ve seen is at the start of the mission when your team is dropped in, I’m assuming this is down to the game loading assets in the background. Even these though can be counted on one hand after 50hours of game time.

Sadly not all issues were fixed this release. We still have vandals here at XCOM, breaking doors and windows for the hell of it and then shooting in a totally other direction. We also have the issues of them facing one way and shooting and the bullet animation going sideways etc etc. Those sort of animation disconnects are still very much prevalent, though I have to admit they do seem less frequent than they used to be over previous versions of the game.

Also, sadly, these performance updates aren’t retroactive. So if you only have the base game, and no plans to pick up the expansion, you wont get these performance upgrades. This is down to Firaxis doing a rebuild on the engine, it’s just not possible to apply these fixes to the base game.

Initially I was of the impression that this was just Firaxis trying to push people to the expansion, but after hearing of the work they did on the expansion, and then seeing the changes (both the front and back end) to the game it’s more understandable. Sad, but understandable.

After all that gushing it can’t be that this is the perfect game right? No, it’s not sadly. If you played Long War Mod for the base game you’ll remember they introduced other weapon types, sadly these aren’t in the expansion and we’re back to the three of the base game.  Long War is also not compatible with the expansion, and given the drastic changes of the game its probably going to be a while before they have it compatible.

So is this worth picking up, is it worth it high asking price? The answer is HELL YEAH!

This expansion has pushed the game to be my Game of the Year now, and I don’t see any other game due out this year rivalling it. Firaxis have once again proven that XCOM is not dead, and is intact thriving!

While I do think this is an amazing expansion, and I will praise it to the ends of the earth, I do think they could have taken a few extra steps with weapon type variety. They already took certain aspects that were used by LW and other mods, why not go the whole nine yards.

Other than that though, I love this game and have no qualms recommending it!

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