Xcom 2: War of the Chosen – Review
PC, Xbox One, PS4
XCOM 2 was arguably one of the best strategy games to come out of 2016, one which I spent many hours playing (and shouting about missed shots!) So when I saw that Xcom 2 was getting a DLC, to say I was interested would have been an understatement. However, I was apprehensive as it is priced at $40 USD and that’s quite a steep ticket to ride.
The thing is, when Firaxis makes a DLC pack, it’s not usually just some new pants and a hat (for the sake of this statement being true, please disregard the 5 previous DLC soldier/cosmetic packs). The main DLC for XCOM 1 – Enemy Within, brought a whole new campaign story and a new faction to deal and it was so seamlessly integrated into the main story that it’s nigh impossible to tell where the original game ends and the DLC begins. The same can be said about Xcom 2: War of the Chosen.
There is a whole heap of new story elements added, three new factions to interact with – each who have their own type of unique solder type and three new ‘mini-bosses’ called the Chosen who you need to deal with. As well as this there is also new enemy soldier types, new research mechanics and a covert mission system that will tax even the most robust soldier roster.
There is a lot to cover in this new DLC so let’s start with the new interactable factions. Early on in the campaign budding XCOM commanders are introduced to the Reapers and the Skirmishers, two factions in the XCOM universe that really do NOT get along. There’s some lore that goes along with these two that I don’t want to spoil, but let’s just say it’s understandable why the Reapers don’t have the Skirmishers over for coffee.
As well as giving you access to the unique soldier, each faction allows you to conduct covert missions which boost your influence with whichever faction you complete the covert ops for. In order to do these covert ops, you, of course, need a building to run them in, this is XCOM after all. The resistance ring is where all things covert are taken care of and like most buildings in the XCOM base, you can upgrade to run more than 1 mission at a time and station an engineer to reduce the mission run time by 33%. Also, pro tip, make sure you complete the covert mission that gives you access to the Templar faction, cause their unique soldier type is AWESOME, more on that late.
To go hand in hand with these new allied factions, the aliens get the Chosen, three super-aliens who have been tasked by the Eldar (the alien leaders) to recapture the commander. In order to do that, they have some pretty special abilities that make it tricky to take them down, the first one being that they seem to be immortal. Like any good soldier, the longer they are alive, the more they learn and the same goes for the Chosen. At one point I had one of the chosen learn the ability that made them completely immune to melee damage, now whether that was due to me killing the previous chosen with melee abilities, or just luck of the draw, either way, I had to change up my soldier deployment to focus more on guns and grenades.
For anyone that has played any of the recent XCOM games, that special time each month where the faceless man that does the movie trailer voice-overs gives you those much-coveted space bucks. Space dollars are very important in XCOM, they let you build new buildings, weapons and continent radio towers (which give you more space bucks at the end of the next month) as well as being able to be spent at the black market. This is nothing new, however after you get your monthly allowance of space dollarydoos you also are able to assign faction bonuses. The amount depends on your standing with the faction, obviously, this is a Video game after all).
As well as the faction specific bonuses, there is also a ‘wild card’ bonus slot, where you can assign any bonus from any faction. So say the faction knows about you, they give you a bonus that can be used in the wild card slot. If they trust you, you get a specific faction slot to apply the bonus too, and if they love you, you get two. These bonuses are things like reducing the excavation time of new building slots or increasing the XP gained by soldiers by 10%. Little things for sure, but when you have all faction slots unlocked and the wild card slot, you have up to 7 bonuses going at the same time. This leads into one of the problems with the War of the Chosen DLC. You become wildly overpowered.
The DLC also brings in a new training system, where your soldiers generate ability points for performing various things, like flanking kills or ambush kills, usually these are locked to the soldier who performs the action resulting in the ability point, however when you start to kill the chosen, you get 5 ability points that go into the XCOM ability pool that any soldier can use. It might not seem like much, but having a specialist that can both heal units with their drone AND hack into enemy robotic units or a team of rangers that don’t lose concealment and are also blade masters, well it soon becomes a bloodbath for the enemy.
To go hand in hand with the solider improvements, soldiers that work together regularly, generate cohesion and when they reach a certain level, a soldier bond can be created. A soldier with a level 1 bond can use an ability called teamwork where one of the bondmates gifts one of their ability turns to other. This may be used to get a soldier out of harm’s way, or even take a second shot on an enemy. There are three levels of bondage that two soldiers can achieve, but they can only be bonded to one soldier, essentially, XCOM soldiers are like penguins, they bond for life.
If you are a XCOM veteran you are used to the memes and jokes about missing 95% shots and like me probably answer with, well a grenade never misses, well Firaxis must have been paying attention, because while grenades are still a guaranteed hit, they are quite loud and loud is bad in XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. Loud noises have a chance to attract ‘The Lost’, which is another new enemy type in the DLC. The Lost, like Liam Neeson, do not care who you are, if you make enough noise, they will find you and they will mob you and they will kill you.
Thankfully they also die fairly easily, especially with the new ‘Headshot’ mechanic. Yes any shot that kills one of the lost generates a free action that can be used to kill another, reload your weapon or move. In certain missions, I have killed upwards of 55+ of these lost enemies because once they find you, they just keep coming and coming, so not exploding things can really be a good idea. That said certain missions are ‘lost’ missions so you are going to get mobbed if you like it or not, but the urge lob a grenade into the middle of a large bunch of Lost can sometimes be a very difficult thing to ignore.
It would be nice if the headshot mechanic could be integrated throughout the rest of the game, perhaps with a reduced hit % modifier attached to it. The other thing that feels missing is the humble silencer attachment for you soldiers weapons. If you are going to introduce a mechanic where if I am loud you generate more enemies, then let me make a stealth squad of silenced weapon equipped soldiers.
Those two very small gripes aside, XCOM 2 War of the Chosen is one fantastic piece of DLC. It integrates seamlessly with the main campaign and adds more than enough content with the new factions, soldier types, new buildings and the Chosen themselves to justify its hefty price tag. That said I would have been a nice touch to include all the previous single mission/soldier addon DLC packs into this main DLC.