When I try to rush off a review so I can get back to playing, I know I’ve found a good game. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is that good game.
Technically a DLC, War of the Chosen is an expansion to XCOM 2, but it is so meaty that it could be considered another game. It adds three new factions, three new long-term antagonists, and a whole slew of things that I’ve barely even touched yet. It’s the kind of thing that up-ends what you know about the game, and gets you to make the same old (and sometimes new!) mistakes all over again.
Enemies and Allies
Let’s talk about the enemies first. The Chosen are a triumvirate of baddies that are the Vader to the Ethereals’ Emperor. Each specializing in a certain special kind of death, the Chosen have set up shop in different regions on Earth, and they return time and time again to hound you during your missions. This is Shadow of Mordor, a recurring villain that dogs you until you track them to their lair and end them, permanently. Then there’s the lost, a mindless horde of zombies that is is a ‘third’ faction of enemies, attacking both ADVENT and XCOM alike. They’re more of an environmental danger, showing up in certain scenarios to annoy both sides, but it’s an interesting spin on the game, especially since that while they come as a horde (never less than five, usually ten or more), they have a weakness that if killed in a certain way lets your XCOM characters chain kills over and over again. The most I had so far war four, and that was only with a newbie Sniper. I expect far, far more epic battles in the future.
And there will be epic battles. First up, we have our new allies. The Reapers, Skirmishers and Templars are each characterful sub-factions and provide a welcome new mix of character abilities. The Reapers are stealth and speed and sniping. The Skirmishers masters of close and mid-range combat, and the Templars are essentially Dark Templars of Starcraft fame, generating psychic knives to stab into their enemies. All three level up using a points-based system, and your own soldiers get that points system as an additional set of rules after certain requirements have been met. Which means that on top of killing people from halfway across the map, your Sniper Colonel will be doing god-knows what by the end-game.
Tales of War
I’m cool with that though. XCOM (and to a lesser extent XCOM2) tried to keep it gritty. War of the Chosen throws that out to go full-on Avengers. Well, at least Agents of SHIELD. Between the multiple levelling trees, character bonds, and unique weapons, your XCOM troopers (those that stay alive anyway) are going to end up as superheroes. But all of the accretion of random rules, as well as the posters in War of the Chosen tell a story, and that’s really why I play XCOM.
The posters. I spent hours in Horizon Zero Dawn taking photos, and I’m doing the same thing here. I don’t do it on every mission: Some missions are too boring, and some missions too painful. Even then, the procedurally generated posters are great. In one huge mis-step in a covert operation (one I don’t recall having done before), I lost the whole mission and almost my whole squad. I didn’t want to make a poster to commemorate that dark day in XCOM history, but the game did it for me anyway.
I probably wouldn’t have used fonts and colours like that, but it hit especially close to home.
If you just started turn based tactical games, I would advise you to start off with vanilla XCOM 2. But assuming you’ve played XCOM 2 already, go get War of the Chosen.
Now if you don’t mind me, I have to go avenge Junior Commissar Zack Ong.
War of the Chosen is out on Steam now.