XCOM 2: War of Chosen Review

XCOM 2: War of Chosen is an expansion for XCOM 2 in much the same way that, for followers of the series, XCOM: Enemy Within was an expansion on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The game does still include the same objectives as the base game – as the player, you are still required to defeat the aliens before their “Avatar project” succeeds and still complete the story missions you were required to complete in the base game. War of the Chosen, however, adds all sorts of new factors when it comes to these missions, and overall makes it a far more interesting game.

The “Chosen” that are mentioned are three new bosses that throughout the game will affect your entire game, whether it be sabotaging your scans and supplies or randomly appearing in one of your missions to make it more difficult. Thankfully, the Chosen are not as unbalanced as the bosses from XCOM 2’s previous DLC “Alien Hunters”. In “Alien Hunters”, the bosses could take actions every single time your soldiers took one, which would end up ruining many campaigns just because it was just unfairly powerful. Though part of XCOM’s appeal has always been the difficulty, it is ruined when it doesn’t feel like any of it was actually your fault. The Chosen are far more forgiving. They seem difficult at first, but once the player works out how each one of them behaves, it becomes much easier. However, while you can defeat them in missions, they will constantly respawn until you eventually track down their headquarters and destroy each alien’s means of regeneration. Upon doing this, you gain access to the weapons that the Chosen use, which are also well balanced – not being too much more powerful than your typical modded endgame weapon. Perhaps the only part of these bosses that ends up being disappointing is that the mission to take them out for good is exactly the same for all three of them. However, they do provide a whole new dimension for the game and do feel like they’re actually a nice challenge as opposed to just being an annoyance.

Along with the Chosen come several new enemies. The ADVENT Purifier is equipped with a flamethrower, and has a chance of having their explosive weaponry detonate upon defeating them. The ADVENT Priest doesn’t seem to bring much new to the game other than essentially a more powerful Sectoid. The “Spectre”, however, is far more unique. This enemy can disable your soldier while creating a “Shadow” of them that attacks your soldiers, while also having the ability to flee after creating this Shadow. Though it can’t damage you directly, this enemy becomes a high priority target quickly, as the last thing you want is the soldier you put so much investment in to be attacking you back. The last new enemy are called the “Lost”, which are essentially just Zombies you have to murder endlessly and who don’t ever stop spawning, forcing you to have to retreat as there is no possibility of you killing them all.

As it is just an expansion on the base game, nothing about it has changed much graphically, meaning a few bugs still remain, such as the soldiers occasionally not shooting in the right direction yet still somehow hitting their target. However, the game’s graphics aren’t necessarily important, as though they can provide a nice atmosphere, the actual gameplay is so strong that average graphics is really all that’s necessary. However, the new Lost-themed maps and the design of the “Chosen” are very strong, with the Lost maps bringing a whole new aesthetic to some missions while the “Chosen” fits in very well thematically with what the existing lore. In terms of the music and the sound effects in general, there isn’t much new. It was generally disappointing that the new classes lacked the same diverse range of voices that the original classes did, but other than that, the sound effects are still generally satisfying, and fit the tone of different missions perfectly.

The expansion pass also includes three new classes – the Reaper, the Skirmisher and the Templar. Surprisingly, all three are fairly balanced. They start out in the early game feeling far more overpowered than your typical soldiers but end up balancing out fairly well by the end of the game. Most importantly, all three new classes are really fun to use. Reapers are snipers which aren’t as restricted as your typical sniper class as they can move before firing their rifle, while also utilising “Shadow” a form of Stealth so strong that they essentially can’t be detected unless they are literally standing next to an enemy, and has a chance of not breaking out of stealth upon firing. Skirmishers are versatile super-soldiers, which can fire multiple times a turn right from the start while also being able to reposition themselves and the enemy, and can be useful in both up close and long-range situations. Templars are essentially Psi Operatives but with melee capabilities and gradually builds up strength to be extremely powerful by the end of a mission. The levelling system has been revamped for these classes, allowing them to unlock multiple skills in the same tree as they gain “Ability Points” when levelling. These Ability Points also now apply to regular soldiers, meaning your soldiers can now be far more powerful than they were in the base game.

Your soldiers now also suffer from varying effects, making it beneficial to have a larger collection of soldiers. Firstly, soldiers can now become “Tired” after missions, forcing you to rest them for several days or redeploy them at the risk of developing more issues. Though this can feel irritating, as you may have soldiers technically injured despite having played a Flawless mission, it does feel fair and means you have to have replacements for your soldiers. Secondly, soldiers can now develop bad traits which may make them take actions without your command and that can severely hurt you if you are, for example, in stealth. However, Soldiers now interestingly form “bonds” with each other, which allows them to grant extra turns to their “bondmates”. Overall, the changes in soldier behaviour again gives you more things to monitor, which is a perfect addition for players who started with the base game.

Perhaps the biggest problem with War of the Chosen is that it feels, disappointingly, far easier than XCOM 2. In the expansion, your soldiers are so much more capable at handling everything that comes at them, and with the bond ability and the new Skirmisher ability on top of the Psi Operative’s existing skill “Inspire”, you can give your soldier so many extra turns that, especially with lower difficulties, losing soldiers in combat becomes a hard thing to do. Classes such as the support class, which before were best served specialising themselves in either dealing with robotic enemies or healing their teammates can now do both because of the new Ability points system. The Chosen, while difficult, drop weapons that, while not overpowered, are still very strong.

However, the biggest culprit of the game’s simple difficulty comes down to a new function called “Covert Actions”. Covert Actions allow you to send your soldiers off to complete various missions during your playthrough, with a chance of getting wounded or captured. However, these Actions are way too beneficial for your team. First of all, they make the base storyline completely irrelevant, as one Covert Action allows you to decrease the progress made by the aliens towards their “Avatar project”, removing the need for you to have to ever target any of their facilities. Sending your soldiers on Covert Actions can also bring them benefits, such as increased mobility or promotions, meaning you can essentially create an army of maxed out soldiers without having to ever take them on actual missions and just having them there for backup. These Covert Actions rarely need you to even send your troops off for more than a week, and you can also completely negate the chance for injury with very small payments. The concept was very good, but the rewards for these missions were simply too much and although I understand that it exists to allow the player to take out the Chosen without having to worry about the Avatar project, it doesn’t consider how easy the game becomes once the Chosen have been dealt with.

Overall, this expansion is, though maybe a bit pricey, very good. People have said that it doesn’t do very much that mods haven’t done in the past, but I don’t think this should be criticised. The fact that the developers have provided all the tools for the community is fantastic in itself, so buying this DLC or other DLCs and supporting the developers that have allowed for your favourite mods to exist should be something you should consider. There are many more things I haven’t even mentioned that are parts of this expansion – the Challenge mode, the new scientific “breakthroughs”, and plenty more for you to go and explore. At the end of the day, War of the Chosen will give you many more hours of gameplay through an already solid game.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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