XCOM 2: War of the Chosen Review

XCOM 2 – War of the Chosen, is a futuristic, turn-based, squad strategy game. Them aliens are back, and you’ve got to put your foot down a second time.

Spoiler Warning for XCOM: Enemy Unknown (and Enemy Within)

I’ll do my best not to spoil XCOM 2, but since it is a direct continuation of XCOM EU/EW, it will be hard not to have some spoilers.

Them Aliens are Back

As if they weren’t bad enough the first time, they’ve already taken over the world in this rendition of XCOM. You take up the role of the Commander, the same one who fought the aliens all those years ago in EU/EW. You’ve been…away for a while and when you get back, you realize just how messed up things have become in your absence. There’s no time to lose: you need to upgrade facilities, research (or steal) newer and better technology, recruit and upgrade soldiers, contact the underground resistance, and wage full-on guerilla warfare against the aliens.

XCOM 2 is an excellent upgrade and successor to its prequel. You’ll find the same style you know and love. You take a turn, the aliens take a turn. Then you take a turn, and the aliens take a turn. Of course, this is much easier on paper than in practice. There is a lot to do on each turn, and XCOM does not baby you. You need to manage your soldiers’ positions, ammo, enemies, timers, and mission objectives.

And Better than Ever

You’ll see some of your old favorite aliens but new and improved. A lot of the enemies have a newer look and new abilities, but play more or less the same as before. XCOM 2 features sectoids, mutons, berserkers, chryssalids, floaters, thin men, and more, just like in XCOM EU/EW. But most of them have upgraded looks, names, and abilities. The thin men no longer bother with their disguises. The floaters have a sleeker shell to hide how gross they are on the inside. Sectoids are taller than they used to be. It’s all got a new face, and it’s fun to re-learn how to play against these enemies. Your old tactics just might fail you this time around.

XCOM 2 also introduces a number of brand new aliens. I won’t bother going through a list, but the most common one you’ll see are the ADVENT foot soldiers. These guys will show up on pretty much every mission. ADVENT is the public face of the aliens, and its all got that “whited-sepulcher” thing going on. On the surface, everything looks clean and orderly, but you know that it’s just an appearance.

Almost Complete Freedom

XCOM 2 allows you to manage your squad pretty much however you want. You pick the gun, the grenades, the ammo, the outfit, and the abilities. Mods for this game are also abundant and relatively easy to install with the Steam Workshop. Want more outfits? There’s a mod for that. Want more guns? There’s a mod for that. Want more soldiers in your squad? There’s a mod for that.

Even if you don’t want to use mods, you still have plenty of customization options. As you progress in the game, you’ll unlock more ammo, grenades, armor, weapons, and more. You can choose what abilities your soldiers have, train them in abilities they don’t have, and then use those abilities in battle.

War of the Chosen is Almost an Entire Other Game

While it is technically an expansion/DLC for XCOM 2, War of the Chosen is almost an entire other game. Keep in mind that the base game is extraordinarily fleshed out and very well made already. War of the Chosen adds three main enemies called the Chosen to the gameplay. They’ve divided the world into three pieces, and they are rather territorial of it. These almost-immortals each have special abilities that make them a pain to deal with, and pop up almost randomly on any mission in their territory.

Most parts of the game play differently than the base game, even though the mechanics are still there. The tactical layer (from which you make your big-picture moves) now has you dealing with the resistance groups. Each of these has a rivalry with a specific one of the Chosen, and you’ll need to work with each resistance group to maximize your chances. You’ll take on missions for them, earn their trust, and help them with their objectives. In return they will give you special soldier classes that are not available in the base game, give you monthly bonuses, and they will help you track the Chosen down and finish them off for good.

War of the Chosen also plays differently in the battles. With new special units, you’ll have even more options for your decision making. All of the new units excel in a certain area. Reapers focus on stealth and sabotage. Skirmishers focus on tactical positioning (including repositioning the enemy), but are hard hitters both in ranged and melee. Templars focus on psi attacks and melee damage. You can never go wrong with any of these guys in your squad.

Also in battles you will occasionally encounter a type of enemy known as the Lost. Zombies in all but name, they are generally easy to deal with in small numbers, but become extraordinarily dangerous in large groups. Individually weak, the Lost tend to eat up your ammo quickly (because you can chain kills together without ending a turn) and try to overwhelm you with their numbers. If you try to use explosives, you’ll summon more Lost. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of every situation.

War of the Chosen also unlocks a whole host of customization options that include some spoilers, so you’ll have to explore those for yourself.

Super Brutal

XCOM 2 does not hold your hand or coddle you. Unless you’re playing on the easiest difficulty and/or save scumming, you’ll probably lose soldiers. Hitting aliens is very dependent on RNG, and you’ll find yourself asking how you missed that 99% shot yet again. And it seems like the aliens have perfect aim at the worst possible times.

Old strategies like spamming overwatch every turn no longer work either. The mission timers force you to move your soldiers into precarious situations lest you fail the mission. And more often than not you’ll find your soldiers suffering heavy, or even fatal, wounds.

XCOM 2 Stacks up to the Competition

XCOM 2 (including WotC) is one of the top contenders in its genre. There are many squad-based tactical games out there, and XCOM 2 is by far one of my favorites. Having also played XCOM EU/EW, Into the Breach, Divinity: Original Sin, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, XCOM 2 matches up very well to the competition (you can find links to our reviews of Into the Breach and FE: TH below). If you are a fan of these other games, you will almost certainly enjoy XCOM 2 as well. And even if you didn’t enjoy some of these other games, I’d still suggest giving XCOM 2 a quick look-see because it might just surprise you.

You can check out 15 minutes of my gameplay with no commentary (but tons of mods and an OP late game squad) below.

XCOM 2 can be found on Steam here.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen can be found on Steam here.

Check out our review of Fire Emblem: Three Houses!

Also check out our review of Into the Breach!

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