XCOM Enemy Unknown is the closest a modern game has gotten to being the perfect game for me. The main reason was with the addition of the Enemy Within expansion that just made everything better. XCOM 2 was another amazing title; this time with Firaxis having complete freedom to grow it. Now with War of the Chosen, XCOM 2 gets even closer to perfection than the first game.
For more about the basics of XCOM 2, you can read my original review. War of the Chosen is a top to bottom iteration on the original game’s content. For fans who bought the original three DLC (or the season pass), WOTC integrates them into the campaign.
There is a lot to cover here, and we’ll begin with the big stuff. Joining you on your mission to save the earth are three new resistance factions: The Reapers, the Templars and the Skirmishers.
If you play with the story mission on, you’ll get a linear mission that introduces two of them along with a new enemy class, but more on them in a minute. With the story mission off, you’ll have one of the three given to you at the start, and you’ll have to make contact with the other two.
Each faction provides you with a new unit class to take into battle. Reapers have enhanced stealth options and long range sniping. Skirmishers can grapple up buildings and grab enemy units, while having the ability to attack twice or shooting then moving. Templars have access to powerful psionic abilities even greater than your own psychic troops.
The new classes also upgrade differently compared to the other classes. Performing tactically on missions will earn you AP that can be used to unlock new skills. Because AP is shared in a pool, you do need to be mindful of whom to upgrade.
Having one of them at the start greatly gives you a leg up on the opposition; especially on legend difficulty. However, this is still XCOM, and Firaxis has some new “treats” to share with you.
War of the Chosen has also improved the alien side of things as well. First off, new enemy types have been integrated into the basic battles. Early on, you’ll run into enemies like the priests who can mind meld with other troops to make them more dangerous.
A completely new enemy class comes in the form of “The Lost”: Humans affected by the alien machinery used in Enemy Unknown. The Lost are essentially zombies, but there’s a lot more to them than just that.
The Lost are attracted to sound, and will come running to the sound of combat or explosions. While most enemy packs are between two to three enemies per group, Lost can easily attack in groups of seven or more. Due to their numbers, you are given a special ability to deal with them. Any time a unit kills a Lost with gunfire you’ll perform a “headshot” and will regain the action point spent. As long as you have ammo, you can keep firing on the Lost until you either miss or only wound them.
Some missions will have the Lost appearing to fight Advent and yourself, while other ones will just be the Lost.
But the real challenge in War of the Chosen comes in the form of three serious new threats.
With the Alien Hunter DLC, Firaxis wanted to integrate the idea of “boss units” that would appear on the battlefield and cause trouble for the player. In War of the Chosen, they have gone even further with the design of the Chosen.
The Chosen are three highly evolved aliens each designed around specific abilities. After the story mission (or a few weeks of normal play) the chosen will make themselves known. They will take over specific areas of the world map, and have a chance of appearing in missions in those areas.
What makes the Chosen so dangerous are their perks. Upon their first appearance in a game, the chosen will be assigned random positive and negative perks to define them. Firaxis took heavy inspiration from the Nemesis system of Shadow of Mordor for their design. The perks themselves will define the chosen for that playthrough, and they will get more perks over time.
Besides fighting them in combat, they can mess with areas on the global map, kidnap your squaddies, and perform other nefarious tasks to mess with you. Killing them for good requires you to find their lair and go on a mission to take them out.
If you fail to kill them before doing the final mission, all living chosen will show up at their highest level at the end.
Not only does this add more dynamic challenges to the game, but it provides yet another system to manage and deal with in the campaign.
It feels like for every change I bring up here, I’m forgetting two more. There is the new character bond system, the photo booth for creating propaganda posters, covert missions to send troops out on and much more.
All in all, the changes and additions serve one important purpose — To keep the game as unpredictable as possible. One of the big issues in the original XCOM was the fact that the game became very repetitive. This was due to the limitations on progress and the punishment for failure.
While it is still possible to enter a downward spiral, there isn’t a best way of playing the game. The inclusion of one of the resistance classes at the start gives you an advantage and helps to get you over the difficulty hump at the start of a new game. New structures like the resistance ring can provide free experience for troops, and earn unique bonuses and resources.
Expert players will probably still be able to pull off legend wins without too much trouble, but the changes offer variability to everyone.
War of the Chosen is an amazing addition to the XCOM franchise, and in all honesty there isn’t anything for me to complain about from the expansion itself.
If I wanted to nitpick War of the Chosen, you are still dealing with the set confines of your mobile base. Seriously, the only reason why you don’t want War of the Chosen is if you completely hated XCOM 2.
At this point, I don’t know if we’ll see a second expansion or an XCOM 3 from Firaxis anytime soon, but they certainly earn some major praise here. War of the Chosen is a masterpiece of design that manages to fix, improve, and expand XCOM 2 in ways no one was expecting. The fact that I’m over 1,100 words and there is still more I didn’t talk about is a testament to that.
I can’t see anyone wanting to go back to Vanilla XCOM 2 after playing War of the Chosen, and if you put the game aside beforehand, this is definitely the time to step back into the commander’s chair.