Twelve Games of Christmas: XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Hello and welcome to ‘The Twelve Games of Christmas’, a highlight reel of some of my (Dann Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief) favourite games of 2017. As regular readers will know, we’re extremely eclectic in our tastes here at B3; hopefully these little suggestions, essentially recommendations, will match that. Enjoy!

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen launched a little over four months ago and, as Enemy Within did for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, completely changed the way XCOM 2 functioned, bolstering the core game with a massive number of new features. Enough so that it warrants featuring in our little Twelve Days of Christmas piece.

XCOM 2 had already shaken up the formula from 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Players no longer had a set location for their base of operations, satellites were replaced with radio towers and classes and technology were shaken up. All of a sudden XCOM — as an entity — were having to be proactive from the start, being not only on the weaker foot but on a planet already in the full grasp of the Elders.

There was rarely a spare moment in XCOM 2’s vanilla campaign, with the game structured around both distractions and resource gathering. Distractions came in the form of optional places to dock XCOM’s mobile field base, The Avenger, with normally two or three locations on offer. Resource gathering came via collecting intel, new recruits and assets to keep upgrading your base, and via expanding your global reach.

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Fans of the 2012 series relaunch had already been employing the use of the exceptional Long War mod to prolong the campaign while maintaining its intensity. XCOM 2’s version of the mod delivered on the same grounds. Where War of the Chosen fits into the puzzle is in adding entirely new threads to the game itself. The three titular Chosen are present from the first couple of missions as well as three new factions, which each come with their own abilities and weapons. The Chosen are unrelenting, interrupting missions and dragging away anybody they take captive in order to extract information, become more powerful and track your base down.

XCOM has always been a race against time, in XCOM 2 it was the Avatar Project, but with the Chosen growing stronger, if you don’t actively try to shut them down, you’re left with an incredible amount of things to keep your eyes on. War of the Chosen makes you appreciate those moments where you decided to spend five to six days gathering supplies in the core game — because back then, you didn’t have anything other than the Avatar Project ticking up. Now, however, you know that those five to six days are full of the Chosen moving around, picking away at your foundations and growing stronger.

War of the Chosen also added in a new group of enemies called the Lost. These are essentially zombies which haunt the cities destroyed during the Elder’s occupation of Earth. They move in packs and are attracted to loud noises — and they can appear in any of the normal mission types as well, adding a new tactical element to the battle. They’re not picky about what they kill, so you can set them on Advent, but the longer the fighting goes on, the more of them show up. Almost every shot that hits them is an instant kill, that said, and if a character gets a kill on one of the Lost, they’ll not spend an action. This can lead to some absolutely amazing moments when your team of six clears out around 20 of them, going from completely cornered and doomed to home-free and discernibly badass in a turn.

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XCOM operatives also underwent some changes with the new expansion, and not just the super-fun propaganda centre that lets you make posters of your soldiers, which then appear in future missions.  Operatives now get tired if overused, encouraging you to maintain a larger team. They can also grow bonds with one another — something which makes the two a deadlier team through new abilities and synergy bonuses, but can hit back hard if one dies. Critically, they can also become scared of things like acid and fire, should certain triggers happen. These all make the operatives even easier to grow attached to — something XCOM already excelled at.

I could, but won’t, talk about War of the Chosen for days. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive expansion packs ever made for a game, adding in a massive number of new jigsaw pieces which slot in perfectly alongside an already impressive title.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is available now for PS4, Xbox One & PC. It’s an expansion pack, so you’ll need the original game in order to play.

Alongside Steam, you can find War of the Chosen on the Humble store. If you buy it through that link then you have an option to ping 5% of your spend over our way — that’d be lovely, but you can always opt out.

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