Above all else, Friaxis is a developer that uses DLC as an excuse to completely change the rules of their games. While Bethesda and others might offer full scale expansions and weapons upgrades, they often feel tacked on in comparison to the complete dynamic shift the likes of Gods and Kings offered to Civ V or Enemy Within did to the prior XCOM release. War of the Chosen accomplishes this once more, adding such a vast wealth of new enemies, factors and things to keep track of; you can never rely upon the same old tactics that won past campaigns.
The most prominent change present here is the fact your agents are now being hunted. With the arrival of three Sectoids on steroids known as the Chosen to harass your forces at every turn, every mission might see you facing off against a powerful new foe without warning. Having thankfully learned their lesson from the Alien Hunters DLC (and adding a very welcome nerf to that DLC’s abominations), the Chosen will arise multiple times throughout the campaign and while tough at the start, their main strength stems from how they learn from you. The more you use certain tactics against them, or even certain weapons, the greater their resistance will be to each one, bolstering an already impressive arsenal of skills. The Hunter in particular will have you grinding your teeth in frustration, with his capacity to not only ignore armour, but also nail targets from almost across the map.
What changes this from being a simple rehash of Alien Hunters is what the game offers atop of three new big-name foes. Rather than just encountering the Chosen enough times to pin down their stronghold, you instead accomplish your task by operating alongside new resistance cells. Each has to be convinced to assist your cause, and no single one offers the same benefits. While it would have been an easy task to simply rehash standard XCOM designs and give them a new paint job, you’re instead left with diverse groups of Reaper infiltrators, ADVENT defectors known as the Skirmishers and a mysterious order of Templar psychics to call upon for help. This naturally makes the balancing act of striking bases, recovering supplies and new attaining allies all the more difficult, but the DLC always allows the rewards to be all the sweeter.
New enemies and allies would be enough on their own – especially with zombie swarms known as the Lost showing up and attacking both sides – but the truly fascinating addition is what War of the Chosen does to your troops. While XCOM has always been famed for having aliens permanently bump off essential soldiers and forcing you to juggle finite resources, the soldiers themselves have always seemed oddly robotic. Even if someone is turned into near mincemeat, with enough rankings and some downtime they will barely register the effects. That isn’t quite the case anymore.
Now you have fatigue to worry about, as soldiers deployed over and over again can be driven to near breaking point. If pushed too far, they will panic much more easily and attain negative traits such as obsessively reloading their weapons or an unhealthy streak of paranoia. It’s enough to give them a bit more life, as is the relationships which can build between troops, with friendships and comradery between certain units offering bonuses in the field if deployed alongside one another enough times. Ones which can also backfire quite badly should one of them be killed, but that’s XCOM for you. The point is that this helps to give a sense that you’re commanding humans in the field, and encourages players to actually build a large force of soldiers over a single elite squad and their rookie cannon fodder.
Top all of this off with new bonuses such as the photo booth to commemorate the promotions, victories and losses of your soldiers, and War of the Chosen offers exactly what players want from this series. You have every tool possible to forge your own narrative within the game, and infinitely more reasons to revisit this world once more. Turn based strategy fans should mark this down as an essential purchase for this month.
XCOM 2 DLC – WAR OF THE CHOSEN / DEVELOPER: FIRAXIS / PUBLISHER: 2K GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, OS X, LINUX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW