Firaxis has a decent track record when it comes to making add-ons, but the XCOM 2 DLC run initially suffered from a few bad apples. Upon release, the pre-order bonus and day one content were subject to heavy flak. But in the years that followed the studio has managed to pull it together with later expansions being a lot more on par with what we’d want for such an excellent turn-based strategy game.
However, one of the game’s best expansions – XCOM 2: War of the Chosen – has caused more than a few niggles. With this release, XCOM 2 was pushed to its limit with new features; missions, enemies, and classes shoved into every hole. It also largely displaced much of the content that had been released before hand. When it comes to XCOM 2 DLC, not everyone takes the time to explain how different parts of the library interact together – which is where we come in.
Without further ado, here’s our complete guide to all of the XCOM 2 DLC available, with specific segments on how various bits fit in (or don’t) with the War of the Chosen expansion.
XCOM 2 dLC
Here is a quick summary of all of the XCOM 2 DLC released to date:
- Resistance Warrior Pack
- Anarchy’s Children
- Alien Hunters
- Shen’s Last Gift
- War of the Chosen
- War of the Chosen: Tactical Legacy Pack
XCOM 2: Resistance Warrior Pack
Originally a pre-order bonus, the Resistance Warrior Pack is a textbook example of an interesting concept ruined by a cynical execution. It’s meant to be a throw-back to XCOM 1 that adds four ‘resistance’ armours based around the old Enemy Unknown design — including a vest-covered sweater reminiscent of Central/Bradford’s outfit in XCOM 2 and the standard armour from the first game — alongside an additional rookie recruit meant to represent a veteran soldier that fought in the first war, sporting a slightly battered XCOM armour and a unique flattop hair.
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The idea had a lot of potential, giving players the choice to try to rebuild the organization that was steamrolled by the aliens 20 years past using the same outfits and bringing a veteran soldier to the fight, but it is very much an early-game only deal. The armour is not a customization option, but an item called the Resistance Kevlar Armor, which becomes obsolete the moment a better model is researched. To make matters worse, there are four pre-set versions of the armour that can be chosen by changing the torso customisation options, but things like legs, arms, and shoulders can’t be touched, giving players a lot less freedom to design their own troops.
That is compensated very slightly by four face paint options added to the game, so ‘cosmetics’ is pretty much what this DLC boils down to; even the additional rookie soldier is unremarkable in any sense besides his looks.
Is it worth it?
Yes, if you like the military design of the first game’s armour and want more options to attain that look. This is a mostly cosmetic pack that will only really be useful in the very early-game DLC, so treat it as such.
XCOM 2: Anarchy’s Children
There were three DLCs released in 2016, none of which are available for sale individually anymore. The first of these was Anarchy’s Children which is another cosmetic-only DLC. It included more than 100 different customisation items based around the theme of ‘Anarchy’. These items range from clown face paints and piercings to mohawks and leather trousers, making your soldiers look like a band of edgy teens.
This DLC, while admirable in trying to offer the player more ways to customise their forces, also represents a surprisingly stark misconception of what the players liked about XCOM 2. Cosmetics are also really easy to mod in at this point, so at the time it probably wasn’t viewed as a great use of developer resources. To make matters worse, the sheer number of customisation options available virtually guaranteed that new recruits came with some pretty horrendous get-ups, forcing you to spend time changing them so that they didn’t look as ridiculous.
IS IT WORTH IT?
As mentioned above, it’s not actually for sale on its own, but is always bundled in as part of the XCOM 2 Collection which you’ll find on sale fairly regularly. As you’ll see below, War of the Chosen is very much worth buying so its hard to ignore this DLC, even if it is a bit naff.
XCOM 2: Alien Hunters
At the time, Alien Hunters was the first real content pack for XCOM 2 since launch, adding three new enemy bosses, three new suits of armour and four weapons, as well as a single mission where Bradford/Central is deployed to investigate these new enemies. This DLC made some waves uponrelease, creating very extreme opinions on both sides of the player.
The meat of the pack comes in the form of the three new ‘Alien Rulers’, powerful variations of the basic Viper, Archon, and Berserker units. Each is a unique character that is gone forever once killed, but they can be a pain to get rid of thanks to their immense health bar.
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A good portion of the player base found the Rulers to be badly balanced, thanks to their propensity to appear early in the campaign and keep showing up for every single mission afterwards. While there can only be one boss per level, they can react to every action a player takes (including passive ones like reloading if you don’t own War of the Chosen, more on that below) and have a tendency to escape through a psionic rift when suffering too much damage, forcing you to face them again later.
On the good side, their health usually freezes between appearances, meaning any damage inflicted to a ruler on a previous operation will be carried over to their next appearance, creating an interesting self-contained narrative where you slowly cripple a powerful boss. The DLC also adds four new weapons that can only be crafted once and are lost forever if abandoned on a mission, but their stats and special abilities such as the concealment-granting Shadowkeeper pistol or the Bolt Caster rifle can be effective in dealing with the new enemies.
Is it worth it?
As above, this is not available to buy on its own anymore but is always part of a collection that contains War of the Chosen, which fixes many of the issues outlined above.
XCOM 2: Shen’s Last Gift
The last of the 2016 DLC and another throwback to XCOM: Enemy Within, this expansion adds a new huge (seriously enormous) mission to investigate Chief Engineering Officer Dr. Raymond Shen’s last project before he passed away. The mission allows you to take his daughter along, Chief Engineer Lily Shen, and rewards you with a new robot class.
Before War of the Chosen, Shen’s Last Gift was the most well received XCOM 2 expansion. It includes a good, yet very lengthy mission, that ends up overstaying its welcome as it takes too long to complete.
Once finished you unlock the use of a SPARK robot, scratching that MEC-shaped itch left in XCOM 1 veterans’ lives. The robot levels up and can be customised with specialised weapons, tools, and armours, allowing them to play any role from defensive tanks to devastating close combat units.
Is it worth it?
Not that it’s available either anymore, but yes.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
This is XCOM 2’s biggest (and best) expansion, largely doing for XCOM 2 what Enemy Within did for the first game. It improves upon virtually every good facet of the base game and irons out many issues from the vanilla version, as well as the previous DLCs. It takes the experience to new levels by stretching it to the breaking point and filling in the gaps with exceptional new mechanics and toys.
The expansion is seriously too big to be summarised in a couple of paragraphs, so I suggest you read our XCOM 2: War of the Chosen review to find out more. But just to give you a quick round-up; this add-on includes three new squad classes, four new factions, multiple new mechanics, several enemy units, and a new special class of boss.
These bosses — the eponymous Chosen — are deadly, unique enemies and the centerpoint of the DLC, appearing throughout the whole campaign like your very own personal nemesis. There are three of them (a lot of War of the Chosen’s features number three), each with their own personality and motivations and each with unique stats and abilities generated at the start of a campaign, creating a bespoke experience for every run.
The new mechanics include things like squad bonds, that enhance the effectiveness of squad members that fight together and grants them bonuses and unique abilities, and the new Resistance Ring room, which allows you to contact three different rebel factions throughout the world and recruit them in your fight against ADVENT.
Is it worth it?
This is a fantastic and gigantic expansion to an already brilliant game, and regardless if you played XCOM 2 before or is just going to dip your toes on it for the first time, it is a definite must buy.
XCOM 2 War of the Chosen: Tactical Legacy Pack
A surprise free DLC that was free for owners of War of the Chosen for a short time, the Tactical Legacy Pack is a mix of serious storytelling and fan service. It’s worth noting that this is a DLC for War of the Chosen, not the base game itself so you’ll need that expansion to play this.
Focusing on the time between the fall of XCOM’s headquarters and the rescue of the Commander in XCOM 2, the pack features four campaigns chronicling the rise of the resistance. Told through the eyes of XCOM’s second-in-command, John “Central” Bradford, and Dr. Raymond Shen’s daughter Lily Shen, these ‘Central Archive’ missions are accessible as a standalone series of seven-mission-long challenges via the main menu.
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Aside from bringing in new story elements through dialogue, the pack leans heavily on nostalgia, bringing back 28 different levels from XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM: Enemy Within — like the gas station, the dam, and the chrysalid pier — alongside the original game’s weapons and armours. Those can be used as sidegrade options during the main campaign, but the downside to that is that you first need to play all four Central Archive’s campaign to completion and achieve a bronze rating at the end, but the requirements are lax enough that this should be easy.
Is it worth it?
It is, as long as you don’t expect it to perfectly fill in the blanks nor change the way the game is played. This is better seen as a nice bite-sized series of XCOM 2’s campaigns, with a some added story bonuses for fun.
how does War of the Chosen expansion affect the 2016 DLCs?
War of the Chosen is a pretty big expansion, essentially changing the XCOM 2 experience from beginning to end. While cosmetic packs like the Resistance Warrior Pack and Anarchy’s Children are available from the start and are unaffected by this DLC, but Alien Hunters and Shen’s Last Gift change drastically.
The first and most important change is the rebalance applied to Alien Rulers. Firaxis heard players’ complaints and fixed some of the most egregious issues with those bosses, such as enemy reactions and map-wide sight — they are now unable to react to passive actions like reloading and hunker down, and no longer detect your whole squad across the map like some clairvoyant demi-god. For those who own War of the Chosen, the Alien Rulers now provide a much more fair and enjoyable experience.
The second yet equally important change is to the way the story DLCs are integrated to the expansion. War of the Chosen greatly increases the number of early story missions, putting the player through a tailored meat grinder. Both DLCs were previously unlocked through early-game story missions, causing some conflict with War of the Chosen and potentially prolonging the time a player would take to get to the main campaign.
Complicating matters further, there’s the new stress mechanic added in War of the Chosen, which taxes soldiers mentally and physically the more missions they go on. To combat that, you must give them some much needed R&R time and not send them in a series of operations in a row — which immediately becomes a problem during Shen’s Last Gift’s three-part behemoth. War of the Chosen virtually guarantees that your whole squad will come off Operation Lost Towers shaken and exhausted, essentially docking a whole squad off-duty after one mission.
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In order to deal with that, War of the Chosen adds a new option when starting a campaign called Integrated Downloadable Content. It removes the Alien Hunters and Shen’s Last Gift missions from the game, adds the Spark class and all new weapons to the laboratories and Proving Grounds from the start, and spreads the Alien Rulers across Avatar Sites.
That integration is not obligatory, however, and players can opt to play the DLCs alongside War of the Chosen if they so choose. This will tie equipment and classes unlocks to their respective missions, and Alien Rulers will only be unleashed after the Bradford mission instead of being first encountered in hidden Avatar locations. However, regardless of your choice, the changes brought by War of the Chosen will still be in play, meaning Alien Hunters are re-balanced (and Sparks more effective) regardless of DLC integration or not.