XCOM 2: War of the Chosen abilities, gear, factions, enemies - everything we know

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XCOM 2 is getting a new expansion called War of the Chosen, and developers Firaxis claim it’s twice the size of add-ons they’re worked on before. Yes, that means it’s 100% larger than Enemy Within, the big expansion rework of the last XCOM game that added new maps, mechs, and gene-alteration. 

If you’re into XCOM, you’ll love our list of the best strategy games

So, it’s big, but what exactly does it offer? Here’s everything we know about XCOM: War of the Chosen. 

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen - Release Date

It’s out very soon. In fact, you’ll be able to play XCOM 2: War of the Chosen on August 29. The page is even live on Steam already. Bang it on your wishlist if you want. 

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen - Trailer

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XCOM 2: War of the Chosen - The Chosen

The Chosen are a trio of persistent enemies that will haunt you across your XCOM 2 campaign. Inspired by Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System, these enemies will morph and react to you as your force repeatedly encounters them, growing in strength as the war efforts push on. Each time you encounter them they’ll have a slightly different skill set, demanding that you constantly adjust your tactics.  

These alien bosses grow in power via a resource called Knowledge, which they can gain in a variety of ways, including by kidnapping your best and brightest troops. If they gain too much Knowledge they will eventually shoot down the Avenger and try to seize you, the Commander, in a unique mission. If you’re captured that’s it: your campaign is over.

Like the orcs in the Nemesis System, XCOM’s The Chosen will have distinct personalities. They taunt you during combat, referring to previous battles, which adds a whole new level of character to XCOM. This should alleviate the copy/paste feeling that the game’s procedural generation can sometimes cause. 

The three Chosen are siblings, and each come with their own unique strengths. They’re also worthwhile targets since you’ll be able to claim their equipment upon killing them, and their weapons are by far the best in the game. 

The Assassin

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Focused on duty and honour, the Chosen Assassin will turn up when you least expect it, cloaking and getting right up in your grill with a sword. 

The Hunter

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The Hunter is a long-range expert who will keep your squad pinned down and pop heads with sniper fire. This Chosen has a sense of humour - not surprising considering he’s voiced by Nolan North - and a keen aim.

The Warlock

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Expect unpredictable attacks from this warrior-wizard. A religious fanatic, The Warlock won’t grant you any empathy. 

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen - Rebels

You will want to track down and kill The Chosen before the endgame, otherwise those final missions will be nearly impossible, what with three super-powerful extra enemies bearing down on you. To do that, you’ll need the help of three rebel factions that each have unique abilities. The only problem is... they hate each other.

Each faction is tracking a specific member of the Chosen, and aiding them in their fight will help gain your favour. This is done through Covert Actions, a new strategy feature that sees you send a duo of soldiers on a mission for a faction. Successful Covert Actions will gain you influence, and eventually allow you to hire a faction’s special hero unit.

Factions also provide Resistance Orders, which are bonuses similar to Civilization’s Policies. For example, the Skirmisher faction has Double Agent, which when equipped will trigger one Advent soldier in every mission to defect to your side. Another example is an order that removes a block of progress from the Avatar Project every month. You can have multiple Resistance Orders active, but you’ll start the game with the ability to assign only one. 

Like the Chosen, each faction - the Templars, Reapers, and Skirmishers - will have their own abilities and philosophies. Those philosophies are also likely to make co-operating with all three of them tricky, but we do know that there is an achievement to be unlocked for befriending all three of them. You’ll want to chum up to all of them, too; hero class soldiers are powerful units in battle and can also aid your efforts in the game’s strategy layer. 

The Reapers

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The Reapers’ hero units are stealth marksmen and saboteurs. They operate from concealment using a skill called Shadow Shot that ensures there’s a chance they won’t be revealed when firing (although repeated shots lower the chance of staying hidden). They can throw claymores from stealth without giving away their position, and use the Remote Start skill to detonate parked cars with double radius and double damage. Their Banish skill also allows them to empty an entire magazine of ammo into an enemy target. 

The Skirmishers

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Skirmishers are alien/human hybrids and defectors from the Advent army. They are essentially one-man battalions, capable of massive destruction if used correctly thanks to the free extra action they get if somebody attacks them. They can use both actions to shoot, and their Overwatch allows them to use any single-action ability - such as throwing a grenade - rather than just fire their weapon. Skirmishers also have access to the Battlelord ability, which when triggered provides them with a free action every time an enemy unit takes an action.

The Templars

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Templars are the wildcards of the bunch. Psionic masters with melee-only attacks, they work a little differently to regular units, since they generate Focus with each attack. As Focus builds, the Templar’s attacks do greater damage, their defence increases, and they can move further distances. At higher levels they even gain the ability to deflect damage back at opponents. Their Ionic Storm ability uses up all gathered Focus to unleash bolts of lightning on nearby foes, while Ghost creates a clone to aid in battle. Deploy them right, keep them alive, and Templars can be devastating in the late stages of a battle.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen - The Lost

XCOM 2 The Lost

It won’t just be The Chosen you have to worry about, as this expansion also introduces The Lost - a swarm of angry, mutated humans that will attack both sides of any given conflict. War of the Chosen takes us back to humanity’s abandoned cities, and they are absolutely riddled with these not-zombie zombies. 

These messed up creatures don’t move individually. They attack in large swarms and are drawn to the sound of combat. Once they show up, everyone will be fighting for their lives against these mindless hordes, aliens and XCOM alike. Expect some multi-threat chaos, basically.

The Lost are governed by the Sitrep system, which rebalances missions by adjusting their core elements. If The Lost Sitrep is applied, you can expect to fight these zombies. There’s more to it that that, though; if The Horde Sitrep is applied, there will be twice as many Lost swarms. These interlink with other elements, too; there’s a Dark Event called Lost World that when active will put Lost swarms in every mission played that month.  

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen new features

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There are plenty more additional features beyond the new factions and enemies. Indeed, War of the Chosen is a much bigger expansion than any XCOM 2 DLC and the Enemy Within pack for the previous XCOM game. 

One of the key new features is Soldier Bonds, which sees compatible units build a band of brothers-style relationship over multiple missions. When you deploy these soldiers together, they’ll have access to a set of abilities based around their bond that should make them incredibly powerful assets. For example, these buddies can fire simultaneously, or negate debuffs when stood together. You certainly won’t want to separate them, nor let one be killed; the death of a bonded comrade will send to survivor into a rage state similar to panic from the base game. Should the worst happen, though, survivors can form bonds with new soldiers.   

Keeping your pals together won’t be so easy, of course. Not only is there the ever-looming threat of permadeath, but soldiers now suffer fatigue if you send them on too many subsequent missions. You’ll need to rotate through your roster a lot more to keep your men and women fighting fit, and ensure that bonded units are both energised enough to be fielded together.  

Soldiers can now develop quirks. For example, a unit can become ‘obsessive’, meaning they constantly require their weapon’s magazine to be full. If it’s not, they may ignore one of your orders and reload instead. This can be cured by putting units through the new Infirmary building.

XCOM 2 War of the Chosen

Propaganda is being woven into the campaign, with the ability for you to write on posters and craft mottos for your teams. A Photobooth mode allows you to take snapshots of soldiers as they return from missions, adding filters and posing your squaddies. These photos will then appear in the world as posters, encouraging people to join the rebellion. There’s also a resistance DJ that will discuss your victories and defeats on the Avenger’s radio (voiced by Jake ‘son of Gary’ Busey), and an Advent news channel that will broadcast stories covering up XCOM’s successful missions. Combined with brand new opening and end cinematics, War of the Chosen should have far more narrative flavour than the base game. 

The previously mentioned Sitreps don’t just apply to the Lost; they can force you to play in very different ways. For example, one Sitrep will allow your squad to re-enter concealment, but will also increase the difficulty of the mission to compensate for that. Sitreps should ensure that every War of the Chosen mission feels distinctly different to ones featured in the original XCOM 2 campaign. 

Things are being changed around in the HQ, too. Your scientists can have Breakthroughs and Inspirations. The former provides bonuses for specific projects, such as higher damage for a weapon, while the latter reduces the time to research. However, both must be accepted immediately when the in-game pop-up occurs, otherwise they’ll be lost. This means you’ll need to weigh up the benefits of putting your current research projects on hold to accept a Breakthrough or Inspiration. 

The Advanced Warfare Centre has been replaced with three new buildings: the Infirmary, the Resistance Ring, and the Training Centre. As mentioned previously, the Infirmary is a medical facility used to cure soldiers of negative quirks. The Resistance Ring allows you to embark on Covert Actions, and the Training Centre is where new abilities are purchased. Yes, not all abilities are earned for simply ranking up these days. 

The new Faction Hero units must purchase their skills with Ability Points, which are gained in battle for doing general manoeuvres such as flanks. Each soldier has a Combat Intelligence score which modifies the amount of AP earned. Back at HQ, AP is spent on unlocking skills for Hero units. Regular soldiers can also have AP spent on them at the Training Centre; while they’ll still earn skills for ranking up, AP can be used to unlock skills from their unused skill tree, or even teach them the abilities from other classes.

That’s all the intelligence we’ve managed to harvest from the alien corpses found by the PCGN team, but we’ve always got soldiers on the lookout for new data. Check back regularly for new War of the Chosen news, Commander. 

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