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Join the XCOM 2 character pool today!


Infamous third lava dolphin
NOTE: This is a migrated LP thread from Olde Talking Time that was originally started in Jan 2019. I have attempted to preserve the back-and-forth of the various posters, but you might find the whole thing easier to read if you go back to the original thread.

How do I love thee, XCOM 2? Let me count the ways...


Uh, 214 ways, apparently. That is a whole bunch of ways! In fact, I think I'd be lying if I didn't say that XCOM 2: War of the Chosen was my favorite game of all time. It's fun, it's challenging, it's eminently replayable and it hates me. But you know what could make it even better? Here's what:


XCOM 2 lets you customize your soldiers in many ways, from their appearance to their name and callsign to their nationality and even their backstory. It also lets you put your custom characters into something called the Character Pool, which is sort of like Central Casting for XCOM. Once a character is in the pool, they have a chance of showing up in any campaign that you play as a recruit, a friendly VIP or even an enemy VIP (ie, target, as in snitches who get stitches).

So consider this thread to be my recruitment drive. I want to assemble a crack team of soldiers to fight and [strike]possibly[/strike] probably die for the cause of freedom, and I want you to be a part of it. I'm looking for eager Tyrants to join my ranks, which you can do by simply filling out an application form and DMing it to me or just posting the whole dang thing in this thread. Once you do that, I'll make up a character in your image and add it to the character pool. And once I have a bunch of those, I'll bundle them into a Talking Time character pool that I'll make available to the general public! Download yourself and your virtual forum buddies! Send them into the virtual meat grinder in your very own campaigns! Character import only available for the PC version of XCOM 2, not available in all regions.

But before we get started...

A Word of Warning
I will probably stream XCOM from time to time - it is my favorite game, after all. So don't give me any personal information that you wouldn't be OK with a very small audience of Twitch or YouTube viewers seeing. As much as I would like to have a squad that reflects the people of this forum, I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable taking part in this thread.

Create You Character
With that out of the way, here's what I'll need from you before you can join the fight:

NAME and/or CALLSIGN: What do you call yourself, soldier? Doesn't have to be your legal name, but I would like something that I can trace back to the forum somehow. If you'd rather just specify a callsign and have a randomly generated name for your character, that's fine too.

APPEARANCE: What should your character look like? Give me a visual reference to work from. My preference is for an actual photo (which I WILL NOT SHARE IN ANY WAY WITH ANYONE EVER), but I will also accept drawings, concept art or even descriptions. Note that XCOM's character creator isn't as detailed as some games - you have to choose from a fixed number of faces, for example. But you can choose:
  • gender (male or female only, see the FAQ below if that's no good for you)
  • race (XCOM's four races are unnamed but vaguely fall into white, black, brown and east Asian categories)
  • hair color and style
  • accessories (hats, bandannas, glasses, cigars, monocles, etc), tattoos and scars
  • clothing and weapon colors (with optional patterns if you're fancy)

If you want to specific examples, this video shows off basically everything in the game. My goal is to make a character that represents you, but that doesn't mean they have to look like you necessarily. Send me something to work with and I'll try to do you justice. I will also happily make a revision or two if you don't like how your character comes out.

NATIONALITY and LANGUAGE: Pick a country and put their flag on your uniform! There are a bunch to choose from, you'll probably get your wish unless you're going for something esoteric. As for languages, it's more or less EFIGS, but English comes in American, UK and Australian variants.

ATTITUDE: This basically determines your soldier's body language. Choose from By the Book, Laid Back, Normal, Twitchy, Hard Luck, Happy-Go-Lucky, Intense, Angry, Cocky, Smug, Suspicious, and Let's Go!

BACKSTORY: Entirely optional, but there's room for about 3-4 sentences if you want to talk a bit about your character.

CLASS: Also optional, and not necessarily fixed from campaign to campaign. If you want to be one of the basic classes (grenadier, sharpshooter, specialist, ranger), it should be no problem to fit you in. If you want to be a psi operative, you'll have to wait until late in the game (but your character will kick ass and your hair will turn white). You can also ask to be one of the special faction classes (Skirmisher, Templar or Reaper), but there's a cap of two per class per campaign, so I'll do a random draw if I have too many volunteers. Note that faction classes are a bit less customizable than standard soldiers - Skirmishers in particular are gonna be stuck with a bad case of Skirmisher face. There's also room for exactly one robot on the squad, if that's your thing.

Questions and Answers

Where can I download the character pool?
Here's link to Tyrant Squad v1.0. To import the characters, copy the file into \Documents\My Games\XCOM2 War of the Chosen\XComGame\CharacterPool\Importable, then go into the Character Pool in-game and import them from the squad. You'll also need the following mods to get the full experience:
  • Vindictus Male Hairstyles
  • CapnBubs Accessories
  • XXL Tattoo
  • [WOTC] Advent Armor [Dead]
  • And of course, War of the Chosen (possibly with the Alien Hunters DLC for Mogri's helmet)

Are you actually gonna play this game or are we just making characters?
I am! But this isn't going to be a proper LP, in part because that would take FOREVER. Instead, whenever I feel like playing a bit I'll try to take some screenshots to show off the squad's highlights and inevitable deaths. Don't expect painstaking detail or a regular update schedule, but do expect me to put you guys through your paces. In Ironman mode, of course.

I don't feel comfortable with the gender dichotomy presented in this game!
This is an extremely fair criticism, and there are certainly some games with character creators that let you roll non-binary characters. Sadly, XCOM 2 is Not That Game. The only options we have are to use hairstyles and/or makeup to try to bust out of traditional M/F, to use one of the game's many, many helmets to cover your character's face, or to be the robot. I'll do my best here, but the toolset is limited, and the voice options and body types are all hard-panned to male or female.

Can you promise not to get me killed?
Ha ha, no.

Can I opt out of the character pool at a later date?
Absolutely, I will happily remove anyone from the pool at their request. But of course this is the internet, so anyone has already downloaded your character will have access to it.

How do I sign up?
You really skimmed this post, huh? OK, fill in this and post it here and/or DM it to me. Please also post or DM me a reference image if you have one, I'll be able to do a much better job with one.


Now let's get out there and kill some alien fascists!
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Mogri;2555988 said:
NAME: whatevs
APPEARANCE: Do you have the character options pack? I wanna use the Advent Elite armor. Gender and race hardly matter underneath all that.
ATTITUDE: By-the-Book
BACKSTORY: Was attempting to sign up for Advent, but screwed up really badly. Rolled with it rather than admitting to the mistake.
CLASS: Sharpshooter

MCBanjoMike;2555995 said:
I'm afraid I have neither Anarchy's Children nor the Resistance Warrior pack, because from what I've seen they're both terrible. I have unlocked the wealth of helmets and armors that came with the Tactical Legacy Pack, but I'm not sure there's any official Advent stuff in there. I can try to put something together that looks like a bad facsimile of an Advent trooper, or else you can change your order. I'm not against downloading cosmetic mods, so long as they are compatible with WotC. I actually already have a selection of tattoos and extremely excessive hairstyles that come from some mods I installed a while back.

EDIT: Looks like there might be a mod I can use? I'll know more once I'm back on my home PC.

Mogri;2555996 said:
If you can't do it, it's not a huge deal. I'll come up with something else.

IIRC, Anarchy's Children was terrible, but I liked Resistance Warrior.

Gerad;2556020 said:
NAME: Anything
ATTITUDE: Anything

Destil;2556028 said:
What choices do I have if I want to be the robot?

Mogri;2556032 said:
If it's the SPARK, then you can choose your color scheme and your attitude (ROBOT or GLaDOS).

I think there's some chassis customization, too, but even if that's the case, it'd be hard to describe textually.

MCBanjoMike;2556033 said:
[To Gerad]
Welcome aboard! I'll make a few executive decisions on your character's behalf.

[To Destil]
To properly answer your question I'd need to be in front of the game, but you can change the head and armor of the robot, its colors, its name and callsign. For its personality, you have to decide whether to go with a default robot or the snarky/sassy one from the DLC mission - I belive that both options are available in the EFIGS languages. Note that robot time will be a while from now, it takes a lot of resources to build a SPARK.

Destil;2556040 said:
NAME: Destil v9.05.80b
LANGUAGE: English (American)
APPEARANCE: Purple, as boxy as possible

jpfriction;2556073 said:
APPEARANCE:as close to my avatar as you can pull off. Monocle appreciated.
BACKSTORY: Fell asleep on a train, woke up here.
CLASS: Ranger

Torzelbaum;2556133 said:
How much input do/will we have on our character build?

MCBanjoMike;2556142 said:
I'll generally try to entertain any build requests people have, at least early on. If things get really dire I might start using the executive override to try and keep the team alive, but I can't see needing to do that very often.

However, if you wanna play a Reaper and you don't want me to take Remote Start for your character, you've got another thing coming.

Torzelbaum;2556151 said:
NAME: Torzelbaum
APPEARANCE:Standard Psi Ops but wears dark glasses (or goggles - whichever looks odder / less cool). Messy hair. Has a wiry build (if you're being charitable). Prefers whatever clothing / armor that will protect best and draw the least attention to him.)

BACKSTORY: An alien invasion has freaked him out pretty hard and he struggles between fight and flight. Still wanted to fight but was not well suited for it until the ability to develop Psionic abilities in people was developed.

CLASS: Psi Operative, focusing mostly on Telepath skills (until the final one).

SpoonyGundam;2556152 said:
NAME: whatevs
APPEARANCE: gimme a beard

CLASS: Ranger

Mogri;2556162 said:
I lol'd out loud
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Here's our first batch!


I downloaded a mod that makes ADVENT armor available to most classes. The art assets aren't quite as detailed as those for the regular soldiers, but you only really notice it when you're super zoomed in for face editing. I gave her an armor color that would let me differentiate her from the masses of ADVENT goons that we'll be gunning down in the field.


Gerad didn't specify an appearance, so I hit random and was immediately treated to this delightful piece of procedural generation - it was love at first sight. I figured that someone from Egypt was more likely to have a UK accent than an American one.


Destil requested a "boxy" robot, but it turns out there aren't a ton of options for the chassis, so I just gave him the boxiest head possible. I applied a plaid motif to his paint to further reinforce the boxiness as much as possible. I also just noticed that I got the color wrong, so I'll be sure to go back and fix that.


Here's my best attempt at making a monocle-popping dandy in a tuxedo with a red cravat. A certain amount of imagination is required on the part of the viewer. Oh, and I will go back and add the bit about the train to his biography.

That's it for today! Let me know if you'd like anything about your characters changed and I'll do my best. Also note that nobody has actually been assigned a class yet (aside from the robbit), I just chose to display Mogri in the character builder as a sniper per his request. Once the game starts I'll see what I can do to get everyone sorted into their dream jobs.


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Gerad;2556171 said:
BRB, changing my real name to Bosede Cissoko

Ted;2556177 said:
I'm not familiar with XCOM, other than watching the helpful character video in the OP, but here goes:

{:name          "Ted Teodoro"
:call-sign     (random)
:appearance    "tall, lanky version of Alixsar"
:accessories   [:boonie-hat :dark-sunglasses]
:facial-hair   :five-o-clock-shadow
:armor-pattern :digital
:has-tattoos   false
:has-scars     false
:nationality   :usa
:attitude      :normal
:back-story    "Ted is a programmer turned soldier
                 with a motto of `concise and precise`.
                 His sensitivity to bright light relegates
                 him to shadier activities."
:class         (best-fit)}

Kirin;2556179 said:
NAME: random is fine
APPEARANCE: There might be a good pic of me in my pirate outfit in the tyrant photos thread somewhere, I can look later, but - caucasian, long wavy hair, either black or salt-and-pepper, Van Dyke beard (goatee+moustache), for clothing whatever you got in purple, maybe a bit foppish if possible, and a stylish hat.
NATIONALITY/LANGUAGE: English language. For a flag, Namibia's is kinda cool.
ATTITUDE: laid back
BACKSTORY: Getting to old for this shit. Would rather be doing some old-fashioned piracy but alien fascists cramp style.
CLASS: ranger I guess? Or specialist, you pick.

Sensenic;2556230 said:
NAME: First name Joan, last name whatevs
CALLSIGN: Sensenic
APPEARANCE: Reference material here (and here).
NATIONALITY/LANGUAGE: Spanish'll have to do.
ATTITUDE: Cowardly and Meek are not an option? then either By The Book or Laid Back, I guess.
BACKSTORY: Was recruited forcefully (it was that or death at the hands of the aliens, f.ex.) tries as hard as possible to not get into danger. May end up being a snitch if it saves his life in a tough situation.
CLASS: Probably sharpshooter, or whatever allows me to be the farthest away from danger as possible.

PS: Bonus, Kirin I think you meant this post?

jpfriction;2556237 said:
that’s the stuff.
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Had time to whip up two more before bed last night, so here's Spook and Spoony:


Messy hair and goggles? XCOM doesn't have much along those lines (I don't dislike anyone here enough to give them white guy dreads), so it's MOD TIME. Spook here gets some fancy grade hair courtesy of the Vindictus hair pack, along with goggles from I forget where. Clothing is padded and unremarkable, as ordered. Note that XCOM doesn't do body types, everyone will be a muscly, athletic person whether they like it or not.


I had a lot of leeway with this one, so I decided to inject a bit of color into the squad. Spoony is such a hardened veteran that he doesn't care if the aliens can see him from a mile away! The classy beret comes from the same mod as the goggles, I'll find the name and add a link to it next to the character pack once that has been uploaded.

As always, feel free to request any changes you'd like.


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Olli T;2556256 said:
NAME: Olli
APPEARANCE: white guy with a beard and glasses
NATIONALITY/LANGUAGE: Finland / Finnish (if not available, then French)
ATTITUDE: Happy-Go-Lucky
BACKSTORY: [redacted]
CLASS: grenadier

Mogri;2556260 said:
jpfriction is basically perfect.

Falselogic;2556271 said:
NAME: whatevs
APPEARANCE: Lady with pink hair.
ATTITUDE: killy killy stab stab
BACKSTORY: killy killy stab stab
CLASS: Ranger

Ted;2556294 said:
Mike, do you write back stories as a side job? These are all great.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Here come some new recruits!


Not much to say here, since most of the details were provided in Ted's application. We didn't have anyone green, so I thought it would be a good fit with the boonie hat, makes for a sort of park ranger vibe.


Foppish? Purple? Sir, have I got a class for you. Templars are the theatre kids of XCOM 2 and they're basically in cosplay all the time. For bonus points, his namesake is an actual old pirate - not old in the way that all pirates are old now, he was old while he was pirating. There aren't any tricornes in XCOM, but this Warlock headgear kinda looks like someone shot a cannon ball through one while you were wearing it.


For Joan, we have some blue hex camo and a suspicious demeanor, which was the closest I could find to cowardly.

[To Ted]
I can't copy and paste people's stories from this thread into the game, so I just rewrite them on the fly. Hopefully I don't denature them too much in the process.


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Ted;2556484 said:
Ready for action!

I like the green and your tweaks to the back story.

Is there a way to generate a random call sign?

Destil;2556489 said:
Lookin' good! *beep, boop*

MCBanjoMike;2556490 said:
[To Ted]
The callsigns are actually random by default, so long as you don't specify one in the character pool. For anyone who has one right now, it will stick, but otherwise it's a random draw (from a pool based on their class, I believe) and it can be different from one campaign to the next.

Also that picture makes it look like you have one giant sideburn, but that's just a shadow.

[To Destil]
Don't worry, you're purple AF now (but we won't see you in action for quite some time).

Sensenic;2556496 said:
John of the Castle, reporting for duty!
Haha, thx for the Country of Origin touch. XD

I would like to say that the pouty face does not represent me, but thinking back on certain anecdotes, yes, yes it does very much. :eek:
I definitely don't have that much facial hair, though (no probs about it, no need to change it). Would it be possible to change the hair color, though? it's brown rather than black even if it does come out darker than it is in the pictures I gave.

Now, don't mind me while we're not deployed, I'm just here browsing some confidential documents that could be *ehem* useful on the field, yeah...

Mogri;2556497 said:
Can't you make custom civilians/VIPs, too? Throw an Adam into that pool if so.

I forget if there are customization options for those, but if you can, make him look as ridiculous as possible.

Octopus Prime;2556506 said:
Name: Octo Prime
Callsign: Smashmouth
Appearance: eyepatch, cigar and handlebar mustache
Nationality: Canadian
Personality: Twitchy
Backstory: After suffering minor, but still hospitalizing, injuries in every single engagement he’d been part of, Octo “Smashmouth” Prime was forced to join the sniper corps, out of hope that being very far away from enemies would at least cut down on his insurance premiums and hospital bills.

Kirin;2556507 said:
Hah, nice job with Kirin there. Not quite what I envisioned (last XCOM game I saw a lot of was one of the PC originals back in the 90s so I don't really know the setting much) but still fantastic.

jpfriction;2556511 said:
[To Octo]
Now I'm hoping there is a mod that gives characters the options of theme music that plays when their turn is up.

Somebody once told me...

MCBanjoMike;2556534 said:
[To Sensenic]
I looked up a list of Spanish last names for you character; when I saw this one, I picked it as an hommage to the excellent XCOM 2 series that Austin and Rob are doing over at Waypoint (seriously, it's really good guys, you should watch it). Also, I'm from Quebec, so I totally understand the whole culture-within-a-culture thing. As a bonus, I've even been to Barcelona, which quickly became one of my favorite cities. Couldn't find bad food or wine there no matter how hard we tried!

You don't make the pouty face all the time, just when something seems suspicious to you. Which is...all the time. Anyway, modifications are dead simple, so I'll tweak the hair color and I can very easily get rid of the stubble if you don't like it. You seemed to have some in a few of your photos, so I kinda flipped a coin.

[To Mogri]
I'm not sure I follow you, should I know which Adam you are referring to? But yes, you can make a character and only select them for VIP duty, or any combination of Solider/VIP/Enemy VIP. So if anyone here wants to get knocked out and abducted by XCOM, let me know and I'll activate those options for your character. You can't make pure civilians AFAIK.

Mogri;2556538 said:
It's also me! Ignore if you don't want dupes; I was just hoping for a civilian cameo.

MCBanjoMike;2556545 said:
Ah, I see. I'm sure we can work something out, I have an extensive collection of ridiculous hairstyles that I still haven't used.

Ted;2556592 said:
[To Mike]
Gotcha, that's really cool. And I didn't even notice the shadow until you pointed it out.

Man, I look good!

Sensenic;2556640 said:
[To Mike]
*takes notes*
Well, I do have some places to take you to, then, if you ever come by again. We shall end the tour at my place, which will nullify all previous good experiences, only to leave trauma behind, mwahaha.

Srsly though, glad you enjoyed it! :)

Do I look like I make a pouty face to you? ( `3´)
I do have a stubble but it's basically chin, some neck and moustache, the rest is an arid desert with only the occasional bush, so I take care to shave often because it looks quite bad - admittedly I had not shaven in some of those pics, so yeah. Better off, but it doesn't bother me if it's there either.

SpoonyGundam;2556658 said:
I should mention that roughly half of my XCOM 2 playtime was with Long War 2, so some percentage of my knowledge of the game is actually of a different game.

So if my character sits around the bar telling horror stories about hive queens and sectoid commanders, do not be alarmed.

[To Kirin]
i vote blowout hair for kirin


Infamous third lava dolphin
I feel like something really special happened tonight.


Not sure what needs to be added here. Flaming arm tattoos courtest of the XXL Tattoo pack mod.

Big Sexy

Is the heart pattern too much or just barely enough?


Only the most discerning will spot the clever allusion in Smash's color scheme.


There's no option to display a character as a VIP, but Adam is only set to appear as one (although I'm honestly tempted to run the ridiculous hipster as part of the squad).


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Torzelbaum;2556689 said:
Better dead than white guy dreads.

I guess an alien invasion is good motivation for hitting the gym.

Falselogic;2556709 said:


MetManMas;2556710 said:
Name: MetManMas
Callsign: DWN-009
Appearance: Whether he's human or robot, try and get him as close as you can get to Metal Man within the character creator's limitations.
Nationality/Voice: Japanese
Attitude: Shrewd or something like that.
Class: Whatever you think fits is fine.

Violentvixen;2556711 said:
NAME and/or CALLSIGN: Violentvixen, or a riff on it if that doesn't fit with the character limits

gender Female
race White
hair color and style Blue long hair, up in a ponytail is cool too.
accessories Any lab goggles or science-y stuff?
clothing and weapon colors Steel gray/blue
And for reference here's a post back from when I had blue hair.

NATIONALITY and LANGUAGE: Czech, if that's not an option German

ATTITUDE: By the Book

BACKSTORY: She signed up to work in the lab but turned out to be very good on the battlefield. Enjoys seeing both sides of the war.

CLASS: I usually pick sniper-rifle type stuff, but if you have enough of that tank/melee type is good too.

Olli T;2556728 said:
Ahaha yesss

Ted;2556741 said:
Here's my battle theme for crushing some alien scum:

Octopus Prime;2556742 said:
It's like looking into a mirror!


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All caught up!


If the question is "how close to Metal Man can we make an XCOM soldier", then the answer is "not very". The robot would have been even farther from the truth, so I think we'll go with this.


One character too long, your handle is. Ah well. As for laboratory equipment, pretty much the only thing I can offer is the pair of goggles that Spook is wearing, let me know if you'd like me to add them.

And with that, all my current applicants have been taken care of. If recruitment slows down, then I'll see about putting together a package for people to download soon, along with a list of mods that you'll need to make some of the characters work. That's a total of 15 characters added to my pool, I'm pretty happy! I also have a few older ones kicking around that I might include in the package, so there will be quite a number to choose from for any


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Violentvixen;2556922 said:
I love it! And I like her without the goggles, thanks!

MetManMas;2556925 said:
I figured that the character customizer would only be so flexible. Not every game's gonna let you do something like this:


No Man's Robot Master

Still, thanks a bunch for trying!


Infamous third lava dolphin
Ok, I'm all caught up with everyone's requests, so it's time to share my creations! Presenting: Tyrant Squad v1.0! I'll put instructions in the top post of the thread for where to copy this file and which mods you'll need in order to fully recreate the characters.

And now...time to play! I'm considering streaming the start of my campaign tonight, I'll be sure to post a link if I do. I'll also try to drop in some screenshots here and there to show off your characters' exploits and grisly deaths. And hey, if anyone else wants to use these characters in a campaign of their own, feel free to post about it here. This is a community project! Thanks to everyone who contributed their names and ideas, now let's evict some alien fascists from Earth...permanently.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Didn't feel like streaming in the end, but I did play a bit last night. Presenting:

Tyrant Squad's First Outing


Operation Gatecrasher is go! We don't get to pick a squad for our first mission, with the settings I'm using we get three random rookies and one faction class. Here we can see Smashmouth, Gerad and Kirin, along with lapsed TT poster Aquadeo (whose character I made in honor of an Extra Life donation a year or two back). I have the game set to favor characters from the pool, and I didn't make any faction soldiers aside from Kirin, so I don't know if we got a Templar because of that or if it was pure chance. Either way, an early Templar is a good pull, they are absolutely deadly at the start of the game.


I set up an overwatch trap for the first pod (three soldiers) and then send Kirin in to bust some heads. He happily obliges, taking out one of the ADVENT.


Smashmouth opens fire, wounding another soldier but not killing him.


Gerad follows up with a grenade to get the sure kill on a second soldier. I'm a big fan of guaranteed damage, and rookies are bad at pretty much everything, so no grenade goes unthrown in my early campaign missions.


Aquadeo also gets a clean kill, but we still have a problem...


I miscalculated my positioning, and while we were dealing with the first pod of enemies, the second one had poor Smashy here flanked. The ADVENT commander marks him, which makes him an even easier target. And then? Well...


The [bullets] start coming and they don't stop coming.
You could maybe say Octo "hit the ground", and that it "didn't make sense...to live".
Only shooting [ADVENT] break the [Smashmouth].

Thank you for your service, Rk Prime.
(Don't worry, guys, he was like, super expendable)


Kirin cleans up the straggler from the first pod, but takes a solid hit shortly after. This puts me in a tight spot, because I don't want to lose my only Templar so early in the campaign. Thankfully, Gerad and Aquadeo take care of one of the remaining baddies and Kirin...


...gets the last laugh on the ADVENT Commander. At least, I think he's laughing.


What's left of the squad returns home from the mission. Kirin is "gravely" wounded, but 6 days really isn't too bad. He's only going to miss one mission at most. Now it's promotion time!


Gerad became a sharpshooter, which I don't think quite fits his "angry all the time" persona, but it'll do. At this stage of the game, I can't choose anyone's class - they'll get a random job when they're promoted from Rookie to Squaddie. So for anyone who wants their character to take on a specific role, we'll have to wait until I unlock the Guerrilla Tactics School, at which point we can direct their evolution.


Aquadeo becomes our first specialist. Specialists don't get the glamour, but in WotC they're incredibly useful because of the diverse array of skills they have. There's almost always something useful you can do on a specialist's turn.

That's our first mission! I took screenshots for two more last night, if I have time I'll continue with another writeup later today.
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Guerrilla Op The First


A couple of days later, we get our first Guerrilla Op.


I can't remember if Kirin was available or not, but either way we want to spread some XP around, so I grab some fresh faces for this mission. Welcome aboard, Spoony and VV!


This mission is set in the tunnels, which I hate, because Bad Things happen in the tunnels. In this case, it's just a bit of time pressure: we have to get to the goal before running out of turns, but we can extend the turn timer by blowing up little 2 HP nodes like the one you see on the screen. Our first enemy group is a sectoid and an ADVENT trooper. We don't have time to position everyone perfectly, so we'll have to make our ambush work from this position.


Spoony, who is currently Bad At Everything, starts the engagement off by tossing in a grenade. I was hoping it would do enough damage to kill the trooper, but alas it only did 3 HP to both enemies.


Gerad follows up with a spectacularly bad overwatch shot. Dude, you are off by like 90 degrees. Needless to say, it doesn't connect. Thankfully, Vixen takes her overwatch shot and manages an impressive 5 damage on the sectoid. That's good news, because I don't have any melee characters with me (sectoids are weak to being sworded) and I don't want to deal with anyone getting mind controlled.


Aquadeo finishes off the encounter by walking right up to the ADVENT soldier and straight mercing him. Ice cold.


Our second group of ADVENT posts up behind some, uh, posts. That's bad for us, because we don't have the mobility to flank them and you can't blow pillars up to expose them easily.


That doesn't mean didn't try, though.


Gerad takes a shot from one of the turtled troopers. He's still in the game, but just barely. Note that taking hits is very dangerous in the early game, since so many of the enemy attacks can one-shot a rookie or a squaddie. We will be investing in some armor the very second we can afford it. Not nanoscale vests, though - the one extra HP they offer isn't nearly as useful to us as the grenade we can bring along instead.


Aquadeo rushes over to put his new medkit to good use. Specialists can get an ability that lets them heal at a distance, but since he's just a squaddie, he has to stand right next to his patient.


We manage to take down the trooper, but the captain retreats farther back (that's good!) to some more high cover (that's bad). Spoony beats the odds, though, taking him out with a really difficult shot. That winds up becoming something of a theme in this mission, as we manage to make another 2-3 shots that we really had no business nailing. Good luck does exist in XCOM!


There's another sectoid and trooper in the room with our mission objective, but they don't stand a chance against the lucky rabbit's foot that we apparently bought along with us.


Spoony plants the charge with time to spare and that's a wrap!


We return to base with another set of promotions. Aquadeo becomes our first corporal, earning himself the extremely useful ability to heal people from afar. Gerad's going to be out of action for quite a while after his injury, but that's not all...


Looks like he's got some PTSD. Negative traits cause your soldiers to randomly do stuff you don't want them to do, with consequences that range from "mildly annoying" to "team wipe". Gerad's new quirk isn't particularly bad - as a sniper, he can't shoot his main weapon after moving anyway, so making half moves isn't something I'll do with him very often. If I keep this limitation in mind (ha ha yeah right) I can probably completely circumvent it by doing stuff like reloading before moving or sprinting when he has a long way to go. In the future, we'll be able to cure him of his trauma in the Infirmary - ain't science great?


Spoony becomes our first grenadier. I'm a big fan of grenadiers. And VV?


Well she gets a sword. And not only that, but she also gets...


A friend! Vixen and Aquadeo are now bondmates, which means they can transfer a turn between them once a mission. It's very useful, although bondmates are prone to panicking when their buddies are killed or injured, so it's not all gravy. Bonds can eventually be upgraded two further tiers, which gains the couple even more bonuses, but it requires taking them out of the field for a while and I don't always do it.

We celebrate the union of Froese and Fuchsin with this rad commemorative poster.


Lastly, we get...this guy. Well, we needed an engineer I guess. I stick him on the Resistance Ring construction project that I started a few days back. The Ring is a really great tool for getting stuff you need in the early game, so it's always the first building I make. We'll be using it to run some covert ops soon, but for now it's time for another break. See you next mission!


Infamous third lava dolphin
Sensenic;2557450 said:
F for Octo. He was taken from us to soon. :(

The "Fuchsin 'Violentvixin'" quasi-rhyme made me snicker when I saw it on the screen. Dunno, it sounds funny to me. :)

Mogri;2557485 said:
I'm helping!

if not in the manner I anticipated


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 3: Get Lost

XCOM is split between two gameplay modes: tactical, turn-based missions and the strategic layer, where you accrue resources, pursue research and build structures in the Avenger. So far we've mostly been looking at the former, since that's the place where you get all the sweet images of your characters throwing grenades and dying. But things haven't been completely silent on the Avenger front:


We built a Resistance Ring! This structure lets us send characters away to run covert ops, and it's just absurdly useful. Rewards from the missions vary from resources and items to new characters to information on the Chosen to (my personal favorite) extra AP, which lets you transform your soldiers into Tiny Gods worthy of a Final Fantasy game. The price you pay is to be without a couple of your soldiers for a few days, but in the early game that's win-win; none of your troops are worth a damn, so you won't miss them, and sending them on missions gives them experience, which makes them worth a damn. It can also give them permanent upgrades, such as the +1 to movement that you see here. Loathe as I am to part with Kirin for another 9 days (actually it'll be 6 once I set Adam to work in the Ring), this is too good of an opportunity to pass up; permanent movement bonuses are incredibly useful on melee characters. This particular mission also requires a second soldier to undertake, so I pick some random dude to accompany our Templar. Once the mission is complete, we'll have made contact with the Reapers and our reward will be a Reaper of our very own!


While those two are out spying it up, we get our next mission. You always get a Lost mission like this early in the game and it's a total jackpot when it comes up. The Lost are extremely easy to deal with compared to ADVENT, plus we stand to gain a scientist, some intel and even a free ranger if we play our cards right. And play them right we shall!


Lotta familiar faces on our team today, but we do have one new guy. Hope he lives through his first outing! XCOM starts you off with about a dozen rookies, but not all of them are drawn from the character pool. At this point, you've seen almost all of our custom characters - the rest are randomly-generated and of little interest. The one exception to this is Mogri, who I'm saving for later so that we can make her dreams of becoming a sharpshooter reality. Joan here didn't seem too picky about what class he played, so I'll let the game randomly assign him one (if he survives the zombie horde, that is).


As our most expendable soldier, Sensenic is of course taking point. Unlike poor Smashmouth, however, his chances of making it out of this mission alive are pretty good. The Lost are complete pushovers once you get to know them, and there aren't any ADVENT on this mission to mess things up for us. The Lost come in large numbers, but any time you kill one (using your gun), you get an action point back. That means you can potentially kill as many Lost as you have bullets in your gun for the price of a single action, so long as you never miss. Joan here takes care of his first zombie with ease, then runs up just a little too far, revealing a bunch more.


I don't want to leave Sensenic out to dry, so I use Aquadeo's teamwork ability to give Vixen a boost, sending her up to help out. We can only do this once per mission between the two of them, but I'm not worried enough about this mission to hold on to it (and Joan is a little too far up for his own good).


VV posts up at the front line and helps Joan out of his jam. Now that she's a Ranger, she has access to shotguns, along with plain old assault rifles. I used to equip all my rangers with assault rifles because I was a coward, but I'm gradually learning to embrace close-range combat. It puts them in more danger, but the damage potential of the shotgun up close is much higher. And anyway, the Lost don't exactly spend a lot of time hiding behind cover.


Here's what we came for: our VIP scientist. Once we get within range, she comes under our control; now our job is to get her back the evac zone in one piece. Lying on the ground next to her is our bonus objective, a wounded ranger. They won't make it back to the ship on their own, though, Sensenic will have to carry them. That's going to cost us one quarter of our firepower, though, since you can't shoot while carrying another character. Eh, it'll be fine.


This, for example, might look like a pretty bad situation, but I swear we're OK. Vixen can very easily take out the two Lost between her and the dropship with shots that are 100% to hit or just about. The shotgun does enough damage that a hit guarantees a kill, which means she can take out as many of these guys as she wants before retreating. That said, the game started spawning a ton of zombies once we tagged the VIP, so we aren't going to linger forever. Speedrunners will apparently farm Lost to gain a ton of XP early in the campaign, but that sounds equal parts game-breaking and boring to me.


While Joan was running around collecting VIPs, Aquadeo and Spoony have been hanging back to keep the escape route clear. They keep the Lost off the VIP and Sensenic as they run back through this building toward the dropship. Note that grenadiers are actually really badly suited to Lost missions, because explosions create noise that draws hordes of zombies to them. That means you mostly can't use grenades to clear out Lost, because you'll just generate a bunch more each time you do so. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage to create a horde near some ADVENT troops, but for the most part it's just irritating and counterproductive.


Once everyone's back safely in the evac zone, however, there's no reason NOT to blow up a bunch of zombies! Hey, it's free XP.

I had a couple of pictures showing the evacuation and the results screen post-mission, but they seem to have disappeared from Imgur. Suffice to say that everyone except for Aquadeo got a promotion: Sensenic became our 2nd grenadier, Spoony got the essential shredder ability and I gave Vixen blade master (extra damage from sword attacks). Lookin' good, Tyrant Squad!


Infamous third lava dolphin
Aquadeo;2557831 said:
Looking good, indeed!

I think the last time I was on your team, I died almost instantly, so this is already a win in my book.

Violentvixen;2557836 said:
Oh man!

I threw grenades at things unnecessarily, GOT A SWORD, have a bro AND shotgunned multiple badguys in the face?!

Best day ever.

Torzelbaum;2557849 said:
In XCOM, any day where you're still breathing is a pretty good day.

Sensenic;2557882 said:
Indeed! *phew!*

Don't ever make me take point ever again >_<
You know, I get it, I was the new guy, everyone has to go through it... but now let me just shoot grenades and explode things from a safe cover, eh?

(On second thought I should've gone with being a defenseless VIP who has to be either rescued or hunted and is rather defenseless, like Adam. I failed to notice that option, though. Oh well, maybe next time)

MCBanjoMike;2557915 said:
[To Aquadeo]
Pretty much every character in my old pool has died several times, myself included. Actually, the most dramatic thing that happened to you was on the
Avenger defense
mission, where you got left behind when a Priest put you into stasis as everyone else was retreating. We actually wound up rescuing you several months later, much to my surprise! Of course, by then you were way behind on the experience curve, so you mostly just sat around at the bar in the Avenger.

[To Sensenic]
I'll turn the VIP option on for your character as well, so in the future he could be either a soldier or a VIP. Although given your backstory...maybe an enemy VIP would be more appropriate?

Sensenic;2557947 said:
If possible,

(Both VIP options I mean)

Ted;2557956 said:
[Referring to a picture of Rk. Joe Drilling]
Hmm, that random dude looks like a CQC expert to me.

Kirin;2558199 said:
Just caught up on this. Who knew I could be such a badass? Even if I got pretty torn up doing it. Guess I really was pretty ticked at ADVENT messing up my piracy career. Anyway, hope my espionage mission went well.

[On the subject of being "ravely wounded"]
Noticed that too, and decided it was plenty appropriate given my outfit.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 4: I Choose You!


Welcome back to XCOM 2! Every time you load up the game, it generates a title screen showing one of the troops from your most recent save about to start something off. Here's Vixen and a group of hapless Lost - poor guys don't stand a chance.


Let's start by taking stock of our list of soldiers. Gerad is going to be out for a while, but everyone else is in fighting form (except for Kirin, who is busy being a spy). A few of them are tired, however. War of the Chosen introduced this mechanic as a way of forcing you to vary up your squad more than you might naturally want to. You can still send tired soldiers on missions, but if you do there's a chance that they'll become shaken. Shaken soldiers aren't injured, but they can't go back into the field until they recover some will. There are different ways of speeding up recovery from physical injuries and mental strain.


After finishing one of our research projects, Tygan proposes that we pursue this research breakthrough. These give you small-but-significant permanent bonuses to your existing equipment or facilities, but there's a catch - you have to do them right away or not at all. Being able to swap weapon attachments is great, so we put everything on hold to research it. Breakthroughs always take 5 days to research no matter how many scientists you have on staff.


Here's our current situation in the strategic layer. We started in South Africa, but our goal is to expand our territory to cover the entire map. You do this by spending intel (and a few days) making contact with the other regions. As the regions get farther away, the intel cost goes up, but you can eventually counteract that by building radio relay towers on the map. Adding regions is essential because you can't run a mission that isn't in your territory. It also increases our monthly supply drop income, which is also pretty important. If I have one big complaint about vanilla XCOM 2, it's that expanding your resistance network takes a ton of time and you can find yourself in a desperate situation because you didn't connect to North America 15 hours ago. WotC improves things a bit on this front, as we'll see later.


Kirin returns from his trip to Mexico a little wiser, a little faster. Joe becomes our second sniper. We also get a Reaper in the deal! Reapers are great, we'll meet ours soon.


You almost always want to be running a covert op, but that doesn't mean you're always in a position where you can. For example, right now I'd be happy to make contact with the Skirmishers (and get another hero unit in the process), but that mission requires a sergeant to undertake. Note that most covert ops also come with risks attached. Soldier wounded is the least worrisome of the batch, so we send these guys out and cross our fingers. I figured Sensenic would want to tag along to get that extra point of health, since he's so preoccupied with self-preservation. I partner him up with some guy and send them on their way.


Here's a shot of the inside of the Avenger. We have 12 empty spaces that we can build in, but 11 of them need to be cleared out first. That's not all bad, since clearing a space nets you supplies and sometimes other resources, but it requires time and at least one engineer. We picked up a 2nd engineer from scanning on the world map, so I set him to work here. We're going to want to build a Guerilla Tactics School sooner rather than later.


Guess what time it is! The ADVENT have gotten fed up with our little operation and are trying to take down a group of our supporters. We could leave our allies to their fate, but that would instantly cost us the region where the attack is taking place. And since we haven't connected to any other regions yet, we'd basically be throwing the game. So clearly that's not going to happen!


When the aliens come for retaliation, you send your A team. There's a time for training up new squaddies, but this ain't it. I mean, Joe here is still a squaddie, but that's because we only have three corporals for now.


We land on the ground and start to scout. Things obviously aren't going so well for the people of this resistance camp, as you can tell by all the fire. We don't get stealth on this mission, so I move everyone up cautiously until we come across a soldier and a priest. Isn't there a joke that starts like that?


But just as we begin to engage those two, who should show up? Why, it's our very first Chosen! The Chosen are three super enemies in the WotC expansion who cause you grief throughout the campaign. Sometimes they show up during missions to complicate your life, sometimes they sabotage your campaign or break something on the Avenger. They all have strengths and weaknesses, which are conveniently listed for you each time they drop in. The Hunter here is weak to Templars and melee attacks, which is going to be very bad for him. The fact that I pulled the Hunter as my first Chosen is very good for me, because he is by far the most chumpy of the three. He's still a pain in the ass, but his brother and sister are significantly more dangerous.


For now, though, he's way at the other side of the map and we still have to deal with the first pod of enemies we activated. Retaliation missions go like this: there are 13 civilians on the map, and you have to save at least 6 of them (by running into their blue circle) in order to win. If you save more, you are rewarded with an increase in the monthly supplies that the regions sends you. That's nice, but it's much more important to succeed the mission than it is to save everyone you can. Take your time, at least a little, because these missions tend to have more dangerous enemies in them and often a Chosen will show up too.

Anyway, time to fight. I wasn't able to get Kirin into position to slash the soldier, but he did hit him with his autopistol. Templar pistols don't do a lot of damage, so you mostly only use them when you can't get close enough for a melee attack. Note that the priest spent his first turn putting Spoony into stasis, which takes him out of the fight for one turn; he can't do any damage, but he can't take any damage either. It's still annoying.


Joe tosses out his grenade to finish the soldier off. Sniper's usually aren't within grenade range of the enemies, so I figured why not.


Kirin runs up to slash the priest...


...then runs back to tag one of the civilians. Tagged civilians immediately run off the map toward the dropship, so they are safe as soon as you grab 'em. The reason Kirin could make this move is that Templars have a special ability: after slashing, they can either move once or parry. Well, he could parry, but I don't have that ability unlocked for him yet. Anyway, even being able to move after meleeing is great, because it lets you be very aggressive with Templars. Rangers don't get the same luxury, they need a high-level upgrade before they can do anything similar.


On the priest's turn, he retreats a bit and guns down one of the civilians. Bad luck for that guy, but good for me.


The Hunter has an ability to mark one of your characters for a sniper shot. Presumably, if you leave them in place, they'll get hit pretty hard. This has never happened to me, because it's usually really easy to just move them out of the danger zone, at which point he just wasted his turn. The Hunter is a chump.


Kirin runs up and finishes off the priest, activating a few more enemies in the process. For the most part, enemy pods don't do much until you enter their line of sight. Managing your squad's movement is super important in XCOM, because taking one step too many can mean the difference between having 2 enemies shooting at you or 5.


Here's our first look at the Hunter - he's tall and he has a lot of HP. The sectoid on the bridge used his power to revive the priest as a zombie. That's way better than mind-controlling one of my squad members, which is what they usually try to do.


The hunter finally does something a little bit useful, tossing in a special stun grenade that all the Chosen carry with them. It stuns Kirin and Aquadeo, making them unusable and leaving them vulnerable to abduction. If the Chosen takes one of your soldiers, you lose them until you mount a rescue operation. Not only that, but the Chosen gains knowledge (AKA experience), which makes it stronger. The Chosen learn new skills when their knowledge level reaches specific thresholds.


The good news is that it's not too hard to help your stunned units recover. If you can get another soldier next to them, snapping them out of their daze is a free action. I run Spoony up to wake Aqua, then Aqua wakes Kirin. That way, they each have an action left to shoot at the Hunter, who is very close to the squad now.


Spoony grenades the Hunter and Joe takes a shot at him from the roof (which is where all good snipers spend their days).


Despite having recovered from the stun grenade, Kirin is still disoriented, which you can see by the stars swirling around his head. That's a lucky break for the Chosen, because it means he can't use his melee attack for a few turns. He fires his pistol instead, doing 6 damage because of the Hunter's weakness to anything Templar.


Instead of attacking us, the zombie that the sectoid raised starts shambling for the back lines. Presumably, this is to go kill some civilians, but it's a huge waste of time. Once I kill the sectoid, the zombie will drop and it's very unlikely that he'll make it far enough to hurt anyone before that happens.


The Hunter shoots Spoony with a regular shot, so I have Aquadeo patch him up. Now that he's a Corporal, he can do that from far away - it's super good.


The Hunter has a grappling hook, which he uses to zip up to this treehouse thingy. Kirin is still dazed, which means I can't sword that sectoid to death. Instead, we keep picking away at the Hunter with the autopistol.


Spoony, meanwhile, takes care of the sectoid for us.


Kirin's out in the open with a very mobile Hunter, so I use Aquadeo's Aid Protocol ability to give him some cover.


Good thing, too! That shot probably would have connected otherwise. Or maybe not, the Hunter is a total chump.


Finally freed from his daze, Kirin shows the Hunter what he has to look forward to on future missions. Between his double weaknesses, he takes 10 damage from this hit, which is almost twice our best hit to date. The Hunter runs away, but we'll be seeing him again, don't you worry...


Aqua totally nails this shot, killing the soldier on the far bridge.


Killing the last ADVENT triggers this scene of a civilian morphing into a giant clay man-monster thing. This is a faceless; they hide among the civilians and pop out when you try to rescue them (or when there aren't any other enemies left on the map).


Faceless only have melee attacks. By itself, way across the map from our squad? Well...


It doesn't stand much of a chance.


For killing the Hunter, we get 5 AP that we can spend on extra abilities for our soldiers...once we build the required room in the Avenger. 5 AP is about one third of a useful ability or 20% of a top-tier one. Doesn't sound like much, but every bit helps.


Spoony's going to need some rest, but everyone else is in fine shape. Aquadeo is now a sergeant, which is very exciting. I give him the upgrade that lets him remove status ailments from a distance, which would have been handy to have on this mission.


Sensenic comes back from his covert op with an extra HP, and his friend has earned a spot as a ranger. Say, I recognize that guy...


And it's time for our monthly report! Baldie here is all smiles and sunshine, since we didn't mess up any missions this month. We get 167 supplies from our various resistance regions, but unlike in Enemy Unkown, they don't just arrive in our chequing account. They pop up on the map as something we need to scan, albeit only for 3 days instead of the usual 7 or so.


Every month, we get a sneak peek of what ADVENT has in store for us. When we get our next guerrilla op, we'll have the chance to cancel one of these dark projects; any others will succeed. Later in the game there will be a third one that you can't see unless you pay some intel, but for now the difficulty curve is still ramping up.


We also get to set resistance orders, which are very powerful buffs that we can apply depending on how much we've ingratiated ourselves with each of the factions. Nobody likes us enough to give us a slot yet, but we do have one that comes from the Resistance Ring building. I have four orders available for now, but you earn more throughout the game as you build relations with the factions and you can unlock more through covert ops. I pick the one that gives us a movement bonus while we're stealthed; not one of my favorites, but the best I have available for now.


I send a couple more nobodies out on a milk run, but soon we'll get into some more interesting stuff in the Ring.


Finally, here's a shot of the Avenger in its current state. I started building the (essential) Guerrilla Tactics School in our empty space and I set one of the engis to clear out the room directly below. It would be much faster to clear out a room on one of the upper floors, but this one is much more tempting to me because of the power conduit. We're going to need more power to run all the rooms in the Avenger and building a power relay in this room will give us a nice big bonus. I'm pretty lucky to have started so close to one, normally it would take at least one or two more excavations to uncover.

Well, that's it for today! See you all next mission.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Ted;2558384 said:
[Referring to Sq. "Matchstick" Adam]
Yup. Aliens arrive, so Adam Jensen unlocks his augmented beard.

Checks out to me.

Mogri;2558392 said:
XCOM was a more "video game" adaptation of X-Com. XCOM 2 nudged up the "video game" just a bit. War of the Chosen is extremely "video game."

X-Com tried to be a simulation. Among other things, this meant that you could manufacture weapons to sell on the black market at an enormous profit; you could also take your enemies' guns, research them, and use them right away instead of advancing through the weapon upgrade tech tree.

Then along came XCOM, which threw out a lot of the simulation in favor of having a more tightly strategic/tactical experience. A single base, an extremely trimmed-back geoscape, soldiers with classes who can only equip certain weapons, equipment upgrades magically affect every soldier, and so on, but it stuck to its roots in an abstract sort of way. XCOM 2 went a little further in the same direction (equipping a different kind of ammo takes a grenade slot? loot just disappears after three rounds??), but it still hews pretty closely to the XCOM ethos.

And then there's War of the Chosen:
  • Tygan: We've made a breakthrough! We need to study this right now or else we'll forget about it due to reasons.
  • Bradford: Sorry, Commander, but we're already running a covert operation. We can't run two covert operations at the same time.
  • Factions magically grant your soldiers powers, but only one or two at a time, and you can swap them around.
  • The Hunter takes more damage from a Templar's pistol because...?
  • Ability points. Soldiers gaining ability points makes some sense, but then you've got the XCOM AP, which really doesn't.
  • Zombies, though? I mean, the series has always had "zombies" of some sort, ever since chryssalids first showed up, but now we have actual zombie swarms for some reason.

I could go on all day. None of this makes WotC bad! I don't mean to suggest that in the least. It's just an extremely video game approach to the franchise in a way that it never has been before. It's in the service of making a game that's more interesting to play, so as long as you don't think about it too hard, it's all good.

Destil;2558416 said:
[Referring to the tactical map issues in vanilla XCOM 2]

I think I may need this Expansion, because the few times I've tried XCOM2 campaigns that's certainly happened to me...


Infamous third lava dolphin
Yeah, War of the Chosen is definitely XCOM: Superheroes. The Chosen are basically supervillains and once you've fully upgraded your soldiers they're practically unstoppable. Personally, I think it's the best gameplay the series has ever had (not that I have a lot of experience with the 90s PC games), but realism is out the window and on a bullet train to another time zone.

Mission 5: Tunnels Redux


So far our squad is looking good, but I think it's time to get a few more of our custom characters in on the action. I swing by the Avenger's recruiting office to see the list of available rookies. There are six from the character pool available for purchase, but since I have limited funds, I only grab two of them for now. I used a random number generator to pick Torzel Baum and Ted Teodoro out of the virtual hat. And you know it was really random because there's no way I would leave Big Sexy on the bench by choice. :toastybert:


Time to spread the good word about the Resistance! It'll cost 40 Intel to hook up East Africa's cable; that's as cheap as it gets, because they're right next to our starting region. Every step farther increases the cost by 40, and since we don't have any particular destination right now we're going to start with the closest/most affordable regions. As with all things in XCOM 2, you have to scan for about a week to finish the process. Moving the Avenger around the map to scan stuff is my least favorite part of the game, because you're constantly being interrupted by missions that force you to relocate. It really feels like busywork.


Our nobodies return from their covert op with some cash to pay for those rookies. They both get promoted to specialists, which I guess is fine.


Completing an autopsy on an ADVENT commander opens up a story mission for us! We will not be doing it for a very long time, because completing it introduces an extremely annoying enemy type into the game. But anyway, the goal is to build something called a skulljack, which lets you melee kill an opponent by jabbing an ethernet cable into their brain. Once you done that, you can hack the ADVENT network. It's required two times in the campaign and I almost never do it more than that, although there are some goodies to be had for the daring hacker.


It's time for another guerrilla op! Remember those two dark events we saw last time? Succeeding in this mission will prevent one of them from occurring. Normally we'd have the choice of at least two missions, since there are two dark events underway, but for now there's only one - we probably need to expand our resistance network some more. Thankfully, it's the mission that I would have chosen anyway. Despite the laughable incompetence of the Chosen Hunter, I don't want him and I especially don't want his family members dropping in on our missions on a regular basis. The Warlock in particular can really ruin a commander's day if you aren't prepared for him.


Here's our squad for the mission. A lot of familiar faces, but we're also going to take Nightwalker :)confused:) our for a test drive. We're getting to the point where a four-person squad is starting to feel a little too small, but until we finish building the GTS there's nothing we can do about it.


Reapers are really good at one thing, and that thing is stealth. Stealth is hugely important in this game, which means Reapers are probably the most useful of the three faction classes. Reapers always start cloaked, whether the mission calls for it or not, and can get closer to enemies without being seen. They have a suite of abilities that are well-suited to staying hidden, unlike Rangers, who tend to give up their stealth once they go loud. To start with, we have the Claymore mine. It takes one move to place and a second to detonate, but doing so doesn't reveal the Reaper. You can also have someone else detonate the mine, in case the Reaper doesn't have any actions left (or has a car to blow up). One of my personal favorite tricks to pull is to drop a claymore near a group of enemies and then blow it up with a long-range grenade from a grenadier. Double the explosions, double the fun!


Our first pod doesn't warrant anything that excessive, so we set Vixen and Gerad on overwatch and have Joan lob a grenade in to wake everybody up. Nightwalker (snrk) doesn't get revealed when the rest of the squad, so no overwatch shot for her. Uh, him? I didn't actually get a look under that face mask and I only have a last name to go by. I'll assume she's a she for now, since the canonical Reaper is a lady. Anyway, characters who don't get revealed don't shoot; that's a really important thing to consider when upgrading your squad. It's great to stay hidden, but most of the time you'll want your soldiers to participate in your ambushes instead of staying quiet.


The ambush starts off with a bang...


...and ends with a second bang. Good job, guys! Our first pod is taken care of, but you can actually see our next group hanging out in the distance. It's a basic soldier and another priest.


I must have moved one of my other soldiers a little too close to this group, because the bad guys notice us and take cover. Whenever a group of enemies sees you, they get a free move to (usually) go find cover or (occasionally) put themselves on overwatch. Ambushes are fun because your squad opens fire on the enemies while they're out in the open, so if you play your cards right you can clear a whole group before they get a chance to act. That's the basic loop of XCOM, at least when things are going well: spot a group and eliminate it before anyone has a chance to shoot at you. Great fun when it works out.


I don't have a good shot on anybody, so VV runs up and puts the trooper to the sword. I wanted to take some damage off the board before ending my turn and while priests are more annoying, they're also less likely to just up and shoot you. Plus they have enough health that a sword slash wouldn't be a kill, and Vixen doesn't have the luxury of retreating to cover after her melee attack.


The priest retreats and I move my soldiers up, which activates another pod of enemies: a sectoid and a stun lancer. Stun lancers have a melee attack that hits really hard, it could kill one of our soldiers on a crit. Rather than taking a chance, I have Sensenic drop a grenade on him, which does some damage and destroys his cover. Note that the lancer is very close to our mission objective, so I have to be careful. If I blow up the computer that we're supposed to hack, we fail the mission. Don't ask me how I know this.


I don't want to reveal my Reaper, but I can't leave that lancer alive, so Nightwalker takes the shot. She gets the kill, thankfully. After every shot, the Reaper has a chance of being revealed (as opposed to regular soldiers who are always revealed when they attack), which gets higher the more shots she takes. This golf swing animation plays out and thankfully we remain in shadow. There's an extremely useful ability that the reaper can get which makes it so that kill shots don't ever reveal them, but we don't have it yet.


I don't even remember what the sectoid did on its turn, because VV ended it immediately after. That combination of boosted sword damage, the sectoid's melee weakness and a critical hit means Vixen takes the title of hardest hitter from Kirin!


Understandably perturbed by what he just saw, the priest opts to put VV into stasis. Also note that the lancer left behind some loot for us to collect. I think it was a low-level gun upgrade, the kind that I can now swap freely between weapons because of the research breakthrough we made last time.


Everyone else needs to move up this round, so the priest is left standing. He takes a shot at Vixen on his turn, but thankfully he misses.


VV, however, does not.


By this point, we're running out of time to actually hack the terminal and complete the mission. I run Nightwalker up to do the job, despite her being extremely unsuited to hacking. It doesn't matter, because you can't fail a hack on a mission objective. Hacking or planting explosives reveals hidden characters, but there aren't any enemies left so who cares.


Mission complete: FLAWLESS. No injuries and three promotions for our brave squad! Sensenic chooses to take the padded armor over the infinitely more useful shredder ability, because he is looking out for number one. VV gets the ability to not trigger overwatch fire, which is very useful to have on your melee characters. I forget what we gave Gerad; normally I like the ability that allows squadsight to trigger overwatch shots, but he's so angry that I may have given him the pistol ability instead. We'll find out another time.


We've canceled the [STRIKE]apocalypse[/STRIKE] dark event and we got a free scientist to boot! Scientists speed up research, which is always welcome. I'm trying to develop the next tier of weapons for the squad and it's a very long undertaking.


Here's some of the crew chilling at the bar between missions. On the wall next to them is our memorial, with one lonely photograph. Rest in power, Smashmouth.
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Infamous third lava dolphin
Gerad;2558460 said:
Yes! Healed up and promoted all in one shot! Everything's coming up Cissoko!

Mogri;2558464 said:
[Referring to the Reaper's ability to stay cloaked after getting a kill]
FYI, this isn't exactly true -- it just makes it so that kill shots don't increase the detection chance. If it was at 0, then they're guaranteed to stay hidden, but if they had previously increased it, then it'll still roll at the existing chance.

(Maybe you already know this, but it wasn't obvious to me.)

MCBanjoMike;2558465 said:
I mean, I didn't want to get too into the weeds, but you're right. Thing is, normally your base chance to be revealed is 50%, but getting this ability caps you at 0 so long as you kill with every shot. So the skill is actually better than its description, but in a kind of confusing way. If you don't kill with your shot, then you immediately jump to 50% and starts getting worse with each shot that doesn't kill. Thankfully, you get one free re-concealment per mission and doing that puts you back at 0%.

In practice, I rarely take shots with a reaper that aren't a guaranteed kill, so they typically stay concealed for the whole mission. I'd almost always rather have my scout stay hidden than get that one extra bit of damage (especially since Reaper rifles do pretty low damage in general).

Falselogic;2558483 said:
These updates would be a lot more interesting if I was in them...

Kirin;2558489 said:
Enjoyed my vendetta with that Hunter dude. But honestly probably enjoying hanging out at the pub more.

Sensenic;2558491 said:
[Referring to his self-preservation skills]

Is that a poster of VV behind... well, VV? Celebrating her top damage I assume?

MCBanjoMike;2558492 said:
[To Falselogic]
Then maybe you shouldn't have lost the coin toss, eh smart guy?

[To Kirin]
Oh don't worry, your vendetta is far from over. Permanently killing a Chosen is quite an undertaking.

[Referring to the poster of VV in the bar]
Ha ha, it totally is. The game takes pictures of your characters at various moments and they show up plastered on the backgrounds, either was ADVENT wanted posters or as inspiration for the resistance camps. I should really take more photos after missions, they can be pretty funny.

Torzelbaum;2558540 said:
[Referring to Mogri's XCOM 2 Effort Post]
It almost seems to me like you ignored your own advice here.

Violentvixen;2558586 said:
Well done, me.

[Referring to the Shadowstep ability that prevents overwatch fire from triggering]
That sounds like a hell of an ability.

[On the subject of her poster]
Pfffft. That's great.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 6: The Great Train-Adjacent Robbery


Happy Hour at the bar is interrupted by the news that ADVENT is undertaking the sinister Avatar project. If completed, it could spell doom for humanity. Note that this would still be preferable to watching M Night Shyamalan's live-action Avatar remake.

The Avatar project is basically the game's time limit. From now on, whenever we're on the world map we will see a series of red boxes at the top of the screen. They fill up as ADVENT makes breakthroughs on the project or builds facilities dedicated to pursuing it. When the bar fills up, it's game over for us.


Thankfully, there are ways to set the Avatar back: by completing specific missions, you can take a couple of blocks of progress off the meter. The first such mission is the ADVENT Blacksite, which always shows up somewhere near your starting region. Missions like these are the biggest reason why you need to expand your resistance network - if you can't get to the mission, you can't complete it.


The good news is that we just made contact with East Africa, where the Blacksite is located. We probably won't actually do the mission for a while though, as we have plenty of time left on the clock. If the Avatar meter ever fills up, a big scary countdown starts on the world map. You'll have a fixed amount of time to do something to set the project back before your campaign is forfeit. It can actually be good to leave a critical mission on standby until this happens so that you can bail yourself out as necessary.


Remember back when Aquadeo was promoted to sergeant? Remember how excited I was? This is why: having a sergeant on the team allows you to unlock Squad Size I at the GTS for a pittance, which lets us to bring a fifth team member on our missions! One of the most useful upgrades in the game, IMO. Speaking of which...


As much as I'd like to keep Aquadeo around for missions, he is our highest ranking soldier and I need him to become a Captain ASAP. Why? Because then we'll be able to buy Squad Size II, allowing us to field a full team of 6 soldiers. Not only is that good for tough missions, but it makes it easier to train up rookies and squaddies, of which we have plenty. My trick for fast-tracking a soldier up to captain rank is to abuse the Resistance Ring; some of the covert ops will reward your soldiers with instant promotions! And we need to make contact with the Skirmishers eventually, so there's no reason to put it off. Aqua and Ted pack a lunch and head off to make some new friends.


While they are out, we get our next mission: it's a supply raid! Supply raids are among the lowest-stakes missions you can get, basically it's just a chance to pick up some nice equipment without putting much on the line. That isn't to say that you can just ignore them, though - skipping a mission like this will cost you the region that it is located in. Don't ask me how I know.


Here's our first five-man team! We still haven't manufactured any new equipment to speak of, but that will change soon.


We start the mission as always by scouting ahead with Nightwalker. Seriously, I don't know if I'm ever going to stop finding that name funny. Anyway, he spies two new enemy types hanging out by a train: a snake lady and a purifier (ie flamethrower guy).


We sneak our squad a little closer only to have the enemies walk toward us on their turn. Enemies will see you if they flank you or if they get really close, we're very lucky that they didn't take another step in our direction. As it is, we still get a chance to ambush them, but it has to be this turn. As you can see from the red icons, we're in the danger zone and we won't go unnoticed for another turn.


I set up an overwatch trap and send Kirin to soften up the viper (AKA snake lady). Vipers have the ability to dodge attacks, which greatly reduces the damage they take. There's no dodging a Templar strike, though, those hit 100% of the time.


Eric finishes off the snake and Gerad completely whiffs on the purifier. I'm starting to think he might be kind of a bad shot? The purifier retreats, so I send Nightwalker up to scout some more. We find our missing purifier, along with the second pod of enemies.


The second pod doesn't know we're here yet, so I could leave them alone, but that second purifier is too tempting to ignore. Gerad gets things together long enough to crit the purifier, which causes it to explode in a very satisfying fashion.


The stun lancer and soldier from the second pod set up camp conveniently within the blast radius of one of Spoony's grenades. That thing the poor soldier is standing next to is a forklift, and it goes up in flames when the grenade lands, killing him.


The stun lancer is still up and that makes me nervous. Kirin is too far to use his blades, so I have him toss a grenade in hopes that it will destroy his cover. Alas, it does not and the lancer lives to stab another day. Or at least, this day, which is the one I care about.


The whole point of supply raids is to tag a dozen crates of goodies scattered throughout the level so that XCOM can collect them. The enemies also tag crates, and once they do you have a turn or two to grab them for yourself before they are airlifted away like this one. In actual fact, it's really not a big deal to lose a bunch of crates on these missions. It's much better to take your time and play cleanly rather than rush in and get your soldiers wounded or killed just for a few trinkets. We let them have this one.


The stun lancer rushes Eric but thankfully misses him.


Meanwhile, the purifier tries to light up Kirin but misses that too. Purifiers have surprisingly bad aim and miss frequently with their flamethrowers. They also have incendiary grenades which are a pain, but they don't use them very often. Really, the biggest danger they pose is that they have about a 50% chance to explode on death, which makes melee kills a bad idea. At least until we learn Fortress...


Eric returns fire on the stun lancer from point-blank range and...well, we didn't hire him for his aim.


Nobody else has a good shot on that lancer, so I pull a desperation move and use my Reaper to take him out. His shot connects, but he's revealed in the process. Not the end of the world, since he has the ability to go into stealth once per mission, but not optimal.


Now we just have to deal with that original purifier, who is still dogging us from behind high cover. Spoony misses...


...as does Gerad. Again.


Kirin could easily get the kill with his blades, but again, explodey explodey. Instead, he pulls out the autopistol and finally puts this guy down.


Here we see two of the crates of goodies being fultoned away for future use by XCOM.


Our last pod has a sectoid, along with another purifier and stun lancer. Two of them post up inside a nearby building.


Nightwalker tosses in a claymore...


...and Spoony detonates it. Good damage, but I didn't kill either of them.


The sectoid tries to mind control Kirin and I am very lucky that it fails. Having your melee units get controlled only ever ends in tears. Kirin is disoriented, though, so he can't stab anyone for a while.


Kirin is pretty exposed, so Eric uses aid protocol on him, which turns out to be a worthwhile investment.


That doesn't stop the last purifier from lighting him on fire, though. Units that are on fire take a bit of damage each turn and can't use certain abilities. You can put the fire out by healing them with a medkit or else having them hunker down, although that means they don't get to attack that turn.


Rather than do either of those things, Kirin runs up to flank the purifier and shuts him down.


Spoony gets in a good shot on the lancer...


...and Eric follows up with the kill.


All that's left is a wounded sectoid, so I have Nightwalker take the shot. Doesn't matter if he's revealed when the mission is over!


The team returns home with a bunch of promotions and one injured Templar. Eric gets the ability to heal at a distance, Kirin picks up Parry and Nightwalker gets the most delightful ability of all: remote start.


But that's not all! New bud alert: Gerad and Spoony 4ever.


With the mission behind us, we finish making contact with West Africa. We've connected every region in the continent and can now start making advances into Europe, Asia and South America. Or we could, except that we've used up all 3 of our resistance contacts. We'll need to build a comm station before we can add any more regions to our network. This is where you get into trouble in vanilla XCOM 2: if a critical mission pops up in a faraway region of the map, you might need to build a comms station and then contact 2-3 regions before you can access it. That takes resources and, more importantly, time. If your Avatar clock is maxed out, you've got about two weeks to get your butt over to the mission site and that's not long enough to do more than make contact with one new region, two at best. If you aren't proactive in building your network, you can find yourself in an unwinnable situation down the line, which is frustrating because it doesn't feel like you're getting yourself into trouble. It's all a bit too mushy for my liking, which is why I'm happy they added ways to slow the Avatar project in the WotC expansion.


West Africa is under the control of the second of the Chosen, the Warlock. This dude is bad news and I'm not looking forward to running into him on missions.


Mogri finishes up her training and is now a very low level sniper! We'll have to find a softball mission for her first outing.


Meanwhile, Aqua and Ted come back from their covert op and they bring us a new Skirmisher friend. Skirmishers are probably the worst of the faction classes; they are extremely flexible, but they don't do a ton of damage and many of their best abilities have limited uses per mission. They have the ability to shoot on their first move without ending their turn, plus they have a cool grappling hook for zipping up to high places, but they don't have the same meat-and-potatoes usefulness of a Templar or Reaper. Turns out that "never misses" and "amazing at stealth" are pretty hard to beat.


Aquadeo is now a Lieutenant, only one rank away from Captain, and Ted gets promoted to be...another low-level sniper. Geez, game, you can stop it with the snipers already.


We get a notification on the map that ADVENT has built a facility to advance the Advent project. The timer goes up a tick or two and the facility appears on the map in the Pacific Northwest (ie, very far from where we are). If we can ever make our way over there, we can run a mission to destroy the facilty, which will remove exactly as many Avatar blocks as the facility has contributed. Guess these guys should invest in a better system of backups.


Meanwhile, the Hunter has finished his first project, lowering our monthly income permanently. Annoying, but not that big of a deal all told.


We get a new scanning site that opens up the Black Market for us. This is a shop where we can buy all sorts of useful stuff, from alien materials to weapon upgrades to personnel, in exchange for our precious intel. We can also sell them stuff, like dead alien bodies and equipment, but they only give us supplies in return. Always think hard before spending your intel, it's hard to get more.


Prices at the Black Market vary a little bit. This week, they're very interested in sectoid corpses, so I sell off a couple. I probably don't need them for anything, right?


It's the end of the month! We get another glowing review from Agent 47, a supply drop worth $247 and a preview of what the Chosen are up to. The Hunter is going to pump some iron, which will raise his experience level above the first threshold, gaining him a new ability. He'll still be a chump, albeit a muscly chump.


Here are our dark projects for the month. None of these is terrible for us, although the one where overwatch shots always miss would be a pain. We'll pick one to thwart next time the Guerrilla Ops come up. Note that I had to spend some intel in order to see what the third project was - sometimes the projects are very bad, so I try to always know what's coming.


And now for resistance orders! I slot in a new one that speeds up digging, because I want to finish shielding our first power node and start working on a second.


We've finished researching magnetic weapons! Here's Lily Shen, our chief engineer, showing us what we have to look forward to. This second tier of gun gives us a damage improvement across the squad, but it's applied piecemeal as we upgrade the different weapon types. You actually need to research some more tech before you can buy magnetic weapons for your snipers and grenadiers.


Tygan pops in to say that we're inspired for psionics research, which significantly cuts down the time it will take if we start work now. I've got a rookie who's waiting impatiently for psionics training, so I start work unraveling the mysteries of the human mind.


We buy magnetic assault rifles, which can be used by our specialists and rangers. I typically don't buy upgraded shotguns, because it costs extra money and it's only useful for one class, but if I have a bit of extra cash I might get them later. For now, though, all rangers will be switching over to mag rifles.


And then I remembered what the sectoid corpses were for: building mindshields. These little devices are essential for missions against the Warlock and I usually make a point of buying enough to outfit a full squad. So...probably shouldn't have sold those two sectoids, I guess. Whatever, I wasn't going to build six of these things just yet and I'm sure we'll find more sectoids to kill.

That's all for this update! Join us next time, when things start to get thorny for Tyrant Squad.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 7: I've Got You Under My Spell


Commander Riker's got a new mission for us! Yes, it's true: Volk, leader of the Reapers, is voiced by Jonathan Frakes, making basically no attempt to change the way he speaks. He's not the only TNG actor who participated in the WotC expansion, either! John DeLancie (Q) heads up the Templars, Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) is the head Skirmisher, Michael Dorn (Worf) is the voice of the first Skirmisher soldier you get and Marina Sirtis (Troi) voices the canonical Reaper. Also, I just learned that Nolan North apparently is the voice of the Chosen Hunter? Funny that I never noticed that before, dude's got range.


Anyway, there's a chance that the Warlock will show up on this mission, so I check the intel that I have on him before prepping the squad. He's weak to Skirmishers and also to being hit a bunch of times in the same turn, which is something that Skirmishers are good at doing. I know who's coming on this mission!


There are a bunch of Lost on this mission, so I'm bringing along a sniper and a Templar, both of whom have a pistol that doesn't require reloading. You can chain pistol shots until the cows come home if you choose your zombies right. VV has proven herself to be very good at clearing out hordes of the undead and Aquadeo is here to keep everyone alive. Spoiler: he'll have his work cut out for him. Finally, we have Inquisitor, our new Skirmisher friend. You'll note that I've outfitted my two melee soldiers with mindshields - that's because having a mind-controlled blade-wielder in the middle of your squad is very bad for morale, and for continued living. Don't ask me how I know.


We drop into the map in stealth mode, only to find the ADVENT fighting with the Lost. This doesn't actually happen all that much, so I'll take it! Here we have our first ADVENT MEC, which is also our first enemy with armor (the yellow dots by the health bar). Armor reduces damage from most attacks by one point per tick, which is why I'm very invested in finding ways to remove it. These Lost aren't doing a whole lot of damage, what with all that plating, but every hit is appreciated.


Sectoids, on the other hand, have no armor and take extra damage from melee. I've never seen one get hit by a Lost before! I could definitely get used to this.


Inquisitor initiates hostilities using Justice, AKA Get Over Here. Skirmishers can pull a human-sized enemy to them using their grappling hook and then...


...slash them with their wrist blade. It's a cool move for two reasons: one, it pulls enemies out of cover and into the open, and two, it has a better chance to hit than just firing their weapon. If an enemy is behind high cover, it's usually better to try Justice than to just shoot at them. Skirmishers also can attack twice in a turn (assuming they didn't move), so you'll usually be able to get in a point-blank shot after dragging the enemy over to you. This is somewhat diminished by the naturally low damage Skirmishers deal, but other soldiers can really pile the damage on to the enemy now that it's exposed.


Gerad hits the MEC, but its armor is keeping it alive. I want that thing dead before it gets a turn to attack us.


Unfortunately, Aquadeo misses the next shot. Aqua actually has more damage potential than Gerad right now because of his upgraded magnetic weapon.


I either forgot to swap Vixen's shotgun out for a mag rifle or else I assumed she'd be close enough to enemies that it was worth keeping, I forget. She clears out a pair of lost...


...before giving Aqua another turn using Teamwork. The power of friendship is unstoppable! And so are railguns!


Oh heck. That's not good.


Speaking of not good, that first sectoid is still alive and tries to mind-control Gerad. Thankfully, he resists it, but this causes him to panic. Panicking is usually not a big deal, in Gerad's case it causes him to run up a little ways and hunker down for the turn.


The Mec dropped some loot, so I run Kirin over to pick it up by having him slash one of the nearby Lost. Melee characters are much more mobile than most, because they can combine movement and attacking into a single action.


It was worth the trip! Two weapon attachments, a PCS (you stick it into your soldier's brain to upgrade them) and a datapad, which we can research to earn a chunk of intel.


Much like our first Lost mission, the point here is to rescue a VIP along with, if possible, her two bodyguards. Inquisitor runs up to the first bodyguard and tags her in.


She's another sniper, and I waste no time using her to clear out some more of the zombies. We get to control her until the end of the mission.


Or at least...


...we were controlling her. Ruh-roh. So my thinking here was that if I moved Inquisitor to the left, he wouldn't be advancing and therefore wouldn't trigger any new enemies. What actually happened was that he stumbled into another sectoid and a MEC right as our turn was ending. That gave them the opportunity to act freely and boy did they make use of it. The sectoid mind-controlled our new sniper friend...


...and the MEC bombarded Kirin and VV with his mortar. This is why I try to kill MECs ASAP. :toastybert:


And then, of course, there's this guy. The Warlock is my least favorite Chosen to deal with, although his abilities vary from pretty inoffensive to completely devastating. The worst thing he can do is mind control your units. Unlike a sectoid, however, he can do so from anywhere on the map. So the Warlock will drop in on the opposite side of the map and from then you're in a race against time. If he does take control of one of your soldiers, then your best course of action is to kill the Warlock, but that can be pretty hard when he's sitting 30 tiles away with 20 HP. So then you have to decide: will you kill your own unit, or can you stay away from them or neutralize them for 3 turns until the mind control wears off? Mind-controlled units fight very aggressively, and rangers and templars in particular have a huge radius in which they can deal damage (and potentially lots of it). XCOM 2 doesn't give you a ton of ways to non-lethally shut down a brainwashed ally, so really your best bet is to prevent them from being captured by equipping mindshields. But that's expensive and requires the use of an item slot, which makes it hard to do in the early game. Basically the Warlock suuuuuuuuuucks.


On the bright side, if he isn't mind controlling you, his other attacks are fairly ineffective. Here he uses mind scorch, which just stuns Inquisitor. Aquadeo can fix that without even getting off the couch.


But we still have problems. There's a MEC on the board, plus a sectoid and a brainwashed sniper. Inquisitor tosses his grenade at the MEC in a bid to take down some of its armor. Armor is usually removed either by explosives or characters who have the Shredder ability, which lets their regular shots destroy armor. Shredder is great and Sensenic is a coward who is putting the team at risk.


With the armor softened, Kirin can run up and finish the MEC off. Templars gain Focus by killing enemies with their blades; focus is spent to use abilities but just having it increases the damage that the blades do. Between his two kills this mission, Kirin has maxed out his focus meter. Time to spend some!


I could run Kirin back to cover, but instead I leave him out in the open and use Parry. Parrying negates the first damage that the Templar would take in the next turn at the cost of one focus (out of a max of two, currently). Enemies will almost always prioritize soldiers who are out of cover, so you can be relatively sure that someone will waste a turn shooting at your Templar. Parry only stops one attack, though, so I heal Kirin up just in case he attracts a lot of attention on the enemies' turn.


Sure enough, on the sniper's turn she takes a shot at our exposed soldier - or, uh, one of them. Unfortunately, Kirin's bait tactic doesn't work and Inquisitor takes the full force of the shot. He starts bleeding out, which is something that can happen when a soldier's HP is reduced to exactly zero. I honestly got lucky here, that shot could easily have hit for 6 and our Skirmisher would be 100% dead. As it is, I can keep him alive if I stabilize him or evacuate him in the next three turns. The Warlock is between us and the evac zone, so the latter isn't really feasible, but we can probably manage the former. All that said, this is starting to be a pretty bad situation.


I don't even remember who threw that grenade, but Kirin parried it. He's more Jedi than Templar now. The Warlock follows this up by trying to mind-control Kirin, but thank god he's got that doofy looking mindshield on his head.


We've got a lot of problems to deal with right now, but killing this sectoid takes care of two of them. Once the sectoid is dead, the sniper comes back under our control, which is a relief. It's tough to know what to do in a situation like this: I could have killed the sniper before she acted and maybe I should have. She came within a hair's breadth of killing our Skirmisher, after all. But as it happens, he's still alive and now we have her back for the rest of the mission - plus, she'll join the team if she makes it out of here alive. Still, trading her for my Skirmisher probably wouldn't have been worth it, and I'm only coming out ahead because of dumb luck.


With the sectoid and MEC taken care of, we turn our attention to the Warlock. Well actually, the Lost turn their attention to the Warlock. Go get him, fellas!


Warlock ain't havin' none of that. Sadly, the bad guys also get free turns for killing the Lost, so this doesn't use up his turn. Instead, he summons an ADVENT trooper, which is a thing that the Chosen can do. Just a regular one, though, no big deal.


Time is ticking away, so I have Aquadeo stabilize Inquisitor. This uses up one charge of his medkit, although he gets four so that's not too much of a problem. He also heals up Vixen, who is about to launch a VIP rescue mission.


Vixen clears out Lost until her clip is empty...


...and then takes care of the ADVENT soldier face-to-face. Stone cold badass.


I'm finally in a position to start dealing with the Warlock directly. I send Kirin up to do some damage...


...then run him over to tag in the other of the VIP's bodyguards. This one is a grenadier and he gets in a good shot, which does extra damage because of the Chosen's weakness to being attacked a bunch of times in a row.


The Traitor Sniper redeems herself somewhat by pinging the Warlock with her pistol, which also gets a damage bonus. She couldn't shoot him with her rifle because she wasted all her bullets killing our friend.


The Warlock is on his last legs, but he draws things out using an ability called Spectral Army. He creates a phantom soldier based on one of ours and puts himself into stasis. We can't hurt the Warlock until the doppelganger is killed. As the Warlock gains knowledge, the number of clones he creates will increase, but thankfully we only have one to deal with.


Our new grenadier is closest, so he does the honors.


This releases the Warlock from stasis, so Kirin sends him packing with one final slash. Kirin 2, Chosen 0!


Vixen, meanwhile, is on a quest to save the person that we're actually here for. She clears out some Lost...


...then heads upstairs and tags the VIP. At this point, the only thing standing between us and freedom is a never-ending supply of zombies, but you guys all know that's NBD.


Gerad grabs Inquisitor and we make a run for it. On missions where the squad has to evac, you need to bodily haul your downed teammates to the evac zone, otherwise they are dead. In fact, you can't even get their gear back without bringing their bodies home. Not super important for now, but once you have some unique weapons and fancy armor it becomes a consideration.


The whole team evacs out of the area and we breathe a sigh of relief. Man, that was a hell of a-


Oops, Gerad's still here. Uh, good thing there aren't many Lost left on the map!


Carrying a body doesn't reduce your soldier's movement range, but it does make them slow as hell. Gerad finally lurches over to the evac zone and gets on the dropship.


We get another 5 AP for killing the Warlock, not that he's actually dead.


Man, that was an ordeal. We take a photo to commemorate our hardest mission yet. Inquisitor is still unconscious, so presumably somebody Weekend At Bernie's'd him while they took the picture.


I am seriously so surprised that everyone made it back from that mission alive. Inquisitor is going to be out of the action for a solid month, though - looks like I should invest in building an Infirmary on the Avenger. Gerad gets a promotion, so I give him Lightning Hands, which allows him to take a free pistol shot at the start of his turn (when it isn't on cooldown). It's a fun, useful ability that fits his personality pretty well.


We do actually get a pretty decent reward for all that pain. Engineers are essential, Intel is great and we get to keep the two corporals that we picked up along the way. Let's go have a look at them.


Alice Ferguson here is our 43rd sharpshooter. She has a positive, can-do attitude that gets her through tough assignments like gunning down her squadmates with ease.


Daichi Sato isn't quite as redundant as our friend Alice, but lordy does he have a head of hair. When high-level characters join XCOM, they show up as blank slates and you get to customize them. I of course give Daichi the Shredder ability, which no self-respecting grenadier should be without.

Phew, that was pretty nasty! We had some bad luck and maybe made some bad decisions, but enough went right that everyone made it out alive. It's not hard to imagine how that could have turned into a team wipe, although the fact that there were two bonus soldiers to collect on the map probably reduced the danger of that. Still, I was expecting the worst and instead we got the, uh, averagst. Nice work, Tyrant Squad!


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mogri;2559600 said:
My own WotC campaign crashed and burned last night after two full squad wipes. There was a solid mix of poor decisions and awful luck in the mix. I could maybe salvage it, but I've permafailed one of the Chosen missions at this point.

Nothing for it but to jump back in, I feel.

MCBanjoMike;2559602 said:
Have I got a squad for you!

Kirin;2559628 said:
Whew, those last two missions were quite a workout for me! I don't much like being on fire, but I do like getting promoted, parrying grenades like a badass, and taking out mecha and Chosen, so it all works out!

Destil;2559636 said:
It's odd to me how often an entire creative work will decide "Hey.... let's just get the TNG cast for all our voice actors."

Sensenic;2559644 said:
Two Mulana and XCOM updates on three days, yikes, you guys.

[Referring to Sensenic's cowardliness]
Sensenic is chillin' on the Avenger during the mission but suddenly a shudder goes down his spine for no clear reason.
After the mission ends the commander goes to his station and smacks him on the neck!
Sensenic turns around confused: "Oww! Why did you do that?!"
*canned laughter, image freeze, roll credits*

Falselogic;2559719 said:
I really wish some of you would die so that some of us not yet playing could make an appearance...

Are you even playing a REAL xcom Mike? No one is dying at all here!

Violentvixen;2559807 said:
Whenever I see you update I figure my character will be dead this time. Definitely thought this was it about halfway through the update, yeesh.

But damn, 27 kills!?

MetManMas;2559829 said:
[To the impatient Falselogic]
I don't mind the wait. Things will get harder, even if people don't die they will get put out of commission by wounds or PTSD or whatever.

[...who is complaining that no-one has died]
Octo died.


MCBanjoMike;2559860 said:
We may have to face the reality that I'm just too good at XCOM. I was actually expecting a lot more casualties by now! That said, this is the first time I'll be playing with the Alien Rulers activated, so we still might see some bloodshed. Anyway, I've already captured images for the next mission and locked the team in for the mission after that, but beyond those two I'll try to start tossing in some more inexperienced squad members. Hopefully that won't cause the whole campaign to come crashing down...

Mogri;2560177 said:
For my new campaign, I'm trying A Better Everything. Is it actually better? Eh... maybe?

The biggest changes:

First, there are a bunch of new soldier classes. Second, the weapons do different things, and each class can choose between two different primary weapons (IIRC, only Ranger got to choose in vanilla).

  • Shotguns are still awesome, but you only reload one ammo per action now. That's fine, I guess, because shotguns are still awesome. Also, shotguns have innate Deep Cover (auto-hunker if you didn't fire), which is huge. Apparently, aim decays more heavily with range on shotguns, too, but if you weren't up in the enemy's face, you weren't shotgunning correctly anyway.
  • Cannons have an enormous ammo clip, but it takes two actions to reload. You can fire normally for two actions, or you can spray for one action at a -20 Aim penalty. You can't move and overwatch with a cannon, but you can move and spray (you will miss). They deal more environmental damage than before. I have a very low opinion of these cannons.
  • Sniper rifles have innate squadsight now, which is nice, and they have some armor piercing. I hardly ever used sniper rifles in vanilla, so it's nice that they got
  • Assault rifles and pistols are unchanged, except assault rifles come with an extra mod slot. OK.

Impressions on the new classes:
  • Specialist feels better now. My Specialist has an ability that gives a permanent +5 Hacking when she kills a robotic unit, and she has an ability that gives +15 Aim against targets that can't use cover (such as, for example, every robotic unit). Gonna make me a super-hacker.
  • Grenadier... oh, right. Grenades are now split into 1-3 damage HE grenades that behave like old grenades and 3-5 flechette grenades that pierce armor and don't shred or destroy cover. Because of the grenade changes, new Grenadier is way worse than old Grenadier, but old Grenadier was probably a little too good. New Grenadier is just OK.
  • Ranger still has a sword and a shotgun, so it's still top-tier. Ranger can instead equip cannons, which would be silly.
  • Sharpshooter equips shotguns or sniper rifles, but it hasn't changed much otherwise. This is still just a pistol class that carries another weapon for some reason.
  • Saboteur uses shotgun/cannon for his primary and an arc thrower for his secondary. This is my current least favorite class. I'll give it a chance still; I'm sure it gets better.
  • Scout can use either sniper rifle or assault rifle. Scout can holotarget for a single action, and at higher levels, the holotarget can confer additional debuffs (extra damage). Seems good. I like not missing.
  • Infantry uses assault rifle/cannon with a sawed-off shotgun secondary. This is the only class with suppression, and it gets it at Squaddie. Suppression is not as good in XCOM 2 as it was in EU, thanks to the large number of units with alternative methods of combat, but the sawed-off shotgun can do a lot of damage, so maybe there's something here.
  • Psi and faction classes are unaltered, though the existence of the other classes means the faction classes have a different pool of extra abilities to pick from.

Overall, ABE feels like it's trying to be Long War (Except Not As Long), which I can appreciate, because I'm interested in what Long War brings to the table, but I don't want to spend fifty hours on a single campaign.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 8: Sensenic Needs a Hug


Another day, another scanning site. But today we have the chance to get something pretty cool: a resistance contact! Scanning this will allow us to add another region to our network without building a comms center, which is totally sweet. Scanning rewards vary a lot in quality, but this is one of the best you can get, especially early in the game. Well, that and more engineers.


Hey, you know what else we're going to need if we want to add a new region? Some more intel! Thankfully, our pals here just came back from Covert Mart with a fresh batch. Of course, Sensenic only went along to get that +10 dodge.


We finally finish shielding the first of our power coils, so I immediately start building a power relay. With the bonus power that we'll get, we should be good for quite some time. But! Since have the "faster digging" resistance order equipped this month, I'm going to capitalize on it to start shielding the one next door, too. Normally that would take a full 30 days, but it's only 19 thanks to our bonus. We won't actually finish it before the month ends, and I plan on swapping that resistance order out when that happens, but we'll have the lion's share of the work done by then.


It's Guerrilla Op time! Of the three dark projects underway, this is by far the one that I want to stop the most. It's also the mission that has the best rewards; I want to say that one of the others offered me a free sniper for the pile, which, no thanks. The down side is that this mission is in the Warlock's territory, but I've never seen the same Chosen show up on two consecutive missions, so I'm feeling bullish. Also note the Sitrep, which promises us a map full of high explosives. Good times ahead!


Here's our crew for the mission. All of our stabby-folks are recovering from injuries, but this map is full of explosives, so maybe we're better off using ranged attackers anyway. Aquadeo is out powering up, so Eric will step in, seeing as how he's our next-best healer. I'm bringing along two grenadiers this time in hopes of some explosive synergy. Get it? And for some reason I brought Ferguson along to be our sniper; maybe I just like her can-do attitude.


We hit the ground and find our first pod, a MEC and a purifier.


As promised, this map is full of explosive barrels. Even better, our Reaper now has Remote Start, which allows them to shoot any explodable object and have it detonate with twice the power and twice the blast radius. It doesn't even reveal him when he does it! It's just the absolute best and I'm tearing my hair out because there are like twelve of these stupid barrels within sight and not a single one of them will actually hit the badguys if I blow it up.


Turns out that if you want something done right...


...then it takes two to tango. There's something super satisfying about seeing all the damage numbers pop up when you cause a double explosion.


Nightwalker spots another group of enemies for us and Alice leads off with a sniper shot from a very distant rooftop. Roofs and snipers: best friends 4 life.


We've got a sectoid, a lancer and a regular soldier to deal with. Alice pinged the sectoid with her shot and Spoony follows up with a grenade that also injures the lancer, but doesn't kill anyone.


Eric kills the lancer for us. As with Aqua last mission, he's the only one who has an upgraded magnetic weapon right now.


Which means it's pretty bad when the sectoid mind-controls him!


The ADVENT soldier also gets a shot in on Spoony. Too bad our medic currently believes in "first do a bunch of harm".


So this would be a pretty bad situation for us...if the sectoid hadn't decided to take cover behind that conveniently-placed explosive barrel.


Alice takes care of our little problem. I'm not sure what that blood spatter is doing on the screen exactly? I guess it's from the sectoid, but it's like they got the scale of it wrong or something. That or else those guys have a LOT of blood.


All that's left is to mop up the soldier, which is very easily accomplished by flanking him. Cover in XCOM follows some pretty abstract rules where it offers equal protection from any front-facing angle. In order to flank someone, you have to get perpendicular to them (or behind them), at which point they become sitting ducks. Flanking shots also have much higher crit chances, so it can be worth flanking an enemy even if you're guaranteed to hit them through their cover (which can happen if your soldier's aim is good enough).


Nightwalker, who should probably have been the one to blow up that barrel earlier (it would also have gotten the soldier with the increased blast radius) is instead gathering up loot on the field. This superior auto-loader is quite a find at this point in the campaign. Gun mods come in three tiers: regular, advanced and superior. A superior auto-loader gets a soldier three free reloads of their primary weapon over the course of a mission - this thing will be useful til the very end of the campaign. Advanced focus isn't as good - it boosts Will, which helps soldiers resist stuff like mind control and panic, but there are a lot of other upgrades I'd rather have instead.


A little farther up we find our target for this mission: an ADVENT relay set up in a restaurant for...some reason. It only has around 7 HP and it's impossible to miss, so it doesn't last for long. Unfortunately, we can't go home until we mop of the remaining bad guys on the map for...some reason. Are they going to try to put this thing back together if we don't kill them? Maybe it was made of Lego.


Nightwalker scouts ahead a bit and finds what is presumably the last pod: a viper, a purifier and a stun lancer. Now let's try to sneak up and get the drop on them...




The enemies spot our man in yellow and take cover inside the kitchen. Spoony tosses in another grenade, but sadly it doesn't take down their cover.


What follows is a comedy of errors in which everyone misses their shots, leaving the viper free...


...to bring Sensenic in for a hug. Vipers are Annoying with a capital A. Not only do they have naturally high dodge stats, but they can use their tongues to snag your troops, drag them over and immobilize them. They'll take damage every turn as the viper squeezes them, plus they're way out of cover, plus they'll be out of the action until you manage to get the viper to let them go (usually by shooting it). It's a pain. Oh, and I think vipers can spit poison at you too.


So now Joan is bound up by the viper and surrounded on all sides. Great. We need a plan to get him back, and everyone knows that a good plan starts...


...with a BANG.


The purifier has been blown to bits, but the viper still has Sensenic in its clutches and nobody has a clear shot. There's nothing for it, we run Nightwalker up and have him take the shot from a flanking position. The viper lets go of Joan, but it still has one HP left...


...which Sensenic takes care of personally. He's still super out in the open, though, so Eric drops an Aid Protocol on him.


But what does the lancer do? He runs all the way over to Spoony instead, doing low damage but stunning him. Lancer attacks vary quite a bit in the damage they do, so this was a lucky break. Maybe not a great strategy on the part of the lancer, though.


Never end your turn right next to a guy with a minigun. Spoony hits for a solid 6 HP...


...and Eric finishes the poor guy off. That's a wrap!


I'm trying to get into the habit of taking mission-end photos more often, so here's our crew looking tough. Except for Sensenic, who appears to be giving a thumbs up? But, like, in a pretty tough way.


I love this shot because Alice is all "heh we sure kicked some ass today" and Joan is all "I think my ribs are broken". READ THE ROOM, TRAITOR LORD.


Spoony will be out for a few days, but he made sergeant! Here's a shot of his skill tree. Note that you normally get a simplified tree when you level up - typically this view is reserved for the special training center that I haven't built yet. I've used a mod to make the detailed version the default one. Anyway, every soldier has a set of four abilities available to them that are drawn from other classes; they're the ones you see across the bottom of the screen. I can't unlock these without building the training facility, but I at least like to know what they are when I'm upgrading my troops. So far the only one that has been revealed for Spoony is Deadeye, a sharpshooter ability that increases your damage at the expense of accuracy. It's not my favorite ability to stick on a grenadier, since they have pretty bad aim to start with. As for the standard grenadier sergeant-level abilities, we have the choice between Demolition (use a bunch of ammo to destroy cover without damaging the enemy) or Suppression (use a medium amount of ammo to reduce an enemy's aim plus take a shot on them if they do anything). I've already got explosives for removing cover, so I typically grab Suppression at this level, but honestly neither of them is all that great.


Well well, if it isn't CAPTAIN AQUADEO. All that sneaking around really paid off! We also got a scientist, nominally the reason why we ran this covert op in the first place. But of course, the captainship is much more exciting because...


...now we can field a six-person squad! That's as big as it gets, at least for regular missions. This should make it easier to get a bigger rotation of soldiers into the LP (not that I actually do that next mission, but I promise I will later).


Let's have a look at the cap'n's abilities. Right now Aqua is mostly following the healer path: he can heal or remove status ailments at a distance and he gets extra charges for his medkit every mission. The other specialist path is the hacker path, which lets you do cool stuff like take over enemy robots and zap people with your Gremlin (the little drone guys that follow specialists around). Neither of the Captain-level abilities really fit into those categories, though. Covering Fire lets your soldier's overwatch activate when an enemy moves or shoots, which is nice. But Threat Assessment is even better: whenever you use Aid Protocol, your target gets a free overwatch shot (which can also trigger on an enemy firing) in addition to the defense bonus! That's super duper good, because it basically gives one of your damage dealers a free turn and it protects them at the same time. Run a ranger up to shotgun a baddie, then use Aid Protocol to keep them alive and give them a chance to shoot a second enemy in the process? It's almost too good. The downside is that the cooldown on Aid Protocol actually increases, but that's a tradeoff I will happily accept.


It's poster time! This is a shot I took after our very first mission. Aw look, the gang's all here! Can you believe that we made it out of that situation without any casualties? Not even one?


Here's one of the group looking totally badass after finishing a mission in the tunnels.


Sometimes the game takes pictures for you, as it did when Gerad got promoted to sergeant. That's a pretty grim scene! Note that a lot of the poster poses were only recently added as part of the Tactical Legacy pack that came out in late 2018. It's great that the devs included a bunch of gameplay-adjacent stuff like this, they clearly love this game as much as I do.


All right, we have to deal with the difficult covert ops at some point, might as well start now. If we want to permanently deal with the Chosen, we need to complete a series of missions to track down their hideouts. Doing this will also increase our standing with one of the factions, allowing us to use more resistance orders per month, which is a major bonus. Unfortunately, these ops are also riskier, as you can see here. I'm not all that worried about my soldiers getting wounded, but ambushes are bad and captured soldiers are worse. Sometimes there are ways to nullify these threats, maybe by spending resources or sending an additional soldier on the covert op, but for now we don't have any way to prevent the risk of ambush. Instead, I'm going to make a team that I think can survive the ambush mission if it occurs: a good specialist for survivability and an expendable ranger for damage dealing and, uh, sacrificing if necessary. Good luck, guys!


We finish our scan and get that bonus resistance contact - time to add a new region to the network! I decide to move into Western Europe because that will get us closer to one of the ADVENT facilities on the map (helpfully indicated by that dotted red line). We're getting farther from home, so the intel cost is going to be 80 this time. I can afford it for now, but it'll be time to start building radio towers soon.


The Chosen Warlock completes his project for the month, reducing our income and increasing his knowledge level. Eh, that's fine.


We finished researching psionics! This is exciting, I've never been able to build a psionics lab so early in the campaign before. In the past I've been stymied by the fact that you need elerium (a rare resource) to actually build the room, but this time I think I have enough on hand to make it happen. If we can start fielding psi operatives soon that will be a huge win for the team.


It's time to choose some new research! We have a breakthrough available that I'm interested in pursuing, but we've also killed enough stun lancers that the autopsy for them has become instantaneous. You can complete instant research without giving up a breakthrough, so we do that first.


Researching stun lancers gives us access to better S Words, and I know somebody who's gonna be pretty happy about that.


There's a lot of stuff that I'd like to be researching right now - Gauss weapons gives us better gear for snipers and grenadiers, Plated Armor is very important for survivability - but you know how it is with breakthroughs. Modular Cannons will let us install an extra weapon mod onto our grenadiers' cannons, which will be hugely important late in the game. It's actually kind of useless right now, since we have so few weapon mods on hand, but I don't get to choose what breakthrough pops up when.


Our power relay is done! With the bonus from the power conduit, this should be enough to keep quite a few Avenger facilities running.


We have three engineers right now - Adam is running the Resistance Ring, which shortens the time to complete covert ops and whatsisname is still working on the second power coil. Our last engineer starts excavating a room on the top level of the Avenger so that we have somewhere to put our psi lab. Thankfully, the first set of rooms is much faster to excavate - he'll have it done within the week. We're also going to want a proving grounds to develop weapons, an infirmary to speed up recovery times, a training center to spend AP on extra abilities...so much to do! Engineers can also staff power relays and comm stations to increase their effectiveness, so it pays to have a lot of them on staff. We aren't in bad shape with three at this point, but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more.

Well, that's all the XCOM action I've got for this week for you. Enjoy your weekend, and join me next week as we take our first six-person team on the road!


Infamous third lava dolphin
Ted;2560243 said:
Guys, I went on two dates in a single update; nice!

[Referring to Eric Allen's excellent shot]
What a maneuver!

Kirin;2560261 said:
Can I just say I continue to be delighted that my silly request for you to attempt to recreate my flamboyant purple pirate cosplay/persona resulted in this ridiculous but useful badass.

MCBanjoMike;2560263 said:
Man, Mogri, we've got some different views when it comes to XCOM 2 sharpshooters. You seem to think the pistol is their raison d'être, whereas for me it's the cherry on top of the beautiful cake that is a sniper who can:
  • do huge damage
  • from complete safety
  • with amazing accuracy
  • potentially to 3-6 enemies in a single turn using Kill Zone
  • oh also I gave them armor piercing rounds screw you ADVENT

Mogri;2560277 said:
Hah! True. I really value mobility, and sniper sharpshooters don't have that. Pistol sharpshooters also have way more damage per round (at least against unarmored enemies), and they feel borderline essential against the Lost.

Another thing: XCOM 2 rewards turtling a lot less than EU/EW. In those council missions where you have to scoot everyone to the other side of the map in 12 rounds, you can't afford to set up a rooftop sniper. "Well, don't take your sniper on those missions," you say. Fair enough, but half the missions in XCOM 2 involve a timer of some sort. EU snipers were amazing; EW snipers are merely very good.

Besides, you haven't lived until you've cleared out a room full of enemies with Faceoff.

Don't tell me you don't take Lightning Hands, at least!

MCBanjoMike;2560295 said:
More damage per round? Only when Faceoff or Fan Fire is up, I would think. As for the Lost, they're so easy to deal with that having a sharpshooter around is more of a luxury than a necessity. Lightning Hands is of course great and I did pick it for Gerad.

[On the subject of time pressure in missions]
This is a fact, but sharpshooters are still super useful despite being nerfed a bit from EU/EW (where they were literal and figurative gods). I don't have a ton of trouble managing the timers, you just focus on either moving or shooting in a given turn. That gets even easier once you have the Hunter's rifle in your possession...

Anyway, I still think the best thing about snipershooters is that they tend to stay alive, which is really important for the first 3/4 of the campaign. They level up a bunch and get injured less frequently, so they're usually around to shepherd your poor squaddies once you've gotten all your corporals and sergeants killed. Then in the late game they're just nearly-guaranteed damage every turn over the whole map - what's not to like?

(Note that the Hunter's pistol makes Fan Fire really shine, so I'll usually try to get that ability even on my more distance-focused shooters.)

Sensenic;2560677 said:
[Sensenic needs a hug]
Yes, he does. :(

[Referring to the world map]
I've been meaning to ask: what happened to Morocco and Spain for them to be in that awful state? D:
Is it part of the plot, or just some areas are randomly generated as scorched?

[Referring to the photo of happy Alice and injured Sensenic]
I'm clearly still shaken by my close encounter of the snake kind, though, who wouldn't be? Where's the "Stressed" status that I should clearly have?

Man, my role in this is becoming increasingly sitcom-y. XD
That said, awkwardness? Failing to read the room? This game's got me down to a T, it's almost scary.


Infamous third lava dolphin
Mission 9: Out With the Old, In With the Mu(tons)


Welcome back, friends, and welcome back Aqua! Happily, we managed to complete this op without triggering the ambush mission, advancing our search for the Warlock and improving relations with the Skirmishers in the process. Ambush missions are pretty annoying and I'm happy enough that we don't have to deal with that right now.


Uh oh, it's retaliation time. Better bring out the heavy hitters for this mission.


"Hey, what's that thing over there?"

I know I promised that I'd mix the squad up a bit more, but this group was locked in some time ago, so we're stuck with them for this mission. Anyway, this isn't the time to be bringing up squaddies.


We hit the ground and meet our very first Muton! In Enemy Unknown, Mutons represented The Difficulty Spike. Things might have been going fine in the pre-Muton world, but now it was time for the rubber to meet the road. XCOM 2's Mutons aren't quite as scary, in part because this game has a bigger variety low-level enemies to ramp things up with. The jump from Sectoids and Thin Men to Mutons in EU/EW is pretty huge, whereas we've been dealing with MECs and ADVENT Commanders, both of which are sorta comparable. And speaking of MECs, there's one of those in our first group, too.


Somebody musta gotten a bit too close, because the Muton sees us and takes up a defensive position. Aquadeo gets in a decent shot from overwatch, but Mutons are hardy and it'll take more than this to put him down.


You know what's worse than one Muton? Two Mutons! This guy strolls onto the screen during the enemy turn and now we have two sets of baddies to deal with. This is not ideal!


Every once in a while, you get a retaliation mission where the resistance members are armed. These missions are generally much easier, because despite the weak weaponry, these resistance guys really pull their weight. During the enemy turn, they'll plink away at enemies, including ones that you haven't even activated yet. The enemies will also shoot at them, but it isn't one-to-one: only a handful of undiscovered enemies will take shots on a given turn, but you'll usually get 4-5 resistance members acting. To be fair, every enemy shot is an almost-guaranteed kill, so the game can't let too many of them act or else you would fail the mission almost instantly.


Here's the situation as we start our second turn: lots of baddies on the board. We've gotta taken out a few of them before their turn comes up or things will get pretty ugly.


We start with a classic claymore-grenade opening on the MEC; not enough to kill it, unfortunately, but we've removed its armor and brought it down to critical health.


Nightwalker didn't detonate the claymore himself, which means he still has an action left to look around for explodable objects.


Remote Start is just so incredibly satisfying. That poor stun lancer didn't know what hit it. I would have loved to catch the second Muton in the blast, but he was standing just outside of range. Oh well.


Nobody has a clean shot on the MEC, so I run Kirin up to kill it. His Parry ability makes him the perfect soldier to leave in harm's way at the end of a turn.


Gerad takes out the closest Muton's armor...


...and Matchstick puts him in the ground. That's three out of four enemies down, not a bad turn!


That grenade of Gerad's blew up Nightwalker's cover, leaving him out in the open. I toss an aid protocol his way to keep him safe, but miraculously he somehow doesn't get revealed on the enemy turn. I have no idea why that Muton didn't see him, but I'm not complaining.


Mutons have plasma weapons, but thankfully for us this one turns his on one of the resistance members. Sorry bud!


Muton II is hiding behind a tree, which Sensenic tries to blow up with a grenade. No luck, that is one seriously sturdy tree.


Gerad plinks him with his pistol, but he still has one point of armor, so it does minimal damage. A few other people try to hit him, but he's too far away and well-defended by his tree. Time to try something new: FORCE LIGHTNING.


Kirin spends a point of focus to use Volt, a ranged ability that bypasses armor, can't miss and will chain to other nearby enemies (not that there are any here). It looks pretty cool, too! Sadly, he rolls low on damage and our Muton still has 5 HP left.


Kurt decides to handle the matter personally. Standing right next to an enemy is a viable strategy when you're sure that you're going to get the kill. Though it can backfire occasionally...


We've saved the first group of resistance soldiers - or, most of them, anyway - so now it's time to move up. Shown here is Gerad first climbing up and then descending from a watch tower, because the game decided that would be faster than just going around it. Sometimes the pathing does weird things in XCOM.


Our next group of resistance members is hiding out in a building a long ways ahead of us, and they've got a problem. Two problems, to be precise.


Which is not to say they can't take care of themselves! Here's a resistance member killing a Stun Lancer that the squad hasn't even spotted yet.


Meanwhile, this woman has spent the last three turns diligently working on destroying this MEC one HP at a time. Don't give up, you'll get there eventually!


The squad crosses a bridge and takes up positions outside the building. Aquadeo tries to shoot one of the ADVENT through the window, but it's not an easy shot.


Thankfully, our presence spurs the ADVENT to action and one of them steps outside, right into Gerad's sights.


Uh-oh, another group of two stun lancers. Geez, we can't catch a break today.


Kirin runs over and deals with the first of them.


Sensenic gets in a hit on the MEC that was terrorizing the resistance, but of course HE DOESN'T HAVE SHREDDER, so it's still fully armored up. God, I can't believe the game even offers to let you pick a different ability, it's such a bad tradeoff.


Despite my ire, I didn't actually have Matchstick execute Sensenic for cowardice. This is actually a shot taken on the second stun lancer, who happens to be directly behind Joan. What's more, the repeater that I put on his gun triggers, causing an instant kill! I mean, he might have done enough damage with his mag rifle to get the kill anyway, but you have to admit this is way cooler. Execution can trigger on pretty much every enemy in the game, which is incredibly useful as you start facing some of the scarier baddies.


After 7 consecutive turns taking 1 HP at a time off this MEC, our brave resistance soldier has her kill stolen by this dude that just came around the side of the building. Not cool, guy!


Mixed in among the resistance was another faceless, who runs up and takes a swipe at Match. This was extra confusing to me, because I had put an Aid Protocol on him and not only did he still get hit, he didn't trigger his free overwatch shot! It was only in reviewing these screenshots that I realized he didn't have any bullets left in his clip. :derp:


Kurt hits the deck so Aqua can do some damage...


...then reloads so he can finish the job.


And would you look at that, Mr Kill Stealer takes down the last of the ADVENT, ending the mission for us.


Everybody makes it back alive, but Match is going to be out of the action for a good long time. Again, I could cut this time in half by building (and staffing) an Infirmary, but for now I'm trying to field a greater variety of soldiers, so I'm not as motivated as I usually would be. Kurt does get a promotion, which I use to send him down the path of the stealthy ranger: he will no longer be revealed when the squad goes loud, just like our Reaper friend. It's important to remember that there's a consequence to this ability - he won't participate in overwatch traps either, because he's trying to stay hidden. But I need a backup in case Nightwalker isn't available for scouting duty, so now we have one.


Speaking of Nightwalker, he got a promotion too, so I unlock an ability that improves the damage and blast radius of his claymores. I also take a second to have a look at his XCOM abilities (bottom row) and realize that he pulled some very useful ones out of the hat. Shredder is always great, although admittedly a Reaper won't make as much use of it as a class that isn't trying to hide all the time. And he also has Tactical Rigging, which will give him a slot for a utility item. Reapers don't have any item slots naturally, so unlocking one is pretty major for them. Looks like Nightwalker is has quite a future ahead of him!


Speaking of which, Kirin also pulled basically the three most useful abilities a Templar can have. Fortress makes them completely immune to explosions and poison, so they can stand next to enemies that explode on death (of which there are a few). Shadow Step lets him ignore overwatch so he can get in close. And Bladestorm is just delightful, it gives him a free melee attack on any enemy that moves or acts when standing adjacent to him. That means he can run up to an enemy and melee it, then get another free attack on the enemy's turn as soon as they move. It's also absurdly useful on missions with the Lost, since he'll just carve through any zombies that come close. I'm really looking forward to playing around with Bladestorm, it's not an ability that I've gotten on very many of my Templars in the past.

That's all for today; we've actually got enough stuff to do on the Avenger before our next mission that I'm going to bundle it up into its own update. Join me next time for Infrastructure Week!