XCOM 2 Class Analysis: Templar
The Templar is probably the bluntest example of class hybridization, being a melee Ranger hybridized with a Psi Operative and given some Sharpshooter Pistol-slinging on the side.
In practice, the Templar ends up with an incredibly strong melee game, potentially a decent Autopistol game, while their psi wizard abilities tend to end up situational and rarely-used, in no small part because they consistently cost Focus and are rarely tuned to be worth sacrificing that and giving up the benefits of just Rending things. Part of the problem is how the numbers are tuned: a typical XCOM 2 mission has 3-4 enemy pods, and the ideal goal of a player is to activate each pod separately from the rest and kill each pod before any members get a chance to do anything. (Said goal being more realistic than you might expect) This means that if the Templar isn't granted an additional turn by Teamwork, Combat Presence, or Inspiration, the Templar expects to only generate 1 Focus per pod, and so expects to only fight 1-2 pods at max Focus. This is important because using a Focus-spending skill that also ends the turn means not only does the Templar spend Focus, they also don't gain Focus; for abilities like Volt that spend 1 Focus, that effectively doubles the cost unless you happen to be at max Focus anyway.
The Templar's psi wizard abilities tend to perform much better on longer, more enemy-dense mission types, such as Chosen Stronghold assaults, Avenger Defense missions (Whether the original UFO interception version or the new version based on Chosen ambushing the Avenger), or the final mission. In those cases it becomes actually plausible to build up to max Focus, then alternate spending some of it with Rending targets to regain Focus.
This is one of the bits of War of the Chosen's design that makes me suspect that XCOM 3 is liable to be oriented toward individual missions being a bit lengthier and more enemy-dense, as the Templar's overall design ends up a bit wonky in actual War of the Chosen but would've been decent enough if these kinds of lengthy missions were much more the default -and War of the Chosen's new mission types are biased toward increased length and greater enemy density (Most extremely with Lost-involving missions), it's just they tend to be drowned out by the much wider variety of base-game mission types.
Anyway, the Templar are pretty weird of a class. Their primary weapon is their melee weapon, with one consequence of this being that they are the only class in War of the Chosen that's completely incapable of using Weapon Attachments like Stocks or Scopes. Similarly, they're the only class where clicking an alien head icon will result in attempting to target that enemy with a melee attack, which can lead to errors if you're intuitively expecting it to target the enemy with their Autopistol. Contributing to the confusion is that if a given target is out of melee range, the game will automatically switch over to such a click prepping an Autopistol shot. These ergonomics could've been thought out better.
Also weird and not easily intuited from the game's own descriptions is that the Gauntlets -their melee weapon- effectively function as their Psi Amp, in that a few of their abilities tier their effects based on Gauntlet tier. And I'm not talking melee abilities, here.
And of course the whole Focus mechanic is unique to them.
Anyway, let's get into their skills.
The Templar has very little use for the Aim stat, so it's a bit surprising how generous their Aim progression is.
A move-and-melee attack that cannot miss. Additionally, performing Rend immediately grants the Templar a bonus action point that by default can only be spent on movement. Gains +1 damage per Focus Level. Killing an enemy with Rend grants 1 Focus. Has a 5% chance to Stun the target. Has a 5% chance to knock the target back one tile. Has a 10% chance of Disorienting the target.
Rend is the Templar's bread-and-butter. It can't miss, does respectable damage, is the foundation of bolstering your Templar's Focus which is essential no matter what a Templar plans on doing, and Momentum (The bonus move after attacking) means the Templar simply bounces back into Cover after attacking, even if their target was standing out in the open. There's circumstances you'll end up using the Machine Pistol instead, but they're not common unless you get the right bonus skills.
Note that while the Templar doesn't have a skill directly equivalent to the Ranger's Blademaster and Rend's damage is identical to Slash's to start with, Focus essentially replaces Blademaster's damage boost. Meanwhile, you don't care about not getting anything equivalent to Blademaster's Aim bonus since you can't miss anyway.
Also note that since Rend only generates Focus on kills, it's important to try to feed kills to the Templar toward the start of a mission. Fortunately, since Rend can't miss you don't have to worry about setting up a perfect opportunity only for it to fail due to RNG, but it's an idea that can take some getting used to, especially if you're not already used to trying to feed Rangers kills to trigger Implacable/Untouchable/Reaper.
While you should never count on the knockback, quite obviously, you should consider making a habit of striking from whatever direction is most useful for knockbacking, at least if it doesn't cost you anything. (eg you intend to Momentum move to a safe spot that's in reach no matter where you Rend from) If you get lucky enough to trigger it, might as well ensure it will knock the target into an exposed position instead of behind a wall where your other troops can't aim, right? Obviously you don't need to bother on lethal Rends, as the knockback doesn't apply in that case.
Since Rend can't miss, Templar are one of your best classes for helping fight Archons, especially in conjunction with a later skill. It can also be useful against Gatekeepers, but usually you should instead use...
Performs an unavoidable ranged attack that ignores Armor on a target the Templar has line of fire to. Can also 'bounce' to enemies within roughly 4 tiles of the original target when above Focus Level 1, with the target preview effect highlighting such victims in red. Costs 1 Focus Level to use. Damage is scaled to the Templar's Gauntlets. Has no cooldown.
Here's the numbers for Volt's base damage:
Conventional: 2-5 damage
Magnetic: 3-6 damage
Energy: 4-7 damage
Psi, Conventional: 4-7 damage
Psi, Magnetic: 6-9 damage
Psi, Energy: 8-11 damage
The 'Psi' damage values are what Volt does against psionic enemies (Sectoids, Codices, ADVENT Priests, Gatekeepers, Avatars) The game only alludes to Volt doing more damage against psionic enemies if you click the detailed description, so it's pretty easy to be left mystified as to what controls the damage varying, especially because the game also fails to clarify that Volt's damage is controlled by Gauntlet tier and doesn't mention that Volt's damage is unaffected by Focus Level. By a similar token, you might expect Volt's bounce hits to do reduced damage, but this isn't true at all. So even though it's actually really simple, it's easy to develop any number of misunderstandings of its mechanics.
Inexplicably, the in-game detailed description claims Volt does 'doubled' damage against psionic enemies. It's true that the minimum damage gets doubled at each tier, but the maximum damage is never increased by more than 50%, so the average damage increase is somewhere between those two values.
Volt itself is... okay? If you can arrange for it to hit multiple targets, it can be quite worthwhile, especially if you've picked up Aftershock, but for raw damage it can be a struggle to justify it over just using Rend, not helped by how one of the early-game enemies weak to Volt is also weak to melee, so Rend is still usually ahead in damage unless you're managing to catch multiple Sectoids with Volt. Raw damage-wise it's overall better than shooting your enemy with a Machine Pistol, and it has the advantage of being unable to miss, but this is complicated by the fact that you're trading away a Focus Level.
Note that Volt works on any enemy. You might expect it to have similar limitations to Soulfire, what with being a ranged psionic attack, but nah, it's perfectly possible to zap an ADVENT Mec with it.
I think I'd like Volt more if it was one of the Templar's actions that didn't end their turn. It would be easy to justify opportunistically firing off a Volt when you happened to be within one action point's worth of movement of a nearly-dead enemy, since you'd just immediately Rend that target. As-is, I tend to find myself hesitant to fire Volt in most situations. This is exacerbated by Machine Pistols having unlimited ammo, minimizing the consequences of a failed shot, and is further exacerbated for Templar who luck into Quickdraw, allowing them to regularly perform completely free ranged attacks.
Volt gets a little bit better once you have Mentally Awake, as it's suddenly actually possible to open an Overwatch ambush with a Volt. As melee strikes can risk activating additional pods you didn't realize were there, this can actually be a decent idea to start with. It also indirectly gets propped up by action-gifting, whether from Bonds, a Skirmisher, or Psi Operatives, as it becomes possible to eg Volt a target, gift the Templar an action, and promptly finish a target off with Rend to stay maxed on Focus Level. It's also propped up significantly by Channel, as a Templar standing atop Psi loot will instantly grab it if their Focus Level drops, meaning that if you're at max Focus Level and standing on top of Psi Loot anyway you can fire off a Volt without actually losing a Focus Level.
It's also, however, one of the best ways for a Templar to contribute against Gatekeepers, bypassing their high Armor, high Defense, getting boosted damage from them being psionic enemies (With Celestial Gauntlets a Legendary Gatekeeper is losing roughly a third of its total HP from a single Volt), and if you've taken Aftershock it then makes it easier for other soldiers to land hits on the Gatekeeper. It can occasionally end up being a way to finish off a Codex as well, bypassing their Dodge, tendency to teleport into inconveniently-located Cover, and even getting boosted damage against them. With Aftershock, it's also of serviceable utility against Archons if the rest of the squad lacks tools to bypass their innate Defense, though usually Rend will be better.
You may also occasionally find yourself using Volt to finish off Purifiers, Gatekeepers, or Sectopods, what with the death explosion making Rend a terrible idea by default, especially since they all have Armor, so if the rest of the squad softened them up without Shredding them Autopistol fire is going to be pretty worthless.
The Templar has a Focus Level mechanic. By default, they start a battle with no Focus, gain Focus by killing enemies with Rend, and can have 2 Focus at max. Many of the Templar's abilities have their effects scaled to the Templar's current Focus Level, the Templar gains 1 Mobility for each Focus they currently have, and they also gain Dodge from Focus. (10/20/25 Dodge for 1/2/3 Focus)
It's tempting with a low-level Templar to think you don't need to worry overly-much about Focus since Volt isn't exactly amazing, but the combination of gaining Mobility and gaining damage on Rend makes it rather important. You should be immediately trying to get in the habit of searching for opportunities for Rend kills, as it's always important with any Templar build at any point in the game.
Focus itself is a bit less central and defining a mechanic than I suspect it was intended to be, but I like the idea well enough. I'll be talking about it more in the context of later abilities, though.
When Momentum is triggered, the Templar may elect to spend the bonus action point on Parry. Parry ensures the next attack on the Templar fails, but only if it occurs before the start of the Templar's next turn.
So Momentum was basically Implacable, but minus the need to kill the target, while Parry is basically Untouchable, also minus the need to kill the target but with the caveat that you can't combine it with your not-Implacable move.
Parry is fantastic when you've gotten a group down to one enemy, as generally leaving the Templar in the open will result in them targeting the Templar... to no effect, if Parry is up. Excepting Sectopods, Alien Rulers, and some area-of-effect attackers, that means even high-end enemies can be trivially neutered. Melee enemies in particular aren't necessarily able to reach the rest of your squad, and Andromedons in particular will almost always elect to throw a punch at whatever unit is next to them if they happen to start next to one, so a Parry Templar can effectively shut down an Andromedon by simply Parrying next to it.
In general, though, Parry is a fantastic ability and it's actually pretty rare for it to make sense to spend Momentum on a move action once you've unlocked Parry. It effectively enhances the entire squad's survivability since an attack a Templar draws by standing in the open and then ignores because of Parry is potentially an attack that would otherwise have gone after someone it had a chance to injure or even kill. As Templar get to higher levels, even risking follow-up attacks is less dangerous than you might expect!
As with Untouchable, Parry works on several things you wouldn't expect it to work on, such as explosives and certain special area of effect attacks. It doesn't work on psychic attacks, unfortunately, such as a Gatekeeper's Gateway ability, but against most enemies it can be counted on to ensure the Templar ignores any one attack.
Volt causes its victims to be more vulnerable to follow-up attacks, specifically by granting +15 Aim to any such attacks. This effect fades at the start of the Templar's next turn.
I'm not a big fan of Aftershock overall, but once Gatekeepers are a regular sight it's a pretty solid buy. Their high Defense and high Armor means trying to Autopistol them is basically a waste of time, while their explosive death, high Armor, and nasty in-close combat ability means that trying to Red them is dangerous and ineffectual if you haven't Shredded them heavily already. Meanwhile, Volt ignores their Armor and Defense, and when backed by Aftershock it'll help your other squad members actually hit the Gatekeeper too. On top of all that, it does pretty respectable damage since they're a psionic enemy.
Aftershock is also okay as an early purchase if you outright start with Templar, as tossing out Volts to make up for the atrocious Aim of low-level troops can work out okay. It'd be better if Mentally Awake didn't require they hit Captain, as Aftershock Volt would be a pretty amazing way to open an Overwatch ambush in the early game. It can still be useful later on, but it could and probably should've been a little better.
This isn't to suggest that Aftershock is bad per se. It's just I feel it can be put off until Gatekeepers are showing up -for one thing, it's not unusual for a Templar to be able to one-shot enemies with Rend in the early game, and killing enemies is pretty much always superior to making it easier for others to kill them.
On Legendary, Aftershock becomes more appealing, because Defense gets scattered around a lot more, and the Chosen in particular can present serious problems in this regard. Being able to zap them and then have your entire squad pile damage on them is actually a huge relief, can ensure the Templar is legitimately contributing even if the Chosen has melee immunity, and it even stacks with Holo Targeting so you can offset even fairly serious Defense values, such as Low Profile's +20 unavoidable Defense.
Marks a target. The target will take 33% more damage or +2 damage from following attacks, using whichever is higher. The effect fades at the start of the Templar's next turn, or after a number of attacks made against the Amplified target equal to the Templar's Focus Level at the time they used Amplify. Costs 1 Focus Level to use. Does not necessarily end the Templar's turn when used. 1 turn cooldown.
Amplify is a surprisingly underwhelming ability in spite of being able to be slipped in for free prior to a Rend kill if you were at max Focus already. Part of the problem is that it shows up extremely early -the Chosen are basically the only enemies even theoretically worth hitting with Amplify that early in the game, as even on Legendary you tend to kill everything else in 2-3 attacks regardless of whether Amplify gets involved or not. The main exception is that Amplify would allow a Pistol shot to reliably kill a basic ADVENT Trooper, but are you really going to buy Amplify for that purpose when you could've taken the vastly more generally useful Parry instead? You don't exactly have tons of X-COM Ability Points to throw around in the early game, so the potential to buy both at Corporal is more theoretical than practical.
Its damage scaling is also a bit awkward, as you basically have to be at beam weapons or getting crits for it to provide more than the minimum +2, yet most early game weapons are too strong for the minimum of +2 to be particularly amazing; the core primary weapons all do 4-6 damage, except for Rifles doing 3-5. That puts Amplify at generally +33%-50%, for only one or two attacks at most. Only Pistols and Autopistols are weak enough for gaining +2 damage to be a significant percentile improvement.
It gets better later in the game and on higher difficulties, with it probably being worth purchasing prior to a Chosen Stronghold assault so you can more rapidly burn down the Chosen, but I really feel like it should've been placed later in the skill tree and also made stronger.
A Rend that does not kill its target has a 33% chance of granting the Templar an additional Focus.
Overcharge is generally pretty unappealing when first unlocked. Arranging for your Templar to kill things is generally pretty easy, and since Rend never misses they're actually one of your best choices for planning around the idea of a killing blow being landed later in a turn -unlike most such plans, one with a Templar Rending the target has zero chance of failure unless something goes wrong before the Templar is meant to land the kill. Why go for a skill that only triggers on non-lethal Rends if they're basically not happening?
... this comes with the caveat that the other skills at this rank are very underwhelming, but still, you can focus on bonus skills or go back for Aftershock or something.
Once you're getting into endgame enemies, though, it's vastly more likely that your Templar is going to be Rending things without killing them on a fairly regular basis, at which point Overcharge is pretty much essential. I have difficulty imagining a good argument for a Major or Colonel Templar to still be ignoring it.
Targets an empty tile somewhere the Templar has line of fire to. The targeted tile becomes an indestructible High Cover object, with the tile becoming impassable. Costs 1 Focus Level. Duration of the pillar is a number of turns equal to Focus Level at time of activation. Does not necessarily end the turn. 1 turn cooldown.
I don't really get what Pillar is meant to be for.
I can think of some hypothetical potential to it, such as slapping it down when facing a Heavy Mec so you can put someone in Cover without worrying that their Micromissile Barrage will leave your soldier susceptible to follow-up attacks, but it seems... very edge case-y.
If Pillar had instead been something you spent your Momentum action on, that would've been a powerful and interesting ability. At that point you'd use Parry to nullify individual enemies and drop down a Pillar when you wanted your Templar protected against multiple attackers, and also have the option to drop Pillar down to protect an ally when your Templar happened to be out of reach of enemy attacks or already in a relevant High Cover position.
Or if it had been a free action, action point-wise, it would be a way to rapidly open up new Cover options for your soldiers at the cost of your Templar's Focus, not to mention something you'd at minimum drop one down for free when your Templar happened to be at max Focus and about to finish off a target with Rend anyway.
As-is, I tend to end up not even buying it in the first place, and all the times I've used it so far were in pursuit of testing its mechanics. I've never once found myself really glad I bought Pillar.
Attempts to knock back a single target the Templar has line of fire on. The base success chance is 65%, gaining +5% for for each Focus Level, which means its functional base chance is 70%. Additionally has a chance of Disorienting the target, 20% times Focus Level. Costs 1 Focus Level. Does not necessarily end the turn. 2 turn cooldown.
Stun Strike is a bit confusing of an ability to me, but I think the point is you're meant to use it to knock enemies out of Cover, as its success chance is not affected by Cover and the knockback is actually changing what tile they're in, potentially denying them Cover.
In any event, Stun Strike is one of those abilities where it's really important that it doesn't necessarily end the turn, making it unfortunate the game itself doesn't explicate this. On the face of it, it sounds pretty terrible. In actuality, it's an excellent ability to fire off at a distant target when you're in a position to Rend a target to death afterward. Even if the shove isn't relevant, fishing for that Disorientation chance is absolutely worth it in such a case, being essentially free if you were already at max Focus.
I mean, it's still pretty lackluster and I wish it wasn't so unreliable given that eg the Skirmisher's Justice ability has similar utility while being easily possible to achieve 100% accuracy on targets in Low Cover and not spending a Focus level-type resource and Justice does immediate damage, but Stun Strike is merely lackluster, not complete garbage as you might expect from reading its in-game description. Among other points, Justice doesn't work on eg Andromedons, so there are targets Stun Strike has an actual edge against.
When the Templar has Focus, incoming attacks have a chance of failing entirely. 30%/40%/50% chance per attack at Focus Levels 1/2/3.
Note that my numbers above are slightly inferred and possibly incorrect: the chance of success might be +10 at every level, as the internal files specify 30% is the base chance and +10 is the per-Focus chance, and it's possible that this gets added even at Focus Level 1.
I might fiddle with the files and see what happens. Just setting the base chance to 0 and the per-Focus chance to 100 should clearly illustrate whether it gets added at Focus Level 1 or not. Probably.
In any event, Deflect is basically an auto-buy. You can never fully count on it, but invariably the Templar is going to draw fire, and Deflect's chance to simply erase that damage is actually rather high, especially if you're quick to get your Templar up to max Focus. The Chosen in particular ensure that even with extremely good, careful play you're going to end up with your troops being targeted successfully on a fairly regular basis. Deflect as an additional safety net is good, on top of all their other safety nets.
So long as the Templar is alive, enemies have a 20% chance of dropping 'Psi loot' on death. This 'Psi loot' works like regular loot, being dropped where the corpse fell and timing out after 3 turns, but if a Templar picks it up that Templar will immediately gain +1 Focus.
There's also a 'Psi Channel' referred to in the files with a 50% chance. I'm guessing this means that psionic enemies are more than twice as likely to drop Psi loot as other enemies, in part because my own play experience is that eg ADVENT Priests and Sectoids are disproportionately prone to dropping Psi loot, but I'm not 100% sure on this.
In any event, I don't know if Channel 'stacks' when you have multiple Templar on the field. It's not a terribly important question, since you will normally only have 1-2 Templar in total at any given moment, and you're probably better off planning around taking one per mission if you do have two in which case it's not relevant at all, but it'd be nice to know for people who like to do things like tweak their game so it'll let them have more Resistance class soldiers.
One weird, edge case way of leveraging Channel is that there's a few ways to kill enemies without actually breaking squad Concealment. (Primarily via a Reaper) Combining such with Channel can lead to your Templar being able to open your proper Overwatch Ambush with something like a max-Focus Ionic Storm. That's basically more a cool thing to try for fun than a practical strategy, though.
More generally, Channel is a good pick if you're not a fan of finagling to get your Templar the kill-strike, or if your Templar has lucked into the skills to be a fairly effective gunfighter. It also is something of an 'anti-Lost' skill, since you're heavily incentivized to shoot Lost anytime it'll be a killshot, and due to their numbers Channel will quite reliably lead to Psi loot drops and thus to raising the Templar's Focus Level even if they spend all their time shooting.
On a fiddly mechanical note, Templar will actually pick up Psi loot before generating Focus from a Rend, whether you're talking a killstrike or an Overcharge trigger, wasting the Psi loot if they would've hit max Focus anyway. If such waste bothers you, make sure to plan appropriately.
I don't consider Channel an essential skill, but it's quite the nice support to have.
If the Templar's Focus Level is 2 or more, they have a 40% chance to Reflect an attack instead of just Deflecting it, sending it back at their attacker.
My assumption is that this is a 40% chance for a successful Deflect to upgrade itself into a Reflect, rather than a 40% roll separate from Deflect's roll that overrules it. I haven't actually tested this, however, so I'm not certain.
The files list Reflect as having a 75%... hit rate or some kind. I'm not sure if this is a flat chance to hit, or if it's a percentage modification of the original hit chance, or if the Templar uses their own Aim to calculate the hit chance and then Reflect reduces it to 75%, as the game itself certainly doesn't mention this.
I personally tend to skip Reflect unless I'm running out of better things to buy. Deflect potentially hard stopping an attack is amazing. Reflect having to jump through RNG hoops to maybe add some damage during the enemy turn is... not so amazing. It's not bad or anything, but I don't think it's a high enough value skill to justify itself.
Immediately swaps the Templar with a visible enemy unit. Costs 1 Focus Level. Does not necessarily end the turn. 1 turn cooldown.
Invert is an odd skill that at first glance sounds mystifyingly pointless, but if you think about it a bit is surprisingly powerful, helped a lot by the fact that it doesn't require line of sight or line of fire or anything: you can literally swap places with an enemy on the other side of the map, so long as your squad has sight on it.
This can be used to pull enemies out of (relevant) Cover while simultaneously dumping the Templar in range to Rend other enemies, drag melee enemies out of reach of the rest of your squad, drag enemies down from high ground, re-organize enemies to increase how many you can catch with a single explosive... the possibilities are limited primarily by your imagination.
I don't actually take Invert that often because killing everything dead makes a lot of these concerns moot, but it's a very fun skill, and if you're playing with Beta Strike on it could be more useful.
Maximum Focus is now 3.
This is basically mandatory. Raising your maximum Focus has too many benefits to be worth skipping out on, even with Focus Level 3 having a weaker progression in stat boosts than the prior two Focus Levels.
Simple as that.
When performing Rend, the Templar automatically produces a shockwave that travels 5 tiles out while spreading, doing damage to all enemies in its wake and damaging destructible terrain. Has no friendly fire. Kills produced by the shockwave will give the Templar Focus, just as a direct Rend kill.
The game doesn't at all hint at this, but Arc Wave's capacity for terrain destruction is directly tied to Gauntlet tier. With basic Gauntlets, your Templar is unlikely to ever do more than cosmetic damage to terrain. Even just upgrading to Tempest Gauntlets will routinely lead to Arc Wave downgrading High Cover into Low Cover and wiping out more fragile Low Cover objects.
Arc Wave's damage itself seems to be roughly 3/4ths of a Rend's damage, though don't quote me on that. My experience has been that it's consistently less than a Rend, but not too much less, in any event. This is a useful rule of thumb when trying to determine whether you can mass-kill enemies with an Arc Wave, and in any event you should generally try to target the highest HP enemy your Templar can kill in a group if at all possible to maximize kills from Arc Wave.
Arc Wave is unreliable but amazing, and the one qualifier for why I might dissuade someone from it -a risk of friendly fire- doesn't actually apply to it. Sure, enemies don't constantly clump together such that you can catch enemies with an Arc Wave at all, but it does happen, and melee-heavy pods in particular are prone to it. (Most notable being Chryssalids, since they often appear in pods of nothing but Chryssalids) It potentially accelerates your Templar's Focus growth in a mission, it's literally free damage even if you never land a kill with it, and the potential to wreck Cover means it can be good to initiate a fight with a Rend to make follow up attacks more reliable.
It's also a notable chunk of why I'm not a fan of Volt until Gatekeepers are a regular encounter, since Arc Wave benefits you in broadly similar conditions (Clumped enemies) but can gain you Focus instead of costing it and even Aftershock doesn't help much given that destroying Cover is also a way to effectively boost Aim against a target.
Immediately swaps the Templar with an ally. Costs 1 Focus Level. Does not necessarily end the turn. 1 turn cooldown.
Invert, but you use it on allies.
Exchange is more niche than Invert. It can be useful to, for example, let someone else take a dangerous flank that is then made safe by having the Templar swap in, Rend a target, and Momentum or Parry their way to safety, but it doesn't have the same crazy potential as Invert.
I honestly don't get why it's the higher-ranking, and thus more expensive, of the two.
It's a bit surprising that Templar get as much Aim as they do, given they only use it when firing their Autopistol and it can get up to +40 Aim being being on top of things. Which is something the Templar is quite efficient at arranging!
Generates an attack zone around the Templar at a targeted location that is within their movement range. Can be cast at any Focus Level, and always consumes all Focus, but also generates Focus from kills. Damage and area of effect scales to current Focus Level, with an area of 2/3/4 tiles at Focus Levels 1/2/3. 5 turn cooldown.
Costs 25 Ability Points.
Here's the internal numbers on base damage:
Conventional: 1-3 damage
Magnetic: 2-4 damage
Energy: 3-5 damage
Psi, Conventional: 2-4 damage
Psi, Magnetic: 4-6 damage
Psi, Energy: 6-8 damage
As with Volt, the 'Psi' damage numbers are what Ionic Storm does against psionic enemies. Unlike Volt, the damage preview will never actually show you these higher numbers, so you basically have to memorize this stuff if you want to know when it makes sense to Ionic Storm a trio of Sectoids. Also notice that the Psi damage grows more quickly than the non-Psi damage, adding two damage per tier instead of one damage; the further your technology improves, the more Ionic Storm is weighted toward frying clusters of psionic enemies.
Also as with Volt, the in-game description describes the damage as being 'doubled' against psionic enemies. Also as with Volt, this is not accurate at all, not when it comes to base numbers.
Note that the above numbers are all at Focus 1. At Focus Level 2, Tempest (Magnetic) Gauntlets will actually do 4-8 damage to non-Psi enemies, and at Focus Level 3 they will do 6-12 damage to non-Psi enemies. I haven't mapped it out fully, but I suspect Ionic Storm's damage is literally 'multiply base damage by Focus Level', in which case Celestial Gauntlet Focus Level 3 Ionic Storm would expect to do 18-24 damage against psionic enemies -easily enough to mass-kill Codices even on Legendary, and high enough that it would only take a little softening up to kill Elite Spectres and Gatekeepers with it. Though honestly I'd recommend you grab a mod for previewing AOE attacks, as it substantially simplifies usage of Ionic Storm. (Note that this particular mod is pretty good, but mis-predicts Arc Wave as if the wave does the same damage as a Rend) And every other AOE attack, for that matter, but Ionic Storm never explicates its formula in-game and keeping track of all those possibilities in your head is a pain.
Ionic Storm is great for clearing out groups of weak or weakened enemies, since if it wipes out as many enemies as you have Focus Level you've effectively spent nothing at all, and it has the damage to do so without too much difficulty. Also note that as a move-and-strike area of effect attack, it has the unusual property of being able to strike inactive pods before they activate, such as if you've had a Reaper spot a squad and your Templar is able to use terrain to close unseen. As such, you can potentially use it to ambush and mass-kill lower-strength enemies. If my inferences about the math are correct, a Focus Level 3 Ionic Storm backed by Celestial Gauntlets would actually mass-kill Legendary Chryssalids reliably!
Do note that it's affected by Armor in spite of being conceptually a pure psi energy attack, which normally ignores Armor.
Disables a target temporarily, preventing it from taking actions and setting its Dodge to 0 for the duration. Can only target units that use the human animation set, such as ADVENT Troopers. Drains action points from the target equal to the user's Focus Level at use. Does 3 damage on initial use, and does 2 damage on later turns per action point the victim loses in that turn. All damage done heals the Templar who initiated it by the amount of damage dealt. Costs 1 Focus. 1 turn cooldown.
Costs 25 Ability Points.
Void Conduit's duration mechanic is weird. Basically, if you use it at Focus Level 1, the target won't lose its turn, it'll just lose an action. At Focus Level 2, it will cleanly lose one turn. At Focus Level 3, it will lose one turn, and then on the following turn it will lose one turn and lose on action on the following turn.
This has the weird side effect of making Suppression a bit more viable in War of the Chosen, as dropping a Void Conduit on a target can lead to Suppressing a target putting it in a no-win situation. It's a bit situational, what with requiring a max-level Templar to set it up and only working on a limited subset of units that is, itself, biased toward the more fragile enemies of the game, but it's something to keep in mind; if you're a fan of Void Conduit, you may wish to preferentially give your Grenadiers Suppression over Demolition.
Unfortunately, Void Conduit is probably overpriced in practice, as temporarily disabling one humanoid target is not a super-amazing ability, even with some damage and healing attached to the process. For one thing, humanoid targets run toward the fragile -the Elite Spectre and ADVENT General are some of the only humanoid enemies durable enough to be genuinely difficult to take out in a single turn, and Spectres are usually safe to leave alive for one or two turns, while ADVENT Generals are restricted to a single type of Guerrilla Op mission. If Void Conduit worked on Andromedons, as one possible example, it would have a lot more to recommend it.
Still, if you're planning to bring a Templar into the final mission, it may be worth considering grabbing Void Conduit for that purpose, since it does work on Avatars. I prefer Volting them, but whatever.
An interesting thing is how Void Conduit hints at narrative elements yet to come to the series. The name could just be a cool-sounding name, but the thing is there's actually a fair amount of dialogue -particularly from the Warlock- implying the Void is an actual specific place. More specifically, the Void seems likely to be the dimension that whatever horrors the Ethereals were supposedly running from lives -which is particularly interesting since some of War of the Chosen's dialogue indicates the Void is where the Ethereals come from. Void Conduit thus seems likely to be something of a sneak peek at what the Void involves, and in this case it involves purple tentacles that steal HP. As the purple in question is the same sort the game tends to use for psychic effects in general, is on a class based primarily around psychic powers, and gets marked in-mission with the purple color reserved for psychic abilities... War of the Chosen seems to be suggesting that psychic powers in the Firaxis XCOM setting are all drawing power from some manner of hell dimension populated by creatures that siphon some manner of life force, supported by how Psi Operatives can get Soul Steal, and even consistent with how Ethereals could steal health from allies in the previous game!
This is interesting in part due to how XCOM 2 seems to be setting up for XCOM 3 to be some manner of Apocalypse parallel, as it suggests that XCOM 3 isn't going to replicate the biologically-and-dimensionally-themed enemies of Apocalypse itself, but rather is going to make the interdimensional horrors more like supernatural monsters. That would even make a roundabout sense, as UFO mythology has a substantial element of being supernatural stories for more modern times, and so XCOM 3 would in some sense be returning to the series' roots by having X-COM face off against overtly supernatural monstrosities. I like Apocalypse well enough, but it was always a bit unfortunate how pursuing the scifi aspects of the setting ended up largely abandoning the UFO mythology horror roots of the original game. It would also sidestep one of my main complaints with the prior game -that its handling makes it natural to draw comparisons to classic Gollop X-COM, and the result of that comparison is primarily to find the Firaxis version wanting. XCOM 3 being like Apocalypse while also striking out and very deliberately doing something vastly more different would be a much stronger decision than just trying to imitate Apocalypse.
Generates a duplicate of the Templar from a corpse. Any given corpse can only be targeted by Ghost once. This duplicate has 4 HP per Focus Level the Templar had at activation, and has the same Focus the Templar had at activation. The ghost will have most of the Templar's own purchased skills, but using Rend costs 1 Focus and the Ghost is not allowed to gain Focus, nor does it have access to the Autopistol. Costs 2 Focus Levels. Has 1 charge per mission.
Costs 25 Ability Points.
Things a Ghost cannot do: they cannot interact with environmental objects of any sort (Including they cannot Hack), they cannot pick up loot, they cannot carry bodies, they cannot use Ghost themselves, and even if the originating Templar has these skills they won't actually make use of Overcharge, Fortress, Sustain, Faceoff, or Lightning Hands. (The latter two for the obvious reason of not having an Autopistol) They also don't inherit Channel, but I don't know if that matters outside the edge case of a Templar dying while their Ghost is still alive. And given Ghosts can't pick up Psi Loot anyway...
I... don't really get what the point of Ghost is supposed to be. It's kind of a cool idea, but the Ghost is extremely limited, expensive, and can only be summoned once per mission, all while you had to dump 25 Ability Points into it to unlock it at all. The best use I can imagine for it is to use it as a distraction to soak enemy fire, but this is dubious: reliably manipulating most enemy types is difficult, good play generally doesn't give enemies the opportunity to attack in the first place, and a Templar is already an incredibly effective distraction simply due to Parry, Deflect, and Focus Levels providing innate Dodge. Why would I want an extra-expensive skill to do a bad job of that role when the Templar has much cheaper skills to do that extremely well, and using Ghost will be sacrificing Dodge, Mobility, and Rend damage?
If you've taken Channel, Ghost can end up being basically free to use, as you can potentially wipe out a pod and find that you have such an excess of Psi Loot the Templar can toss out a Ghost and still hit Focus Level 2 or 3. I'm not sure it's worth the Ability Points even with Channel backing it, but it does make it more likely you'll actually have cause to use it, so if you want to give Ghost a try you should probably buy Channel to support it.
The Templar has the largest number of possible bonus skills out of the Resistance classes, and notably nearly all of them are skills that are not thrown into the general Training Center pool.
Also note they do not get Tactical Rigging, and so are always stuck with just the one Item slot.
The first time the soldier should have died in a mission, they instead enter Stasis with 1 HP remaining. This Stasis ends at the start of their team's next turn.
Rolling Sustain makes it even easier to justify having Templar stand in the open to draw fire from your other squad members, as if the RNG fails you Sustain won't. It is, in fact, vastly more useful on a tactical level for Templar than for Psi Operatives.
Less useful on a strategic level since it's a lot quicker and easier to replace a high-level Templar than to replace a highly-trained Psi Operative, but I still like Sustain on Templar a lot more simply due to it being so much more tactically relevant.
The Templar is immune to damage over time effects and explosive damage.
For the Psi Operative, Fortress is a gimmicky bonus. For the Templar, Fortress is huge, since the Templar is vastly more likely to find themselves needing to pass through environmental hazards. The explosion immunity is also vastly more relevant, suddenly letting a Templar finish off Gatekeepers or Sectopods without caring that they explode on death, and same for Purifiers shifting from 'risky' to 'completely safe'.
It also means you can shuffle a Hazmat Vest off to eg a Ranger, freeing your Templar up to carry other gear while still charging fearlessly into hazardous regions, making it an equipment efficiency ability. You should basically always take Fortress if you get it as an option, especially since the AI doesn't 'see' the immunities provided by Fortress -Vipers will spit Poison at a Fortress Templar, explosives-using enemies of any sort will target clumps of units that include a Fortress user unaware that a different clump of units would be a better target, Purifiers will continuously attempt to incinerate your Templar without ever realizing it'll never work, etc. This massively improves the Templar's already-significant ability to face-tank threats for the squad, effectively disabling some entire enemy types simply by existing!
Enemies moving adjacent to the Templar provoke melee 'reaction fire', as do enemies that perform any kind of action adjacent to the Templar. Bladestorm can only activate once per turn on a given enemy, however.
Note that the Templar's Bladestorm cannot miss. This makes an adequately lethal Templar a 100% reliable way of cleaning up Chryssalids. Notably, baby Chryssalids only have 4 HP and 1 Armor; the Templar's absolute minimum damage is 4, so if you've gotten a relevant Breakthrough, or have at least 1 Focus, or have upgraded their Gauntlets (Which you should have already done by the time Chryssalids are a thing at all), a Bladestorm Templar can clean up an infinite number of baby Chryssalids without even burning a turn on it.
This also means Bladestorm can be used to effectively roughly double a Templar's damage against a target. For example, a Sectoid that survives an initial Rend will, no matter what it does on its turn, trigger a Rend that will automatically hit for full damage, and therefore will immediately die. Rangers can eventually do much the same but even better, but this requires they get the Katana to pull off, or get their innate Aim score ridiculously high through Covert Ops and probably also a Perception PCS, where a Templar can potentially be doing this toward the beginning of the game as a Corporal; they just need to have luckily rolled Bladestorm early.
Also note that landing kills with Bladestorm doesn't actually give Focus, and it has no chance of triggering Overdrive. This isn't an issue once your Templar has hit max Focus in a given mission, but can be annoying if you were trying to build up their Focus and end up with a bunch of dead enemies and no Focus to show for it.
Some noteworthy Bladestorm considerations:
First of all, an early Bladestorm will ensure that the Templar can simply Momentum move up to regular ADVENT Troopers to kill them on their turn. It also allows the Templar to kill most early-game enemies by Rending them and then remaining adjacent to them, as for example basic ADVENT Priests and Stun Lancers only have 8 HP and no Armor all the way up on Legendary, ensuring two strikes will kill them. (Officers don't even have that, maxing out at 7 HP on Legendary for the early game) For that matter, a Bladestorm Templar makes Priests lucking into Sustain much less annoying, as the Templar can simply stand adjacent to them to ensure their death.
Second, a Templar with Celestial Gauntlets and Focus Level 3 does a minimum of 10 damage a strike. That's enough that Rending a target and then standing adjacent to it will kill most endgame enemies on Legendary. You actually won't leverage this quite as widely as you might expect due to individual special abilities -Purifiers might explode on your Templar, Mutons may counter the initial Rend attempt, Spectres will automatically dodge Bladestorm, Gatekeepers and Sectopods will explode if your Templar kills them with the Bladestorm- but it's still a useful rule of thumb to keep in mind when dealing with enemies that don't have some individual reason why it's a bad idea. Andromedons are basically the only regular enemy tough enough to survive that combination without also having some specific capability discouraging trying to perform it on them.
Third, returning to Chryssalids: on Regular difficulty, just having Celestial Gauntlets and Focus Level 3 is enough for a Bladestorm Templar to one-shot adult Chryssalids, allowing you to fearlessly scout with such a Bladestorm Templar on missions with burrowed Chryssalids. On Commander difficulty, you'll need an additional damage boost beyond that to achieve that result, which in practice means you need the Breakthrough that boosts all beam-tier weapons. (There is, unfortunately, no Breakthrough for boosting the Gauntlets) On Legendary difficulty, a Templar is incapable of Bladestorming fresh Chryssalids to death no matter what: they gain 3 more HP, and as far as I'm aware it's not possible to boost the Templar's damage far enough to cover that. They may, however, still end up a decent choice for scouting if they also got Fortress, since you don't have to worry about constantly curing them of Chryssalid poison and they'll still end up Bladestorming twice -once when the Chryssalid unborrows, and again when its actual turn rolls around.
Note that while Andromedons will survive being hit with Rend twice even if you completely Shred them first with minimal damage, Bladestorm is still nice to have against them since they heavily prioritize punching adjacent units. With Parry, a Templar can effortlessly lock down an Andromedon by continuously Rending it and Parrying, remaining adjacent to it, and Bladestorm will speed up the Andromedon's death.
An activated skill which consumes no action points. After usage and for the rest of the Templar's turn, if Rend kills its target, the Templar is granted an action point, but their Rend damage is lowered 1 point for the rest of the turn as well, with the damage penalty stacking for each such kill. 4 turn cooldown.
Costs 25 Ability Points.
Reaper is both a lot more and a lot less useful for a Templar than for a Ranger. On the one hand, the guaranteed-hit-on-first-hit thing is irrelevant, since Rend always hits anyway. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about the following hits missing or being Grazes, making it vastly less likely for a Reaper chain to end abruptly due to bad luck (Especially if you have a mod that makes the HP display predict minimum damage instead of maximum damage), and melee is the name of the game period with a Templar so it's very reliably relevant.
It's also hugely useful for getting a Templar up to speed in a mission, allowing them to grab multiple Rend kills in a single turn, and since Focus Level raises damage the fact that Reaper is lowering their damage isn't as harmful as it is on a Ranger. You'll end up doing 5 damage three times in a row sort of thing, rather than 5/4/3 damage.
A non-obvious issue with Reaper is that it overrules Momentum. The most obvious disadvantage is that it means you can't activate Parry, but it can also throw you when you go for the final, non-lethal Rend in a turn expecting to be able to then Momentum out to safety and whoops your Templar is now stuck in some horrible position and is maybe about to die. Don't make that mistake!
Conversely, Reaper actually goes quite well with Ionic Storm in larger battles, allowing a Templar to chain multiple Rend kills and then finish with a massive Ionic Storm. That's an expensive combination to own, but potentially lets you turn pulling four pods into a clean one-turn sweep or similar madness.
Fires the Autopistol as a completely free action, otherwise functioning as a normal Autopistol shot. 3 turn cooldown.
If you've got the points to spare, you should always take Lightning Hands if you roll it. It's free damage.
It's slightly less useful for a Templar than for a Sharpshooter since Sharpshooters have strong motivation to equip Ammo Items where for a Templar their focus should generally be on their melee game, but this doesn't matter particularly much. Lightning Hands is still free damage.
Firing the Autopistol as the first action of the soldier's turn does not automatically end the soldier's turn.
Unlike on the Sharpshooter, on the Templar Quickdraw is basically an automatic take (Assuming you rolled it), allowing you to cram in opportunistic shots at enemies any time you were in one move's range of a Rendable victim. That can end up being like Lightning Hands-but-better if your Templar ends up spending multiple turns in a row getting to Quickdraw and promptly Rend, which is quite excellent.
It also synergizes naturally with somewhat more ranged-oriented builds or situations. Being able to spit bullets prior to a Volt in situations where you don't want your Templar moving is a 100% free shot at doing damage, after all.
It's especially helpful when dealing with the Lost, allowing the Templar to take a risky shot on weak Lost on the idea that if it misses they shrug and go Rend something, where if it hits they can keep up the Headshot chain until they do miss or fire on a Lost that's too tough to be killed. It's also quite nice for dealing with melee enemies, particularly Andromedons -other melee enemies are more prone to running off to attack a different target- since you're often able to slip in a free shot and then Rend anew.
Fires the Autopistol at every enemy in range, once apiece. 3 turn cooldown.
Costs 25 Ability Points.
Note that you cannot Quickdraw Faceoff. This is true on Sharpshooters as well, but they rarely have a specific reason to care the way a Templar can.
Faceoff's price is a bit intimidating and it's not as clearly worthwhile as with a Sharpshooter. If your Templar happens to have also gotten Quickdraw and Lightning Hands it's probably worth the price (Especially if you got the Autopistol Breakthrough), and just make sure to give your Templar an Ammo Item, but if Faceoff is on its lonesome I'm dubious on whether it's worth 25 Ability Points, particularly since Sharpshooters get Faceoff and have built-in incentives to lean heavily into Pistol usage. Why have a Templar try to awkwardly fill a role a Sharpshooter will generally be better at?
Part of the problem is that using Faceoff means sacrificing a Rend use on a given turn. That can mean not gaining Focus, and if you have access to Faceoff it also means giving up an opportunity to Parry, since Parry is all the way down in Corporal and you can't get bonus skills at Squaddie. Faceoff has to be having an amazing effect to justify giving up all that utility, and by default it's merely pretty good.
Still, it might be worth taking when you hit Colonel, given the Templar's regular Colonel skills overall aren't that impressive either.
Reaction fire does not activate against this soldier.
I personally tend to ignore Shadowstep as it's rare I find myself wanting to move the Templar before anyone else takes action to clear out enemy Overwatch, but if you're prone to eg having your Templar move first and forgetting to have other soldiers attack Overwatching enemies beforehand you might as well grab it to save your Templar grief.
It's surprising how underwhelming it is on a class so oriented toward melee combat.
As always, the GTS skill.
Templar begin missions at Focus Level 1.
One of the most important GTS skills to grab ASAP. This is as much a boost to immediate Rend damage as going from basic Gauntlets to Tempest Gauntlets (That is, from Conventional to Magnetic), gives an immediate +1 to Mobility, makes it possible to do stuff like open an Overwatch ambush by tagging a group of enemies with an Aftershock Volt, etc. It's huge.
Note that with multi-part missions, it will actually add Focus anew when transitioning to the next part. For example, if a Templar ends the first part of a Chosen Assault at Focus Level 1, they will immediately hit Focus Level 2 at the start of the second part.
Also note that since Deep Focus is also unlocked at Captain, you generally end up jumping from 0/2 to 1/3 for your Templar's Focus Level, as opposed to any other combination. This makes Captain an unusually important rank for Templar.
Conceptually, Templar are very interesting to me. While the Firaxis games have been pretty consistent about treating psychic powers as literally wizard magic, prior to War of the Chosen they were generally structured as a system that was disconnected from resources or energy. Sure, a given power would have a cooldown, but this was pretty obviously a gameplay balance consideration, not representing the setting's 'reality'.
This is a bit typical of soft scifi that includes psychic powers. Generally such powers are conceptualized as being unlimited-use, and usually any limitation on usage is a soft limit like it being psychologically stressful to do certain tasks. That is, instead of having a hard rule of a psychic only being able to mind control two people at a time, or only being able to mind control a given person for thirty minutes at a time, you get a rule like 'mind controlling more than one person is really unpleasant and potentially actively harmful if done for too long, but is always possible'. Often part of how these rules are soft is that they're influenced by individualized factors -that one psychic might struggle to maintain mind control on someone for longer than a minute, while another who is more experienced or innately more 'powerful' can mind control three people indefinitely. Or alternatively one individual might be possible to mind control indefinitely because they are 'weak of will', while another individual can be only briefly controlled because they have a 'strong will'.
While some of the mechanics of base XCOM 2 and of the previous game didn't hold to this model, it was pretty clear that the narrative concept absolutely did work that way. And, again, this is a pretty normal way to model psychic powers.
Then along come the Templar.
Now, there's the obvious point to latch onto that Templar Focus Levels are a psychic resource in actual gameplay mechanics that is accumulated and spent, and that's certainly relevant, but what I'm actually getting at is the aesthetic and dialogue signals. Where Psi Operatives were channeling their mental energies into their Psi Amp and then hurling them at targets, Templar visibly crackle with energy in their suit, particularly up and down the spine of the suit, derive this energy from fallen foes, and have a fair amount of dialogue that speaks as if they are tapping some kind of reservoir of psychic energy metaphysically attached to the Earth. Particularly significant is how all this connects to the Warlock, who for one thing seems to have been intended at some point to also use a Focus Level system going by bits from the files -and visually, it's worth noting that as he trains up through his tiers he actually ends up with similar crackling energy effects to a Templar.
A related point to all this is that the Templar's mechanics completely abandon the notion of Psi Offense vs Will. The Psi Operative was already pretty light on such mechanics, with only Insanity, Domination, and the Insanity sub-component of Void Rift caring about the user's Psi Offense stat or the target's Will stat, but they did have such mechanics, and conceptually related to this is that eg Soulfire couldn't be used on robotic enemies. The Templar completely abandons the notion that psychic powers are mental abilities interfacing organisms: even Void Conduit is pretty obviously operating on animation limitations, not on 'psychic powers only work on organic beings'. Ghost is more ambiguous, but still seems likely to be driven more by animation limitations than anything else.
On the whole, War of the Chosen seems to have shifted from a model of psychic powers being organically-rooted ways to manipulate organisms to being wizard magic that draws on a well of energy in another dimension. I'm perfectly fine with that: my complaint with the previous game's handling of psychic powers wasn't that they were wizard magic, it was that the game consistently tried to pretend it was mind-to-mind stuff while refusing to actually hold itself to a model in which that was particularly true. The Firaxis games approaching remodeling themselves so that their setting's psychic powers are something more or less entirely unlike classic X-COM's psychic powers is actually something I'm quite happy to see, for all that I'd like to see another X-COM-like game execute classic X-COM's psychic powers with better game balance while staying true to the conceptual model.
Aesthetically, the Templar are actually my favorite of the Resistance classes. The combination of a vaguely Shaolin monk appearance with obviously technological apparatuses designed to capture and channel psionic energies is visually striking and gives the Templar an immediately distinct appearance on the battlefield that fits together with the narrative concept of what they are, and in conjunction with their dialogue is a big part of what hints at the changed concept of what psychic powers are. Among other points, the crackling energy I alluded to before is centered primarily on the spine of the Templar's outfit, and secondarily on their arms, where their gauntlets are -there's little, if any, energy around their heads, firmly cementing that the Templar's psychic powers aren't particularly rooted in using their brains to do magic.
If it's cribbed from something else the way the Skirmisher aesthetic borrows from Predators or the way the Reaper aesthetic borrows from the Metro series, it's a much more natural cribbing than either of those two cases. I readily buy that the Templar aesthetic grows from where they are in XCOM 2's world in a way that the Skirmishers and Reapers fail to sell me on, which is much more my issue with those two pulling from other sources than the fact that they draw inspiration at all.
Next time, we cover the Guerrilla Tactics School.
See you then.