XCOM 2 Equipment Analysis: Other Secondary Weapons
Acquisition: Unlock Psi Operatives.
Used by: Psi Operatives
+0 Psi, weakest values on Soulfire, Void Rift, and Null Lance
Mechanically, this is just the Psi Operative's 'secondary' weapon, of zero interest at this step.
This does touch on something I feel was handled in an inconsistent way by the game. For most core classes, their secondary weapon is a defining tool in their arsenal, something you use regularly where their tier matters on a regular basis. For Specialists, the Gremlin's effects are fairly erratic, with the only kinda-consistently relevant bit being Aid Protocol's Defense boost going up. For Psi Operatives, the Psi Amp is even more tangential; only Soulfire, Void Rift, and Null Lance have scaled damage, and only Insanity and Domination (And okay also Void Rift) actually use the Psi Offense stat. Even considering that Soul Steal's healing scales with Soulfire's damage... that's 6 skills that care about your Psi Amp out of 14 total. It's entirely possible to be fielding a mid-level Psi Operative whose Psi Amp literally doesn't matter, in part thanks to the Psi Operative randomizing skill access.
War of the Chosen continues this oddness; the Reaper doesn't have a secondary weapon in real terms, the Skirmisher's secondary weapon can only be used intermittently via a handful of skills, and the Templar is very much designed so that their secondary weapon is a backup option when they can't actually get in melee with a target. And even before War of the Chosen, we had the SPARK, whose BIT does nearly nothing at all.
So... what's the intended design role of secondary weapons? The core classes seem to suggest that secondary weapons are meant to be integral and defining, more so than primary weapons, but once you include all the non-core classes you find 'secondary weapon is defining' is the minority.
I'm honestly not sure if the devs were fuzzy on their own intentions here or if they were striving for secondary weapons being defining and just struggled to come up with ways to do so.
The Psi Operative particularly stands out simply because an obvious answer is to make higher tiers of Psi Amp reduce cooldowns on otherwise non-scaling abilities like Stasis. I better get how eg the Skirmisher just ended up with an awkward distribution of abilities.
Ah well. This is still a lot better than the prior game.
Aesthetically, I'm curious what drove the look of the Psi Amp. My first thought was maybe it was pretty directly inspired by classic Psi Amp/Molecular Control Devices/Mindbenders, but a double-check showed that no, there's not really any similarity to any of those beyond the fundamental ergonomic consideration of being handheld. (And the MC Device honestly doesn't even hold to that, looking like basically a gem) I actually quite like it, as it ventures into different territory from the usual psi-power supporting gear of 'something that goes on your head' and 'it's a wand, but we're unwilling to admit it's a wand' and the Conventional tier does a pretty good job of looking like a kludged-together first attempt at a poorly-understood new technology made in a metaphorical basement.
Very curious how the team arrived at this look, though.
The closest to a complaint or criticism I have is that Psi Amps lack any visual connection to Sectoid Blasters, which feels like a missed opportunity. Only a small one, though.
Advanced Psi Amp
Unlock Condition: Completing Psionics research.
Cost: 70 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals, 2 Sectoid corpses in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 80 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys, 25 Elerium Crystals, 3 Sectoid corpses in base game. 120 Supplies, 15 Alien Alloys, 25 Elerium Crystals, 3 Sectoid corpses in War of the Chosen
Used by: Psi Operatives
+20 Psi, stronger values on Soulfire, Void Rift, and Null Lance
Yes, the Advanced Psi Amp is automatically possible to construct if you have access to Psi Operatives at all. I'm assuming this has to do with the lack of a good mid-game psionic enemy in the base game, or more precisely that the one decent choice -the Codex- is tied up in progressing the plot and doesn't even have a proper Autopsy.
It's a little odd War of the Chosen didn't tie it to the ADVENT Priest Autopsy, though. The game makes multiple Autopsy-related research changes to base-game unlocks, and this one would've made perfect, intuitive sense.
Mechanically, this is unfortunately a bit pointless. Since it's directly unlocked by Psionics, in real terms you'll basically never field a Psi Operative with a basic Psi Amp, and this is just an additional cost to getting Psi Operatives up and running rather than a real tier advancement. They might as well have only developed two Psi Amp tiers and just raised the Psi Lab's cost or something.
Aesthetically, I mildly dislike how the Advanced Psi Amp is held to the same visual cues as magnetic weapons in general, as that doesn't make much sense, but whatever. Other than that detail, this is a very nice attempt to capture the notion that your crew have refined the basic Psi Amp design. Te awkwardly-placed lever has become a trigger with a trigger guard that can be held when wanting to hold the weapon at the ready but not actively using it, the weird middle bit has turned into a more solidly-built piece to do whatever job that's supposed to do without coming apart so readily, and in general more parts are kept under a sealed cover to protect against inclement weather et al. I also like that if you mentally remove the grey bits, you get a profile rather similar to the Psi Amps used by your enemies; it makes sense that a distinct physical process would encourage specific shapes such that convergent development happens, but it's also done subtly enough I didn't think to draw that connection until literally writing this post.
Alien Psi Amp
Unlock Condition: Completing Gatekeeper Autopsy.
Cost: 200 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys, 15 Elerium Crystals, 1 Gatekeeper Shell in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 120 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys, 45 Elerium Crystals, 2 Gatekeeper Shells in both versions.
Used by: Psi Operatives
+40 Psi, strongest values on Soulfire, Void Rift, and Null Lance
No, the lower Supply cost on Legendary isn't a typo. Not on my part, anyway. Wouldn't be surprised if it's a typo on the part of the developers.
And yes, the Alien Alloys cost doesn't go up on Legendary, either. It's possible that's not intentional, as the Legendary entry just doesn't have a value for Alien Alloy costs.
Mechanically, the Alien Psi Amp is a cool toy you have little realistic use for in the base game. You can fairly reliably complete the game only fighting one Gatekeeper before the endgame -and it'll be consumed on the Autopsy you need to be able to build this. In conjunction with the relatively narrow, unhelpful effect it has... you can absolutely shrug and go into the endgame without caring you haven't built it. Null Lance is the only ability that really jumps up substantially in quality with it.
War of the Chosen makes things drag on longer, particularly if you endeavor to hunt down all the Chosen, such that it's a lot more likely you'll naturalistically unlock it before the endgame. This a one of the more subtle ways Psi Operatives are a more interesting class in War of the Chosen; too bad they miss out on the Training Center.
Aesthetically, I'm of mixed feelings on the Alien Psi Amp's design. It's honestly one of the most jarring examples of beam-tier weapons operating on a completely different aesthetic, and much like the Advanced Psi Amp sharing aesthetic with magnetic weaponry it really doesn't make sense for it to do so. If anything, I'd expect something more like the Gatekeeper's shiny-white plating.
On the other hand, it does continue the apparent developmental progression; instead of four tines sort of pointing at the same spot and hoping for the best, now there's six tines, two of which fire through some crystal thing one would hope somehow makes the energy more coherent or whatever would be the appropriate terminology for 'better'. Furthermore, the switch on the grip has vanished and instead the grip bar is apparently now the on switch, making for a much more naturalistic grip when holding the thing, not yet ready to use it. Not to mention it has a slight depression, making it easier to grip.
It does also bear a marked resemblance to a Psi Amp the enemy uses, aside color scheme, which is, uh, kinda weird given how the tech tree is set up and all, but I'd rather not get into that particular thing right now.
Overall I'm more positive than negative on it, but it does continue the trend that third-tier weaponry in XCOM 2 tends to have worse aesthetics than what came before, which particularly stands out when enemy weaponry looks so much cooler and largely more sensible.
Acquisition: Unlocked by first SPARK acquired.
Used by: SPARKs.
+0 Hack, weakest Bombard damage
It's like a Gremlin, only terrible.
There's nothing of mechanical interest to say here, other than a reminder that SPARK inherent Hack is actually worse than any human's Hack. This will be relevant in a minute.
Aesthetically, I actually like the Conventional BIT a lot more than the Conventional Gremlin. This is a bit counterintuitive as the Conventional BIT is clearly designed less as a basic BIT and more as 'the rusting piece of junk we dug up when hitting the Lost Tower', but it honestly makes it a lot more intuitively believable that X-COM is manufacturing these things; I can readily imagine that Shen is cobbling together salvaged bits, including stolen ADVENT antigravity units, to assemble this clunky drone, than I can the Gremlin.
It's also a nice, low-key touch how it has two 'eyes' and a top-mounted camera. One aspect of Gremlins I'm not a fan of is they're clearly shooting for Disney robot cute, and while I can broadly try to pretend that can be attributed to Shen's character... that's honestly pretty questionable an explanation and has undertones I'm not wild on, though not worth getting into here. BITs cleaving to a more 'it's a robot, it can look like anything so long as it fits its purposes' look is a much better direction given the game's overall tone; it's not like the game tries to suggest your Specialists treat their own Gremlins as pets or friends.
I also appreciate the BIT being a visually believable platform for Heavy Weapons, given the Heavy Weapon aesthetic. You can actually see the launch port in this graphic; it's the 'mouth' in the center of the front. It gives me hope that XCOM 3 might have a more visually coherent approach to Heavy Weapons.
Acquisition: Unlocked by purchasing SPARK Plated Chassis.
Used by: SPARKs.
+10 Hack, stronger Bombard damage
That's right, SPARKs get less Hack from BITs than Specialists get from Gremlins. And the BIT is virtually irrelevant to boot; the game itself claims higher-tier BITs boost the healing on Repair, but this is completely untrue. It really is just the minor Hack bonus and improved damage on Bombard in particular.
Fortunately, the devs seem to have noticed the issues here themselves, with the BIT not being explicitly purchased at all. You get it for free with chassis upgrades.
Mind, I'm a little disappointed they didn't make Heavy Weapons have better behavior with higher-tier BITs; more area, more damage, more charges, maybe more exotic effects like modifying the Flamethrower and Hellfire Projector into firing streams of Acid that work on robots too. This kind of thing is a natural fit to BITs being a Heavy Weapon platform and the ensuing implication that SPARKs are Heavy Weapon specialists. Was such a thing simply much more difficult to code than I'd intuitively expect?
In any event, aesthetically I quite like the Plated BIT. The BIT has moved from a rusty hunk of junk filled with holes to a complete piece! That's straightforward, but it works just fine.
Acquisition: Unlocked by purchasing SPARK Anodized Chassis.
Used by: SPARKs.
+20 Hack, strongest Bombard damage
Mechanically, there's nothing new to say. It barely matters, fortunately you get it for free, wasted potential, moving on.
Name-wise, it's one of the most intensely confusing names for gear in the entire game. The entire BIT series is a bunch of antigravity robots. Of course they're powered! What does ti mean to call this BIT in particular 'powered"??
Aesthetically, this is a very striking direction to take the BIT. It's not pulling from the same aesthetic rules as beam-tier weapons, and indeed honestly wouldn't look out of place in one of the Star Wars prequels. Furthermore, it turns he 'eyes' into articulated snail eye setups, overhauls the visuals of the top camera, adds new cameras (Including one on its underside!), and replaces the hexagonal clump of the prior two designs with something very rounded yet still perforated by odd indentations of unclear purpose.
I'm not sure whether I like it, but it's very different, and that's interesting in its own right.
I do dislike how the firing port has been changed. I'm utterly unable to see it as anything other than a main eye, and while this BIT vaguely invoking a Beholder is mildly amusing it muddies interpretation of the overall image. It took me a long time to notice literally all the other cameras because some primal bit of my brain latched onto the giant circle made of multiple differently-colored circles and dismissed everything else as Not Eyes. For that matter, it was only in drafting this post I realized it was the firing port at all.
That's not ideal.
Damage: 4 (+1)
Range type: Melee
Acquisition: Unlocked at start of game.
Used by: Skirmisher
Notice that the Ripjack's damage can only vary via getting a crit. This is very unusual.
Not obvious here and even more unusual is that under normal circumstances it's not possible to get a Ripjack crit. Skirmishers get no skills for boosting general crit chance, and all the Ripjack attacks are treated as melee attacks, so flanking doesn't apply to any of them. Since no Item provides a general crit chance booster... the Ripjack's crit damage might as well be a zero.
I suspect there was an assumption crits would be possible on Ripjacks via a skill or something and nobody noticed before release that no method actually existed to achieve this in-game. Oops.
Anyway, in the early game the Ripjack is your power option. It hits as hard as a Bullpup's high roll, and incidentally this is exactly equal to the max HP of basic ADVENT Troopers; if you want to be as sure as possible that a basic ADVENT Trooper will die, Justice is a much better choice than firing the Bullpup in most situations. Too bad Justice doesn't work on Sectoids, though. Wrath does, but is more dangerous, and above Regular a Sectoid will survive a single Conventional Ripjack strike.
Ultimately, though, the Conventional Ripjack is kind of whatever. Justice and Wrath are largely used for their positional manipulation aspects, where the damage is a good bonus but only a relatively small part of what determines when you use them. Once you're past basic ADVENT Troopers being all over the place,... the damage being more reliable than an equivalent Bullpup shot isn't really relevant.
Aesthetically... well, I've commented on the Predator-as-inspiration aspect of Skirmishers, and it bears mentioning that the Ripjack's internal name is 'wristblade'. Strictly speaking 'wristblade' could be argued as a generic term, but I've personally only rarely seen it used outside the specific context of the Predator franchise. Usually people call blades poking forward from the back of a hand things like 'katars' or 'claws'. So: more evidence Predators were a primary inspiration.
That said, I do overall like this design. The Ripjack being a piece on the entire forearm does a lot to sell the idea that it's a hard-hitting strike, giving it more heft and making it more believable that it doesn't break or pop off the Skirmisher when going for the punch. This is notably unusual for this general class of design, too; usually punch-assisters in fiction are lightweight and frail, even when that seems a poor fit to circumstances.
Also notable, though easily overlooked, is that the rear two-thirds of the Ripjack actually looks more or less exactly like the forearm portion of ADVENT soldier arm armor, suggesting Skirmishers are literally mounting the blades and grapple directly atop a standard piece of ADVENT armor. The similarities are particularly obvious in the Skirmisher portion of the final cinematic, where you can see an ADVENT Officer and a Skirmisher close together. It's a nice touch.
Conceptually, this is probably the least jarring of the Skirmisher's elements as far as 'how does this fit being ex-ADVENT?' Like yeah, no ADVENT soldier has a claw-thing or a Grapple, but so long as we just accept the grapple part being physically plausible, it's reasonably believable Skirmishers would kludge together a backup melee weapon with some secondary uses. It helps that Skirmisher aesthetics tend to endeavor to make Ripjacks look particularly jury-rigged, such as them being tied to the arm by wrapping cloth around them tightly. Like yeah it's really a Predator thing, very obviously, but such similarities existing isn't a bad thing in and of itself.
Damage: 6 (+2)
Range type: Melee
Unlock Condition: Completing Stun Lancer Autopsy research.
Cost: 30 Supplies, 3 Alien Alloys.
Legendary Cost: 45 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloy.
Used by: Skirmisher
Has a 25% chance to Stun on melee hits.
I actually like the Stun chance on the Ionic Ripjack a lot more than on the Arc Blade, as Ripjack strikes are normally used as relatively safe attacking actions: you Justice an enemy with a plan to make a 100% accurate shot that will finish them off, or Wrath so you're now able to finish them up close with a 100% accurate shot (Or you intend to Grapple out of reach afterward, or both), or you use Reckoning same as you use Wrath. Thus, where good play heavily discourages giving an Arc Blade a chance to actually trigger outside of some specific situations, with the Ionic Ripjack you're usually using it in a situation where it has a chance to Stun. In turn, this means a Stun from the Ionic Ripjack is frequently something where you can adjust your plans to take advantage; you Justice a high-priority target intending to kill it to minimize a bad situation, only for the Stun to trigger, so you happily redirect your Skirmisher (Or whoever was going to follow up) to working on whatever other problems you weren't expecting to get to.
That's a much more enjoyable, interesting, and meaningful use of a random Stun chance.
Anyway, it's also worth mentioning that you can Autopsy Stun Lancers much more quickly than researching Magnetic Weapons. You usually won't hit the Instant threshold in any kind of reasonable timeframe, if at all, but if you do elect to grab Stun Lancer Autopsy real quick Ripjack strikes will be even more the power option for Skirmishers. On the other hand, if you grab Magnetic Weapons first, the Ionic Ripjacj doesn't do a ton to boost the appeal of using Justice or Wrath in any given situation; mobility stuff will tend to be the decider in the end.
In addition to being pretty nice an upgrade in its own right, the Ionic Ripjack is also very cheap and fairly incidental if you're trying to keep your Rangers early-game competitive. This is good, since there's so few abilities that actually use the Ripjack; it could easily have ended up being overpriced junk if things had been just a little bit different. It's nice the devs preemptively sidestepped that issue.
Aesthetically, as far as I'm aware different Ripjacks are just different color schemes. I do actually enjoy the Ionic Ripjack's color scheme more than the Conventional Ripjack's, but there's not a lot to say about just color scheme differences. I am curious as to why Ripjacks in particular have this; usually the game has more graphical differences than just color when jumping tiers.
Damage: 8 (+3)
Range type: Melee
Unlock Condition: Completing Archon Autopsy research.
Cost: 60 Supplies, 5 Alien Alloys, 3 Elerium Crystals.
Legendary Cost: 110 Supplies, 15 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals.
Used by: Skirmisher
Has a 25% chance to Burn on melee hits.
Much like with the Fusion Blade, this is a downgrade as far as side effects goes, especially since War of the Chosen did make less Burn less useful. Unlike the Fusion Blade, this is actually frustratingly relevant, since as I covered with the Ionic Ripjack you tend to use Ripjack strikes as initial moves in a completely safe sequence of events that benefits from getting to change how previously-planned actions will be allocated. You can still, for example, Justice something that has exactly 9 HP on the idea that if it sets alight you'll ignore it since it'll burn to death before it can act, but it's a much less general and useful side effect, with its primary advantage in this regard being that it's at all relevant when striking Chosen.
Exacerbating this relevancy issue is that the Fusion Ripjack is a bigger damage boost than the Fusion Blade. Running an Ionic Blade over a Fusion Blade is something you can get away with if you really, really want the Stun chance. Running the Ionic Ripjack over the Fusion Ripjack is too much of a sacrifice in damage to really be worth considering, making it even more acutely painful that you're giving up Stun in the process of upgrading your Ripjack.
This is particularly frustrating since Reckoning and Retribution dramatically increase how often the Ripjack matters at any given moment, with Retribution in particular being able to shut down an attempted melee attack with the Ionic Ripjack's Stun chance, where the Fusion Ripjack's chance to burn the target is... mildly nice, and no more. The higher your difficulty, the more likely it is that the Fusion Ripjack will be unlocked right around or even earlier than acquiring those skills.
I really don't get why War of the Chosen didn't overhaul third-tier melee effects. Why not have the burn chance added atop the Stun chance from the second tier?
Still really nothing to add about the conceptual/aesthetic end of things.
Damage: 2-3 (+1)
Range type: Short
Acquisition: Unlocked at start of game.
Used by: Templar
It's a Pistol, but on Templar and animated as firing multiple shots. It has unlimited ammo, it can be put on Overwatch, etc.
Its contextual role on the Templar ends up being very different, mind. The Pistol is meant to be a backup weapon for when the Sharpshooter has to move with the option of specializing heavily in it, and ends up effectively the Sharpshooter's primary weapon in real terms. The Autopistol is comparable in terms of being conceptualized as a backup weapon you can potentially specialize in, but Templar melee is so good the Autopistol is genuinely relegated primarily to being used when you either can't melee anything or don't want to risk activating a pod. Even a Templar who rolls and buys all the Autopistol-specializing skills is liable to spend the majority of their time meleeing things.
The Autopistol puzzles me. For one thing, it's honestly mis-named, as Autopistols are clearly meant to be machine pistols; you can see for yourself that the Conventional Autopistol looks an awful lot like the Steyr TMP just by looking at the icon above, and while an 'autopistol' can be fired quickly, it's not a weapon where one pull of the trigger can result in a spray of bullets in the way Templar Autopistols are clearly animated as being.
Game mechanics-wise, there's little purpose to making Autopistols and Pistols separate weapon types rather than just giving Templar Pistols; it's not like you can find yourself running low on Pistols while having plenty of Autopistols, or something. And on a more conceptual level, the thought process for why to give the monkish psionic melee warrior Templar a semi-automatic pistol is pretty weird. Like yes, semi-automatic pistols are relatively lightweight weapons meant to be used in close-quarters situations and Templar are close-quarters combatants who don't want to be burdened by a heavier firearm, but Templar are so far into the mystical aesthetic that it's a little jarring to see them pull out a semi-automatic pistol, not to mention in practice Templar are generally not firing their Autopistol at actual close-quarters because if they're in actual close-quarters they almost always want to melee the target instead. Only Chosen who roll immunity to melee, some exploding enemies, and Mutons relatively reliably lead to Templar firing their Autopistol up close. I'd really expect them to have a more mid-range weapon to support their Gauntlets.
It's not a terrible decision, just... strange.
Damage: 3-4 (+1)
Range type: Short
Unlock Condition: Completing Magnetic Weapons research.
Cost: 25 Supplies, 5 Alien Alloys.
Legendary Cost: 35 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys.
Used by: Templar
Yes, Autopistols are even unlocked by the same technologies as Pistols. I was serious when I said there's not much mechanical point to splitting them up the way the game does.
Note that if you have Improved Conventional Weapons and not Improved Magnetic Weapons, there's absolutely no reason to bother purchasing Mag Autopistols. Not that they cost much, really, but hey.
The Mag Autopistol is yet another magnetic-tier weapon that looks and sounds pretty darn good. Well, for an Autopistol, anyway; the Autopistol animations in general tend to look... off.
Damage: 4-5 (+2)
Range type: Short
Unlock Condition: Completing Plasma Rifle research.
Cost: 40 Supplies, 5 Alien Alloys, 3 Elerium Crystals.
Legendary Cost: 60 Supplies, 10 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals.
Used by: Templar
This is roughly the same average damage as the Beam Pistol, but with higher lows and lower highs, making it more predictable and more unambiguously an improvement over its prior tier.
It also means that if you have Improved Magnetic Weapons and not Improved Beam Weapons there's virtually no reason to bother buying the Beam Autopistol. (All you'll pick up at that point is 1 more crit damage) The cost is pretty token, even on Legendary, but it's still something to keep in mind.
As with so many beam-tier weapons, the Beam Autopistol looks awful in execution. The venting is also a lot harder to ignore; on longer weapons, it's easier to argue that only seriously improper use of the weapon would get the user burned, but with the Beam Autopistol this seems like an inevitability in so many possible, reasonable ways to hold the weapon. And sure okay you can blame this on the technology producing way too much heat and so such risks are inevitable with a weapon of this size, but that's touching on the point that it's not a great plan to simplistically do this 'conventional->magnetic->plasma beam' setup with no deeper thought. If plasma weapons fundamentally have to vent dangerous amounts of heat such that small plasma weapons are inherently dangerous... why don't your team come up with something that isn't so dangerous to their own troops?
Next time, we move on to general Items.
See you then.