XCOM 2 Equipment Analysis: Chosen Loot

These are all acquired by successfully assaulting a Chosen Stronghold, which will then unlock a Research project that, once performed, adds one copy of each weapon from that Chosen to your inventory. Like the DLC unique gear, these are irretrievably lost if you abandon the body of someone who was carrying them, so try to not leave them behind.

All of these are tuned as slightly better than beam-tier equivalents, as far as raw stats goes, but then they also all tack on at least one more unusual quality, and the primary weapons all have four Superior-tier Weapon Attachments pre-slotted, which is more than you can ever manually apply to a weapon. (Note that you can't replace these Weapon Attachments; like Tactical Legacy weapons, they're fixed. It still matters that they're Weapon Attachments rather than innate qualities, though, due to Inside Knowledge existing) This plus higher base qualities is often already plenty to push aside regular equivalents, even in cases where the set of Weapon Attachments is less than optimal.

Also note that all of these are internally classed as beam-tier weapons for Breakthrough purposes, and thus Breakthroughs can't cause them to fall behind their peers, which is particularly important to the primary weapons.


Disruptor Rifle
Damage: 7-9 (+4)
Range: Medium
Attachments: Superior Scope, Superior Expanded Magazine, Superior Hair Trigger, Superior Stock
Used by: Rangers, Specialists, Psi Operatives, Rookies
Special: Always crits on a successful hit against Sectoids, ADVENT Priests, Codex, Gatekeepers, and Avatars. (Normally Overwatch fire will still not crit)

I wouldn't be surprised if it also always crits against the Warlock, but in actual play this scenario will never crop up, so it's only relevant if you mess around with mods to get it early or the like.

Also note that the auto-crit on the Disruptor Rifle is not like the auto-crit on Rupture, and will be completely canceled out by a Graze triggering. This is a genuinely relevant concern, since Codices and Avatar both have innate Dodge stats! (Interestingly, it does not auto-crit against Spectres, even though they have a Psi Attack stat)

Specialists love the Disruptor Rifle. They'd arguably rather have a Repeater over a Hair Trigger for maximum Overwatch boosting, but otherwise this is pretty much perfect. Expanded ammo to maximize Guardian trigger potential, auto-crits on key targets gets to go through even on Overwatch thanks to Cool Under Pressure, Superior Scope maximizes odds of hitting, and Superior Stock means that when your Overwatch shots miss thanks to the accuracy penalty they still get to do damage. It's also subtly convenient how proper robots don't overlap with psionic units at all, providing clarity on what merits shooting vs what merits eg Combat Protocol or Haywire Protocol.

Rangers would usually rather have a Shotgun -they can easily get crits without a mandatory crit effect- and Psi Operatives aren't exactly a stellar user of the Disruptor Rifle. Rookies would love it if real play had it at all likely to crop up, though.

Also note that Bluescreen Rounds is worth considering taking on whoever has the Disruptor Rifle regardless. Codices and Gatekeepers will take a minimum of 16 damage from a successful hit -well, a Codex can Dodge and so take only 8 as its minimum, but that's still really good- which is enough to kill a Codex in one hit if it doesn't Dodge even on Legendary and is more than half a Gatekeeper's maximum HP.

Unfortunately, the Disruptor Rifle is easily the worst of the Chosen loot. First and foremost, it's alone; the other Chosen loot is provided in pairs of a primary weapon and a secondary weapon, whereas there's no Warlock Psi Amp or Warlock Gremlin to go with the Disruptor Rifle. If you're picking which Stronghold to assault purely on the basis of loot value, the Warlock ranks dead last right there.

Secondly, as a consequence of the above the Warlock is the only Chosen where finishing him doesn't provide a reliable, general damage increase to one of your soldiers; the secondary weapons of Chosen loot all have boosted damage over their regular counterparts, the primary weapons just get an additional point of crit damage... which, uh, might actually be an accident, as their crit damage values are identical to the crit damage values of their equivalent weapons in the base game. I find it entirely plausible that they set the Chosen weapon damage, then later in development nerfed the crit damage on multiple weapons, and nobody noticed this made some Chosen weapons more lethal on crits than their ordinary counterparts.

Anyway, third, the Disruptor Rifle's unique effect is probably the second-most lackluster of the unique effects. Auto-critting against some specific enemies is nice and all, but if the mission doesn't include any of those enemies -which will happen with some regularity- it's not helping at all, some percentage of the time you are fighting those enemies it effectively doesn't contribute anyway because eg you should still pursue flanks for accuracy purposes and 40% of those flank hits would've been crits anyway (And if you're talking a Specialist, same for 40% of your Overwatch hits on susceptible enemies), and even if you ignore all that and treat it as +4 damage in some situations, that's pretty good but not a gamechanger the way some of the Chosen loot weapons are.

All that said, which Chosen loot is the best loot is far from the strongest influence on which loot you acquire first, especially if you're playing on Legendary where it takes forever to advance down the Chosen Covert Op chains. If the Warlock is your first Chosen encountered, he may end up the first you finish off simply because the mechanics tend to conspire to give you a head start on hitting whatever Chosen you first encounter. In addition to that, the Warlock is, in a lot of ways, the nastiest of the Chosen, especially to have him stumble upon you when you're unprepared; you may finish him first just so he'll stop ambushing your squads. Speaking of ambushes, the Ambush and Capture chances on Covert Ops go away once their Chosen is gone; if you really want some Covert Op's benefits but don't want to risk an Ambush or Capture, and the Covert Op is under whichever Resistance faction opposes the Warlock in your run? You may wish to take him out just to remove that risk.

Still a bit disappointing of loot, mind, but this is at least less harmful to the experience than it might otherwise be.

Also, something worth pointing out is that while Chosen primary weapons all have four Weapon Attachments, and are ostensibly used by the Chosen, the obvious implication of these two points isn't actually followed through; the Warlock won't do damage on missed shots, nor will he occasionally have his actions refunded when firing. Not that it's terribly relevant in the Disruptor Rifle's case; the Warlock almost never fires it anyway.

Bizarre mechanics aside: Hail of Bullets zeroing out crit chance overrules the Disruptor Rifle forcing crits. If you're not paying attention, it's easy to take a shot you're sure will kill a Codex, and whoops it survives and splits!

Conceptually, the Disruptor Rifle's gimmick looks to me to exist entirely due to the desire to have Chosen loot have distinctive, unique qualities. It doesn't auto-crit on psionic units in the Warlock's hands, and there's no lore justification for this rather strange behavior that I'm aware. Indeed, it's worth pointing out that the Warlock is obsessed with psionic power and seems genuinely loyal to the Ethereals; he's really the last of the Chosen you'd expect to have a psi-slaying weapon.

There's ways to spin this as making sense, but that's a bit beside my actual point. The point is this looks to be another casualty of War of the Chosen being a bit rushed; I'll be getting into this more when we get to the Warlock himself, but his design really makes more sense if he was originally imagined as providing Templar Gauntlets when finished off. I strongly suspect this got dropped due to technical problems, with the Disruptor Rifle kludged in so he'd still provide loot.



Arashi
Damage: 8-10 (+5)
Range: Superior Short
Attachments: Superior Laser Sight, Superior Expanded Magazine, Superior Hair Trigger, Superior Stock.
Used by: Rangers
Special: Base crit chance is only 10%. Aim climb behavior is unique, providing a maximum of +40 Aim at point-blank while suffering only up to -10 Aim at maximum range.

Arashi's Aim climb behavior is that of a Shotgun's, except with a significantly curtailed penalty for being at a distance. In conjunction with the built-in Superior Stock, the Arashi gives a Ranger substantially better ability to contribute at a distance, making Rapid Fire much more appealing in the late game.

Overall, the Arashi is the second-least notable of the Chosen loot weapons, and honestly would be arguably more disappointing than the Disruptor Rifle if it weren't for the caveat that the Disruptor is the only loot the Warlock provides where the Arashi comes with the Katana. Having 20 more Aim at long range compared to a Storm Gun is mildly nice, but you have little incentive to really lean into it -for one thing, the Laser Sight and the Ranger doing extra damage on flanks encourage close-range fire regardless. For another, Rangers have all kinds of other natural incentives to get close to most targets, like Bladestorm, Slash access, etc. For a third, if you desperately want a Ranger firing accurately at long ranges, a Plasma Rifle is already an option; sacrificing a point of damage isn't so bad at these damage values, and depending on the state of your run you might not be sacrificing damage at all. (ie if you have the Improved Rifles Breakthrough but not the Improved Shotguns Breakthrough)

Regardless, the Arashi's four Weapon Attachments are pretty much exactly what you'd want if you could assemble four onto a Shotgun yourself, it has an extra point of crit damage and will crit pretty often 'cause Shotgun so this is quite relevant, and it has no disadvantages relative to a Storm Gun, so it's still a nice little improvement. Boring in practice, but nice.

Conceptually, the Arashi is interesting to me primarily for how it strongly signals that the Assassin is meant to be the Chosen version of a Ranger in particular. The narrative elements are fairly in your face about connecting the Chosen to Resistance classes, but the gameplay seems to be shooting for them being X-COM classes, Chosen-ified. The game doesn't do a lot with this, possibly due to being rushed, but it's a nice little low-key 'in a mirror darkly' thing, and one of the things that makes me think there were intended to be more Chosen than we actually got. You'd need four Chosen just for the core classes, after all, and with the Warlock acting as a Psi Operative parallel that's really five Chosen needed. Six if they included a SPARK-equivalent Chosen, though I'd be surprised if that was ever seriously considered as a possibility. And 8 or 9 if there were intended to be Chosen paralleling the Resistance classes more properly in the manner the Templar really seems to have been originally meant to parallel Templar, and only later kind of clunkily made a Psi Operative equivalent.

Also note that the Arashi's unique Aim behavior is, like the Disruptor Rifle, not reflected in the Assassin's mechanics. Mind, this is because the AI doesn't play by the same rules as the player when it comes to Aim climb in general, but that's for another post. It's also, as with the Disruptor Rifle, not terribly important in practice since the Assassin is only slightly more prone to using her firearm than the Warlock...


Katana
Damage: 8-9 (+3)
Range: Melee
Used by: Rangers
Special: +100 Aim, 5 Pierce.

Note that +100 Aim is, in conjunction with innate Aim on a Ranger, enough to ensure the Katana will always hit even with Bladestorm strikes against targets with high innate Defense. It also means the Katana never has to worry about Dodge rolls.

Assuming you're only fielding one Ranger at a time and don't ever lose the Katana, the Katana causes Rangers to pretty cleanly pull ahead of Templar as reliable melee damage-dealers. 5 Pierce is enough that only Closed Gatekeepers get to benefit from any of their Armor below Legendary, and on Legendary only Sectopods get added to the list of things the Katana doesn't do full damage to... and both of those are enemies a Ranger should generally not be trying to melee anyway, thanks to their death explosion.

The following is a list of endgame enemies that a Ranger can reliably one-shot with a Katana all the way up to Legendary, backed only by Blade Mastery. (ie assuming 10 minimum damage)

Sectoids, Psi Zombies, Basic Mecs, Elite ADVENT Shieldbearers, Vipers, Spectral Zombies generated by a fully trained Warlockand most Lost.

These are all enemies you can park a Bladestorm Ranger next to, confident they'll die no matter what, even if no damage has been done to them ahead of time. Elite ADVENT Troopers and Mutons will also often die, but it's not guaranteed, and it's fairly dangerous with Mutons as they can actually Counter Bladestorm, but still stuff useful to keep in mind. Also noteworthy is that if you're playing below Legendary Chryssalids will always die to a Blademaster Bladestorm Ranger, letting you scout with them completely fearlessly. If you have a Sword Breakthrough, Elite ADVENT Troopers and Mutons will reliably die on Legendary as well. (Well, assuming the Muton doesn't Counter...)

The following is a list of enemies who won't necessarily die to two Katana strikes on Legendary, backed only by Blade Mastery. (ie assuming 20 minimum damage)

Elite Spectres, Archons, Andromedons, Muton Berserkers, Sectopods, Gatekeepers, Chosen, Alien Rulers, and Avatars.

In virtually every other case, having a Blade Mastery Bladestorm Ranger Slash the target and stay parked next to it will ensure the enemy dies without acting. Codices are a partial exception, as if they elect to Teleport this will bypass Bladestorm, and teleporting is their default. Conversely, Andromedons will actually usually die in two Katana strikes, and in fact if a Breakthrough is boosting the Katana's damage then the Andromedon is guaranteed to die.

The Katana makes Bladestorm much more widely useful. If you prefer to ignore Bladestorm in the base game, consider giving it a try anew in War of the Chosen once you've got the Assassin handled for good. 

The Katana is a particularly big jump in power if you don't have the Alien Hunters DLC, but is always a notable damage spike. Above and beyond how the inability to miss and its access to Pierce make it more widely, consistently lethal, its actual base damage is notably higher than melee Fusion weapons; 8-9 vs 5-7 for a Fusion Blade or 6-8 for the Fusion Axe. That is, the Katana's minimum damage is equal to the Fusion Axe's maximum. Backed by Blademaster, it actually hits harder than the Arashi if we ignore crits and Hunter's Instincts. (10-11 vs 8-10) Among other points, this means a Ranger carrying both is usually better off Slashing non-exploding targets that don't use Cover, such as Chryssalids and Faceless.

The Bladestorm point also means that realistically you should treat Slashing a target as twice as lethal as all that. Bladestorm even goes before the victim takes action properly; the only caveat to keep in mind is that if the Ranger is killed, Mid Controlled, or disabled by some other enemy before the Ranger's target moves, the Bladestorm strike won't go off.

Killing the Assassin thus flips the Ranger back to their early-game state of tending to prefer melee as a default by a fairly wide margin. A Blademaster Bladestorm Katana Ranger will output 20-22 damage against a given target -and remember that it can catch other enemies, such as if you open an Overwatch ambush by Slashing into the middle of the group- where a Hunter's Instincts critting Arashi shot is only 14-16 damage. (And note this is being generous to shooting; the Katana can crit after all, the Arashi can potentially fail to crit, as well as potentially missing or Grazing, and Armor will hurt the Arashi's damage but usually not the Katana's, and still less the Katana's when the Armor is high enough to affect the Katana's damage) If Rapid Fire hadn't been given a cooldown Arashi would tend to win against flankable targets, but it does have a fairly harsh cooldown; Slashing should be your default, and Rapid Firing reserved for key nasties like the remaining Chosen and enemies that explode you still want to pile damage onto.

Conceptually, the Katana is the first Chosen weapon where its behavior is reasonably equivalent in Chosen hands vs X-COM's hands; you can't miss or Graze, neither can she, and you both ignore up to 5 points of Armor. She inflicts Daze with it, but that really is the only actual difference. She even has code and lines for Bladestorm, though they're not used in the actual release.

I have mixed feelings about the Katana's perfect accuracy. In terms of pure gameplay, it's definitely appreciated, as melee attacks missing is much more punishing than ranged attacks missing, and the game has such limited tools for mitigating melee miss chances. Ranged weapons can get height advantage for an Aim boost, and non-Long-ranged weapons can get a further boost by closing, allowing tactical maneuvering to potentially eliminate a miss chance on them, just as universally available tools that don't require specific classes or high enough levels. Melee weapons get... Holo Targeting, Aftershock-backed Volt, and Bondmate targeting assistance. The game's design is really just poorly-suited to having melee attacks that can miss, and the Ranger in particular exacerbates the issue by having Untouchable and Implacable make such misses much swingier; a 99% chance to hit a nearly-dead target will, the vast majority of the time, let a highly experienced Ranger kill a target, bounce back into Cover, and shrug off one enemy attack even if it normally can't miss... and if that 1% miss chance triggers, the Ranger is now a sitting duck, in addition to the target surviving. That's not good risk/reward tuning, among other issues.

Yet while I very much approve of it in terms of XCOM 2's game design evolving in a direction that heavily implies the devs recognized that melee miss chances are a terrible fit for the design, the narrative/conceptual end is just plain strange. Why is the Katana a perfectly accurate weapon, anyway? Tygan's research report alludes to it being accurate, but there's not a handwave about it being charged with psionic energy to self-aim to some extent or anything like that. Nor is the weapon obviously technological such that I can assume it's somehow able to correct the strike with gravity manipulation or whatever. It really just seems to be a sword, just one supposedly made of an unknown material.

And even on the pure game design level it's a bit awkward to make 'melee attacks don't miss' a late-game reward, instead of making Swords and the Hunter's Axe more accurate in general, or vastly increasing the Aim bonus from Blademaster. Like yeah this gets rid of late-game miss chances, but a high-level Blademaster Ranger already has a 100% hit chance against the vast majority of targets, even into the endgame. The point where the miss chance is really problematic is early in the game, when you've got Corporal Blademasters who still have a 20~% chance to miss, and the Katana's placement doesn't help with that at all.

I am at least unambiguously happy with the Katana helping to bring melee back into prominence in the late game, where in the base game Slashing things becomes a situational tool even though it's supposed to be the Ranger's unique, defining quality.

Aesthetically, the Katana rather confusingly is depicted with a second blade no text ever acknowledges. It seems likely to be intended to be a tanto or wakizashi, as the Assassin can be seen to commit seppuku when you successfully take her out for the final time...


... but I'm not sure she's even supposed to be using this secondary blade in the scene, and regardless of whether she is or not you end up with the point that this secondary blade is visibly carried by her and then whoever you equip with the Katana within gameplay, but within gameplay is never used for anything. I'm a little surprised the Hunter's Axe's code for a thrown melee attack wasn't adapted to use it as a thrown weapon. It would've been very silly, but not any more silly than the throwing of the Hunter's Axe itself. As-is, this secondary blade is very conspicuously present, even being displayed in the equipment UI, and yet very conspicuously never used or otherwise acknowledged. It's very strange, doubly so since the Assassin otherwise is the most thoroughly-developed of the Chosen; it's possible this is just another casualty of War of the Chosen being rushed, but I'd find that a bit surprising to learn, given how the Assassin doesn't show any obvious signs of being unfinished or unpolished the way the Warlock and Hunter do.

Weird.


Darklance
Damage: 8-10 (+4)
Range: Long
Attachments: Superior Scope, Superior Autoloader, Superior Hair Trigger, Superior Stock.
Used by: Sharpshooters
Special: Firing the Darklance only requires one action point.

The Darklance is a massive gamechanger in how you use your Sharpshooters.

Firstly, there's the obvious point that your Sharpshooter is no longer lagging behind the group if they want to snipe. This alone makes sniping a lot more appealing, among other points making Squadsight decay much less problematic. It also opens up the possibility of flanks, and, critically, means that if an enemy can't be targeted from your Sharpshooter's current position they get to re-position and fire without need for support from a Bondmate or the like.

Second, this makes Death From Above effectively a spontaneous Serial. Kill from high ground, get an action point back, repeat. As most missions rarely range above 12-ish enemies, the Darklance's somewhat awkward ammo supply situation isn't a big limiter in most situations; you're pretty unlikely to burn through all of the Superior Autoloader's reloads while still having a decent supply of enemies to kill unless Lost are involved. And against the Lost you should be endeavoring to finish them with Pistol shots where possible, so in realistic play they're less of an ammo drain than you might expect. It's only in Avenger Defense missions (Both Chosen and non-Chosen versions) and the final mission that it's particularly realistic to end up in such a situation. (Caveat: the higher your difficulty setting, the more likely Chosen will manage to get off multiple summons, potentially turning into an ammo drain for your Sharpshooter. This matters heavily if you take out the Hunter first, especially if you're slow to take out the other Chosen)

Third, Quickdraw becomes semi-regularly a free shot; Death From Above sets your action point count to 1, regardless of what it was before you fired and regardless of how many action points the shot actually demanded. As such, if you were going to trigger Death From Above without moving or otherwise spending that first action point... a Quickdraw shot is completely free. And of course if you weren't going to Death From Above, but also weren't going to otherwise spend that extra action point... Quickdraw is still free damage.

Fourth, turn-gifting a Sharpshooter is much more effective if they're carrying the Darklance, since they don't require eg two Inspires to be able to fire their primary weapon, allowing you to easily gift them a turn for sniping purposes. (Such as if your Reaper spotted the Archon King and you want to pile on damage he can't properly punish)

Fifth, it makes the Sharpshooter a much more helpful Bondmate, able to gift an action via Teamwork and still fire their primary weapon; this makes a Bondmate pair that includes a Sharpshooter vastly more flexible.

Sixth, it helps prop up Kill Zone in missions with time pressure and squad Concealment; instead of moving someone forward, spotting a perfect Kill Zone opportunity, and not being able to take advantage because your Sharpshooter is out of position and the patrol will move before your next turn, you can move your Sharpshooter up and Kill Zone that very turn. It's a bit annoying the Darklance doesn't have an Expanded Magazine, mind; a regular Plasma Lance is still better for setting up a huge Kill Zone Overwatch ambush in a no or low time pressure mission, since a Superior Expanded Magazine will let you catch two full pods with it, where the Darklance can only hit up to three targets. This makes it less useful that you can move to jump on opportunities; 'two pods are overlapping' isn't a situation the Darklance is better at Kill Zoning than a Plasma Lance.

Seventh, it means your Sharpshooter gets to actually strongly participate in the 'move up and Overwatch' behavior, with higher damage when catching enemies compared to a Pistol Overwatch and better accuracy most of the time since such Overwatch tends to catch enemies at your maximum firing range, where Pistols suffer severe accuracy penalties. If you normally ignore Long Watch, consider purchasing it after you have the Darklance.

Its four Weapon Attachments are also pretty close to perfect. An Expanded Magazine over the Stock would better for supporting using Kill Zone as part of an Overwatch ambush, but a Stock supports making Squadsight shots more (If they miss, they still do damage, so even seriously long-range shots aren't a gratuitous waste of ammo), occasionally helps Death From Above (eg if firing on a nearly-dead Archon, even a miss will still continue the streak), so it's not like the Stock is a bad choice here. The Hair Trigger could be argued as better off being a Repeater, as eg firing on a tough target from above with a Repeater could spontaneously turn into a Death From Above trigger, but in practice if you have high ground the Darklance is generally best used to clean up targets that will die to free up the rest of the squad to focus on tough targets. If you don't have high ground, the Hair Trigger benefits from synergizing with the Stock, and will be better if the shot would've killed the target anyway. So that's also debatable.

Seriously, the Darklance is great. If you're picking your Chosen Stronghold based on rewards, the Darklance is, by itself, arguably a bigger, more useful payoff than the Arashi+Katana combined. And then it comes with the Darkclaw!

Conceptually, the Darklance is... kiiiinda equivalent in the Hunter's hands? Sorta? But not really.

First of all, the Darklance is by far the most blatant example of the Chosen not actually getting Weapon Attachment use, as firing the Darklance is the Hunter's default attacking action, yet he'll never do Stock damage on misses or fire multiple shots in a row from a Hair Trigger activation.

Second, the Hunter doesn't actually do proper Squadsight fire. He uses a special action to target your troops when outside normal firing ranges, but the mechanics are only tangentially related to Squadsight firing behavior. Among other points, if he does damage, it's on a turn delay.

That said, the Hunter is able to freely move and then fire with the Darklance, just like one of your Sharpshooters equipped with it...

... but then again, the Chosen are all huge, so from a realism standpoint it's actually pretty weird. A weapon the Hunter can comfortably carry and fire relatively on the fly would probably still be unreasonably heavy for your merely human soldiers.

On the other hand, strictly realistically that applies to all the Chosen weapons, but you don't see me criticizing the other weapons for not being big and heavy in gameplay terms. It might've been interesting if the game had made the Disruptor Rifle and Arashi demand two actions to fire like a Sniper Rifle, with presumably greater power or more exotic advantages to justify using them, but eh, whatever.

For one thing, I'm honestly not sure the Chosen being massive isn't just an art team flair thing. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chosen were really conceptualized more as human-scale supercombatants, and then the art team made them literally larger than life to support their metaphorical larger-than-life-ness, or something of the sort, with this not even necessarily properly making back to eg the writer.

Regardless, one touch I like is that Tygan goes in completely convinced the Darklance must have a sophisticated targeting system, as he finds it unbelievable that the Hunter is legitimately Just That Good... and then the report once the research is completed indicates that, no, it doesn't have some super-amazing targeting system. I'll be going into this more later, but I like it in part because it's one of a few examples of War of the Chosen's writing becoming more sophisticated and realistic; in the prior game with Vahlen, and in base XCOM 2 with Tygan, they had a frustrating habit of jumping to conclusions with no evidence and with the game as a whole unambiguously validating their first, most bizarre conclusion as objectively correct. In War of the Chosen, we get some examples of Tygan clearly having his own internal biases that fit to his general character, where reality doesn't necessarily confirm to his expectations.

It's a pleasant surprise.


Darkclaw
Damage: 4-7 (+2)
Range: Short
Used by: Sharpshooters
Special: 5 Pierce.

As far as I'm aware, the Darkclaw can't inflict Bleeding in player hands. It's possible it can and I've just happened to never trigger it, but extremely unlikely unless the Bleed chance is very low and preferably also can't trigger on eg electronic enemies, as I've simply fired it too often against too many targets that survived the experience for something like a 50% chance to have plausibly been 'eh, just bad luck it hasn't happened yet'. Plus, Bleeding would be a janky status to get to inflict on the AI, since they have no way to cure Unconsciousness; it'd be like a delayed instant kill, only with the irritating quality of preventing you from looting the body if you let it run its course.

Mind, conversely the Hunter's Darkclaw doesn't Pierce Armor...

Also notice that the Darkclaw is +1 damage over a Beam Pistol. In conjunction with its high Pierce rating, the Darkclaw will tend to shunt aside the Shadowkeeper in the late game if you have Alien Hunters, as while some accuracy is nice and Shadowfall is situationally sometimes useful, the Darkklaw letting a Sharpshooter contribute real damage to even tough targets without bothering to Shred them is a much bigger gamechanger than the Shadowkeeper's boosts.

Also notice that while the Darkclaw is stronger than a Beam Pistol, the Darklance was not stronger than a Plasma Lance. This isn't a big deal due to the Darklance only taking one action to fire -you're not looking at stuff like 'Quickdraw two Pistol shots vs firing one Sniper Rifle shot', you can instead Quickdraw a Pistol shot and then fire the Darklance- but it does mean the Darklance does less to tilt Sharpshooters to sniping skills over Pistol skills than you might expect. Thankfully, they have different strengths, so this isn't a problem, jut a mildly interesting note.

In conjunction with how dramatic an effect the Darklance has, taking out the Chosen Hunter is a radical gamechanger in Sharpshooter performance. Two of the Sharpshooter's biggest weaknesses are mobility problems from the Sniper Rifle taking two actions to fire, and struggling to contribute against heavily Armored foes since Pistol spam is how they do their best damage and Pistol spam is painfully vulnerable to Armor. The Darklance erases the mobility problem, the Darkclaw erases the Armor susceptibility.

The Sharpshooter still has some flaws like Long range being the worst range type, but these remaining flaws serve to keep them distinct from your other soldiers, where the two erased disadvantages normally severely constrain the Sharpshooter. This is a fantastic improvement, and has me curious what XCOM 3 will do with its class design.

Conceptually, the Darkclaw is pretty odd and I suspect a low-key example of War of the Chosen being rushed. The Darkclaw in your hands is the same graphic as in the Hunter's hands, and the same damage values as his final form, but he doesn't get Piercing while you don't get Bleeding or his tranq shot. It looks to me like the Darkclaw was given Piercing as a targeted attempt to prop up Sharpshooters, with possibly a side order of being quicker to implement than making it more properly equivalent to his Darkclaw usage.

I'm completely fine with the result, mind, I'm just noting that I suspect that if the game hadn't been rushed we'd have gotten a different unique quality, one actually shared with the Hunter's Darkclaw.

--------------------------------------------

Next time, we start on Dark Events.

See you then.

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