XCOM 2 Analysis: War of the Chosen's Panic and Phobia mechanics

Panicking in base XCOM 2 is straightforward. Each time a Panic-worthy event occurs, your soldiers perform invisible Will tests, and if they fail them they can Panic. This is more or less the exact same system as in the previous game, with the soldier immediately performing somewhat-random actions and then not being able to act for a partially-randomized number of turns. (Unless you use Solace to clear it prematurely, though note that they won't be able to act the turn you use Solace to clear Panic) The only new wrinkles of particular importance in this regard are that soldiers who end up Gravely Wounded will become Shaken, setting their effective Will to 0 until they get through a mission without taking an injury (At which point they gain some free Will, permanently), meaning even an elite soldier with 100 Will can Panic in the face of combat, potentially... and that Mind Shields can be used to render Panic impossible, making it very easy to neuter the whole system.

The main thing worth pointing out as far as the randomness of Panic behavior is that unlike the previous game it's mostly biased in the player's favor; if a unit Panics, and decides to take a shot as part of its Panic, it will normally endeavor to attack an Alien/ADVENT unit, regardless of whether the Panicking unit is part of your forces or the enemy forces. They'll only shoot one of your soldiers if they literally can't see any other options, and your own soldiers will frequently elect to Hunker Down instead of taking a shot in that case. This is in stark contrast with the prior game, where when your soldiers did Panic they had a depressing habit of killing one of their fellow soldiers.

Major caveat to Panic favoring the player in XCOM 2; units carrying grenades are allowed to toss said grenade as part of their Panic, and in that case they will virtually always target your forces. This most often crops up with Mutons, but even your own soldiers may Panic and promptly lob a grenade at their fellow soldiers! Avoid clustering your troops when there's any possibility of a grenade being Panic-thrown, such as if you brought a Shaken Grenadier and didn't give them a Mindshield, or the Shadow Chamber predicts Mutons and you have the R.A.G.E. Suit.

The only other point worth noting is that shots taken while Panicking have a severe Aim penalty. (-35, specifically) They can still hit, but it's unlikely, and enemy units mostly have low enough base Aim that if firing on a unit in High Cover or with high innate Defense (eg an Archon) they can easily have a 0% chance to hit. Your own forces can get high enough Aim to have respectable odds to hit while Panicking, mind, but -35 Aim is still a pretty harsh penalty.

Oh, and SPARKs never Panic, of course.

In War of the Chosen, Panic is notably more complicated.

First of all, in War of the Chosen it's no longer possible for a soldier to spontaneously Panic at any time. There must be a clear, specific cause. Causes fall under three basic categories;

1: Special abilities that specifically include 'induce Panic' as part of their package. Sectoid Mindspins and Spectre use of Horror, out of enemy abilities. Insanity on your own Psi Operatives also falls under this umbrella, such as if an enemy Mind Controls one of your Psi Operatives.

2: Fatigue. As I covered in the Fatigue post, Tired soldiers can Panic in response to basically anything bad happening, and indeed are a lot more prone to Panicking than in the base version of the game due to Will no longer going up with levels. Mindshields still work to prevent this, so you can work around it if you're willing to give up an Item slot. Or ignore it if you were planning on equipping them with a Mindshield anyway, such as if you're prepping to attack the Warlock's Stronghold.

3: Phobias. The primary topic of this post, and essentially an evolution of the Shaken status. (Even though Fatigue uses the Shaken terminology for too-tired-to-try soldiers) In short, when bad stuff happens to your soldiers, such as being seriously injured, there's a chance they will acquire a Phobia. Caveat: injuries acquired from the Injured Risk on Covert Ops are, oddly, exempt. A soldier will never come back from a Covert Op with a Phobia unless an Ambush occurred and they got injured during the tactical battle.

Anyway, this Phobia will have specific conditions that, if met, will cause the soldier to trigger a Panic roll regardless of their level of Fatigue. Unlike base-game Shaken, this is not instantly undone if they get through a single mission unharmed; first of all, you must have the Infirmary built to ever remove a Phobia. Then, you can either assign the soldier with a Phobia to its soldier slot for therapy to clean it up, or you can have them get through multiple missions unharmed at which point it will go away on its own. Specifically, their third mission without injuries has a 50% chance to cure them, their fourth mission a 75% chance, and their fifth mission a 100% chance. (I'm unsure if this is 'in a row' or 'total'. I suspect it's the latter, but haven't done adequate testing)

Also different from the base version of the game is that when a soldier rolls for the possibility of Panicking, it will be explicitly announced that a Panic test is occurring, and then explicitly announced whether they passed ('resisted') or failed. This makes it much easier for a learning player to get a handle on what can cause Panic, and when.

Furthermore, Panic now has specific sub-forms: Panic, the sub-form of Panic, is the same just-plain-random behavior as before, including that any shots taken will occur at -35 Aim. Berserk is all about aggressive actions, and actually gives the soldier three action points to work with, but any shots taken are at -45 Aim. Shattered is a defensive freak-out, oriented toward fleeing and Hunkering Down. Obsession...


Obsessions are a specific form of negative trait: fear of a given enemy type. An Obsession roll means the soldier tries to attack whatever enemy type they're afraid of, if any, assuming it's present to be attacked.

I'm not entirely sure what happens in cases where an Obsession roll can apply, but the soldier doesn't have a relevant trait. Do they effectively have a lower chance to Panic? Or does it just divide up that chance among the other Panic behaviors? I'm not sure, and this isn't just hypothetical, as a number of standard Panic conditions include Obsession in their possibilities in the DefaultGameCore config file.

Obsession triggering with no valid target to Obsess over, meanwhile, results in the soldier doing nothing, though they'll still miss their turn, as with any form of Panic.

Note that soldiers can only have a maximum of 2 negative traits at any given moment, and if they were in a healthy mental state going into the mission (ie not Tired or Shaken) they can only accrue one negative trait from a given mission. The game also caps how many negative traits can be accrued by your squad in a mission, with this being scaled to difficulty; 3/4/4/10 for Rookie/Regular/Commander/Legendary. Yeah, Legendary can have almost your entire squad gain 2 negative traits at the same time if everyone was sent in Tired. If I'm reading the code right, it also completely lifts this cap no matter the difficulty on all the plot-mandated missions plus Chosen Strongholds and both forms of Avenger Defense.

Also note that when I say a trait causes a percent chance of some form of Panic, that's the chance of a possibility of Panicking. If that roll comes up positive, there's still a Will test the soldier may successfully resist. That is: a 75% chance to Panic when seeing a particular enemy type means that 25% of the time you run into that enemy, the trait doesn't do anything, and the other 75% of the time you perform a Will test which can potentially be passed to still avoid Panicking. As such, a bandaid measure for dealing with negative psychological traits until you have the Infirmary online is to boost a soldier's Will. Unfortunately, I don't know what the numbers on these Will tests are; I haven't found them clearly laid out anywhere. So I can't provide info like 'this Phobia is harder to resist than most Phobias'.

Further note that, unsurprisingly, SPARKs being immune to Panic extends to never picking up Phobias, since these maladies of the mind are inextricably intertwined with Panic.

In any event, the list of negative traits follows.

Fear of (Enemy Type)
The soldier is guaranteed to lose Will when seeing an enemy of the appropriate type, and when a pod including such an enemy is first spotted they have a chance of Panicking. This Panic includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered as possibilities.

Interestingly, there's commented-out sections indicating that there was an intention for soldiers who acquired a fear of enemy types to be able to conquer that fear and become a 'hunter' of that enemy type, doing double damage against whatever enemy they used to fear. Some things I've seen said online indicate this was even functional on release but got patched out early, though I'm not certain this is so; I didn't have the game until well after patching was over and done with.

The DefaultGameCore numbers seem to indicate a soldier needs to lose at least 60% of their HP to a given enemy type to be able to become afraid of that particular enemy type under normal circumstances, and my experience is that yes, they need to take a fair chunk of damage. Notably, this means that your soldiers are substantially more likely to pick up these traits early in a run, where your soldier HP values are very low and survival is frequently by the skin of their teeth if they got shot in the first place. Later in the game, even if a soldier takes a lot of damage, it's a lot less likely to have all been taken from one enemy type in particular -and it's possible the 60% threshold is all in a single hit, in which case this would be even more true.

Though this seems to be a mechanic that only applies to Lost, Mecs, and Sectoids, as those are the only units with lines in the config file for minimum damage requirements and I've had soldiers acquire fears of other enemies from missions that didn't even include those enemies. I'm not even sure it does apply to those enemy types. Experience suggests it applies to them as I've yet to see a soldier acquire a fear of Sectoids unless they got blasted by a Sectoid early in the run, but I'm not completely sure.

The actual list of possibilities that exists in DefaultGameCore is:

Sectoids (Xenophobia): 100% chance to Panic.
Faceless: 100% chance to Panic.
Mecs (Technophobia): 100% chance to Panic
Lost: 15% chance to Panic
Mutons (Angrophobia): 100% chance to Panic
Stun Lancers (Pungophobia): 75% chance to Panic.
Archons (Aerophobia): 100% chance to Panic.
Vipers: 100% chance to Panic.

Note that being afraid of Mutons extends to Berserkers. As far as I'm aware, Fear of Stun Lancers doesn't work on other ADVENT troops, however. Interesting that your troops don't seem to be able to gain a phobia of Sectopods, Andromedons, Spectres, Codices... that's a fair few enemies you'd really expect to freak out your troops, but apparently can't.

Probably because War of the Chosen has a fair amount of incomplete content...

Also, while I've listed Faceless, Lost, and Vipers, I've personally never gotten any of those phobias (Hence the lack of icons), and am not entirely certain they're actually functional in-game. It's possible I've just never met their conditions, though: Lost in particular do list a damage threshold in the files, while being really easy to avoid taking damage from, so it'd be perfectly natural for me to have never gotten it organically even if it is implemented. I will of course update this post appropriately if I do acquire them at some point.

Faceless and Sectoids are partial exceptions to the general description I've given, as a Panic trigger always results in an Obsession result for those fears. No idea why. Lost are also unusual, in that most of these are weighted heavily toward Obsession results, but a soldier Panicking due to Fear of Lost will usually result in a Berserk instead. Notably, soldiers will actually still get Headshots when Berserking, and so this can end up cleaning up a decent pool of Lost, especially since Berserking troops are willing to reload and can keep firing even after a miss, allowing them to chain a bunch of Lost, reload, miss a shot, and then continue the chain anyway because hey, Berserk is three action points and doesn't drain them all when shooting.

Regardless, in addition to actually curing these traits, it's possible to work around them to an extent. Lost in particular you always get forewarned about, even if you don't have the Shadow Chamber up, and so you can simply avoid sending a Lost-fearing soldier into missions where Lost are a relevant threat. (Keep in mind that Covert Ops that get Ambushed always involve Lost as a threat; don't send Lost-fearing soldiers into potential Ambushes) Faceless are almost as easy to avoid unless you get the Alien Infiltrators Dark Event: just don't send the soldier into Retaliation missions or missions that rolled Savage. This comes with the caveat that a Beastmaster Chosen may spring Faceless on you in a mission that should've been free of them.

Sectoids and Vipers can be mostly-reliably avoided once you have the Shadow Chamber up. If they aren't mentioned by the Shadow Chamber, they can only be sprung on you as reinforcements if the map is underground, and plenty of mission types are incapable of being underground, such as Supply Raids, Avatar Project Facilities, VIP Extraction missions provided by the Spokesman, and of course all plot missions. Mutons and Archons are by default even easier to avoid since they can't be reinforcements at all. (Exception: almost anything can be reinforcements in a Chosen Stronghold assault)

You do of course also have to avoid Berserkers with someone who has Angrophobia, but this isn't terribly hard since they're normally restricted to Retaliation missions, Avenger defenses, and missions that rolled the Savage Sitrep. (Plus a Beastmaster Chosen is something to keep in mind) It's primarily because it's rolled together with regular Mutons it might cause you trouble, in the sense of ending up keeping a solder benched multiple missions in a row.

Somebody afraid of Stun Lancers or Mecs, however, is basically someone you should bench, restrict to Covert Ops (That lack Ambush potential, preferably; you get Shadow Chamber warning on Ambushes, but only once they trigger, not when initiating the Covert Op), or insist on a Mind Shield until you can run them through the Infirmary, since both of those can be sprung on you as reinforcements in many mission types. Only a handful of mission types can have the Shadow Chamber say they're not present and have it be guaranteed to be true; Retaliation missions, mostly, but also some of the Lost-centric mission types. And even then, Mechlord and Shogun can lead to a Chosen popping in and summoning one or the other, so if a Chosen has the relevant trait even those missions can be a hazard, especially if you've not been paying close attention to the Chosen, such as if you made contact with a new region controlled by a new Chosen and then didn't check their info before launching your next mission.

The fear of enemy types Phobia set is a fairly natural extension of Fatigue pushing you to juggle which soldiers get sent when. It's not a deeply deep mechanic, but it does its job just fine, and I appreciate that the Panic trigger is specifically when the enemy type is seen. This ensures it's generally relevant, provides a big consequence if you're careless (The potential for them to break squad Concealment), yet it also caps how horrible it can be. You won't ever do something like Stun a Stun Lancer, then Freeze them because you're still busy trying to deal with other threats, and so have a Pungophobia soldier re-Panicking every turn the Stun Lancer is alive. It's a neat, elegant system.

Fear of Chosen/Demonophobia
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking when Chosen spawn into a mission, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

Chosen Sabotage can induce this in multiple soldiers and it can also happen just at random from a soldier getting badly injured or sent out while Tired. (Even if the Chosen don't show up in the mission, note)

This is surprisingly manageable, since Chosen only show up once per mission normally and if you're playing properly you won't be in a serious fight when the Chosen spawn in, in typical missions. Obviously it's a terrible idea to bring them into a Chosen Stronghold without a Mindshield, but otherwise it's one of the least problematic Phobias, actually, in spite of being guaranteed to trigger a Panic test. This really needed to be triggered by Chosen doing things to be a menacing trait; other enemy-fearing Phobias are dangerous because they can be triggered multiple times a mission, with unpredictable timing and so on, and so can deny you a soldier at a critical moment in a fight, or in a mission with mandatory timer-evac lead to a soldier spending so much time Panicking they literally can't reach the evac point in time.

Admittedly the forced-evac time issue wouldn't be as much of a concern to this trait simply because of Chosen stopping the clock even if it did trigger anytime the Chosen did something suitably menacing, but having a soldier unavailable because they were Panicking would still be a relevant issue.

Alternatively, if it triggered when the Chosen was first spotted by your squad, when they deliver their speech, that would cause you to be down a soldier for a turn it actually matters in. Chosen are meant to be manageable as multi-turn fights so it would still be less dangerous than other enemy-fearing traits, but it would be more relevant a Phobia than it currently is.

As-is, this is, bizarrely, one of the least intrusive Phobias, and can be practically ignored under normal conditions. Grim Horizon with High Alert can make it semi-menacing, and if you take someone with Demonophobia into the final mission without finishing off all the Chosen first it can be problematic, but under typical conditions it's... weirdly unthreatening.

I'm not precisely sure what the value means in detail, but it's worth noting that every Phobia has a value labeled 'PanicChance' in the DefaultGameCore Config file, which I suspect is setting how difficult the Will test is. The relevancy here is that Demonophobia has this value set to 1.0, where every other Phobia has it set to 0.75. My guess is that this means Demonophobia's Panic test is one soldiers are more prone to failing, though I'm not sure this is correct. This is not the chance for the Will test to occur: that's WillEventActivationChance, which is fairly easy to work out from gameplay via the following trait, which will only occasionally activate, has WillEventActivationChance set to an unusually low value of 0.20, and has the usual 0.75 for PanicChance.

It's possible that Demonophobia having this value set to 1.0 makes it an easier test to pass, though. I really ought to get around to testing this at some point...

Cautious/Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The soldier has a 20% chance of Hunkering Down every time they move and have at least one action point remaining.

On paper, this is one of the less problematic Phobias, with a low chance to trigger, no Will drain when it does trigger, and an unambiguously useful action being taken at no penalty. It also can't trigger when using free actions, nor can it trigger if the soldier's action point can't be spent on Hunker Down. (eg it's a Momentum action point, or an Implacable action point)

In practice... well, it depends on class.

For Templar, Cautious is largely ignorable. They rarely have cause to perform regular, non-Dashing movement, aside Momentum where it doesn't matter. It can occasionally be inconvenient for a Lightning Hands or Faceoff Templar, as those have cause to move somewhere before shooting. That's about it, though, and can potentially be worked around by eg Rending, Momentuming somewhere, and then gifting them an action point somehow or another.

Rangers are also not too badly affected by it. Shotgun Overwatch is very unreliable (Meaning if it triggers during a slow advance where you'd wanted to go into Overwatch, it probably didn't really hurt anything), and Slashing can let them move and fight simultaneously with no risk of triggering Cautious. Once you have the Katana, Slashing should be a Ranger's default attacking action, making Cautious very much not a concern. Implacable also gives them some ability to move and shoot safely: crucially, Cautious cannot trigger unless the soldier is actually up against Cover, meaning moving into an open space is completely safe. Thus, an Implacable Ranger can wander out to get a clear shot on a target you know they will kill, then use the Implacable move to get back into Cover, all with no chance of Cautious activating. Cautious can still create trouble on a Ranger, but you can work around it pretty consistently.

Reapers require an adjustment to your thinking. Played normally, hugging Cover at all times, Cautious is a huge pain on a Reaper, since you want them regularly performing one-action-point moves for responsive, adaptable scouting, and them prematurely ending their turn is potentially slowing down the entire squad, potentially in a time-sensitive mission. However, Reapers don't need Cover the way other classes do; Shadow leaves them invisible unless something passes directly adjacent to them, and with Silent Killer they can fight with no chance of widening the radius enemies can spot them in. Just perpetually stopping them in the open will bypass Cautious with minimal danger to them. You still may find yourself in a situation Cautious is a problem in, such as if you want them to take advantage of some high ground that has no gaps in its Cover-providing railings, but mostly it's very easy and safe to work around it.

Sharpshooters used for sniping rarely care prior to acquisition of the Darklance, since they're generally either Dashing or spending both action points on shooting. Caveat: if you're using a Sharpshooter for sniping in part because they rolled Run And Gun at Corporal, and then they acquire Cautious, it can genuinely be an inconvenience, especially if you have a habit of activating Run And Gun before moving. That can lead to you not only missing a turn but wasting a Run And Gun use.

Skirmishers also don't get hit very hard by Cautious. Usually if they're re-positioning in a fight, it's with a Grapple, or by using Wrath, or by using Reckoning. None of these give Cautious a chance to trigger. Similarly, while it isn't as true as with Shotguns, Bullpups aren't particularly great at Overwatch, so losing an Overwatch opportunity to it is merely annoying in most cases, and given how ammo-hungry Skirmishers are it's even less of a loss than with a Shotgun.

For everybody else, though?... Cautious is actually one of the more consistently problematic Phobias, among other points making it so a soldier in danger of being flanked is in a no-win situation where they can either re-position and risk Cautious triggering, or stay still and fight and risk the flank. Which is very thematically appropriate, a direct example of how Phobias are supposed to be maladaptive behaviors; Cautious isn't simply 'the soldier is a cautious sort', it's 'trauma has made them cautious to the point that it's interfering with their ability to make good decisions'.

The fact that it has a low chance to trigger at any given moment is part of the danger, in that it's easy to go several turns without it triggering, and so completely forget about it while you're trying to disentangle a complicated situation, even with Phobias having their icon displayed in red during battle so they stand out among all the other traits a soldier has. So you make a seemingly-sensible move, and whoops, you forgot about Cautious and it triggered and wrecked your plan to get through the fight unharmed!

As such, while there's a fair few soldiers it's pretty ignorable on, I mostly consider this to be a bench-worthy trait that basically demands immediate Infirmary time if at all possible.

Obsessive Reloader/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
If the soldier's weapon is not completely full, they have a 35% chance of reloading it every time they move and have at least one action remaining.

Note that if a soldier has an Auto-Loader, Obsessive Reloader triggering won't eat an action. As such, you can partially compensate for Obsessive Reloader by making sure the soldier is carrying an Auto-Loader-equipped weapon. It'll waste Auto-Loader counts, of course, but if you've got a Superior Auto-Loader, that's honestly usually an excessive number of reloads anyway so you might as well give it to the Obsessive Reloader if possible.

Also note that Templar can roll this, in which case you can completely ignore it because it can't actually do anything to them.

This is overall actually even more problematic than Cautious. It will never trigger if the soldier is full on ammo, so it can't slow them down in the initial advancement portion of a mission, and you can aggressively reload between fights to minimize its consequences, but during a pitched fight it will be more likely to trigger than Cautious, have less useful consequences than Cautious, and there's nothing equivalent to how Cautious can be bypassed by stopping in the open. It's especially problematic to have it when dealing with Codices, since they'll forcibly drain ammo and push you to move the affected soldiers. This can, for example, lead to a Pistol-focused Sharpshooter still ending up scrambling out of Psi Bomb's radius and then wasting their turn on a reload, even though you never had any intention of firing their Sniper Rifle; one more reason Auto-Loaders are a good idea on Sniper Rifles.

That said, it's generally not much of a problem on a Ranger, and grenade-focused Grenadiers are often able to cope reasonably okay aside the Psi Bomb issue. (And even with Psi Bombs, a Salvo Grenadier can launch a grenade and then move) You can get away with ignoring it on them, generally speaking.

Overly Aggressive/Conduct Disorder
The soldier has a 65% chance of firing directly at an enemy if ordered to Overwatch with enemies visible, losing some Will if this effect triggers.

There's some secondary code that might confuse you if you go looking in the DefaultGameCore file yourself about 'aggressive pistol'. It's just secondary code so Sharpshooters and Templar with Overly Aggressive can have it trigger on Pistol Overwatch properly.

Overly Aggressive is generally one of the least problematic psychological traits to acquire, as in most situations you shouldn't be entering Overwatch with an enemy visible anyway. (Notably, if you Overwatch when the only visible enemy is in Stasis, Overly Aggressive can trigger, but it won't actually do anything except drain some Will; they'll remain in Overwatch) The primary exception is that if you're not paying attention it can ruin an Overwatch ambush, such as if you put the Overly Aggressive soldier into Overwatch first and they instead shoot, instantly breaking Concealment before you can set up the other ambushers. Even then, this can be worked around by having the Overly Aggressive soldier be the one to initiate the ambush with a shot, or having them not participate in the initial ambush and have them ready to toss a grenade afterward, or whatever. As Overwatch ambushes tend to lose importance as you progress, it drops off in relevance in general. And if you are playing Grim Horizon and roll High Alert... well, it's basically completely irrelevant at that point.

Getting Overly Aggressive on a Specialist is actually a bit of a nuisance, once you've got mid-to-high-level Specialists. Cool Under Pressure means a Specialist is actually more accurate in an Overwatch ambush when performing Overwatch than when taking a directed shot, potentially forcing you to unnecessarily risk misses if your Specialist is at eg 92% chance to hit on a directed shot, and Guardian means Specialists who go into Overwatch for an ambush can potentially be vastly more lethal than ones who make a directed shot, with no trade-off in the context of an Overwatch ambush. As such, if you have multiple Overly Aggressive soldiers, you should generally prioritize curing Specialists, particularly Guardian Specialists, over curing other soldiers.

Overly Aggressive can also be inconvenient on a Ranger, Grenadier, or Sharpshooter who rolled Guardian if you did, in fact, buy it, albeit never quite as dramatically as with a Specialist due to the lack of Cool Under Pressure. So if you happen to have non-Specialist Guardians where you actually took the skill and they get Overly Aggressive? Yeah, cure them before non-Guardians.

Fear of Missed Shots/Atychiphobia
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 25% chance of Panicking if they miss a shot, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

This can be acquired if a soldier misses at least 2 shots in a row. I think they have to be shots with at least an 80% chance to hit, as well, looking at the DefaultGameCore file, though I'm not 100% sure about that part. I'm pretty sure it's also just been gifted at random from having Tired soldiers go into missions, though, so don't assume you'll never see it if you never take mostly-sure shots.

This is technically class-dependent in how concerning it is, but in practice its requirements make it prone to being self-selectingly problematic. Templar, for example, wouldn't really mind since they're generally best off Rending or otherwise using actions with no chance to miss, but the very fact that this is true makes it extremely unlikely you'll ever see a Templar acquire it in the first place. And a Templar liable to be hit by it would be a Templar that would actually be meaningfully hurt by it, like a Quickdraw+Lightning Hands Templar who would normally be perfectly happy to toss out free shots that have poor odds of hitting.

Similarly, playstyle naturally makes it self-selectingly problematic. If you're prone to having Rangers focus primarily on sure-shot attacks with their Shotgun or Sword, and often don't bother to take middling-accuracy shots at longer ranges, your Rangers will never get it in the first place. If your Ranger does get it, it's probably because you regularly have them fire mostly-reliable shots. Etc.

This thus is actually one of my favorite of the Phobias, as it's elegantly designed to be virtually guaranteed to matter if you do get it. A player able to reliably adapt around it by making sure the soldier always gets sure shots is a player who probably wouldn't have gotten it on one of their soldiers in the first place, and it's not terribly important whether you want to pin the underlying cause on player skill level or difficulty level or whatever. Regardless of the underlying reason, if you got it, you're probably going to have trouble successfully ignoring it.

There's a certain amount you can do like slapping a Scope on their weapon, sending them on Aim-boosting Covert Ops, purchasing Hail of Bullets if they happen to have it as a bonus skill (Or are a Grenadier), etc, but still.

My one complaint with it is that the odds of it triggering on a miss are startlingly low. Since misses tend to be low-odds events in the first place, it's a Phobia that only slightly encourages you to adjust your playstyle, especially since the worst consequence of a Phobia triggering is missing a turn, and usually if Fear of Missed Shots triggers their turn was already over anyway. I really feel like it should've had an at least 75% chance to force a Will test on a miss.

... okay, and that it being possible to hit a soldier for going out while Tired somewhat undermines the elegance and all. Not a ton, though, as it'll only rarely be selected, so that's a very minor complaint.

Fear of Psionics
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if they witness enemies using Psionic abilities, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

I don't actually know what the full list of abilities that trigger this is. I would guess that Sectoids, Codices, Spectres, ADVENT Priests, Gatekeepers, Avatars, and the Warlock are the sum total of units capable of triggering this, but I don't actually know. Critically, I don't know if eg Holy Warrior or Codex teleportation could provoke Fear of Psionics, nor Vanish and Shadowbind. I would assume Horror can simply because it does psionic damage, but it's not actually cropped up in my own play, so Spectres may not be on the list at all. Notably, the Disruptor Rifle doesn't class them as a psionic enemy; it would be consistent if their abilities were also not classed as psionics. Well, kind of consistent. Phobias really ought to run off soldier perceptions rather than in-universe mechanical reality, after all, so whether your soldiers interpret Spectre abilities as psionic or not should be more relevant than whether they are psionic or not...

In any event, while each of these enemies is individually on the uncommon side, they're collectively practically guaranteed to show up in any given mission. Fortunately, since it requires the enemy act, you can work around it to an extent by prioritizing taking out the relevant enemy types first... though ADVENT Priests have Sustain so I wouldn't count on being able to take them out without them having a chance to act.

Fear of Poison/Toxophobia
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if Poisoned, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

Like a lot of the phobias, your soldiers can get this completely at random, even if no Vipers are even present on a map.

This is a fairly unobtrusive Phobia you can often ignore if someone acquires it. Unless Viper Rounds is active, Vipers are the only source of Poison on enemies, when Vipers are a fairly uncommon enemy and usually prioritize Tongue Pull or shooting over a Poison Spit, and there are multiple ways to laugh at Poison, between Medikits, Fortress, Hazmat Vests, and SPARK Mechanical Chassis all providing immunity to Poison. It's possible to be fielding a squad that's entirely immune to Poison without specifically intending to do so!

Just don't forget about it and have someone run through a Poison cloud from one of your own Gas Grenades in a crucial moment on the idea you'll immediately clear it with your medical Specialist.

Fear of Fire/Pyrophobia
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if they or an ally become Burned, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

This is a lot more relevant than Fear of Poison, even though it also has exactly one enemy type that can inflict it normally.

First of all, Purifiers are far more common than Vipers. Vipers often show up a handful of times in the early game and then essentially vanish, displaced by more elite enemies. Purifiers go to their next tiers instead, staying pretty common throughout a run. Furthermore, Purifiers are standard reinforcements, which both contributes to their greater presence but crucially also means they can show up when the Shadow Chamber didn't forewarn you of Purifiers, where Vipers can only do that in an underground mission. (Which are rare, and rare to have reinforcements, and even rarer for those reinforcements to include Vipers)

Second, while only Purifiers can reliably set things on fire, any ranged attacker can potentially set the environment on fire with missed shots. Explosives in particular are very prone to setting fires. This means fire is a relevant battlefield concern in almost any mission, regardless of whether Purifiers in particular are present or not.

Third, maps can actually have pre-placed environmental fires; they're actually pretty common on Retaliation missions, but can also show up in Supply Raids and a few other mission types. These are generally only one tile and never appear unexpectedly (In the sense that they don't activate partway through the mission) so usually you have no cause to run a soldier through them, but occasionally the stars can align and you end up with a soldier desperately needing to run to a point that does, in fact, demand they run through one of these pre-placed fires.

Fourth, fires spread. If you toss a Gas Grenade, the clouds will wander around for a bit but so long as you don't stop right next to a cloud probably it won't cover a soldier who wasn't standing in the initial impact zone, and even if it does the soldier can just stand there and wait it out. If you toss an Incendiary Grenade, the fire can spread surprisingly far before going out, and crucially if fire gets onto the tile one of your soldiers is standing in trying to wait it out will usually result in the soldier lighting up, just a turn later than if you had them flee the tile. Thus, where a soldier is very unlikely to end up Poisoned by your own actions, it's quite possible for a soldier to end up on fire unexpectedly as a result of your own actions. It won't happen very often, but you can't essentially rule it out the way you can Poison, and indeed it can even crop up from regular explosives and regular missed shots, so even refusing to use Incendiary Grenades, Flamethrowers, and Hellfire Projectors isn't necessarily enough to prevent this scenario.

Fifth, while they're pretty bad you do have access to the Flamethrower and Hellfire Projector, where there's no Poison cloud-producing Heavy Weapon, tilting the odds slightly toward starting fires with your own gear over producing Poison clouds.

As such, where Fear of Poison is generally kind of ignorable, Fear of Fire is a solid reason to consider benching someone or relegating them to Covert Ops (Ones with no Ambush chance!) until such time as you have the Infirmary up and can remove it. Fear of Fire can mess up your plans with little warning, in essentially any mission.

Fear of Panic/Phobophobia
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if an allied soldier Panics, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

This is one of the less threatening Phobias on its own; if the Phobophobia soldier is the only member in the squad with a phobia, and no other members are Tired, the only ways it can trigger are for a Bond pair to lose one of their members, a Sectoid Mindspin to result in Panic, or a Spectre to use Horror.

If you've got a lot of Phobias lying around, it becomes one of the most problematic Phobias. This shouldn't be happening, as soldiers tend to die if things go badly enough that theoretically multiple soldiers could've picked up a Phobia from a single mission, but I dunno maybe you're deliberately trying to induce Phobias in your soldiers to see what they do? Like maybe you make a point of tossing grenades at your own soldiers before evacing from an evac mission, so a bunch of people are badly injured but not dead.

I'd quite like this Phobia if Phobias were more prone to being more widespread, honestly. As is it's a bit of a joke to pick up, generally speaking.


The following is a list of phobias that are referred to in the config files, but which I have personally never seen and am not sure are actually functional.

Fear of Breaking Concealment
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 50% chance of Panicking when (Breaking Concealment?), which will always result in the sub-type Panic.

Just like becoming afraid of some enemies, a soldier seems to need to take at least 60% of their health in damage from... I'm guessing the free shots enemies can score when flanking a Concealed unit... to be able to roll this, at least normally.

... I've personally never seen this happen, but I don't make a habit of letting my soldiers get flanked while Concealed by inactive pods. It's possible it's fully functional and I've either never met its conditions or have met them but only a handful of times and then not had it roll to apply is all. Obviously, I'll shuffle this back up into the for-sure real ones if I do get it on somebody and update this description appropriately.

For the moment, though, it looks to be cut content.

Fear of Squadmates Missing Shots
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if a squadmate misses a shot, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

This is kind of a nifty concept, and I'm sad it doesn't seem to be functional.

I mean, it's possible I've just never met the conditions for getting it, but I've gotten Fear of Missed Shots a few times, and I have difficulty imagining that this fear's requirements just happen to be sufficiently onerous or byzantine that I've failed to meet them, given it's just a slight variation on Fear of Missed Shots in concept.

Fear of Explosives
Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking if (Injured by explosives?), which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

I assume this was a phobia for being terrified of explosives. Precious few enemies actually use explosives; indeed, it's possible this is functional and in the game and I've just failed to ever meet the conditions by virtue of explosives being seriously rare. Only a handful of enemies have them, and most of them aren't particularly aggressive about using them.

Also I'm incredibly aggressive about taking out the one line of enemy types that is very free with explosives (Mecs/Heavy Mecs), so that would contribute.

The soldier has a 0% chance of ??

This is probably cut content, tied to the 'insubordinate squadmate' Will lost check I alluded to in the prior post. The 0% chance in particular suggests it was hastily disabled, probably another casualty of War of the Chosen being rushed.

The soldier has a 0% chance of ??

I'm guessing this would've been a phobia of critical hits. That would've been a pretty silly phobia, so I don't mind it being non-functional, if indeed that's what it was.

Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking when ???, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

My best guess is that this would've triggered when on high ground or when having height advantage on enemy. Like attempting to fire when having height advantage would risk replacing the shooting action with Panicking. I've never gotten it and have no idea what the conditions for getting it might've been, though, so this is just a guess based on the config file name.

That'd be potentially interesting in addition to a sensible real-life-inspired Phobia, so if that is what it was supposed to be I'm a bit sad it didn't make the cut.

Soldier is guaranteed to lose Will and has a 100% chance of Panicking when ???, which includes Panic, Berserk, Obsession, and Shattered.

My best guess is that this would've been a phobia about holding still. Something to punish perpetually passing turns in no-timer missions while trying to set up The Perfect Overwatch Ambush?

Not sure how meaningful such an idea would've been, if indeed that was the idea at work.

And I'm just guessing based on the config file name.

Something worth pointing out is that all Panic tests are skipped if a soldier is currently carrying a body. As such, if you end up bringing someone on a mission with a Phobia, they're one of the better options as a first pick for carrying bodies, be that a VIP, plot objective body, or fallen comrade.

In any event, the entire Phobia system is something I was actually pretty leery of to start, in part because the game does almost nothing to explain it, but now that I have a handle on it I honestly consider it a huge leap forward over prior Panic models, including even the Gollop games! This in spite if it being one of the more obviously unfinished mechanics added by War of the Chosen.

I'm strongly hoping this approach to Panic returns in XCOM 3, primarily filled in with a solid set of Phobias and maybe getting rid of Panic grenade throws. It's excellent, and primarily needs filling out and a little refinement.

One subtle issue in particular that genuinely needs work is that the current version tends to only be strongly relevant for a relatively brief period in the mid-early game. In the very early game, your soldiers are quite likely to outright die if things go sufficiently wrong that Phobias can have a chance to be rolled for, and you have essentially no incentive to send out Tired soldiers because there's such a small difference in quality between your best soldiers and your worst ones; just send some Rookies or Squaddies instead of your 'elite' crew of Corporals. In the late game, you'll have reached the point where Fatigue crunch can only really be an issue if you go out of your way to take on too much too quickly, you should once again have the majority of your soldiers at a very similar level of quality (In the form of a ton of Colonels and Majors) and so have little incentive to send out Tired soldiers, your soldiers are too tough for non-scaling sources of damage like environmental fires/explosives and fall damage to be liable to induce a Phobia, and of course you have the Infirmary to do away with Phobias pretty much immediately in the unlikely event someone gets one.

So much like how Panic was, in the prior game, largely an early-game phenomenon, War of the Chosen's Phobias tend to only really come up in the mid-early game, where there's the magic mixture of time pressure (To force you to choose between sending low-level soldiers or Tired soldiers into missions), notable unevenness in soldier quality (In the sense that you might have one Captain and a couple of Sergeants vs a bunch of Corporals and Squaddies), and no Infirmary to quickly and costlessly cure Phobias. It's entirely possible for a run to have a decent stretch of luck in the mid-early game and so just... never have a Phobia on any soldier at any point in the run. Or to have bad luck, but the wrong kind, where bad things happening is always dead soldiers and/or Captured soldiers rather than Phobias.

So ideally the Phobia system returning would include it being made more consistently relevant. The degree to which it's easy to cure Phobias in particular is fairly killer to the mechanic, cutting out a lot of the strategy and planning of juggling different soldiers having different Phobias because they all just go away so quickly once the Infirmary is up you may never have a given Phobia have a chance to crop up. Even if you never run anyone through the Infirmary, they may simply get over it before it has a chance to trigger, and if you are using the Infirmary... Tired soldiers can be staffed at the Infirmary, and it's almost always faster for them to use the Infirmary to cure their Phobia than for them to stop being Tired, so for most soldiers it's borderline-free to send them into the Infirmary once they're Tired. (Psi Operatives are a notable exception, if they're still training at the Psi Lab)

It's sufficiently annoying I've gotten in the habit of deliberately putting off the Infirmary until more or less last just to give Phobias more of a chance to shine, and probably would've done so even if I wasn't writing these posts.

Ah well.

Anyway, next time I talk about XCOM 2's difficulty levels in some detail.

See you then.


  1. Love your articles. I may go back and comment on some of the earlier ones when I have time.

    Commenting on the Phobias, I've seen fear of Lost & Vipers, so those definitely exist.

    Also, at one point I had a unit who had a fear of Mutons and then later I got a pop up that she gained a fear of Mutons & Berserkers. I don't know if know if that was just a glitch or not, but it may be that there is a phobia for just Mutons & a phobia for Mutons and berserkers. Sadly, I don't have that file anymore to double check.

    1. Hmmm. Definitely going to let Lost pile on people at some point to see if I can get it to trigger, then. Surprised I haven't gotten Viper Phobia though; maybe they also have a damage threshold and I just keep not having it crop up due to their rarity?

      Glad you're enjoying the posts, in any event.


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