XCOM 2 Resistance Order Analysis: Reaper

Resistance Orders are yet another impressively ambitious mechanic added by War of the Chosen.

In concept, they represent you leveraging impressing resistance groups and getting them to help in their unique ways in the background. I like the idea of this in principle, though unfortunately, the mechanics of Resistance Orders are only distantly connected to this idea. In practice many Resistance Orders are recycled Guerrilla Tactics School upgrades or base-game continent bonuses, neither of which gels all that well with the supposed concept of Resistance Orders, and most of the fully-original Resistance Orders are still pretty strange in that framework.

Fortunately, the mechanics are sufficiently strong and interesting I'm largely willing to let slide how they don't hook up that well to the supposed concept. In particular, in practice Resistance Orders primarily serve as another way to improve the replayability of the game; there's a lot of Resistance Order cards, and a given run will generally get considerably less than half of all of them (I'd guesstimate it at, like, an eighth of them), so you can't remotely count on reliably using a specific Resistance Order. You have to adjust your strategy as you go based on which Resistance Orders are provided to you in that particular run. Notably, the majority of your Resistance Orders are thrust upon you at random as you make contact with Resistance factions and hunt the Chosen down; the only extent to which you have control over whether to acquire a given Resistance Order or not is that Covert Ops can provide an opportunity to grab Resistance Orders... and that's still fundamentally a random offering, where you just get to choose to either reject whatever is on offer or burn Covert Op time on actually acquiring it.

Anyway, the way Resistance Orders work goes thusly: when you make contact with a Resistance faction, you're immediately provided 2 random Resistance Orders from that faction. Additionally, the first two Covert Ops for hunting Chosen will provide a single random Resistance Order, while also adding a slot to put Resistance Orders into.

At the start of each month, you choose which Resistance Orders to actually have active for that month. The game is carefully designed so you are making actual choices: you start with exactly one 'wildcard' slot to put a Resistance Order into, upgrading the Resistance Ring to add more wildcard slots is gated by contacting new factions and thus you always gain 2 Resistance Orders when you unlock access to an additional wildcard slot, and then unlocking factional slots each comes with a single Resistance Order. As such, you always are excluding at least one Resistance Order from being used, guaranteed, as there's no method to expand Resistance Order slots that doesn't come with Resistance Orders attached, whereas you can gain more Resistance Orders from Covert Ops without necessarily gaining slots for them.

The slots concept itself works like this: you start with the one wildcard slot, and can upgrade the Resistance Ring twice, adding one more slot each time to reach a total of three slots. Any Resistance Order can be slapped into these slots, simple as that. Additionally, as you raise Influence with the Resistance factions (By hunting their respect Chosen), you will unlock a maximum of two slots attached to each Resistance faction: these slots will only accept Resistance Orders of the Resistance faction's type. (ie if you have four Reaper Resistance Orders, one wildcard slot, and two Reaper slots, it doesn't matter how many Skirmisher or Templar slots you have open, one of those four Reaper Resistance Orders is going unused)

Be careful in your choices here, as once you've left the Resistance Order screen you can't go back and change your mind until the next month rollover. This is unlike eg Covert Ops, where you can back out at any time prior to actually sending a team. Fortunately this usually isn't an issue, but there are some Resistance Orders where if you don't remember off the top of your head your finances or the like it'll be harder to tell what you should be assigning.

For these posts, we'll be starting with the Reaper Resistance Order set, because the game's intention is to intro you to Resistance faction stuff with the Reapers in particular: if you have Lost and Abandoned on, they'll be your first faction. They're also, as it happens, probably the most straightforwardly powerful and friendly to a learning player when it comes to Resistance Order options, so this works out quite nicely.

Related to all of this, though not directly connected, is that War of the Chosen has notably overhauled a central element of the strategic layer: in the base game, your starting location has a single, generic Resistance HQ, where you can burn Supplies on Scientists, Engineers, and pre-leveled soldiers. Additionally, you can always scan at this HQ for one of three bonuses: intermittently gaining a small amount of Intel, speeding facility construction by 33%, or accelerating how quickly your soldiers recover from injuries. It always starts with the Intel one, with you having to spend 25 Supplies to permanently change it to whichever other bonus you want, and you can only do so once per month; the option to change it will vanish until your next Supply drop occurs.

War of the Chosen replaces this mechanic. Instead of a single generic HQ, each Resistance faction has its own HQ, with each of the original scanning options parceled out among them: Intel for Reaper HQ, faster construction for Skirmisher HQ, and faster healing for Templar HQ. Correlated to this is the removal of the ability to hire personnel for Supplies, though this is misleading since War of the Chosen's Resistance factions gift you free soldiers just for making contact with them, and Covert Ops can be used to recruit Engineers and Scientists without spending conventional resources.

I personally feel War of the Chosen's version is a massive improvement all-around, though it's sufficiently different it's one of the few elements of the base game I can understand someone yearning for when playing War of the Chosen.

Anyway, Resistance Orders, starting with...


Reaper


Lightning Strike
In the first two turns of a mission, the squad gets +3 Mobility if they are Concealed.

It's literally the GTS upgrade from the base game.

I actually think this is a huge improvement, design-wise, for Lightning Strike as a concept. Lightning Strike in the base game was kind of toxic to the design because it was guaranteed you were going to get it eventually, and so the game had two basic options: it could either tune timers and whatnot under the assumption that eventually players have Lightning Strike, at which point Lightning Strike wasn't an advantage at all, but rather a mandatory bit of catching-up, or it could tune timers and so on so that Lightning Strike puts you slightly ahead of schedule, in which case it's guaranteed that all timers are ultimately slightly too easy.

Whereas in War of the Chosen, Lightning Strike is a Resistance Order, and so the game instead gets to tune itself under the assumption that you don't have it, with the side effect that if you do get it Lightning Strike is a meaningfully real benefit. It's quite nice!

As a Resistance Order on its own merits, Lightning Strike is a bit low-value. There's definitely overall worse Resistance Orders, but there's also Resistance Orders that pretty clearly blow it out of the water. Its primary benefit is to reduce time pressure on you, and there are multiple Resistance Orders that do that more directly and consistently, such as the one I'll be discussing immediately after Lightning Strike. The primary advantage Lightning Strike has is that some missions start you Concealed and under time pressure that isn't based on an actual timer, like Protect The Device missions, and no other Resistance Order directly alleviates the pressure of those missions. This isn't very important in practice because those missions are always either extremely low pressure early in a run (eg Protect The Device, due to the device's HP being set up so it can last a decent amount of time when Andromedons and Sectopods are shooting it, and thus it lasts forever when basic ADVENT Troopers are plinking away at it), or don't kick in their time pressure until you break Concealment anyway. (eg Supply Extraction, where crates don't start getting pulled until after you break Concealment)

It's too bad it's so underwhelming in practice, given how it's a much better position on a design level than in the base game. Ah well.

Appropriately enough, this is particularly appreciated by Reapers, since Shadow boosts the +3 to a +4. It's a small thing, but still, it's a nice touch.


Infiltrate
Mission timers don't start until the squad breaks Concealment.

Interestingly, the internal name for this is 'Run Silent, Run Deep'. Most Resistance Orders have their internal name the same as, or at least very similar to, their in-game name. I'm curious why Infiltrate is an exception.

Also note that it really is your squad breaking Concealment that triggers the timer to start. A Reaper can kill all day long with Silent Killer, Claymores, etc, without timers ever starting, and if Lost happen to be present the mutual pod activation this can lead to won't get the timer moving either.

Anyway, Infiltrate is one of the best Resistance Orders in the game, substantially alleviating the time pressure on the vast majority of missions that have time pressure. You're free to explore, get everyone set up in a good ambush position, and fire when ready, and just being 2+ turns closer to the objective before the timer kicks in is often plenty to make the timer essentially irrelevant. Unless you've got Time Turner on or something, you should basically always endeavor to squeeze Infiltrate into your Resistance Order setup.

It's pretty obvious the developers recognize how powerful it is: I don't know the details, but Resistance Orders clearly have different degrees of rarity, and Infiltrate is one of the rarest Resistance Orders to see at all. So don't count on constantly abusing it, or even semi-regularly abusing it. It's a treat when you have it, though.

It's also another Reaper Resistance Order that's both on-theme and is particularly useful when actually fielding Reapers, making it more practical to spend your time patiently scouting with the Reaper while you look for the perfect Overwatch ambush or the like.

All that said, it's worth pointing out that Infiltrate overall gets less consistently relevant as you get deeper in a run, as Avatar Project Facilities, Chosen Strongholds, Avenger defenses, and plot missions are never timed and increasingly become a substantial fraction of your mission cycle. Similarly, Chosen raises Risks as their Knowledge rises, making Ambushes more likely, which are also not timed missions. If you see Infiltrate being offered via Covert Op in the late game, you honestly might want to skip it. And of course it does nothing in the endgame, so strictly speaking you should try to sub it out when you're prepping for the final missions.


Popular Support I
The Resistance Supply drop has 10% more Supplies than it should.

A very slight boost to your Supply intake. If you lack better options, you might as well. If you have better options, ignore it: 10% isn't enough to be sure it'll matter.

In the long haul, you should certainly replace it if at all possible, simply because eventually you have more Supplies than you know what to do with, period.

But in the early game, it can bump you up just enough to be the difference between not being able to afford something in a given month vs being able to get it. It's difficult to quantify that in a meaningful way, and it won't crop up very often, but it's better than some Resistance Orders, if only by others being more obviously situational.


Popular Support II
The Resistance Supply drop has 15% more Supplies than it should.

Note that the game doesn't actually ensure you get the I version of a Resistance Order before the II version. It's completely possible to get Popular Support II and then beat the game without ever seeing Popular Support I, and same for all the other two-tier Resistance Orders. You see the I versions more often, so it's more likely you'll get the I and then the II or never see the II, but that's all it is: more likely.

Conversely, you can stack such Resistance Orders, such as giving yourself 25% more Supplies from the regular drop by stacking Popular Support I and II together. This always works additively; it's not +10%, then +15% to the result, you just add the 10 and 15 together to get +25%, and you do this with all such Resistance Orders. That's a small distinction in practice, but still worth explicitly stating.

Anyway, this isn't really any different from Popular Support I. Obviously if you have both you should prefer to run Popular Support II over I, and if you have and are using I and spot II in Covert Ops grabbing II is a fairly straightforward way to improve your Resistance Order setup, but overall this is in the same space as Popular Support I: better than some of the really junk-y or situational Resistance Orders out there, but so small an effect you shouldn't hesitate to replace it with something better.


Recruiting Centers
Rookies cost 15 Supplies to hire instead of the usual 25.

Note that on Legendary this still slashes Rookie costs to 15, even though their base price is 40 on Legendary. That means it more than halves the costs of hiring Rookies, instead of reducing it by 40%. In conjunction with how Legendary can be pretty brutal on your troops, Recruiting Centers is actually potentially really good to get in a Legendary run.

On lower difficulties, Recruiting Centers is more underwhelming. You shouldn't need to hire particularly many troops, especially since War of the Chosen provides multiple ways to acquire troops without paying Supplies, and in the late game Supplies stop really limiting you at all at which point paying less for Rookies is kind of worthless. You might as well take advantage if you have nothing better available, but that's about it.

If you are going to take advantage of it, it's generally best to install it for one month, hire a half dozen or whatever Rookies, and then swap it out the next month.


Munitions Experts
Experimental Ammo projects complete instantly.
Can instead be a Continent Bonus.

A notable fraction of Resistance Orders can potentially end up as continent bonuses instead. Indeed, this mechanic completely replaces the original set of continent bonuses; it's guaranteed that six of your Resistance Orders will instead end up as continent bonuses. I say 'instead', because any Resistance Order that ends up as a continent bonus is ineligible for being offered as a Resistance Order; no doubling up on their effects this way, or anything silly like that.

Anyway, Experimental Ammo is one of the best repeatable Proving Grounds projects, so this is a pretty great Resistance Order, particularly if you have a glut of Elerium Cores in the mid-early game. You'll want to swap it out eventually, once you're satisfied with your Ammo stores, but that's basically a good thing in its own right, making Resistance Order competition less of an issue.

As a continent bonus, it's more underwhelming/inconsistent. If it happens to be your starting continent's bonus, or you're adjacent to and able to immediately access one of the continents that's made of two regions and it happens to be on one of those continents, it's a decent enough bonus to get kind of incidentally... just worse than getting it as a Resistance Order that early, overall, since you never get to replace it with something else even though it still eventually stops being relevant.

If it spawns on a further-out continent, or in Asia where you need to contact four regions, or in a direction you end up not going due to Avatar Project Facility placement pushing you to head the opposite direction, it's probably not worth the bother unless you happen to get Resistance Network so you can scoop it up relatively easily. You're quite likely to be set for life on Ammo by the time you get around to it under those conditions, or close enough it's just not helpful.

I feel this shouldn't have been a continent bonus possibility. I get the rough line of reasoning why it is; Fire When Ready was a base game continent bonus that included instant Ammo production, and War of the Chosen broke that up because it providing all of Ammo, grenades, and Heavy Weapons instantly was a bit much... but that's less the fault of Fire When Ready being general and more the fault of the decision to have these be instant-build benefits at all, and Munitions Experts is simply too narrow to function well as a continent bonus.


Scavengers
Rumors provide twice as much in resource rewards.

This means Intel, Supplies, Alien Alloys, Elerium Crystals, and maybe Elerium Cores. It does not mean a Rumor that provides an experienced soldier will provide two experienced soldiers, or that you'll get two Engineers or Scientists from a Rumor, or two Guerrilla Ops or Supply Raids from a Rumor.

As such, Scavengers is a middling-low value Resistance Order. Worth equipping if you've got slots available and nothing solidly good to displace it, but quite likely to be pushed aside by a more broadly useful Resistance Order. It's also a bit of a time-limited Resistance Order, in that you mostly tend to pursue Rumors fairly regularly in the early to mid game -later in the game, Rumors don't spawn as consistently, and it's usually better to be making contact with a new region or building a radio relay unless the Rumor is particularly valuable (eg a Rumor that will trigger a Supply Raid) and/or you've got the Avatar Project bar under control and have no urgent desire to hit any place currently out of your reach. Getting Scavengers as one of your first Resistance Orders can thus be a nice little boost to your intake, where getting it later it may never have the opportunity to benefit you at all.

It's pretty unfortunate your most consistent Rumor-pursuing period is during the first month, where you can't have Resistance Orders active. Even if Scavenger is one of your first two Resistance Orders, you may still end up not really using it at all.

That said, if you get Resistance Network, Scavengers gets a lot more useful, as Resistance Network frees up a ton of Avenger time. If you've also got Rapid Collection, the only time-burning things for the Avenger to do are pursuing Rumors, placing radio relays, or scanning at Resistance HQs, and there's only so many radio relays worth building, while Rumors are generally better value than scanning at HQs. Scavengers can still be pushed aside by more significant Resistance Orders, but it's a lot less likely at that point... you know, assuming you get the combo.


Live Fire Training
Rookies who train at the Guerrilla Tactics School will be promoted to Sergeant instead of Squaddie.
Can instead be a Continent Bonus.

Note that this is very specifically the Guerrilla Tactics School training. Rookies won't instantly promote to Sergeants for going on a mission (Nor, for that matter, will Squaddies or Corporals promote to Sergeant from doing a mission), including a Covert Op, and Rookies assigned to the Psi Lab won't jump straight to their Sergeant-equivalent rank. As such, Live Fire Training can be great if you get it early enough that your GTS is just coming online, but otherwise tends to be a bit eh. And even getting it immediately, you may have already trained all your Rookies by the time you have it online, and you very possibly have a decent pool of Sergeants so it's not worth hiring Rookies to train them up.

... below Legendary.

On Legendary, this is fantastic. Soldiers gain experience painfully slowly on Legendary, injuries last much longer and it's much harder to completely avoid injuries (And I'm not even counting the effect of Aim Assist being disabled here), and construction and excavation times are much longer, while Resistance Order-related mechanics are only partially affected by the timetable modifications. It's entirely possible, on Legendary, to have Live Fire Training acquired as one of your first Resistance Orders or from an early Covert Op before the GTS is even finished, and skipping a couple ranks is hugely valuable to have happen given how difficult it is to get a broad pool of experienced soldiers going just off of combat experience -even ignoring the possibility of more experienced soldiers being killed or captured, which is a lot more likely to happen than on lower difficulties. This is especially true given how every core class has at least one early skill that produces a significant jump in their performance to acquire; Rangers without Blademaster are painfully unreliable with Slashes, for example, and weak to boot. Rangers with Blademaster can reliably secure kills on targets behind High Cover at no resource expenditure, up to fairly high HP values by early-game standards.

It's probably not the most valuable Resistance Order to have on Legendary, but it's certainly the biggest spike in utility, going from cool-but-not-great to outright amazing, where other Resistance Orders whose relevancy goes up on Legendary merely go up somewhat.

(Conversely, it's essentially worthless all the time on Regular and Rookie; your soldiers simply level too quickly on those difficulties)

As a continent bonus, it's wasted potential. If it happens to be your starting continent's bonus, and you happen to be on one of the continents that only requires two or three contacts to get the bonus, and you happen to have prioritized unlocking contact ability and radio relay construction, you might end up taking advantage of it by virtue of discovering all these things are true before your Rookies are all trained up and deliberately delaying to take advantage, or hiring on a few more Rookies to then train up to Sergeant.

The vast majority of the time, though, if it spawns as a continent bonus you will get zero use out of it. Even on Legendary it's pretty unlikely to be helpful, since contacting new regions and building radio relays takes longer too, by enough that if it's not literally your starting continent it's probably largely irrelevant by the time you earn it/

This is the Resistance Order that makes me most cringe over it being allowed to be a continent bonus. It's a horrible fit to the continent bonus mechanic, requiring the stars to align for it to become merely okay, with absolutely no possibility of ever being remotely competitive with most of the better continent bonus possibilities.


Guardian Angels
Covert Operations cannot be Ambushed.

Ambush is potentially the most dangerous Covert Op Risk to trigger, and the least prone to letting you guard against it by assigning something else. It's also unique for forcing you to choose between either sending squads essentially unequipped into combat, or having to shoulder the load of being able to intermittently equip up to an additional three soldiers; that's a 50% increase over your normal maximum load. Guardian Angels is thus quite great, and notably it overrules Spider And Fly, potentially simplifying a Guerrilla Op choice by letting you ignore the choice that counters Spider And Fly.

It also has the side effect of making Capture Risk less menacing; in the late game, the fact that stuff like Andromedons can be running around in Ambushes means you really just can't get away with sending low-level gumbies into Ambush Risk Covert Ops, as the Ambush triggering is likely to be a death sentence to something like a Corporal Ranger and Sergeant Specialist, even if they're equipped decently. If a Covert Op has both Ambush and Capture risk and doesn't let you negate either, you're in a no-win situation: you can either send low-level gumbies to avoid Capture hurting particularly, in which case Ambush is a death sentence, or you can send moderate-to-high level soldiers so they can stomp the Ambush if it happens in which case Capture triggering hurts. Guardian Angels removes that possibility from the board, ensuring you can just send low-level troops on a consistent basis.

It should also be noted that this is the only Risk-negating Resistance Order. There aren't equivalents for Injured or Captured. This is a surprising bit of good design: even otherwise very cleverly-designed games still often fall into the trap of 'completing the pattern' without considering whether it would be good for the game design. It would've been extremely cringe-y if a player could potentially wipe two or all three Risk types from a run; it wouldn't even matter which two Risk types it was, it would be awful regardless. Letting a player remove one, and only one, Risk type lets the game properly account for the possibility of that Risk being negated, among other useful implications.

The fact that it's Ambush in specific is also nice design just for the fact that Ambush is the only Risk that isn't unambiguously a bad thing to have trigger. Enemies can still drop loot in an Ambush, and of course soldiers will gain experience from killing enemies, all while Ambushes are tuned so that a pair of appropriately leveled and equipped soldiers will generally be able to stomp the entire map flat very reliably. If you're confident in your skills and don't mind burning your real time on performing the Ambush mission, Ambushes cease to perform the task Risks are meant to perform of increasing your overall Fatigue/injury load. This is important, because it's critical to the strategic management game aspect of War of the Chosen.

Point being, being skilled and willing to spend time on the game is not similarly able to remove the soldier Fatigue/injury load of Injured and Captured Risks. Negating Ambushes with a Resistance Order is more convenient than doing so with your skills, but the final impact on the game's design space is similar, where negating Injured and Captured Risks would be a much more significant change to the design space.

That's smart design.


Resistance Rising I
+1 Resistance Contact.

This is a really nice Resistance Order to get early. In the long haul you'll eventually want to get your Contact count to the point you don't need to burn a slot on it, but in the very early game a way to expand your Contact limit that doesn't cost Supplies and doesn't demand initially-limited power or initially-precious Avenger space? That's incredible, and can easily be what lets you get an excellent continent bonus in the first couple of months or let you hit an Avatar Project Facility a full month or two earlier than you otherwise would.

The fact that you'll eventually be able to shunt it aside for a different Resistance Order is also a notable good point, as you'll get to wring it for its full value and essentially for free swap in some other Resistance Order that holds up better later in the game, like Inside Knowledge.

Note that the game won't let you mess with Resistance Rising if you're currently using it to meet your Contact usage. You can't remove it, and more importantly you can't shuffle it elsewhere. You should generally prefer to put it in a Reaper slot, so that it won't get in the way if you end up wanting to shuffle around your Resistance Orders later: it's costing you unnecessarily if you put it in a wildcard slot, and then you end up wanting to use a bunch of Skirmisher Resistance Orders and can't because Resistance Rising is eating one of your wildcard slots and you don't even care about your other Reaper Resistance Orders at the moment. By a similar token, if you put it in a wildcard slot out of necessity, you should shuffle it off to a Reaper slot as soon as you have the opportunity. (Assuming you don't drop it entirely when such an opportunity comes up)

Also note that this means if you want to sub in an Engineer over Resistance Rising, you'll need to assign the Engineer before the month turns over. Otherwise you won't have the opportunity at all; this is one of the few cases where the inability to back out of Resistance Orders and then pop back in is genuinely aggravating.


Resistance Rising II
+2 Resistance Contacts.

Resistance Rising I, but even better.

The extra Contact over Resistance Rising I is nice and this should always be preferred if you have both, of course, but surprisingly isn't a huge bump in performance over Resistance Rising I by itself. Resistance Rising I, acquired early, can let you get Asia's continent bonus much earlier if you started there, hit the first Avatar Project Facility far sooner on Commander difficult where it's always placed three contacts out, and just generally is a nice bit of flexibility. Resistance Rising II adding two contacts can, if the stars align, potentially let you get two continent bonuses bizarrely early, if you happen to be in North America, South America, or Europe, with immediate access to one or both of the other continents, but that's about it for reliably significant magic number sorts of considerations.

It's still a pure improvement, of course, it's just the difference between having Resistance Rising II vs Resistance Rising I is vastly less than the difference between having either one vs having neither.


Volunteer Army
Each mission has a 33% chance of a free soldier joining the squad for the duration of the mission.
Can instead be a Continent Bonus.

The soldier in question will automatically be equipped with your latest medium armor and your latest Rifle, but nothing beyond that, and they won't have abilities. They're effectively a Rookie aside that they have better stats, but disposable -they won't join you after the mission and you don't suffer meaningful penalties for their death, so you might as well have them take risks and soak punishment for the squad, since they disappear into thin air afterward regardless, where one of your proper soldiers getting hurt may mean you don't have them when you really need them. I feel like the mechanics should've been handled a bit differently, here, given how callous you're encouraged to be by the mechanics...

Curiously, the volunteer soldier's gear is derived from your research, not your squad purchases. This can lead to the mildly comedic situation of you having a no-namer wandering around with a Plasma Rifle while the rest of your squad looks on with envy, still stuck with magnetics because you haven't scraped together the resources to actually buy the Plasma Rifle upgrade. This is especially plausible to happen on Legendary, where beam-tier weaponry is expensive. Even more curious, volunteer soldiers do not benefit from Breakthroughs, so they may have worse damage output than your soldiers ostensibly equipped with the same gear, in addition to not having Weapon Attachments or abilities.

You might expect these volunteer soldiers to be the same thing as the resistance soldiers that will help fight in the new Retaliation mission type, but this isn't so. There are some parallels, like that they both have a base Aim of 85, but the Retaliation mission soldiers are using a completely different rifle, one that has flat aim (They don't gain accuracy for getting closer to enemies) and which is actually pathetically weak, doing 2, 4, or 6 damage depending on how far you are into the game. As opposed to the proper Rifles volunteers are wielding, which of course do 3-5/5-7/7-9 damage. This makes the resistance soldiers particularly pathetic toward the beginning of the game, where they're hitting as hard as a Pistol... a Pistol that always low-rolls. As everyone gains +2 per tier they hold up better later on, because they're not so proportionately weak (Their Conventional-equivalent does half to a third the damage of Conventional Shotguns/Cannons/Sniper Rifles. Their Beam-tier equivalent does 75% to 60% of the beam-tier versions of the same. That's 50% more proportionate damage on high-rolls, and nearly double the proportionate for low rolls), but for early Retaliation missions you should basically assume the resistance soldiers are going to barely contribute.

One other weird parallel is flank crit potential: normally units get +40 crit chance for a flank in XCOM 2, but this is actually set individually per unit, and Volunteer Army soldiers and Retaliation mission Resistance soldiers have +33% crit chance from flanks. (Interestingly, this is the same number Chimera Squad uses for flank crit chance)

Anyway, my primary complaint is that Volunteer Army is random. Indeed, if you're willing to savescum, it's possible to have it trigger on every mission it's allowed to trigger on. (I've never seen it trigger for Avenger Defenses, Chosen Stronghold assaults, Ambushes, or the final two missions, and suspect it's barred from doing so as it would be pretty narratively bizarre in those cases) An extra soldier for free is admittedly a pretty powerful effect, but making it unreliable isn't really a good way to balance it. The randomness is particularly irritating due to how low the mission density per month is: Guerrilla Ops and Resistance missions each occur monthly, but everything else occurs every other month (Supply Raids) or is mostly not connected to a reliable timer at all. (Retaliation missions, plot missions...) When Resistance Orders are defined per-month. That means mandatory missions put you at less than 1 expected Volunteer Army trigger per month! That means it's easily possible to assign it for a month and get literally zero value out of it, which is... not how a general-purpose Resistance Order should be working.

And given how several of the mission types that can be inserted into the normal cycle don't seem to be valid for it to trigger on... it's harder to tilt the odds of it triggering in a given month than you might expect.

Regardless of all the unfortunate jank involved in Volunteer Army's design, an additional soldier with 85 base Aim is a solid, neat addition to your squad. Even without skills or Items or Weapon Attachments, an extra soldier can finish enemies, soften up enemies for soldiers who want kill-strikes like Templar, carry bodies without costing the squad much firepower, distract enemies, run like mad to collect loot without caring overly-much about the possibility of them ending up injured or killed, and just generally adds a lot more value than you might expect from one extra not-even-that-good body. It's far from the best Resistance Order, but when it kicks in it is one of the better ones.

Just keep in mind that if you can replace it with something that actually helps in the final missions, you should probably do so when you're approaching the end of your run.

As a continent bonus, this is mildly nifty and one of the more conceptually coherent possibilities. It makes sense that a particular overall area might be especially enthused about volunteering once their home situation is relatively under control or however you want to frame making contact with local resistance groups. You do have to gloss over the part where you're flying the Avenger all over the place and yet this continent bonus provide volunteers who are presumably from whatever area you're operating in, admittedly, but the Avenger creates a lot of plot oddness if you take it too seriously. This is just the first time I've had reason to bring it up. Point being, that's not Volunteer Army's fault.

In particular, it's one of the better continent bonuses about being relatively neutral in how early you can access it. It's certainly better to have it as your initial continent's bonus, as a super-Rookie is a lot more impressive when all your soldiers are low in level and having it early means having it longer means it's more likely to trigger a non-trivial number of times, but having it a bit out of the way doesn't make it worthless like eg Live Fire Training. This is notable in part because it's a bit of a recurring problem that Resistance Orders picked to be continent bonuses are tilted toward 'worthless or close enough if not acquired very early'. Volunteer Army being an exception to this trend is unusual.


Rapid Collection
When the Resistance Supply drop would normally occur, the Supplies are instantly pushed into your storage instead of requiring the Avenger pick them up.
Can instead be a Continent Bonus.

Fantastic. That's 3 days each month that don't have to be committed to picking up your own Supplies, only it's more than that since you spend a few hours flying to and from the Supply drop under normal conditions. The hilarious thing is that even if you're in the middle of flight -even if you're in the middle of evading a UFO- the Supplies magically get dumped directly into your stores. The Reapers are apparently wizards or something.

Rapid Collection is one of the best Resistance Orders of the game if you get it early enough, making it much easier to cram in Rumor scanning, accelerating facility construction timetables, and often resulting in you taking on missions with upgraded gear you wouldn't have had the opportunity to upgrade if you hadn't had it/ The knock-off benefits of all this are difficult to quantify, but the contrast between a run that gets Rapid Collection early vs one that never gets it is quite obvious.

In the late game, when you have more Supplies than you can realistically spend and little of use to do with the Avenger's time anyway, it's probably best to swap it out for something else, though.

Interestingly, the game will actually visibly set the Supply drop on the map at the end of a month, even if you currently have Rapid Collection set, and then Rapid Collection will scoop it up. Even more interesting and actually relevant to normal play is that if you leave a Supply drop alone, and then set Rapid Collection, the old Supply drop will be scooped up alongside the new Supplies. This is consistent with the fact that if you leave a Supply drop alone for an entire month, what will happen normally is that the old Supply drop will vanish, with a new Supply drop randomly placed that includes all the Supplies you hadn't picked up from the old one.

This is particularly likely to be relevant to a Legendary difficulty run, where it's entirely possible to have an entire month in which you have tons of Supplies lying around and it's not worth bothering to scoop up the current Supply drop just yet. If you then get Rapid Collection partway through the month (eg by completing a step in hunting the relevant Chosen), assigning it will then scoop up two months of Supplies at no time cost, further enhancing its value.

But even on lower difficulties, Rapid Collection is a big deal.

As a continent bonus, Rapid Collection suffers from the usual problem of being very good if it's placed on your starting continent or an adjacent one, and not so good if it's elsewhere. It's powerful enough to potentially be worth going a little out of your way for, such as if you pass through Africa on your way to an Avatar Project Facility and would normally not bother to contact every region/not bother to build two radio relays but in this run it has Rapid Collection so sure you go ahead and wrap it up after hitting the Facility, but generally if it's not something you're getting basically incidentally what'll happen is that by the time you can spare the time for it you don't really care about Supplies anymore anyway.

Legendary difficulty is actually harder on it, since Legendary difficulty generally makes Supplies less valuable/limiting, so it's even more likely that Rapid Collection being a little out of your way will result in it not being worth it...

I think it's one of the less bad fits to the continent bonus system, but 'less bad' is still bad.


Between The Eyes
Any attack that hits a Lost is an instant-kill.

If you're going to use Between The Eyes, you should make a point of bringing a Sharpshooter and/or Templar into missions with Lost, even more so than usual. Between The Eyes makes the low damage on their unlimited-ammo weapons an irrelevant weakness, allowing them to single-handedly clean up insane numbers of Lost, even late in the game when Lost regularly have 10+ HP.

Alternatively, a Bladestorm Templar or a Bladestorm Ranger with the Katana is an untouchable blender, as in spite of what its name implies Between The Eyes actually works on melee attacks. As such, a Bladestorm user who is guaranteed to hit can be dropped between the rest of the team and Lost in complete safety. (Assuming no ADVENT/Alien presence) Indeed, it works with the vast majority of damage sources!

Note, however, that Between The Eyes does not combo with Stocks. The attack needs to legitimately hit, not merely do damage to the Lost. Don't get excited and slap Stocks onto people in an attempt to make Lost missions easier. Similarly, don't get excited about Arc Wave being free mass damage -its damage won't auto-kill Lost.

That said, more or less every other damage source benefits from Between The Eyes. You can use weak Volts or grenades to mass-kill even very durable Lost groups! Stocks and Arc Wave are anomalous.

Basically, Between The Eyes removes all the threat the Lost could possibly pose unless you're really, really careless.

A nice touch is that Between The Eyes provides every soldier a visible 'Between The Eyes' ability, so you don't have to remember you have Between The Eyes slotted in. You just need to keep an eye out for a Lost face in their ability list in the lower-left of the screen. This is particularly appreciated if you regularly save and load mid-mission, but is nice in general, especially if you don't have a habit of checking your Resistance Orders when coming back to a run after a break.


Ballistics Modeling
All weapons-related research is 15% faster.

Ballistics Modeling is excellent, both because weapons research is a high priority in general and also because weapons research is a sizable fraction of your total lab hours. Part of this is that weapons research is slanted toward the late game, where the majority of non-Autopsy researches are performed early in the game; this means Ballistics Modeling can show up right away or only into the mid-game and either way end up speeding up your overall research a good amount regardless.

Another part is that the further along a research is, the longer it tends to take, even though you've recruited more Scientists to speed up your research. As such, Ballistics Modeling is shaving off a large amount of your total lab hours simply because weapons research being backloaded means weapons research eats even more lab hours than you might expect just by looking at how there's six different weapon researches. (Two for magnetic-tier weapons, four for beam-tier weapons) This isn't even getting into the fact that it affects the researches for the Chosen weaponry!

Even better, eventually you'll have all the weapons research done and be able to swap it out for something else relevant to your needs. Rolling Ballistics Modeling in the early to midgame is one of the most consistently positive Resistance Orders to roll for a run.

Note that it does not affect weapon-related Breakthroughs. (Well, maybe it would affect them if they're being offered because you've got no researches in the queue? I've never had this situation crop up in my own play. I'd be surprised if they were tagged as weapon researches, though)


Heavy Equipment
Excavation occurs 50% faster.

If you get Heavy Equipment early in the game, it's quite good. If you get it early in the game on Legendary, it's one of the best Resistance Orders in the game. Either way, it accelerates the rate at which you bring in Supplies, Alien Alloys, and Elerium Crystals, gets you to the point of expanding your power and thus being able to get all the core facilities supported sooner than normal, and even reduces the pressure on you to prioritize Engineers. (Among other points, the bonus is equivalent to going from two Engineers assigned to three Engineers assigned, where relevant. Which is the slowest Excavations, by the way, and normally assigning a third Engineer is dubious value since it's the only time task you can assign them where they aren't doubling the speed) And once you've excavated the entire Avenger, you get to swap it out for something else, so if you roll some of the more dramatic Resistance Orders later on you don't have to make a painful choice for what to replace. Nice!

Notably, this will normally substantially move forward the timetable on you starting to get properly into the midgame phase of spreading around the world, hitting Avatar Project Facilities and plot missions, which is liable to let you spread those out more and avoid overloading the squad with Fatigue and injuries. It can also lead to you getting a continent bonus notably earlier, which can have significant knock-off effects if it's something fairly high-value like Resistance Network.

If you get it more in the midgame of a below-Legendary run, it's probably not worth the slot. Excavation is only really a huge crunch in the rush to get to your first Exposed Power Coil in most runs. As you start getting into the mid-late game, you start having more Engineers than you really need, and the Supplies, Alien Alloys, and Elerium Crystals from Excavation are becoming much less important to your needs as well. It's probably better than, say, Recruiting Centers, but you should usually have a wide enough variety of Resistance Orders to be able to slot something better in.

In the midgame of a Legendary run, it's still strongly worth considering slotting it in for a while. It takes a long time to fully excavate the Avenger on Legendary, and you care more about more facilities on Legendary; the Infirmary is nice but often ignorable below Legendary while being consistently essential on Legendary, for example. The Defense Matrix is in much the same boat, in terms of being a lot more valuable on Legendary. Below Legendary, having your last three rooms Excavated by a single Engineer painfully slowly is generally perfectly fine; you should already have everything important built by the time you get there. On Legendary, that wait is actually pretty painful! Heavy Equipment hurrying things along is thus a lot more valuable on Legendary.

Heavy Equipment is one of my favorite Resistance Orders simply because there's such a noticeable impact on your planning in having it vs not having it, without it being an actual gamebreaker. I really enjoy the Resistance Orders that hit that balance, and most of them don't quite hit the mark. (Or miss it by a mile...)

On a completely different note, I suspect Heavy Equipment is hastily re-purposed content. It's a very odd Resistance Order for the Reapers to have, not really fitting with their stealth theme or their Regular Human Populace theme, and there's evidence that a fourth Resistance faction was planned that would've been robots working under Julien of Shen's Last Gift. Giant robots providing heavy-duty lifting in a compact package would be a fairly natural justification for Heavy Equipment, and this is far from the only Resistance Order to be a bit out of place for the faction it's on but a consistent fit with a hypothetical robot faction. Some of the others are much more blatant: I'll point them out as we get to them.


Resistance Network
Making contact with a new region finishes immediately after deciding to make contact, with no need for the Avenger to travel to the location.
Can instead be a Continent bonus.

One of the best Resistance Orders in the game, dramatically increasing your ability to scan Rumors and opening up the option to ignore a region until you have a strong reason to make contact with it. (That is, ignore a region containing an Avatar Project Facility until just before you feel you need to attack it) The only reason it's not straight-up broken is that your ability to contact the world will remain bounded by your need to build Resistance Comms facilities, stockpile Intel, and preferably build radio relays to keep the Intel costs of contact down to a reasonable level... and it's still ridiculously good.

The enhanced flexibility offered by Resistance Network is huge, and it pretty much always leads to an explosive increase in your Supply intake as well. Instead of doing something like contacting two regions and building one radio relay over the course of a month, bumping up the Supply drop by a modest value, you can be doing stuff like contacting six regions and building two radio relays in one month, going straight from 200~ Supplies dropped off to more like 600~.

Counter-intuitively, it also tends to make your Intel go farther: without Resistance Network, there'll be times you contact a new region that's a step or two further out than the minimum because you desperately need to knock back the Avatar Project and can't wait to get enough Supplies to build a radio relay, or maybe you have the Supplies but can't afford the time it would take to build the radio relay first.

Meanwhile, if you have Resistance Network, you'll spike your Supply intake and so be more consistently able to afford radio relays, you'll be more able to burn time on Rumors and so have more resources all-around, and all the time considerations that normally go into contacts evaporates, letting you burn that time on radio relays even under desperate circumstances. Worst comes to worst, if you underestimate how quickly the Avatar Project will advance when it's close to being completely filled up, you can just make contact with a region and do a mission the instant the game over countdown starts, letting you start building a radio relay when you're cutting it close in hopes of cutting down the Intel cost.

Normally, contact time is by far the largest timesink for the Avenger, the single biggest reason you're not going to be leveraging Rumors, the reason you won't end up establishing a radio relay for a continent bonus you'd like to have. Resistance Network removing that dramatically shifts your relationship to time on the strategic layer.

Indeed, you may well find you keep running out of Rumors to scan! Especially if you also have Rapid Collection...

And of course it's another Resistance Order you can eventually swap out for something else with no loss. Once you've got contact with every plot mission region, you generally don't actually need to contact anything more, and with Resistance Network it's pretty trivial to contact literally the entire world anyway. At that point, it's irrelevant unless you lose contact with a place, and can be freely removed in favor of even a really low-value Resistance Order.

As a continent bonus, Resistance Network is... odd. It's even more blatant than most possible continent bonuses about suffering from 'I got it too late to care', since if it's activated by literally the last continent you bother to contact it's worthless unless you lose contact with a region, but conversely is the continent bonus most obviously worth going moderately out of your way to get. After all, if you contact a couple of regions and build a radio relay that you would've normally avoided if it wasn't providing Resistance Network, and then go on to contact 3 or more regions, Resistance Network has provided a surplus of time, paying for itself in that sense.

And of course if it's your starting continent's bonus, it's just flat-out amazing.

Overall, Resistance Network is incredibly powerful, so much so that... well, honestly, it probably shouldn't have been put in the game in this form. Some of the wonkiness isn't directly its fault -its wonkiness as a continent bonus really more highlights how the continent bonus system needs more attention and care than it's ever gotten in these games than anything else- but plenty of it is. The game's strategic layer is too heavily anchored in the assumption that much of your time is spent on contacting new regions: being able to make that assumption incorrect is very distortive of the experience, and removes almost all of the challenge of the strategic layer, and by extension removes a lot of the challenge of the tactical layer. War of the Chosen endeavors to get soldiers killed by making it so that sometimes everything lines up so your squad has to do too much too fast and you're sending Tired or under-leveled soldiers on a mission because you just have to, and the stars have aligned so the Hunter shows up, snipes up people, and then Kidnaps a third, which is a mercy because at least it means the other half of the squad gets through and completes the mission.

By which I mean that War of the Chosen is tuned so that past the early game you're basically only ever challenged by virtue of the strategic load forcing you to send in a sub-optimal squad, and Resistance Network makes it so the only way that will ever happen is if you inflict it on yourself via blatantly bad play. So Resistance Network effectively removes the majority of the most challenging elements of the tactical layer.

Normally I'd say something like 'I really hope this doesn't make a return in XCOM 3', but honestly I have doubts XCOM 3 will have anything sufficiently equivalent to the contacts system for the concern to meaningfully apply. You can, for example, compare the contacts system to the satellites in the prior game, as they both are tied to continent bonuses and income and require you construct facilities to raise your limit, but the details are so radically different that an equivalent mechanic -instantly building Satellites, I guess?- would have completely different implications. By a similar token, I suspect XCOM 3 will once again have continent bonuses (Maybe by a different name, depending on things like the scale of the game), and I won't be surprised if accessing them occurs in a manner that's clearly an evolution of XCOM 2's system, but I'll be quite surprised if its details are similar enough for it to be meaningfully useful to say 'repeating Resistance Network in XCOM 3 would be a mistake'.

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One of the interesting aspects of Resistance Orders is they help the game fill out the character of the Resistance factions even though the game is fairly hands-off with the Resistance factions overall. Reaper Resistance Orders, for example, include both the expected stealth-focused Resistance Orders like Infiltrate, but also a lot of Resistance Orders that indicate the Reapers are supposed to actually have a lot of appeal to the segment of the population that is regular humans who resent ADVENT but aren't in a great position to actively resist. That's an idea that would be really hard to illustrate within the Reaper soldier class; it would basically require an overhaul to tactical combat to include something like talking to civilians to try to haggle for support or something, so you could then give Reapers superior bartering ability or whatever.

Whereas Resistance Orders quite nicely get to heavily imply it, and in a manner that doesn't require the game produce custom scripting for Volk giving custom speeches to each individual region you contact or whatever. You can organically fill in the world yourself with stories of Reapers having chats with disenfranchised civilians, persuasive chats that get them angrier at ADVENT and more willing to spare a little to help fund the fight against oppression.

Among other points, it means the game isn't committed overly-much to any particular explanation for how that works: are Reapers unexpectedly charming when dealing with civilians? Sure, if you like. Or maybe you prefer the idea that the Reaper attitude just resonates with the older portion of the population that still vividly remembers the original invasion and has never gotten over it. Or maybe the Reapers regularly help educate refugees who fled the city centers in how to survive in the wild, as well as support them as they transition to such a life, which in turn makes it easier for those people to spare some resources for X-COM's fight against ADVENT. Or whatever it is that you find believable and interesting.

This is important because Firaxis has always claimed that part of the point of the way they design these games is to let the player tell their own story within the general framework of the game. I say 'always claimed' because it's historically been laughably, obviously, ludicrously false; the prior game and XCOM 2 are generic hollywood plots stapled into a video game framework, with the attendant railroading, fixed characters with fixed personalities, etc. That you can play with dolls and produce whatever wacky-looking squad you like (One of the main features of these games cited as being for the 'your story' purpose) in no way lets you own your story: you're having essentially the same on-rails theme park experience as everyone else who plays these games, regardless of how much you play with your dolls.

War of the Chosen is the first time in the series this claim had any truth to it. Firstly, War of the Chosen has added so many randomized systems that change the way the game is experienced that any given run is liable to be essentially unique in a meaningful way. Secondly is the point I started this with, that the world has much more of it that's a sketch, a suggestion of a shape you fill in with your own expectations and preferences like an ink blot test, as opposed to an on-rails hollywood plot that gives zero room for interpretation or ambiguity except where the writer screwed up and failed to clearly communicate something they clearly meant to unambiguous.

This is particularly surprising given the obvious addition of the Chosen themselves, who have strongly defined personalities and explicit histories if you bother to dig into the Archives; they're exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to produce more of an on-rails experience. Instead, the game uses them as another lever for increasing variety!

Though that's for other posts.

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Next time, we cover the Skirmisher Resistance Orders.

See you then.

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