Chimera Squad Enemy Analysis: Gray Phoenix Faceless
HP: 8 (+1/+4)Defense: 10
Aim: 70/70/75/75 (+2/+5)
Damage: 3-4 (+1/+2)
Will: 50 (+10/+20)
Yeah, Faceless are another enemy whose HP is never touched by difficulty. I don't get why; they're one of the enemies I'd say really needed more HP on higher difficulties to affect their threat profile.
Alert actions: None. Can never be Aggressive, either.
Note that, like the Archon, Faceless can still be Alert, it's just the only significance is that you won't get the Surprised Aim bonus against an Alert Faceless.
Passive: The primary weapon of the Faceless is a melee attack that strikes all targets in a cone (3 tiles long and 3 tiles wide at the farthest point), as well as wrecking destructible objects in the area.
Scything Claws itself is unchanged. Same strike zone and everything.
However, Scything Claws tearing up terrain is much less of a threat in Chimera Squad than in XCOM 2 for two basic reasons: firstly, the Timeline system means it's a lot more likely you'll be able to react to an agent's Cover being smashed by doing something to protect them. Secondly, Chimera Squad just plain does not have destructible floors: a Faceless can't inflict fall damage from taking a swipe at your people.
The shocking height on the strike zone is also a lot less likely to come up than in XCOM 2; maps in Chimera Squad are more prone to being flat or close to flat than in XCOM 2, and for various reasons your squad is much less likely to be hunched at the edge of high ground to then be hit by Scything Claws from a Faceless standing on a floor that's multiple Z-levels below your squad. I personally have never had it come up in Chimera Squad, and honestly will not be surprised if this will remain so no matter how many runs I do.
The potential to catch multiple agents is arguably a bit more relevant than in XCOM 2, in the sense that it's possible to have a Faceless going early enough to potentially catch 2-3 agents who haven't gotten a chance to move yet and where the automatic post-Breach placements clumped them enough for this to happen, where in XCOM 2 you did in fact have to yourself clump your soldiers at least a little for Scything Claws to catch multiple at once. So if you're pretty obsessive about spreading out your squad in both games, it's more likely a Faceless will get a multi-target hit in at some point in Chimera Squad than in XCOM 2. This is in part a playstyle thing, though; if you're prone to clumping a little in XCOM 2 (And there's arguments for doing so), you may find multi-target hits crop up less in Chimera Squad. (For one thing, your maximum squad size is smaller)
Overall, though, it's pretty forgettable a quality now.
As I noted with the Archon, this is a lot less impactful than in XCOM 2 because crits are so weak that being unable to get the in-the-open crit bonus doesn't really matter.
So instead I'm going to note here that Faceless in Chimera Squad do not pretend to be helpless civlians or otherwise make use of their transformation. As such, their limitations in terms of being a dedicated melee attacker who isn't even move-and-melee have no real qualifiers; where in XCOM 2 a Faceless would often start right in your squad's face and so easily get a free hit, Faceless in Chimera Squad really just have to walk up from a distance and so can almost always be entirely ignored on their first turn.
Not helping them is how their HP has taken a hit; 8 HP is how much Faceless had on Rookie difficulty in XCOM 2. The 10 HP they had on the middle difficulties and 12 HP they had on Legendary meant that even when encountering wandering in the open via an early Savage Sitrep they were decent threats just by virtue of being very difficult to quickly put down with early-game firepower. Admittedly Chimera Squad has depressed the player's firepower, but from experience I'd argue that the loss of their ambush mechanics is such a huge setback for them they'd still be one of the least dangerous Gray Phoenix enemies even if they had 12 HP.
They've admittedly also picked up 10 Defense, but as I've noted before Chimera Squad is really fond of giving the player damaging tools that don't do accuracy checks. I honestly completely overlooked this stat boost in just playing the game because it really isn't very important.
Passive: Faceless regenerate 2 HP per turn.
Note that this does not purge Poison or Burn the way it did in XCOM 2. The heal does occur before damage over time effects trigger so it's still protective to some extent -Poison can't kill a Faceless on its own, for example- but much less so than in XCOM 2.
I kind of wish Regeneration was improved by later Acts, not to mention that Faceless base HP was higher as I implied a moment ago. In the current state, there's rarely any reason to let Regeneration trigger in the first place, and in the event that you do arrange for it to trigger then its impact is okay if it's your first Act and generally entirely ignorable if it's a later Act. 2 damage negated is respectable when your agents shoot for 3-4, 3-5, or 4-6 damage; foolishly shooting a Faceless once and then ignoring it for a couple turns may cancel out all the damage you did. When your weakest shots are going to be 6-7 damage plus a damage over time effect, Regeneration is probably never going to matter unless you're actively trying to stall so it trigger multiple times. If it had added 1 HP per Act, it would still fall behind a bit, but it would be more likely to be meaningfully relevant.
Also, I should explicitly point out Faceless can be rendered Unconscious, and that Regeneration won't wake them up or anything.
Passive: Can travel Z-levels freely as part of normal movement.
Passive: Can travel Z-levels freely as part of normal movement.
Like in XCOM 2, this doesn't actually have an icon or name or any apparent reference to it at all. This is true of all jump-capable enemies in Chimera Squad, just like XCOM 2.
However, it's far less relevant than in XCOM 2, as Chimera Squad is much less fond of significant Z-level differences in general and when it does do them there's usually multiple easy paths for getting up them. This is further exacerbated by the Timeline and Encounter system; in XCOM 2, you could plausibly do stuff like activate a Berserker's pod, kill its podmates so no ranged attackers are about, and move your squad to block off all the routes up to a roof you'd moved your squad up to before encountering the pod, and so it mattered that this wouldn't be effective against a Faceless. In Chimera Squad, your agent turns are alternated with enemy turns by default and every enemy on the map is active automatically; you'll basically never be in a position to do the shenanigans of blocking off climb points in the first place.
It will intermittently result in a Faceless getting to attack where they wouldn't be able to do so if they lacked Leap, but as far as player-engagement stuff? It's kind of whatever in Chimera Squad, which is a pretty striking contrast with XCOM 2.
In general, where Faceless in XCOM 2 were a memorable, distinctive enemy, in Chimera Squad they're largely an ineffectual punching bag you ignore for a Round and then stomp effortlessly. Alas.
Narratively, Faceless aren't really addressed directly and explicitly by the game, but if you pay attention to background art it's clear the devs didn't just throw in Faceless without thought; there's a few different bits of art showing Faceless are supposed to be integrated into City 31 as full regular citizens. (My favorite by far is one of a Faceless in a construction worker outfit, hardhat included) We don't get any info on things like 'is there any social tension over the shapeshifting?' the way we get references to Sectoids wearing psi-dampers of some kind, but this isn't like how I'm genuinely unsure if Archons are 'properly canon' to Chimera Squad.
The fact that Faceless got placed on Gray Phoenix in particular is interestingly suggestive all by itself. Gray Phoenix, as I went over in the intro, is a faction of people who want to get off Earth and go back to their homeworlds; Faceless being a part of Gray Phoenix forces thus suggests that Faceless are in fact a natural species the Ethereals ripped away from a homeworld, not what Tygan speculated in XCOM 2 of having been created in a lab by the Ethereals. It doesn't demand that this scenario be true -it could instead be that the Faceless joining up with Gray Phoenix want to go to space to find a place to be their own, for example- but it's easy to imagine the devs put Faceless on Gray Phoenix with the 'going back to their homeworld' model in mind.
It's too bad Faceless are really obviously being hit by the 'this is a comparatively small project' stuff. It would've been nice to have Faceless being depicted with appropriate clothing, potentially actually wielding a ranged weapon of their own, potentially using their shapeshifting in new ways, not to mention getting audio that isn't just their moans, but all that was probably never on the table for Chimera Squad.
Conversely, I do hope that 'this is a comparatively small project' is why we don't get things like a new name for Faceless, rather than 'the devs would've mindlessly stuck with this even if this was XCOM 3 in its full glory'. I've previously commented on how the first game presented most alien names as Earthling-picked terms for their enemies and how it's weird in-universe that these have just become the canonically correct name for these species, but for Faceless in particular it's difficult to imagine the 'Faceless' name being anything other than a really hostile slur in-universe; 'Muton' is easy to accept as 'this is a roughly accurate representation of how you pronounce this people's name for themselves'. Faceless is... much harder to buy is anything like that.
(Realistically speaking, if humanity ever encounters aliens that speak in a manner recognizably alike to human vocalizations it actually is pretty likely they'll have a name for themselves that happens to be pronounced similarly to words humans have for existing concepts; this is already an issue just when talking one human language to another human language, where a perfectly acceptable and ordinary name for a person or family in one language sounds a lot like something completely different in another language. But within the context of fiction, there are a variety of motives for not wanting an alien species to be The Forks or something unless it's one or both of deliberate comedy or actually meant to be an accurate descriptor of some kind that presumably isn't meant to be their internal name at all, so even though it technically is plausible for Faceless to internally have their species name be something that is phonetically close to the English word 'faceless', my default assumption is nobody on the development team is thinking in such terms
And even if they were, I'd still expect 'Faceless' to be used as an ugly slur in-universe such that the species would very possibly insist on a different name for outside use once they were integrated into the post-Ethereal society. So either way, I hope XCOM 3-or-whatever gives them a species name that's not 'Faceless')
In any event, Faceless being humanized to even this extent was one of the biggest pleasant surprises for me; Faceless have so many qualities I normally see get inextricably intertwined with Bad Guy-ness evenin works trying to press messages of acceptance and all that when I first learned of Chimera Squad I honestly assumed Faceless would either not be in the game at all, or get handled in a really hostile way. Faceless being treated as Just Another Regular Group Of People was a happy shock. I'd have loved to have a Faceless team member to cement the point, but I imagine this was not particularly feasible in terms of the game's technical and budgetary limitations. (I suppose Whisper could have been a Faceless? Maybe?) So honestly, I'm quite happy with this much...
... especially if XCOM 3 comes along and makes Faceless a part of your forces.
Next time, we move on to the first Gray Phoenix Sectoid: the Paladin.
See you then.