Chimera Squad Enemy Analysis: Sacred Coil Andromedon

HP: 10 (+2/+4)
Armor: 1 (+0/+1)
Aim: 75/75/80/80 (+2/+5)
Mobility: 12
Damage: 4-5 (+1/+2)
Shred: 1
Will: 60 (+10/+20)
Initiative: 50

I have to wonder if Andromedons getting an above-average Mobility of 12 is an oversight, since 12 Mobility was the default in XCOM 2, or if it's intentional to support Andromedons using their melee attack.

Also, I'm going to point out aesthetic stuff here because of Andromedons messing with my usual format: firstly, their model is a bit smaller, which is... odd, but sure, whatever. Secondly, a detail I suspect most players miss that thankfully the above screenshot shows reasonably clearly is that their weapon's model has actually been updated to be Sacred Coil Red And Black. That's interesting, and makes me wonder if the idea is that Andromedons are getting their weapon from Sacred Coil. Given the lore stuff about Andromedon sanctuaries, it would make sense for Andromedon weapons to have all been confiscated even though their suits are still available to them.

Though that's me getting a bit ahead of myself; back to gameplay.

Such as the fact that they have only 1 Armor now! 2, if you hit Sacred Coil last, which is still half what they had in XCOM 2. Shred is not a key tool against Chimera Squad Andromedons, unlike in XCOM 2.

Alert Actions: Move to a better position, Hunker Down.

Note that Alert Andromedons don't move with an eye to leveraging their melee. They'll sometimes happen to use their Alert action such that they end up in melee range of someone, but it's not something they're trying to do.

This is true of all the melee-capable enemies that can go Alert and move about with their Alert action, mind, but Andromedons are more fond of their melee than most such enemies, so you might intuitively expect them to be trying harder to make a melee attack action possible, and no, not in the Breach Phase.

Immunities
Passive: The Andromedon is immune to all damage over time effects.

The immunity to Acid is less reliable in its relevancy since there's absolutely no way to produce Acid gear in Chimera Squad; in XCOM 2, if you produced Experimental Grenades aggressively until you had at least one Acid Grenade, it was basically guaranteed you've have one before Andromedons entered rotation. In Chimera Squad, you may never see Acid gear across your entire run, even if you're actively keeping an eye out for it; it can only be gotten as a random mission reward, and the game is perfectly happy to never have a mission generate Acid gear.

That said, Caustic Rounds are powerful in part because they're so widely effective, with Codices being literally the only other enemy Caustic Rounds don't boost damage against; if Caustic Rounds generate in your run, you basically always ought to go for them, and once you have them you should basically always have them equipped on someone, so in some sense Andromedon Acid immunity is notably more impactful than in XCOM 2. After all, Andromedons were actually perfectly fine targets for Acid Bombs, as the impact damage and Shred was still applied, and if you took out a given enemy before it got a turn you didn't actually care whether that enemy got afflicted with the Acid Burn or not. But with Caustic Rounds, you're losing impact damage in addition to the Acid Burn!

So that's an interesting change in context.

(Mind, Caustic Rounds also add Shred, even against Andromedons, so they're still adding more against Andromedons than Venom or Dragon Rounds)

Wall Smash
Passive: Can walk directly through destructible terrain freely, destroying it.

This is even less relevant than in XCOM 2, unfortunately, as Chimera Squad's maps tend to be light on serious-but-destructible Cover elements and to a lesser extent is also light on destructible walls, and heavy on indestructible Cover like slightly-raised ground whose edges function as Light Cover.

Even on maps that do have solid walls that can be slammed through, Andromedons rarely think to path through them, even if it would secure an easy flank. I'm not entirely sure why: Chimera Squad always has the entire map visible to the player regardless of agent line of sight, and the AI is clearly operating under the same level of awareness. So it's not a matter of the Andromedon not being able to see through the wall, or anything like that.

So even though Andromedons are the only Wall Smasher that can show up in regular missions and thus theoretically has the most potential to have Wall Smash actually come up... it's almost a technicality that they have it. Alas.

Fist Strike
Turn-ending action: A move-and-melee attack that does 4-5 damage, but suffers -15 to Aim. Vaporizes environmental objects around the target, such as Cover.

A bizarre oddity with the Andromedon's Fist Strike is that it actually has an insane 12 crit damage... which doesn't matter normally, as all melee attacks in Chimera Squad are completely unable to crit, because for some reason they're all classed as a form of overwatch internally. So that's multiple levels of strange.

Fist Strike itself doesn't get any stronger with later Investigations, so in spite of starting out equally strong to their firearm, if you save Sacred Coil for later their punches will become consistently less threatening than their ranged attack. Which, yes, is another example of Sacred Coil being easier if hit later than earlier, if one of the least reliably relevant ones.

Anyway, the terrain-smashing component is much less absurd than in XCOM 2, with only a 1 tile radius instead of a 2 tile radius, and being centered on the target instead of the Andromedon. No longer do they throw a punch and wipe out walls behind themselves. (This might be why their model was shrunk, actually: to make the reduced smash zone visually intuitive) In conjunction with how Chimera Squad is much more prone to indestructible Cover elements than XCOM 2, it's actually pretty rare for an Andromedon to cause much havoc with its punch... and thanks to the Timeline, an Andromedon punching away Cover is much less likely to result in other enemies promptly firing on your now-exposed agent. The agent in question may be next on the Timeline and just walk to new Cover before anything can attack them!

This is still an imposition for a lot of agents, mind, since most agents can efficiently spend both action points on non-movement actions, but it's much less of a concern than 'and then that person is shot by multiple enemies and goes down', and it's still possible for it to be the case that the agent doesn't suffer from the pressure to move. Godmother and Zephyr, for example, have no internal ways to efficiently spend action points on non-movement actions. Furthermore, every agent has a built-in move-and-melee action, so eg Verge might Stupor one enemy and then Subdue another to get safely into Cover. So all-around, the punch is much less prone to being a real problem than in XCOM 2.

This is in spite of the fact that it's now a move-and-melee action itself and so Andromedons can break it out much more easily than in XCOM 2!

Acid Blob
Turn-ending action: Targets a plus-shaped set of tiles, inflicting Acid Burn on everything inside them. Shreds 1 Armor from all units hit.

Curiously, Acid Blob has a damage value in the files (Presumably because it did impact damage in XCOM 2), but in-game it doesn't do immediate damage... though as I've noted before, it breaks Kinetic Shields, which is a bit frustrating.

Aside the Kinetic Shield jank, this is heavily nerfed relative to XCOM 2, but remains a fairly scary threat, especially if you take Sacred Coil on first. (Yes, this is another way in which Sacred Coil is more of a threat if fought early than if fought late) For one thing, Acid Burn itself has been upgraded so it Ruptures the victim after it times out. For another, Andromedons are no longer reserved strictly for nearly the end of the game -in XCOM 2, your squad expected to be near or at max level and would certainly have their armor upgraded at least once by the time Andromedons showed up, and so be maxed or nearly maxed on HP, minimizing the danger from Acid Burn's damage over time. Hitting Sacred Coil first won't afford your squad this benefit in Chimera Squad.

Also important is the intersection of the post-Breach automated scatter and the phenomenon I've previously described of enemy turn placement 'looping' when more than 4 enemies survive the Breach Phase; it's entirely possible to end up with three agents physically lined up in a row after the scramble completes, where those agents all have their turn placed after an Andromedon's turn, and so without turn manipulation the Andromedon can easily blast 3/4ths of your team through no real fault of the player's. In XCOM 2, a comparable outcome can be reliably avoided by just... not habitually clustering the team to such an extent. So for a player who habitually spreads their team out in both games, Acid Blob in XCOM 2 basically can't hit more than one person vs in Chimera Squad events may line up so it hits 3 people; even with Acid Blob no longer doing impact damage, the latter scenario is generally more dangerous than the former scenario.

So overall I'd argue Acid Blob is actually a little more dangerous in Chimera Squad than in XCOM 2, at least for a player who already knows about it and tries to minimize potential harm from it.

Robot Battlesuit
Passive: When reduced to 0 HP, automatically dies and is replaced with an Andromedon Shell.

Still the Andromedon's most iconic ability, of course.

So now it's time to cover the Shell!


HP: 8 (+1/+2)
Aim: 80/80/85/85 (+2/+5)
Mobility: 12
Damage: 4-5
Will: 50
Initiative: 50 (Not that it matters)
Tech: 80

Yes, Shells have 5 points of Aim over live Andromedons. This is slightly misleading in practice, but still funny.

Alert Actions: N/A

Andromedons never start an Encounter busted, so Andromedon Shells have no behavior for the Breach Phase. In fact, killing an Andromedon in the Breach Phase won't let you target its Shell with Breach Phase actions -it doesn't exist until the Breach Phase ends, with the 'Shell coming online' animation not playing until that point.

Robot Battlesuit
Special: Replaces an Andromedon when the Andromedon dies. Immune to Acid.

One weird consequence of this effect is that Andromedons are one of two enemies in the game that Verge can add to his Neural Network, but can't keep in it when taking them out. (The other being Codices) An Andromedon reduced to 0 HP will be killed and replaced by the Shell version, even if the finishing blow was Subdue, Tranq Rounds-backed, or the Andromedon was in Verge's Neural Network while he has Collar!

Also, it's worth pointing out that the Shell's turn does not slot into where the live Andromedon's turn was, but instead gets placed at the end of the current Timeline. As such, killing an Andromedon actually does serve to delay action from it, even if you're specifically concerned by its punch. Note that since the Shell gets placed at the end of the Timeline at the exact moment the Andromedon dies, it's better to kill an Andromedon later if possible; the later it dies, the more you're delaying the Shell's turn. Better to have the last possible agent kill it, if you can. Also note that the Shell's turn gets placed before ending the turn of the Andromedon's killer, if said killer used a turn-ending action to finish the Andromedon: having Axiom kill an Andromedon as his last action of his turn will result in his next turn going after the Shell's first turn. Ideally, you'd always arrange to kill an Andromedon inside an enemy turn after all your agents have their turns after the Andromedon's turn, though in practice this is pretty difficult to arrange given Andromedons are immune to all damage-over-time effects; you can still do it with Overwatch, special reaction effects, and potentially with certain delayed effects like Claymore's Shrapnel Bomb, but those aren't necessarily available as options.

Mechanical Chassis
Passive: Immune to Poison and Fire, but susceptible to anti-robot effects.

Oddly, I've had inconsistent results on whether Shells are immune to Unconsciousness or not. I'm unsure if this is to do with switching to the Highlander mod for my last few runs, or due to the game's one and only patch, or what, but in my earliest runs Shells were full-stop immune to Unconsciousness, where in my later runs I was surprised to find that Subdue would KO them just fine. So I'm not sure what other players should expect in that regard.

Otherwise, this is another Sacred Coil robot, putting them at 3-and-a-half regular units that anti-robot tools are effective against. Andromedons are the rarest of the bunch, mind, but that's one more example of them being the faction to bring Patchwork and/or equip Bluescreen Rounds and Shock Grenades.

Wall Smash
Passive: Can walk directly through destructible terrain freely, destroying it.

Far more likely to meaningfully come up than with a live Andromedon, as Shells just try to go pretty directly to the nearest punchable target without any regard for Cover, what with not using it and all. It's still less relevant overall than in XCOM 2, but much less dramatically so than with the live Andromedon.

Hardened
Passive: Does not make use of Cover, but does not suffer penalties from being in the open.

As always, this is less meaningful than in XCOM 2... and unlike most such enemies, Andromedon Shells can't exist in the Breach Phase, so the whole 'enemies that don't use Cover usually don't fully participate in the Breach Phase' thing doesn't even apply to them.

Acid Trail
Passive: As the Andromedon Shell walks, each tile it passes through is filled with a cloud of acid that will inflict Acid Burn on units that pass through while the cloud still lingers. These acid clouds last exactly one turn, and do not move.

The behind-the-scenes mechanics seem to have changed, as I've had times in Chimera Squad where an agent was able to weave between two Acid tiles left by an Andromedon Shell, where in XCOM 2 I've never had a soldier able to walk through such safely unless they were immune to Acid. This ability to weave through diagonally-adjacent tiles seems to in fact be the default now; I think the Acid trail has only acted as a solid wall in Chimera Squad when its segments were all orthogonally adjacent.

Aside this point, though, this is much as it was in XCOM 2, but with generally reduced relevance by the context shift. That is, in XCOM 2 the 'default' mission design was that you were trying to get somewhere in a time limit, where having to go around an acid trail or wait a turn for it to fade was an actual problem because it could slow your progress toward your objective and so potentially cause you to fail the objective. In Chimera Squad, such missions exist, but are a minority, and notably Chimera Squad almost never uses a hard 'you fail the mission if too much time passes'. VIP Extraction missions are the most common 'quick, get somewhere specific' mission type in Chimera Squad, and in those the only reason you're in a hurry is because enemies reinforce in unlimitedly; you can absolutely chill in such a mission for 30 Rounds if you feel like it, so long as you do get the VIP to the extraction point eventually. This is pretty typical of Chimera Squad's mission design: faster is better, yes, but taking too long is almost never a failure condition, with the game preferring to punish dallying by throwing even more enemies at your squad.

Also worth pointing out is that status conditions are automatically cleaned up when clearing an Encounter. Having an agent run through the Acid trail as part of taking out the last enemy in an Encounter is costless, even if it's the first Encounter of three, where in XCOM 2 the approximate equivalent -running through Acid to finish the last member of the first pod on a map- would not be costless.

All that said, the Acid trail is low-key one more thing contributing to Sacred Coil being the faction you're most likely to miss out on Intel from capturing enemies. After all, Subdue is a melee action; if you end up deciding you're not willing to walk an agent through the Acid trail to Subdue a target and instead use a ranged action, this may be reducing your odds of getting Intel afterward. It's very much one of the most minor factors in this point, but it's kind of amazing how many such factors ended up concentrated on Sacred Coil in particular.

Fist Strike
Passive: The Andromedon Shell's primary attack is its move-and-melee attack, and it suffers a -15 penalty to Aim.

The bizarre 12 crit damage thing that can't actually trigger applies here, too, because the Shell is using the exact same 'weapon' as the live Andromedon. And just as in XCOM 2, this is the Shell's only weapon, so its base Aim is effectively 15 points less than their core value implies.

Unlike in XCOM 2, Shells actually have more Aim than live Andromedons, so a Shell's punch is slightly more accurate than a live Andromedon's punch. Still less accurate than a live Andromedon shooting, mind, but a Shell actually has a very respectable chance to hit; if you Investigate Sacred Coil last and are playing on the higher difficulties, a Shell has a 75% chance to hit!

In conjunction with the smaller maps, the entire combat framework generally forcing your squad to start fights at closer than their maximum range, and their punch being a move-and-melee attack now, Shells are much more notable of threats in their own right than they were in XCOM 2. A Shell is actually pretty likely to start in punching range of someone in Chimera Squad even if your agents don't advance on the enemy at all, where in XCOM 2 a Shell would basically always have to spend an entire turn on advancing before it could punch someone if you weren't moving your squad very aggressively.

It's also worth pointing out that even though the raw numbers on Andromedon durability are down, I'd argue that their proportionate durability is actually up. The damage numbers on player weapons are down, the player's maximum squad size is 33% smaller, the Timeline system means the player doesn't necessarily get to bring the whole squad's firepower to bear before the Andromedon gets a turn, and Andromedon headcounts are functionally up, as Andromedons were restricted to being pod leaders in XCOM 2 and so if the player reliably pulled only one pod at a time they'd only ever have 1 Andromedon active at a time, whereas in Chimera Squad Andromedons are still uncommon but can in fact have 2 in a single Encounter. Taken altogether, it's much more plausible for 'perfect play' in Chimera Squad to still result in an Andromedon -or an Andromedon Shell- surviving long enough to get a turn, which of course means Andromedon Shells are much more likely to get an opportunity to throw a punch than in XCOM 2.

All that said, Andromedon Shells are still one of the more likely enemies to make sense to ignore for a Round; that's just fundamental to being a dedicated melee enemy. On a larger map, they can easily be too far away to reach anybody, and even on mid-sized maps it can happen. Only the smallest of maps are more or less impossible to have a Shell be out of range of all your agents.

Just keep in mind that you probably need to adjust your expectations on how safe it is to ignore a Shell for a turn, relative to XCOM 2.

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Narratively, Andromedons are lightly addressed by the game, which is more coverage than a lot of enemy types get in Chimera Squad, but still pretty ambiguous. We hear about Andromedon 'sanctuaries', where it's made clear these sanctuaries are the Andromedons living in holdings completely separate from most of the post-Ethereal society, which makes intuitive sense given their radically different environmental needs, a point the game will itself draw attention to in some lore quotes; Andromedons can't survive in Earth's atmosphere, so of course it's easier (and safer) to set up a dedicated environment for them than it is to try to set things up so they're freely intermingling with everyone else.

What a sanctuary specifically is like is not addressed that I'm aware; I'm pretty sure my mental image of an above-ground geodesic dome filled with acid atmosphere is purely in my head and not derived from anything actually in the game, but it's possible I've forgotten some relatively specific reference that metaphorically painted that picture. Among other points, a fair amount of the lore stuff is locked away in optional missions, which not only can be skipped but a given such mission doesn't necessarily generate in a given run.

In any event...

Well, first I should back up a bit and connect this back to how I've previously covered the practical difficulties in Gray Phoenix's desire to return home. Because you see, the Andromedon's name is most likely derived from a real stellar feature: the Andromeda galaxy. This suggests the devs of XCOM 2 were intending for Andromedons to be natives of a planet somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy, and while Andromeda is notable for being the closest galaxy to the Milky Way, it's still hundreds of millions of lightyears away.

Now, the naming scheme suggests Andromedons are probably meant to be the only species that's from the Andromeda galaxy in the Ethereal forces, but this is something of a 'meta' inference; from an in-universe perspective, there's no guarantee the Andromedon name will be explained in this way even if they're confirmed to come from the Andromeda galaxy, and furthermore in real life names often end up seeming pretty strange in retrospect. That is, it's possible to imagine that the Ethereals nipped off to Andromeda, found the Andromedons, named them after the galaxy (We can imagine the Andromedon name is a 'translation convention', where the Ethereals named them after whatever Ethereals call that galaxy but we get 'Andromedon' as an approximation) in the expectation that they weren't going to find any other species (Such as if the Ethereals had already searched multiple galaxies and never found more than one species per galaxy), and then whoops proceeded to find Mutons and Archons in Andromeda so the apparent implication of 'only one species is named after this galaxy, so only they come from this galaxy' is extremely inaccurate.

Note that it doesn't actually matter to my point whether any of this did happen in this way I'm laying out. The actual point I'm driving at is that if I were a Gray Phoenix Viper working with Ethereal records of their travels to try to guess where the homeworlds of all these species were and plot out search patterns, it's entirely possible I'd have to worry about an entire other galaxy. Possibly multiple! So when I was laying out the difficulties in searching for the homeworlds before, that was honestly a pretty significant underestimation of what the scale of the problem might be.

Now, the other interesting thing here is the part where Andromedons are attached to Sacred Coil instead of Gray Phoenix. I strongly suspect the primary dev motive was to try to round out Sacred Coil's elite unit section, as in XCOM 2 the ADVENT hybrids were uniformly handled by the game as lesser threats than the alien species, but whatever the initial developer impetus for this choice was, the result is that in the final product Andromedons seem to be collectively disinterested in a Return To Home plan. That's interesting given the atmosphere point; I'd really expect Andromedons to be the most consistent about wanting to get off Earth and find their original home, or at least to find a place where they don't require a sealed suit to be able to survive on it at all.

Why there are Andromedons joining up with Sacred Coil instead is not directly addressed as far as I'm aware, unfortunately, but you can get some information of interest.

First of all, you can hear about your bosses getting in contact with the Andromedon sanctuaries and have it come up that some Andromedon suits are 'missing'. The implication seems to be that the Andromedons have not had their suits confiscated, only their firearms, which is a pleasant surprise, as it implies that Andromedons are in fact being allowed to relatively freely leave their sanctuary if they feel like going somewhere for any number of reasons. This stands out given the suits are obviously effective weapons of war even without the firearm; it would be so easy for the Earth government to justify taking away the suits on this basis and then be slow to get around to providing less combat-capable replacements, at which point 'Andromedon sanctuary' would be a euphemism for 'Andromedon prison', all under very defensible reasonings. Even less cynical fiction often ends up thoughtlessly implying this type of scenario in comparable contexts, so it's quite striking that Chimera Squad did not. It's not like the dev motive of 'we need Andromedons in their existing suits' is why this was handled this way; saying Sacred Coil stole Andromedon suits from lockup would've worked fine for satisfying that motive.

Anyway, in turn this bit implies that the Andromedons working with Sacred Coil are very much a minority of Andromedons. This is a recurring thing with Sacred Coil, where the game goes out of its way to communicate that Sacred Coil does not represent a majority opinion; they aren't the main of the hybrid population, nor the Andromedon population, and I've similarly pointed out their heavy use of robots and Chryssalids lets them have lots of combat units that aren't ideologically backing Sacred Coil. I personally appreciate this for a few different reasons, but perhaps the most pertinent one is that this finally firmly course-corrects on something I've complained about in regard to base XCOM 2: that there was originally an unpleasant undertone that X-COM's victory would then lead into a Heroic Genocide of all the hybrids and aliens. War of the Chosen already walked this back some with the Skirmishers showing that hybrids weren't going to be universally killed for the crime of being born, but the Skirmishers were pretty explicitly a small portion of the ADVENT hybrids so the implication still leaned pretty heavily Heroic Genocide, especially since the Vipers and so on weren't addressed at all by XCOM 2 even into War of the Chosen.

So it's very much appreciated that Chimera Squad uses Sacred Coil to firmly establish that diehard loyalists to the old regime do exist but are very specifically a minority opinion. This actually helps sell the larger picture the game paints where embracing all peoples really is mostly going well; a lot of stories that want to insist that things are going perfectly (100% success as opposed to 90% success) in some regard or another are actually harming themselves, not simply for the obvious credibility point, but because in-universe messages of that sort generally make more sense as propaganda than they do as the honest truth -which is particularly pertinent to Chimera Squad given that it's a sequel to XCOM 2, which was a depiction of a dystopia insisting it was a utopia. That kind of deliberate dissonance in a story primes audiences to keep an eye out for similar dissonance in future entries!

Anyway, returning to the point of 'why are Andromedons in Sacred Coil in specific, anyway?'...

It's worth pointing out that we don't see any other non-Chryssalid aliens in Sacred Coil (Well, technically there's one other exception, but only technically, and that's for next post), where apparently diehard loyalists to the ADVENT regime are extremely-rare-to-nonexistent among Sectoids, Vipers, and Mutons, which naturally raises the question: what's going on with the population demographics here that Sacred Coil manages to lure a non-trivial number of Andromedons to their cause, but not other aliens? Was the old regime on average less bad for Andromedons than for most of the Ethereal slave-species? Is there some cultural root, where traditional Andromedon culture persisted some through Ethereal rule and was more in line with Ethereal values than whatever traditional Sectoid, Muton, and Viper cultural elements avoided being erased?

So in addition to 'it's surprising they're not in Gray Phoenix instead', that Andromedons are in Sacred Coil in particular raises a lot of potentially-interesting questions that, as far as I'm aware, are not addressed in even an implicit way.

I do suspect this is first and foremost Chimera Squad leaving the field open for any follow-up games, where XCOM 3 is free to arrive at any number of scenarios without worrying about contradicting Chimera Squad. As in, if XCOM 3 decides to have Andromedon squad members in player hands, it can do that easily, or if it decides that's impractical/too much work on top of everything else/whatever, it can just say the Andromedons are mostly sticking to their sanctuaries, or if it decides it wants them to be non-standard squad members, it can do that readily too. (eg it could have mechanics for having to buddy up to an Andromedon sanctuary to get an Andromedon squad member, similar to Resistance classes in War of the Chosen)

So while it's a bit annoying how murky this stuff is in the current state of things, I kind of suspect there's a sensible purpose to it and this murkiness will be resolved once we get XCOM 3. (Or a Major Non-Mainline Game, I suppose, but while I like the idea of a The Bureau-style game set within XCOM 2's timeframe, I don't have any particular reason to suspect such a thing is planned)

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Next time, we cover the first Sacred Coil boss enemy, our last familiar face from XCOM 2.

See you then.

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