XCOM Aliens Analysis: Part 2

More Aliens!


Cyberdisc
Aim: 70/70/80/80
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10 (+25% from Cyberdisc Cannon)
Defense: 10
HP: 16/16/20/20
Mobility: 18 (11.08/22.16)
Will: 0
Damage: 8 (Cyberdisc Cannon)

Flies, can throw an Alien Grenade and has enhanced throwing range with it, can Death Blossom (5 damage base, normal damage variation) in close range, which also puts it into its "closed" form, and is Hardened when in its "closed" form. Cannot be stunned/captured and is a robot with all the benefits that come with that. Special note: spawns with up to 2 Drones, rather than in groups of Cyberdiscs. Explodes when killed, injuring everything in an area around it and destroying Cover. Firing its primary gun takes it out of its "closed" form, denying it the Hardened trait.

One of the most threatening enemies of the game, particularly in the base game where they can be considered comparable to Sectopods. (In Enemy Within, Sectopods get a big buff, while Cyberdiscs are unmodified) The AI isn't very good at using Death Blossom, and anyway Death Blossom isn't that lethal unless your soldiers are clumped in which case it can lob an Alien Grenade without needing to get close, so it's largely not very relevant. Their closed/open dynamic is a rare case of the player being somewhat incentivized to let the enemy get the first turn, as an "open" Cyberdisc has high odds of taking a critical hit. Unfortunately, they close up the first time they take damage, so in practice it's not hugely influential, as you can't count on the crit and they're too dangerous to be given free reign to shoot your guys. The Alien Grenade is part of a larger trend of the game where pretty much every enemy in the late game has access to an area-of-effect attack, discouraging clumping and overreliance on Cover.

Its main gun is likely to be the most lethal thing around for a long time, making Cyberdiscs a priority target. Their self-destruct is, unfortunately, largely a disadvantage -in the original XCOM, closing to on top of an enemy is a fantastic way to maximize your odds of hitting, and is liable to get soldiers killed if you try it on a Cyberdisc. In the remaquel there's very little reason to not back out of reach and then fire if a Cyberdisc does get itself on top of you (The Aim bonus for being close up isn't that huge), and little reason to deliberately get that close with your own soldiers. (Even Enemy Within providing a melee weapon on Mecs isn't enough to make it a threatening trait, as Kinetic Strike will knock away the corpse and then the Cyberdisc explodes)

In practice the self-destruct means a player can do things like focus fire on the Cyberdisc in expectation of its self-destruct killing the accompanying Drones. Worse, if the Cyberdisc has gotten itself among other Aliens killing it becomes free damage on them and potentially a way to break their cover, rendering them vulnerable to follow-up attacks. Cyberdiscs have also lost their other scary trait from the original XCOM -in the original game it was impossible to tell which way they were facing, and their good Reactions score and high Accuracy meant soldiers tended to die if they thought they were sneaking up on it and they weren't. Remaquel Cyberdiscs have nothing remotely equivalent to this trait, since facing is only kind-of a concept with units that use cover and Cyberdiscs are not such a one.




Aesthetically speaking, I have mixed feelings about this design. I actually like how they seem like they're completely unmodified from the original at a glance and then surprise! they open up into a walking robot form:




I think the design itself is kind of silly -why does it have a tail, for example?- but I think the twist is worth it regardless.

Ultimately my main complaint is that I feel they should've had two weapons -a weak-but-accurate weapon they could fire from their edge while staying in disc form, and the powerful main gun that exposes them to fire. The Death Blossom feels like a thin attempt to justify their disc-mode's design, and I don't think it succeeds, particularly as their "aliens spotted" animation involves what seems to be a searchlight effect from the disc line. It's not even like they're forced to land to fire their main gun -their disc mode isn't a flight mode, sacrificing firepower for mobility. The only thing that justifies the disc mode at all is their unique mechanic of being Hardened only when in disc mode... when every other Hardened unit is Hardened at all times, no need to drop into a special mode.


That's a very thin justification.


Drone
Aim: 60/60/70/70
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10 (+10% from Drone Beam)
Defense: 10
HP: 3/3/5/7
Mobility: 12 (7.5/15)
Will: 0
Damage: 2 (Drone Beam)

Flies, can repair robots, can Overload to damage everything in a radius including itself (On higher difficulties it can potentially survive to do it again), is Hardened, and of course is a robot that cannot be stunned or captured. Can be stolen by hitting it with an Arc Thrower (Once a Foundry Project is completed), but not captured in the usual sense, and will die at the end of the mission regardless.

A weird little addition relative to the original game. Drones themselves are basically only relevant for their ability to repair robotic units, with a gun weaker than a Sectoid's, and on lower difficulties identical HP and worse Aim. (On higher difficulties they have more HP and their Aim is actually higher on Classic in specific for some reason) This works out, because they normally only spawn as supporting one of the two big robots -the Cyberdisc or the Sectopod. They're meant to be a support unit, not a legitimate threat in their own right.



Aesthetically, Drones are silly, but not overly so. I do wonder if their design was originally intended to be an XCOM design, as they produce a fairly conspicuous X mark with lighting similar to the remaquel's boxart.

My only real complaint is that the four "claws" are difficult to guess what they're supposed to be for. My best guess is that they're meant to be what it uses to repair robotic units, but I'm not sure the animation supports that guess, and frankly they look more like a gripping tool. There's no tools attached to them and nowhere evident for them to hide, and the things don't open up when they repair robots. Puzzling.



Heavy Floater
Aim: 70/70/80/80
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10 (+10 from Plasma Rifle)
Defense: 10
HP: 12/12/14/16
Mobility: 12 (7.5/15)
Will: 25
Damage: 7 (Plasma Rifle)

Like a Floater, flies and has the Launch ability, unlike the Floater it additionally has one Alien Grenade to throw and has enhanced throwing range. Also like a Floater, is considered by default to be in Partial Cover.

Worth 5 Meld when killed, unless slain with fire or explosives. (Incinerating the area they fell in won't destroy the Meld, nor does simply damaging them with explosives destroy it: it specifically has to be the lethal blow) Note that a Meld Canister is worth 10 when collected, and a mission with Meld Canisters has 2 of the things.

It's a Muton that flies and is somehow even tougher than a Muton when it's missing most of its body and its additions are presumably-sensitive flight gear. There is something very wrong here.

In the base game they're mostly notable as, bizarrely enough, being the Muton 2.0 -they show up before Muton Elites, month-wise, and fulfill largely the same sort of role as a Muton, just with more HP. They fly and have the Launch ability, of course, but the impact this has on gameplay is fairly small. The tendency to arrange to be able to shoot your guys while they're not protected by cover is already produced by having an Alien Grenade, for one, and the Alien Grenade inflicts reliable damage while opening the target to squadmates. Heavy Floaters aren't very interesting from a gameplay standpoint, being just generic endgame thugs.

In Enemy Within they become slightly more interesting by virtue of utterly breaking the Meld economy in the endgame. Meld is supposed to be a precious resource, and every Heavy Floater slain is 5 more Meld, when they'll be showing up 2-3 troops per pod and normally you'd only get 20 Meld in a mission at most. I honestly don't get why they weren't made worth 1 or 2 Meld.



Aesthetically, I like the Heavy Floater a lot more than the Floater, though at the same time its design reinforces my commentary on the Floater -the Heavy Floater is very obviously a piece of military technology, even more so than the Floater, and basically replaces Floaters in the spawn tables.

There's also the question of why regular Floaters are ever deployed at all -the remaquel doesn't seem to have any resource limitations on the Aliens worth noting, and personnel are apparently manufactured, not recruited and equipped. Why even bother with the crappy basic variant? There's no evidence the Aliens have any reason to have this progression, in-universe. It's just a game-ism showing up for no clear reason.


Which stands out when the original X-COM did such a good job of justifying the progression.


Muton Elite
Aim: 80/80/90/100
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10
Defense: 20/20/30/30
HP: 14/14/14/18 (14/14/18/20 in Enemy Within)
Mobility: 12 (7.5/15. Blood Call raises this to 9.85/19.70)
Will: 20
Damage: 9 (Heavy Plasma Rifle)

Can Suppress, has Intimidation, and has an Alien Grenade which it has enhanced throwing range on.

It's an endgame Muton that's lost Blood Call but can chuck its Alien Grenade farther than usual. The throwing range advantage shows up on multiple Alien units and I've not commented on it before, because I think it's a borderline-pointless trait. The Muton/Muton Elite comparison highlights it -in theory Muton Elites have an advantage with their Alien Grenade over regular Mutons, but in practice the way the game is constructed any given grenade-chucking enemy is probably going to be in reach of and in sight of anything worth chucking a grenade at regardless of the range advantage. Since enemy units will never chuck a grenade from out of your field of view (At least not unless you spotted them first and let them leave your line of sight), the range advantage is largely irrelevant outside of Multiplayer.

The only really noteworthy feature of Muton Elites is their Heavy Plasma Rifle. Partly for making them the most lethal enemy in the game whose weapon you can steal, but mostly because they're the only source of Heavy Plasma Rifles. This makes them a priority target for capturing.

Also, prior to Enemy Within, on Classic Difficulty they were exactly as tough as a Sectoid Commander aside from the Defense advantage, and even into Enemy Within their durability advantage is surprisingly small. It's all too easy for endgame player soldiers to be noticeably tougher than them, too, which is absurd in a game that's seriously throwing around the idea of superior alien technology and superior genetically engineered alien supersoldiers. If they have all the advantages, why do they suck so much?




Aesthetically, I actually really like the design. It's the one and only Alien design that suggests the Aliens have any kind of aesthetic appreciation, and it doesn't actively sacrifice practicality in favor of ornamentation. It's a believable intersection of "I'm important, so I need to be fancy" and "I'm important, so my armor needs to be good". Even the fact that it's red instead of classic Muton green helps mark them out as different. (Also, it's probably a reference to the red Muton in the classic XCOM opening)

The Elite's design does make it harder to rationalize basic Mutons failing to adequately protect their head, but that's a flaw with the Muton's design anyway. That the Muton Elite is sensible is not a strike against the Elite's design.



Berserker
Aim: 60 (Most likely a weird holdover from an earlier version of the game. Maybe they had a gun originally?)
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10 (+33 from the Muton Blade)
Defense: 20
HP: 20/20/20/25
Mobility: 17 (10.46/20.92. Blood Call raises this to 12.92/25.84)
Will: 80
Damage: 9/9/10/12 (Muton Blade)

Hardened, Intimidate, Bloodlust causes them to move toward their tormentor by 4 tiles when shot (After Intimidating the attacker), and they can use Bull Rush. (Runs forward in a straight line and will rip through destructible elements like Cover and walls)

Take Chryssalid. Make Chryssalid not completely suck. Remove Chryssalid's zombie-making gimmick.

Between their respectable durability and the trait that makes them move toward whoever shoots them (And, according to some people, make an opportunistic attack if they end up closing to melee range with their tormentor, but I haven't seen this myself), Berserkers are considerably more likely to actually do damage or at least incite a player to panic as they keep making the situation worse by shooting it. Bull Rush contributes to their competency, allowing them to actually initiate a melee attack on a target from a respectable distance. They're not super threatening in practice just because the combat system is so unfriendly to dedicated melee units, but if they do close to melee successfully they're pretty terrifying.

I just wish the Chryssalid matched this description while the Berserker was something even more threatening.




Aesthetically I don't really get Berserkers. Their vaguely gimp mask-y helmet is puzzling, it seems silly that the Aliens would take a regular Muton and slap them into a melee combat suit rather than genetically engineering something like the original game's Reaper, and the fact that they're red and Muton Elites are red seems odd. There's lots of precedent for associating berserkers with the color red in pop culture, but Muton Berserkers do not appear to be intended to be an elite segment of the Muton population, so I'd expect their armor color to not be something readily confused with Muton Elites, particularly given the story does not seem to intend for Muton Berserkers to be an exalted form of Muton. I don't exactly dislike the Berserker's design -I actually kind of like how it's asymmetrical- but I have to question various aspects of it.

Ultimately my main criticism is not strictly aesthetic, but more conceptual. Specifically: why make a dedicated melee Alien unit with no particularly stand-out interesting gameplay traits... and make it a crazy Muton in a red suit rather than bringing back the Reaper with a new design? It would make more sense on a number of levels, and there's no specific reason I can see to avoid bringing back the Reaper. The lack of a ranged weapon would be much more believable with what amounts to an alien attack dog than with a Muton, among other points. If the developers had stuck to one melee Alien, or if their second one had been Enemy Within's rather distinct Seekers, I'd nod understandingly and move on -Reapers were basically just free experience in the original game, anyway- but the only way it comes close to mattering that they chose the aesthetic of a melee Muton is that Blood Call affects them.

That, itself, is honestly questionable if you think deeper on it. Why, exactly, would Mutons be the only Aliens that could be exhorted to greater heights by Mutons? Is there some clannish insularity, where Mutons don't get along with other Aliens? What is up with that, seriously? It would make perfect sense for Blood Call to work on all non-robots, and incidentally make it a lot more relevant of an effect. Not even getting into the fact that it's inconsistent species-ism, given that Floaters and Heavy Floaters are also Mutons, but don't benefit from Blood Call. Why even make Floaters Mutons in aesthetic terms if you're not going to make it true in mechanical terms?



Sectopod
Aim: 80/80/90/90
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10 (+10 from Chest Cannon)
Defense: 30
HP: 30
Mobility: 12 (7.5/15)
Will: 0
Damage: 10 (Cannon Fire)

The Sectopod is Hardened, can take a second action and automatically enter Overwatch when using its main gun as its first action, has the Cluster Bomb special (Hits three times for 4-7 damage per shot with Grenade-like mechanics, doesn't actually fire until the turn after activation, is obstructed by ceilings), and of course is a robot and cannot be stunned/captured. Its primary gun also does splash damage prior to Enemy Within. In Enemy Within it gains the Reinforced Armor trait, which causes it to take halved damage, rounding up (Except from splash damage, which always does full damage. Rift is an exception to this exception for some reason, and does halved damage), and it now properly self-destructs when killed, injured units nearby. (It was coded to self-destruct in the original, but due to a bug it didn't)

One of the nastiest enemies in the game, arguably the nastiest. The only advantage you have against Sectopods is HEAT Ammunition... which was weakened in Enemy Within while they also doubled their general durability via Reinforced Armor. Worth noting that is their AI has a shackle on it -they can fire twice in one turn, but they're supposed to not fire twice on the same target if they do, preventing them from instantly killing a 20 HP unit in one turn on their own. Enemy Within slightly modifies this shackle so that, if there's only one target in their range, they are allowed to fire twice on that target, which is just one more way it increases their threat level.

The Cluster Bomb special, though it's delayed a turn, does not consume an action on the next turn. Instead, the Alien turn will roll around, they'll fire their Cluster Bomb, and then they'll take their full turn on top of that. It also doesn't seem to be coded very well -if you stun a Sectopod that has initiated the Cluster Bomb (Via Electro Pulse), it will still fire it on the following turn, and it can activate the Mec's fire-on-targets-that-shoot-at-me skill even if the Mec is nowhere near the Cluster Bomb's strike zone, so long as the Cluster Bomb's initial sighting had them in its projected strike zone.

The only particular thing I have to say about their gameplay design is that it's sort of weird to me how many special effects were stacked onto them. To a certain extent Firaxis seems to be taking inspiration from Enforcer, which is kind of cool in a way, but mostly it's just weird how they've gone from being insanely tough and lethal but without special mechanics attached to having like a half-dozen mechanics that are completely unique to them.

I do resent that they no longer have a weakness to Lasers, but that's more a commentary on how the game has taken away a lot of depth in general, not a commentary on how they handled the Sectopod in specific. It does also bother me that they aren't a four-tile unit like in the original, particularly given they haven't been redesigned to be less hulking, but that's also a larger flaw with the game, as there isn't any case of a four-tile unit in the game. On the other hand, four-tile units were buggy as heck in the original XCOM, so I can understand wanting to avoid running into those problems again.




Aesthetically, there's not a lot for me to say. They're technically different from the original game's design, but the only difference that really leaps out is that the original Sectopod design included a red glass-looking "head" where the new design has a cluster of glowing "eyes". Otherwise it's a fairly faithful adaptation, and I frankly found the original design somewhat silly -the glass bubble seems like a fairly significant weak point on something that is, in gameplay terms, insanely durable.

So... I like the new design?

I guess I maybe take issue with how they made it sharp-edged and insectoid in appearance -part of the appeal for me with the original Alien designs is that they're not blatantly sinister, and indeed Sectoids are based on "Greys", which in UFO lore aren't even necessarily hostile. It's nice to see a game where the bad guys aren't bad guy-ified, and that is one of my main criticisms of the remaquel's designs. On the other hand, nothing about the remaquel's Sectopod design really leaps out at me as gratuitously sinister -I can imagine that the clawed toes help it stabilize itself, the shape of the body could plausibly be meant in part to help deflect attacks, etc. So... basically I only care at all because every Alien in the remaquel is designed to be blatantly sinister. I don't really mind the Sectopod's design in specific.



Ethereal
Aim: 100/100/110/110 (Probably a holdover from an earlier version of the game)
Crit chance: 0/0/10/10
Defense: 40
HP: 20/20/20/25
Mobility: 12 (7.5/15)
Will: 120/120/145/155
Damage: Psi Locus (10 base damage, compares attacker's Will against the target's Will to modify damage. I think every 10 Will advantage/disadvantage is a point of modification? This is considered a Psi ability for various purposes, including that having Psi abilities disabled renders the Ethereal completely helpless)

Can Mindfray, use the Rift ability (Which can do more than 20 damage to targets with no Will ie S.H.I.V.s, and not only does immediate damage but will strike the targeted area a second time at the start of the user's next turn, as well as hitting any unit that enters it while it lingers), Mind Control, is Hardened, has "Psi Drain" (Steals up to 5 HP from an allied unit, usually used on mind controlled soldiers), and has an innate ability that sometimes reflects shots back at the shooter for 33% of the original damage. In Enemy Within, they also self-destruct for 4 damage when killed, unless the Kinetic Strike Module is used to land the kill, and are one of the enemies immune to Flashbang Grenades.

I really find it baffling that remaquel Ethereals don't fly. They float around freely, but they don't actually fly like the original Ethereals do. It's really bizarre. The remaquel has freely-flying Aliens, so it's not like it's some kind of engine limitation.

Gameplay-wise, Ethereals are... not nearly as scary as they were in the original. No longer do you need to fear being spammed by panic attempts and mind control attempts the instant any of your guys is visible to any aliens anywhere, and Ethereals no longer fly -and even if they did, flight in the remaquel is just not as terrifying to deal with. Yeah, Ethereals are tough and are effectively in Heavy Cover at all times with no way to remove that benefit from them, and.... um.... that's about it.

Honestly? Ethereals in the remaquel are usually less threatening than their Elite Muton bodyguards, and the only time you'll encounter more than two Ethereals on an entire map is at the very end of the final mission, so even if Ethereals were threatening in the remaquel they'd still be vastly less threatening than in the original just for being encountered in far smaller numbers. This isn't even accounting for the fact that the player's forces have been significantly upgraded compared to the original game.

The sad thing is, Mind Control is still the most threatening thing they can do to you, but now it's because of how powerful XCOM forces are compared to the Aliens (That is, that your own soldiers are far more threatening to you than most any given Alien), where in the original it was because they could collectively spam Mind Control from anywhere on the map to anywhere on the map, meaning if anyone saw any of your soldiers you were at risk.

sigh

Part of the problem is the Ethereal AI. They mostly won't actually use Rift, which is by far their most dangerous ability, and aren't particularly smart about who they aim their psychic abilities at. They won't, for instance, notice that a soldier has a Brain Gene Mod and preferentially Mind Control somebody else, and in the base game they have a really bad habit of getting distracted if you Mind Control one of their bodyguards, preferring to target the bodyguard over targeting XCOM soldiers. Enemy Within addressed this last point, along with a few other general AI problems, but Ethereals remain pretty sub-optimal when it comes to their AI.

The main reason they're a tricky target at all is because they are effectively wandering around in Full Cover at all times with no way to bypass it, thanks to Hardened and their innate 40 Defense. The fact that they ignore Cover in turn is actually less of a strength than you might think -once you've cleared out their bodyguards, you're free to do whatever it takes to deal with the Ethereal without worrying about whether you'll be in good enough cover or not. (Exception: Will To Survive works on psychic abilities for some bizarre reason, but still demands that the Heavy is in cover to provide its protection, and so Heavies may still want to stick to cover for that reason)




Visually... ugh. I loathe the new Ethereal design. The original design suggested a kind of intensely private species that doesn't really see any need to overtly clad itself for war -and the gameplay bears this out, with their Mind Control and Psi Panic spam perfectly able to slaughter an XCOM team without an Ethereal ever bothering with their own gun. Justified arrogance.

The new Ethereal design is instead evocative of religious clothing, because suddenly there's a quasi-mystical thing going on with the Ethereals or something, and it's just... why? Where all the rest of the Aliens are Bad Guy-ified, often contrasting sharply with the classic XCOM's design if there is a counterpart, Ethereals are instead the only guys who have been made less threatening/evil/monstrous-looking than their original design.

Also, why is it their clothes/helmet are destroyed in the process of their psychic death explosion, and only those? What is that about?

To be fair, there's a major concept shift occurring on a larger scale that's very relevant. In the original game, Ethereals were the most important and powerful members of the rank and file of the Alien empire, but ultimately there was a still higher authority they answered to, and they were clearly soldiers. Ethereals in the remaquel appear to be the absolute authority of the Alien force, and also don't seem to be coming from an assumption that they'll be entering combat. In that view, the impractical, decorative clothing makes a kind of sense.

On the other hand, that ties into a larger criticism I have of the game.

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

So, Here Be Spoilers, for both the original XCOM and the remaquel.

Endgame spoilers.

Stuff you should seriously play the games yourself if you care.

I'm serious here.

...

...

...

Okay, here we go.

In the original XCOM, the ultimate authority of the Aliens was a giant brain in a jar, heavily implied to be psychically controlling all the Aliens, even the Ethereals. This is pretty silly, but whatever. The overall picture we're painted is that the Alien force -based on Mars- is a small, local invasion force headed by a single commander with resources that are, at the scale of an interstellar empire, pretty trivial. Later XCOM games sharing the original's continuity, however dubious their other decisions might be, tend to build on this idea.

This basically holds up, and fits pretty neatly with the overall game progression. The Brain isn't necessarily taking things that seriously initially, and may legitimately be building up its industrial base over the course of the war. Its troops are indicated to include vat-grown clones, so it may literally have started the invasion with no Mutons at all, having only produced them shortly before the player starts seeing them, especially since its primary methodology seems to be centered around convincing Earth to willingly submit, rather than conquering by force. Why build a big army if you intend to use diplomacy and no military retaliation can reach you on Mars, right?

The remaquel instead has the Ethereals on some mystical quest to incite psychic powers in other species -"the Gift"- so they can... eat those people's psychic powers and... ascend to a higher plane of existence or something?...

... it's honestly pretty vague what their actual goal is, but whatever the case, it's heavily implied that the force attacking Earth is literally the entirety of the Ethereal empire and that they have been toying with us the whole time. The invasion is meant to spark psychic abilities in humanity, push them to grow and become competent, so the Ethereals can harvest the metaphorical psychic fruit.

This sort of vaguely justifies why they cleave to gameplay progression (ie, start out with manageable trash and move up to their deadliest over time), but it raises all kinds of questions that it's basically impossible to come up with a good answer to. Terror Attacks are one of the easiest examples.

In the original game, Terror Attacks are the Aliens attempting to convince the populace to withdraw their support for X-COM by showing them what happens if the Earth continues to resist: deliberate attacks on civilian population centers.

In the remaquel, Terror Attacks still exist. What possible point could they serve, in the context of the remaquel Ethereal agenda? You can sort of gloss over the issue by attributing to a need to make a convincing act, but really, they don't. Exactly what is humanity going to do if they realize something weird is going on? Accuse the Aliens of not being as dangerous as they should be? Oh, wow, what a problem. /sarcasm

The implications that the Aliens are eating human flesh and vivisecting people and just generally being awful to Earth's civilian population don't really make any sense either. If they were a conquest force who were viewing humans as somewhere between "potential slaves" and "potential cattle", as in the original game, this is gruesomely plausible. In the remaquel, it's difficult to imagine why the Ethereals would do much of any of this. Vivisecting, maybe. The rest of it? Why? What benefit could they possibly get out of it? Are we supposed to assume they are literally eating people after provoking them into unlocking their psychic powers?

This also doesn't remotely explain why the Temple Ship descends to the Earth and lets XCOM fly a Skyranger aboard. Why are they letting us have a shot at killing them? Why are they bothering to explain their nonsensical, quasi-spiritual agenda to us? How does any of this make any sense?

Why are there basically no defenders? Why is it even called the Temple Ship?

XCOM 2 isn't in a position to plausibly answer these questions, either, since it instead uses the scenario of humanity losing the war, and the Ethereals convincing the world that they peacefully came along and enlightened humanity rather than violently conquering them. The Temple Ship assault, already nonsensical, has no logical place in its narrative.

Prior to the Temple Ship assault, it's easy to guess that the game is operating on something along the lines of the original XCOM's plot, in which case most of the issues with the story are implicitly answered, or at least have plausible answers. The Temple Ship assault ruins this, providing a framework for what's happening that is an awful, no-good, very bad fit for the entire rest of the game.

Ugh.

Next time, we round things out with Enemy Within's additions to the Alien ranks, as well as EXALT.

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