War of the Chosen Class Analysis: Specialist

The Specialist is one of the classes most dramatically hit by the Training Center overhaul, as the Specialist's support skills mostly don't end the turn, while their offensive skills tend to be more useful and effective than just shooting things. As such, a maxed-out Specialist is able to leverage both of their lanes in a turn in a way other core classes aren't necessarily able to pull off without external support. This makes the contrast between a high-end base-game Specialist and a high-end War of the Chosen Specialist much starker than eg a high-end base-game Sharpshooter vs a high-end War of the Chosen Sharpshooter.

+3 Aim
+1 HP
+45 Hack
+5 Will

Aid Protocol
The Specialist assigns their Gremlin to a target ally, granting them +20 Defense until the start of next turn. (+30 Defense if the Gremlin is Mark II, +40 if the Gremlin is Mark III) 1 turn cooldown.

Aid Protocol remains Aid Protocol. On average, it's a little less appealing as a defensive tool in War of the Chosen; Purifiers are aggressive about grenade-chucking if you clump, bypassing Defense, Priests heavily prefer to use their special abilities instead of shooting, Spectres almost always go for a Shadowbind first thing, the Assassin  and Warlock only rarely bother to use their respective guns and everything else they do bypasses Defense, leaving the Hunter as the only new enemy that's pretty consistently impacted by Aid Protocol. And even then he'll usually just shoot an easier target, making it less a way to reduce damage and more a way to avoid a particular soldier absorbing the hit.

Well, the Lost are also affected by Aid Protocol, and actually tend to go for the nearest target regardless of Defense, but they also heavily discourage spending action points on anything other than moving, shooting, or reloading. There's circumstances it can make sense to Aid Protocol someone as anti-Lost protection, but usually Headshot chains are going to be your defense against the Lost.

Anyway, Aid Protocol also suffers a bit from Templar existing, albeit more indirectly. If there's one enemy currently active and your Templar is currently Parrying, you don't actually want to Aid Protocol them, as that will discourage the enemy from wasting their attack on the Templar, risking it going to someone who can actually be hurt. You can't field a Templar every mission, of course, but when you are fielding a Specialist alongside a Templar it can be hard to justify actually using Aid Protocol.

While I do genuinely think Aid Protocol is a massive improvement over Smoke Grenades, the execution still needs work. A single-target Defense boost is intrinsically held back by the player having limited ability to control the targeting of most enemies. In XCOM 2's case, the AI has a reasonably strong preference for taking highest-odds shots, and while I wouldn't actually want the AI to be made artificially anti-intelligent by actively focusing on Aid Protocol targets to make the Defense boost relevant, the game really needs something to make such an effect less niche, like the SPARK's Sacrifice ability. But not, you know, on a DLC-exclusive class where it's only available at their highest rank and is sufficiently expensive and not-clearly-worth-it players routinely skip them entirely or turn to mods to make them more competitive.

Really, I think a Sacrifice-like ability would be the logical starting point for a Support-analogue.

Hopefully XCOM 3 has a similar idea.

Remote Hacking
The Specialist may perform a remote Hack action if they have line of fire on one of the tiles you would normally have to enter to initiate the Hack. Additionally, they may attempt to Hack Security Towers in the same way, which are otherwise impossible to Hack.

Remote Hacking is the same as ever.

Something I didn't talk about in the previous post, however, is that hacking rewards can broadly be divided into three sets: objective rewards, security tower rewards, and Skullmining rewards. This isn't just a different avenue to the same rewards, they're completely different sets of rewards. Skullmining is straightforward: you will only ever be offered Intel rewards, with the occasional Facility Lead as an option. Skullmine things if you feel you're perpetually hungry for Intel.

Security tower rewards are usually tactical benefits that apply only to the mission. Stuff like giving the soldier a charge of Run And Gun for the mission, temporary crit chance boost, immunity to the next two attacks, etc. Some of these can be very good -'Distraction' gives your squad an entire extra turn, for example- but if you ignore security towers entirely you're rarely missing out on anything of long-term importance.

Objective hacks, meanwhile, always provide strategic rewards. This can be facility leads, Intel/Supply/Alien Alloy rewards, delaying current Dark Events, hurrying the current research project, permanently improving your Supply income, reducing the Intel cost for contacting a region one time, temporarily making newly-generated Rumors have their necessary scan time halved, or permanently boosting the soldier's Hacking stat. Among other points, this means if you want to make the best possible hacking Specialist, you'll need to prioritize going for Guerrilla Ops that have hacking mission objectives, and then hope you not only roll the boost as one of the rewards, but also successfully get it. Somewhat perversely, this also gives a mild incentive toward letting your soldiers get captured -that way you can force additional missions with hack objectives. Similarly, you may wish to let a Hunt XCOM Dark Event go through if you get one early, because Landed UFO missions can only generate after a UFO has attempted to hunt for XCOM, and they're another mission type that always has a hack objective. (Well, it's not a hack objective, strictly, but not the point)

Even if you don't specifically care about making a super-hacker, this still means there's a slight advantage to prioritizing hack-objective missions, since on average you'll get more resources/reduce time spent on assorted tasks/otherwise get benefits that pay dividends. It's not so consistently tremendous as to be gameplay-warping, but it's something to keep in mind all the same: if you're trying to decide between two Guerrilla Ops you feel are roughly equal overall, knowing this might tilt you more toward the one that's a hack objective.

Speaking more broadly, I feel like hacking is a fairly significant missed opportunity with the game.

When I was reading about XCOM 2's class design and a little bit of the general shape of the gameplay before ever playing the game, I'd been given... well, an impression of a game pretty far removed from XCOM 2. The only game I know of that actually does resemble the picture people painted is Satellite Reign, actually.

Point is, I'd been given the impression that XCOM 2 was a stealth-oriented game where you snuck toward mission objectives while avoiding engaging pods, where enemies were defined as much or more by their patrol behaviors and ability to detect your sneaking squad as by their combat capabilities (eg a Sectoid might present a threat by being able to read your soldiers' minds and so point out one disguised as a civilian, while a Viper might have pit viper-esque 'heat vision' to detect soldiers hidden in darkness), where combat was something you did briefly in the form of an ambush before grabbing your objective and then fleeing into the woods. Part and parcel of this was an impression that hacking in the game was a versatile option one would use on a regular basis in aid of these sneaking shenanigans -that you would disable camera systems so you could take paths unseen they normally made unsafe, hack electronically locked doors to let your squad sneak into ADVENT facilities without having to bust the door down and alert your enemies, hack automated defenses to turn them on your enemies as a distraction and/or as part of an ambush, and otherwise use hacking as a major supplemental tool to the general stealth/ambush-and-escape gameplay.

In turn, I imagined the Specialist's remote hacking would give them a D&D Rogue sort of utility, allowing the team to go places they otherwise couldn't and quietly bypass or overcome hazards otherwise not possible to deal with. Remotely hack a security console controlling a minefield that has friend/foe identification, where your non-Specialists wouldn't be able to reach the console without passing through (And thus being blown up by) the minefield, for example. I'd also imagined their remote hacking would let them manipulate enemies to a certain extent -convince an ADVENT Trooper to patrol elsewhere by faking orders over the ADVENT comm network, for example, allowing you to sneak through the door they were guarding without combat. Issue a faked order in combat to convince an ADVENT Shieldbearer he's urgently needed elsewhere, so you don't have to deal with him just yet, or at all if you're able to flee the scene before he figures out his order was faked.

All of that would've been fantastically interesting and solidified the Specialist as more than just a Support with a proper backbone. As-is, remote hacking is extremely limited; firstly, it makes Specialists slightly better at hack objective missions -and only slightly, because hack objectives are almost always placed indoors, where you often have to get almost right on top of the objective to hack it anyway. Secondly, it lets Specialists access Security Towers once per mission for the possibility of limited bonuses within the mission (Or the occasional more mid-to-long-term benefit), which are generally not worth risking because the punishment for failure is usually so much harsher than whatever reward you're gambling on. (eg you go for a reward that makes your Specialist have Squadsight for two turns... where one of those turns is this turn... and if you fail, it will permanently raise Defense and Mobility on all enemies on the map)

And... that's it. It's pretty underwhelming compared to the potential in the concept. I'm unsure whether hacking was simply overly-ambitious of a concept for the game -quite a lot of effort has gone into hacking as-is, in spite of how lackluster the result is- or if the development team's fundamental concept of hacking was inherently limited and uninteresting, but hacking is one of my bigger disappointments with XCOM 2, and it's a bit sad that War of the Chosen didn't do anything to make it less lackluster, unless one counts being able to more consistently grind the Hack stat via Covert Ops. Which... doesn't make hacking more interesting, it just makes it more reliably useful to the player.

A final mechanical note: the way the game handles hacking odds is actually bizarre and unintuitive. When you hit a mission's map, each soldier has their odds for each individual hack reward set individually: that is, a Specialist can have different odds listed by the game on two different Security Towers even though they always have the same rewards within a given mission and indeed the same tech defense score in every mission, and also two different Specialists with the same Hack score can find they have different odds of success on the same Security Tower. This means it's strictly optimal to 'shop around' at different Security Towers where possible, and indeed with different Specialists if you have multiple in a mission at once. Annoyingly, the entire Gremlin hack animation is so time-consuming (Even with Zip Mode enabled!) that it's a pain to actually compare such information; you really ought to use the Extended Information mod so you can quickly and easily compare different odds of success, if you care to bother at all.

And yes, the variability is such that you can eg have an 89% chance of success of successfully getting a chosen reward on one Security Tower/with one Specialist vs a 100% chance on another Security Tower/with another Specialist. Why go for a risky hack when you can do a riskless version of the exact same thing?

+3 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

Medical Protocol
The Specialist replaces standard Medikit actions with Gremlin versions that can be targeted on an ally no matter where they might be at the time. Medical Protocol also provides a free Medikit use, itself, which stacks with the charge provided by equipping a Medikit Item.

Medical Protocol isn't impacted too directly beyond that you get to combine it with Combat Protocol for a relatively modest AP expenditure, giving your Specialists more flexibility.

That said, it makes for a good jumping-off point for something about XCOM 2 in general: that there's a fundamental shift in how combat is designed compared to the prior game. The previous game was designed under the assumption the player's forces would take a certain amount of hits over the course of combat, with Supports healing off the damage to keep them going mid-combat and armor providing ablative HP that didn't affect wound recovery times. Whether this was true in practice is a whole other story, but it's clear the prior game was designed under the idea of exchanging blows with the enemy, where taking a hit wasn't necessarily a sign you'd made an error but rather a regularly expected outcome you were intended to plan for.

XCOM 2 retains the idea of a class that can specialize in Medikit usage, but makes it a bit stranger of a specialty to even exist. XCOM 2 has outright dropped the ablative HP notion, for starters: injuries always force a soldier into wound recovery time, making them much more consistently punishing to happen. More subtly, the two games have very different approaches to a 'tank' class.

The most direct comparison is the Assault to the Ranger, as the Ranger is outright the Assault's spiritual successor. The Assault has two major skills for maximizing their survival: Resilience, which prevents crits, and Extra Conditioning, which gives them more HP. In both cases, these mean that it takes more successful shots to kill an Assault than might otherwise be required. The Ranger's loose equivalents for survival-enhancement are Deep Cover and Untouchable: Deep Cover is somewhat in line with the Assault skills in that the +50 to Dodge from Hunkering Down only serves to potentially reduce how much damage a successful hit deals, and indeed Dodge overrules crits and so Dodge boosting is in some sense a weaker version of Resilience. However, Hunkering Down also provides +30 to Defense, drastically reducing the probability of enemies hitting -I'll get into this more in a later post, but it's particularly worth noting that XCOM 2 has removed pity chance to hit. Having more Defense than the attacker has Aim can, in fact, produce a 0% chance to hit, unlike the prior game where 0 or less was forced up to a 1% chance.

More blatantly, Untouchable straight-up prevents damage entirely. A Ranger tanking damage for the squad via Untouchable has absolutely no need for Medikit support, where an Assault tanking damage for the squad via Resilience and Extra Conditioning does need Medikit support to keep going.

This isn't anomalous, either. Enemy Within gave us Mecs, who were more likely to be hit than your average soldier in practice, as 15 innate Defense is less than a normal soldier gets out of Cover and they couldn't go higher than that aside the situational point of Body Shield, but could weather punishment longer than your other soldiers due to extremely high armor-derived HP values. War of the Chosen gives us Templar, who can use Parry to for-sure cancel out an entire attack turn in and turn out so long as they can get into melee with something each turn, and also have Deflect for a passive chance to completely negate attacks that can chain potentially unlimitedly if you get really lucky. Templar do also get some innate Dodge from Focus, but mostly they prevent damage; they don't have anything like innate Armor or skill-derived HP bonuses.

There's other adjustments that aren't immediately obviously relevant. Overwatch in the prior game required specialized tools to clear it out without actually killing the target: Suppression on Heavies and Supports or Lightning Reflexes on Assaults. (Also Disabling Shot on Snipers could be used in this way, though that wasn't its primary purpose) Both of these tools also had important limitations: Suppression required the Suppressor already had a clear line of fire to the target, as it was difficult to get a line of fire without triggering the Overwatch, and Lightning Reflexes was only a reliably safe option if exactly one enemy was on Overwatch. The result is that if there's multiple enemies on Overwatch, it's entirely possible you just have to accept that somebody is going to get shot at with an actual chance to be hit.

In XCOM 2, Overwatch is canceled by simply taking damage. You don't even need anti-Overwatch tools like Shadowstep, Lightning Reflexes, Flashbang Grenades, or Suppression; just chuck a Frag Grenade and you'll not only soften them up and wipe out their Cover but also cancel their Overwatch. With Stocks, you can even cancel out Overwatch with misses! There's virtually never any need to risk someone being hit by an Overwatch shot -and Shadowstep having essentially supplanted Lightning Reflexes in general play is also relevant here. A Lighting Reflexes Assault was risking being shot if multiple enemies were on Overwatch and they elected to move. A Shadowstep Ranger is in no danger whatsoever, no matter how many enemies are on Overwatch.

The overall result is that XCOM 2 is actually pretty heavily biased away from medical specialization. XCOM 2 has embraced how combat in the prior game ended up centered heavily around not letting enemies get turns in the first place, and even when enemies do get turns the default expectation is that you endeavor to prevent them from landing hits, rather than expecting to heal off a certain amount of damage.

Conversely, part of why I'm talking about that in a War of the Chosen analysis post is that DLC trends back toward something more like the prior game: Alien Rulers are almost impossible to completely prevent from doing damage to your squad, and then in War of the Chosen itself the Chosen are extremely difficult to completely prevent from doing damage to people, particularly the Assassin. Even Shen's Last Gift has a little bit of this, as it's nearly impossible to completely prevent Julian from having a chance to do damage.

Thus, if you're playing base-base XCOM 2, no Alien Hunters DLC and not War of the Chosen, you can actually basically skip having Specialists focus on medical utility once you're comfortable with the game. Medical specialization gives you some wiggle room when you screw up, it's not a core feature necessary to team functionality.

Notably, I've referred to the prior game as 'Rambo Simulator 9000', and this aspect of the design is a major part of why. In real life, people who get shot are almost never the same if they survive: even a bullet going through relatively 'safe' tissues still does a lot of damage, and the scar tissue that takes its place isn't as mechanically strong or effective at fighting off infection. A lucky individual won't necessarily have a limp or other obvious sign they've been permanently harmed by their experience, but that just means the damage isn't obvious, not that they bounced back without long-term issues.

Yet the prior game was premised on the idea of being a relatively realistic near-future combat-with-guns scenario, one where your own soldiers expect to be shot at with weapons that are massively more lethal than current human-carryable munitions, and yet the game design was fundamentally centered around the idea that your soldiers would take hits and not only not die but not even suffer meaningful long-term harm. Repeatedly! The disconnect between the gameplay design and the concept of what kind of circumstances you're fighting was massive -I readily accept equivalent gameplay mechanics from various RPGs primarily because they invoke literal magic to justify repeatedly shrugging off serious injuries, up to and including raising the dead. A near-future setting with no massive medical revolutions, though? That's absurd to attach this gameplay to.

In turn, XCOM 2 turning away from this dynamic is a big part of what makes it more grounded and believable to me, even while a lot of the player-soldiers-as-superheroes elements remain and in some cases have turned arguably more magical than anything from the prior game. (Untouchable letting a Ranger outright ignore even otherwise-impossible-to-dodge attacks, for example) Like yeah it's still pretty ridiculous that the campaign expects you to overthrow an entire regime using 6-9 soldiers, but that can be waved off as not being a literal depiction of events, or even put under the banner of 'well, it would probably never happen, but if they were really good and really lucky, it could theoretically happen'.

Conversely, in War of the Chosen and/or with the Alien Hunters DLC... you don't need medical specialists, and certainly not in every mission, but it's a specialization with a clearer place, and both of these entries start more openly embracing the superheroic nature of the Firaxis XCOM games, with recurring supervillains with unique power sets and, in War of the Chosen, a lot of character to them. I don't think these are unrelated points, and it makes me suspect XCOM 3 will more openly and coherently embrace the superheroic vibe that's always been in the Firaxis XCOM games, but was horribly out of place in the prior game.

At that point, I wouldn't mind at all if the gameplay returned to a more give-and-take approach.

Combat Protocol
The Specialist sends the Gremlin to do guaranteed damage (2/4/6 for Mark I/Mark II/Mark III Gremlins) against a target the Specialist has Squadsight line of fire to. This completely ignores Armor. Some targets will take bonus damage from Combat Protocol. The bonus damage is 2-3/3-4/4-5 for Mark I/Mark II/Mark III Gremlins, working out to a total of 5-6/7-8/9-10 against robots. Two charges.

Combat Protocol benefits from the Training Center overhaul letting you take it alongside Medical Protocol/acquire either one later without committing to retraining a soldier. If you want to have every Specialist take Combat Protocol early on and just assume you'll buy Medical Protocol later, you can totally do that with minimal cost.

Surprisingly, Combat Protocol actually benefits from Breakthroughs as well. There's no Gremlin Breakthrough, but the general weapon tier upgrades will affect Combat Protocol's damage if using the relevant tier. This isn't important enough to plan around exactly -it's not as if you should stick to basic Gremlins if you happen to have the Conventional-tier damage Breakthrough- but it's one more reason why the tier Breakthroughs are excellent and it is potentially important to keep it in mind if you're prone to eyeballing HP meters without checking the damage preview at all. A three HP enemy is suddenly something Combat Protocol can finish off at the beginning of the game if you got the Conventional-tier damage Breakthrough, instead of a situation where you should be looking at other options to finish the target.

Combat Protocol being a guaranteed hit can also be situationally useful against the Chosen, depending on Strengths and Weaknesses. A Bewildered Low Profile Chosen, for example, could create a situation where you really can't count on landing a regular hit and care much more about getting an additional hit in than you do about how strong the hit itself is.

+3 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

Revival Protocol
Once per mission, the Specialist may remove all negative mental effects, up to and including Unconsciousness, from a single ally.

Revival Protocol is one of the more stand-out examples of how great it is to not be hard-forced to pick between skill levels. If you're someone who likes bringing a pair of Specialists, one focused on offensive abilities and the other on supporting the team, being able to slap Revival Protocol on your offensive Specialist in War of the Chosen is huge, both for the relatively obvious point of being able to revive the medical Specialist if they happen to go down, but also simply because extra soldiers with the skill is the only way to get additional Revival Protocol charges into a mission in general. In the base game, if you wanted two Specialists to equal two Revival Protocol charges, you'd have to forgo Haywire Protocol or, you know, bring a third Specialist at which point literally half your squad is Specialists. In War of the Chosen, you just need to be willing to spend some AP.

Revival Protocol is also more widely relevant due to War of the Chosen increasing the prevalence of negative mental effects. Not a ton, but the Chosen will regularly attack your forces until dealt with and like to Daze your soldiers, and Spectres can straight-up knock Unconscious a soldier as a side effect of Shadowbind. Sure, it's generally preferable to end the Unconsciousness by killing the Spectre or at least the Shadow, but you can end up in a situation where reviving the downed soldier is the simplest way of untangling a bad situation, so being able to pass out Revival Protocol without sacrificing Haywire Protocol can be a lifesaver.

Daze might not seem like much of a boost to Revival Protocol's relevancy since it can be cured by any soldier, even if they have no action points, but not only can Revival Protocol always reach them no matter what but if you cure Daze the conventional way the soldier will have 1 action point and possibly end up Disoriented. If you cure them with Revival Protocol, there's no chance of being Disoriented and they'll have both action points. That can be the difference between the soldier being more or less useless -such as if they were out of ammo, and the Disorientation means all they can do is reload or move- vs them turning a fight around. (Such as if they're in a position to Rupture the Chosen so the rest of the squad can pile on the damage)

One final boost to Revival Protocol's relevancy is the introduction of a mission type where an optional objective involves there being an Unconscious friendly soldier somewhere in the mission, who if evaced will permanently join your forces for free. Normally, you're expected to have someone haul the body to get these people recruited, and inconveniently VIPs aren't allowed to contribute by carrying a body, so if things aren't going so hot it can be a struggle to justify giving up a soldier's immediate combat ability in hopes of having another soldier added. Revival Protocol can be used to wake up these soldiers, not only avoiding sacrificing one combat-capable unit for the mission but in fact immediately increasing your firepower!

It's worth pointing out this particular mission type tends to show up primarily early in a run, so if you're wanting Revival Protocol for making these missions easier you should be grabbing Revival Protocol on your first Specialists to reach Sergeant. On the plus side, Haywire Protocol is completely irrelevant in the very early game.

As an aside, the in-game description for Revival Protocol claims it will gain additional charges from upgrading your Gremlin. Unfortunately, it doesn't, but the surprising thing is there actually is code for defining how many charges a given Gremlin provides to Revival Protocol. It's just that the game never bothers to look at that code. Oops.

Haywire Protocol
The Specialist may attempt to remotely Hack robotic enemies they have Squadsight line of fire to. The Hack options will always be 'stun this robot' and 'temporarily seize control of this robot', and failing a hack will always result in the target's Aim and Defense being temporarily boosted. 4 turn cooldown.

War of the Chosen unfortunately doesn't add any new hackable enemies, making Haywire Protocol slightly less consistently useful than in the base game. On the other hand, just as you're free to buy Revival Protocol on more offensive Specialists, so too can you buy Haywire Protocol on your medical Specialists. Haywire Protocol also benefits from the introduction of Hack-boosting through Covert Ops, making it more reliable to get multiple Specialists at least able to Stun most robots reliably, and one of the Skirmisher Resistance Orders also lowers all enemy Hack defense by 20 points, making it even easier to Hack enemies. If everything lines up, you may find yourself regularly taking control of Sectopods.

+2 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

Field Medic
Grants 2 Medikit charges, assuming a Medikit is equipped.

Field Medic is slightly more relevant due to the aforementioned point that the Chosen make injuries more common. It's also nice being able to combine it with Scanning Protocol.

Overall, though, it's very similar to the base game.

Scanning Protocol
Massively increases the Specialist's line of sight (But not firing range) for one turn. Additionally, enemies that are hidden are revealed: Chryssalids will un-burrow, Faceless will stop pretending to be Civilians, and any unit in Concealment will have its Concealment break. 1 charge normally, 2 charges if equipped with a Gremlin Mark III. Scanning Protocol uses one action point but does not necessarily end the turn.

Scanning Protocol benefits pretty substantially from War of the Chosen. The Chosen Assassin and Spectre provide Concealment-capable enemies to want to root out, and the ability to purchase it on your medical Specialists makes it much easier to cram into a team in spite of the new classes tending to take up team slots. Just spend some Ability Points and there you go.

More subtly, the fact that Chryssalid Burrowing is revealed even when it's happening out in the fog of war means that if you have a good memory or take notes you can actually plan ahead and use Scanning Protocol when you're near Burrowed Chryssalids. In the base game, Scanning Protocol to reveal Chryssalids is impractical outside the edge case of Chryssalids burrowing at the bottom of a cliff instead of jumping at you. Not so much in War of the Chosen.

Mind, rooting out Burrowed Chryssalids is actually more niche overall in War of the Chosen, but not by enough to affect Scanning Protocol's relevancy particularly.

A subtle shift in its utility is the existence of Reapers. In most cases, a Reaper is much better at the job of avoiding breaking squad Concealment, able to advance at full speed pretty fearlessly for maximum scouting, instead of having to spend an action point to situationally help spot things. This doesn't completely take away Scanning Protocol's most significant original niche, since you can't expect to send a Reaper into literally every mission, but it does mean anytime a Specialist is palling around with a Reaper Scanning Protocol is considerably less likely to be used.

An even more subtle shift is how Faceless activation has been overhauled. In the base game, Faceless get a full turn the same turn they activate, regardless of why they activated. In War of the Chosen, if Faceless decide to reveal theirself at the end of your turn, they don't get an immediate turn, whereas if you cause them to reveal theirself during your own turn they do get a full turn. This makes using Scanning Protocol to out Faceless vastly less appealing in War of the Chosen, because it's giving them an entire extra turn over if they chose to pop out on their own.

Mind, even in the base game using Scanning Protocol to reveal Faceless was somewhat iffy; it wasn't any worse a result than them choosing to reveal theirself, unlike War of the Chosen, but 'definitely reveals itself and attacks' is worse than 'maybe reveals itself and attacks'. 

+2 Aim
+1 Strength
+5 Hack

Covering Fire
Overwatch can trigger on most non-movement actions, in addition to movement.

Covering Fire, while still the overall inferior pick, benefits from the Training Center overhaul. If you've got AP to spare and nothing better to spend 'em on, it's at least worth considering; once you've got Ever Vigilant and Guardian it's actually kind of okay.

That said, it's still extremely low-value, so it's not like it should be going on every Specialist you build, even if you are willing to spend X-COM's AP into them. Pretty much every single one of the Specialist's other skills is much higher value, and so unless you only have two bonus skills, bought literally everything else, and still have some AP left over, it's... still fairly difficult to justify.

But hey, that's still legit a huge improvement over the base game where I literally cannot imagine taking Covering Fire ever.

Threat Assessment
Aid Protocol now grants the target a Covering Fire Overwatch shot in addition to its Defense bonus, but also has its cooldown increased by 1 turn.

As said above, still overall better than Covering Fire, but no longer shoving it completely out of relevance as a result.

Though it's worth pointing out that all three new classes are pretty poor recipients for Threat Assessment. This isn't particularly a strike against it since the Specialist was always the best user of it anyway, but it's something to keep in mind.

+1 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

Ever Vigilant
At the end of the squad's turn, the soldier enters Overwatch if they took no non-movement actions.

Still great, and yet also benefits significantly from the Training Center overhaul.

Each time an Overwatch shot hits its target, there is a 50% chance the soldier will remain in Overwatch.

Benefits massively from the Training Center overhaul letting you combine it with Ever Vigilant, not to mention it's just generally nice to be able to slap it on every Specialist who has some spare points to make their contribution to an Overwatch ambush more significant, on average. You still shouldn't build plans around trying to leverage Guardian in a fight, but it's easy to justify spending AP on it and then treat each time it triggers as a pleasant surprise.

+1 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

The Gremlin Heals or Revives every member of the squad, depending on which they need. Squad members who need neither are skipped. One charge.

Even more dramatic than Revival Protocol about being fantastic to spread around without compromising a build's primary role. Being able to fix up the entire squad is an amazing backup tool to be holding onto just in case, and 15 AP is a trivial cost to pay on your combat hacker-type builds relative to the gains being made.

Restoration is, assuming you don't kill all the Chosen before any of your Specialists hit Colonel, also actually a lot more relevant in War of the Chosen due to the Chosen. For example, the Assassin can potentially Harbor Wave a bunch of the squad and it be the case that they're spread out such that you can't clear Daze manually on all of them without sacrificing almost your entire squad's turn; in that case, Restoration may prevent a Kidnapping/Extract Knowledge, or even let you drive off the Chosen outright.

Also notable is that Integrated DLC makes it a lot more likely you'll be able to leverage Restoration against any given Alien Ruler, even on higher difficulties. In the base game, Restoration is theoretically a lifesaver against Alien Rulers but as you go up in difficulty it becomes less and less likely you'll have a Colonel Specialist in time for a given Alien Ruler encounter: my base-game Regular difficulty run had Restoration on hand for the Berserker Queen, but my Commander difficulty runs struggle to have a Colonel before killing the Archon King, making Restoration's potential use against the Alien Rulers basically moot in the base game on higher difficulties. Whereas in War of the Chosen you can potentially put off hitting a given Avatar Project Facility until you have a Restoration Specialist ready. And given it's a good idea to put off such fights so you can get your weapons technology more ready and so on, it's not like it's necessarily that you're specifically delaying things just for Restoration, that may be a nice side effect.

Capacitor Discharge
Sends the Gremlin to a location the squad can see that's within slightly more than the Specialist's own sight radius, and does damage to all targets in the area, potentially Disorienting or Stunning victims. The damage is dependent both on the Gremlin's tier and whether a given victim is considered to be a robot or not. Against non-robots, it's 3-6/5-8/7-10, against robots it's 5-8/8-12/11-14. One charge.

Less dramatic than Restoration itself, but still a pretty big deal to be able to spread around. An area of effect attack with Stun potential and generous targeting can turn an unfolding disaster into a solved situation all by itself, particularly if robotic enemies are involved.

It's too bad Spectres aren't considered to be robots by Capacitor Discharge, as if they were it would be really helpful against them. It's also too bad it's not particularly helpful against the Chosen themselves -they can't be Stunned or Disoriented, the damage isn't that impressive, and it can't hit on a Chosen Weakness. Still, it's a versatile, solid choice.


Next time, we look at Personal Combat Sims, a mechanic new to XCOM 2 that could be vaguely compared to Gene Mods or Medals but when it gets down to it isn't really like any particular mechanic from the prior game.

See you then.


  1. I've stumbled on your excellent posts only recently, so probably you will never read this comment, unfortunately. I grabbed WOTC only recently, and probably I'm not the first person on planet Earth to point this out, but actually Covering Fire can be put into good use in WotC. It's not going to be revolutionary, it remains still a pretty niche mechanic, and you could even end up not using it ever for the entire duration of the campaign, but it is actually the only true hard counter for that bs Sustain mechanic that Priests have. I don't actually know if it procs also if the Priest decides to use a psionic ability like Stasis or Mind Control, but even if one would think that setting an overwatch trap with stocks at the end of the turn, when the only enemy still standing is the Stasis-ed Priest and you still have spare action points on your squad to do so, most of the times the overwatch trap ends up being completely useless-during the ayyys turn, the Priest exits Stasis mode, doesn't even move and makes an offensive action right away and you can't do anything about it, you gotta accept it and live on. If you think about it, covering fire is the only thing that can actually prevent this from happening. Once again, it's a seldom-useful mechanic, but still could be regarded as a reason to grab the ability on at least one of your specialists (of course the Training Center makes this even more appealing because you can always back off and grab Threat Assessment at a later time).
    Great job with your posts, they are very interesting and it's always nice to share different points of view on such a wonderful and complicated game.

    1. Covering Fire will trigger on Mind Control, yes. Should trigger on Stasis as well, though I'm not sure I've ever specifically tested that

      Regardless, while you are correct that Covering Fire lets you get around Sustain reliably if using a Stock, the window in which this is uniquely helpful is fairly small, and is never fully reliable; if you set up Overwatch and then an enemy walks into range before the Priest decides to move, and you either don't have Guardian or it fails to trigger, the Overwatch hasn't helped.

      Meanwhile, Bladestorm innately operates on Covering Fire behavior, it will never miss if used by a Templar or if you're talking a Ranger wielding the Katana, and if there's no currently active enemies aside the Priest it's impossible for them to be prevented from making the slice.

      Both being Captain-level skills. Specialists level faster than Rangers, yes, but not THAT much faster.

      That said, I have been underestimating the potential utility of Covering Fire as a low-level bonus skill. I don't think Priests are enough of a threat, nor common enough, to really justify buying it most of the time, but I could see eg buying it on someone when going into an early Psionic Storm that will thus have a ton of Priests, where it's early enough you probably don't have Bladestorm and certainly don't have the Katana.

      Glad to be appreciated, in any event.


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