XCOM 2 Equipment Analysis: Armor

Armor is broadly familiar to how it worked in the previous game, though the conceptual organization is different: where the previous game had Generic, Light, Flight, and Psi, XCOM 2 has Medium (Which is the default armor type), Light (Broadly similar to Light from the prior game), and Heavy, which doesn't really map to any of the armor types of the prior game. XCOM 2 is more explicitly organized along these categorical lines, however, with all three types having a representative at the second and third tiers. (Only Medium is represented at the bottom tier of armor)

That said, there are some notable contrasts. Where in the prior game high-tier armors provided Defense, no armor in XCOM 2 provides such: instead the light armors provide Dodge, the heavy armors provide Armor, and the medium armors ultimately provide some Armor as well. Also notable is that armor-provided HP is no longer treated as meaningfully distinct from innate soldier HP: a soldier who takes damage is going to need recovery time, period, and there's no mechanics equivalent to how Adaptive Bone Marrow couldn't undo damage to armor-derived HP.

There's also no armor that provides flight. This is part of a broader trend, as what few enemies in XCOM 2 do fly behave radically differently and in particular are almost completely forbidden from hanging at arbitrary points in the air to acquire Aim boosts; for most purposes, flying units are pretty similar to eg how SPARKs can jump atop buildings as far as travel ability. This is a good thing, as flight in the prior game was a godawful mechanic, and I'm not sure there'd be a way to keep it in recognizable form without overhauling the rest of the system or simply accepting that flight is a godawful mechanic in this system.

Also true but not terribly important is that no armor provides anything equivalent to how Titan Armor provided immunity to fire and in Enemy Within Poison and strangulation. You have to turn to your Item slots if you want immunity to statuses and whatnot. Given this barely mattered even into Enemy Within, it's not a functionality that is missed, overall, even if it might've been a good thing for XCOM 2 to try to bring this back with a more meaningful execution.

Strictly speaking I could also comment on the lack of an armor for providing stealth, but XCOM 2's Concealment system pretty obviously replaces the prior game's stealth mechanics and stealth specialization has been made a class feature. Granting access to it via equipment would be pretty bizarre to do -even when War of the Chosen does so, it harshly limits it.

I'll be starting with the medium armors, since medium is your foundational armor, and working through the tiers before repeating this with the other kinds of armor.

Note that with costs, I've listed the Legendary costs by itself after Legendary Cost while all the other difficulties use the first listed cost. If I say 'in both versions', that's referring to base XCOM 2 versus War of the Chosen -War of the Chosen tweaks the costs of some purchasables. Armor is only lightly touched in this regard, most likely because War of the Chosen minimized the impact its additions had on the economics of armor construction. You'll see a lot more such differences when we get to weapons.

Kevlar Armor
Acquisition: Available by default.
Cost: N/A
HP: 0
Armor: 0
Mobility: 0

Like in the previous game, basic armor is an explicit item your troops are equipped with. Unlike the previous game, it has no built-in bonus... which doesn't really matter, because XCOM 2 no longer counts HP provided by armor differently from other HP. There's no difference in XCOM 2's mechanics between 'has X HP' and 'has X-1 HP, while basic armor provides +1 HP, arriving at X'. This itself mostly means it's less annoying to try to understand the implications of wound recovery durations, so I'm perfectly happy to see this change happen.

Mind, this also leaves me with little to say about it as far as game mechanics goes; it technically exists, you replace it and never look back. There you go.

More narratively/conceptually, the choice to explicitly label it Kevlar is an odd one to me. I'm not aware of any egregious problems with it, mind, and indeed Kevlar is heat-resistant in addition to being useful for making 'bulletproof' vests, so it's not like it's a terrible choice for protecting against Alien plasma weaponry, but the prior game largely shied away from this level of specificity as to what your gear was. It's also difficult to tell what naming it Kevlar is supposed to signal: is X-COM using Kevlar armor supposed to be an illustration of how they're behind the times, using gear from before the Aliens showed up and introduced humanity to better stuff? Is it meant to be an illustration of how advanced the future is, that X-COM has Kevlar as its minimum instead of something older? Why is X-COM using Kevlar instead of whatever they were supposed to be using initially in the previous game? What motivated this change? Is it better? Is it worse?

No idea!

It could certainly be worse, but it's still a confusing choice overall.

The second graphic, by the way, is the icon used for all basic Resistance class armors. This is rather misleading in practice as each Resistance class looks completely different, but to be fair your Kevlar-wearing soldiers can already vary wildly, using a crazy mix of Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic spikes and salvaged bits of metal or even going into battle wearing nothing but pants. On the other hand... why is there a specific icon for basic Resistance armor, as distinct from X-COM's basic armor? I'd be a little less confused if it was literally the regular icon with the X-COM symbol removed and no other changes, since Resistance soldiers are supposed to be guests instead of proper members of X-COM, but with a whole-new-yet-distinct graphic it's just a bit confusing.

Predator Armor
Acquisition: Complete Plated Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 150 Supplies, 20 Alien Alloys, 6 ADVENT Trooper corpses in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 300 Supplies, 60 Alien Alloys, 12 ADVENT Trooper corpses in both versions.
HP: +4
Armor: 0
Mobility: 0
+1 Item slot

Note that medium armor purchases are squad-wide permanent improvements: one purchase unlocks an unlimited supply for your troops. This goes a long way to make them your default, core armor set, since losing soldiers will never set you back on medium armors.

Also note that in War of the Chosen the resistance classes technically each have a unique armor type to themselves, but these armors are identical across Resistance classes and their effects are just those of slightly-worse medium armors. In fact, purchasing a medium armor directly provides an unlimited supply of the equivalents for Resistance classes, no need to separately upgrade their armors.

As with Kevlar, the second icon is the second-tier Resistance class armor icon. 'Plated' is the prefix, for reference. Unlike with Kevlar, I slightly better understand why there's a distinct graphic for Resistance soldiers, since at this point Resistance soldiers diverge slightly from the rest of your soldiers in actual mechanics.

The specific way in which Resistance armors are worse than regular equivalents is that Resistance armors never provide a bonus Item slot. Otherwise, they get the same stats, meaning buying Predator Armor is +4 HP for your Resistance soldiers in addition to your X-COM soldiers.

Predator Armor itself is a surprisingly significant boost to your squad's effectiveness. The HP boost is proportionately fairly large, and the second Item slot makes your squad a lot more versatile. In War of the Chosen, it's also one of the first signs of the frontloading of Resistance class quality, since your core classes get more of a payoff from Predator Armor than your Resistance classes, a point exacerbated by the fact that Skirmishers are the only Resistance class where good play won't necessarily prevent them from getting shot, making armor upgrades less of a boost to Resistance classes in general.

The second Item slot, incidentally, encourages performing Experimental Ammo early and often. You'll be looting Elerium Cores anyway, they're a non-grenade Item and thus can be run alongside your default unlimited-access Frag Grenades, and unlike alternatives like Medikits, Mindshields, or Battle Scanners they don't cost Supplies, which tend to be precious in the early game. Thus, once Predator Armor is online Experimental Ammo is essentially a completely free boost to your squad effectiveness, where no other option comes close to this level of costless improvement.

Conceptually, Predator Armor is really just Carapace from the prior game with a new name, the justification for it being better than basic armor being the use of Alien Alloys. This is an incredibly strange choice on a number of levels, starting with the fact that X-COM really ought to be able to just salvage ADVENT armor from the looted bodies to achieve this result, continuing into the fact that Alien Alloys really ought to be everywhere in the dystopian future of ADVENT's rule and thus even if X-COM wasn't looting ADVENT soldiers clad in the stuff they'd still realistically start the game cladding their soldiers in stolen Alien Alloys instead of that being a squad upgrade of importance, and concluding with the fact that the actual visuals of Predator Armor are actually a basic exoskeleton setup implying that Predator Armor is a form of powered armor, which it should be noted is a decent implicit justification for why your soldiers pick up the ability to carry more stuff but isn't really properly alluded to by the game and doesn't logically follow from figuring out how to work Alien Alloys.

It's not as insane as how studying Meld in Enemy Within let you instantly jump to cybernetic battlesuits, but it's the same basic class of confusing decision on the developers' part, and the whole thing really has me wondering what went on in the course of development that Predator Armor ended up handled in such a weird and confusing manner.

Warden Armor
Acquisition: Complete Powered Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 300 Supplies, 40 Alien Alloys, and 20 Elerium Crystals in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 600 Supplies, 90 Alien Alloys, 75 Elerium Crystals in both versions.
HP: +6
Armor: +1
Mobility: 0
+1 Item slot

As with the previous two armors, the second icon is the third-tier Resistance class armor icon. 'Powered' is the prefix, for reference.

Where Predator Armor was a gamechanger, Warden Armor is... okay. You should buy it eventually simply because it's a permanent squadwide improvement, but where Predator Armor massively spikes soldier survivability and adds an additional Item slot, Warden Armor is a small, essentially ignorable boost to soldier durability, relative to the threats you'll be facing by the time you have it. Like yeah, cool, it has a point of Armor built in, but most threats in the late game can kill your soldiers in 2-3 successful hits regardless of whether they have a point of Armor or not. It's barely any different from having an additional hit point, and is arguably worse since enemies can Shred it and unlike HP you can't do anything to get Armor back once it's gone.

This is pretty disorienting given Warden Armor is a full-body suit (Aside the lack of a helmet...) of powered armor. Predator Armor is, visually, a sufficiently subtle set of changes you might not notice anything has changed at all, depending on the baseline visuals of the soldier you're looking at. Warden Armor is an unmistakable shift in visuals. You'd intuitively expect the mechanical significance to be flipped, not even getting into how Warden Armor is a bit disappointing for being your Ultimate Medium Armor.

This is actually a bit of a recurring issue with XCOM 2, that its tuning for the late game is much worse than for the midgame and earlier, but Warden Armor is a particularly big offender for how disconnected from its concept the details of this tuning failure are.

Speaking of the concept, Warden Armor itself is a bit out of left field within XCOM 2 itself, one of the more blatant examples of the game wholesale lifting the previous game's general model; if you play the games side-by-side there's actually a lot of examples like this, but most of them are easy to overlook that they're a returning pattern if you don't play the games close together because they make sense in their new context, or at least don't intrude on their new context as obviously out of place.

In this case, Warden Armor is the return of Titan Armor, but instead of being attached to a futuristic organization drawing on the resources of multiple major governments and exploring the possibilities of insanely advanced alien technology, it's attached to a ragtag band of rebels who, yeah, do have access to advanced alien technology... but the Aliens/ADVENT in XCOM 2 don't really use anything resembling Warden Armor.

This is particularly egregious in the base game: War of the Chosen actually attaches an additional requirement to the Powered Armor research, demanding you Autopsy Mutons before you can perform it. This is still questionable, as Warden Armor bears absolutely no resemblance to what Mutons are wearing, but is at least trying to ground your powered armor in enemy powered armor; in the base game, you just need Predator Armor and Elerium researched and there you go suddenly Tygan and Shen know how to make scifi powered armor a thing.

Like okay it's sort of broadly logical as an endpoint to how Predator Armor appears to be a more basic form of powered armor, but why is it the case that powered armor just sort of... happens as you tech up?

Returning to the aesthetic point, I dislike Warden Armor intensely. There's two basic reasons for this: the first of these is that a massive amount of effort went into making it so your soldiers have varied, distinctive appearances, and once you're at Warden Armor these personalized elements go away almost completely. A number of the visual options are already incompatible with Predator Armor, but Warden Armor removes pretty much all uniqueness from your soldiers.

In and of itself, I only mildly dislike this element. It feels like mismanagement of development resources, but not egregiously so, and even the negative impact on your ability to keep track of your squad members isn't horrific, particularly from the perspective of the base game where you're not going to be fielding that many people in general. No, the primary reason I care is how this connects to the narrative presentation of XCOM 2.

In broad terms, where I pull back and squint and ignore the actual details of the game, this progression is a natural and believable one. You start out as a ragtag resistance, you slowly gain traction with the wider world, accruing resources and skilled labor, and so ultimately transition from makeshift, handmade collages of whatever could be scavenged, to professionally-constructed and standardized high-quality suits of armor. That sounds logical and reasonable.

The problem being this isn't really the narrative XCOM 2 tells at all. You start out as a ragtag resistance, and the way you ultimately win is not to grow to equal your better-equipped, more numerous and better-trained foes, but rather to perform a decapitation strike twice over once you've uncovered key weaknesses to exploit. Sure, it broadly makes sense for your gear to get less ragtag post-apocalyptic as the people aboard the Avenger get more experienced and salvage or reverse-engineer more Alien technology, but Warden Armor is simply a step too far given the way the narrative is constructed, especially since it is a squad-wide upgrade: the idea that Shen has a rolling production line of these shiny suits that are presumably made heavily out of Alien Alloys and are outright powered by Elerium is just obviously ridiculous, even considering how much of XCOM 2 is abstracted out.

Warden Armor is, as a pure game mechanic construct, merely a bit lackluster.

In every other regard, it's one of the more frustratingly bad parts of XCOM 2.

Spider Suit
Acquisition: Complete Plated Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 1 Elerium Core, 5 Alien Alloys, 5 Elerium Crystals, 2 Stun Lancer Corpses, 8 days of construction in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 1 Elerium Core, 10 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals, 3 Stun Lancer Corpses, and 10 days of construction in both versions.
HP: +4
Armor: 0
Mobility: +1
Dodge: +20
Has a 2-turn cooldown and allows the user to instantly and for free transport theirself to a ledge at equal or greater height to their current position that is within line of sight and that they have a clear line of fire to.

The first of the light armors, the Spider Suit is essentially the Skeleton Suit from the previous game, but replacing a low Defense boost with a Dodge boost. Thanks to Grapple being completely free and not horrifically glitchy, the grapple per se is a much more relevant and worthwhile advantage than in the prior game, further boosted by XCOM 2's map design being much more fond of useful high ground to grapple to. This makes going to high ground much more consistently worthwhile and safe, instead of a trap.

Even if it weren't for the map design aspect, though, just the fact that Grappling doesn't consume an action point or anything means it's an excellent re-positioning tool. You don't need to have the Grapple point be your preferred endpoint, unless you're a sniping Sharpshooter anyway, using the Grapple to get yourself closer to your actual destination. Indeed, this can be useful to give yourself more turns to work with in timed maps; a single Grapple can easily cover roughly a Dash worth of distance, if the terrain is cooperative, potentially making it acceptable to get bogged down in combat for a turn or two longer than would be acceptable without widespread Grapple access.

Notably, the Grapple is, somewhat comedically, super-stealthy. The game only seems to check ground tiles for whether you're visible during Concealment, so it's possible to Grapple right past an enemy's face without being detected so long as your starting position and destination aren't in detection tiles. Since the Grapple doesn't break Concealment on its own... it's an excellent tool for setting up effective Overwatch ambushes or just advancing the squad rapidly under Concealment. Just keep in mind that Grappling blindly to locations can result in your Concealment being lost all of a sudden, if an enemy has their Detection radius covering your destination.

A minor screw-up worth mentioning here has to do with soldier voice acting. Broadly speaking, your soldiers have two 'modes' of voice acting: when they're Concealed and performing actions that do not break Concealment, they use one set of lines, whereas if they're performing an action that breaks Concealment or Concealment has been lost they use another set of lines. The trends in these lines are generally fairly intuitive: post-Concealment dialogue is delivered as if attempting to be heard over the sounds of combat or otherwise not concerning themselves with being unheard, while still-Concealed lines are delivered as if trying to speak without being overheard by nearby hostiles and may even directly allude to the soldier attempting to be sneaky. Notably, if an action will break Concealment, the soldier will deliver a post-Concealment line even if the action was initiated under Concealment: in the case of actions that always break Concealment, like tossing grenades, this naturally means the only versions of the lines are the combat-yelling versions. This is so consistent a rule a long-time player of XCOM 2 will have it ingrained in them that soldiers switching to louder sets is an indication that they've broken Concealment, including the somewhat bizarre point that even if the soldier shouldn't know they're about to break Concealment they'll still use a post-Concealment line. (That is, if you order a soldier to move, you may immediately know you've screwed up and they're going to be spotted because they suddenly started yelling their acknowledgment)

The minor screw-up being that even though Grappling is a super-stealthy action, Grapple-related lines only come in one form: Combat Yelling. (Caveat: Skirmishers actually do have lines for pre-and-post-Concealment Grappling) This has the unfortunate potential to convince a still-learning player that the Grapple is anti-stealthy, especially since it's kind of intuitively logical that such an action wouldn't be all that stealthy. Nope: your soldiers are all Batman, able to fire a noisy grapple with their would-be victims entirely oblivious to the noise of the grapple firing, not to mention blind to a body sailing through the air. I mostly don't care about XCOM 2's use of voice acting, but this actually matters!

Fortunately, the game's use of an explicit 'this will break Concealment' icon on movement-using actions if they will break Concealment helps counteract this error, so a player is reasonably likely to figure out that Grappling doesn't automatically break Concealment eventually, unless they're really bad at paying attention but at that point it's not primarily the game's fault if they draw and stick to incorrect conclusions so whatever. It does make me wonder if Grappling actually was an automatic breach of Concealment at one point, though, as only actions like chucking a grenade that automatically break Concealment lack a stealthy line set. (Well, aside the bizarre point that SPARKs lack currently-Concealed versions of all their lines, but this is handled in the form of them largely refusing to speak at all while Concealed)

Anyway, where the Skeleton Suit pretty directly replaced Carapace Armor, the Spider Suit is not clearly superior to Predator Armor.

First of all, where Predator Armor is an instant squad-wide upgrade, you have to build each Spider Suit individually at the Proving Ground, with each one demanding a precious Elerium Core and potentially-precious Proving Ground time. This right there means that a Spider Suit would have to be a significant upgrade over Predator Armor for it to be an assured thing that you would always make the purchase.

Second, Predator Armor comes with a bonus Item slot and Spider Suits do not. This exacerbates the first point: building a Spider Suit eats an Elerium Core and Proving Ground time that could've gone to building Experimental Ammo, which would've been a 100% superior improvement to a soldier whose second Item slot was empty, where building a Spider Suit isn't a 100% improvement.

Third, where the Skeleton Suit providing Defense was in practice probably better protection than another HP from Carapace Armor, the Spider Suit's equivalent is to provide some Dodge. The math is just not as good: a Spider Suit could be taking you from enemies having a 45% chance to hit you in Partial Cover and a 25% chance to hit you in Full Cover to a 35% chance to hit you in Partial Cover and a 15% chance to hit you in Full Cover. That was massive, with Full Cover in particular having a Skeleton Suit increase your expected survival rate by around 66%. A Spider Suit's Dodge, by contrast, is a 20% chance to halve an incoming attack; on average, that's basically a 10% increase in your durability. Say you have a soldier who, when wearing Predator Armor, has 10 HP; switching to the Spider Suit is an expected increase in durability of 10%... by sacrificing 10% of their durability.

Now, the Spider Suit does better at higher HP values in this regard, and so for one thing gets more appealing down in the lower difficulties, but the point is that Dodge isn't actually very good a defensive boost, even ignoring the dice-rolling element of it.

It can still be nice to have a Spider Suit or two on the team, but it's not something you should build six of and never look back.

Also note that there isn't a Resistance soldier version of the icon. This is because Resistance soldiers don't get their own version of Spider Suits, and indeed can't wear anything except their special medium-equivalents. This makes them much less flexible and is another, subtle example of their frontloaded quality, as they don't benefit from some of the versatility and power technology provides your squad.

As far as actual class specifics...

Rangers are by far the most obvious pick to give a Spider Suit to. The Mobility increases their threat radius with melee attacks, getting closer is disproportionately important for Shotgun use and so even if you essentially ignore their Sword it's still beneficial to be faster, they're the single most likely class -out of the ones that can equip Spider Suits, at least- to end up flanked and Dodge is disproportionately protective against crits (Though do not rely on it), and they don't necessarily have a ton of value for two Item slots in the first place, particularly if you're focusing on Sword use. (Among other points, Ammo doesn't apply to Swords)

Sharpshooters, particularly Sniping-oriented Sharpshooters, also get a lot out of Spider Suits. Being able to move without spending an action is incredible on a class that can't fire its primary weapon if it spends an action, height advantage is disproportionately useful to Sniping Sharpshooters even aside Death From Above, and if you're focusing on sniping a Spider Suit's worse HP and lack of an Item slot is pretty immaterial: there are actually-useful Items a sniping Sharpshooter can fill the two slots with, but anything other than Ammo is merely a nice bonus, not likely to be used if you're actually leaning into the sniping.

Pistol-focused Sharpshooters are less awed by the potential of the Spider Suit, but it's still very useful to be able to, for example, Grapple and then Quickdraw for two flanking high ground shots. The loss of an Item slot stands out a lot more, though, as Pistol-focused Sharpshooters are much more inclined to actually chuck grenades and whatnot while wanting Ammo even more desperately than Sniper Rifle-focused Sharpshooters.

Medical Specialists should probably stick to Predator Armor. You want a Medikit, and you want a Skulljack, and that requires two Item slots. The benefits of the Spider Suit don't really outweigh the importance of this.

Offensive Specialists are more agnostic. Offensive Gremlin skills don't get an actual high ground accuracy bonus or anything, but high ground does tend to make it easier to get line of fire on targets, and an offensive Specialist may stick far enough back while still contributing that the durability question ends up a bit moot. I personally don't bother, but I could understand someone else having it be a standard strategy, particularly since high ground does help make up for the Specialist's lackluster hit chances on their rifle.

Grenadiers have some theoretical potential with Spider Suits, but honestly would usually rather have Predator Armor or an E.X.O. Suit. Predator Armor lets them stack a grenade and an Ammo Item, while an E.X.O. Suit is extra-useful with Salvo, which is a fantastic skill even on shooting-oriented Grenadiers. Spider Suits aren't actually bad for them, and indeed if only one or the other of Predator Armor and E.X.O. Suits existed alongside Spider Suits I'd probably consider this a bit of a tough choice, but the two together tend to squeeze out the possibility of going with a Spider Suit.

Psi Operatives are very agnostic. None of their abilities specifically benefits from high ground, and most of them aren't particularly sensitive about positioning in general, but they also don't care strongly about the second Item slot on Predator Armor and don't necessarily find time to cram in a Heavy Weapon use. I personally default to putting them in E.X.O. Suits, but I wouldn't try to argue this is 'correct' play; either alternative pretty clearly has merits.

Wraith Suit
Acquisition: Complete Powered Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 50 Supplies, 1 Elerium Core, 10 Alien Alloys, 5 Elerium Crystals, and 10 days of production per suit in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 125 Supplies, 1 Elerium Core, 15 Alien Alloys, 15 Elerium Crystals, and 30 days of production in both versions.
HP: +6
Armor: 0
Mobility: +2
Dodge: +25
Has a 2-turn cooldown and allows the user to instantly and for free transport theirself to a ledge at equal or greater height to their current position that is within line of sight and that they have a clear line of fire to.

Also provides a Phase ability, which has two charges and lasts for two turns per use: during the time it is active, the user can walk through walls and other terrain obstacles that normally block pathing, though units remain impassable and obstacles like deep water or bottomless pits will remain impassible regardless. Activating the Phase ability is a free action.

Wraith Suits are basically XCOM 2's version of Ghost Armor, being your advanced grappling armor that provides a secondary form of survival enhancement (Dodge instead of Defense, but whatever) and with an insane out-of-nowhere technological ability that suits aggressive action.

In mechanical terms, the Wraith Suit is closer to a pure improvement over its counterpart of Warden Armor than the Spider Suit is to Predator Armor. You still sacrifice an Item slot and you lose a point of Armor, but in the endgame HP is more typically around 15-18 between levels and armor-provided HP and endgame enemies hit so hard that a point of Armor isn't very significant. (The higher HP being significant because Dodge's durability boost is no longer 'on average the same as the HP boost, percentile-wise') You can't count on 25 Dodge saving you, but it's pretty rare for a point of Armor to matter, especially since it can be Shredded, whereas Dodge can only be negated by enemies having a perfect chance to hit... which is very close to impossible in the base game and is still fairly rare in War of the Chosen. As such, the main question is whether you really need that second Item slot or not, as far as whether you want a given soldier in a Wraith Suit or Warden Armor. If not, a Wraith Suit is a significant upgrade. If so, stick to Warden Armor.

The Phase ability is kind of weird to talk about as far as gameplay goes. In a lot of maps, it's easy to forget you even have it; relatively flat environments, as well as environments where a lot of the significant obstacles are impossible to Phase through, don't make it irrelevant, but they do reduce it to occasionally providing a slight enhancement to your top speed if you remember to turn it on when you actually need a tile or two of movement, such as to reach a flank.

On the other hand, it can be a gamechanger in maps that involve trains and indeed in most urban maps in general. It's pretty reliably relevant in most Guerrilla Op mission types in particular, as most of them have your objective sheltered in some manner of structure that can be Phased through while placing you on a time limit, particularly in the base game. (War of the Chosen adds, among other things, Neutralize Field Commander, which doesn't conform to these rules at all) It can also be abused to gather information you're not really supposed to have by checking where the game won't let you path a Phased soldier; a conspicuous set of three tiles inside a train your soldier can't be sent to? Inactive pod.

Unfortunately, Phase doesn't tend to be useful very often, particularly if you tend to put off endgame armors. Wraith Suits take a long time to unlock, and if you're doing things right you're probably not far off of completing the game by the time you've got at least one built. In conjunction with how Phase's relevancy is determined heavily by the map, it's entirely possible for a run to simply never have a good opportunity to use Phase, even if you love to cram everyone into Wraith Suits. Even the final missions minimize its opportunities to be relevant.

This isn't too big a deal, overall, but it's a bit disappointing how this insanely magical ability to laugh at physics is just... not nearly so relevant or gamechanging as imitating Batman.

A side effect of this is that Phase isn't very influential on what troops most benefit from Wraith Suits. The list works out very similarly to with Spider Suits, the only caveat being that Rangers are clearly the best soldiers to put into Wraith Suits due to their propensity for getting in close making Phase a lot more likely to seriously benefit them.

Backing up to the conceptual point, Wraith Suits drive me completely bonkers. There's nothing in the Alien arsenal that really compares to Phase, and it's insane how X-COM can casually invent such a massive physics violation with no precedent. The game doesn't even try to pretend it's somehow an outgrowth of studying Codex teleportation, and there's not really any excuses to hide behind. With Ghost Armor you could potentially pretend to yourself the battlefield cloaking was a simplified, game-y representation of plausible stealth-enhancement tools, glossing over how ridiculous the presentation was. It's very normal for games to represent stuff like 'soldiers are sneaking through tall grass' with 'soldiers in tall grass are literally see-through invisible'.

Phase, however, doesn't have wiggle room to argue it's a simplified representation of... parkour? I can't even come up with a vaguely plausible example here because come on you're literally walking through solid walls.

This isn't even touching on the anxiety-inducing in-universe mechanics questions. A Phasing soldier can walk through walls, but doesn't fall through floors, and indeed can't choose to fall through floors. What makes the floor sacrosanct, exactly? I can come up with plausible models where the ability to pop through a wall doesn't automatically contradict solid ground being Phase-proof, quite easily in fact, but trying to extend this to thin floors is a lot harder. I'd really expect a Phasing soldier to fall right through floors when eg atop a building -and unlike the prior game, XCOM 2 absolutely has fall physics, so I can't shrug off these questions with 'engine limitations'.

The whole thing is particularly frustrating due to the context shift. In the prior game, you were tapping talent from across the whole world and had the backing of multiple wealthy nations. My primary issue with cloaking in the prior game was how X-COM pretty casually one-ups the Aliens in what cloaking technology they do have, and in the base version of the game that issue actually didn't exist at all; in addition to the simplification possibility, it was also workable to suggest that X-COM synthesizing cloaking technology from Alien technology even though there was no Alien antecedent in the base game was an example of global creativity seeing a possibility missed by the Aliens -or a possibility the Aliens had no interest in, for that matter. This wasn't satisfying, but it was workable.

In XCOM 2, though, you're a ragtag band running and hiding from a superior force, scraping by with support from what amounts to homeless shantytowns, relying on asymmetric warfare tactics to win fights at all. The scale of your personnel has also been dropped considerably: in the prior game, you start with 10 anonymous Scientists, which may or may not count Vahlen, and it's likely you'll have somewhere north of 60 Scientists before reaching the end of the game. In XCOM 2, your only scientific staff to start with is Tygan, and unless you're incredibly obsessive about attempting to acquire Scientists and/or drag out the game significantly you'll probably have fewer than ten non-Tygan Scientists when you launch the final set of missions.

Your talent is also implicitly less global and diverse. For a notable chunk of the game you'll probably be stuck operating out of and recruiting from one continent, and even once you manage to expand your communications it'll be a while before you're able to pull from more than 2 or 3 continents. Depending on how plot missions are distributed, a given run may not bother to get in contact with more than three continents: instead of tapping the best and most desired talents from wherever they may be found, you're having to work with whoever is locally available. Not only that, but locals that specifically hate ADVENT or got into trouble with them.

This is important. Realistically speaking, ADVENT probably binds the best and brightest humanity has to offer pretty tightly to them, with generous pay, comfortable conditions, and plenty of effort put into hiding the whole 'this utopia is actually a horrifying dystopia' thing. Even people who cotton on to the fact that ADVENT is monstrous probably have friends and family they don't want to leave behind and can't readily extract, even if we assume they're personally instantly willing to jump ship to X-COM when they realize their bosses are evil. Which, by the way, is a hilariously unrealistic scenario, as plenty of people are perfectly happy to shrug off the suffering of others if their own lives are comfortable. Furthermore, XCOM 2 makes it clear the Aliens have been shaping the narrative of the world for twenty years: your average young adult may well believe that however terrible ADVENT is humanity must've been worse before the Aliens came along and civilized us.

Oh, and ADVENT/the Aliens are sufficiently ruthless and fundamentally unsympathetic to humans that probably people who do find out the truth have better than even odds of being disappeared without X-COM ever hearing a word.

So not only is there no particular guarantee that talent in eg inventing things will overlap with strong moral integrity, but in fact everything about the situation indicates it should be pretty unusual for X-COM to rescue someone with experience and/or natural talent in the job. Humanity's best and brightest shouldn't be the expectation here, and indeed their recruits would probably run in very much the opposite direction -especially since people who are failing to achieve their life goals within a system are more likely to move outside it, and thus a notable fraction of the people who would end up discovering ADVENT's unsavory underbelly and be repulsed enough to leave would be the people who couldn't cut it.

This makes it much, much harder of a sell that X-COM was able to see previously unrealized possibilities and thus invent this magical technology with no obvious prior basis. Realistically speaking, your people are probably not very diverse, reducing their overall creativity, and they're probably not very talented as individuals anyway. If they were, ADVENT probably wouldn't have let you get a hold of them in the first place, one way or another.

Yet this is even more magical and ridiculously physics-breaking than anything X-COM invented in the prior game.


E.X.O. Suit
Acquisition: Complete Plated Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 1 Elerium Core, 5 Alien Alloys, 5 Elerium Crystals, 2 ADVENT Trooper corpses, and 8 days of construction in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 1 Elerium Core, 10 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals, 4 ADVENT Trooper corpses, and 10 days of construction in both versions.
HP: +5
Armor: +1
Mobility: 0
+1 Heavy Weapon slot.

The E.X.O. Suit is your first heavy armor, equivalent to and unlocked alongside Predator Armor. Heavy armors have two defining features: more durability (Armor in particular) than medium armor of their tier, and providing access to Heavy Weapons. In exchange, you give up the extra Item slot that non-basic medium armors provide.

This is an extremely good trade. A Rocket Launcher is very closely comparable in functionality to a Frag Grenade, only overall better; a soldier switching from Predator Armor can simply swap their Frag Grenade out and be very nearly 100% better off. Or if you were resenting the inability to double up on grenades... there you go, Frag Grenade+Rocket Launcher.

You shouldn't actually switch as fast as possible to equipping everybody with E.X.O. Suits, but this is because the Proving Ground has too many important things to do and E.X.O. Suits eventually become obsolete with no way to update them. Oh, and I guess also the Spider Suit exists. But as far as whether a given soldier should wear an E.X.O. Suit or Predator Armor?... only medical Specialists have real cause to turn down an E.X.O. Suit, since Medikits and Skulljacks are both useful to them and can't be replaced by Heavy Weapons.

Also something worth pointing out is that the E.X.O. Suit doesn't cost Supplies to build. If your run is strapped for Supplies but has plenty of Alien Alloys, Elerium Crystals, and Elerium Cores, you may find you actually do end up with E.X.O Suits as your line armor. This is a more plausible scenario than you might expect, as you're perpetually Supply-starved around the time you should be researching Plated Armor whereas Elerium Crystals have little use until late in the game, Alien Alloys may have more than you know what to do with, and it's possible to get really lucky with Elerium Cores where you have 10+ just waiting to be used. This shouldn't be your first option, but it's a scenario to keep in mind... well, in the base game. Resistance classes only benefiting from medium armors makes this less practical a possibility.

Class-wise, first priority goes to Salvo soldiers. By default this means Grenadiers, but particularly in the base game where bonus skills are automatic instead of requiring an Ability Point expenditure you may end up slapping one onto a Ranger, Sharpshooter, or Specialist first due to them rolling Salvo early.

Second priority is Grenadiers in general, specifically grenade-oriented Grenadiers. While Salvo is the only skill they have that explicitly benefits Heavy Weapons, a heavily grenade-focused Grenadier appreciates being able to put off the point at which they have to use their Cannon by contributing in other ways,

Third priority is, somewhat unintutively, Sharpshooters. There's two basic ways of looking at this: the first is that it improves their ability to contribute on the move, which is a concept that doesn't really apply to Specialists, Rangers, Grenadiers, or Psi Operatives. The second way of looking at it is the opportunity cost of firing a Rocket after a move is lower for a Sharpshooter than for other classes; a Specialist with a Magnetic Rifle will do 5-7 damage. Firing a rocket means giving up that 5-7 damage. A Sharpshooter who was going to move anyway with a Mag Pistol is instead giving up 3-4 damage. Thus, if we have two squads where the only difference between them is whether the Sharpshooter or Specialist is the one equipped with your one E.X.O. Suit, the one with the Sharpshooter carrying the Rocket realistically has 1-3 more damage being dealt in the turn the Rocket is fired -ignoring crits, which exaggerate this difference. (A Mag Pistol crits for +1 damage, a Magnetic Rifle for +3)

Furthermore, most Heavy Weapons actually work okay with trying to use the Sniper Rifle, since it's not feasible in XCOM 2 to be sniping units on literally the other end of the map. A sniping Sharpshooter will usually be a little behind the rest of the squad, if played right, which is often close enough to walk forward and hit enemies with a Rocket or other Heavy Weapon. As most non-Ammo Items are low value for a sniping Sharpshooter, sacrificing an Item slot for a Heavy Weapon isn't much of a sacrifice at all. The primary argument against putting your Sharpshooters in E.X.O. Suits is that Spider Suits are also very good for them, and are in fact probably better if you're specifically trying to snipe with your Sharpshooters instead of leaning into their Pistol skills. Which... I've been over how a sniping Sharpshooter isn't a particularly great thing to try to do. I personally usually put my Sharpshooters in E.X.O. Suits.

Fourth is Psi Operatives, assuming you're using them. At first glance this might seem a bit redundant with their natural focus on a number of reusable abilities, some of which are area-of-effect and most of which can't fail, but Psi Operative abilities are surprisingly poor at supporting the rest of the squad, aside the specific exception of Stasis, which only serves to buy time. This is fine when you're dominating an enemy group such that the rest of the squad doesn't need enhancement -feel free to Soulfire a target or whatever- but when you end up in a tough situation and need to smash Cover, Shred Armor, and just generally output a lot of damage real fast... other classes have at least a little bit of native tools for such supporting effects. Psi Operatives don't. As such, they benefit more from Heavy Weapons than Specialists or Rangers.

As for Specialists and Rangers, Rangers are a better fit, though not by a lot. Medical Specialists really should just stick to Predator Armor, and offensive Specialists have enough innate special abilities it can actually create inconvenient situations where you want to Rocket a pod and hit it with Capacitor Discharge and oops you have those both on the same soldier and so have to choose one or the other. Rangers don't have those issues, and indeed appreciate the ability to help against Armored targets in a pinch, but it's generally more optimal to stick them in a Spider Suit.

Conceptually, there's two layers to consider with the E.X.O. Suit.

The first layer is the game design layer, which I'm discussing because it grounds one point about the aesthetic/narrative end I'm going to essentially ignore: that of the extremely bizarre visual setup.

See, heavy armors have this entire big, bulky appearance and are clearly intended to be strength-enhancing, which is a natural fit to having them be an armor that lets you carry a 'heavy weapon' you otherwise can't. Yet the actual 'heavy weapon' launcher is a wrist-mounted little gun, not anything that really justifies this entire rig being necessary to be able to cart it around.

This is really dumb-looking, but I'm ignoring it because it's pretty clear this is an animation kludge, allowing the myriad classes with their differing sets of primary/secondary weapons to all tap the same heavy weapon animation set without it looking ridiculous, and also have heavy weapon access without it making any of their own innate animations look wrong. The visually intuitive thing would be for eg the basic Rocket Launcher to be like the big piece of gear the Heavy carried on their back in the prior game, but this would be A Problem with how the default approach to primary/secondary weapon positioning/animating is that the secondary weapon magnetically sticks to the soldier's back when not in use while the primary weapon is carried in the arms, and in turn pulling out a primary weapon defaults to the secondary weapon being hung from the belt or swapped into the magnetic back slot. You can't just slap a bazooka onto everyone's back; that might work for Sharpshooters and Specialists, but it would cover the Ranger's Sword and the Psi Operative's Psi Amp, making retrieval animations look obviously inane, and it would obviously look even worse when we're talking a bazooka co-existing with the already-large Grenade Launcher Grenadiers carry on their backs.

The Heavy got away with the Rocket Launcher being a big piece of gear on their back by virtue of it being their class feature. XCOM 2 has clearly decided to walk back to something a bit more like classic X-COM, where anyone could carry heavier weapons but they weighed a ton and that was a limiting factor, at which point the animations need to be universally compatible. Thus, XCOM 2 has ridiculous wrist-mounted Launchers that are inexplicably dependent on 'heavy armor' because that's a way to resolve the animation problems.

It's all very dumb, visually, but it serves a valid gameplay purpose and very deliberately avoids throwing massive amounts of resources into animation stuff that wouldn't really add anything to the game if it was done. Thus: I'm not 'counting' it when discussing the narrative component.

Speaking of that second conceptual layer: narrative.

As part and parcel of that whole animation thing, I'm ignoring the fact that E.X.O. Suits very obviously have arm-strength-enhancing bits that have no obvious relevancy in the final product. They'd be a good justification for carrying giant bazookas and whatnot, so probably the original thought was that your heavy armor soldiers would be carrying big guns in their arms, and it's just unfortunate the animation kludge makes them look pretty inexplicable.

No, the only narrative bit I actually care about is the powered armor aspect of the whole thing. As I noted earlier, Warden Armor is supposed to be full-on scifi powered armor of the 'protects and enhances' sort, and Predator Armor looks like a more basic version of the concept and this is likely the intended justification for the enhanced carrying capacity, but the game itself doesn't really acknowledge this in the narrative. The odd thing here is that the Predator Armor's visuals in this regard are clearly presenting Predator Armor as primarily supporting the legs, while the E.X.O. Suit is primarily supporting the arms. This is actually fairly interesting and suggests that the E.X.O. Suit and Predator Armor are really supposed to be two sides of the same coin: a low-tech implementation of powered armor, just focused on different things.

That's pretty cool, but once you hit Powered Armor it gets weird...

W.A.R. Suit
Acquisition: Complete Powered Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 50 Supplies, 1 Elerium Core, 10 Alien Alloys, 5 Elerium Crystals, and 10 days of production per suit in base game.
Legendary Cost: 125 Supplies, 1 Elerium Core, 20 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals, and 30 days of production in both versions.
HP: +6
Armor: +2
Mobility: 0
+1 Heavy Weapon slot. Additionally, the wearer gains a Shieldwall ability, which causes the user to behave as a High Cover element until they move or attack. The soldier theirself is not protected by activating Shieldwall.

... speaking of.

The W.A.R. Suit is your Powered Armor-tier heavy armor. Just as the E.X.O. Suit is pretty close to a straight improvement over Predator Armor, the W.A.R. Suit is pretty close to a straight improvement over Warden Armor. You also need to build at least one to unlock Powered Heavy Weapons, which is particularly important to keep in mind if you're using SPARKs -even if you have little interest in building heavy armors because SPARKs fill their utility, you'll still need to build a W.A.R. Suit so you can get started on Blaster Launchers and whatnot. This is a contrast with basic Heavy Weapons, which SPARK access unlocks just fine.

2 Armor is... not particularly stupendous in the late game, with some late-game enemies able to Shred the entire thing instantly, but it's actually enough to matter. Elite ADVENT Troopers only do 5-6 damage without crits; a W.A.R. Suit is raising the number of non-crit hits needed to kill them by at least 50%. Furthermore, if you have Blast Padding -which is a very relevant possibility in War of the Chosen, and is still useful to keep in mind in the base game if only because of bonus skills- your 3 Armor is more than doubling how long it takes Elite Troopers to kill the soldier. This makes it a lot more viable to focus down the biggest, nastiest targets, on the idea that less hard-hitting targets can be coped with through Armor.

Of course, an implication of all this is that Blast Padding soldiers in an E.X.O. Suit actually have a respectable level of durability. Something to keep in mind with soldiers who have Blast Padding.

Anyway, note that the W.A.R. Suit does not, itself, directly improve Heavy Weapons in any way. If it weren't for W.A.R. Suit construction being outright necessary to unlock Powered Heavy Weapons, I'd recommend building Powered Heavy Weapons before starting on W.A.R. Suits -and as it is, I'd still recommend building one W.A.R. Suit, then making some Powered Heavy Weapons before coming back to more W.A.R. Suits. The Powered Heavy Weapons are generally much more of a boost to contribution than +1 HP, +1 Armor, and Shieldwall. I kind of wish W.A.R. Suits provided two charges to Heavy Weapons, honestly...

... oh, and Shieldwall. It's... it's literally the Mec's One For All ability from Enemy Within, which was complete garbage you should basically never use, only Shield Wall is actually worse than One For All was in that One For All did allow some contribution without necessarily disabling it and was on a class that didn't care about Cover so it could theoretically be used to advance more aggressively than natural Cover would allow for. The only thing Shield Wall has going for it over One For All is that Shield Wall isn't a level-up pick but rather an incidental benefit of wearing armor you were going to equip for other reasons.

Nonetheless, I'm having trouble imagining a situation it would make the slightest bit of sense to use Shieldwall in. Just attack. Or Hunker Down. Like sure in theory you could put a W.A.R. Suit soldier up against High Cover and then have someone take Cover behind them if there's not enough High Cover in an area, but attacking is usually a better form of protection and there are actually good defensive tools available via other means. Furthermore, the W.A.R. Suit being restricted to the late game means that splash damage attacks that ignore Defense are everywhere, making clumping like that actively a bad idea.

What's particularly infuriating about Shieldwall's awfulness is that ADVENT Shieldbearers exist and provide some obvious possibilities for actually useful defensive tools. Shieldwall could've been a single-charge ability with functionality identical to the Shieldbearer's ability, or a single-charge ability to grant the wearer a personal shield of exactly this sort. These possibilities would still have been a bit niche simply because XCOM 2 is so biased toward overwhelming offense being how you get things done, but they'd have been actually worth using, you know, ever.

I don't understand why One For All's utter garbage dynamic ever struck the dev team as a worthwhile idea, let alone why they've persisted with it into XCOM 2.


Anyway, conceptual stuff.

I talked about the E.X.O. Suit and the Predator Armor seeming to be two sides of the same coin earlier and how it gets weird at the Powered Armor tier. Well, here we are at the Powered Armor tier, and the weirdness is that they didn't converge.

The natural, logical idea here is that whatever non-Elerium power source Predator Armor and E.X.O. Suits are using simply cannot support a full-body enhancement system, and the two designs focused in different areas are the compromise resulting from not being able to have it all in one design. In turn, the natural conclusion is that with Elerium added in to provide additional power, Predator Armor and E.X.O. Suits should converge into one design that has the benefits of both, and if there were to be a secondary design it should be taking things into a new direction entirely.

That is, I'd really expect the W.A.R. Suit to be your third-tier medium armor, Heavy Weapon access thrown in for free, and if the heavy lane had a distinct representative at this tier it would instead be more like Mecs but minus the transhumanist elements. (ie a massive warsuit with massive guns, base class capabilities a bit irrelevant)

It particularly stands out how Warden Armor doesn't really look anything like Predator Armor, but the W.A.R. Suit's design is really basically the E.X.O. Suit's design, just rounded and with glowing bits to it. In conjunction with the W.A.R. Suit not being any better at the Heavy Weapon job than the E.X.O. Suit, the whole thing feels very tacked-on or forced, like someone laid out the basic progression of tier 1 armor being just medium and then tier 2 and 3 having Light/Medium/Heavy representatives for game design purposes and then nobody thought terribly hard about whether the narrative elements attached to this actually fit that progression.

It's functional enough in gameplay terms aside the Shieldwall nonsense, don't get me wrong, but it's pretty intensely weird how disconnected the narrative elements are, and there's potential here that was wasted.

Still better than the prior game's armor set, though.

SPARK Conventional Chassis
Acquisition: Available once a SPARK is acquired.
Cost: N/A
HP: 0
Armor: 0
Mobility: 0

It's literally the SPARK idea of Kevlar. You move on from it as fast as you can, you get it for free, etc.

Aesthetically, the Conventional Chassis is actually probably my favorite SPARK Chassis. It does a surprisingly good job of selling the image of a robot put together with rugged, reliable technology that could survive twenty years of rusting and still be ready to tank some futuristic firearms. It's too bad you inevitably move past it, honestly, and indeed depending on how you unlock SPARKs you may see it barely any time at all.

SPARK Plated Chassis
Acquisition: Complete Plated Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 100 Supplies, 15 Alien Alloys, 5 Elerium Crystals in both versions. 
Legendary Cost: 150 Supplies, 30 Alien Alloys, 10 Elerium Crystals in base game. 100 Supplies, 15 Alien Alloys, and 5 Elerium Crystals in War of the Chosen.
HP: +3
Armor: +1
Mobility: +1

Note that the SPARK Chassis armors function like medium armor: you make a one-time purchase in Engineering, and suddenly you have an unlimited supply to slap onto your SPARKs. A run generally won't field more than 1-2 SPARKs at a time, so this isn't as useful as with the medium armors, but it does take away some of the sting from losing a SPARK; you're not being set back on armor for replacement SPARKs. As you can't retrieve SPARK bodies at all, this actually matters!

Also, the BIT gets upgraded when you purchase a better chassis, completely for free. BITs barely do anything, mind, but it's a nice little bonus.

Unfortunately, the fact that the Plated Chassis is a separate purchase is another example of SPARKs impressing initially but tending to be lackluster in the long haul. Even with Plated Chassis being notably cheaper than Predator Armor, it's a pretty notable chunk of resources, resources you might not be able to spare, compounded by the aforementioned point that you don't tend to have very many SPARKs at all. If it was realistic to field a full squad of SPARKs early in the game, Plated Chassis costing less than Predator Armor would be an attractive feature. As is, it's mostly making a burdensome point a little less burdensome.

It's a bit disappointing War of the Chosen didn't co-opt the new Resistance class armor mechanics and simply roll SPARK Chassis upgrades into the general medium armor purchases. It did lower the costs, which helps a little, but it doesn't fundamentally fix the reason this is a problem.

Also worth noting is that the actual stat bonuses are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, that's the same Mobility as a Spider Suit, the same Armor as an E.X.O. Suit, and only 1 HP less than Predator Armor. On the other hand, SPARKs don't get an Item slot or an extra Heavy Weapon use or anything like that from Plated Chassis, nor do they get anything equivalent to eg the Spider Suit's Grapple, let alone its Dodge. I don't really get why they don't even gain 5 Defense from this. The overall result is that it's easy to casually look at Plated Chassis and think it looks like a pretty good deal compared to the armor situation on your human soldiers, but overall it's less of a boost in real terms than any given armor human soldiers get at this tier, let alone the flexibility offered by the collective picture.

Aesthetically, Plated Chassis is my least favorite of the bunch. It emphasizes how huge SPARKs are in a manner that calls attention to how absurd that actually is, and it also ends up looking like the SPARK frame was completely replaced instead of eg covered with plates of Alien Alloys -you can see this a little even just looking at the icons. That's a very bizarre visual direction to take what is conceptually just adding Alien Alloy plates.

SPARK Anodized Chassis
Acquisition: Complete Powered Armor research to unlock purchase.
Cost: 200 Supplies, 25 Alien Alloys, and 10 Elerium Crystals in both versions.
Legendary Cost: 350 Supplies, 60 Alien Alloys, and 25 Elerium Crystals in base game. 300 Supplies, 40 Alien Alloys, 20 Elerium Crystals in War of the Chosen.
HP: +5
Armor: +2
Mobility: +2

Mechanically, Anodized Chassis continues the trend set by the Plated Chassis, though it benefits from the fact that Powered Armor armors are all a smaller boost over Plated Armor armors in the first place: while the Anodized Chassis still lacks anything equivalent to Predator Armor providing another Item slot, the low durability boost is in line with other Powered Armor examples; I can compare this directly to the heavy armors, where the W.A.R. Suit is +1 HP, +1 Armor, and Shieldwall. As Shieldwall is complete garbage, Anodized Chassis being +2 HP, +1 Armor, and +1 Mobility over its own predecessor is a clear winner.

It's still an issue you have to pay for it separately, though, particularly if you're playing on Legendary where Elerium Crystals are a seriously limiting factor in how quickly you produce third-tier gear.

Aesthetically, I... actually like the Anodized Chassis?

In some fundamental sense it's really just the Warden Armor design translated into giant robot form, but part of the advantage is that the believability issue goes so far it laps itself into being more believable. X-COM mass-producing shiny, perfect suits of powered armor is ridiculous. X-COM building and maintaining massive sentient machines is ridiculous. But if X-COM can build and maintain giant robots, well... it's not that hard a leap for them to be able to keep them shiny, and indeed they benefit a lot in this regard from you having to build each SPARK individually; a typical run won't match the screenshot above, but rather will have 1-3 SPARKs in existence at any given moment. So long as you gloss over how game-ified time is in general in XCOM 2, it's perfectly believable that Shen relatively quickly switches a few SPARKs from their current chassis to their new chassis, where Warden Armor kind of demands Shen suddenly has more than a half dozen suits lying around -yeah, you're not allowed to send more than 6 soldiers into any given mission yourself, but for example in the regular Avenger Defense mission Bradford will keep trickling out soldiers until either you run out of soldiers to send out or you break the spike, while in the Chosen Avenger Assault you outright send ten soldiers out directly, and an Ambush Covert Op can lead to you having 3 fully-equipped soldiers out at the same time this is going on. So realistically purchasing Warden Armor is Shen having 12+ powered armors up and ready in a matter of days, even just focusing on the framework of 'enough are ready in time for your next mission'.

Furthermore, SPARKs are already heavily standardized anyway. The main bit of visual customization of any note is their head, and Anodized Chassis doesn't force SPARKs into a standard head design. Thus, where Warden Armor jarringly removes all the individuality from your human soldiers, Anodized Chassis is just your SPARKs doing what they've always done, but shinier.

Above and beyond those elements, Anodized Chassis just looks good, where Warden Armor looks really dumb. Really? Sculpted abs and form-fitting steel on your suit of armor that's ostensibly here to protect soldiers from plasma fire and make it easier for them to carry their kit? Are your soldiers dressing for the battlefield, or are they dressing for a tech-obsessed runway show?

The name for this tier, meanwhile, is a very weird choice.

Anodizing is a real process, and it's really used on metals to Do Stuff to them. But the typical uses in question are things like making it easier to paint the metal, being combined with other processes to make the metal more resistant to corrosion, or to improve adhesion or lubrication. Nothing that enhances the ability to take a bullet or shrug off plasma fire, and indeed anodizing can make the result more prone to failure in the face of high temperatures. Furthermore, many metals will simply corrode if you attempt to anodize them; anodizing aluminum is useful. Anodizing carbon steel just means making it rust really fast.

This isn't a fatal problem, as Alien Alloys are a made-up science fiction alloy and so it's entirely plausible for anodizing them to have some weird effect not seen in Earthly alloys that does, in fact, make Alien Alloys less prone to absorbing heat or more able to conduct impacts throughout the frame in a less harmful way or whatever, but it does make me suspect whoever came up with this name learned just enough about anodizing to vaguely understand it's something you can do to Improve Metal Stuff, rather than far enough to see it's a fairly specific process not suitable in most situations and certainly not suitable for making known metals into better armor.

To be entirely fair, though, the entire framework for third-tier armor is fundamentally at odds with the SPARK. Third-tier armor is a giant hunk of metal using an internal power source to propel itself. First-tier SPARKs are a giant hunk of metal using an internal power source to propel itself. The only significant difference is that one is supposed to squeeze a human being inside and keep them alive, where the other replaces all that meat with even more steel and circuits. It was, if not inevitable, then certainly unsurprising that SPARK third-tier armor is conceptually janky.

This was a low-key problem with Mecs in Enemy Within, for that matter, since your generic endgame armor was defined around being powered armor and then Mecs are literally that with insanely advanced cybernetics thrown in and yet somehow they're less difficult to unlock the secrets of. It was just easy to overlook it given all the more immediate reasons why Mecs were insane nonsense.

Oh well. I still like Anodized Chassis, overall, and I do appreciate that someone might bother to look up 'anodized' and Learn Something.


In terms of raw, mechanical game design this is certainly a significant improvement over the prior game, if still a bit unsatisfying, but the narrative/conceptual end of things is... confusing.

Next time, we get started on primary weapons.

See you then.


  1. Obviously, the trick to the anodized chassis is that it allows adding a layer of very protective paint. Compared to the rest of the science here, adding a 'paint' layer that reflects energy weapons, or conducts plasma away from vulnerable parts of the SPARK is positively plausible. Having a spray-on ablative layer would even provide a justification for repairing SPARKs in the field, if they wanted to go that way.

    And it boots mobility as well, because it's red paint, and red ones go faster.

    1. I must admit that goes comedically well with the spray-on stealth field wackiness...

  2. You know, I did notice the indoor vs outdoor voice distinction fairly recently. And I noticed that if a soldier was to be spotted during their move, they'd use the outdoor voice before you got any other visual cue that you were detected. And yes, I've panicked when I heard my soldiers use their outdoor voices when grappling, only to realize that I was worried about nothing.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts