XCOM 2 Analysis: War of the Chosen Dark Events

These are all Dark Events added by War of the Chosen. It retains all the old ones, but the effective odds of seeing any given one are lower; you've gone from rolling 3 out of 15 Dark Events to 3 out of 37 Dark Events. Ignoring for the moment that I know for a fact the game makes use of hidden caveats like 'don't allow this Dark Event before such-and-such Force Level', that means any given Dark Event has had its odds of appearing slashed to roughly 40% of its original chance in War of the Chosen.

You might also notice these icons have different proportions and whatnot from the base game ones. The base game images were pulled directly from XCOM 2's files; War of the Chosen has custom encryption, so these images are derived from screenshots instead. In-game, they use the same proportions as base-game Dark Events.

Though it absolutely is the case that the art style approach is radically different. Probably due to being a bit rushed, a lot of the War of the Chosen Dark Event graphics are composites made from unit graphics set against a simple background and with a preexisting icon slapped in. Others are directly recycled from images that exist in the base game. Only a few of them have proper lighting and non-simplistic background imagery like the base game Dark Event graphics. I suspect a number of these were, in fact, placeholder graphics intended to be replaced before release.

In any event, the Dark Event system itself hasn't substantially changed in War of the Chosen. The only new wrinkle is that at high Knowledge levels the Chosen are allowed to initiate a fourth Dark Event once per month, with this Dark Event not being possible to block with a Guerrilla Op. These Chosen-generated Dark Events also don't linger in the pool the way Dark Events normally do; if a Chosen initiates a Dark Event, it will go through that month if you don't stop it, either by finishing off the Chosen or by using a Covert Op to block their monthly action.

Otherwise, though, it's the same system, just with a lot more options. More options is appreciated; I like the idea of Dark Events very much, but in the base game they tend to be repetitive across runs. In War of the Chosen, it's much more likely that a given run will have a relatively unique-feeling set of Dark Events generated, simply because there's enough you can't possibly run through the entire 'deck' within a single run. (... unless you deliberately stall for a long time, I guess)


ADVENT Return Fire
If a shot on an ADVENT Priest or Officer misses, that soldier will immediately return fire.

Note that while ADVENT Priests and Officers technically have limited ammo, you're extremely unlikely to ever have a given one live long enough to burn through their ammo supply, making it a bit of a moot point that you theoretically ought to be able to set up a safe miss by draining their ammo first. I suppose you could Dominate a Codex and Psi Bomb them first?...

Officers in particular are fairly good abusers of this, as they have a strong preference for putting themselves behind High Cover, at a fair distance from your squad, such that it's extremely difficult to flank them and often not feasible to blast their Cover with a grenade, sometimes even if you have a Grenadier on hand. There are a number of ways to work around this and it generally won't be a threat if it activates late in a run, but in the mid-early game this can be pretty unpleasant, making it so it's risky to lob a series of low-odds shots at an Officer while you find yourself with no better options that turn.

Priests are more situational abusers of it. If they successfully Mind Control one of your soldiers, they're suddenly a really high priority target and they may be in a position that's difficult for you to readily kill them in. On the other hand, they're much more aggressive about approaching your squad, making them more readily counter-flankable than Officers, and if they elect to use Stasis or Holy Warrior instead... whatever. There's also ways to wipe Mind Control that don't involve taking shots at them, such as lobbing a Flashbang, or just having a level two Bond going on. Furthermore, basic Priests can't Mind Control, so in the earliest portion of the game there's no possibility of a Return Fire Mind Controlling Priest putting you into a nasty situation of needing to take risky shots to get back your soldier.

Overall, either way it doesn't actually tend to crop up much, and can generally be played around if it doesn't show up in a fairly specific portion of the game. I tend to just let it through, personally.

Legendary's tweaks to pod numbers and whatnot make it notably more likely to actually crop up, as you're much less able to consistently force favorable situations. So... maybe consider blocking it on Legendary, if nothing else in the pool is clearly uglier to deal with.

Minor mechanics oddity: the opportunistic attacks a SPARK performs via Hunter Protocol can trigger ADVENT Return Fire. A Hunter Protocol SPARK may unexpectedly die if you bring it along low on health while ADVENT Return Fire is up.

Surprisingly, this is another Dark Event that times out even with Grim Horizon on. That's sad, since Grim Horizon making it permanent would've encouraged adjusting your skill picks and whatnot to try to maximize your ability to deal with Priests and Officers without risking misses. As-is, it's still depressingly likely to time out without ever mattering.


ADVENT Lightning Reflexes
Advanced and Elite ADVENT Troopers get Lightning Reflexes, automatically dodging the first reaction shot at them per turn.

I don't get why ADVENT Lightning Reflexes is using the icon for Lightning Hands, given XCOM 2 has a perfectly serviceable icon for Lightning Reflexes.

Regardless, this is usually not a big deal if you remember to accommodate its existence. Dark Events can't even activate in the first month, which is where you're most dependent on Overwatch ambushes; later in the game, you just need to not go 'hey, might as well set up an Overwatch ambush' on ADVENT Troopers while ADVENT Lightning Reflexes is active, as your team is usually plenty well-equipped for dealing with Troopers without the help of an Overwatch ambush.

Part of the reason it's not that big a deal overall is that Overwatch ambushes aren't actually that desirable. First of all, your squad will, if they can see all members of a pod, preferentially target the pod leader as part of the ambush; this is undesirable in the early game, as pod leaders in the very early game are less reliably threatening than their subordinates. A Sectoid pod leader can often be ignored for a turn or two, because them going for a Mindspin or Psi Zombie can be canceled out by killing them or Flashbanging them, and they very strongly prefer that to actually shooting your soldiers; meanwhile, the ADVENT Troopers following in their wake have no option beyond trying to shoot your soldiers dead, and even just injuring your soldiers has longer-term consequences, even if you immediately burn a Medikit on healing them.


Meanwhile, the Sectoid can absorb a lot of punishment. On Legendary, a Sectoid has 10 HP, vs an ADVENT Trooper having 4 HP; that means a Sectoid will tend to take three shots to kill, which at the beginning of the game is three-quarters of your entire squad! Meanwhile, the ADVENT Troopers will die in one hit, maybe two if the soldier attacking them is a Rookie, Specialist, Reaper, or Skirmisher. Which means a Sectoid with two ADVENT Troopers is best handled by killing the two ADVENT Troopers on the first turn, directing any leftover firepower at the Sectoid, and then finishing the Sectoid on the following turn. An Overwatch ambush, meanwhile, will probably result in your squad killing the Sectoid, and almost certainly leave both of the Troopers alive to try to kill your squad.

This is probably the most extreme example, but beginning-of-game pod leaders all have this going on to some extent or another. Priests prefer to Stasis or Holy Warrior over shooting your soldiers. Officers are prone to moving to good High Cover and then Marking a target, which if they're alone and then you kill them means they did literally nothing. Vipers, once they show up, have a strong preference for going for a tongue grab, and while that's damage it's still less damage than being shot does. Etc. And they're all much tougher than ADVENT Troopers, too.

This all means Overwatch ambushes become something of a trap choice as you climb difficulties; on Regular, all these factors apply, but pod leaders are vastly less durable, and even ADVENT Troopers have lost a hit point such that literally any soldier hitting them is a kill. Even a Sharpshooter firing on them with their Pistol has a 50% chance of killing a fresh Regular ADVENT Trooper! Which means an Overwatch ambush will often kill the entire pod, potentially leaving you with a soldier still in Overwatch even, such as if the initial hit on the pod leader was a crit that thus one-hit-killed them. Whereas on Legendary, you get the situation outlined above; Overwatch ambushing getting your squad shot at unnecessarily,

Later on, it starts being normal for pod leaders to be the enemy you do, in fact, want most urgently dead, but some of the major examples don't use Cover and so ambushing them has no particular advantage outside Specialists and Guardians, and most classes increasingly pick up abilities that they can't leverage if they're not the initiator, like Rapid Fire on Rangers, Salvo and Hail of Bullets and Saturation Fire and Rupture... Kill Zone on Sharpshooters, Guardian+Threat Assessment on Specialists, and Waylay on Skirmishers are the only skills that meaningfully tilt those classes toward Overwatch ambushes at higher levels. In the late game, you're often better off performing partial ambushes, where only one or two soldiers actually go into Overwatch. Andromedons are one of the few exceptions, being a highly durable and lethal Cover-using enemy, and it can still make more sense to not ambush them and instead use abilities to smash Cover etc.

War of the Chosen itself has also subtly discouraged Overwatch ambushes, though I suspect the developers didn't realize they were doing this. All three Resistance classes are bad at Overwatch ambushes; Skirmishers can only participate at full value by being the initial shooter (Prior to Waylay), Reapers can't directly participate in the initial Overwatch ambush at all (They can toss a Claymore and someone else toss a grenade to blow it up, but that's it prior to Banish), and Templar can technically participate but should basically never do so; they're better kept in reserve to Rend something after everybody else has done their thing. This means anytime you're fielding a Resistance class, Overwatch ambushes are less worth considering.

Taken altogether, this means as your skills develop and you meet greater challenges you're realistically going to be using Overwatch ambushes less and less, and so not particularly care about Troopers getting Lightning Reflexes -especially since they can't be pod leaders past the very early game, and so usually won't get targeted even when you do perform an Overwatch ambush!

As such, in practice it primarily makes them less prone to getting killed as they wander in at the edge of your vision. That matters, but catching enemies with Overwatch that way is primarily a bonus, not an essential to survival. And of course if a mission is light on Troopers, it won't necessarily matter at all...

Grim Horizon makes it a lot more notable, for the usual reason: it will almost certainly crop up several times over the course of a run, virtually no possibility of 'timing out without having a chance to be relevant. If you're prone to using Reaper scouting to set up Overwatch pseudo-ambushes (That is, stopping just out of sight of enemies and Overwatching), this is especially noteworthy, since they'll eat a certain amount of shots with no way for you to have played smarter to avoid the issue, unlike how you can just... not Overwatch ambush.

It's still not terribly impactful even with Grim Horizon on, but you'll at least see it in action more than without Grim Horizon on.

Also to be clear, bizarrely it is the case that basic ADVENT Troopers are unaffected by ADVENT Lightning Reflexes. This is largely a technicality as below Legendary basic ADVENT Troopers will almost completely disappear before ADVENT Lightning Reflexes has a chance to activate, but on Legendary the transition takes long enough it's completely possible for ADVENT Lightning Reflexes to be your first Dark Event that activates, do nothing for a month or two, and then suddenly it actually matters. Surprise!


I assume somebody missed basic ADVENT Troopers when assigning affected units, because it seems a weird thing to pick deliberately.

It's also buggily unreliable even when it does apply. I've had cases where an ADVENT Advanced or Elite Trooper got caught by Overwatch fire, even though only one unit attempted to fire on them, and where an informational mod nonetheless indicated they were, in fact, currently benefiting from ADVENT Lightning Reflexes. Oops.


Collateral Damage
ADVENT Troopers, Purifiers, and Officers get a second grenade.

This is cute, but the AI is pretty reluctant to use its grenades and if you're playing properly it's rare for an enemy to live long enough to chuck two grenades anyway.

Indeed, I've only once had it matter in real play, as even when I've tried to bait ADVENT into chucking two grenades while Collateral Damage is in effect, they've not gone for it. I've confirmed it applies via Double Agent and Domination, but for real-life months I honestly wasn't sure it did anything.

In any event, theoretically this should be... moderately threatening? ADVENT Trooper grenades are weaker per target than them shooting, and have no possibility of critting, but usually they'll chuck it to catch multiple targets and often smash Cover in the process. There's the potential to do some damage and open the way for some other enemy's follow-up attack to kill.

On the other hand, that's just an odds thing in most situations. On the upper two difficulties most enemies have a 10% crit rate even against targets in Cover, and it's pretty rare for you to be able to realistically arrange a situation in which they have a 0% hit chance on all available targets. And remember that crit chance is effectively higher the lower the accuracy; an enemy with base Aim of 75 and 10 crit will crit exactly 2/3rds of the time they hit when getting a flank...

... and against a target in High Cover more than 2/3rds of their crits will be hits.

So... sure, an ADVENT Trooper could chuck a second grenade and some other enemy follow up and crit-kill them, but even without the grenade you could lose someone out of nowhere to a crit-hit.

Late in the game your troops will default to at least one point of Armor, so the Shred component gains a bit more relevancy?

Grim Horizon theoretically should give it more opportunities to matter, but I've had it pop early in a Grim Horizon run and not ever matter. I dunno, maybe if you had Grim Horizon and Beta Strike on it could matter?

In practice, this is essentially a dud Dark Event that's extremely safe to let through, with very few Dark Events being less threatening.

Not helping is that it's either buggy or only has a chance of passing out a bonus grenade to a given unit; my initial testing seemed to indicate Purifiers and Officers were excluded, for example, but then I Fused a Purifier and it promptly chucked its Incendiary Bomb. Similarly sometimes Double Agent ADVENT Troopers get a second grenade, sometimes they don't. This further limits its potential to actually matter.


ADVENT Sealed Armor
All ADVENT soldiers are immune to Poison, Burn, and Freeze.

Note that this does not block Acid, in spite of there being four icons in the inset. I think it might actually cause the AI to think it's immune to Acid, as I've seen affected enemies run right through Acid clouds where they usually avoid doing so, but it definitely doesn't provide protection. This is particularly surprising and strange given Sealed Armor provides immunity to Freeze, which nothing is fully immune to normally, where Andromedons, Codices, and Spectres are all examples of enemies who are naturally immune to Acid.

This can be unpleasant if you've got Alien Hunters and are used to the Freeze Bomb being a very reliable means of putting threats on pause and all, and does diminish the utility of all Experimental Grenades, but is usually not too big a deal. Most ADVENT soldiers aren't particularly great targets for setting on fire, and while Poison is pretty nice against all of them except Purifiers (By virtue of being immune in the first place) not Poisoning them really isn't a huge loss.

In the mid-late game it can be a noticeable dip in Sharpshooter performance, since Poison/Burn immunity means Venom/Dragon Rounds doesn't provide that +1 damage to Pistol shots, which is proportionately a lot if eg talking Mag Pistols with 3-4 base damage. Such damage loss will hurt anyone, of course, but Pistol-focused Sharpshooters feel it a bit more keenly than most.

Overall, though, this is a cool idea but one whose impact is a bit limited, in part because ADVENT soldiers are generally easier to kill than analogous Aliens. You don't usually need to rely on status effects to manage them when it's so trivial to make them dead. It's only in the early game that they can be pretty difficult to kill, as in so early ADVENT Sealed Armor has no possibility of activating below Legendary and it's virtually impossible for you to have any tools for inflicting these statuses. (Even on Legendary)

Caveat: if you're playing with Beta Strike, all of these tools become vastly more relevant, and doing stuff like Gas Grenading a pod to cripple it actually is the kind of tactic that's staple in Beta Strike, because it's really difficult to reliably wipe out pods in one turn in Beta Strike. As such, if you're playing with Beta Strike on, consider this a higher priority to block.

Grim Horizon of course gives it greater relevancy in the usual manner; more opportunities to at some point have an effect that actually matters, instead of risking timing out without accomplishing anything. Grim Horizon+Beta Strike? Block it. Unless there's something a lot worse competing with it, block it.

Still, without Beta Strike, even Grim Horizon doesn't do that much to make it more relevant. Just don't forget it exists and eg waste a Frost Bomb on an ADVENT Priest because you were trying to undo Mind Control.

And to be clear, unlike a lot of these Dark Events, this is universal to all ADVENT soldiers, 100% reliably. It's not a chance to provide immunity.


Counterattack
ADVENT soldiers have a 50% chance of immediately entering Overwatch when their pod is activated.

Meh.

If something like this existed in the prior game, it would be moderately threatening. Overwatch was difficult to remove in that game, with death and a couple specialized abilities being your only options, and one of those abilities was risky to leverage if more than one enemy was in Overwatch at the same time, while the other special ability was godawful.

In XCOM 2, though, you not only have picked up the option of Flashbanging things to remove Overwatch en mass, but critically damage clears Overwatch now. This makes it very trivial to remove Overwatch before any of your soldiers needs to move, and indeed you don't necessarily need to adjust your plans any to account for enemies Overwatching; you may have been planning to launch a grenade at the group anyway, for example.

This means that unless you're doing some weird gimmick run, like a mono-Templar run or something, this rarely matters at all, and even when it does matter it usually only requires a slight tweak to your turnly plans.

Also note that while I frame this as 'immediate' activation, what they actually do is perform their normal pod-activation move and then tack on Overwatch at the end. Among other points this means a soldier activating a pod by virtue of meleeing a member isn't risking being shot by Counterattack Overwatch fire.

All that said, this can be pretty nasty if it's up when the UFO-derived Avenger Defense mission kicks off, since the final portion of that is a mad dash back to the Avenger's ramp while reinforcements rain down every single turn. If your team is light on tools for dishing out damage without ending the turn, you may be forced to just risk running gauntlets of Overwatch fire and accept injuries or even casualties. This is an especially concerning possibility if they happen to both occur early, so that your squad is low-level and poorly-equipped. Fortunately, most players will probably never have that happen, since it requires either two Dark Events go off fairly early or that Counterattack triggers and hitting the Blacksite triggers a UFO, with the Blacksite having been hit early. This is a fairly unlikely combination of events,

As usual, Grim Horizon makes this moderately more meaningful, simply because getting it in the early game or midgame means it will have more opportunities to try to matter. This in particular makes it a lot more likely to end up applying in an Avenger Defense mission where it's a bit nasty, though outside that it's still pretty meh.


Stiletto Rounds
ADVENT soldiers have a chance of carrying Stiletto Rounds, which can inflict Bleeding on a successful hit.

Bleeding is a potentially quite nasty status, doing damage over time for a few turns and then once it times out having a solid chance (Something like 50%) of instantly knocking the victim Unconscious. Notably, it's not protected against by Fortress, Hazmat Vests, or carrying a Medikit. As such, if Stiletto Rounds triggers, you should consider bringing Medikits to cure it if somebody takes a hit and starts Bleeding.

Overall, though, your squad should rarely be getting shot at, and even more rarely successfully hit. Furthermore, combat in XCOM 2 is pretty lethal; if, for example, you're playing on Legendary, it's distressingly likely that someone taking a hit is going to die right there, even without Stiletto Rounds. Stiletto Rounds is thus pretty unlikely to do anything of consequence, even if you're bad at the game and routinely let ADVENT troops take shots at you. Plus, most ADVENT troops don't actually prefer to take shots in the first place...

Grim Horizon makes it more relevant in the usual way: by giving it more opportunities to matter, instead of timing out without doing anything. It's... still a pretty low priority to block, especially if it shows up in the mid-to-lategame when ADVENT troops are on the uncommon side, having been substantially displaced by Alien forces.


ADVENT Bending Reed
ADVENT Stun Lancers have a 75% chance of performing a free movement action after performing a melee attack.

No longer are Stun Lancers (necessarily) suicide attackers!

And yes, they try to run for Cover and avoid being flankable with this bonus move. I've never seen one go running out of sight the way the Assassin does, which makes sense given Stun Lancers don't magically see your troops at all times the way the Chosen do, but this does a lot to make it harder to kill Stun Lancers if you let them live long enough to attack.

Mind, I'm personally of the opinion that Stun Lancers are usually one of the highest-priority targets in the entire game, so I tend to rarely give them a chance to attack regardless, but this is cool, and on Legendary it's legitimately difficult to 100% reliably kill Stun Lancers.

If, like me, you tend to heavily prioritize killing Stun Lancers, this will basically never have an opportunity to actually matter below Legendary, alas. If, however, you tend to prioritize targeting other enemies... uh, prioritize blocking this? I guess? I mean, I don't know why you'd place Stun Lancers as a low priority, but hey, you can play the game whatever way you want, I'm not your boss.

This is another Dark Event that Beta Strike makes a lot more relevant. It's nearly impossible to 100% reliably kill Stun Lancers with Beta Strike on; they're very tough, at higher tiers they have Dodge and Defense, and late in the game they can show up two to a pod, when even elite teams can struggle to kill two pod members in one turn in Beta Strike. You're going to have Stun Lancers zapping people in Beta Strike runs unless you're, like, running multiple massively player-favoring mods. At that point ADVENT Bending Reed is a lot more worrying, as instead of at least getting to 'trade' by piling damage on the now-exposed Stun Lancer, they'll have run off into some protected spot and you can't necessarily justify the measures necessary to kill them reliably in that situation.

Grim Horizon, as usual, gives it more opportunities to try to be relevant. If you play like me, this probably won't matter outside of Beta Strike or Legendary runs; I reliably average less than 1 Stun Lancer melee attempt per run on Commander difficulty with Aim Assist disabled. With Beta Strike on top of Grim Horizon?... block it. Definitely a high priority to block.


Undying Loyalty
25% chance for ADVENT soldiers to immediately arise as a Psi Zombie when killed.

Note that Undying Loyalty Psi Zombies have no assigned 'master', and thus must be manually killed.

I actually like Undying Loyalty just for that element. Normally Psi Zombies have little reason to be engaged with as actual gameplay pieces; why shoot them when taking out their creator will take them out for free? With Undying Loyalty, you actually have cause to plan around them in a meaningful sense, allotting soldier actions for killing them and/or keeping away from them so they can't punch anyone just yet, instead of them being complete non-factors.

It also has the interesting side effect of making the ADVENT vs Alien force composition much more viscerally meaningful. The game draws a distinction between those two sets in a few different ways, but the player has little cause to care on a gameplay level, normally; it's interesting to notice that airlifted reinforcements are exclusively ADVENT units, no Alien units among them, but not important as a categorical distinction, as one of the blunter examples.

Undying Loyalty means you actually care about that categorical distinction. (Well, not precisely, but close enough) ADVENT units require accounting for the possibility that their death won't eliminate a threat, instead just changing it, where Aliens you kill are the same as always; dead as a doornail.

Undying Loyalty is, unfortunately, somewhat glitchy. Enemies first try to play out their death animation, then get back up as a zombie; in the event that they died from an explosion or other effect that fails to launch bodies, such as Soulfire, this generally works out just fine, with the victim smoothly playing out their death animation and then their revival animation. In the event that their corpse was launched, however, the game will semi-regularly have visual weirdness and potentially hang for several seconds before things continue properly. This is particularly true if they were killed by Overwatch fire; for example, an enemy that's arriving as part of reinforcements will generally have the game decide they died at the tile they first showed up, but still have them animate as running a good distance before visually dying; with Undying Loyalty triggering, they'll play out running and dying and then snap back to their original tile to reanimate. In extreme cases, this can take multiple minutes for the game to reconcile all of this, though the majority of the time it's more on the order of a 10-second delay at worst.

Anyway, this is unexpectedly nasty with Grim Horizon on, though I actually like it overall. The random element is a bit frustrating, but mostly in the early game, where your firepower and health is low enough an unexpected extra factor can easily get someone killed with little or nothing you could've done to prevent the death. Later on, it becomes a more legitimate element of risk management, where you need to plan around being ready to put firepower onto a newly-spawned Psi Zombie, instead of eg assuming your Death From Above streaker can end their turn just yet. It also encourages, for example, actually purchasing Serial on some soldiers, since you'll semi-regularly end up in situations Serial is useful in, even if you're very good at avoiding pulling more than one pod at a time. That's a neat implication, encouraging grabbing a skill that's normally not worth the points!

It's interesting to me that Undying Loyalty is depicting the Warlock, given he doesn't actually animate Psi Zombies. He does, however, have his Spectral Zombies and Spectral Lancers, and the overall picture painted by dialogue is that Spectral stuff is being pulled from 'the void', and that 'the void' is some manner of hell dimension that dead people go to; Undying Loyalty depicting him is consistent with this, as in that case while he's not animating zombies he is summoning ghosts, which is related.

Surprisingly, even Avatars can be affected by Undying Loyalty. There's probably an internal check along the lines of 'is this a valid unit to be turned into a Psi Zombie?' because I'd be quite surprised if this was manually set. It's not like its lore-natural.

Not that this has much opportunity to matter, mind, but it's still a weird thing to be true.


High Alert
X-COM's squad-wide Concealment is instantly broken at the start of any mission they would normally start with it.

Note that High Alert does not break Phantom or Shadow. As such, High Alert can be substantially offset by simply bringing along a Reaper or, as a poor alternative, bringing a Ranger you took Phantom on. (Or Conceal works as an alternate solution, but Phantom is cheaper to buy and they both compete with much more generally relevant skills) You won't be able to set up an Overwatch ambush per se, but you'll still be able to avoid stumbling into and activating three pods at once or the like.

Also note that High Alert breaks the scripting of the supply stealing mission where you're tagging ADVENT supply crates to be grabbed by the Skyranger. Normally, ADVENT doesn't start tagging crates until you lose squad-wide Concealment. You might expect this means they start tagging crates right away under High Alert. In actuality, it means they never start tagging crates.

Oops.

Similarly, it breaks Neutralize Field Commander. The ADVENT General is supposed to make a break for it once your squad breaks Concealment, but if High Alert is up the General will linger forever, completely removing the time pressure from the mission.

Conversely, it breaks UFO raid missions in the opposite direction; normally the distress beacon isn't activated until your squad's presence is revealed to the enemies, but with High Alert the distress signal's timer kicks in at the start of the enemy's first turn. This can put you on a very tight timer to deal with the distress beacon, and you'll probably be forced to simply wreck the terminal instead of hacking it, using an effect that goes through walls like the Shredder Gun. (The game will inform you that you're trying to destroy a 'friendly' object, but no, destroying the terminal in this case is a good thing, aside that you miss out on the opportunity for a hack to provide some manner of benefit)

In normal play, High Alert is erratic. It can be deeply inconvenient if it happens to activate shortly before you're going to chain multiple missions with squad Concealment, such as hitting Avatar Project facilities or plot missions, or it can be actively beneficial by breaking one Supply Raid mission version in your favor, or it can be more or less irrelevant because you only end up doing one mission it technically affects and you brought a Reaper anyway so it's not actually that harmful. I like the basic idea of it, but the execution could've used some work.

If you're playing with Grim Horizon on, it's a gamechanger, forever denying you access to squad Concealment. You will probably want to grab Phantom or Conceal on some Rangers if High Alert rolls in a Grim Horizon run, especially if you didn't start with Reapers and thus can't get a second one, so you can still mostly-reliably scout aggressively. By a similar token, you may wish to specifically start with Reapers when trying out Grim Horizon, to make it easier to cope with High Alert rolling, especially if it's your first attempt at a Grim Horizon run.

Note that Alien Rulers become much harder to casually roll over if you're trapped in High Alert, since you can't set up a proper Overwatch ambush on them. You can try to fake it, but it's tricky, and you're operating at an Aim penalty so your damage will tend to be lower regardless. Plan for them probably escaping, even if you normally stomp the Viper King in one encounter. In turn, plan for them ambushing the squad later, probably with enough HP you can't trivially kill them before they do anything.


Barrier
Enemy Hack Defense and Psi resistance doubled.

Were you having fun taking control of everything? Yeah, not anymore.

Barrier's boost is enough that many enemies will become outright impossible for a Psi Operative to hit with Insanity or Domination bar you stacking Will penalties beforehand, and the rest will become unreliable, especially on higher difficulties. Specialists don't hit the point of it being literally impossible, but it will turn sure-things into gambles, and gambles into odds-against-you.

Barrier is another Dark Event that's pretty erratic. It might inconvenience you by closing off options from your Psi Operatives and/or Specialists, or it might not matter at all because you never ended up having an interest in trying to hack an enemy or hit them with Insanity or the like before Barrier timed out. Among other things, it does not affect hack objectives or security towers in spite of claiming to do so; it only actually matters to some Psi Operative abilities, Haywire Protocol, and Skulljack usage. Do note that it does actually affect Skulljacking an Officer or Codex, not just Skullmining, though this merely means you're unlikely to get an extra bonus out of using the Skulljack to progress the plot.

Conversely, it's another Dark Event that's actually quite consistently meaningful in a Grim Horizon run. Haywire Protocol becomes dangerously unreliable against all targets, and your Psi Operatives will probably never actually use Insanity directly. The effect is a bit narrow, admittedly, but it being permanent means a shift in priorities, such as not bothering to buy Haywire Protocol on high-level Specialists if that's a thing you normally do. Similarly, you might change your mind about pursuing Psi Operatives; while only a limited portion of their abilities are affected, it still permanently lowers their effectiveness in a way most other classes don't experience.


Dark Tower
X-COM soldiers lose Will more quickly in missions.

This is a deeply confusing icon given the name of the Dark Event. This is likely another casualty of War of the Chosen's general rushed state, as this is an ADVENT propaganda graphic that exists in the base game, though most players probably never noticed it because it's only ever seen on relatively small displays inside ADVENT city centers. Point being it's a recycled graphic.

Anyway, this isn't generally a hugely big deal. It doesn't change the caps on Will drain, it just changes how much individual modifiers are. That is, if you send a soldier into a mission, and witnessing enemies would've hit the 1/3rd limit without Dark Tower, Dark Tower will just have them hit it earlier in the mission, it won't cause them to continue on to Shaken. Draining missions won't be any harder on your soldiers, generally; it instead means you'll end up with closely-spaced low-stress missions producing Tired soldiers in greater numbers than normal.

That matters, and in particular is really easy to mismanage and end up forced to either send Tired soldiers or a bunch of inexperienced soldiers into a tough mission, but it's only likely to be a serious problem if eg it activates shortly before you're forced into mission crunch by an urgent need to knock back the Avatar Project timer. And even then, you can work around it by making a point of not constantly fielding purely your A team; swap out a couple of slots for less-experienced soldiers, particularly of classes that perform solidly at low experience levels. The difference between a Squaddie Grenadier and a Captain Grenadier is relatively small; a Squaddie Grenadier backed by Advanced Explosives and an Advanced Grenade Launcher will still pull their weight in the midgame in a way that eg a Squaddie Ranger won't. Similarly, if you get a second Reaper, the scouting portion of their duties -which are honestly their biggest value by far- are only marginally enhanced by leveling. You can let you primary Reaper rest without too much loss. Templar are also surprisingly functional just at Corporal; alternating Templar if you have two can minimize the odds of either ending up Tired.

If you're playing with Grim Horizon on and have Shen's Last Gift, consider getting 2-3 SPARKs if this activates, particularly if it activates fairly early, even if you normally disdain SPARKs. Having a solid core of untiring units makes it a lot easier to cope with your human troops tiring out more reliably, and makes it so your realistic worst case is probably sending 2-3 elites plus a couple of mid-level troops and a Squaddie, rather than suddenly finding yourself fielding nothing above Sergeant late in the game when you're expected to consistently field Majors/Colonels.

If you don't have Shen's Last Gift, consider getting Mind Shields up, or focusing on troop recruitment; slot in Live Fire Training if you luck into it and hire a bunch of Rookies, prioritize soldier rewards from Guerrilla Ops, maybe even hire from the Black Market. Mind Shields will prevent Tired soldiers from freaking out, while having a larger number of soldiers will make you less likely to find yourself forced to field Tired units. (Though the latter won't help as much with the issue of being forced to field inexperienced soldiers)

If you weren't intending to build a Psi Lab, reconsider; they can keep training even while Tired, and can get a few levels under their belt without ever seeing combat, widening your pool of reasonably experienced soldiers, meaning mid-training Psi Operatives are a solid backup option for ensuring you have some relatively elite troops to field even if your A team is exhausted at a critical moment.

Also keep in mind that Covert Ops don't tire your soldiers out and can be used to raise levels. If you normally use Promotion rewards to boost your Majors to Colonels, consider instead boosting eg Sergeants to Lieutenants so fielding not-your-A-team isn't such a huge drop. Even aside that, if you can get a couple of Bondmates cycling through Covert Ops continuously, they can get to a decent level and act as a backup set of decently-leveled soldiers.

Also consider prioritizing raising Influence with the Templar. They have a Resistance Order for making your soldiers recover Will faster, and one that lets you send out lightly injured soldiers without consequence; both of these can help make Dark Tower more tolerable. The other Resistance factions don't have comparable benefits under their Resistance Orders.

Also, to be clear, while I'm not sure the precise mechanics, this does raise the maximum Will drain from individual events. It's not 'your odds of losing Will are doubled', it's 'you can lose up to twice as much Will from a given event'. My guess is that you're rolling twice as many dice when it comes to spotting pods; that normally each soldier has two 50% chances to lose 1 Will per non-Lost enemy spotted, and Dark Tower is raising it to four 50% chances that will each drain 1 Will if they go through, but I'm not 100% sure this is it.


Gone to Ground
The Black Market becomes unavailable for 6 weeks.

Note that since the Black Market changes its stock with each month turnover, Gone to Ground is guaranteed to deny you at least one month's set of purchases. If you're fond of leaning on the Black Market, this can be pretty unpleasant, and if the stars align in a negative way it can be a problem even if you aren't a fan of the Black Market. (eg you run low on Alien Alloys, shrug, decide you'll purchase more from... oh. That's not an option right now)

Also note that you actually have to re-contact the Black Market once the Dark Event runs its course, so in actuality it'll be unavailable for more than 6 weeks.

Overall, though, this doesn't tend to be a big deal. Generally, it's difficult to justify spending much Intel at the Black Market until late in the game when you don't benefit as much from purchases because you're basically set; you need too much Intel going into contacting new regions to spare much on the Black Market in most runs. The temporary drop in Supply income from not selling at the Black Market doesn't even really apply very early in the game; you're best off avoiding selling most corpses so they can hit Instant, after all.

It can combine with other factors to be the final nail that kills a run, but for one thing you can respond to Gone to Ground entering the pool by hitting the Black Market for a buying and selling spree to minimize its impact. So... again; usually not a big deal, one of the safer Dark Events to let through.

Surprisingly, Grim Horizon does make this permanent! Normally the Black Market is a decent source of free cash; several corpse types have no use outside selling once Autopsied, such as Muton corpses, and once you're hitting the late stages of the game non-Superior Weapon Attachments are generally best off being sold as well. The Black Market being permanently closed thus cuts into your funding to a decent extent, very reliably; thus, even if you don't place much value on the ability to buy from the Black Market, this is still pretty undesirable, unless it happens late enough you've bought literally everything you could possibly need.

Anyway, point being that in a Grim Horizon run this is actually a really high priority Dark Event to block, unless it shows up when you're nearly ready to perform the final missions anyway.

Legendary Grim Horizon is a mixed bag in this regard; on the one hand, corpse-selling is even more profitable on Legendary, because you consistently fight enemies in greater numbers and so have more corpses to sell. On the other hand, Supplies tend to be surprisingly abundant on Legendary due to your income intake being only indirectly affected whereas your ability to spend Supplies is substantially slowed down. I'd still prioritize blocking it on Legendary Grim Horizon, but overall it'll probably hurt less than for a lower-difficulty Grim Horizon run.


Signal Jamming
For the next 6 weeks, the Avenger takes twice as long to perform all scan actions.

This is one of the most brutal things to have go through if it hits at any point in the early to midgame. Notably, it affects contacting new regions, so Signal Jamming can actually be run-ending if there's a flurry of Avatar Project progress and you've been putting off making contact with a region containing an Avatar Project Facility/plot mission and suddenly you're going to take two weeks to make contact when you've only got one week before the Avatar Project triggers a game over.

Later in the game, when Rumors are rare, you've probably pushed the Avatar Project back significantly, and there's little need to contact new regions, it's a mild inconvenience, more annoying than anything else.

One thing it doesn't affect that otherwise constitutes a form of scanning is that hanging out at Resistance HQs doesn't get touched by it. You don't pull Intel from the Reaper HQ at half speed or something like that. Consider, for example, hanging at Reaper HQ instead of hitting an Intel Rumor for the duration of Signal Jamming.

I don't yet know if Grim Horizon affects this. Before I discovered that Gone to Ground is affected by Grim Horizon I would've guessed this isn't, but knowing that has me inclined to suspect it is, in fact, permanent in a Grim Horizon run. Yikes, if so. I'll update this space when I know for sure.



Spider and Fly
All Covert Operations have Ambush as a possibility for the duration of Spider and Fly.

I don't know what happens when this inevitably kicks in with a Covert Op underway. I'd assume it doesn't make it retroactively vulnerable to an Ambush, as for one thing whether a given Covert Op will end in an Ambush or not is set when you start it and cannot be savescummed by reloading to a point after you've initiated it, but I don't actually know.

In any event, Spider and Fly triggering puts an equipment burden on you, since you'll want to make sure your Covert Ops troops are ready for a fight. On lower difficulties, it's honestly not much of a threat; annoying to burn your real time on, sure, but ambushes have a limited array of very similar maps, a tiny pool of enemies aside the trivial Lost... it gets tedious inching to the safe zone for the latter portion of the map, but there's not really any reason for your troops to ever be in real danger.

If you're playing on Legendary, it gets a fair bit concerning. Not as concerning as it maybe could have been -there's a bit in the config files that indicates Ambushes were supposed to do unlimited ADVENT reinforcements on Legendary in particular, but that thankfully doesn't actually happen- but on Legendary the initial reinforcement pod is made of three enemies instead of two. Two enemies is pretty easy to reliably kill with your 2-3 soldiers; get in free damage with Overwatch, then kill them. 3 enemies when you may only have 2 soldiers?... potentially doable if your soldiers are good, but not something you can count on happening, and early in a run you may be forced to just make a mad dash for the evac zone and pray at least one of them survives.

Personally I rate this as a moderately high priority to block simply because Ambushes on everything gets really tedious really fast and makes it so Covert Ops aren't a safe way to grind experience on low-end soldiers, but if you don't mind the run taking longer it's really not a big deal below Legendary. Especially if you were planning on doing several risk-prone Covert Ops in the near future anyway, such that it's not adding anything. (I dunno, maybe it boosts existing Ambush chances?)

Assuming Grim Horizon makes it last forever -this is a thing I'm working on testing- this would be really annoying and tedious on any difficulty, and really threatening if you're also playing on Legendary. Ambushes forever. No thanks.

I don't usually comment on the visuals of these, but this one I quite like the dark parallel to the endgame cinematic where resistance troops ambush an ADVENT checkpoint. The one criticism I have being that it's easy to overlook that the four figures atop the building in the background are meant to be ADVENT troops sneaking up on the X-COM soldiers up front, and thus completely miss said cool dark parallel.


Left Behind
All Covert Operations have Capture as a possibility for the duration of Left Behind.

As with Spider and Fly, I don't know what happens to an ongoing Covert Op when this activates. For that matter, I don't know what happens if it times out in the middle of a Covert Op it was affecting. I suspect in the latter case the answer is 'nothing', based on a different mechanic failing to remove Capture chances on pre-existing Covert Ops, but I don't actually know.

Left Behind is a lot more consistently worrisome than Spider and Fly, as while you can get back captured soldiers, it eats a Covert Op, involves an understrength team doing a fairly difficult mission type (Among other points, rescue missions involve aggressive, unlimited reinforcements that will rapidly overwhelm your tiny team if you try to fight), you don't necessarily roll the Covert Op in a timely manner, and you don't even get a mission to try to block the capture or anything like that. Just... boom, you've lost a soldier for potentially a very long time. And since hunting the Chosen demands you send high-level soldiers, you can't even hire a blob of Rookies and throw them at the problem, not caring if they're taken from you, not unless it spawns late enough you've already finished the Chosen Covert Op chains, or you're willing to just give up on actually taking them out.

As a result, this is one of my highest priorities to block in War of the Chosen, possibly the highest priority. The consequences can't really be mitigated or planned around, and they hurt you for a long time, potentially forever if the game is uncooperative about providing an opportunity to rescue soldiers; I've had a run where a soldier got captured by a Chosen in the second month of the run, where I wasn't offered the ability to rescue them until literally the month I launched the final missions.

Well, saying the consequences can't be mitigated is slightly overstating the issue, as you can still be offered the opportunity to cancel out the Capture possibility on individual Covert Ops and it will work even with Left Behind active. You can simply avoid taking Covert Ops that don't let you block the Capture possibility, or only send low-ranking soldiers you don't mind losing on Covert Ops you can't block the Capture chance of. However, this all has the issue that you really want to be able to do the Chosen chain of Covert Ops, they increasingly demand higher minimum ranks to perform, and there's no guarantee they'll offer the ability to block Capture chance. So usually Left Behind will create unavoidable headaches, if only by you putting off hunting the Chosen for a solid month while you wait for Left Behind to time out.

The other significant mitigation point is that once a Chosen is dead, their Adversary's Covert Op set will cease to generate with Ambush or Capture chances, even if Spider And Fly or Left Behind is active. As such, you can reduce the consequences of Left Behind by hurrying to kill the Chosen; prioritizing Hunting them more than you would, or launching an assault on an unlocked Stronghold sooner than you were originally planning, etc. (This also applies to Spider And Fly, of course, but Spider And Fly is annoying, not threatening)

In a Grim Horizon run... block it. BLOCK IT BLOCK IT BLOCK IT. There is nothing worse than permanent Left Behind.

Well, unless it only rolls after you've killed all the Chosen. At that point it's actually a dud and you should prioritize other things.


Lost World
Lost can appear in nearly any mission without needing a Sitrep.

Note that Lost World won't affect DLC-exclusive missions or assaulting Chosen fortresses. It also doesn't affect Ambushed Covert Operations (They always have Lost anyway), and I'd be quite surprised if it's able to affect the mission type for rescuing kidnapped X-COM soldiers. It absolutely can affect Avenger defense missions and Retaliation missions, even though you might expect otherwise. There's also a handful of mission types and map types that always involve Lost, such as rescuing a VIP who is fending off Lost with a fixed gun, which obviously can't be meaningfully affected by Lost World.

Surprisingly, it can affect mainline plot missions like the Psi Gate mission. Indeed, it can be pretty beneficial to have it trigger in that one, as a Lost wave spawning in will trigger Chryssalids to unburrow so they can attack the Lost -and Lost won't even become Chryssalid cocoons! Though on the other hand it can lead to Chryssalids glitchily triggering in response to Lost... and then running up to one of your soldiers and attacking them, never mind that no enemy had sight on that soldier. It's especially dangerous in Retaliation missions, as Chryssalids are fully activated after unburrowing even if none of your soldiers ever actually saw them, and so Lost spawning may lead to Chryssalids attacking civilians in the shadows at a much more aggressive pace than the normal 'one attack on civilians per turn across all inactive pods'.

Beyond all that, I'm not sure what else may or may not be excluded from Lost World. I wouldn't be surprised if, say, the VIP Escort mission type is exempt, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't.

Note that Lost World doesn't actually force Lost to be in the initial spawn table. What it does is force the mission to have the mechanics where noises lead to Lost attack waves spawning in. Among other points, this means Lost World will only rarely lead to Lost fighting ADVENT/Alien troops, and indeed it can actually be deeply inconvenient if you're prone to scouting ahead with a Reaper, as it can lead to situations where an Alien pod activates in response to a Lost wave spawning, which itself spawned during your turn in response to an explosion, so that you've ended up pulling an Alien pod with it free to immediately attack your troops.

Mind, Lost World can still lead to a mission starting with Lost, it's just that it's not guaranteed. I suspect it's in part tied to mission type. The curious thing is the Shadow Chamber will predict Lost Brute presence -and not Lost or Lost Dashers- regardless of the actual presence or lack thereof of Lost sub-types. This is particularly weird since Brutes can never be spawned mid-mission, and so are the one Lost type where this can be unambiguously wrong to predict the presence of.

In any event, Lost World is pretty fun to get. Throwing Lost in makes familiar missions you've maybe gotten tired of feel surprisingly different surprisingly readily.

On the other hand, it's janky as a Dark Event. Narratively, Dark Events are supposed to be things that ADVENT/the Aliens are prepping to make X-COM's life harder. While Lost are a product of the callousness or cruelty of the Ethereals, they're also causing problems for their operations, with ADVENT working to get rid of them entirely... which since it's being done in secret, you can't argue that's any kind of PR stunt. So Lost World doesn't really make any sense to be a Dark Event, not in how Dark Events are framed, and notably it's the only Dark Event that breaks from the pattern of being A Bad Thing Advent/The Aliens Are Trying To Do.

Meanwhile, mechanically it's... it's fun, and that's very much a positive, but it also acts as an experience bonanza (Lost are worth less experience than other enemies, but they spawn in such huge numbers you still tend to end up ahead on experience) and can lead to all kinds of frustrating situations where you suffered casualties due to bizarre mechanical interactions rather than actual player error. So it's mostly actually a positive, not the negative Dark Events are supposed to be, and the primary way it can be notably negative is centered around janky interactions that probably should've been handled differently.

So as much as I enjoy Lost World, I'm not sure it's actually a good thing that it's in the Dark Event rotation.

If you're playing with Grim Horizon on, Lost World has a side effect of forever making explosions less appealing, and by extension making Grenadiers and to a lesser extent SPARKs less appealing. Conversely, it makes Sharpshooters and to a lesser extent Templar forever more appealing, since they can clean out crowds of Lost without having to waste ammo on it, reducing the potential to get bogged down by Lost in time-sensitive missions. It also makes Between The Eyes a vastly more beneficial Resistance Order to luck into, makes Dragon Rounds pretty consistently preferred over Venom Rounds, makes Expanded Magazines and Autoloaders much more strongly preferred Weapon Attachments, makes the Flamethrower/Hellfire Projector more worth considering using, and means Grenadiers are probably better off specializing in Cannon usage than grenade usage.

... I personally rate it as a high priority to block in Grim Horizon runs, as the janky mechanics point gets a lot more frustrating when it's cropping up in literally every mission for in-game months. Lost World triggering in a Grim Horizon Run is, bizarrely enough, one of the most threatening Dark Events to spawn, simply because it's virtually guaranteed you'll end up with soldiers getting killed not because you did anything wrong but because Lost/ADVENT interactions have all kinds of weird edge cases and unintuitive implications that result in unexpected issues.

That's... really not fun.

On Legendary difficulty, where it's a lot harder to consistently avoid injuries/casualties in the first place, I'd rate it as a bit less frustrating to let through if you also have Grim Horizon on. The janky mechanics consideration still applies, but on Legendary you're a lot more likely to appreciate Lost distracting Alien forces and 'janky mechanics got someone killed' isn't, experientially speaking, that different from 'stronger and more numerous enemies forced me to rely on the RNG cooperating to get through, and the RNG decided I'd miss and someone die through no fault of my own'. If you can cope, emotionally, with a Legendary run in the first place, permanent Lost World probably isn't any more unbearable.


The Collectors
The Chosen are vastly more likely to elect to kidnap X-COM soldiers when in a position to be able to do so.

Note that the Chosen still have to Daze a soldier before they can initiate a capture. They're just more willing to go for the capture over an Extract Knowledge when The Collectors is active. I'm not sure how much more willing, as I haven't run across a clear reference to it in the files, so I couldn't say whether it's just a modification of their base percent chance or instead, say, makes them always go for the capture when possible. One in-game description outright claims it's the latter, but this description is, curiously, only seen when looking at a Guerrilla Op that will block it.

How much this matters basically depends on your difficulty. On lower difficulties, it's really easy to kill the Chosen, often before they even act. Even up to Commander, once you're past the early game it's very realistic to mostly-reliably kill them without them acting. On Legendary, though, that's completely unreasonable; you get more missions for a given degree of advancement and so get more Chosen encounters before eg upgrading to magnetic weaponry, the Chosen tip over the edge from 'very tough, but still possible to pretty reliably one-round' to 'basically impossible to one-round unless a perfect storm of favorable conditions occurs', your ability to find and permanently defeat Chosen is dramatically slowed down both by your soldiers leveling much slower and also by the Covert Ops in question taking twice as long and so it's far less likely you'll kill them before they hit their final tier of strength...

... and on top of all that you're perpetually dealing with more, tougher enemies. Maybe you can one-round the Assassin when she swoops in even on Legendary, but probably there's a pod already in combat with you and leaving it free to act is probably worse than giving the Assassin an extra turn to live. The Chosen at least don't go straight to lethal blows.

The overall result is that on Legendary in particular this is a lot more likely to actually matter.

Assuming Grim Horizon affects it... well, see the previous difficulty point. Borderline a dud on lower difficulties, actually potentially worrying on Legendary.

This is the first of six Chosen-related Dark Events, and unsurprisingly none of them can be entered into the pool once all the Chosen are permanently gone. Any that are ongoing will stick around until they naturally expire, and I'm not entirely sure what the game does if such a Dark Event is sitting in the pool as it's not cropped up organically in any of my runs, but I'm quite certain they don't get entered into the pool anymore.


Loyalty Among Thieves
Whenever any of the Chosen gains Knowledge, they duplicate some of that Knowledge gain on a specific other Chosen.

Loyalty Among Thieves can have information go to any of the Assassin, Hunter, or Warlock, it's just a matter of which one you rolled. You'll be able to tell right away by just looking at the graphic, because the Chosen that gets the information is the one that will be displayed, hence the three different graphics.

Narratively, this kind of makes sense as a Dark Event, in the sense that the Chosen default to competing with each other but it also makes sense they might temporarily cooperate, but mechanically this is a pretty pointless, ignorable Dark Event, even on Legendary, unless you're really prone to letting the Chosen Extract Knowledge or kidnap your people. And maybe even then. The Chosen just don't ramp up enough from Knowledge gain; the later Chosen actions are overall more threatening than the earlier ones, but it's not like they start initiating multiple actions within a given month for hitting Knowledge thresholds, or otherwise scale to Knowledge gain. This thus tends to be a freebie/dud Dark Event you can freely ignore in favor of blocking something more threatening... even before the point that you can cut it short by finishing off whichever Chosen got assigned as the recipient.

It's a little more worrying on Legendary, where it takes a lot longer to remove the Chosen from the game entirely, particularly since Knowledge mechanics have not been re-tuned for Legendary. You're pretty likely to get multiple Chosen Avenger assaults on Legendary, and Loyalty Among Thieves can easily add another such assault to your total. Still not as threatening as a number of other Dark Events, but not quite so thoroughly a dud.

I'm not entirely sure how this functions in Grim Horizon. I know it's absolutely possible to roll Loyalty Among Thieves anew, with a different Chosen, but I'm not entirely sure whether it stacks or gets overwritten. The game is really not designed to display more than four Dark Events in detail at once, and Grim Horizon didn't fix that. As such, it could be stacking and the interface just failing to properly illustrate that, or it could be overwriting and also failing to properly illustrate that. Chosen Knowledge gain rates are sufficiently variable from one month to the next that Loyalty Among Thieves' effect isn't easily deduced from simple observation, either.

My suspicion is that it stacks, in part because you can have multiple of them appear in the pool together, but I may well be wrong.

It does last forever, in any event, with Grim Horizon on, bar the possibility that they overwrite each other. Getting it early can thus be moderately meaningful in a Grim Horizon run, particularly on Legendary difficulty, where it may mean the Avenger gets attacked two months in a row where that wouldn't usually happen.


Made Whole
The Chosen lose all their Weaknesses.

Exactly how bad this is depends on various factors in a run, such as what exact combination of Weaknesses each Chosen has (And also what Strengths they have; Brittle is a lot harder to pick on if they're Immune to Melee, for example), and of course depends heavily on how well your team is able to cope with the Chosen without picking on weaknesses. A Chosen you were struggling to kill while picking on their Weaknesses can suddenly become nightmarish, while one you were coping with fine without bothering to pick on Weaknesses is much less of an issue.

You may in particular wish to put off assaulting any Chosen Fortresses until after Made Whole times out, if feasible.

This is also pretty substantially affected by difficulty. On Regular, it's pretty ignorable; the Chosen are simply too frail on Regular. By the time it'll have a chance to roll, even a completely inexperienced player should be able to pretty reliably kill them in two or so turns, and if such a player can't, Made Whole is unlikely to matter in a particularly decisive way.

Commander spikes their durability so much that even an experienced player who arranges to catch them in Overwatch may still struggle to kill them in a single turn if not actively picking on Weaknesses. Legendary drags their durability so high that in conjunction with slowing down the player's progression even picking on their Weaknesses heavily is extremely unlikely to kill them in a single turn, and without leveraging Weaknesses they'll probably last at least a couple of turns, giving them enough time to Daze and then Extract Knowledge or kidnap if you don't clear the Daze immediately. The Warlock also presents the threat of Mind Control, and he's immune to some of the most accessible and useful options for breaking Mind Control; lasting two turns in a row means potentially having one of your own attacking your people.

As such, if you're used to ignoring Made Whole and then go up a difficulty, you should pay attention to how much Weakness abuse has factored into your ability to kill Chosen in a timely manner. If your entire squad gets tied up on the Chosen even as you pick on both Weaknesses pretty heavily... Made Whole is dangerous and shouldn't be let through unless the alternatives are also very dangerous.

Grim Horizon makes Made Whole a lot more intimidating, though still with a luck-based element to it, since some combinations of Weaknesses are more exploitable than others, including that how easy it is to pick on a given Weakness depends in part on which Chosen got it. One run might get Made Whole, and find one or more Chosen have leaped from 'trivial' to 'actually pretty threatening' and now you're panicking and trying to finish them as fast as possible. A different run might barely notice the difference due to an inconvenient Weakness distribution that makes it difficult to pick on their Weaknesses in the first place.

Note that Made Whole is actually kind of bad on a UI design level, in that Weaknesses will still be displayed in the Chosen info screen, including in battle. If you've forgotten which Dark Events are active, it's easy to overlook that the Weaknesses are currently inactive. This is particularly frustrating with Shell-Shocked and Bewildered, as without mods explosive damage isn't previewed and Bewildered doesn't visibly track how close you are to triggering it, so in both cases it's really easy to set up a plan that's anchored in abusing one of those Weaknesses and not realize you've Made A Mistake until it's too late to course-correct. (Other Weaknesses, you just need to pay enough attention to notice that damage preview isn't showing the boost, or at least that when you hit them no Weakness: Thing popup occurred, and unless you had an extremely precise plan, it's fine)


Wild Hunt
Chosen are more likely to appear in any given mission.

The files indicate that this is just a doubling of the base chance to appear. As Chosen function as 0%-0%-50%-100%, resetting to the start if the 50% chance rolls, this should mean Wild Hunt simply ensures that you'll always get Chosen on your third mission instead of sometimes waiting until your fourth.

If that is how it works, this is kinda a dumb Dark Event, making it so if you're paying attention it actually makes the Chosen more predictable and therefore easier to plan for, and not meaningfully affecting the rate they can appear at. The fact that it only lasts a month-ish also hampers it, since it's entirely possible to end up only doing 3 missions that it matters to at all before it times out.

I hope the config file is misleading or incorrect, because this scenario is pretty pointless.

Grim Horizon would make it slightly more meaningful, but still have the weird issue that making the Chosen more predictable makes them less threatening, when this is clearly supposed to be making them more threatening. On lower difficulties in particular it would tend to amount to just accelerating you Ability Point intake, which is profoundly silly a consequence of a Dark Event.

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I honestly love the idea of Dark Events, but I think the execution needed work. Oddly enough, the wholly optional War of the Chosen setting for having Dark Events last indefinitely seems a much more natural fit to the basic structure of the Dark Event concept, and in particular the tuning of individual Dark Events.

Imagine if, instead, Dark Events had been structured roughly as now, but instead of being a monthly effect whose effects were usually time-limited, Dark Events occurred a fixed number of times over the course of the game -presumably correlating to the Force Level mechanic- but the two effects you didn't block both went into effect and were permanent. In that case, the fact that so many of these effects are relatively minor would be a deliberate part of the balance. Temporarily doubling Rookie costs is a joke. Permanently doubling them isn't horrible, but definitely ups the pressure. This would also tie neatly into XCOM 2, particularly War of the Chosen, having a trend of trying to increase replayability, as each run would be a different experience thanks to getting different Dark Event combinations stacking up to create different incentives for the player experience. As-is, many Dark Events can easily end up non-events, where the player doesn't actually do anything different because eg they had no reason to hire Rookies in the phase ADVENT Midnight Raids was up, and so the Dark Event concept doesn't end up creating memorable variety to different runs.

War of the Chosen helps some by having more dramatic, interesting Dark Events than the base game was willing to do, but it's still possible to eg roll ADVENT Sealed Armor and then have it time out without ever affecting your play experience. I've had exactly that happen to me! So there's still a bit of a mismatch between how Dark Events are constructed as a system and how individual Dark Events are tuned.

More than any other aspect of XCOM 2, Dark Events delight me with a strong concept and disappoint with an execution that doesn't live up to that potential.

Next time, we cover War of the Chosen's 'advanced options' ie the return of Second Wave.

See you then.

Comments

  1. In my experience, spider and fly and left behind increase the chance of ambush/capture by one level (none-low-mid-high), effecting all the ops (bar those that were high in the first place). Haven't played for a year though, can't say for sure.

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    1. It's all random in the first place, so not readily possible to determine such within play. I could believe that's what the code is doing, but it's not something I've run into personally in digging in the code.

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