XCOM 2 Analysis: Sitreps
Sitreps are another of War of the Chosen's highly ambitious and not really complete new mechanics.
The Sitrep system is an element of randomization to missions, making them more varied. It can cause you to face enemies in a mission type they'll normally never show up in, give bonus abilities to your soldiers, place weird limitations on what you can send in, etc. Fortunately, the game always forewarns you of a given mission's Sitrep, even if the descriptions of some Sitreps in-game are profoundly unhelpful.
Sitreps normally only properly occur in Guerrilla Ops and Supply Raids. Going through the game once you might think otherwise; some mission types are predicated on conditions that the game will present as Sitreps (eg Lost presence in certain Resistance-provided missions), but these aren't randomly rolled atop normal mission generation the way Guerrilla Ops Sitreps are. This is mildly disappointing; I would've really liked for Avatar Project facilities in particular to roll Sitreps, either at generation or randomizing it every month or so. That would've added another layer of nuance to the process of selecting which Avatar Project facility to go after. Alas.
Fortunately, there's a mod to make Sitreps more widespread, if you want to see them doing more. This is particularly appreciated if you play around with mods that add in Sitreps, letting you see them pretty reliably without having to disable existing Sitreps or the like, but can be nice in general.
Regardless, Sitreps have a pronounced impact on complicating Guerrilla Ops. Not only do you have to balance the reward, mission type, and Dark Event blocking, but now Sitreps can be rendering it more ambiguous what's the overall safest, most useful pick. The config files indicate that Guerrilla Ops have a 50% chance of a Sitrep if a Guerrilla Op is generated alone (Such as by a Rumor, or very early in the game if you only have contact with one region), a 75% chance of a Sitrep on one and a 25% chance of another if two Guerrilla Ops generate, and a 100% chance for slot one, 50% chance for the second, and 5% chance of a Sitrep for the third if you get the more typical three Guerrilla Ops. These numbers are consistent with my own play, where I always have a Sitrep on one of three Guerrilla Ops, get two Sitreps reasonably frequently, and only very rarely gotten all three Guerrilla Ops having a Sitrep.
I'm not sure what the odds of a Supply Raid getting a Sitrep is. From experience, it must be pretty low, as they get Sitreps sufficiently rarely I sometimes forget it can even happen. Caveat: Supply Extraction seems to pick map type at random, and then if it picked an Old World City map type it's guaranteed to have Lost, so Lost as a Sitrep is actually somewhat common here, but it's very obvious this is similar to how certain Resistance mission types are fundamentally predicated on Lost presence, not a proper Sitrep roll that happens to pick Lost.
Several Sitreps have an impact on 'Alert Level', according to the config files. The config files themselves have...
; Alert1 = 5 enemies
... this bit tucked away, indicating that Alert Level is literally what controls enemy quantity.
I'm not sure it actually works, mind, but this seems to be the intention.
I haven't bothered to include notes on the Alert Level modification for Sitreps since it doesn't seem to actually function, though. And isn't terribly important once you have the Shadow Chamber, too. I may change my mind at a later date if further play and testing indicates it does function and the effect is just subtle; it could be that the effect is drowned out by natural random variance, for example.
All soldiers gain a single charge of the Conceal ability, allowing them to enter Concealment at will once in the mission.
Note that Reapers using this Conceal charge will still enter Shadow as a result, making it particularly appreciated for them, especially before Silent Killer is online and so it's difficult for them to contribute without breaking Shadow.
Alternatively, you can treat Shadow Squad as an excuse to not bring a Reaper. If you're decent at moving Concealed soldiers forward without being spotted, you can simply cycle through the squad; one soldier Conceals after the Overwatch ambush, scouts, and breaks Concealment once you've picked a fight with the next pod, at which point a different soldier takes on scouting duties. One Conceal charge per soldier is more than enough Conceal charges to sneak up on every pod this way, in any mission type Shadow Squad can actually apply to.
Rangers, of course, can use it to trigger Shadow Strike for improved accuracy and much better odds of critting. That's neat.
Most of the time, though, I honestly forget to take advantage of Shadow Squad, in part because it's limited to mission types that always provide squad-wide Concealment. If Sitreps could affect Retaliation missions, that'd be a whole other story. Same for Resistance missions; one form of VIP extraction starts you out with no squad Concealment, for example. Alas, it's mostly just kinda... there, fairly forgettable.
It can be slightly more significant with Grim Horizon on, since if you're trapped in High Alert it can give you a mission of relief, kinda. But that's about it.
Note that this Sitrep is also always active when performing a rescue of a Captured soldier. You really are intended to sneak through those missions.
The player will have vision to every portion of the map at all times. This does not support Squadsight.
Amusingly, this somewhat breaks the AI, in that units able to smash right through terrain are coded to have a strong preference for not crushing terrain if you can't currently see them... and this Sitrep counts as seeing them for the purpose of this AI effect, resulting in Sectopods freely trundling right through ADVENT trucks and buildings without any apparent justification for this carelessness. Oops.
Also odd is that the game will correctly predict detection radii on enemies your squad can't see, but the enemy preview functionality won't trigger on pods no squad member can personally see. If you're not aware of this detail, it can lead to you thinking advancing to a location won't activate a pod, once you're past Concealment breaking, and sorry, nope. As such, while a Reaper is less useful in Location Scout than in a typical mission, you still shouldn't advance with extreme confidence unless you have very strong familiarity with how line of sight is calculated and so on such that you can, in fact, eyeball a pod and go 'this spot will go unseen' 100% reliably.
In any event, Location Scout is one of the biggest, most game-changing Sitreps to spawn. Knowing exactly what's on the map from the word go lets you know whether you should bother to hold onto limited-use effects or not (eg you brought an EMP Bomb, and only the first pod includes any digital enemies; just use it on them), makes it very safe to advance very aggressively even if the map has the kind of rough terrain that's normally dangerous in, forewarns you not only of Alien Ruler presence if applicable but lets you know exactly where they are so you can ambush them properly, etc. It also tends to make it fairly obvious whether the Chosen are going to jump you, since you'll be able to clearly see that eg there's no pod over by the objective, indicating the Chosen has displaced the pod that would normally guard the objective.
To be honest, I'm kind of sad Location Scout wasn't made an effect you could trigger at, like, an Intel cost. It'd make a certain amount of thematic sense, open up a new kind of interesting decision if done decently, help address a lot of what makes Alien Rulers in particular fairly frustrating to encounter even with Integrated DLC making them not out-of-nowhere on your first encounter with them, and just be all-around cool and interesting.
As a Sitrep, it instead feels like a gambler's mechanic, where you can 'win big' from the Sitrep system completely at random. The complex interplay of everything that goes into which Guerrilla Op to pick means it's not precisely that kind of design, but it feels a little too close to that, especially since you can always get lucky and have a clear winner of a Guerrilla Op, where it has Location Scout, is blocking the Dark Event you want to block, is offering your preferred reward, and is your preferred mission type out of the set being offered.
It's not terrible, but I feel there's wasted potential here.
A portion of the mission's civilians will, when approached, provide random resources and then vanish from the mission. This can be any of some Supplies, Alien Alloys, or Elerium Crystals. If the mission does not normally have civilians, then Resistance Contacts will force civilians to spawn regardless, but all of them will be loot-providing civilians. You do not automatically collect the resources from surviving contacts on mission completion, even if it's a mission X-COM sticks around and loots everything in.
I have no idea how this interacts with the Alien Infiltrators Dark Event, specifically in regards to map types that normally can't have civilians. Does having Resistance Contacts cause Alien Infiltrator to spawn in some regular civilians? Or does it spawn in some regular-seeming civilians who therefore are blatantly Faceless in disguise? No interaction at all, Faceless just not spawning? Something else entirely?
Regardless, this is... cute? If the stars align it can be moderately significant, such as if it passes out Elerium Crystals when you're in the middle of trying to transition to beam-tier weaponry, or if it passes out Supplies in the mid-early game when you happen to have a fairly urgent desire for Supplies that can't yet be fulfilled by selling stuff at the Black Market, but most of the time it's just a small bonus, among other points not scaling the rewards as the game progresses. (eg if they provide Supplies, it's always 30~ Supplies, no matter how late in the game you are) And that's assuming you even find the civilians; they get placed fairly randomly. Sometimes they'll be basically right on your way and it's free stuff; they don't even break Concealment when you get to them. Other times they're hidden in some corner of the map you have no reason to go toward aside looking for them, in a mission with a time limit, and you end up handling the objective and wiping out the pods without ever having a chance to actually try to look for them.
You can bring along a Reaper and have them go hunting for the Resistance Contacts, but it can still end up being the case they're in some hidden spot you completely miss and you wipe out the pods and complete the objective without finding them. And if you're really serious about having the Reaper search instead of helping fight, you're notably impairing your squad's effectiveness. If your squad is powerful enough this is okay... you probably don't particularly care about the loot.
I honestly like the idea of this and think it would be a cool touch if, like, ADVENT city centers regularly had a randomly selected portion of civilians pass off a little bit of loot when approached before fleeing in a panic like regular civilians, but as a Sitrep it's just kinda... there.
The mission timer doesn't start until the squad breaks Concealment. Can only occur on missions that have a timer.
The timer won't even appear until you break Concealment. Which can be annoying when you're still new enough to the game you don't have mission timers memorized.
This is another Sitrep that's actually a gamechanger. (Assuming you haven't turned on Time Turner or lucked into Resistance Orders that make it a bit redundant, anyway) The default tuning of timers, particularly on Legendary, demands the squad move pretty aggressively, and particularly if you don't have a Reaper there's a very real risk of breaking squad Concealment or, post-Concealment, pulling a pod you are absolutely not ready to fight, and so ending up with things going very badly. Stealth Insertion delays that pressure, allowing you to at least set up your Overwatch ambush before you have to hurry up.
It's particularly significant if it shows up on a Psionic Transmitter mission. Their abbreviated 'natural' timer and attendant need to blow up relays to avoid failing the mission can easily force you to break squad Concealment before ever finding an enemy pod, which in turn makes it particularly dangerous to advance if you didn't bring a Reaper. Having the clock stopped until you break Concealment lets you set up a proper Overwatch ambush, or sneak relatively close to the Psionic Transmitter before you start smashing relays, and either way this dramatically reduces the time pressure and attendant danger to your squad.
Mind, Stealth Insertion also does a pretty good job of illustrating why this behavior isn't the default in these missions; the Concealment mechanic isn't actually meant as a stealth mechanic or anything, it's primarily there to make time pressure not so punishing to deal with in a pod activation system. Without such time pressure, Concealment ends up encouraging tedious gameplay, exactly the kind of tedious gameplay XCOM 2's design is trying to avoid, where you may end up spending multiple turns setting up The Perfect Overwatch Ambush instead of getting to the meat of the gameplay, or just sitting there indefinitely, waiting for a pod to move because it currently has someone in its detection radius, getting increasingly frustrated as the pod continues to sit there, where either way normally the timer would push you to stop playing in a tedious, boring way, and get to actually interacting with the opposition already.
As such, I'm perfectly happy with how uncommon it is, and if XCOM 3 comes back with the Concealment system and timed missions and so on I would be perfectly happy if Stealth Insertion didn't make a return.
Only soldiers of Sergeant or below may be deployed on the mission. The mission always has the sub-Sitrep of Low Alert, reducing how many enemies are on the map.
This is a fairly miserably awful Sitrep to deal with unless you get it so early on you have few soldiers above Sergeant in the first place. It can be particularly punishing very late in the game, particularly on lower difficulties, where even C-list Covert Op gophers have already hit Lieutenant and so you only have, like, three or four soldiers down at Squaddie and Corporal, unable to even field a full team. Notably, a number of classes really blossom starting from Captain or so, so this isn't just forcing you to field soldiers other than your highest-level soldiers, this is forcing you to field particularly painfully low-level soldiers.
It's particularly infuriating if it spawns in a Supply Raid mission. With Guerrilla Ops, you can virtually always just take a different Guerrilla Op with a less awful Sitrep. With Supply Raids, your only alternative is to ignore the mission, missing out on piles of resources and causing the region the mission spawned in to promptly break contact with you, forcing you to re-contact them.
It's sufficiently bad that even if you normally insist on Ironmanning things, I'd seriously argue you should just reload if it spawns on a Supply Raid mission. It's just... that badly-tuned.
Indeed, while it's not a mod I take advantage of myself, I completely understand why a mod exists to disable this Sitrep entirely. It's just not in line with the degree of effect of other Sitreps, and it isn't even fun or interesting.
The mission is dotted with crates that can be opened to acquire randomized loot. You do not automatically acquire the loot from untouched crates if you win the mission, even if it's a mission X-COM sticks around and loots everything in.
This is cute and all, but not that different from Resistance Contacts, and much like Resistance Contacts I'd like it more if it was a somewhat standard gameplay feature instead of a Sitrep you sometimes see. As in, I've talked before about how XCOM 2's loot system would be a lot more interesting if the gameplay progression was more fundamentally built around it; take that basic thought, and then have many maps/missions have ADVENT crates here and there that self-destruct after a delay when approached or whatever, with these being a primary source of Supplies and to a lesser extent Alien Alloys and Elerium Crystals. That could've been really interesting if done well. (Mind, it also would've been terrible if done poorly, so I'm only mildly wistful on this topic)
As-is, it's just kind of there, sometimes mattering, usually not.
I've gotten this Sitrep so rarely -like, twice in all my runs- that I honestly don't know what kind of loot it provides. I'll hopefully update this slightly at a later date once I have some idea.
One thing to point out is that opening these chests has a risk of breaking Shadow. It only adds 10% to the meter, but it's a bizarre decision given your squad can collect resources from Resistance Contacts with no risk of breaking even squad Concealment, even though that really should be the much more visible and suspicious thing. It means that where a Reaper sweeping for Resistance Contacts is tedious and annoying but as safe as you can get while separating a major squad member from the group, trying to do the same with ADVENT Chests is inexplicably notably riskier. Especially if your Reaper at any point takes a shot that risks breaking Shadow before going crate-hunting, due to Shadow's weird rules regarding chains of risking breaking it.
Squad size limited to 3. Timer extended by 2 turns. Somehow incompatible with Chosen and Alien Rulers.
That last bit is inferred from looking at the config files, and my assumption is that Alien Rulers and Chosen are barred from spawning into a Surgical mission. Which would be for the best, design-wise. Too bad Low Profile doesn't have such code...
Surprisingly, this usually isn't so bad, assuming your most elite soldiers aren't all wounded or something. If you get it early on, it's only cutting your squad from 5 to 3; bad, but not halving your firepower and so on. If you get it late in the game, a couple of Bondmate Colonels plus another Colonel may well be able to trivially stomp the map anyway; Colonels are really powerful, and Surgical does, in fact, make it so you're dealing with fewer enemies overall.
There's only really a portion of the midgame, after you're expected to have a max-size squad but before you're expected to have Majors and Colonels, where this can be pretty killer. In particular, if you don't yet have more than maybe 1 soldier above Sergeant, Low Profile will actually be unequivocally less threatening, even though it's usually much more unpleasant to deal with.
Outside that relatively brief period, though?... surprisingly, this is often actually an interesting experience, rather than a horrible one!
I really think its exact effects should've been different, such as reducing by 1 how many people you can bring instead of reducing you to 3 people, but still, this is actually one of the cooler Sitreps.
The mission is dotted with explosive terrain objects that can be targeted by units to detonate them.
This is usually primarily an advantage. The AI will never deliberately target environmental explosives, and plenty of enemies can't trigger them accidentally. You should still avoid taking Cover nearby these explosives in case an ADVENT Trooper remembers they're carrying a grenade, but the point is you can generally treat this as a helpful Covert Op.
Qualifier: you're trying to not wreck the environment in Supply Raids, and it's easy to end up destroying supply crates by catching an explosive with an area-of-effect attack, or to opportunistically detonate an explosive and then to your dismay the fire it starts destroys supply crates. Or even to take a shot, miss, have it start a fire, and then the fire detonates an explosive you were trying to not blow up!
Still, in Guerrilla Ops it's usually a positive, or at least not a negative.
This is an idea that would be more interesting if XCOM 2 was using physics on projectiles like classic X-COM, forcing you to think twice about a given shot. In actual XCOM 2, it really is mostly just... more opportunities to blow up enemies, plus occasional frustration in Supply Raid missions. It's not terrible or anything, but it's a poor fit to the game.
Show of Force
Makes everything all ADVENT, no Aliens.
The code also seems to imply it increases how large individual pods are, but I've not seen it actually do so in real play. Maybe something they thought would be cool, tried it out, concluded it was horrible, and promptly disabled it but didn't remove the allusions to this idea in the code?
Regardless, note that as usual Mecs and Turrets are counted as ADVENT units and so can show up in a Show of Force mission.
This would be more interesting if Aliens were more distinct from ADVENT forces, not to mention if ADVENT-majority wasn't already the default. War of the Chosen is more prone to Alien-dominant forces, and from earlier in the game, but it still defaults pretty strongly to maps being ADVENT-heavy. So this is kind of a neat idea in principle, but doesn't feel very distinctive in practice.
The mission has Lost present. Also adds 2 turns to the mission timer, if the mission has a timer.
This is one of the most dramatic Sitreps, and probably basically the entire reason the Sitreps system even exists. An entire third faction in turn order, one that is a radically different experience to fight, and which due to Lost wave mechanics has much deeper implications than just the part where you're fighting a non-standard enemy type that normally can't show up in any ol' mission? That's multiple layers of huge.
A particularly interesting mechanics interaction is that if The Lost triggers on a mission where you're defending a destructible object, the AI's willingness to take potshots in the fog will extend to shooting at the Lost. The Lost won't activate in response to being shot (Unless your squad has sight on them), and each pod will only be willing to have their pod leader take a shot, with this being limited to once per pod per turn, so Headshot mechanics are irrelevant to it. This has the side effect of giving you advance warning on the general location of ADVENT/Alien pods, and also means that in those missions in particular the Lost will tend to be slightly less of a problem, taking injuries and losses before you even encounter them.
In War of the Chosen your very first Resistance-provided mission will always, if you don't have Lost And Abandoned turned on, have either The Lost or The Horde attached to it. This particular example is the game being artificial, but as I've alluded to already it's also the case that some mission sub-types are premised under Lost presence and so will always present as having The Lost Sitrep. (Though it's not a properly rolled Sitrep and can be stacked atop a properly rolled other Sitrep) Less consistent and less obvious is that some missions can have Lost presence, but it's not guaranteed and depends on the map type; Supply Extraction missions are one example, where they can either pick a map type of an ADVENT supply depot in the woods, in which case there's no Lost unless the Sitrep roll per se picks The Lost, or it can pick an 'Old World' city map type, in which case Lost will be guaranteed. Which incidentally means you can mostly-reliably predict map type in Supply Extraction missions; if they don't have The Lost, they must be the ADVENT supply depot map type, while if they do generate with The Lost it's extremely likely that they're an Old World city map. This is genuinely somewhat useful to know ahead of time; Old World maps are 100% consistent about having high ground for Skirmishers to make use of, and also 100% consistent about being the kind of map Reapers are particularly important to bring if you want to avoid stumbling into a pod unawares, whereas the ADVENT supply depot map is fairly flat and a Reaper is still helpful but not particularly essential. That kind of thing.
I'll be talking about this more when we get to the Lost themselves, but Lost presence broadly discourages using explosives, encourages bringing Sharpshooters (Templar can also work, though I consider it a bit of a waste of their abilities), makes the Flamethrower maybe worth actually bringing, and makes Expanded Magazines and Automated Reloaders more of a priority than usual. It also makes it harder to set up an Overwatch ambush, because Lost can activate ADVENT pods, and Overwatch ambushes only function on inactive pods.
This is also the main Sitrep that has me skeptical the Alert Level system really properly works, as the files are pretty clear that there's supposed to be fewer ADVENT/Alien pods on the map with the Lost making up the difference, but my experience is that The Lost has no effect on such counts; the Lost are just thrown in atop the ADVENT/Alien forces. This is extremely blatant early in the game, when missions are at their most rigid and predictable, but never stops being true.
The mission is made entirely of Lost, though the Chosen can spawn in regardless. If the mission type would normally generate ADVENT reinforcements, The Horde disables that behavior. Also adds 2 turns to the mission timer, if the mission has a timer.
Interestingly, The Horde can only occur on a limited sub-set of missions. Straight from the config files:
So basically only missions in which ADVENT is supposed to be escorting or defending something important, and the Horde implicitly changes the narrative to them having given up in the face of the Lost.
Note that the Horde will generally result in an absolutely massive number of Lost in a basically contiguous mass between you and the object. They'll technically be discrete pods, but with so many of them packed so close together it's fairly difficult to tell where one starts and another begins, and due to Lost sound mechanics once you've started shooting you'll end up pulling even more Lost immediately.
Also note that it will, appropriately enough, prevent civilians from spawning in. Among other points, this means it will actually overrule Alien Infiltrator, preventing any Faceless from spawning in because they have no civilians to hide among. I'm similarly pretty sure that it will prevent Alien Rulers from spawning in, though it's possible I've just never had the stars align the right way for it to happen.
It's worth pointing out that in The Horde missions squad Concealment is pretty worthless, and there's not a ton of reason to concern yourself with preserving it, particularly if you have a Reaper to perform advance scouting. An Overwatch ambush is worse than useless, since Lost not only don't take Cover but the Headshot mechanic means that regular shots can clear out a lot more Lost than Overwatch shots can, and Lost Dashers are the only sub-type that moves fast enough to potentially attack your soldiers the same turn you activated them unless you either moved someone incredibly recklessly or had Lost outright hidden inside a building or something such that you didn't activate them until they were right on top of you...
... and Lost Dashers are never generated at the start of a mission, inactive, so it's always safe to move forward and activate new Lost pods so long as you're not moving extremely aggressively.
The only reason to consider not just picking a fight with Lost the instant you can see them in a The Horde mission is that Chosen can still spawn in, and still wait until squad Concealment is broken before doing so. And that's really more a reason to consider having a Silent Killer Reaper clear out Lost, not a reason to delay fighting Lost at all. And personally I find that so tedious -you have to wait for the Reaper's Shadow fail check every single time- that I don't bother. It's not necessary, not even on Legendary.
Overall, while The Horde is a neat idea on several levels (I really like the flavor of 'ADVENT just plain gave up and left in the face of infinite zombies'), I'm happy with the fact that it's pretty rare to encounter it. As an occasional change of pace it's fine, but fighting just Lost is a fairly flat gameplay experience, and would get very dull very quickly if it was something you had to do a lot more regularly.
The enemy composition will be nearly exclusively psionically capable enemies, meaning Sectoids, ADVENT Priests, Codices, Spectres, and Gatekeepers.
Psionic Storm rolling early in the game is very constrictive on enemy lists, since only Sectoids and basic ADVENT Priests are in the spawn tables from the start of the game, out of psionic enemies. There will usually be a lone ADVENT Trooper or some such on the map, but mostly it'll just be pods of Sectoids and Priests. This can be surprisingly dangerous, as while Sectoids and ADVENT Priests normally prefer to focus on using their special abilities, when multiple of them are active it's much more likely for one to use an ability and then the following ones take shots or at least enter Overwatch. So if you're expecting them to give you a turn of relative safety... nah.
Mind, the alternative would be risking your entire squad getting Mind Controlled in one turn, so this is probably less terrifying in practice. And regardless, very early on it means that instead of half the enemies being 3-4 HP basic ADVENT Troopers, you're dealing with nothing but enemies who have 7+ HP.
It can also be quite nasty if you get it shortly after Skulljacking an ADVENT Officer, as it can result in large numbers of Codices, when Codices are really designed to be something of an early-game boss fight when there's one Codex, and indeed are tuned to still be an above-average enemy in the endgame. Facing multiple pods of them when you haven't even transitioned to magnetic weapons at all? Yikes.
As Templar have some abilities that perform better when facing psionic opponents, you should give more consideration to bringing a Templar along into a Psionic Storm mission. Especially since Sectoids are susceptible to melee. (Which incidentally encourages Ranger use) Similarly, Stocks are worth considering to reliably deal with Sustaining Priests, Mind Shields are worth considering in general since Sectoids and Priests will waste their turns on psionic actions against Mind Shielded soldiers, or Psi Operatives with Solace if you're late enough to have that, and past the very early game... uh, Bluescreen Rounds and EMP Grenade, actually. Three of the five enemies that Psionic Storm focuses on are digital enemies susceptible to these Items!
That's honestly one of the more interesting elements of XCOM 2 to me, that instead of 'psychic enemy' and 'digital enemy' being mutually exclusive they have fairly heavy overlap. It's unusual, and is one of the reasons I'm clear XCOM 2 has a radically different conception of psychic powers than the prior game, as well as why I'm interested in seeing what XCOM 3 does with psionics.
The enemy composition will be nearly exclusively robotic enemies, such as ADVENT Mecs, Spectres, ADVENT Turrets, Codices, and Sectopods.
ADVENT Mecs and Turrets are the only enemies that are in the table in the early game, which can make an early Automated Defenses astonishingly dangerous; the result will be that every pod is 2-3 Mecs at a time they're intended to be restricted to being pod leaders supported by less durable units like ADVENT Troopers. This is, in fact, one of the most dangerous Sitreps to roll toward the beginning of the game; blobs of 8 HP, 2 Armor enemies before you even have Shredder on anyone and your best damage is 4-6 is kind of terrifying.
Once you've gotten Codices into the spawn table, and especially once Spectres enter rotation, it becomes much less worrisome, as these operate on the 'will be very dangerous if you give them more than one turn' model of enemy design, instead of Mecs operating under the 'will do damage right now' model. Spectres are also in the general vicinity of when it's reasonable to acquire Bluescreen Rounds, which of course makes Automated Defenses much easier to fight through, since literally everything it focuses on is susceptible to them. (And EMP Grenades, for that matter)
The enemy composition will be nearly entirely 'monstrous' Aliens, meaning Chryssalids, Faceless, and Muton Berserkers. Note that Faceless forced by this Sitrep will not start out disguised as a civilian.
If you roll this early in the game, you'll end up with the unusual enemy composition of basically pure Faceless. It's also not unusual for Savage to actually be your first encounter with Chryssalids, as they can end up entering rotation notably before a Retaliation mission is actually scheduled. Berserkers showing up is the primary way you'll get non-Savage enemies in a Savage encounter, as they can be leaders to stuff like Mutons and Stun Lancers, and the game will normally refuse to have a Berserker-only pod, and they can't lead Faceless, so the pods will end up rounded out by Stun Lancers or whatever.
Also, like with the Lost Sitrep, this can produce strange results in Defend The Device missions, as the Berserker ability to decide to target allies can lead to Berserkers killing their podmates while the pod is inactive. It's not even restricted to only one Berserker doing so per turn or anything. As such, this can be, bizarrely enough, a boon on Protect The Device missions.
Overall, Savage is probably my favorite of this set of enemy composition Sitreps simply because Savage's list of enemies is entirely enemies that are limited to Retaliation missions and a handful of other mission types. Getting Berserkers, Chryssalids, and Faceless in stock Guerrilla Op or Supply Raid missions is something that normally can't happen at all, and notably Berserkers lack a Dark Event to spread them around, while Faceless are otherwise only encountered in a pod-wandering-about state in the very last mission of the game. (Or when Chosen summon them, but that's not an inactive Faceless pod) Thus, Savage creates experiences that are otherwise impossible, or at least extremely rare.
As opposed to Psionic Storm and Automated Defenses only really being crazy-bizarre if they show up very early in a run, where enemy composition is fairly rigid across runs and specifically forced to be a mixture of different enemy types as opposed to 'literally nothing but ADVENT Mecs'. I've absolutely had missions that weren't Automated Defenses but had no enemies outside the Automated Defenses list, and similarly had missions that weren't Psionic Storm but had nothing outside of its list.
That can't happen with Savage.
In practice, the Sitreps system is a bit underwhelming, an idea with good potential but an iffy execution, but it's also one of the most minor of War of the Chosen's replayability-enhancing systems anyway; even with a better execution, it would be relatively unobtrusive unless it was taken in a radically different direction. Something like Sitreps instead being regional 'rules', where one run might always have Savage on every New Arctic mission and then a different run always has Show of Force in New Arctic missions.
If XCOM 3 brings back Sitreps and builds on them, that'd be cool, but if the concept is quietly dropped, I personally won't mind at all, aside the point that I'd be disappointed if this included the Lost being quietly dropped from gameplay.
Regardless, next time we cover a much more significant system added by War of the Chosen: Fatigue.
See you then.