XCOM 2 Analysis: Continent Bonuses

I've somewhat covered continent bonuses in War of the Chosen, but I've not really delved into the mechanics, and the base game had a different list of continent bonuses.

So first of all, the general mechanics: in XCOM 2, there are 16 regions you can contact in the world, divided up into a series of 'continents'. This 'continent' concept only matters to the continent bonus mechanic, and is, uuuuh, iffy. I'm largely willing to let the iffiness go because it's a pure gameplay mechanic, with a secondary element of being able to pretend some of the weirdness is the fault of the alien invasion -why is Canada not a place at all in this dark timeline? I dunno, maybe the Ethereals have abandoned it entirely to swarms of Lost- but it's still got some eyebrow-raising choices, such as Australia as a continent getting only one region to its name while eg Europe is two regions. (When Australia has roughly 50% more landmass than Europe)

It's still overall an improvement over the prior game, mind, where Australia got literally zero representation, even though this was several layers of implausible, but on the other hand the prior game also tied its geographical considerations to geopolitical considerations, so in a way some of this is more conspicuous. Europe getting four regions while Africa got three was geographically absurdist (Africa is roughly four times the size of Europe), but sure, okay, only three countries in Africa got invited to participate in the secret anti-alien black ops project I guess? Or there were others who got invited, but turned it down? Sure, whatever. Whereas in XCOM 2, the regions really seem to be intended to be largely about physical spacing (Aside the obvious qualifier of 'also, humans have to live there, so Antarctica is exempt'), yet somehow Europe is twice as many regions as Australia?... and Greenland has nobody in it, I guess?

Anyway, there's six continents, divided up into North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. South America, Europe, and Oceania are all divided into two regions, Africa and North America are divided into three regions, and Asia is unique for being four regions in total. Unlocking a continent bonus from a given continent requires you contact all the regions, but also that you have a number of radio relays installed: in the case of the two-region continents, you only need the one radio relay installed, while for the other three continents you need 2 radio relays installed. Notably, your starting region is always considered to have a radio relay installed right away, with this being represented by an icon depicting three radio towers clustered together instead of the usual one, both for contact distance purposes and for continent bonus purposes.

This is broadly similar to the prior game, albeit with an extra continent and in turn one of your 4-region continents has been split into a pair of 2-region continents, making it a little easier overall to actually acquire continent bonuses in a timely manner, but an additional wrinkle new to the game is the consideration of connectivity.

In the prior game, you could launch a Satellite at any funding nation in basically any order you liked. In XCOM 2, each region has a fixed list of regions it can allow you to reach: if you start in the New Arctic region, you can't immediately contact the South American regions, for example. The primary reason I'm bothering to mention this at all is an additional wrinkle to this wrinkle is that the exact distribution of connections is not completely consistent across different runs: the game always endeavors to ensure that you have exactly 2 possible contacts at the start of the game, even though most regions naturally connect to 3 different regions. Instead of the game forcing you to start in one of the exceptions, such as the Australian region, it will permanently snip a connection, so your initial region only has 2 regions to contact instead of the 3 you'd expect. The list of possible snips is non-random, and designed to herd you toward earning your initial continent's bonus: for example, each North American region is naturally in contact with the other two North American regions and then additionally has a connection point to another continent. If you start in North America, whichever specific region you start in will have its connection to another continent snipped, keeping only its connections to the other North American regions.

Curiously, Asia is something of an exception in this regard, as starting in its northeastern region -New Arctic- will instead snip the connection to the northwestern Asian region, instead of snipping the connection to North America like you'd expect. This has the bizarre effect of meaning a New Arctic start is better off trying to acquire the North American continent bonus, in terms of radio relay and Intel efficiency. I suspect this is an accident, given how inconsistent it is with the other possible starts.

On that note, also worth noting is that your starting location is randomized, but there are fewer possibilities than you might expect. The game is willing to start you in any of the North American, African, and Asian regions, but the two-region continents are all forbidden as starts: you will never start in South America, Europe, or Oceania. I suspect this is to prevent you from getting your first continent bonus after your first contact, though it's possible it's actually to ensure you have a choice at the start of the game while ensuring you stay within your starting continent initially. (Which, if so, would make the New Arctic oddity even more of an error) This is particularly frustrating in Oceania's case due to its limited number of connection points; in spite of requiring only two contacts to unlock, the Oceania bonus is my rarest to unlock after Asia, because only two possible start locations have it reasonably accessible: you can't start in South America to have it accessible from there, and if you start in either of the southern Asian regions you will be forced to connect to Oceania via South America, pathing through two entire continents to get started. Only the Asia starts can potentially reach Oceania within 2 contacts! (Because if you start in South Africa, it won't have a connection to South America)

In any event, this means the strategic difficulty of your start is less variable than you might expect. There's three-region continent starts 60% of the time, and 40% of the time you'll have a more painful 4-region continent start in Asia. More subtle is that Asian starts tend to be additionally tougher by virtue of the consideration of neighbor possibilities: if you start in North America, you'll have quick access to two of Europe, South America, or Asia, with the West Coast start being the easiest of these because you'll get your choice of two 2-region continents to jump to. If you start in Africa, you're guaranteed to have quick access to both Europe and South America, and may also be able to jump to Oceania from South America fairly painlessly as well. If you start in Asia, you'll never have quick access to South America, and your access to both Oceania and Europe can each be blocked and are prone to being awkward regardless.

From experience, I'd say the New Arctic start is probably the toughest start of the entire game, due in no small part to the strange connection snipping I mentioned earlier. The Blacksite always spawns on the same continent as you, one region out: for African and North American starts, that set of qualifiers is redundant, and for most Asian starts it's only slightly more meaningful. For the New Arctic start, though, it means the Blacksite always spawns to your immediate south, while the best way to quickly and efficiently earn a continent bonus is to travel east into North America, away from the Blacksite. And there's no guarantee that you'll be able to quickly hop past the Blacksite to Oceania instead, as New India can be your connection point to Oceania instead!

The northwestern Asian start can also be rough, as it's possible for New India to provide no connection to either of Europe and Africa. In that scenario, you'll be forced to take the very long way around to get to Africa and Europe, as well as having limited options in general, though on the plus side you'll have reasonably ready access to Oceania and by extension South America. Depending on your luck with continent bonuses, that can more than make up for the limitations, or it can be completely unhelpful.

A learning player may wish to restart if they end up spawning in Asia, or at least if they spawn in the New Arctic territory. (That's the northeastern part of Asia, to be more clear) Alternatively, if you're comfortable editing config files, you can open up DefaultGameData, ctl+f for part of this block;


and then delete all the entries that end in AS. Or just delete the NorthAS entry; that's the New Arctic start, which is by far the most egregiously bad start. Regardless, the point is Asian starts as a whole are rougher than North American and African starts, particularly if you're unfortunate enough to start in the New Arctic region. Of course, the converse to that is that if you feel like challenging yourself, arranging to start in Asia is an option, with New Arctic being your best choice for providing a challenge.

Interestingly, one implication of all this is that Africa is, on average, the easiest strategic start. I'd argue that the North American West Coast is the easiest start overall, but any African start is easier than the other North American starts.

A final wrinkle is that some regions randomize their exact set of connection points across runs. New India is the most blatant example, with five possible connection points, but no region ever gets more than four connection points so a given run will randomly have it connect to only 1-2 of Europe, Africa, or Oceania. (Because New India will always connect to its adjacent Asian regions, eating the other two possible connection points) As the game doesn't display connection points to regions unless they connect to a region you're in contact with, this can lead to unpleasant surprises with longer-term plans for contacting regions. The good news is that the game will visibly draw a path to Avatar Project Facilities, as well as to revealed plot missions, even if that means showing you connections you're not supposed to know about yet, so there's limits to how badly you can be screwed over by this mechanic.

Also, something that can be easy to overlook is that if you hover your cursor over a region you're not in contact with but can contact, the game will show all the connections it has in your run. When your cursor isn't over such a region, it will only show the connections to regions you are in contact with; when attempting to plan ahead, you should be hovering your cursor over uncontacted-but-revealed regions so you'll know what they open up. It'd be terrible to contact eastern Africa on the idea that it will open up access to New India when your run lacks that connection point and you could've found that out before burning Intel and Avenger time on it with a simple cursor hover.

Anyway, with a lot of weird details of the contact system out of the way, it's time to move on to talking about continent bonuses.

Note that I'm using Resistance Order icons for the continent bonuses. In-game, continent bonuses don't have icons, even in War of the Chosen, but most of the base-game continent bonuses went on to become Resistance Orders, so why not? A handful became Breakthroughs or otherwise required some creativity to stay visually consistent, but whatever.

All In
+20% Supplies from the monthly Supply drop.

Popular Support is War of the Chosen's equivalent, and notably with both Popular Supports slotted in you actually get more than All In provides.

This makes sense, as All In is kind of... crappy. Part of the problem is that you have to spend Supplies to earn continent bonuses, and the Supply cost of radio relays rises with each one you've established. If All In happens to be really accessible, like it's your first continent bonus or you get it from the second continent in passing, it's okay!

But if it's instead a bit out of the way, such that you've already built several radio relays by the time you get to it, you're going to be spending hundreds of Supplies to make it so your future drops gain, what, high double-digit boosts to Supplies dropped? That's ignoring that you're having to spend Intel, too.

That'd take several in-game months for All In to recoup just the Supplies invested into it, and the game is tuned so that you should be taking less than an in-game year to beat the game. Earning All In on month eight and then beating the game on month ten means you'll have done something like spend 600~ Supplies to get +80~ supplies twice.

Furthermore, All In suffers from how your Supply situation progresses. Early on, you're very Supply-hungry, but Supply drops per se don't make up a particularly large portion of your Supply income; thus, getting All In relatively early will not actually benefit you all that much at the time. Later in the game, your Supply intake from drops can easily be several hundred a month, where 20% more is clearly enough to pay for even relatively expensive items like Proximity Mines all by itself, but the game is tuned such that these huge amounts of Supplies are borderline-worthless in practice because you've bought virtually everything Supply-heavy worth buying and any remaining purchases are being held back by things like limited Elerium Crystal counts or your desired purchases being Proving Ground Projects and thus bottlenecked by its production speed. At that point, some additional Supplies is very low in value, possibly literally worthless.

All In is useful in an unreliable, unpredictable way in the midgame, but only if you acquired it fairly incidentally, such that the radio relay costs aren't putting you in the hole. In that fairly narrow scenario, you'll erratically find it pushes you over enough to get big-ticket items like Predator Armor as much as a month earlier than if you didn't have it.

Outside that fairly narrow portion of the game, though, it's... quite underwhelming.

Popular Support I and II, by contrast, don't require spending Supplies and so don't have to worry about operating at a deficit. Even if you allow yourself to assign them by virtue of upgrading the Resistance Ring, that cost is fixed and not that large. They still suffer from the issue that Supplies eventually become basically worthless, but unlike All In they're potentially meaningfully helpful right away, potentially worth going slightly out of your way to acquire (Burning a Covert Op on one), and can even be useful to slot in more in the late game if you're merely close to the 'Supplies are worthless' point instead of inside it.

That's a huge improvement to the concept.

Lock and Load
All PCSes and Weapon Attachments are no longer destroyed when slotting in a new one over the old one, instead being returned to storage.

War of the Chosen breaks this up into two Breakthroughs, one for PCSes and one for Weapon Attachments.

To be honest, I don't really get why this isn't the default behavior in both cases, particularly for Weapon Attachments. From a 'realism' standpoint I can kind of understand it for PCSes, like they're new/alien technology and your people aren't sure how to safely remove them for later use, but Weapon Attachments are based around a modularity concept. Generally that kind of plug-and-play technology is not only easily slotted in but about as easily pulled right back out, and gameplay-wise Weapon Attachments being impossible to remove without simply destroying them doesn't really do a lot for the game aside eliminating the temptation to engage in a certain amount of tedious micromanagement. (That is, a player might be tempted to shuffle around their lone Superior Expanded Magazine based on mission type/what members of the squad are injured/what abilities were recently gained/etc)

Regardless, as a continent bonus, it's... well, painfully dependent on timing. Lock and Load as your starting continent's bonus bumps up your Supply intake (Because you'll sell off low-tiers you would've destroyed normally), makes it effortless to justify slotting in choices that aren't ideal because they're helping now and you can just swap them out later (eg putting a Laser Sight on a Sniper Rifle because you have multiple Laser Sights and no Scope yet), and just generally reduces the stress and inconvenience of engaging with these mechanics.

The less conveniently-placed it is, the less impact it's liable to have. If you don't manage to acquire it until you're swimming in Superior everything, it probably contributes literally nothing if you do unlock it. Even if you get it more in the midgame, you may get barely any use out of it.

War of the Chosen making it no longer a continent bonus is a huge improvement. While the Breakthrough versions still suffer from some of the same issues -their utility being hit heavily by their timing in a given run, the fact that it's kind of baffling they're not default behavior, etc- the Breakthrough system's dynamics make that much less intrusively frustrating. Having a dead continent bonus in your run is incredibly aggravating, especially if it's in that awkward position where it's too inconvenient to get it early enough to matter but not so inconvenient you can shrug and say to yourself you would never have gotten it no matter what bonus it was so whatever. Having a late-game Breakthrough opportunity be a dud, whether in the lab or from Covert Ops, is much more a 'shrug and move on' situation.

It's not ideal, but it's definitely a huge improvement.

To Serve Mankind
Rookies cost 10 Supplies apiece, instead of their normal base price.

War of the Chosen brings this back as Recruiting Centers, but it can't be a continent bonus and it only slashes the cost to 15 Supplies.

To Serve Mankind is very much difficulty-dependent. If you're playing below Legendary, it's extremely dubious. You start the game with more than a full squad, meaning you have to lose multiple soldiers outright to be forced to hire more, you can get gift soldiers from Guerrilla Ops who will be pre-leveled more or less appropriately to your point in the game, and similarly you can purchase soldiers who are pre-leveled. It's entirely possible to get through a Commander run with no need for hires, and even if a soldier bites it late in the game you may be able to hire an experienced replacement -and To Serve Mankind only affects the price for hiring Rookies. It doesn't slash the cost of hiring experienced soldiers.

On Legendary, it becomes one of the best continent bonuses in the game, particularly if you're lucky enough to have it as your first continent's bonus. Legendary makes it a lot harder to keep soldiers alive, makes it a lot harder to keep soldiers uninjured, raises wound recovery times dramatically, and spikes the base price of Rookies, while still having you start with the same number of soldiers as lower difficulties. The net result is that Legendary all but forces you to hire more soldiers to be able to consistently field a full squad, while making To Serve Mankind's price-slashing much more significant in terms of percentage of Supplies saved.

It's a wonky dynamic and I'm glad War of the Chosen's adjustments mean Recruiting Centers isn't nearly so binary as To Serve Mankind. Recruiting Centers is still much more useful on Legendary than on lower difficulties, but it's not so stark, nor so annoying to end up with it in your pool on lower difficulties; if you have no interest in it, you can probably just slot in something else, where you might unlock To Serve Mankind incidentally and still get zero use out of it.

Fire When Ready
Experimental Ammo, Experimental Grenade, Experimental Heavy Weapon, and Powered Heavy Weapon all complete instantly.

War of the Chosen breaks this up into Munitions Experts (Whose icon I used) and Bomb Squad.

This makes sense, as this is one of the most ridiculous strategic game-changers in base XCOM 2. Experimental Ammo and Experimental Grenades are already your primary high-value Proving Ground investments, followed by Powered Heavy Weapons once you unlock access to them; it's virtually impossible to not benefit from Fire When Ready, and if it's even marginally early in its accessibility it will have a massive impact on much of the run, making your forces much stronger much faster, and in a manner that's resistant to casualties and primarily costs a borderline-free resource. Powered Heavy Weapons are sufficiently powerful it's often still a significant gamechanger even if you acquire it fairly late in the run, too.

The division is also solid evidence the devs recognized that Ammo Items were disproportionately important and powerful, which is notable given Ammo seems liable to return in XCOM 3.

Anyway, Fire When Ready is always worth grabbing unless it's ridiculously out of your way, like it's provided by Asia and you were too busy contacting literally the rest of the world due to awkward plot mission and/or Avatar Project Facility placement to find the time to contact all of Asia, or I suppose you could end up looting a low enough number of Elerium Cores that its benefits are limited. Regardless, the vast majority of the time you should pursue it if feasible, because the benefits are too consistently huge and diverse. I've already been over Munitions Experts and Bomb Squad being big deals; Fire When Ready being both together naturally means it has all the benefits of acquiring both together, but quicker and easier.

Spy Ring
All Intel rewards increased by 25%

War of the Chosen breaks this up into Inside Job I and II.

I'm not entirely sure why it did that. Spy Ring is a solid enough continent bonus in the base game, but it's not one I would've looked at and thought to myself 'this needs a nerf'. I dunno, maybe they did it because Covert Ops include a new way to bring in Intel?

In any event, Spy Ring is another one of those continent bonuses that's particularly drastic about being very good if you get it early and pretty difficult to justify going out of your way to grab, since of course contacting regions costs Intel. The more Intel you spend on specifically unlocking it, the more Intel you need to then gain to not be in the hole! Having it as your starting continent's bonus or the like is fantastic, and may essentially solve your Intel problems. Having it sitting in a far-off corner is liable to lead to you never bothering.

War of the Chosen shunting this into Resistance Orders is definitely a change for the better, since you never spend Intel on Resistance Orders. Spy Ring in the base game is pretty non-interactive; either it's something you acquire more or less on the way to hitting plot missions and Avatar Project Facilities and thus a no-brainer to get, or it's not and so you just don't bother. There's no judgment call or strategy to it, there's just how the dice fell. With the switch to being a pair of Resistance Orders, you're actually making choices and engaging with the game in a meaningful way.

Under the Table
All Black Market goods sell for 50% more.

War of the Chosen breaks this up into Under the Table I and II.

As a continent bonus in the base game, Under the Table has a lot of the same sort of considerations as the Resistance Order versions: Supplies are generally your most prolific resource, so getting more of them isn't very useful, and auto-sells mostly pile up later in the game when Supplies are becoming so common more of them is more or less worthless. Under the Table is then further burdened by the fact that radio relays are part of how you get continent bonuses, and they cost Supplies. If you go out of your way to acquire Under the Table, you'll outright be behind on Supplies for a bit, possibly for your entire run depending on how many radio relays you end up building.

In practice Under the Table is still a little more solid as a continent bonus than as a pair of Resistance Orders, partly because 50% is a big modifier where the Resistance Order versions you'll only rarely get to combine them together to hit the same, and partly because it can end up being something you get and take advantage of completely incidentally, where the Resistance Order versions are always competing with something. (Admittedly it's possible for the Resistance Order versions to have only bad competition, but... it's a bit unlikely, given how few Skirmisher Resistance Orders are bad or have a clear expiration date)

I still prefer it being hooked to the Resistance Order system simply because Under the Table is a really egregious example of 'great if accessible and early, worthless if at all out of the way' out of continent bonuses, but the fact that it got split up in the process really does hurt it a lot. I don't really get why War of the Chosen split it; it wasn't overly-good or anything.

Quid Pro Quo
Black Market goods all cost 33% less Intel.

War of the Chosen brings this back as a Resistance Order, with the only other point of note being that War of the Chosen didn't make it a possible continent order. It uses the same number, even.

The switch to being a pure Resistance Order is probably for the best. As a continent bonus, Quid Pro Quo leans too far into the usual continent bonus issue of being great if you get it incidentally, but not worth pursuing if it's substantially out of your way and questionable to pursue even if it's only moderately out of your way. In Quid Pro Quo's case, this is particularly direct of an issue since contacting new regions costs Intel: if you're going to need to contact three new regions to unlock Quid Pro Quo, you're going to need to then spend a minimum of 360 Intel (On Commander difficulty) for Quid Pro Quo to have broken even on the Intel. (Or more precisely, buy what would cost 360 Intel if you didn't have Quid Pro Quo; 237~ Intel)

Needing to spend more than 200 Intel to break even makes it a dubious prospect for acquiring it for its own sake, and of course if it's in Asia it's even worse, demanding you spend more than 300 Intel at the Black Market afterward to have broken even. Same for if you don't 100% consistently use radio relays to push contact costs down to the minimum: you'll need more Intel spent at the Black Market to have broken even. 200+ Intel spent at the Black Market is a lot. My lifetime spending at the Black Market usually hovers around 300; even considering I tend to backload my Black Market purchases, that's not liable to be a good deal, and is illustrative of the problem.

It's not so bad if it happens to spawn in one of the 2-region continents. Spending 80 Intel to unlock it means you only need to spend a little under 160 Intel at the Black Market to have broken even. That's very plausible to end up doing, or to even pull ahead of, especially if you're fine with not buying every option in the second-to-last mission and so have more Intel available to spend at the Black Market.

Overall, though, this is very nice if you get it pretty incidentally (Including that it's an okay deal to eg pass through 2 of Africa's regions on the way to a plot mission and then grab the third specifically to unlock it), but rarely worth going particularly out of your way to acquire.

Armed to the Teeth
All primary weapons have an additional Weapon Attachment slot. (Except SPARK cannons)

War of the Chosen broke this up into a series of Breakthroughs.

This was probably for the best: Armed to the Teeth is one of the most ridiculously swingy continent bonuses in the base game. For one thing, Weapon Attachments don't really stack in a linear manner; a Superior Repeater is directly improved by having a Superior Scope attached as well. An Auto-Loader is directly improved by also having an Expanded Magazine. A Stock is improved by a Hair Trigger. A Hair Trigger is improved by an Expanded Magazine or Auto-Loader. Etc. Thus, a squad in the endgame benefiting from Armed to the Teeth isn't a 50% improvement in Weapon Attachment benefits, but generally somewhere above that. (Aside that eg Scopes and Stocks are contradictory instead of synergistic)

For another, Armed to the Teeth is, of course, affecting your entire squad (Unless you have one or more SPARKs...), making for a dramatic spike in overall power.

It's unusual in that you'd actually prefer it be a second continent bonus instead of your first, as it takes a while to stockpile enough Weapon Attachments to really leverage it, and is potentially worth grabbing even if it's fairly out of your way, simply because its impact is pretty large. I do appreciate that aspect of it.

But I'm very much glad War of the Chosen overhauled it, even if the details of the change are imperfect.

Spare Parts
All Proving Grounds Projects cost half as much Supplies, Alien Alloys, and Elerium Crystals.

War of the Chosen inexplicably brought this back and even more inexplicably broke it up into two Breakthroughs. Huh?

Regardless, Spare Parts in the base game is... okay? It's not terrible or anything, but it's frustratingly limited for exactly the reasons I said of the Breakthrough versions: this doesn't affect Elerium Core count, not even for SPARKs where they cost 2 per, and Elerium Cores are the majority of your Proving Ground costs. Supplies, Alien Alloys, and Elerium Crystals are virtually never serious limiters on your Proving Grounds Projects. At most, this will occasionally lead to you being in a knife's-edge situation where without Spare Parts you wouldn't be able to purchase Warden Armor and immediately start on a W.A.R. Suit but with Spare Parts you can go right ahead this one time.

Compared to the Breakthroughs, it benefits from starting from 50% savings and being attached to the continent bonus system instead of the Breakthrough system. Breakthroughs always require you go at least somewhat out of your way to get them; continent bonuses will sometimes be acquired literally incidentally as you're trying to make your way to an Avatar Project Facility or plot mission location. This means that even though Spare Parts is probably not worth ever pursuing (I suppose if you get most of the way to unlocking it incidentally, it might make sense to then finish it when you have some spare time? Maybe?), you'll still occasionally benefit from it.

Seriously, why did War of the Chosen think this needed to be nerfed? I just don't get it. If Spare Parts applied to Engineering, it would be borderline-broken and even the broken-up Breakthrough versions would be absolutely worth it. But Proving Grounds Projects are consistently low-cost outside the Elerium Cores, so... why?

Suit Up

Experimental Armor, Spider Suit, Wraith Suit, E.X.O. Suit, W.A.R. Suit, R.A.G.E. Suit, Icarus Armor, and Serpentsuit all complete instantly.

War of the Chosen brought this back as a Resistance Order, no other changes. It even gets to be a continent bonus still.

Unsurprisingly, this also means there's not a lot new to say relative to its War of the Chosen incarnation. It's not like War of the Chosen added any new armor projects for Suit Up to affect.

Regardless, Suit Up is one of the better continent bonuses, and potentially worth pursuing even if it's fairly out of the way just so you can rapidly get W.A.R. Suits and Powered Heavy Weapons online before the final missions.

It's largely inferior in practice to Fire When Ready, note, so if you can get both about as easily as each other from your current position you should prefer to prioritize Fire When Ready. Having both together is, of course, ridiculous, making literally everything except the Skulljack and one-off Projects build instantly. (... and SPARKs, if you have Shen's Last Gift)

Pursuit of Knowledge

The Laboratory provides an additional 20% improvement to research speed.

War of the Chosen brought this back as a Resistance Order, no other changes. Like Suit Up, it even remains a possible continent bonus.

Unlike in War of the Chosen, in the base game Pursuit of Knowledge is honestly basically terrible. Even if you don't put any effort into earning additional Scientists -don't hire them from Resistance HQ when they show up, don't pursue Rumors that provide Scientists when they show up- you'll still tend to have finished pretty much every research by the time you hit the end of the game, so long as you basically avoid Autopsies for any enemy that you'll naturally hit the Instant threshold on over the course of normal play. Pursuit of Knowledge is overkill, and the only reason to get it is if it happens to be essentially on your way to something that actually matters. (eg you start in North America, an Avatar Project Facility spawns in Asia, so you cut through Europe and incidentally unlock its continent bonus, which happens to be Pursuit of Knowledge)

Indeed, in the base game the primary reason I ever bother to build a Laboratory at all is because eventually you reach a point where you have Supplies and Power to spare and why not build a Laboratory at that point? But the Laboratory isn't even all that important in the base game, making Pursuit of Knowledge even more unappealing.

It's impressive War of the Chosen managed to make it a useful option without making any direct changes to Pursuit of Knowledge itself.

Future Combat

Guerrilla Tactics School purchases all cost half normal Supply price.

War of the Chosen broke this up into two Breakthroughs.

I don't really get why it does, given that Future Combat was already underwhelming unless you were specifically on Legendary, where it was still merely okay. Below Legendary, Supplies can be somewhat tight, but GTS upgrades are already cheap, Future Combat is extremely likely to only be acquired once you're already a good chunk of the way through them, and many GTS upgrades are sufficiently lackluster that it's perfectly okay to completely ignore them until you have more Supplies than you know what to do with.

Up on Legendary, GTS upgrades are expensive, but you have a lot more Supplies than on lower difficulties, and it's still the case that you'll prioritize the important ones like squad expansions and Hunter's Instincts and put off less useful ones like Vengeance or Deadshot. Future Combat is a little more likely to be acquired before it's too late to really help, and can make it easier to squeeze in some of the middling-value upgrades like Lightning Strike, but is still overall kind of whatever in practice. Take advantage if you get it incidentally, consider grabbing it if it's only a little out of your way, but otherwise ignore it.

Hidden Reserves

+5 Power for the Avenger

War of the Chosen broke this up into two Resistance Orders, which I don't really get. +5 Power seemed pretty much the perfect balance point to me for a single, moderately notable boost.

Regardless, Hidden Reserves isn't necessarily the most powerful continent bonus of the base game, but it's definitely the one with the most potential to have an interesting impact on your run. If Hidden Reserves is your very first continent's bonus, you'll be able to squeeze in a couple of facilities right away, or just one if you choose to prioritize the Shadow Chamber, and either way this means getting started on additional contacts or Shadow Chamber Projects much earlier, without having to sacrifice early construction of the Guerrilla Tactics School or Advanced Warfare Center, both of which are simply too essential to be put off. Even if Hidden Reserves is something like the continent bonus of an adjacent continent, depending on your other choices this still may lead to you researching Resistance Radio, discovering this fact, and deciding to build a Resistance Comms so you can reach the continent and build the Advanced Warfare Center once Hidden Reserves is activated.

Alas, if Hidden Reserves is more out of your way, it's quite likely it will end up... not quite valueless, but serving as little more than freeing up a lone Engineer, maybe leading to you also putting off upgrading a power relay. Assuming you bother to get it at all, which is questionable if it's not very convenient.

Still, I appreciate how impactful it can be if it happens to be conveniently early in access.

On a different note, Hidden Reserves is probably the most baffling of the base-game continent bonuses from a conceptual standpoint, as it really seems to be little more than a somewhat strained pun, with no means available to explain why uniting a continent leads to the Avenger managing to tap additional power from nowhere. Most continent bonuses require a bit abstract thinking to make them work as 'you've got the right people at your back', and several of them require glossing over the part where access to the continent bonus is based on contacts and not eg the Avenger actually being in the region, but they tend to at least broadly make sense. Hidden Reserves is just... confusing.


Note that there are 13 different continent bonuses in the base game, vs six continents. It's very easy to go multiple runs without ever seeing an individual continent bonus; you should never plan a run around the assumption you'll get any given continent bonus, not before actually seeing that it exists. Indeed, two runs can share no continent bonuses at all.

This is one of the less obvious examples of base XCOM 2 already trying to make the game more replay-friendly, but one of the stronger examples, especially as continent bonuses already existed in the prior game but were fixed and tried to be thematically derived from the real world.

On that note, one reason I approve of the switch to randomized continent bonuses is that it gets rid of a lot of the skeevy geopolitical perceptual elements. We Have Ways as the South American continent bonus was always... pretty offensive... whereas if literally the exact same continent bonus were to exist in XCOM 2, the very fact that continent bonuses are randomized would instantly make it lack that 'this says something about what the developers think of the world, and that something is pretty inappropriate' element.

It's actually kind of too bad that the base-game continent bonuses try very hard to be very bland in their framing. More characterful framing would actually feed into that 'your story' thing, where a player could imagine different backstories for different runs based in part on the continent bonuses. This bland framing means a player has to do a lot more mental work to get any kind of meaningful, interesting narrative out of the continent bonuses; it's very difficult to think of them as something other than a pure gameplay mechanic as-is.

That said, the game makes no effort to communicate that continent bonuses are randomized, so it's a little too easy for me to imagine that if the devs had gone with more characterful framing people would end up offended anyway, since it wouldn't be obvious to a first-time player that their run happening to roll We Have Ways for Oceania isn't some veiled comment on one or more nations in that region. So while I feel it's a missed opportunity, I also feel that said opportunity not being pursued is just fine.


Additionally, for those who want a quick summary of possibly continent bonuses in War of the Chosen, have a list;

Munitions Experts
Experimental Ammo projects complete instantly.

Live Fire Training
Rookies who train at the Guerrilla Tactics School will be promoted to Sergeant instead of Squaddie.

Volunteer Army
Each mission has a 33% chance of a free soldier joining the squad for the duration of the mission.

Rapid Collection
When the Resistance Supply drop would normally occur, the Supplies are instantly pushed into your storage instead of requiring the Avenger pick them up.

Resistance Network
Making contact with a new region finishes immediately after deciding to make contact, with no need for the Avenger to travel to the location.

Bomb Squad
Experimental Grenades, Experimental Heavy Weapons, and Experimental Powered Weapons Proving Grounds projects all complete instantly.

Integrated Warfare
PCS bonuses are improved, either gaining +1 to their effect or increasing their bonus by 25%.

Inside Knowledge
Weapon Attachments all increase their effect by one tier.

Double Agent
Each mission has a 33% chance of an ADVENT Trooper or ADVENT Stun Lancer joining up for the duration of the mission.

Tactical Analysis
If a pod is activated during the player's turn, all members of that pod will have one less action point on the immediately following turn.

Suit Up

Experimental Armor, Spider Suit, Wraith Suit, E.X.O. Suit, W.A.R. Suit, R.A.G.E. Suit, Icarus Armor, and Serpentsuit all complete instantly.

Greater Resolve

Lightly wounded soldiers can be sent on missions.

Mental Fortitude

All soldier Panic ends after one turn.

Pursuit of Knowledge

The Laboratory provides an additional 20% improvement to research speed.

Machine Learning

Breakthroughs are twice as likely to occur.

In summary: each Resistance faction has 5 of its Resistance Orders valid as continent bonuses, when there's six 'continents' in the game to assign continent bonuses to. This means it's actually possible for all of a given faction's potential continent bonuses to end up as continent bonuses, notably depleting the pool of possible Resistance Orders for that faction.

Also, while a decent number are returning continent bonuses, or close enough (ie Munitions Experts and Bomb Squad is Fire When Ready, but broken up), there's plenty of brand-new possible continent bonuses. The surprising thing is none of them are connected to new mechanics.

On the whole, War of the Chosen's continent bonus set is the better-tuned set in my experience. Machine Learning is a little underwhelming, and Mental Fortitude and Greater Resolve are often literally worthless, while Live Fire Training is difficulty-dependent and easily risks becoming worthless, but most of War of the Chosen's possibilities have a reasonably notable, obvious impact on a run's experience without obvious, massive differences in quality. Resistance Network is the only one that really stands out as particularly above-average, and I'd still hesitate to say that it's better to an inarguably game-breaking degree.

Whereas in the base game continent bonuses tend heavily toward 'beneficial, but uninteresting' or 'interesting, but way too powerful'. Hidden Reserves and Lock and Load are the only base-game continent bonuses I consider to be both meaningfully interesting and not alarmingly powerful.


Next time, we cover how the Chosen work on the strategic layer, as our final exploration of the strategic layer in particular.

See you then.


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