XCOM 2 Alien Analysis: ADVENT General


Basic
HP: 8/8/12/14
Armor: 0
Defense: 0/5/10/15
Dodge: 0/5/5/5
Aim: 65
Mobility: 12 (8/16)
Damage: 3-4 (+2)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 100
Tech: 125

Mental Fortress
Immune to Mind Control and Panic.

I'm pretty sure this is primarily about preventing you from Mind Controlling an enemy that's always only ever present when your objective is to kill it. The immunity to Panic is a bit more puzzling in that framework, but I would guess it's because Panic's mechanics would tend to lead to the General not running to the evac zone and so not trying to escape, which is obviously bizarre from an in-universe standpoint: the General is already trying to run, why would freaking them out so they want to run make them stop doing that?

Regardless, this makes Psi Operatives slightly less useful in Neutralize Field Commander missions, but is otherwise kind of whatever. SPARKs and Skirmishers can also induce Panic, admittedly, but it requires being shot at, and Generals aren't particularly quick to actually shoot at your soldiers.

It's not like any of this is liable to crop up with Basic Generals, for that matter...

Flashbang Grenade
Carries a single Flashbang Grenade, which works exactly like X-COM's version, wiping Overwatch, locking off access to most actions other than shooting and moving, and imposing -20 Aim, -30 Will, and -6 Mobility for the duration.

The AI isn't very intelligent about using Flashbangs, and isn't very proactive about it, either. In conjunction with how rare ADVENT Generals are, you could easily go through several runs without ever seeing a Flashbang thrown. If they do think to toss their Flashbang, it can be pretty inconvenient for you, making it harder to actually pursue. If you've ended up tight on time anyway, that can be a mission-failing problem.

These are, incidentally, exactly like your own Flashbangs, including having a massive blast radius that won't hinder friendlies. Which incidentally limits your ability to minimize its effects: avoiding clumping doesn't really help.

Anyway, the ADVENT General is a unique unit that only shows up in a specific mission type: Neutralize Field Commander. Graphically, it's just a reskinned officer, switching from red-and-black to a more green/yellow color and black. (I've seen other people describe the non-black part as 'gold', but I can't imagine describing this color as 'gold'. It looks like mayonnaise or something) Mechanically, it's quite a bit more different.

There's the statline differences, of course. The General is tougher but less accurate than an Officer, and already has Dodge in their basic form, albeit barely any of it. They've also got a shocking amount of Will. Then there's the fact that they've swapped a Frag Grenade for a Flashbang Grenade and lost Mark Target.

More important is the behavioral differences, and how they connect to the mission type: once your squad breaks Concealment (Even if no enemy actually sees your squad), at the start of the next enemy turn a location will be marked with a reinforcement flare, but instead of that marking a location that enemy troops will be arriving at, it's marking where the General's evac is going to show up. Once this happens, the General will beeline for the flare, disdaining combat with your troops in favor of just Dashing. They'll take potshots and maybe even toss their Flashbang once they're at the beacon, waiting for their ride to arrive, but before then they strongly prefer to just run for the evacuation point, maybe dropping into Overwatch once they're out of your sight to ambush pursuers. Which itself is unique; as I noted in the overall enemy introduction, by default enemies in XCOM 2 will virtually never enter into Overwatch if they can't see any of your squad.

This is why the General is tuned to be tough, not lethal; you fail the mission if they escape alive. Their job is to survive, not to kill X-COM soldiers.

Surprisingly, the General actually comes in three tiers, like most ADVENT forces! Which makes sense when you realize that the General can totally be the centerpiece of your very second mission of the entire campaign, but I wasn't expecting it. Speaking of...


Advanced
HP: 10/10/18/20
Armor: 0
Defense: 0/10/10/15
Dodge: 0/10/10/10
Aim: 65
Mobility: 12 (8/16)
Damage: 5-6 (+2)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 125
Tech: 125

Mental Fortress
Immune to Mind Control and Panic.

Same as the basic ADVENT General, but much more likely to actually matter.

Flashbang Grenade
Carries a single Flashbang Grenade, which works exactly like X-COM's version, wiping Overwatch, locking off access to most actions other than shooting and moving, and imposing -20 Aim, -30 Will, and -6 Mobility for the duration.

Yeah, they don't pick up an additional charge or anything. To be honest, the basic General tends to be the most difficult in practice simply because Generals don't scale much. I tend to try to skip Neutralize Field Commander missions early in the game, in fact, and am much more willing to give them a go later.

Note that while I'm calling this an 'Advanced' General, the in-game info doesn't actually provide any indication of different tiers of General being a thing. You can notice the HP being higher, but they're all just labeled 'ADVENT General' in-game. As Generals only show up in the uncommon Neutralize Field Commander mission type, you could easily go through several runs without noticing they come in tiers, especially since Generals start from a rather high HP value and XCOM 2's approach to HP display makes it difficult to eyeball exact HP values once you're above 10 or so HP.

If you're playing on one of the lower two difficulties, the Advanced General is basically indistinguishable from their lower-tier counterpart. On higher-tier difficulties... yikes, that's a pretty big HP spike, though their damage is the only other number to go up,

Thanks to that shocking HP spike, on higher difficulties the Neutralize Field Commander missions are one of the handful of times it's seriously worth considering trying to actually sneak your way to the objective, so you can arrange to use your full Overwatch ambush on the General. Otherwise they may well manage to flee to their evac point and fail to die before the timer finishes counting down thanks to their high durability and disinterest in sticking around to fight you. Since their evac point is not visible until after you've broken Concealment, it's not even possible to find it while sneaking about and try to wait for them at it so they'll stop running.

Be careful, though, as the game consistently tries to have a pod patrol to be between you and your mission objective. It's extremely easy to end up losing Concealment to such a pod, and even if you avoid that the odds are good you'll end up being forced to fight them simultaneously to fighting the General's pod. On Legendary in particular this can be killer.

If you didn't bring a Reaper, it's probably not worth trying to sneak like that. If you do have a Reaper, it's still risky.

Said sneaking consideration touches pretty directly on a fairly major issue with Neutralize Field Commander: that it's the one and only Guerrilla Op mission type with no built-in time pressure during the Concealed phase. This is janky all on its own, but it's especially problematic that it does have time pressure once squad Concealment is broken: in missions that have no time pressure, period, such as Avatar Project Facilities, you're incentivized to do a little sneaking around to eg find a good pod to ambush, or to avoid pulling two pods at once if they ended up patrolling on top of each other, but the pressure toward basically not playing the game is fairly light. You should of course move cautiously once squad Concealment is broken in such a mission, but only modestly so.

Whereas with Neutralize Field Commander, strictly speaking the optimal thing to do is to avoid engaging with the core gameplay of combat until you've found the General so you can avoid the timer being an issue at all. This can lead to long, tedious experiences in pursuit of optimal play.

Exacerbating the issue is the type of maps Neutralize Field Commander gets: a lot of XCOM 2 maps are a long rectangle with your objective placed at roughly the opposite end of the rectangle from your starting position, where you have a clear direction to advance. Neutralize Field Commander instead takes a page from Retaliation missions, preferring fairly square maps, and with no particular rhyme or reason to your squad's initial placement vs the General's initial placement, not to mention no sanity checks on the General's patrol route. It's entirely possible to start the mission with the General in spitting distance of your squad if only you advanced clockwise, but you searched the map counter-clockwise and the General ended up wandering around inside the regions you've previously checked and not found them in, and so you end up spending half an hour searching, struggling to avoid the other pods.

I basically just try to avoid Neutralize Field Commander early, when my squad is slow and weak, and when I do go for it later I don't do all that searching. Just find my first pod, start fighting with a full turn of action points, and go chasing for the evac point. I'm also willing to bring a Reaper and have them scour the map for the General alone while the rest of the squad plays keep-away with the other pods, but mostly I just... try to do the fun thing instead of the technically-optimal thing, and generally my squad can make that work once I'm solidly in the midgame with magnetic weapons and all.

It's still a pretty mis-designed mission type, though...


Elite
HP: 14/14/24/26
Armor: 0
Defense: 0/10/15/20
Dodge: 0/15/15/15
Aim: 70
Mobility: 12 (8/16)
Damage: 7-8 (+2)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 150
Tech: 125

Mental Fortress
Immune to Mind Control and Panic.

Still the same, though the Elite General is the most likely to have it matter given the skills that can induce Panic that aren't on the Psi Operative are high-rank skills.

Flashbang Grenade
Carries a single Flashbang Grenade, which works exactly like X-COM's version, wiping Overwatch, locking off access to most actions other than shooting and moving, and imposing -20 Aim, -30 Will, and -6 Mobility for the duration.

The Elite ADVENT General is, notably, the only Skullminable unit that has enough HP that Skullmining them isn't a kill.

As an aside, Generals don't drop a unique corpse. They just drop regular Officer corpses. It's a bit silly, though understandable as far as the mechanics goes: it would be pretty bad to have an Autopsy tied to a specific mission type that's entirely possible to have never generate in a given run.

Also, you might notice two of my screenshots of Generals are in sewers. Their mission can occur on other map types, but my experience is they're biased to a hilarious extent toward showing up in sewer maps. Really, the fact that those maps are in their rotation at all is fairly comedic: what is the General down here for, exactly? Are there legions of sewer-patrolling ADVENT forces, such that ADVENT Generals need to sweep in and make sure they're up to spec? Seriously, what's going on here?

Another bit of weird hilarity: I've noted a few times that Chosen stop mission timers once you've gotten face-to-face with them in a mission. That includes freezing the General's evac timer. Most timer-freezing I basically ignore as pure game mechanics with no narrative justification, but in this case it's pretty believable the Chosen would deliberately leave the General hanging, purely so X-COM will stick around so the Chosen can fight them. It's a fortuitous intersection of gameplay and characterization, even if I doubt it being even slightly intentional.

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The ADVENT General feels like a bit of a wasted concept. Not as wasted as Faceless, but wasted nonetheless. You're assassinating a strategically important planner of ADVENT's! And it... doesn't really matter. It's just a random mission type, no larger consequences. The General isn't even a leadership unit that heads Avenger Defense assaults or anything, just a target for you to kill, potentially several times over the course of a campaign.

Indeed, that aspect of the ADVENT General is an excellent example of a larger trend with the game that's a little frustrating: there's generally a disconnect between what X-COM is setting out to do as an organization and the practical outcome of their actions.

Some of this is easily defensible. The ADVENT General is janky in part because he's attached to the Guerrilla Op mechanic, which is itself a mix-and-match mechanic with Dark Events, and there's several perfectly good reasons for the game to make that a mix-and-match mechanic. For example, the Hidden Dark Event mechanic would completely fall apart if each Guerrilla Op mission type correlated to a single specific Dark Event, every time, as an experienced player -or one consulting a guide- would know what a Hidden Dark Event was simply by looking at the mission types that popped up. Or from another angle, one can defend the way killing the ADVENT General isn't very effective by looking at the plot backdrop and saying that ADVENT has plenty of replacements so it would only ever be a temporary disruption.

However, this is kind of everywhere in the game. The Forge mission is probably the best example, because it's a fixed plot mission and so there's no equivalent defense for such a disconnect to exist, and yet it's actually one of the worst missions in the game about not syncing up properly. The basic setup of why X-COM is there involves some weird plot jank I'm not even going to address here because it's tangential, but broadly speaking the central idea holds up: X-COM knows that these coordinates have something ADVENT cares about that is being kept secret, so X-COM is going to investigate because ADVENT is the enemy so anything they want secret is probably something X-COM doesn't want secret, etc.

However, the actual mission itself runs into the fact that it's very obviously constructed to serve two narrative goals. The first narrative goal, which I'll talk about some more in a bit, is to reveal The Truth Of ADVENT to the player, and I guess also X-COM itself but that doesn't actually matter narratively. The second narrative goal is to get the mysterious stasis suit into X-COM's hands to set up for how the final mission is made to happen. This second narrative goal is very obviously the Forge's primary point: once you find the stasis suit, your objective for the mission switches to evacuating the squad with the stasis suit, and that's it, that's your entire objective for the mission.

The problem here is that the Forge itself is a military production facility. It's a factory for enemy soldiers. It's exactly the kind of target X-COM should want to blow up, to sabotage ADVENT's military capabilities. And they don't. They make off with the stasis suit, and leave the Forge intact, and you can never go back. There's no in-universe reason for this behavior. Nobody provides a justification for why they'd want to not blow up the Forge. X-COM is simply compelled by the invisible hand of the scenario designer to get the Key Item and leave, because that's what the narrative needs them to do, never mind that it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense for them to do so.

Indeed, if we pull back a bit more broadly, you'd expect X-COM to want to attack ADVENT's military infrastructure in general. There should be missions for destroying arms factories, or even stealing from them to arm your troops. There aren't. Instead, you steal illicit information, smash data transmitters to stop... something... and defend Resistance transmitters that are doing... something.

In addition to being vague, the rewards often feel disconnected from your actions. You can get soldiers as a direct reward from Guerrilla Ops, but not because you rescued a prisoner or made contact with a local Resistance hero or something else vaguely connected to that. Supplies might be attached to a mission where you raided a train, where you can kind of excuse it, but probably the mission itself was about getting a hold of some data, with no attempt to connect this to the Supplies reward. Only the Council/Resistance missions where you're actually rescuing or capturing a VIP are really consistently connected to their reward, with rescued VIPs joining you as a Scientist or Engineer and captured VIPs being worth an Intel reward, representing interrogating them for information. (Indeed, if you kill such a VIP instead, the Spokesman will rebuke you with a remark about how we can't get information from a corpse) And I guess abstractly the Avatar Project Facilities hold up in this regard ass a mission type, but still, it's a minority of missions is the point.

This was actually an issue that existed in the previous game, but in part due to it aping classic XCOM it wasn't as obvious, or as consistently true. You hit UFOs, and you looted UFO bits, which was an obvious 1-to-1 connection between action and outcome. Most of its jank in this regard required a bit more thought to notice; for example, Supply Ships make perfect sense in the first half of the game, when they're presumably making runs to the Alien Base. It's only when you beat the game and look back on things, noticing that Supply Ships continued to show up in Earth's atmosphere even though there was nothing to supply that you might go 'wait a second'. And even then, if you ignore why they're around, there's still a direct connection between 'X-COM hits a Supply Ship' and 'X-COM gets the Supply Ship's contents'.

XCOM 2 is fun, and its plot is better put together than the previous game, but this disconnect, however background an issue it might be, a pretty frustrating flaw. It undermines the narrative, and it's also a bit disappointing on a gameplay level: it would be really interesting if the player could, for example, attack a factory producing ADVENT Mecs to temporarily make ADVENT Mecs stop spawning in missions, or set them back from Heavy Mecs to regular Mecs, or otherwise clearly affect ADVENT's Mec production. That would have the strategic and tactical gameplay intersect in an interesting way more consistently, letting a player influence the kinds of forces they fight, which would then meet with how they approach their own team composition: maybe one player consistently tries to shut down production of heavily Armored enemies so they don't need as much Shred, and fields less Shred in favor of other tools. Maybe another player prioritizes something else, and ups their Shred to compensate for constantly fighting Armored foes, or passes out AP Rounds a lot. That kind of thing.

Instead, one is left with the feeling that X-COM's actions don't really line up with the consequences they cause, on a fairly consistent basis.

A related, moderately frustrating bit of jank, is that if you kill the General, and there's other enemies remaining on the map, Bradford will insist that you can't allow ADVENT to recover the General's body, so you need to clear the area -a euphemism for 'kill everything that moves'. Bradford doesn't bother to clarify why it's unacceptable to let ADVENT recover the body, and it's not naturally intuitive that this would be a priority. So why must you kill everything?...

The real answer is, of course, that XCOM 2 insists on organizing scheduled mission types into 'body recovery' and 'no body recovery' at the highest level to ensure there's no weird problems where a player could screw theirself out of essential Autopsies, and Neutralize Field Commander is a Guerrilla Op. Every Guerrilla Op demands you wipe out all enemies so you'll collect all their bodies.

This is actually even more glaring in the base game, as War of the Chosen has cut a bit of Bradford's dialogue. In the base game, any Guerrilla Op with a separately completable objective will, if you complete that objective with enemies remaining to fight, pause gameplay while Bradford insists you've got to kill everything that moves for... some reason... again, the actual answer is game design, but it stands out in no small part because almost no Guerrilla Op types make the slightest bit of sense for 'kill everything' to be an essential objective. Protect the Device makes at least a superficial level of sense -it's in danger so long as enemies are in the area hunting for it- but most Guerrilla Op objectives are 'sneak in and retrieve something' or 'sneak in and destroy something in specific', where the intuitively natural flow of events would be to evac once you'd destroyed/retrieved your objective.

I tend to give a game a pass on this kind of problem when there's exceptions that don't work. If Neutralize Field Commander was the only Guerrilla Op variant that had 'kill 'em all' be nonsensical as a mandatory component of the mission, I'd be a little confused at it specifically showing up in War of the Chosen, when the devs should have the scaffolding of the game universally understood because its fundamentals aren't in flux, but shrug it off.

In actuality though, Neutralize Field Commander is typical, the only unusual part being that in War of the Chosen it's the only Guerrilla Op where Bradford explicitly insists that the mission isn't complete until every last enemy is dead. I'm genuinely pretty confused as to how this happened.

As a final whoops to the whole thing, in the base game Bradford comes across fairly badly as a person, like his lust for blood will never be satiated no matter how many aliens and ADVENT soldiers die. It's not as egregious as the prior game having your support staff react to the first Terror mission with 'wow, this is weird, and I'm completely unmoved by innocent civilians dying right in front of me', but I'm still glad War of the Chosen cut that line entirely. Not only was it aggravating to have to sit through the speech pretty much every month, unable to do anything until Bradford stopped baying for blood, but the resulting impression that I was being pressured to murder people to sate Bradford's bloodlust instead of to accomplish strategically important objectives was uncomfortable. Doubly so once I got to the Truth of ADVENT and suddenly had reason to believe most of my enemies were essentially innocents... which doesn't cause Bradford's dialogue to update or anything.

Speaking of the Truth Of ADVENT, time to talk about that.


What we're told at the beginning of the game is that ADVENT troops are humans who've been upgraded with Alien DNA as a reward for their loyal service to the ADVENT administration, which is why they have a weird face hidden underneath their helmet. It's also all but explicitly stated that this is a secret from regular citizens... somehow.

Then you get a bit farther into the game, and you do the Forge mission, where wonky mission triggers reveal that actually ADVENT troops are mass-produced clone soldiers who were never human in the first place.

Which.

Makes a lot less sense than the original explanation.

To be honest, when I was first playing through War of the Chosen the way the Skirmishers were being handled had me wondering if maybe the game had decided to walk back that nonsensical plotpoint and switch to ADVENT troops being, in fact, upgraded humans. Alas, no.

Oh, I get why the game has this plotpoint. When you look at the endgame, it's pretty obvious that the Forge reveal is foreshadowing, meant to set up for the final reveal without blaring it in your face ahead of time. I can see how a writer would set up the endgame and then go back and say there should be mass-produced clone soldiers as foreshadowing.

But it really, really hurts the plot on a number of levels.

First of all, the idea that any of this would be a widely-held secret for long enough for X-COM to be surprised when they stumble on the Forge is farcical all by itself. The charade is supposed to have been going on for somewhere close to twenty years, and frankly I have difficulty imagining it surviving for one year. If the wider public is operating under the belief that ADVENT troopers are regular humans underneath that armor... regular people go home. To friends and family. People would notice when no ADVENT 'peacekeeper' ever showed any evidence of a personal life. Not right away, sure, but it would be impossible to hide.

Especially since ADVENT actually has a military peacekeeper recruitment campaign. Exactly how on Earth are the Ethereals supposed to be hiding that, when your son or daughter signs up to be a peacekeeper, they vanish from the face of the Earth? What, are the Ethereals having ADVENT troopers pretend to be the slushied 'recruits', calling home to say hi I'm totally your friend or family member and not a vat-grown soldier who has little idea what normal humans are like? The game doesn't even try to come up with an explanation for this kind of issue, and indeed seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that the issue exists, and to be honest I'm not sure it's possible to come up with a satisfactory explanation without causing damage to the narrative elsewhere. Better to sidestep the whole thing entirely by using a different model, than to try to patch it over if it can't work.

The 'ADVENT troops try to pretend to be the recruited humans' explanation also runs into problems like 'they can't visit their family/significant other/friends without wearing something that hides their face'. Even if I assume the Ethereals do, as I suggested back with the Faceless post, have some way of downloading memories and the like so an ADVENT soldier can fake being an individual as far as personality and 'hey, remember the time we did X thing Y number of years ago?' that doesn't address how Danny The Hybrid Soldier can go home to the family of Danny The Now Dead Human and sit at their dinner table without anyone noticing the eye ridges and so on -this actually gets worse in War of the Chosen, as in the base game ADVENT soldiers don't really look that off. The Skirmishers have some very odd stuff going on with their eyes, their fingers are oddly proportioned and their nails are notably claw-like, etc; this would all be flagrantly impossible to hide in person, or even over a video call. It's not like ADVENT civilians default to wearing goggles and other things that might help hybrids blend in...

The General, meanwhile, draws the player's attention to the whole thing where a military career can lead to being a prominent person in the public eye. Which is a problem because the ADVENT General's Wikipedia page would be conspicuously unable to establish a proper timeline for his career and his pre-career existence (Wikipedia pages are really fond of telling us people's birthplace and some of their school history and whatnot), and higher-ranking soldiers do things like address the general public on TV. In, you know, their dress uniform or something, not what they wear when they're expecting to be shot at any second now. Which would be impossible for an ADVENT General if they're all identical clones who can't show their faces, and even more obviously impossible with the Skirmisher visuals, even accounting for Skirmisher visual variety implying not every ADVENT soldier shares a single specific face.

On a more basic, obvious level... ADVENT troops have orange blood. Am I seriously supposed to believe that ADVENT 'peacekeepers', whom have been explicitly involved with violent confrontations on a routine basis long before the game started, never ended up bleeding around civilians? Is XCOM 2's human population colorblind, every single one of them? War of the Chosen seems to maybe recognize this particular issue, as one possible post-mission propaganda announcement presents your latest mission as a training exercise where all weapons fire and wounds were 'simulated'; I wouldn't be surprised if someone on the dev team went 'ADVENT could claim the orange blood is fake blood', or some such... but it's still a pretty hard sell, however much I might like the low-key callback to Meld.

The start-of-game apparent situation was plausible. I could totally buy that ADVENT upgrades people with Alien DNA, and then these people only let those closest to them know about it, and the population as a whole has it as something of an uncomfortable semi-open secret where not everybody knows but a lot of people know and many who are in the know have incentives to not want to tell others. Then it would be easy to buy that X-COM out in the boonies wasn't entirely sure if this information was actually accurate or just some crazy rumor with no basis in reality. It also was ambiguous in details; sure, that one trooper's helmet coming off in the tutorial reveals a face you wouldn't expect a regular human to have, but if different troops are being upgraded with different chunks of Alien DNA it's not only plausible but in fact probable that some troops' signs of their inhumanness aren't visible just because they're not wearing a face-concealing helmet, doing away with problems like 'so how does the ADVENT General actually do public speeches, anyway?'

Furthermore, that scenario was a very natural way of grounding how it is the Ethereals have managed to so completely take over human society in such a short time: they actively reward people for advancing their interests, making them stronger, more capable combatants, with a vested interest in promoting whatever status quo the Ethereals want. And if it takes some violence to make it happen? Why, conveniently they're better at that than baseline humans are!

Notably, imperial conquerors rewarding collaborators with better lives to encourage the population to ingratiate itself with its oppressors is a long-standing pattern throughout human history. You don't need to be creative to think of the possibility, and it's not a suspension of disbelief issue to suggest it works: Rome did it a couple thousand years ago, and it worked really well for them, as one of the most well-known examples. It's genuinely a bit confusing that this dynamic wasn't ported straight from human history with a fantastical scifi facelift is all.

The extra-frustrating thing is... a little odd to talk about. It comes back to the game's approach to genetics, and how it has basically nothing to do with reality.

Now, I'm not exactly a fan of the fact that it has nothing to do with reality while using real terms to talk about real things in a completely wrong way, but in this case what I'm trying to talk about is how they're not even using their not-actually-real model to its fullest potential. The entire notion at work is that the Ethereals are scouring humanity for all our Psi genes, and they don't really care about anything else, and at one point we have Tygan talking about a thing missing chunks of its DNA as if it's 'incomplete'. (Which makes no sense, but I'm going somewhere with this)

If you're going to take that kind of Lego genetics approach, you know what would make perfect sense?

If the Ethereals were swapping out our Psi genes for Alien DNA.

Boom! Two birds with one stone! They get to sneakily steal human psi potential in genetic form for the Avatar Project, and in so doing cement more loyalty from their human agents! And in the context of this (Wildly unrealistic) framework, it actually makes a kind of sense that they'd need to replace the stolen DNA with some other DNA to avoid killing ADVENT troops, and why not make it magical superpower DNA given that's an option in the Firaxis X-COM setting?

Aaaaand instead even though the Ethereals just want us for our psionic potential they're kidnapping people in their entirety and then rendering them into human slushies en mass. This goes so far into trying to sell the Ethereals as evil it falls flat: instead of communicating how little the Ethereals respect human life, it just looks inexplicably inefficient and wasteful, as there's not a natural, intuitive reason for it to make sense for the Ethereals to need the entirety of a given human's body for their plans. At most, it makes the Ethereals look stupid, and more realistically it just makes it harder to take this aspect of the narrative seriously in the first place, getting in the way of suspension of disbelief.

Incidentally, the Skirmishers? Would make waaaay more sense in this model. You'd have to dump the whole 'vaguely Klingon' thing, which would make it slightly less purposeful to have gotten Michael Dorn to play a Skirmisher, but the whole thing where genetically engineered soldiers designed solely for the purpose of obeying the Ethereals apparently are quick to resent and disobey if their control chips break is kind of ridiculous. Not directly in and of itself, but when placed alongside all the other Alien troops being unflinchingly loyal. Exactly why do the Skirmishers exist, but not a tribe of renegade Mutons? Rogue ADVENT, but not rogue Sectoids? Pretty much any explanation you can come up with for why the other Aliens are 100% loyal makes it harder to buy that the Skirmishers could ever exist.

Whereas if ADVENT troops were regular humans who got upgraded with Alien DNA oh and at higher ranks a control chip got plugged into them... uh, yeah, they'd go rogue if the control chip malfunctioned. And so would lower-ranking people who didn't have a chip installed who ended up learning about stuff like the control chips. Boom! Skirmishers making perfectly logical sense with no conflict with any other part of the setting/story!

It's really, really frustrating that the beginning-of-game-apparent-situation gets replaced with the Forge reveal, because it's in every way a massive downgrade. Which is too bad, because one of the things I like about XCOM 2 is that the team has clearly learned how to do the difficult-to-do writer thing of getting plotpoints to make way more sense in retrospect for why they exist, and this is technically part of that, so on some level I kinda want to praise this piece but I can't because seriously it's all downside in end result.

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Incidentally, Chimera Squad retcons things by making it so ADVENT soldiers include both clones and enhanced humans, but it also establishes that converted humans get their memories wiped in the process. This retains essentially all the problems with the clone army situation, where people conspicuously never communicate with friends and family, so even though it does make more sense for the Ethereals to be using both approaches if they're going to do either it doesn't really help walk back the fundamental error occurring here.

Admittedly, doing so without disavowing large chunks of XCOM 2 and War of the Chosen is difficult in general, but it's still weird Chimera Squad does it at all.

Anyway, next time we cover the basic Muton.

See you then.

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