XCOM 2 Enemy Analysis: Chosen Tactical Intro

 
The Chosen's tactical end of things is going to be covered in six posts: this one, where I cover a bunch of important universal qualities, a post to cover their Weaknesses and another to cover their Strengths, and then of course each Chosen will get a post to theirself. That's on top of the strategic layer I've already covered.

The Chosen are complicated!

First of all, the Chosen can show up in virtually any mission of the game. The exceptions are the DLC missions (The Tower and the Nest), the second-to-last mission of the game, Avenger Defense missions, Covert Operations for rescuing a captured soldier, Ambushed Covert Operations, and also they'll never drop into another Chosen's Stronghold when you attack it. Another qualifier is that Chosen are forbidden from spawning into a mission that at any point had an Alien Ruler in it. If you use Integrated DLC, this has the consequence of meaning they're sort-of forbidden from showing up in Avatar Project Facilities, since Alien Rulers will assign themselves to three of them as the opportunity becomes available, and it's not unusual for a run to only need to hit 2-3 Facilities in total. So if you have the Alien Hunters DLC, turn on Integrated DLC, and prioritize taking out the Alien Rulers, you'll almost never encounter the Chosen in an Avatar Project Facility -which is a bit unfortunate as they have dialogue specific to such missions!

The Chosen will not teleport into a mission so long as you have squad-wide Concealment up. The first ADVENT/Alien turn after your squad is no longer Concealed, whether that means you broke Concealment or that the mission didn't let your squad start in Concealment in the first place, the Chosen will immediately spawn in if they're going to show up at all. As such, if they don't show up at the first enemy turn of eg a Retaliation mission, or the turn after your squad breaks Concealment... they're never showing up in that particular mission. (The final mission is an exception, but I'll get back to that)

When they do spawn, Chosen largely hijack the 'boss' spawn routine I covered back in the Sectopod post, which is to say that in most mission types they'll spawn back near the objective at the other end of the map. As usual, Retaliation missions are the main exception, where it's not unusual to have a Chosen teleport in eg a screen away northeast, instead of 3-4 screens directly north from your starting position in the southern corner. They're less bad about this than Alien Rulers, Sectopods, and Gatekeepers for whatever reason, but still, they'll usually spawn closer in Retaliation missions than other mission types. It also has different implications for them, since they don't behave at all like other pods, but that's for the individual Chosen posts.

Also note that, like Alien Rulers, you won't get forewarned by the Shadow Chamber about the Chosen, but they completely replace a pod and this can give away their presence through depressed enemy counts.


Like Alien Rulers, the Chosen attack on a semi-predictable cycle. For the first two missions after you've last fought a Chosen, it's guaranteed no Chosen will come in. The third mission will have a 50% chance of a Chosen showing up. If the third mission fails that roll, then they're guaranteed to show up on the fourth mission, at which point the cycle resets. (I haven't properly tested whether the game counts missions Chosen can never spawn into for advancing this counter or not, note) It's a good idea to try to send your less experienced troops in for the two missions the Chosen can't spawn in, to maximize the odds your A-team is available once it's time to start risking Chosen attacks.

Note that this cycle doesn't matter to mandatory plot missions. (By which I specifically mean the Blacksite, Forge, and Psi Gate missions) In that case, whatever Chosen is considered to hold the territory the mission is in will spawn if they're still alive, even if you literally just fought a Chosen, and this will not reset the Chosen encounter 'clock'. You should pay attention to which Chosen holds the territory each plot mission is located in so you can plan appropriately, not only in the tactical sense of who and what to bring (Pay attention to Adversary Weaknesses!) but also in the strategic sense of whether you should even try to do the mission at all prior to permanently taking that Chosen out. The Psi Gate mission, for example, is fairly hellish if the Warlock holds that territory, as he tends to stake out the area just behind the Psi Gate, making it virtually impossible to deal with him separately from the Gatekeeper, whereas the Assassin isn't so bad since there's a decent amount of overlap between what's good against her and what's good against the hordes of Chryssalids on the map, and unlike the Warlock she'll charge your position right away, making it easy to fight her away from the Gatekeeper and indeed possibly deal with her entirely on her own.


Also note that the Blacksite's territory is always assigned to whichever Chosen is your first encounter, and thus that Chosen will always be the one guarding the Blacksite. Among other points, this means that if you play with Lost and Abandoned turned on, you'll always get the Assassin at the Blacksite. Correlated to this is that the other two plot missions -the Forge and Psi Gate missions- are always placed in territory owned by the other two Chosen, meaning each Chosen guards exactly one plot mission.

The final two missions are special in a different way: the second-to-last mission will never have Chosen spawn, while the final mission will have all the surviving Chosen spawn. This is slightly less insane than it might first sound, as they spawn in as you make forward progress on the mission, meaning you fight them one at a time, but still, it makes the final mission considerably harder to leave them all alive, especially as one of them will spawn in after you've started fighting the Avatars. (The Warlock, at least by default: I haven't experimented much with this) Among other points, I'm pretty sure they don't replace any pods in the final mission, simply being stacked atop the normal set of threats.

One final note about their spawn cycle is that your first encounter with a given Chosen ignores the normal cycle, always occurring the very first time you take a mission in territory that Chosen controls.(With the qualifier that your first Chosen waits until your first Retaliation mission, unless you have Lost And Abandoned on in which case Lost And Abandoned acts as your first encounter with the Assassin) That is, if you start out fighting the Hunter, and then make contact with a region controlled by the Warlock for the first time in a run, it's possible to have the Hunter attack on the normal Chosen cycle and then have a mission occur in the Warlock's territory and so end up fighting Chosen back-to-back. (In conjunction with plot missions, you could have three missions in a row involve Chosen pretty easily) The game will also always contrive to make the next mission that could be forced from this new territory be so, whether that's a Retaliation mission, a Supply Raid, or a Resistance mission.

In the case of Guerrilla Ops, this will mean exactly one mission of the three offered will force Chosen spawning. (Unless you've managed to use Resistance Network to grab multiple of that Chosen's territories, I guess? I've never had that exact scenario happen, and it's quite unlikely to happen, so I don't know for sure what the game does in that case) This is where the forced-fight and pod-replacement mechanics are really obvious, assuming you have a Shadow Chamber, as the mission in the new Chosen territory will have noticeably fewer enemies predicted than the other two. (Well, unless Sitreps mess with unit counts...)

Also, to be clear, if you skip a mission forcing that first encounter (Such as by picking a different Guerrilla Op target), the game will keep contriving mission placements to create that encounter until you've actually had this first encounter. This is very silly and artificial from any kind of realistic standpoint, but fortunately the strategic mechanics are designed so it's not actually that important a point. Where a mission occurs is normally not strongly important unless you specifically fail the mission, after all. So you will have every Chosen at minimum twice in a run -the forced first encounter, and either at their Stronghold or in the final mission if you don't hit their Stronghold.

An amusing and somewhat unfortunate implication of all this is that Bradford effectively lies to the player, in that the very first mission you get after your first encounter with a Chosen will have Bradford informing you that you're going into Chosen territory and should expect them to show up, even though mechanically this is nearly impossible to have happen, requiring you either contact a new Chosen's territory before your next mission or hit the Blacksite before another mission can spawn. Indeed, this bit of Bradford dialogue is one of those things that makes me suspect the Chosen territory system was meant to work very differently at some point in development -I genuinely suspect at some point the Resistance factions would've been tied into the territory system, where eg your initial territory would be considered to be controlled by the Reapers or whoever and not controlled by a Chosen. Bradford's dialogue would make a lot more sense if instead the Chosen always jumped you anytime you did a mission in Chosen-controlled territory, but not all territories were controlled by Chosen. This would also fit with how there's a couple mission types where Bradford claims Resistance faction soldiers are going to be helping you even though that's not a mechanic; I wouldn't be surprised if the idea at some point was that you'd consistently get help from Resistance factions in missions occurring in their own territory.

Anyway...


The config files seem to indicate that there's a 5% chance for any given Chosen encounter to randomly sub in a Chosen from the wrong territory. I'm pretty sure this isn't actually functional of a mechanic, but it's possible I've had it trigger and simply not noticed -while the UI tracks which Chosen owns which territory at the Geoscape screen, once you're picking loadouts the game is already done reminding you which Chosen owns the territory. Between picking soldiers, gearing them out, waiting for the Skyranger to fly to the mission, sitting through the loading screen, and playing through the initial squad Concealment turns, there's plenty of time to forget which Chosen owns the territory, and plenty of other things to focus your mind on. (And, frustratingly, I've yet to see a mod fix this issue, even though multiple mods exist to remind you of the Shadow Chamber's predictions)

I can say with confidence it doesn't apply to forced encounters, though, and can also say with confidence that a 'dead' territory (A territory originally owned by a Chosen you've taken out for good) is completely safe from Chosen appearing as well. Your first mission in a given Chosen's territory will always spawn that Chosen, the plot missions will always force their particular Chosen if they're still alive, Lost And Abandoned of course always forces the Assassin... I can also say with confidence that Chosen you haven't met yet aren't allowed to sub in.

Or more precisely for all that, either the mechanic is non-functional, or it's functional but ignored in those cases.

Personally, I hope it's just disabled. I sort of like the idea of it, but my Commander runs average roughly 10-ish Chosen encounters in total across the entire run. Even ignoring that multiple of those are encounters that it would make no sense to do the replacement mechanic with, that'd mean I'd be encountering this replacement mechanic on average every two entire runs. That's not far off from being a non-existent mechanic anyway; I'm sure there's plenty of players who did one run (or less) of War of the Chosen and so would expect to never see this trigger at all. War of the Chosen would've needed a more aggressive rate of Chosen appearances -and preferably a higher rate of triggering this replacement mechanic- for it to make much sense to include.

Anyway, that's all the actually-still-strategic details of pertinence to the tactical end of things, so now it's time to move onto the actual tactical end of things!


First and foremost is turn mechanics: the Chosen are unique, in that they sort of have a phase all to themselves. In most respects they're really just another ADVENT/alien unit, where eg they take Poison/Acid/burn damage at the very start of the Alien Activity announcement, but Chosen normally go dead last in an Alien Activity turn, with special UI elements during their mini-phase. Among other points, this means that if there's non-Chosen pods active, trying to use Overwatch to catch out the Chosen is a dubious proposition; the line troops will probably soak your Overwatch shots instead, since they'll go first.

The Warlock provides a caveat to this in that if he Mind Controls one of your troops, they'll move during the Chosen phase (In fact, they will move after the Warlock does), and so will Spectral Zombies and Spectral Stun Lancers he's summoned. Other summons, however, will move in the general Alien Activity phase.

Anyway, you should always plan your turns with the knowledge that Chosen will act after all non-Lost hostiles. unless they're specifically the Warlock, and mostly this still holds true with him too. This has a number of minor implications, such as ensuring they won't go before an ADVENT Officer and thus miss out on Mark Target's Aim boost and avoiding a bunch of secondary wasteful possibilities -they won't use a special disable on a soldier only for a Priest to Stasis the target, for instance- but most of them aren't terribly interesting individually. They are interesting as a collective, however; usually turn-based games with boss enemies that give any particular thought to turn order prefer to have them go first, often even if the game's design means this hampers the effectiveness of the boss. War of the Chosen avoiding exactly this mistake is a pleasant surprise!

On the note of synergies with regular enemies, it should be pointed out that the Chosen are the third and final category of enemy ADVENT Priests are allowed to target with Holy Warrior where killing the Priest won't kill the recipient, merely taking away the benefits. (If you've forgotten, Avatars and Alien Rulers are the other two)

Anyway, another turn peculiarity is that Chosen stop the clock on timed missions! (Hilariously, this includes that the timer for an ADVENT General's evac to show up gets paused... which honestly feels completely in-character to the Chosen) This generally makes little sense from any kind of realistic standpoint, but I do appreciate that it's an attempt to resolve an issue that cropped up with the Alien Rulers: that they're particularly horrible to encounter on a timed mission, because they'll tend to eat your entire squad's attention for 1-2 turns, which can result in you failing the mission even if you actually drove off the Alien Ruler with minimal harm, or put you in unpleasant situations where eg you're reluctant to work on advancing toward the objective/Hacking the objective/whatever because it'll trigger a Ruler Reaction and/or because it risks activating another regular pod when you're not even done with the Alien Ruler.

Anyway, a big thing to be aware of is that this clock-stopping only kicks in after your the Chosen are in your squad's face, not when the Chosen first teleports in.

This mostly isn't too bad, as the Assassin advances on your position incredibly aggressively, the Hunter's harrying from the back of the map tends to be pretty harmless, and the Warlock's Spectral Zombies are usually not too bad... but it can sometimes create situations where the Hunter or especially Warlock is genuinely creating problems while refusing to actually stop the clock. Even the Assassin can end up problematic if you eg keep going into Overwatch, trying to catch her with reaction fire, and she takes an unexpectedly long time to reach your squad. 

This clock-stopping behavior is also surprisingly finicky/precise, being tied specifically to the behavior where the camera focuses on the Chosen while they deliver a speech. Spotting the Chosen with eg a Concealed unit won't trigger this speech or the clock-stopping. Same idea but from the opposite perspective is that the Assassin can have sight of your squad, but if she's currently under Vanishing Wind she won't do the speech and stop the clock until her invisibility is broken. Mods readily produce other unexpected edge cases, where eg some mods provide ways for the player to enhance soldier line of sight, and seeing a Chosen via such enhanced sight, where the Chosen can't see your forces, will also fail to trigger the speech and clock-stopping.

The clock-stopping itself actually is signaled by the game, though it's a bit easy to overlook it; the timer in the upper-right is normally continuously animated, and once the Chosen have stopped the clock this animation will cease. It's a lot more obvious if the timer is low enough the game has switched the timer to being red, as the Chosen stopping the clock will revert it to the usual all-grey in addition to stopping the animation.

Also note that the clock-stopping works in a slightly unintuitive way, in that if the Chosen triggers their speech during their own turn, the timer will visually immediately stop, but it will still tick down one turn once it's your turn. Apparently the game decides the clock will tick down (or not) at the end of your turn, not when the beginning-of-turn rollover happens. So if you're down to 1 turn on the clock, don't think the Chosen might save you by stumbling into your squad!

Also note that this is very specifically mission timers. 'Soft' timers like Protect the Device being attacked by enemies aren't affected by the Chosen stopping the clock. (Naturally, this includes that they don't stop the Avenger's HP from ticking down during a Chosen-caused Avenger Defense mission) There's not many mission types with this kind of concern, and still fewer when you consider that Chosen can't jump eg classic Avenger Defense missions, but still, it's something to be aware of.

This is a mechanic that could've used some refinement, basically, but is mostly functional enough.

Anyway, moving on to...

Common Chosen Abilities

Before I start on abilities properly, I should note that the Chosen, though they have humanoid body plans and narratively all started out as humans, are actually immune to all effects that only work on humanoid enemies. (eg Justice on Skirmishers, Void Conduit on Templar) This is a relatively minor thing, but it can be an unpleasant surprise if eg you made decisions expecting to be able to Justice the Assassin out of Cover and into easy shooting range and whoops that plan you already partially committed to doesn't actually work!

Summon Reinforcements
The Chosen summons 1, 2, or 3 ADVENT Troopers, based on the Chosen's tier, with the Trooper tier affected by standard Force Level mechanics. These Troopers spawn adjacent to the Chosen, and immediately activate and scramble for Cover, even if they aren't visible to your soldiers. This is a completely free action that can be performed anytime the Chosen has at least one action point remaining, but has a cooldown of 3 turns. Replaced completely when a Chosen acquires a summoning Strength.

Oddly, while the Chosen actually have icons, names, and descriptions for most of their abilities, this isn't one of them. I'm borrowing a related Strength's icon, and have made up an appropriate name.

The exact mechanics of this capability are a bit strange and unintuitive, and further obscured by RNG being a non-trivial component: on any turn in which Chosen are capable of summoning reinforcements, it's entirely possible for them to, completely at random, just... not. Usually they'll summon reinforcements at the very first opportunity they get, but not always, and past that first summon they're particularly prone to refusing to summon more reinforcements even though their cooldown is done. (If the fight drags on that long, of course)

Part of what hides its mechanics is that Chosen are allowed to initiate the summons at any point in their turn so long as they have at least one action point, have already been 'activated', and in the Assassin's case aren't hidden by Vanishing Wind. That is, they can summon at the start of their turn, or move and then summon, or use a special ability that doesn't end the turn and then summon. I actually spent a while under the impression the Chosen operated on Sectopod mechanics of having 3 action points and almost nothing ending their turn (In part because of Freeze immediately breaking on them and claiming to have taken an action point, just like with a Sectopod), but no, they have two action points, and most of their actions end their turn. Summoning reinforcements is just free, is all.

Further obscuring the details from a learning player is the Assassin's Bending Reed, where she gets a Momentum-esque movement-only action point anytime she attacks in melee: this action point is enough to let her summon reinforcements!

The final point obscuring the mechanics is something I suspect is a bug: when a Chosen 'activates', they're allowed to summon reinforcements once their speech concludes even if they're out of action points. (This is another reason why I spent a while thinking summoning cost an action point, since I'd see Chosen walk into range, speechify, summon, and then do nothing else) Fortunately, it does have to actually be in their turn: if advancing your squad spots the Chosen, they don't get an out-of-turn opportunity to summon reinforcements.

Notably, this all means that Chosen replacing a pod is misleading, as the vast majority of the time they'll summon at least a pod's worth of reinforcements. Chosen thus don't generally depress corpse counts, and if you're slow to finish them they'll often actually inflate corpse counts across a run.

Also, while Strengths is for a later post, it should be explicitly stated that when a summoning Strength replaces this, the summoning Strength will still operate on the same mechanics, just with a different set of possible summons.

Anyway, returning to the topic of loot: the first time a Chosen summons reinforcements in a given mission, it's guaranteed one of the enemies summoned will drop loot when killed. This is true even if they summoned an enemy type that normally never carries loot, like Chryssalids, and is unrelated from the usual loot drop rate. So strictly speaking you should always endeavor to let Chosen have a turn, for maximum loot farming. This is slightly perverse, but in practice I mind it less than I first thought I would, as Chosen are sufficiently durable above Regular that you're very unlikely to walk forward, 'activate' them, and then kill them with no chance for them to act, and so you'll almost never have an opportunity to go "I shouldn't kill them just yet". It does technically slightly encourage delaying hitting their Stronghold, but I mind that even less, given there's plenty of strategic mechanics discouraging trying to 'farm' them like that.

Interestingly, this guaranteed loot actually slightly inflates expected loot drop rates compared to the base game, as the game, regardless of version, tries to have at least one enemy carrying loot in every mission that isn't forbidden from generating loot, and this routine doesn't 'count' Chosen presence: thus, when Chosen jump you this usually means a minimum of two opportunities for loot. In practice, Vulture having been shuffled out of the GTS means you still have less loot overall in War of the Chosen; I'm actually curious if Vulture being made less consistently available is why this loot point is a thing. I actually historically thought Chosen summons having loot was a glitch, same as how baby Chryssalids sometimes spawning with loot is almost certainly a glitch, but Chosen summons are too consistent about it, and this is different from other reinforcements/summons: I find it unlikely this is some oversight where a general routine is applying that wasn't intended to.

In any event, Chosen summoning reinforcements is an important part of XCOM 2 experimenting with 'boss' enemy design, as it sidesteps one of the problems prior XCOM 2 boss enemies have suffered to varying degrees: that the situation is pretty binary. With a regular pod of 2-3 enemies, outputting a lot of damage, but not enough to wipe the pod, generally still results in a reduction in danger to your squad. (By killing 1-2 pod members) Knocking off 75% of the HP of a singular tough enemy is, in an immediate sense, the same as having done no damage at all. I honestly expected the Chosen to run right into this problem when I was first playing War of the Chosen, but them summoning reinforcements helps a lot, and indeed overall the Chosen tend to be safer to leave alive than their reinforcements -the reinforcements will be shooting to kill, where the Chosen actually don't.

Speaking of.

 Merciful Cruelty
The Chosen will never directly kill a soldier in battle. Anytime a Chosen's personal, direct attack should kill a soldier, that soldier will instead go into Bleeding Out mode.

Note that I'm borrowing a different icon and making up an appropriate name: in-game, this quality is not listed anywhere, not even if you use mods like Yet Another F1 to look at a Chosen's abilities.

Also note that minions Chosen summon are not held to this, with this being particularly pertinent to the Warlock thanks to his Spectral Zombie summon spam: those will kill your troops just fine, as will his Spectral Lancers. So too will Mind Controlled troops murder your soldiers! Also note that SPARKs, being unable to go into Bleeding Out mode, get no protection at all.

My primary complaint with this quality is that the game doesn't hint at it at all. Among other points, this makes it non-obvious and a bit counterintuitive that generally good play involves focusing down other threats first, not the Chosen. I actually like that dynamic a lot more than, say, Alien Rulers horribly punishing you for trying to deal with other threats, but I imagine I'm far from the only player to initially think you needed to focus down Chosen first to avoid catastrophe.

My secondary complaint is that the Warlock is effectively not held to this mechanic, since firing his Disruptor Rifle is the only action he can take that it applies to, and he hates actually doing so, far preferring all his other tools.

My tertiary complaint is the suspicion that this is yet another deliberately invisible cheating-for-the-player mechanic in intent. It's tertiary though because I don't think it's an actually bad mechanic the way Aim Assist is.

Among other points, it actually makes a lot of narrative sense that the Chosen wouldn't be in a hurry to kill your troops. Their actual goal is to find and capture the Commander, and none of them cares all that much about eg ADVENT's infrastructure or the lives of the units you're killing. They're all also extremely confident in their skills, one might say overconfident, and the Assassin is the only one who isn't clearly indicated to literally toy with victims on the battlefield. I can buy they all are deliberately trying to leave your soldiers alive with intent to interrogate them and all. It'd be nice if they were actually capable of going after Unconscious soldiers, but given War of the Chosen's blatantly rushed state in general it's a bit hard to hold this particular, relatively minor, issue against the game.

I do appreciate that Long War of the Chosen went with this quality instead being a battlefield-wide modifier (That is, in LWotC a Chosen being present ensures any enemy landing a lethal blow always results in Bleeding Out)  and the Chosen being able to kidnap Unconscious/Bleeding Out soldiers, as that's probably how this should've worked in the first place.

On a different-but-related note, I should point out that the Chosen will almost never target civilians in a Retaliation mission. It can happen, but I'm pretty sure primarily through edge-case AI-breaking confluences of events -for example, one of the handful of times I've had it happen, it was the Warlock having made contact with my squad and ended up with a SPARK as the only unit of mine in his sight. ie his only legal available hostile action was to take a shot, and his chance to hit the SPARK would've been a lot worse than to hit a civilian, between SPARKs having innate Defense and civilians effectively having negative Defense, leading to him choosing to shoot, then picking the target he was guaranteed to hit instead of the target he had iffy odds of hitting even though this meant he wasn't attacking an X-COM unit.

In practice, you can behave as if Chosen are no threat to civilians and almost never have it be wrong, in part because none of the Chosen has access to a damaging-by-default area-of-effect attack to potentially kill civilians while trying to target your squad. They all have access to at least one area-of-effect move, but not damaging ones.

Also note that, while the Chosen talk about about how they're going to kill your people when you do plot missions, that isn't a hint this mechanic is disabled: they still knock people into Bleeding Out in such missions. I'm honestly unsure if that's a result of War of the Chosen's general rushed state, or an example of flavor dialogue that was never intended to hint at mechanics.


Daze
Each Chosen has at least one way to inflict Daze. Daze is a complete disable on afflicted units, but can be ended prematurely for free by a unit getting adjacent to the Dazed unit, at which point they will have a free special action available to remove it, even if they have no action points remaining. (Disabled units can't perform this action: Dazed units cannot un-Daze each other) Clearing Daze always leaves the victim with 1 action point (Even if Revival Protocol or Restoration was used to clear it), and additionally has a 50% chance for them to become Disoriented.

One extremely bizarre point is that if you clear Daze manually, end up with a Disoriented soldier, and then clear the Disorientation with Revival Protocol (Or Restoration, I'd assume, though I haven't strictly tested this) the soldier will actually get back their lost action point. I suspect this is an error and the relevant code was supposed to do that when clearing the Daze with Revival Protocol, especially since it took me a while to stop mixing up Disoriented and Dazed -I wouldn't be at all surprised if the development team also found them overly-similar concepts/names. (I similarly haven't tested yet if Solace has this same bizarre behavior; this space will be updated when I remember to get to that)

Also bizarre -and frustrating- is that if soldiers are on slightly different heights, you can't do the Daze-clearing... even though the game will display as green such tiles, marking them as locations you can cure Daze from. Whoops!

Anyway, these mechanics might all make Daze sound not very threatening, but where Stun duration is usually 1-2 (And remember; Stun's 'duration' is 'how many action points it eats', not 'how many turns it eats'), Daze can have durations along the lines of seven turns. Even a short Daze is generally something like four turns. You're not waiting it out and ignoring it; you need to clear it.

On the plus side, Daze can also be cleared and blocked by the usual tools for dealing with negative mental conditions, such as Mind Shields or Solace, and killing the Chosen will immediately remove Daze from all your soldiers, no need to clear it manually.

Also note that Daze doesn't work on a SPARK, and the Chosen aren't coded to recognize that fact. The Hunter will happily waste his Daze grenade on a lone SPARK, oblivious to the fact that this does literally nothing. As far as I'm aware the Warlock won't make an equivalent mistake (I've never seen him try to Mind Scorch a SPARK), while the Assassin's two methods of inducing Daze will both do damage to a SPARK and so not be a waste of time, so this only really applies to the Hunter, but it can be helpful. More widely useful is that Mind Shields also block Daze, and the AI isn't coded to recognize that, either; the Warlock in particular can be made a laughingstock by fielding a squad of soldiers all equipped with Mind Shields, as he'll usually end up spending most of his time on useless Mind Scorches and also-useless Mind Control attempts, instead of shooting people.

Yes, this means you can cheese the Warlock pretty badly with Mind Shield spam. If you feel that's too exploitable and want mechanics changes, here's some mods you might appreciate: Mindshields Grant Resistance, which makes Mindshields +75 Will instead of immunity to mental effects, Mind Scorch Deals Damage, which will ensure the Warlock is at least doing damage while trying to inflict Daze, or A Better Chosen, which overhauls all the Chosen and really ought to be combined with the rest of the A Better (something) mods, but the relevancy is that it gives the Warlock an 'Overwhelm Mind Shield' ability to let him damage soldiers under Mind Shields and also makes him stop wasting his turn trying to do things to Mind Shield soldiers that won't work. (I kinda wish there was a standalone mod for adding in Overwhelm Mindshield and the 'don't waste turns' related behavior...)

Anyway, conversely, it should be noted that SPARKs cannot clear Daze like your other soldiers can. Don't waste time trying to have SPARKs get close to Dazed people; it won't help.

All three Chosen have a way to inflict Daze en mass, so clumping overly-much is a dangerous idea that can result in your entire squad being rendered helpless. Bondmates can make it less dangerous to clump (Stand By Me works even when disabled!), but the Assassin and Hunter both include knockback on their mass-Daze actions, so Stand By Me is only really reliable protection against Daze when fighting the Warlock in particular.

Daze itself might seem a bit odd a thing to put in given it's basically just a variation on Stun, but it really serves the purpose of setting up for two other universal Chosen abilities, starting with...

Extract Knowledge
The Chosen moves to a Dazed soldier somewhere within their full movement range and gains some Knowledge immediately. The Chosen promptly abandons the field of battle.

... this.

Here we come to the first actual point of the Daze condition: currently Dazed soldiers can be used by Chosen to gain Knowledge. Extract Knowledge raises the Chosen's Knowledge, which can be problematic in the mid-to-long-term, but in the short term performing an interrogation causes the Chosen to immediately leave the battlefield instead of sticking around to wipe your squad out entirely. 

For the most part, Chosen can't inflict Daze and immediately follow up on it. Most Dazing actions provide no opportunity for the Chosen to leverage them the turn they were inflicted, such as by always ending the turn. Bizarrely, the Assassin's Harbor Wave is an exception, allowing her to mass-Daze your soldiers and immediately make off with Knowledge. She usually doesn't do it, but it's something to be aware of. Among other points, she likes to use Harbor Wave if two or more soldiers are lined up such that she can catch them both from her current position; try to not let your soldiers end their turn like that unless they're immune to Daze.

 
Strategically speaking, it's obviously bad to let the Chosen Extract Knowledge: optimally, you would never let the Chosen do this, especially since Chosen don't give bonus Ability Points if they leave on their own; a Chosen Extracting Knowledge is giving that Chosen a strategic boost and denying you a strategic boost! (Albeit a few Ability Points lost is pretty minor)

I'm emphasizing 'strategically', because on higher difficulties it can sometimes be genuinely better to let the Chosen Extract Knowledge in your first or sometimes even second encounter with them, as your early-game tools are very limited and what kinds of Strengths and Weaknesses they roll can potentially result in a situation where stubbornly preventing Extract Knowledge from going off actually results in a squad wipe. The Chosen won't directly kill (non-SPARK) soldiers with their immediate actions, but if all four or five soldiers are Bleeding Out, that still results in the squad wiped and a mission failed. You'll also lose any non-infinite gear they were carrying, of course.

Later in a run, you should virtually always have the tools to actually drive off Chosen, but those first few encounters? Extract Knowledge may be the less terrible option to arrange, and Chosen will virtually always go for it or its related ability if you give them the option.

Speaking of.

Kidnap
The Chosen moves to a Dazed soldier somewhere within their full movement range and kidnaps them, gaining Knowledge immediately, more than Extract Knowledge provides. The Chosen promptly abandons the field of battle. Until the soldier is rescued via a Covert Op, the Chosen will also gain more Knowledge than normal each month.

Kidnap is Extract Knowledge, except a lot more unpleasant to have happen.

Fortunately, initially Chosen will never Kidnap, in spite of what Lost And Abandoned might lead you to believe: leaving someone Dazed in the earliest encounters will result in Extract Knowledge happening, not Kidnap. I'm not entirely sure what the tip over point is -there's a specific Knowledge tier where the game says Chosen are more likely to Kidnap people, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's a bit of a lie and it actually marks the point they're willing to do it at all, but I'm really not sure, I just know it  normally takes a few in-game months to start being a thing that happens.

Anyway, as I noted in the Covert Op post, outside the special case of Mox in Lost And Abandoned, the game is really unreliable about offering the ability to rescue a Kidnapped soldier, to the point that you honestly might as well treat Kidnap as an instant kill; if a Sergeant or Lieutenant gets Kidnapped, it's entirely possible you'll beat the game without being offered a chance to rescue them, and even if you do get a chance it's entirely possible it'll be offered only very late, when you've got nearly a dozen Major-to-Colonel soldiers, where a Lieutenant is far too low-level to catch up before launching the final mission outside maybe abusing Promotion bonuses from Covert Ops. Indeed, a Kidnapping is often effectively worse than the soldier being killed, since their gear is taken with them, and if they have a Bondmate the Bondmate is trapped in a state of not being able to Bond with anyone while not being able to derive any benefit from technically having a Bondmate.

As such, you should generally endeavor to avoid leaving soldiers Dazed for even one turn past the early portion of a run: tactically, Kidnap is functionally an instant kill with no chance of failure, and strategically it's usually much worse than just having a soldier die. If you end up in a situation where you can't cure all the Dazes, you might want to prioritize saving soldiers with important gear (eg Alien Hunters equipment) and/or Bondmate status to minimize the sting.

Fortunately, the Assassin is the only Chosen who can and does inflict Daze turn after turn, and is also the only Chosen who can on-demand Daze as part of a damaging action: sacrificing soldier turns to clear Daze to avoid Kidnap going off isn't actually too terrible a cost most of the time, especially since Daze being inflicted by definition means any timer a mission has is stopped. Outside Protect The Device, Supply Extraction, Retaliation missions, and Chosen Avenger Defenses, Daze slowing the squad down is thus not too bad, and since mostly the Chosen inflicting Daze means they didn't attack anyone the action economy is generally to your favor.

This is all mitigated some by them summoning reinforcements, but that's a good thing in design terms! Reinforcements mean Daze isn't just a near-automatic waste of a turn on the Chosen's part. It would be really bad design if the Chosen regularly presented no threat to your squad at all.

Nonetheless, my point is that it's actually very tolerable to obsessively cure Daze to avoid Kidnappings happening, Decent play should almost never result in a Kidnapping, and should also almost never result in anything else bad happening as a consequence of trying to prevent Kidnappings.

That said, on those missions that put you under time pressure without a timer per se being involved, you may find yourself forced to let a Kidnap go through, and even outside those cases it's possible to end up with the squad strung out. This is especially a concern if you're using SPARKs, since they can't cure Daze, making it easier to end up with a spacing that would be fine if all your soldiers were human, but whoops one soldier can only be reached by the SPARK!

So be aware of that if you have Shen's Last Gift.

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Next time, we move on to Chosen randomization, starting with the Weaknesses system.

See you then.

Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure that on Protect the Device missions, the aliens will miss the device when you’re battling the Chosen. I had an Archon miss the device twice when I was fighting the Warlock the other day, and I’ve never seen them miss in any other situation so I assume it was intentional.

    Similarly, I believe Supply Extraction prevents crates from being marked or lifted while fighting a Chosen, a mission I played yesterday had one chest marked for two consecutive turns, where the Warlock showed during the first turn. I also assumed Retaliations stopped civvies getting shot (assuming any active pods don’t try to shoot them) during Chosen combat but I’ve not tested that one at all recently so I can’t verify.

    By the way, love these posts. Very thorough and good clear descriptions. You’re doing great work for the XCOMmunity.

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    1. Enemy units just don't get the guarantee-to-hit semi-secret modifier player units get when targeting objects. (This is about faction ownership, to be clear: if you have a Stun Lancer from Double Agent or through Mind Control, that Stun Lancer can't miss objects, whereas Stun Lancers in AI hands can miss) They're unlikely to miss objects because objects don't have Defense and don't use Cover and most enemy base Aim is high enough they'll hit 2/3rds of the time or more, but they can always miss. Chosen presence has no affect on this.

      The Supply Extraction crates are a bit glitchy in general. I've had crates fail to extract in a turn with no Chosen presence for no clear reason -including I once marked a crate and had it sit there, marked but not getting picked up, for the next five turns. Conversely, I've had multiple horrible, hectic experiences where I was scrambling to extract some crates even as a Chosen harried my forces -their presence did nothing to block ADVENT from marking and picking up crates. (Supply Extraction is, in fact, easily my least favorite of the new mission types at this point, even more so than psi transmitter missions, in large part due to how miserable and campaign-hurting it is for the Chosen to drop into them)

      Chosen don't prevent civilians from being shot, but they do in practice reduce the odds of there being a pod in range of any civilians on any given turn, since the Chosen straight-up replace a pod. This is especially impactful in the first Retaliation mission, where it's easy to end up with one pod activating on the first turn (Because you stumbled into it, or because it stumbled into you), at which point there will be exactly one pod that MIGHT be in position to shoot someone, or might be in a dead zone. (I've had cases where 0 civilians died in my first Retaliation mission because of exactly this situation occurring followed by the second pod activating on turn 2, leaving no inactive pods to hunt civilians)

      Glad to be appreciated.

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    2. Well TIL. I’ll thank my lucky stars that that Archon missed twice because I definitely would have failed otherwise. And yeah, the crates are super buggy. The mission type is super annoying at the best of times so the lack of interaction with the Chosen really hurts it more than other missions. Always disappointed to see it show up instead of the other supply raid. At least the Lost make it easier I guess.

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    3. I like to think that the tag-the-supply-crate missions are clever trolling on the part of the creators. They're designed to make an inexperienced player over-extend in the pursuit of crates. Even with highly-ranked soldiers I can only manage to tag a couple of crates before I have to concentrate on the baddies - and then I can tag a couple more during the battle - but Bradford implies that you have to get all of them.

      Which is extremely hard if not impossible. And of course the moment you tag them you lose concealment, and shortly after that the crate vanishes and you no longer have cover!

      It stands out as the only mission type where you aren't expected to have a 100% clear victory at the end. The capture-or-kill-the-VIP mission lets you have a partial victory but doesn't expect it of the player.

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    4. I'm pretty sure Supply Extraction's difficulty spike is purely a product of WotC being blatantly rushed, not any kind of deliberate trolling. So much of WotC's new content is a cool idea executed with less polish than base-game equivalents, and it varies heavily whether the lack of polish is to the player's benefit or detriment.

      It's also not really impossible to 100% Supply Extraction, Getting mostly-reliable at it requires some weird, unintuitive behaviors I'll be going into in a later post, but nowadays I only occasionally miss even one crate, and missing out on more than two generally means something unusual happened like an Alien Ruler jumped me and I either didn't bring a Reaper to spot them or things contrived so they stumbled into my squad before my Reaper found them. Nor is it actually an issue that the crates stop being Cover, given you want to keep moving regardless and crates you tag don't vanish until the start of your next turn; only Sharpshooters might care, and why are you having a Sharpshooter dash for a crate?

      It's also not actually the only mission type the game expects the player to partially fail. Regular Supply Raids clearly expect you to lose some supplies in the course of combat, and Retaliation missions CAN be perfected, but 'success' is achieved even if roughly 2/3rds of the civilians die. If you count the militia in the WotC-added mission type, it's entirely possible to suffer 80~% casualties and still have the game go 'yep, mission successful', and it's very rare -and basically completely outside the player's control- for every militia troop to survive.

      For that matter, Landed UFOs list 'stop the distress signal' as an objective, but it's completely fine to fail that objective -it just triggers a single pod of reinforcements. In the base game, you often WANT to fail this 'objective', because killing the pod is usually more value than whatever succeeding at the Hack might get you.

      So... no? XCOM 2 isn't as thorough about this as, say, Long War 2, where the majority of missions are designed around 'incomplete' victories, but there's a fair few missions in XCOM 2 you're expected to not get perfect.

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  2. A more meta-commentary on merciful cruelty: In a number of playthroughs, it's seemed like the Chosen weren't really playing for keeps. That's aside from the specific fact that their direct attacks can only inflict bleeding out status. And heck, the Hunter sort of alludes to that once you show up at his lair.

    Do you have a more general sense of how high a priority the Chosen are if you have to engage them with other enemies, or is it purely situational? I don't know that this happens super often, but it can be unavoidable. The Assassin showed up to an early retaliation mission once, and because she came to me and I had civilians dying ... I lost that mission. I focused on the Assassin, but Berserkers were rampaging around and it didn't seem safe to hit them while the Assassin was up. The Warlock showed up in a retaliation mission twice in my last playthrough. Early game, he was alone when I engaged him, and I think we beat the retaliation mission (but no mindshields, and he extracted knowledge). Late game, I could similarly leave him alone until I cleared out all the active combatants. Then he got curb stomped.

    I started off hating the crate raids as well. On Legendary, I typically go in with the knowledge that I'm not that short of supplies, and I tell myself that if I just mark one crate, the Spokesman will be placated. (You lose contact with the region if you ignore the mission, I believe.) And yes, if the Chosen show up, I completely abandon the rest of the crates if I have to. On Commander, it's higher supply pressure, and I suspect I'd like those raids less. Either way, I hate the psi transmitter missions (assuming none of the extend timer resistance orders are up) more than the crates for sure.

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    1. I suspect the Chosen do normal kill-shots when fought in their lairs or plot missions, and similarly suspect they refuse to Extract Knowledge or Kidnap in such conditions. Their dialogue in plot missions consistently has them claiming they're going to kill the squad, and the Chosen Stronghold design in particular would go very strange places if they could decide to disappear with someone during the final confrontation. I've yet to actually see them directly kill someone in such conditions, though, and the Chosen don't always take advantage of Daze, so I don't have a very high degree of confidence in such assertions.

      My default is to rate the Chosen as a lower priority than active pods. They tend to prioritize non-injurious actions, Dazing in particular gets prioritized heavily and its consequences are generally easy to minimize, vs most regular enemies can't do anything non-injurious or whatever they can do is pretty problematic. (eg Psionic Bomb on Codices) The Warlock is a notable exception very early in a run -his Mind Control is a huge problem, and initially you have zero fully reliable answers to it (Even with an early Frost Bomb, he could just target the soldier with the Frost Bomb), and he heavily prioritizes it, basically always using Mind Scorch as his first action and Mind Control as his second. You need to at minimum damage him enough you can readily push him into his 'danger zone', so he'll Stasis himself, breaking the Mind Control for you, which for an early squad tends to mean focusing on him pretty heavily.

      The Assassin is intimidating or misleading because she defaults to opening with a slice and can technically do it turn after turn, but the majority of the time she'll prioritize blinding the squad, mass-Dazing the squad, or Vanishing -which will always lead into a damaging action, but 'slice every other turn' is pretty underwhelming damage output even given it won't miss and ignores Armor and Dodge. Berserkers are generally a more urgent problem, or indeed any active enemy, and in Retaliation missions it may be best to focus on saving the civilians instead of running her down.

      The Hunter is defined primarily by the difficult-to-describe consideration of high ground distribution. If high ground is positioned so he can Grapple into a flanking position, he's the single most likely Chosen to do damage, because he's obsessed with his Grapple and is quick to take advantage of flanking shots if he discovers he has the opportunity. If no high ground is positioned to create that concern, though, he's really prone to prioritizing his non-lethal actions, or even backing out of sight and using Tracking Shot, which is rarely a problem.

      Yes, if you ignore a Supply Raid of any kind you lose contact with the region. I discovered this by virtue of completing a Rumor that generated a Supply Extraction, going 'ugh, I don't want to deal with a crate mission', and then the region left and I reloaded to before I'd finished scanning the Rumor and just didn't complete it, because yikes is that bad design.

      I hadn't really thought about the difficulty aspect, but now that you mention it I too have found Supply Extraction less infuriating on Legendary precisely due to the abundance of Supplies. But I still hate Supply Extraction more because it's a problematic design violation -that the game is tuned under the expectation that you'll get 90% of the goodies from each guaranteed Supply Raid, and then Supply Extraction is designed so you can easily miss out on most of the goodies. Psi Transmitter missions are badly-tuned in the sense of being too hard locally, but that's a less offensive design failing to me.

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