In the XCOM games, you are up against impossible odds. Seemingly insurmountable hordes of alien and ADVENT forces. One thing that the Chosen bring to the fight in XCOM 2: War of the Chosen – a face to face foe. Singular adversaries that are plotting against you, the Chosen even taunt you as you try to stop them. It’s just one of the many ingenious additions to this massive expansion. We asked Lead Producer Griffin Funk what went on behind-the-scenes to make this happen.
One of the things the Chosen do is give the enemy a “face” beyond the mysterious elders or waves of foes your squads are up against. Was this something recognized early on in the creation of XCOM 2: War of the Chosen? What made you think of going in this direction in the first place?
Griffin F. There are always two stories happening in XCOM. There’s the narrative of the campaign and then there’s the personal story the player experiences in the game. We always try to advance both of those stories which can be incredibly challenging. They’re opposing ideas, so advancing one can easily take away from the other. The Chosen naturally advance both stories by existing in all parts of the game. They are named characters with personality and ideology that affect the overall story. They also directly interact with the player based on the decisions made. They fight you on the tactical layer and then play the strategy layer alongside you.
What were the main objectives for the creation of the Chosen?
Griffin F. We wanted to give the player an adversary that felt alive. In XCOM 2, the campaign was a race against the Avatar Project clock. Players knew the Elders were in the background and were the ultimate bad guys of the campaign, but they don’t show up until the end. We thought this aspect of the game felt a little cold. We wanted them with you the whole way. The Chosen are looking for you, taunting you, and directly engaging with you. They’re basically playing the game right next to you. As you create upgrades, they’re in their base doing the same. You can check on their progress to see what they’re up to and I like to think they have a little computer where they can see what you’re doing as well.
Sounds a little creepy when you put it that way. What are some of the challenges that come with naming the enemy and giving it a face?
Griffin F. Creating a new major adversary that has a specified name, personality, face, voice, etc. that is always the same was risky. Thankfully, War of the Chosen is such a big and dynamic game that it’s not a problem. It also helped that we made aspects of the Chosen procedural like their strengths and weaknesses. This makes fighting them in two different campaigns feel incredibly different. Hell, it makes fighting them on different missions feel different.
How does this carry over into a game that’s also largely procedural?
Griffin F. Even though the Chosen each have a distinct personality, they’ll still perform actions that are unique to your playthrough. It’s similar to how the actions taken in a mission create a personal story between the player and their soldiers. When the Hunter hits a soldier with a tranquillizer, which leads to another soldier panicking, which leads to the soldier killing another soldier, and so forth it creates a story about the Hunter unique to that campaign. To the player, that could be the moment that defines the Hunter more so than any of the cinematics.
What are you basing the Chosen on beyond archetypes?
Griffin F. Creating the different roles for the Chosen was similar to how we create the classes for XCOM soldiers. We want the individuals to feel powerful, but make up a bigger more fearsome collective that cover manycombat styles. This helps make each Chosen feel unique and fun to play against.
What was the toughest decision you had to make in regards to the Chosen?
Griffin F. One of the toughest challenges was the balance and evaluation of the Chosen’s procedural strengths and weaknesses. Since they were able to have any permutation of these perks, we had to work on balancing them based on pairings. Certain combinations of perks would make a Chosen an unstoppable killing machine. .
Really? How about an example of how one needed to be altered?
Griffin F. When those perks were totally random you could get a Chosen who was both weak against and invulnerable to certain kinds of attacks like explosives, for example.
Have any funny anecdotes from during the creation or tweaking of the Chosen?
There was a funny point in development when we had placeholder VO for the Chosen. We always use people around the office willing to record for our early game scratch VO. During development you would be playing and then hear one of our incredibly nice producers, Rosie Kofsky-Schumpert, making fun of you in her most evil voice.
Besides a Rosie-voiced Chosen, which one has given you the toughest time while playing – and why?
Griffin F. I always have a small heart attack when the Assassin turns invisible and hides. Losing track of any enemy while in the midst of fighting a bunch of others is always scary. You also know that when the Assassin hides, she’s going to come at you hard with her katana on the next turn. You either get line of sight back on her to disrupt the attack or start praying to the RNG god.
Any Easter eggs regarding the Chosen that people should keep an eye out for when playing?
Griffin F. More to keep an ear out for than an eye. If you defeat one of the Chosen and gain their weapons, try bringing them in to combat against one of the other Chosen and you might hear them comment about your acquisition of the items or their thoughts about the fall of one of their kin.
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