This massive expansion to XCOM 2 introduces three new Factions – each with their own unique strengths and play styles. Of course, the developers at Firaxis Games have their favorites. We asked Joe Weinhofferand Mark Nauta (Designers) as well as Griffin Funk (Lead Producer) to explain theirs to us and give you some key survival tips.
The Templars, in their isolation, developed an almost religious zeal for collecting Psionic energy. Experimenting upon themselves, they even created weaponry that taps into their latent skills.
WHY JOE WEINHOFFER CHOSE THE TEMPLARS
The Templars are incredibly mobile, dual-sword-wielding melee Psionic powerhouses. What’s not to love? Nearly all of their damage comes from Rend, their primary Psionic melee attack.
Using sword attacks with Rangers always felt really satisfying, but came with a high degree of risk since the soldier would often be left in a disadvantageous position, either out of cover or far away from the rest of the squad. We’ve mitigated that by giving Templars “Momentum”, an ability which triggers after every Rend attack and allows them to move back into cover (or scout further ahead if you’re feeling risky). This makes the Templar one of the most mobile classes in the game.
The Templars also have a really great combat mechanic: the Focus system. Templars derive their power from harnessing Psionic energy, which is collected after they kill enemies with Rend. Each charge of Focus boosts the Templar’s power, increasing their Rend damage, mobility, and defensive stats. It also improves the effectiveness of many of their abilities, either increasing their damage or duration based on the Templar’s current Focus amount.
At the start of a mission, Templars are slightly weaker than the other soldier classes, but they can quickly become killing machines after gaining a few charges of Focus. However, activating most of their special abilities requires spending Focus, which leads to some really fun tactical decisions:
Do you save the Focus for extra mobility and defense? Or do you spend it on a powerful AoE attack or utility ability to aid the rest of the squad? Playing the Templar is constantly filled with these small risk vs. reward moments, making every battle feel really dynamic. Choose wisely!
I also like to boost the utility of Rend by picking up Overcharge, which gives any Rend attack a chance to generate Focus, instead of only on kills. This makes it a little easier to justify sending in the Templar to attack enemies at the start of a battle, even if they aren’t likely to get a kill. Arc Wave is a really fun late-game ability which adds a cone of additional AoE damage to every Rend attack. And of course, Ionic Storm is one of the coolest and most powerful AoE abilities in the game. It requires all of the Templar’s stored Focus to use, but will barrage any enemies close to the Templar with multiple lightning strikes…and any kills will regenerate some of the Focus spent on the attack!
For utility, Deep Focus is a must. Templars gain a lot of additional power with each charge of Focus, so increasing the max Focus they can store is a no-brainer. Pillar summons high cover anywhere you want on the map, which is great to allow other members of the squad to make riskier movements and still be protected. And Invert and Exchange are fantastic for easily isolating dangerous aliens or setting up combo attacks with other soldiers by swapping the Templar’s position with an enemy or squadmate.
Templars also have access to a lot of great XCOM abilities from the Ranger, Sharpshooter, and Psi Operative. The abilities which show up on each Templar’s tree are picked randomly, but I’m always hoping to see Sustain, Bladestorm, and Reaper show up for even more survivability and potential Rend damage.
- Templars start missions underpowered and gain Focus from defeating enemies, so it’s important to set up their attacks as killing blows. Use other soldiers to inflict some damage, then send in the Templar to finish them off. The kill will increase the Templar’s Focus level, improving the effectiveness of their abilities and making them more powerful on the next attack.
- Take advantage of a Templar’s Invert and Exchange abilities to reposition units on the battlefield. One of my favorite tactics is to use Invert on an enemy within single-movement range of the Templar, which will swap their positions. The Templar can then immediately run back to where they started and Rend the target, returning to a safe location while also leaving the target exposed to easy flanking shots from the rest of the squad.
- Templars are fantastic early in a campaign, since their powerful melee attacks rip through Sectoids, and extra mobility from Momentum lets them safely return to cover. Or, you can activate Parry and leave the Templar out of cover as bait to draw fire from the rest of the squad, since the first attack made against them is guaranteed to miss!
The Reapers are outsiders and survivors – a pack of hunters that have made aliens and ADVENT their prey. They’ve existed for 20 years on the fringes of society.
WHY MARK NAUTA CHOSE THE REAPER
Having a Reaper in your squad reshapes the way you approach missions. Their ability to scout and remain concealed means an almost continuous series of ambushes on your enemies. Reapers can also go loud with the best of them, being extremely accurate with their Vektor rifle and carrying the devastating claymore explosive. And on a totally superficial level, they’re clearly the coolest looking soldiers to date. Can’t beat the trench-coat-and-mask look!
MARK’S REAPER SKILL CHOICES
I like to invest heavily into the Saboteur branch and sprinkle some Stealth abilities in as well. Homing Mine attaches a claymore to a target and gives whoever targets that enemy a 100% shot. Plus if you have the Highlands ability you have two claymores. It’s crazy powerful! On the Stealth side, I love picking up Silent Killer. It makes kill shots not increase your chance to be revealed so theoretically, if you only land kill shots, you can remain at a 0% to be revealed.
- Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Reapers are not actually invisible. The increased mobility and smaller detection radii while in Shadow can lead you to move far away from the rest of the squad. You need to be careful with this however because you’re just one Muton walking around a corner away from being in a whole mess of trouble.
- I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than using Remote Start on a car with a few ADVENT huddled behind it. They thought they were safe there? FOOLS!
- I find Reapers to be a good source of guaranteed (or almost guaranteed) damage, with their ability to move long distances and get close to enemies undetected. This allows the Reaper to finish a lot of kills when you really need it, instead of using Combat Protocol or a grenade which can then be used more optimally in the future.
The Skirmishers are a small army of former ADVENT troopers. Freed from the control of The Elders, they seek bloody revenge for what’s been done to them. They have devastating CQC attacks and can quickly whip across the battlefields with their specialized grapples.
WHY GRIFFIN FUNK CHOSE THE SKIRMISHER
The versatility of the Skirmisher is unmatched. We’ve built this unit to be able to react to any kind of situation with additional movements and actions. Their abilities combined with the power of their Ripjack and the mobility of their grapple means they can control the battlefield.
The Skirmisher fills a lot of roles on my squad that would usually take a few different soldiers to do. I like to use Rangers as my “cleanup crew” after an ambush has left one or two enemies standing. The Skirmisher’s Bullpup can fire twice in a single turn which means you have better odds at taking out any stragglers. Whiplash is also great in this situation if you want additional opportunities to take the final enemy out.
GRIFFIN’S SKIRMISHER SKILL CHOICES
Anytime I use the Battlelord ability is my favorite moment in the game. It’s the quintessential Skirmisher ability. When activated, the Skirmisher gets to take an action after every enemy action. It’s incredibly powerful which is why it’s one of their final abilities.
All of the abilities in the Judge branch, which focuses on the Skirmisher’s Ripjack melee weapon, are incredibly fun to use. It’s hard to ignore some of the great abilities like Waylay which gives you multiple Overwatch shots, but you’ll find it’s worth it when your Skirmisher is flying across the map with his grapple to claw enemies to death.
- Use the Skirmisher’s grappling hook to reposition as much as possible. That way, you can save your actions for attacks.
- Position aggressively to take advantage of flanking shots. The bullpup has a high critical rating and has the added benefit of being able to fire twice in a round.
- Get in close with Skirmisher when you want to take a target alive, but unconscious. A Skirmisher’s melee strikes have a high chance to inflict stuns – very handy when suppressing a Codex that you want to prevent from cloning itself.
- The Wrath ability allows the Skirmisher to move to their target, but always have a backup plan. If you’re grappling across the map, you may stumble into a trap. Leave yourself an extra move to deal with whatever comes next.
- Given a Skirmisher’s ability to use both actions to attack and skills that can give them additional actions, they are well-suited to deal with the Lost. They can get a backup if they miss, but to get even more Lost cleared out, equip a Skirmisher’s weapon with an Extended Magazine (more ammo) and Autoloaders (free Reloads).
You’ll get your chance to join the new factions soon enough. How will you stack up yours when XCOM 2: War of The Chosen launches for PC, Xbox One and PS4 on August 29?
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