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XCOM 2’s next DLC is so big it almost became XCOM 3

War of the Chosen may as well be called a total conversion

Firaxis Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Jake Solomon’s team at Firaxis Games isn’t very happy with him right now. The DLC he’s cooked up for XCOM 2, called War of the Chosen is big, so big that the team considered making it the groundwork for XCOM 3.

“We definitely talked about that,” Solomon told me with a laugh. “We have a lot of features that could have been the basis for a sequel, but for us a sequel also requires an entirely new narrative. ... We’re very systems-oriented and so, for us, this is an opportunity to make a new experience, a new game. But we’re not going to totally replace the narrative.”

War of the Chosen will be an option for players starting a campaign, just like previous DLC Alien Hunters and Shen’s Last Gift. It will add three new factions to the game, groups of human resistance fighters that players will be able to win over to their side. It will also include a new tier of three Alien commanders, called the Chosen. The module will also have a boatload of new cinematics and voice acting, all with the goal of making the game more intimate.

“As you’re playing the game you’ll hear a lot more voices and they’ll be commenting on what you’re doing,” Solomon said. “It just adds a lot of warmth to the game. It feels more alive as you’re playing.”

Each of the three factions will have their own leader, who will communicate with the player in much the same way that the Council spokesman does now. In battle, the Chosen champions will taunt the player, commenting on their actions in previous fights. Each will have their own personality. The Assassin, Solomon said, is focused on duty and honor while the Hunter is a joker. Meanwhile the Warlock is almost like a religious fanatic. All three are siblings, and each is racing to claim Earth as their own.

There will also be radio broadcasts, both from Advent controlled territory and from free human settlements in the wild. It all combines to bring more vivid characters to XCOM, something that Solomon and his team have wanted to do for a long time.

The most interesting new mechanic for players is something called “bonds.” New soldiers will each have a compatibility rating, and certain individuals will get along better than others. As relationships grow, Solomon said there’s a chance that soldiers could develop a bond. After a mission, the camera will zoom in on them back at base having a beer or training together on the weapons range. As those bonds increase, more powerful skills will be unlocked on the battlefield. One allows a soldier to take their action and give it to their bondmate.

There’s even a chance that two soldiers who don’t really get along could change their opinion of one another. For instance, Solomon said, if a soldier saves a comrade that they actively dislike their relationship could begin to change.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen will be available on Aug. 29 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.

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