Eight things I wish I knew before starting XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is officially great. Look, our review says so. It adds loads of new systems, classes, abilities and gear to play with. So much that it can be hard to cut through to the good stuff. Which of the new rooms is it best to build first? Which covert actions should you prioritise? Should you hit those guys that explode with a sword, even if you really really want to? Here are a few things I wish I'd known before I started XCOM 2's massive War of the Chosen expansion.

Build the Resistance Ring

There are a bunch of new buildings in War of the Chosen, such as the troop-healing Infirmary and the Training Center which lets you spend the ability points you accrue in combat. The Resistance Ring is the most important initially because it lets you manage covert actions. These missions are the only way to hunt down the Chosen in the long term, but in the medium term as you connect with resistance factions more missions unlock that give you scientists, engineers, supplies and intel. The Resistance Ring is the gateway to a lot of the cool new features in War of the Chosen, so get it built and start sending soldiers on missions.

Look out for the soldier bonuses you can get on these missions too. It's a good way to give a soldier a free promotion, which in turn lets you more quickly unlock the squad size upgrades in the Guerilla Tactics School.

Mo' problems, mo' money

I wish I had worried less about money for the first few hours of my War of the Chosen campaign. You still regularly take a 'wage' from zones you have contacted on the world map, and there are many more ways to generate a payday if you're starting to get low. Supplies seem to be a more regular mission reward, and you can use covert actions to generate some extra green. Plus digging out rooms in the Avenger still gives you materials.

Alternatively, there is still the black market, and you will be harvesting more alien corpses from those extra missions you're taking in War of the Chosen. Likewise, there are plenty of ways to grab intel if you really need it, and I found it easier not to worry too much about those red warnings at the bottom left of my campaign map telling me I'm poor.

You can always bail on minor missions to protect your best

It's tempting to take every single mission in XCOM 2, and you probably should in most cases. However if your roster is short and you know there is a big alien or Chosen counter attack due, it can be smarter to save your powerful soldiers from exertion. Even if they avoid injury, soldiers can get tired in War of the Chosen, which increases the risk of them developing OCD or some other negative condition induced by the stress of constant battle.

The punishment for disregarding an ordinary mission is usually a supply penalty to that mission's region. Not ideal, certainly, but bear in mind the extra opportunities you have to grab supplies in War of the Chosen. The risk/reward calculation can be a little different. Naturally if you have a deep roster and you're looking for promotions, send those rookies out to die. I mean win.

Pursuing 'inspired' research isn't always the best move

Sometimes your scientists get inspired in War of the Chosen, which lets you grab a new technology in a few days. This is a very shiny and tempting option, and useful most of the time. But I had to remind myself that the vital armour upgrade isn't going to research itself, and unless you have a few scientists, that research is going to take a while to come good. The system seems to be designed to give you encouragement to try a piece of tech that you wouldn't normally go for, which is cool, just don't neglect the vital upgrades that keep your heroes alive.

Don't hit Advent flamethrower troops with swords

And be careful when you shoot them too. I lost a good ranger to a close combat attack on these flamethrower experts. Their tanks ignite and everything nearby takes a ton of damage. It's great if you get one near some aliens with a sniper shot, but don't send your ranger in unless you want him to suffer a particularly badass death taking out multiple enemies and Chosen in a suicidal swing of the knife.

Make contact with the resistance groups quickly

You need to use a covert action to discover the third resistance faction in your opening playthrough. Try not to put this off like I did. Making contact with the group grants you one of their warriors, and they are ridiculously good. Likewise, if one happens to get imprisoned, break them out ASAP. I haven't found the breakout missions to be particularly difficult, the main expenditure goes into the covert action you need to find their prison.

These heroes are worth it because they are good at blowing up the Chosen, as well as any other aliens on the battlefield, and you won't be able to recruit more until you've invested a lot in a resistance faction. Until you're at that point, deploy them carefully when you need a power spike. You don't want to lose them.

Ability points can unlock great upgrades for ordinary soldiers

Once you have the Resistance Ring and you have built up a nice cache of ability points for your ordinary XCOM soldiers, consider building the Training Center. This lets you convert ability points into extra skills for XCOM soldiers, but spend them wisely. Ability points bypass the binary ability choices you make when a soldier is promoted, so you can create jack-of-all-trades archetypes.

Alternatively, focus on powerful 25-point abilities such as Serial, which refunds all actions to grenadiers that kill a target with their cannon.

Expect the Chosen to turn up at the worst possible time

Heading into a tough blacksite mission? Expect one of your new Chosen nemeses to turn up. Each has a set of weaknesses and only tends to attack in the area they are patrolling. Use this information to build anti-Chosen elements into your squad. Each Chosen takes extra damage from one of the new resistance heroes, so recruit them all as quickly as you can and deploy the counter hero in situations where the Chosen are likely to appear. Chosen also have weaknesses to certain types of damage, so alter your gear loadouts accordingly. Luckily the Chosen hate each other so you only have to face one at a time.

Those are a few basic pointers. I don't want to get into the mad skills you get at higher levels, or to ruin any of the other enemies you will run into. All these things will kill you in good time. Hopefully we've brought some clarity to your opening hours at least.