Video Game / XCOM 2

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"Welcome back, Commander."
Central

XCOM 2 is the 2016 sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, developed by Firaxis Games.

Twenty years have passed since the aliens launched a devastating invasion of Earth. The XCOM Project designed as Earth's last line of defense was destroyed, and world leaders quickly moved to form an alliance with the aliens. Now Earth exists under the rule of the ADVENT Coalition, a seemingly benevolent order ruled by the alien "Elders," which uses advanced alien technology for the betterment of mankind.

But under this façade, the aliens rule with iron-fisted totalitarianism. Dissidents are made to disappear, soldiers are brainwashed and augmented beyond recognition, and only those on the fringes of society dare to think for themselves. Now the roles are reversed, and the shattered remnants of XCOM are the ones lurking in the shadows, seeking to overthrow the world order. Operating out of a new mobile headquarters fashioned from a captured alien transport, players must rebuild XCOM to fight back against the aliens and free the world from their control before the Elders can achieve their true, sinister goal.

XCOM 2 introduces new gameplay features like procedurally-generated levels, five updated soldier classes, increased soldier customization, more enemy types, and new stealth-based tactics. Most missions put the player under time pressure and you are often expected, if not required to retreat from a map, making time and manpower as much of a precious resource as dead aliens or loot. Firaxis also included their own content editor and unencrypted code to provide deeper modding support for the community, with several mods commissioned to release on launch day.

The game was released for PC, Mac and Linux on February 5, 2016, with Xbox One and PS4 ports arriving later on September 6.

Has an Interquel novel, "XCOM Resurrection," meant to bridge the gap between the first and second games.

Like the previous game, XCOM 2 also has a version of the (in)famous XCOM: Long War mod, Long War 2, which was first released January 19th, 2017.

Previews: Trailer 1, E3 Demo, Gamescom Preview Strategy Layer Demo, "Retaliation" Trailer, Launch Trailer

XCOM 2 contains examples of:

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  • Abnormal Ammo: Proving Grounds projects allow you to develop all sorts of exotic munitions for use against ADVENT and their alien masters, from venom rounds that can poison organic enemies to Bluescreen weapons meant to disrupt MEC drones, Sectopods, and Security Turrets. There are also Incendiary rounds, Tracer rounds, and Talon rounds, which give a boost to critical chance and critical damage. And also a wide range of grenades, including incendiary, poison, smoke, and acid grenades.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: One that XCOM cuts short in the Alien Hunter DLC. The Viper King is the only male of its species (as the Elders simply mass-clone female Vipers), and established a nest with a few other Vipers and started pumping out offspring by the dozen. Granted, it's not the end of the actual species when you destroy the nest and eliminate the King, as the vast majority of Vipers remain under the rule of ADVENT, but it's the end of the only brood not under the direct control of the Elders.
  • Alien Blood: Of course, seen from wounded aliens. Disturbingly, ADVENT troopers, who are seemingly unaltered humans, bleed orange blood when shot, giving hints to the amount of modifications the aliens have already inflicted. During the ADVENT Forge Facility mission XCOM discovers that ADVENT troops are all alien-human hybrids grown from scratch, using concentrated genetic material from millions of gene-therapy patients that have disappeared since ADVENT's founding.
  • Alien Invasion: The aliens you fought in Enemy Unknown invaded the Earth and won.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Though the aliens present themselves as benevolent and gave humanity new technology, they also turned Earth into a Police State and plan to commit genocide on humanity to create life-prolonging Avatars for the alien leaders.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Missions in desert biomes regardless of global location can have numerous saguaro cacti around that combatants can use for heavy cover.
  • The Alleged Car: When the Commander takes the helm of The Avenger, it's almost a miracle the ship is functional after the fierce battle to capture it. At the start, entire rooms are filled with rubble and exposed circuitry, many decorations and furniture show wear and tear befitting a guerrilla group, and even has "quirks" that Shen has grown attached to.
  • All Just a Dream: Early in the game, it's implied the events of Enemy Unknown were all a wargames simulation implanted in the Commander's skull, and ADVENT was mining those for tactical data to help consolidate their military superiority. Either that, or the commander spent the past 20 years reliving the few tactical battles that did happen.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Avenger defense missions, which throw a great many mechanical limitations out of the window, such as restrictions on Wounded soldiers fighting, or the Arbitrary Headcount Limit. Justified, because if you fail, it's an instant Game Over. These missions are usually very tough, but succeeding at these feels really, really satisfying.
  • Alpha Strike: Compared to the first game, soldiers in XCOM 2 are master of this, as befitting for guerrilla warfare. Soldiers now start in concealment on most missions, and with little planning, can wipe out the first pod they encounter by attacking out of concealment simultaneously. As the game progresses, you can Alpha Strike harder with new equipment and skills, such as combining Sharpshooter's Killzone with Proximity Mine, and opening the strike with yet another grenade while the rest of the soldiers overwatches.
    • However, you shouldn't throw everything you have on Alpha Striking the enemy, because you may need those for enemies in later pods. Estimating how hard you should Alpha Strike is an important skill; too hard means you waste items/skills, too soft means surviving enemies can counterattack.
  • Alternate Timeline: The game takes place in a timeline where XCOM lost the war, with the point of divergence from the original plotline as the XCOM Base Defense mission from Enemy Within, which was failed.
    • This, however, is contradicted by the actual games. If you fail Base Defense, Shen and Bradford die, but in this game, they clearly survived the loss of XCOM. Likewise, the aliens seem to initially eschew lasers and plasma entirely, and they didn't mind-control the Chairman. It seems more likely to that the game was simply based in the future of a failed XCOM, rather than one that fought and lost. The aliens would hardly have let Vahlen live and go on her rampage if they had a shot at killing her in the Base Defense. Likewise, the total absence of both EXALT and the Bureau seems to imply that the Enemy Within and Declassified games are not canon to this timeline. See YMMV for more.
    Creative Director Jake Solomon: When the aliens showed up, XCOM suffered massive casualties, and governments around the world crumbled in face of popular support to surrender. Then, the Earth was quickly overrun.
    • Certain background conversations regarding the 2015 invasion as being the absolute first time X-Com ever encountered the aliens seem to rule out the main games as taking place in the same continuity as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (though these characters may simply be misinformed, given the lengths the 1950's version of X-Com went through to erase all evidence of that invasion, as well as some background text in Enemy Within that does suggest that The Bureau occurred in the same timeline).
  • An Axe to Grind: One of the unique weapons added in the Alien Hunters DLC is a pair of axes that can be used in place of a ranger's blade (One actually used for melee attacks, the other as a once per mission ranged attack).
  • And the Adventure Continues: The story ends with the entire human race rioting and rebelling against ADVENT and far from finished, with XCOM broadcasting to rebels to hold their ground, promising that help is on the way. Meanwhile, a hostile psionic aura is seeping through cracks in the ocean floor.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Instead of individually producing upgraded weapons, you now pay a flat fee for everyone to upgrade to the next tier.
    • Pistols are now a type of secondary of weapon for the Sniper class only. Also, reloading a soldier's primary weapon costs them an action point, but does not end their turn as it did in the previous game. This saves you the trouble (and a good amount of resources) to upgrade everyone's pistol to the next weapon tier, and it spares you the awkward choice between "Waste a turn, and possibly this soldier's life, reloading" or "Draw an obsolete pistol and fire for ridiculously low damage".
    • If all other aliens in a Retaliation mission are killed, any Faceless hiding among the civilians will reveal themselves, so you don't have to hunt them down.
    • In a mission that requires all the enemies to be killed to end, If you hack an AI unit or mind control an alien and kill all other aliens, the mission ends successfully without requiring you to gun down the controlled unit.
    • The mission will also end if only turrets remain on the map.
      • Additionally unlike the original you can directly target hacked or mind controlled enemies in order to gun them down before they break free rather than having to wait until they leave your control or using explosives (or course having them drop a grenade at their own feet is still a viable and fun tactic).
    • The UI puts an icon next to enemies when you move one of your characters, letting you know who that character can see from his potential destination BEFORE you decide to move, allowing the player to make more informed decisions and not move a character and find only too late he has no line of sight on a potential target.
    • Rather than requiring players to use the Experimental Ammo and Experimental Grenade projects to roll randomly for the strategically important Bluescreen Rounds and EMP grenades, you just need to complete one project for both before being able to mass produce them. This is good, because some of the game's scariest enemies are highly vulnerable to these equipment options.
    • For some important missions such as Avenger defense and the final level, where you can't actually wait for wounded soldiers to recover, the game will allow you to deploy injured soldiers to the field. However, wounded soldiers deployed this way will start slightly damaged.
    • On "Protect the data tap" missions, while the game will spawn enemies within firing range of the data tap on turn 1, the alien pods will never use all their available attacks on the data tap each turns, guaranteeing that the player has enough time to reach and engage them and not lose the mission on turn one or two. They will also prioritize shooting your soldiers when they are in range, over further damaging the data tap (generally speaking).
    • You are still granted loot rewards if there are any still on the ground when you complete a mission that doesn't require your troop to do an evac to win, even if no unit is physically capable of reaching it before it self destructs.
    • You can go straight to the workshop to buy or build items from the mission load out screen without cancelling the deployment. Just in case you just realized that the last set of Bluescreen ammo you had was on the Grenadier you lost last mission.
    • Aliens will only ever purposely kill one civilian a turn in Retaliation missions to keep things from being blatantly unfair. However, if they miss a shot at a civilian, it won't stop them from trying again until they succeed or run out of attacks, nor will it stop civilians from triggering overwatch. Still better than a true civilian slaughter, though.
    • You can still use the Evac command after dashing, very helpful on forced extraction missions, since predetermined Evac points rarely have good cover.
    • If a predetermined Evac point is no longer viable (i.e. it was on a rooftop and that rooftop no longer exists), Central will call in a new one for you.
    • Codex aliens are immune to damage over time effects from fire, acid, or poison. This may seem frustrating, but since a Codex spawns a clone every time it gets hurt, it will prevent the commander from swamped in Codex duplicates.
    • Overwatch shots slow time and take a moment to give a cinematic view of the action, but multiple soldiers and certain abilities like Kill Zone would result in a rather long break in gameplay as each person slowly fires at each alien individually. Fortunately, once 3 or four aliens have been shot at, the game expedites the process, returning to normal gameplay with the aliens' damage applied offscreen.
      • Speaking of overwatch, a common source of frustration in the previous game was that units on overwatch would react immediately upon a hostile moving into their line of sight or moving within it with no regard for allied troops on overwatch. Consequently, it was fairly common to watch as every reserved unit in your squad fired all at once on fairly weak enemies like drones or sectoids, and since the only way to take more than one shot from overwatch required specific abilities restricted to certain classes, this would almost invariably result in wasting most their shots, or even all of them if no one managed to deal lethal damage or even hit, leaving the beefier enemies like mutons to act unhindered. In XCOM 2, however, this is no longer the case, as firing orders will be enforced in any situation where two or more units may react to the same target, meaning you don't end up in such situations anymore. Of course, the new rule also applies to alien and ADVENT troops on overwatch, so...
    • Unfortunately averted with the Alien Hunter DLC weapons. If a unit carrying one of the 4 weapons is killed on the field and their body isn't retrieved, the weapon is lost forever.
    • However, "Ruler" alien corpses from the Alien Hunter DLC will always be recovered, regardless if the mission normally allows for it regularly or not. This is to prevent Permanently Missable Content from occurring and guarantee players can always research the Ruler Armors, in case the Rulers randomly appear on a mission which requires the squad to escape via an EVAC zone.
    • Skulljacking has a flat 70% chance to hit that can't be improved by bonuses to aim. Fortunately, unlike going for a melee attack with swords or Strike, if your soldier fails to do a Skulljack, she gets a move refunded to her so you can either shoot the ADVENT soldier in the face or beat a hasty retreat.
    • Hacking enemies (yes, including Skulljacks) and sentry posts penalizes the soldier if they fail. Any mission-critical hacking objectives like chests or cells cannot fail outright; you can only fail to get the reward.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The squad size is limited to 4, upgradable to up to 6. No reason is ever really given for it, as the Skyranger visibly has 6 seats from the get-go (and would logically have more than 6, based on some of the VIP rescue missions and retaliation missions). Averted in Avenger defense missions which you will always start with 6 even without upgrade, and you will keep receiving more after a number of turns have passed, starting from the highest ranked ones.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: The Magnetic Rifles used by ADVENT troopers and officers are initially weaker than the conventional assault rifles XCOM start out with for no reason besides game balance.
  • Arbitrary Minimum Range: Sniper weapons are at their worst accuracy if you're too close to the enemy which explains the common rookie mistake of having Snipers on the front line instead of bringing up the rear and providing support fire.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Of course there's the basic sword in the vanilla game, a low-tech solution for a world beset by aliens with plasma guns. However, the Alien Hunter DLC turns this trope up to (18)11. The Bolt Caster is a mechanized crossbow with a single shot, the Hunter's Axe is a high-quality axe, and the Shadowkeeper is a flintlock pistol that appears to be firing grapeshot. Somehow, these unique pieces of equipment are simply better than modern hardware, either being more damaging and/or having useful abilities, and you can further upgrade them to Enhanced Archaic Weapon status so they'll remain at the top.
  • Arm Cannon: Heavy weapons are mounted on the left forearm of EXO or WAR suits.
  • Armor Is Useless: The basic Kevlar Armor doesn't provide any bonus at all — not even the token 1 hit point it gave in the first game. This is because all damage requires healing in 2, unlike in Enemy Unknown, where healing was only necessary when damage exceeded the hit points provided by armor. Kevlar is set at +0 HP to provide a baseline comparing other armor. The actual starting amount of health is the same, with Rookies wearing Kevlar having 1 hit point more than civilians who lack any armor.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Enemies are divided into Leaders and Followers. If a Follower is the sole survivor of its pod, it will flee and join the pod of the closest Leader.
    • The game draws a line between your squad's average position and the mission's objective. If you go too long without seeing any aliens, the other pods will make a beeline to that line in order to catch you.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • ADVENT Troopers have been sighted making questionable tactical choices during firefights, such as taking cover behind a burning vehicle that was about to explode. This is justifiable by Tygan's in-game mention that removing the Commander from the alien's psionic network as part of Operation Gatecrasher has caused the ADVENT tactical data to degrade.
    • Sectoids tend to favor using their psychic powers, even when using their pistol would be far more advantageous to them and they are flanking an enemy. In particular since two of their powers don't have any direct effect until their next turn - raising a dead unit as a zombie, the zombie can't act on the turn it's raised, while mind-controlled units similarly can't act until the next enemy turn, this can be a waste of an opportunity. Both actions also end the sectoid's turn, and their effects end if it is killed. The third power induces panic in a unit, but panicked units are liable to just immediately turn around and shoot the sectoid.
    • Same with the Codices. Their usual first action is a teleport and then an AOE vortex that drains all ammo of the affected subjects within. The teleport usually ends them flanking one or more of the XCOM soldiers so why they don't just shoot them dead is a mystery.
    • Sectopods and Gatekeepers don't bother moving around obstacles in their path...they just stomp through. No matter what that obstacle might be. And some obstacles in the game do Bad Things when damaged. It's not uncommon to suddenly see a message during the alien turn that a Sectopod somewhere on the map which hasn't been uncovered yet has stepped into a chemical tank and is now getting its armor melted off by Hollywood Acid.
  • Ascended Meme: Peter van Doorn, NPC from the first game who became recruitable in Long War mod, appears here as one of the Hero Units.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The ADVENT-administered city centres use this, with everything being squeaky clean alongside solid colours and simple geometry being used pretty much everywhere. This is because the aliens want to attract humanity to the cities for some purpose, so the beautiful cities are used as a pulling factor. Other, less regimented environments, much less so.
  • Asshole Victim: The entire Ethereal race is slowly dying off, their physical bodies having been pushed to the absolute limit of what even their great power can sustain, and will most likely soon go extinct if the Avatar Project fails. Given all of the horrific things they have done, however, it's impossible to feel sorry for them. Lampshaded by Bradford and Shen.
  • Asteroids Monster: Codices will split into two clones when damaged, each with half the health of the original.
  • A-Team Firing: In the sequel, the accuracy bonuses for close proximity are noticeably toned down on non-shotgun weapons, and even in the best case scenario, you'll only gain a bonus of 20%. Coupled with the various debuffs and the general poor aim of the average rookie, your soldiers might have a fair chance of breaking reality just to miss.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Lancers and Beserkers are prone to this, going to attack in melee no matter how suicidal it is to do so. The Lancers actually have guns, but they only use them if no potential melee targets are in range.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Reaper skill, one of the options for Colonel ranked Rangers is this, when compared to its counterpart choice, Rapid Fire. Reaper allows you to get another move action and melee attack after your Ranger kills an enemy, and so on until they fail to kill someone, with a small penalty in damage with each subsequent melee attacks. While Reaper kill chains are possible, and impressive, the ranger's sword damage is not that high, so late game, most enemies cannot be killed by a single ranger sword strike without being softened up first by other soldiers. Meaning Reaper only sees use in the rare case where enemies the ranger can reliably kill cluster together, which is situational at best. Compare to Rapid-Fire, which is just giving the ranger the ability to shoot at a target twice for a small aim penalty. Which is something far more useful as it will regularly kill most mid-game foes and severely damage even the strongest of enemies.
    • Ranger melee attacks in general are problematic. Going toe to toe with the aliens and slashing them in half is awesome... but you won't see it happen a lot during the mid- and lategame. Sword damage doesn't scale well with enemy health and armor, so melee kills will be rare, unless you soften the aliens up first. On the other hand, a shotgun blast can usually take care of most enemies, especially if you attached a laser sight (lots of extra crit chance at close range) to said shotgun. Making matters even more difficult, enemy pods normally only become active upon seeing one of the player's units... and dashing up to perform a melee attack has a decent chance of bringing your attacker into the sight of another group, who will then join in against you.
    • On the other hand, the Ranger's concealment branch doesn't fare much better. A lot of its abilities rely heavily on concealment, which only happens by default at the start of most missions. A Ranger with Phantom can remain undetected, but may become Too Awesome to Use given the limited chances for concealment. Meanwhile, the Blademaster skills can be used all the time, any time.
      • Shadowstrike sounds cool, because it gives bonuses to aim and crit chance when attacking from Concealment. However, because you lose concealment after attacking, unless you use certain mods, and can only reenter it once with the Conceal ability, this means you get two uses at max out of it per mission. This makes it very situational. On the other hand, it's good for the "If I need my Ranger to do something that reveals them, I don't want it to fail" players. Contrast Shadowstep, which causes the Ranger with it to not trigger Overwatch and applies all the time.
    • Hacking nodes can reap all sorts of benefits, such as giving your squad extra turns, disorienting all enemies, taking control of a random foe, and so on. The problem is that more often than not, the penalties for failing a hack are severe; an immediate call for reinforcements or a permanent boost to every alien's defense can easily lead to a failed mission, particularly if it's timed. Unless you're not averse to Save Scumming, hacking is usually too risky a venture to pursue.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: XCOM 2 takes place in an alternate timeline after XCOM failed to stop the invasion, and aliens took complete control of the planet.
  • Bag of Spilling: You lose all the upgrades and tech from Enemy Unknown, as in this timelime world leaders surrendered before XCOM ever got their hands on it.
  • Battle Harem: Applies to the Viper Nest in the Alien Hunter DLC. The population of the cave includes the only Male Viper, the half-dozen female Vipers that he's been mating with, and the many, many offspring they've produced. That being said, XCOM wipes them all out.
  • Beam-O-War: The commander's Avatar and the remaining Ethereal's spirits get in one briefly before the Commander over powers and destroys them.
  • Beef Gate: Story missions have certain enemies guaranteed to spawn in them, and while this might not seem so bad with the very first one (the Blacksite's turrets), it very quickly escalates with the ADVENT Forge (which spawns a sectopod) and the Codex Origin (spawning a gatekeeper and chryssalids) to keep the player from blazing through the game.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: Life has been good for many since the aliens conquered the planet, with humans gaining access to alien technologies like meld, advanced cybernetics, and fusion reactors... though millions of others have become refugees or gone missing.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The Informant a.k.a. the Councilman. When ADVENT tracks him down during an emergency transmission at the end of the game, the last we see before the footage cuts out is him shooting it out with the ADVENT troopers kicking down his door.
  • Bookends: The game begins and ends with news report cinematics. At the beginning, the newscasters are all pro-ADVENT, talking about the upcoming Unification Day celebrations and ADVENT forces arresting "terrorist cells" (X-Com and resistance groups.) At the end, the newscasts are mostly Resistance reports about defeating ADVENT and taking in refugees. The game also opens, after the Tutorial, with the Commander being removed from his/her stasis suit by Shen and Tygan, and Bradford welcoming the Commander back. After the final mission, a cinematic plays with Bradford welcoming the Commander back from their successful mission while removing them from the stasis suit used to control the Avatar.
  • Boom, Headshot: Obviously, Snipers. But you have another option in Skulljacking. It's also a One-Hit Kill, by the way.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Flashbangs deal no damage on their own (barring the soldier launching them having the 'Volatile Mix' ability) and are relatively low-tech, but they have a huge blast radius, don't deal friendly fire, and they disorient non-mechanical aliens, which slows them down by half, kills their aim, breaks overwatch, and prevents them from using their special abilities, some of which can be particularly nasty. Notably, they can instantly free your soldiers from a Sectoid's mind control, prevent Stun-Lancers from using their Melee attack, and prevent Codices from cloning themselves when damaged.
    • The Predator armor. Your first armor upgrade. It applies to your entire fighting force with just one purchase, whereas the other armour types require you to create each individual suit through the Proving Grounds, and allows all your soldiers to carry two utility items.
    • Shredder from the Grenadier tree. Shreds enemy armor on hit. So boring. So efficient against the Heavily Armored Mook.
    • Vulture from the Guerilla Tactics School. One extra piece of loot every time you kill an enemy that drops loot. It adds up quite well over time.
    • Squad Size 1+2: improves the Arbitrary Headcount Limit, permanently, like in the previous game.
    • Wet Work, straightforward EXP Booster that improves by 25% the amount of XP your soldiers gain from kills.
    • Lightning Strike: +3 mobility for 2 turns while you are concealed. Considering how many Timed Mission you will go through...
    • Integrated Warfare: improves the PCS (buff items you attack to your soldiers).
    • Stay With Me: soldiers are more likely to survive losing all of their HP.
    • Inspire gives the targeted soldier one additional action. One more action has countless uses, such as making the difference between a flank shot and a frontal one.
    • The basic ADVENT Trooper is a villainous version of this. All they can do is move, shoot, and Overwatch. No fancy gimmicks of any other enemy. Yet as the official stats page shows, that's all they need; Troopers are responsible for the largest number of kills on XCOM troops at a whopping 16% or one-sixth of the total. Adding in the Advanced version, which gives them grenades and some stat boosts but nothing else, accounts for another 8%, making a total of almost one quarter of XCOM losses to these simple foes.
  • Boss In Mooks Clothing: To a lesser extent; Alien units are typically more powerful and drop loot more often than ADVENT troopers. While ADVENT soldiers make up the bulk of the enemies, aliens are elites, usually wielding strange powers.
  • Bottomless Magazines: On the XCOM side, the Sharpshooter's pistol can fire a theoretically unlimited number of times in a single turn using the Face Off skill, which lets them fire a shot at every visible target once. That said, there's no limit on how many times you reload, as Julian points out if you stick around on the first floor of his DLC map for too long. Just how many magazines did you bring along?
  • Bring My Brown Pants: If forcibly panicked, the Gatekeeper nervously shifts in place and begins to drip yellow fluid. It's possible it's leaking blood or coolant, but it's definitely evocative of this trope.
  • Can't Catch Up:
    • The Ranger's sword. At the beginning, it is far more accurate than any other weapon and deals more damage, especially with the Blademaster ability. However, with the fact that it cannot be modded, and the higher end powerful enemies exploding upon death, getting close isn't quite worth it toward the end of the game. To make it worse, swords don't get the "Hunter's Instinct" +3 damage bonus on flanked targets unless you mod in a bugfix, so if you can get in melee range of an enemy in a single move, the shotgun will be more reliable than the sword.
    • The Grenadier's Blast Padding does not scale with armour tier, unlike its counterpart Shredder. Considering how many lategame foes can shred armour, the measly one Armour point it grants won't go far. Fortunately, there's also a mod for that.
  • The Cavalry: For the villains. On certain missions, ADVENT will call in reinforcements against you.
  • Chainsaw Grip BFG: The Grenadier's cannons are wielded like this. Interestingly, they are carried in a more traditional fashion with a hand on a standard pistol grip. When actually firing, the Grenadier shifts their grip to the chainsaw position.
  • Color-Coded Armies: Downplayed due to the customization of your soldiers and different enemy designs, but XCOM-related stuff is generally blue (The geoscape globe, the interface for things that are friendly, the background behind the Informant) and light grey (mid and late game armors and guns, the Avenger, the Skyranger) , while ADVENT favors red and black (Soldiers, dropships, even the background during their news announcement).
  • Comeback Mechanic: Losing experienced soldiers is probably the most expensive loss you can incur; however, as you progress, the game's Resistance HQ and the Black Market offer highly-ranked soldiers for purchase (up to Colonel). This lets you rebuild your army relatively quickly, though at a high cost in supplies.
  • The Conspiracy: The Elders present themselves as a friendly group of aliens who want help mankind, while secretly harboring darker designs for humanity.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Mission difficulty isn't balanced according to the size of your squad or the experience level of its members. Losing veterans will force you to rely on rookies, making subsequent missions more difficult to complete and potentially increasing the death rate of your men... which, in turn, will force you to rely even more on rookies. Good luck.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Researching a new tier of weapons triggers a cutscene in which Lily tests it out on a cardboard cutout displaying enemy artwork from Enemy Unknown. Also counts as a Brick Joke, as that game did the same but using artwork from the original X-COM instead.
    • The first time you encounter faceless, Tygan ponders if there might be a way to contain them for study. Shen quickly shoots the idea down.
    • Tygan, Shen, and Bradford will make references to the previous generation of XCOM in their idle Avenger banter, from Tygan commenting on Dr. Valen's habit for personally overseeing interrogations to Bradford missing his old, iconic sweater.
    • Besides the shared names ADVENT MEC are an obvious reference of the MEC Troopers of Enemy Within in terms of designs. Other than the fact that they are fully robotic unlike their predecessor, they have double jointed legs, favor oversized automatic weapons (similar to EW's Gauss Rifle for the MECs, carry a back mounted mortar (which was a possible upgrade for MEC suits) and generally resemble the MK I Warden MEC suits. What makes this interesting is that there's no sign in this continuity that XCOM ever actually go so far as to build MEC troopers.
      • In EW, Shen made suggestions about MEC's in the first week of the invasion, although it would take months of successful operations to gather enough resources to build one. Shen's Last Gift DLC revealed that Shen worked on building mechs for years after fall of X-Com and aliens eventually found and captured his work.
    • Whenever he finishes an autopsy of an enemy from the first game; Tygan will make notes of how that unit used to act or look based on info from Central's experiences to contrast how they are now.
    • While EXALT from Enemy Within goes unmentioned, some of the randomly generated XCOM soldiers can spawn with the iconic orange EXALT bandana, implying that they are former EXALT who went on the run when they realized what the aliens' true agenda was.
    • The basic Powered Armor is called "Warden Armor"; the same name as the basic model of MEC armor in '' Enemy Within".
    • The unique psionic aura of The Commander is light blue, unlike the purple aura used by your regular psionic troopers and the Elders/ Ethereals. This is the same color as the "aura" of the "real player character" of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.
    • At the end of the game, the Elders/Ethereals once again warn you of a greater threat, moments before you destroy them.
    • EXALT used to be a paramilitary group who often dressed in near-civilian gear, and used subversive tactics to undermine the established governments of the planet. Now XCOM fits this role, and the "Striped Bandana" prop for your troops, a dead ringer for the orange bandannas worn by all EXALT forces, brings this full circle.
    • The blueprints for the Spider Suit specifically state that it was based off schematics that they were able to scavenge from the old XCOM base, alluding to the functionally identical Skeleton Suit that you could build in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
    • After building the Shadow Chamber, which lets you know what enemies you will face in various missions, enemies you haven't encountered before are instead labelled "ENEMY UNKNOWN."
    • The implant removed from the Commander's head in the tutorial sequence closely resembles the MOSAIC implants from The Bureau: XCOM Declassified in both appearance and function.
    • During the cutscene for the Encrypted Codex Data, pictures of the aliens as they appeared in the previous game are displayed.
  • Cool Starship: The Avenger, XCOM's new headquarters, is a massive VTOL-esque spaceship converted from an alien supply craft.
  • Crazy-Prepared: According to the prequel novel Resurrection, the resistance found out the hard way that ADVENT has three layers of redundant security onboard their transports to prevent theft: biometrics that prevent the craft from being piloted by humans, then a tracking beacon that calls down ADVENT troops on the craft's position if the biometrics is hacked, and finally if both security measures are breached the craft vaporizes itself.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Continued from the previous game's Sid Meier Hero Unit, and then taken Up to Eleven. Nearly every developer is downloadable in the game to demonstrate the "character pool" feature, bringing in unique appearance combinations and hilarious descriptions.
    • One possible scan location is the "Fire Axis".
  • Cure for Cancer:
    • The ADVENT gene clinics are capable of eradicating any human disease via gene therapy. It also appears to be a front for an abduction operation, and so it is a frequent target of attacks by the resistance.
    • This is essentially the main goals of the Elders as well, who've been testing on abducted humans in a bid to design bodies strong enough to withstand their massive psonic powers without decaying.
  • Cute Machines: The Gremlins appear to have a rough approximation for a face, with their optics even having mechanical eyelids of sorts that even blink. Shen in particular treats hers like a pet and gets terribly upset whenever it gets damaged.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: This game is a sequel to the Game Over ending of Enemy Unknown. XCOM completely failed to stop the invasion and the Earth's governments chose to surrender. It's later implied that most of XCOM: EU was actually you playing a video game after the aliens beat you into a coma and drilled a hole in your brain and then openly stated that the Commander was unwittingly leading the alien troops during Earth's invasion.
  • Cyber Punk: The game design certainly took a few cues from the genre. It features futuristic technology that have good as well as horrifying applications, the game revolves around fighting the monolithic evil overlords ruling society, and the host of customization options encourage your soldiers to be colorful, unique operatives like any Cyberpunk character. Most evident in the "slums" environment, which feature the futuristic, grimy, neon-lighted streets pervasive in the genre. The Anarchy's Children DLC pack embraces the aesthetic, with even more outlandish and punk-looking customization options.

    D - H 
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: When Shadowstep says that a Ranger does not trigger Overwatch, it really does mean that he does not trigger Overwatch. This is not to be confused with the Assault's Lightning Reflexes from the first game, now exclusive to the Advanced Warfare Centre, that still triggers Overwatch but makes the first one an automatic miss. Making that mistake can hurt.
  • Dark is Not Evil: XCOM is a secretive, subversive underground organization who tend to go for a fairly dark default color scheme. The Council representative is a black-suited man wreathed in shadow whose face is constantly obscured by darkness, and who speaks in a very creepy voice. XCOM are the heroes of the game, and the Council representative is basically the game's Big Good.
  • Dead Guy on Display / Decapitation Presentation: The Hunter's Lodge replaces the Armory with the Alien Hunter DLC, using either the mounted heads or the propped-up mechanical shells of defeated ADVENT as a grisly way to record your stats over the campaign.
  • The Dead Have Names: Civilians killed during alien retaliation missions all have unique names, hammering home how every loss is bad.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • The game main menu screen will feature one of your soldiers in the current campaign (or your previous one if starting a new one.) It will even pick an environment based on the current mission, such as a burning resistance settlement.
    • Andromedons are coded as organic enemies, despite their hulking power armor, so standard tactics apply. However, once their pilot is killed and the suits become autonomous, they're now classified as mechanical, and as such they can be harmed by EMP weaponry, receive extra damage from Gremlin attacks, and can even be hacked.
    • At the start of the campaign, rookie promotions are rigged to give one of each base class before being picked randomly. If you mod in additional classes, the game will add them to the queue.
    • A soldier will react appropriately if placed in front of a wanted poster depicting them.
    • Pay special attention to units returning from a mission. If it's Flawless or Excellent, the Happy-Go-Lucky personality soldiers will be smirking, while Normal soldiers will simply have a quiet smile. Any deaths will have the soldiers sitting back and forth in contemplation. A Sole Survivor will be hunched over, with his or her head buried in their hands in grief.
    • Unlike the base in the previous game where you have lots of unnamed characters in the base while you look at it, the Avenger is crewed entirely by the people you have recruited. Engineers will man the posts you assigned them to while idle ones or those that are busy clearing space in the Avenger can be seen in the bridge. Your soldiers can be seen manning less skill important posts like the armory maintenance, hangar, and the radar stations on the bridge. Off duty crew of all types can be seen in the bar and living quarters.
    • Rulers don't react to free actions and take an action for every one your units do, so what if you instead just ended your turn? What will happen is they get half of the unused actions of your units to make you severely regret trying to trick them.
  • Difficulty Spike: The final two missions are massive leaps in difficulty from the game's regular missions. The first requires achieving the objective with a maximum of only 4 troops. The second one is a marathon run through a massive alien base before coming face to face with the final boss.
  • Disc One Nuke: The randomized abilities for Psi-troopers easily result in a game-breaking combination, like an attack that strikes all enemies in a line for 10-12 damage when enemies only have 5-8 health. Additionally, psionic soldiers can be unlocked by the end of the second month if you manage your development right.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set:
    • Inverted in the launch trailer, as the broadcast is hijacked by the good guys:
    ADVENT Speaker: And we rejoice in the destruction of the insurgent organization known as XC-
    The Informant: XCOM... lives!
    • Played with in the game itself. Your first introduction to "ADVENT retaliations," the Spiritual Successor to Terror! missions, is Central communicating with a Resistance cell, only for The Speaker to cut into the transmission, informing the populace about new measures being taken to curb the "terrorist" threat. This transmission hijack interferes with Central's attempt to warn the colony about incoming ADVENT troops, sent to wipe them out.
      • In the second-to-last mission of the game, you hijack The Speaker's announcement of a gene therapy breakthrough, intended to get as many humans to flock to the gene therapy clinics as possible to be turned into raw materials by the Ethereals, to inform humanity about what's really going on. Humanity as a whole instantly riots against ADVENT.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Occasionally when you hack into nodes you can get coordinates to Avatar research facilities, allowing you to go do those missions even if you haven't made contact with that region.
  • Dwindling Party: The first floor of the facility Shen's Last Gift takes place in has an elevator that will take your troops to the next floor, but said elevator can only carry one soldier per turn. Therefore, you are forced to slowly whittle down your party, all the while Julian keeps sending more Derelict Mecs at you. The second floor has two elevators, but the schtick is otherwise the same.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Taking a moment to read the standard pool of biographies generated for recruits will paint a picture of a ragtag organization filled with traumatized veterans, plucky survivors, and possibly escaped convicts. Fortunately, this is all fluff, and has little bearing in-game.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The cutscene after Gatecrasher shows a Codex teleporting in to see the ruins of the Commander's cell, long before you get to fight one.
  • Easy Logistics: Easier than Enemy Within and the original 1994 X-Com.
    • As with Enemy Within, you essentially have unlimited supplies of conventional ballistic weapons and kevlar armor.
    • Once you develop Predator or Warden Armor and Magnetic or Plasma Weapons, all operatives will automatically have their weapons and armor upgraded, and their Modular Weapon attachments will be inherited by their new weapons. Note that the graphics for the attachments is markedly different between the three tiers of weapons. Compare to previous XCOM and X-Com games where you need to fabricate each weapon and suit of armor individually, and to the specialized armor that must be individually assembled at the Proving Grounds.
    • Much of your monthly upkeep is simplified to Power being diverted from the Elerium generator aboard the Avenger and steady stream of Supplies to feed the personnel and maintain the hardware.
    • Firebrand never seems to need to requisition fuel to keep her Skyranger afloat, no matter how many missions you run.
    • Proving Ground projects seem to allocate resources for fabrication that allow you to always have X amount of a developed Experimental weapon or armor available per mission once you complete them, and it seems to require little more than you passing the engineer(s) in the Proving Grounds an Elerium Core and some other ingredients.
    • One minor detail that is handled more realistically is that the loot you can recover from timed missions that require extraction is markedly reduced compared to "normal" missions, as your operatives simply lack the time needed to load Firebrand with whatever corpses the enemies leave behind before being forced to leave by approaching ADVENT interceptors. In such missions, the only loot directly recovered from the field are any Elerium Cores and modular weapons parts taken from slain ADVENT troopers and aliens (plus "one-time" corpses such as the first Codex Brain or the Ruler corpses).
    • Monthly/weekly supply drops are not directly carried to the Avenger immediately - instead, the Commander must direct the Avenger to the arranged drop point and scan to locate the resources, which presumably are hidden to prevent discovery by ADVENT. Some of the mission 'reward' contact points generated after successful missions that can be scanned for in this manner are Permanently Missable if you don't allocate the time needed to find them after a few days. Furthermore, there exists an ADVENT Dark Event that can reduce the amount of supplies that can be smuggled to XCOM via the drop due to increased security checkpoints.
  • Enemy Mine: With the Resistance Warrior DLC, some randomly-generated soldiers can come equipped with outfits and accessories similar to those of EXALT, XCOM's rival from Enemy Within, suggesting that the two have banded together in the face of the Aliens' conquest of Earth. The fact that the readily-available Striped Bandanna available a cosmetic option looks exactly like EXALT's signature accessory only adds further evidence.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Practically an Exaggerated Trope - unlike Enemy Unknown's cars that are likely to explode from eating laser and plasma fire or explosives, 2's can explode just by being vaguely nearly by any firefight.
  • Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: The shining white ADVENT cities use this aesthetic, at least until you get out into the slums, where it degenerates into Used Future.
  • Evil Counterpart: A few of XCOM's soldier classes have their counterparts on the enemy's side.
    • Stun Lancers are the evil versions of your own Rangers, as they can dash significant distances to deliver a devastating melee to your soldiers.
    • Mutons are another interesting counterpoint to your Rangers - they can shoot back at you like rifle-equipped Rangers, enter melee range with the bayonets on their plasma rifles, and possess cover-destroying armor-shredding grenades.
    • ADVENT MECs are the evil counterpart to Shen's MEC troopers from Enemy Within, with a similar heavy armor support role. They even have the cover-destroying grenade launcher attachment that MEC-3 Paladins can wield.
      • Shen's Last Gift reveal they are based of the XCOM SPARK prototype. Making them a literal evil counterpart to the SPARK.
    • Your own powerful Psi-operatives have psionically powerful alien adversaries, but none are quite as similar to them as the Avatars.
    • Both the Officers' Mark and your Grenadiers' Holo Targeting grant additional Aim to their allies against the designated target. They even use differently-coloured versions of the same effect.
    • Taken Up to Eleven by the MOCX Initiative mod, which gives ADVENT Elite Mooks that use the same classes as XCOM and can get promotions and PCS as they survive missions. They even wear the Carapace Armour from the first game.
  • Evil Is Petty: The "Stray Dogs" scan event confirms that ADVENT has banned all domestic and agricultural animals, euthanizing everything from from dogs to cows. Their status as pampered pets that have no agency of their own (or even livestock) might draw some uncomfortable comparisons between their own treatment of humanity, and of course chose to sweep it under the rug.
  • Evolving Title Screen: The main menu scene usually show a soldier observing an ADVENT patrol, but the scene usually resembles the mission in your latest save, and the soldier is always one of those you have in the mission. If your latest save is not in mission, then the scene is random, but it always feature one of your soldiers.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A big plot point is figuring out the purpose of the "Avatar Project". If you know what the word Avatar literally means note  and you realize the Elders are treated as gods (Down to the ADVENT Speaker's preacher-like speeches and reverend-like outfit)... Well the project's name is literally telling you what its end goal is. To create hybrid human/alien bodies for the Ethereals to inhabit.
  • Exploding Barrels: Propane tanks and gas pumps can be targeted by weapons and shot if there are enemies within the resulting blast radius.
  • Falling Damage: Averted in most cases, where units can jump off two story buildings with impunity. However, blowing the floor out from under someone with a grenade will cause them to take damage both from the explosion and the resulting fall.
  • Featureless Protagonist: In this game, the player character (The Commander) actually has a physical presence in the world, so naturally, almost every detail about them is obscured. When the Commander first rescued from their confinement, they're wearing a thick, astronaut-like suit that obscures even their gender, and once you're freed all cutscenes shift to first person or have the Commander absent. The other characters don't even use pronouns, either, it's just "Commander" or "the Commander." Even the second time they take to the field, the Commander is remote controlling an Avatar body (androgynous, for good measure!) that never speaks on its own. However, when hit, Commander's Avatar lets up scream like ADVENT soldier.
  • The Federation: Invoked. The ADVENT's extraterrestrial sponsors style themselves as a peaceful coalition of alien races that want mankind to join them. In fact they just conquer other races, modify them to try and make them "ascend", and then keep them as a slave race if that fails.
  • Fictional Holiday: The world now celebrates Unification Day, the anniversary of worldwide unification under the ADVENT government and their alien sponsors.
  • Flunky Boss: The final boss spawns alongside a pair of Archons, and will continuously summon trios of mid-tier aliens to fight alongside it.
  • Foreshadowing: Lily will mention she once considered linking an ADVENT MEC to a Gremlin's AI to make robotic XCOM personnel, before deciding against it as Bradford likely would not agree with reactivating a MEC in the base. Come Shen's Last Gift, the SPARK is essentially just that, down its default head being based on a Gremlin's chassis (They also share the same HUD). Ironically, they are what ADVENT based their MEC on.
  • Fragile Speedster: Codices, due to lack of armor and tendency to teleport. Taking damage spawns a clone and splits the codex's remaining health, making them even more fragile.
  • Frontline General:
    • The Commander in the last mission, thanks to a remote controlled Avatar body.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Other than ADVENT (which isn't even confirmed to be one, since it's never dotted), there are the E.X.O. suit and the W.A.R. suit.
    • The Alien Hunters DLC adds the R.A.G.E suit.
  • Future Copter: XCOM uses rocket powered VTOL craft as dropships, and their Cool Starship similarly uses a VTOL type design.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • If a Chrysalid Gestator was on a map, you can't load saves made while it's around. This could be mildly annoying in a regular run and might have required a reinstall, but if you took a break from an Ironman run in the middle of a retaliation mission, you just lost your game. Thankfully, this was patched in the first hotfix, and all files affected should work.
    • The broken saves can also impact on other missions, probably based on the amount of enemy corpses on the map. Examples of missions that can break include the Avenger Defense missions, due to the infinite respawns, and the final mission, due to the sheer number of enemies that show up.
    • It's possible for the Avenger to get "stuck" when traveling, which prevents you from doing anything aside from restarting the game. Considering the only fix seems to be loading an earlier save, this is devastating to an Ironman.
  • Genuine Human Hide: Genuine Alien Hide in this case. The unique armor suits you can craft from the Alien Hunter DLC incorporate the Ruler Aliens' features to an almost disturbing degree, with the Serpent suit using the Viper King's head as a helmet and the R.A.G.E. suit using the Berserker Queen's skin as its armor plating. The aliens certainly consider this horrifying; if an enemy sees you wearing the armor made of their relevant species, they might actually panic and run away.
    • Also, your soldiers love decorating the Hunter's Lodge with tokens made from fallen enemies, like Viper snakeskin curtains or Berserker hide rugs.
  • Geo Effects: As with its predecessor, buildings and cover can be destroyed to create new paths or expose enemies. In addition, blowing floors from under units, whether friendly or not, will make them fall, damaging or even killing them. This is the best way to take out ADVENT turrets guarding their bases, as a fall from their high perches will kill them at any height.
  • Gilded Cage: Tygan explains the appeal of ADVENT cities in these terms. Citizens receive free housing and care, comfortable and easy jobs, and lack for little. The only price is having a traceable biochip installed and heavy monitoring to the point that Tygan recalls a lamppost asking him for his ID.
  • Global Currency: "Supplies" is your primary currency, since food and tools are worth more than gold to XCOM. (It uses the same currency symbol as the last game.) The second global currency is Intel, which is mostly spent on expanding your territory or buying assorted goods and personnel from the Black Market.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • The normally super-secretive Informant hacks directly into the ADVENT Control Network without disguising his signal to quickly deliver a message of vital importance to the Commander: that the Elders are planning to process all people, not just select ones, in a move that will result in the complete eradication of human life. Naturally, ADVENT catches onto his actions and moves in to kill him.
    • The above in turn means that the threshold has been crossed for the aliens as well. Since XCOM has demonstrated that it can disrupt their schemes and kill the Avatars, they feel that in order to complete the Avatar Project in short order, they must collect every last drop of human genetic material.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Bradford sports one. Players can also give their veteran soldiers various types of scars for cosmetics.
  • Greater Scope Paragon: Possibly hinted at in the final mission. As the Commander and his squad assault the Avatar base, they receive communications from the Speaker and "Angelis Ethereal," basically telling the Commander to knock it off. Then, another Ethereal (using the voice from Enemy Within, rather than the more feminine voice of XCOM 2), breaks into the chatter, urging the Commander on to defeat the aliens "as you did before." Exactly who this Ethereal was, what he meant, and whether or not he's actually "good" is a subject of much speculation by the fanbase.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Patrolling enemies and civilians have a marked "zone" where they can spot your troops, and breaking down doors and windows can cause you to lose concealment, too. Barring all that, however, you can:
    • Open and close doors in enemy line of sight.
    • Walk down the street out of cover.
    • Send your flying, humming Gremlin to hack objectives.
    • Go up and down ladders or power lines.
    • Throw round, grenade-shaped battle scanners.
    • Stay behind cover very still if an enemy wanders close and catches you in their line of sight zone. This won't bust you so long as you don't move or they don't accidentally flank you, even if a park bench is the only thing between the two of you.
    • Use the grappling hook on the Spider or Wraith Suits.
    • Inverted as well, The Guards Must Be Clairvoyant. Concealment is simply a means to set up good ambushes, rather than being outright able to sneak through entire missions, and the programmed behavior of the guards reflects this. They'll change their patrol paths specifically to trap a hidden operative into either staying still or blowing their cover despite not knowing of their existence, and they'll stop patrolling specifically to hang round that hidden operative if they get close enough. Sectopods can also use their AOE attack on a hidden operative they can't reveal.
  • Gun Accessories: ADVENT modular weapons technology, once researched, will allow you to attach a variety of accessories to your operative's weapons (upgraded weapons can have more accessories attached). These include:
    • Stocks that make your operatives just barely accurate enough to do chip damage even if they miss. The better the stock, the higher the chip damage.
    • Scopes or Laser Sights that will respectively improve accuracy and critical hit rate.
    • Extended magazines and Auto-loaders. The first increases the amount of ammo pips available for you to use per reload, while the second gives you a number of free reloads per mission (normally, reloading costs a single action).
    • Repeaters, which gives weapons a small percentage chance of killing aliens instantly regardless of their current health. Kills with the Repeater effect are marked in the user-interface with the word 'Executed!' rather than the standard display of damage points inflicted by the attack.
    • Hair-Triggers, which give a percentage chance that your shots become free actions.
  • Half-Human Hybrids: The "Evolved" aliens all have a mix of alien and human features, after human DNA was spliced into them.
  • Hand Wave:
    • The "Magnetic Weapons" research answers the question of why your soldiers originally use the inferior conventional weaponry rather than scavenging the superior ADVENT weaponry. The report states that ADVENT Mag Rifles contains built in scanners that can detect when a user without modified genetic sequences handles it, and will self-destruct with lethal force if the unauthorized user tries to fire it. Besides, you're able to make armaments on par with ADVENT magnetic weapons by that point anyway.
    • Sabotage missions still require you to place X4 charges on a supporting column to take the facility down, even when everything but the support column has been leveled in the fighting. As Jake Solomon stated, the facilities still include an underground portion, so the job will only be half-done unless you collapse it with those X4 charges.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Unlike the first game, armor can actually reduce damage, but this is far more significant to giant enemies than human-sized ones or XCOM troops. Sectopods and Andromedons in particular have massive armor scores that you'll need to bypass or permanently reduce with special attacks if you want to put them down reasonably fast.
  • Herd-Hitting Attack: Multiple examples, from the expected grenades and explosives, to psi-attacks that can hit multiple enemies and do more damage for lower Will scores, to the Codex's rift that will disable all weapons in an area and then create an explosion the next turn.
  • Heroic Mime: Continuing the tradition from the previous game, the Commander never says a word. Even when they're controlling a Avatar body for the final mission, you never utter a sound.
  • <Hero> Must Survive: The Commander understandably must survive the one mission (s)he appears in.
  • Hero Unit:
    • Like in the first game, giving certain names to your soldiers will turn them into Purposely Overpowered XCOM Heroes. Known names include Sid Meier and NPC from first game, Peter van Doorn.
    • The Commander, inhabiting a powerful Avatar, personally partakes in the final assault against the aliens.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In the penultimate mission, XCOM hacked into ADVENT's broadcast network, replacing its latest global broadcast with a message revealing ADVENT's atrocity, triggering a global rebellion.
    • Twofold when the Ethereals are defeated; Not only does XCOM turn one of the Avatars they've been trying so long to create against them, they do so via the same process the aliens used to turn the commander into a surrogate general for ADVENT.
    • A Sectoid can easily pull defeat from the jaws of victory if their squad catches an XCOM soldier in the open. They'll often move first and mindspin the operative, potentially panicking them, which always results in them moving to cover. The later coin flip between hunkering down or shooting at an enemy (and even killing the Sectoid) is just the cherry on top.
    • Don't overdo destruction of cover to expose the aliens, lest your own troops have nowhere to cower behind when advancing.
    • Vipers can get themselves killed by deciding that it's a good move to try to constrict one of your soldiers if they are successful but their target is a Ranger with Bladestorm.
  • Hollywood Acid: Employed both by the aliens (specifically the Andromedon) and XCOM (in the form of acid grenades), as well as occasionally found as a map hazard (destructible chemical containers that will cause a spill of the stuff when damaged). It's green, it bubbles and hisses ominously and it melts even advanced alien materials into slag in a matter of seconds...
  • Humans Are Special: Humans as a race occupy a sweet spot of both physical, mental and psychic ability. To the point where most pre-existing alien race have been made better through the addition of Human DNA: Sectoids are stronger, more durable and boast improved psychic powers; Mutons are more agile and smarter; this even extends to the Ethereals, whose half-human Avatars are outright deadly and the entire reason for them to single out humanity for conquest.
  • Human Resources:
    • It's nothing new considering that it was implied in the previous game that some humans were turned into alien food, but humans are shown to being broken down into some sort of green slime (most likely to be used in the Gene Clinics) in the ADVENT Black Site mission.
    • As the plot progresses, it is ultimately found out that the processing system is (also) used to search the human genome for a potential cure of the Ethereals' body atrophy, as well as to produce the Avatars that were intended to become their new hosts.
    • And from a gameplay perspective, your experienced soldiers are often the most precious resource you have as well. Start losing too many troops and Bradford will advise you to pull out of a difficult mission, and it may be to your advantage to do so (recovering bodies as you go so you don't lose their unique equipment as well). Fortunately, the game lets you replace a deceased experienced soldier at a high price.
    • Dr. Tygan mentions that the one thing he misses from ADVENT's cities is the burgers, that are really good. Though he wonders where they found the meat and doesn't like to think about it too much... especially since Lily notes that all the cows are gone. However, given the scale of which ADVENT can clone and manufacture organic creatures, it's far more likely they're just growing meat in vats. One of the randok events on the Cityscape involves a Burger Production facility, with the troops sent there report that there's no source for meat.
    • Inverted throughout the course of the game, as you build equipment that explicitly uses material taken from aliens, such as harvesting Viper venom to make nanomedikit upgrades or Chryssalid scales for armor upgrades. The Alien Hunter DLC takes it even further, as you actually turn the Ruler Aliens' corpses into armor.

    I - R 
  • I Call It "Vera": The player is able to customize and name weapons that the operatives use. If the user happens to die, the weapon can be retrieved and given to another operative to use.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: ADVENT burgers appear to be a form of this.
  • Improvised Armor: The Resistance Warrior DLC gives new options for the basic game armor - one of them is a suit made of scavenged components and chunks of ADVENT Armor (with an XCOM logo spay painted over the ADVENT logo on the shoulder).
  • In the Hood: Hoods are now an option for your Operatives to wear.
  • Increasingly Lethal Enemy: The Final Boss will keep summoning reinforcements. You have to hurry and kill them before your troops get swamped.
  • Infernal Retaliation: Hellfire Weave is an armor underlay that is guaranteed to light melee attackers on fire—the importance there is that an enemy on fire can do very little except move or shoot, and their melee attacks are disabled. If you put it on a Ranger with the intercepting Bladestorm, equipped with a plasma blade (also a good chance of setting enemies on fire) then most aliens that try to strike them will burn for their troubles.
  • Interface Screw: Any large enough explosion will cause the UI to briefly flicker with static, which are typically caused by your Grenadier soldiers.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Several during combat:
      • Once again, the fact that you can't move into tiles occupied by enemies can help you locate hostiles or civilians you don't have a line of sight to.
      • When in concealment, you'll sometimes be able to see the "spotted" tiles from enemy pods you haven't discovered yet.
      • Normally, you can issue a move order to your units and select a different one before the unit actually finishes moving, which is convenient when you're trying to move many of them at the same time. However, if something (such as activating an alien group, breaking concealment, or getting a message from Central) will be triggered during your unit's movement you will not be able to do this as the camera will follow the unit until the triggered event occurs, serving as an early warning.
    • Since the outcome of the game actions are largely decided by the RNG, the calculations are completed in the first few milliseconds and everything else is simply suspense. The result is that Steam Achievements can pop up for feats like "hack an enemy" when you were sweating over the low percentage of a success, or you'll be notified "Soldier Promoted" before you've even discovered the enemy who's about to enter your overwatch.
    • It also averts the previous game's example, as the cinematic camera triggers on most shots, even if the shot will miss.
    • The Avatar Base icon appears in the Pacific Ocean, informing you how close the aliens are to completing the Avatar Project. No one knows where the Avatar Base is, and Shen speculates the Psi Gate that leads to it is showing them a location not on Earth. It's finally revealed, in literally the last room, that the Avatar Base was underwater the entire time.
    • Even if you haven't beaten the Lost Towers mission and unlocked SPARK, the existence of the SPARK equipment in the loadout choices gives the game away.
  • Justified Tutorial: While it can be skipped (especially by those who wants absolutely zero casualties), the tutorial level has some significant part of the background story.
  • Kent Brockman News: Every news show is dedicated to upholding the ADVENT regime, and portrays XCOM and other rebels as terrorists.
  • Kill It with Fire: Incendiary grenades are available, and later flamethrowers can be attached to heavy armor.
  • King Mook: The "Alien Hunters" DLC features souped-up versions of regular aliens with special powers. Unlike other aliens, killing them is considered strictly optional and they may retreat during a mission as well, making them a bit Metal Slime. The reward is new research options to create new armors with special powers.
  • La Résistance: XCOM is now a rebel force looking to overthrow the ADVENT Administration that rules the planet.
  • Last of His Kind: The Viper King, the His part being the relevant part. Subject Gamma is the only known example of a male Viper, the rest of the species being female and their reproduction handled with test-tubes. Then you kill him. It's unknown if the process used to create him could be replicated again, however.
  • The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort: Just like in the previous game, the aliens that can't Take Cover are those that are so hardy they don't need to, or they have innate Defence that confers the same advantage anyway. Or both. You also don't get the 40% bonus to critical hit chance that flanking normally does.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Subverted. Even when your troops successfully kill a pod of aliens from ambush and there are no visible hostiles left over, your Concealment is blown for the rest of the mission.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The ADVENT Administration is a a world government that serves as the human arm of the alien invaders.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: The cities are clean, organised and the residents have access to the advanced medical care and food but many people choose to live in ramshackle shantytowns because they are outside of ADVENT's iron-fisted control.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Played with. Killing the third and final Avatar doesn't directly lead to the destruction of the Avatar Base, but the Commander's psi battle with the Ethereals does, though it's left nebulous if the battle itself caused catastrophic damage to the base, or if defeating the Etherals did it.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: When first released, the default game was rather unoptimized, which led to longer than expected but still tolerable loading times. Still, there were two odd results from this:
    • Players discovered a shortcut where during a loading screen, they could simply hit Caps Lock, and for a surprising amount of them, the minutes-long loads were reduced to seconds. The potential shortcut works because it forces the game process all load orders at once, instead sequentially, and though high end computers are able to handle the load, the game instantly crashes for the rest.
    • A coding oversight meant mod use would quickly extend the loading screens to unreasonable levels. The default shader file was accidentally 85mb instead of 150kb, and though individually the larger size was insignificant, it's almost unnoticeably included in the default mod base of the official Mod Engine. The result is that every single mod loads with at the very least a size of 85mb, and since players frequently install a few big mods and dozens of tiny ones, the computer suddenly has one or two extra gigabytes to sift through for each loading screen.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: It is implied that the events of Enemy Unknown may have took place in one of these, with the purpose of researching the Commander's tactical skills for ADVENT use.
  • Low Level Run: The "Beginner's Luck" achievement requires you to complete a mission using only Rookies in July or later, by which time the toughest alien types have been deployed.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Again, the rookies you start off will have the aim of a stormtrooper and panic as soon as a shot grazes them, but given enough experience they'll eventually grow into the finest warriors Earth has to offer.
    • The Specialist's Gremlin, at least in terms of attack. The Mark I's combat protocol ignores armor, but only deals a measly 2 damage (4 against robots), useful only if your last barrage left an enemy with a sliver of health. The Mark II upgrades it to a slightly more useful 4 damage, but guaranteed 8 damage against robotic enemies can quickly finish off a MEC after an average attack instead of focusing your entire squad on it. By the time the Mark III rolls off the assembly line, its 6 damage is basically a standard, unavoidable attack, regular MECs can be One-Hit Killed by the 12-damage shock, and Heavy MECs and Sectopods will wish they were programmed to retreat.
    • Psi-Operatives play with this trope to hell and back. Sure, they may start off as fresh rookies, but the fact that their continuous training method disregards combat means they don't need to risk injury, potentially missing out chances for training like your regular soldiers or even getting killed. It takes time, but not effort, and a month or two of training, your psi-operative's first combat experience can have them more dangerous than even hardened veterans.
  • Mauve Shirt: Irish Jane Kelly continues the Argentine Heavy's tradition of surviving the tutorial mission and being your first promoted soldier (a Ranger). And as per the trope, you can still get her killed in say, the first mission after that, of course.
  • Mildly Military: XCOM was never a particularly strict organization in terms of bearing, uniform dress codes, and other such protocol during the original events of Enemy Within, but in this ADVENT-controlled era, their standards have been forced down even further, as XCOM is no longer a government-sanctioned special forces team, but the surviving remnants of said special forces trying to train up an underground resistance to take back the world from ADVENT and their Elder masters. Dress codes are notably a lot more lax than any armed force could possibly permit, and radio chatter is a lot more informal. Of course, Bradford and the 'By-the-book' personality operatives retain their strict military bearing.
  • Multinational Team: XCOM is still made up of many different nationalities, and the soldier's armor again displays their country's flag. This time however there is a greater variety in accents to differentiate them, and you are also able to change a soldier's nationality in character customisation. Your XCOM members still wearing national flags on their uniforms is a point of defiance for them. The Elders have done their best to wipe out all old governments and encourage humans to use their alien language. XCOM's members proudly display their old national heritage.
  • Mystical Whitehair: White hair seems to be associated with psionic potential, since soldiers who receive Psi training automatically change their hair color to white (though this can be changed later). This also applies for the Avatars.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Avenger starship is named after the aircraft required to take your troops to Mars in the original X-COM.
    • The new Viper breed of aliens are clearly a Call Back to the Snakemen race of the original X-COM.
    • One of the files in the Commander' s quarters says that the XCOM Project was formed in 1993, the same year that X-COM : UFO Defense came out.
    • The final mission takes place in an underwater base akin to Terror From The Deep, and the final cutscene (an ominous glow rising from a crack in the ocean floor) is somewhat reminiscent of that game as well.
  • Necessary Drawback:
    • The different types of armour. Heavy armours give the most health, Armour points and a heavy weapon mount. Light armours give the least health but give mobility increases, dodge chance and a Grappling-Hook Pistol. Medium armours offer a moderate health boost, a second utility item slot and only need one purchase to unlock the next tier for everyone, whereas the other two types need to be crafted one suit at a time from the Proving Grounds.
    • Moves that increase damage, like the Sharpshooter's Deadeye, or allow for two attacks with one move, like the Ranger's Rapid Fire, suffer an aim penalty.
    • Moves that let you attack multiple times a turn have some kind of drawback, though it varies; for example, Kill Zone allows Overwatch shots against everyone that moves but only in a small cone, while Reaper deducts one damage for each kill made.
  • Nerf:
    • The March 2016 Patch makes the Mimic Beacon a lot less durable, as it can no longer dodge attacks or use cover. It also costs more resources to make.
    • The May 2016 patch removed the ability for the repeater's one hit kill effect to trigger off of the stock's scratch damage effect or any damage over time effect.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • The Elders accuse XCOM of this, since they were apparently using the Avatar project to beat back a Greater Scope Villain.
    • Can happen in the protect the data tap missions. Data taps are guaranteed hits without needing to check for accuracy. If you lower a foe's aim via disorientation, Suppression or something else and it has line of sight to the data tap, it may decide to attack the easier-to-hit data tap instead.
  • Nintendo Hard: It wouldn't be an XCOM game without difficulty. Most of the enemies are even more deadly than their original counterparts, many missions are on a strict time limit, and resources for advanced equipment are harder to find, making this game just as challenging as Enemy Unknown. Word of God states Easy is the XCOM: Enemy Unknown Normal.
  • Nobody Poops: You can (and fight your way through) see various houses in the game, including a glass one in the Alien base, and they all lack bathrooms.
  • No-Harm Requirement: The spokesman will give you special guerrilla missions from time to time. Half of them require you to rescue a scientist or engineer. The other half require you to kidnap a VIP without killing him. To do so you can knock him out and carry him to the evacuation point, with the carrying soldier unable to do any thing besides running. If you think you are unable to take him alive you are allowed to shoot him, but this will greatly reduce your payout for the mission.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • Enemies raised as zombies by sectoids die if the sectoid who created them dies. A mind-controlled unit returns to your control if the controlling alien dies.
    • Mind controlled aliens are also freed if the controlling Psi Operative dies or leaves the field via evac. Same for hacked ADVENT robots if the specialist who hacked them dies or evacs.
    • Same for panic effect. It is the reason it is often just a free uncontrollable turn. If you can kill the Sectoid that caused panic or move a Psionic operative with Solace in range, you get a full turn, even if you just moved and shot at the alien's turn.
    • Zig-Zagged at the end of the game. Like the previous game, you win as soon as you kill the boss enemies, but even though your squad's escape isn't hampered by any non-Ethereal aliens, the Avatar's mooks don't visually perish like before. Finally, even with the Ethereals gone and much exposition how their soldiers are dependent on their psi-network, ADVENT forces continue to fight on despite the psi-network's destruction (though they're obviously fighting a losing war).
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • Carrying your fallen soldiers is now a gameplay feature, either to get them to safety if they're unconscious or hurt, or to retrieve their equipment if they're KIA.
    • If a critically wounded or unconscious soldier is left behind, they're marked as Captured. This means that there's a chance (but not a guarantee) that a future mission will appear in which you can rescue them, with their skills and equipment intact.
  • No Sell:
    • Rangers can learn the ability "Untouchable," where the first alien attack next turn is a guaranteed miss, if the Ranger scored a kill that turn. Doesn't matter if the attack is a poisonous cloud, a Muton bayonet, or as Sectopod's squad-wiping Wave Motion Gun, your Ranger will ignore it. Any following shots are fair game, however.
      • Untouchable can be refreshed via Overwatch kills. If you are lucky, an experienced Ranger can chain through the alien turn. Of course, aliens have to cooperate.
    • The Psi-Operative's "Fortress" ability, which makes them outright immune to most status hazards like Fire, Poison, and Acid. "Solace" ability does the same with enemy psionics for your entire squad.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • In the previous game, Squadsight snipers bordered on Game Breaking levels of effectiveness, as their mechanic of "more distance = more accuracy" resulted in players leaving them far behind the lines, picking off enemies in front of their hunkered down spotters, in a perfectly safe and utterly unspectacular strategy. Squadsight is now inherent to the equivalent class, but now snipers receive an aim penalty scaling with extreme range plus a flat crit chance penalty when using Squadsight, so the strategy of letting your unreachable marksman pick off every target from the start point is no longer a reliable tactic.
    • During beta testing, the popular streamer Beaglerush discovered a counter-intuitive method that led to extremely successful ambushes: leaving a soldier out in plain sight for enemies to stumble upon while the rest of the squad sits on Overwatch. Since enemies would only move, not attack, as concealment was broken, you got to attack them while they're out of cover like in a regular ambush (minus the small Overwatch accuracy penalty) but the enemy effective wastes their first post-ambush turn. Firaxis promptly enabled enemies to attack immediately when concealment was broken on their turn, so attempting that strategy now risks the aliens simply firing upon the defenseless trooper.
    • Sometime later, Beagle then discovered that the Sharpshooter's "Kill-Zone" ability triggers even if the Sharpshooter is concealed, and promptly resurrected his old tactic in full force. Again, Firaxis then went and changed Kill-Zone such that it respects the normal rules for concealed Overwatch and thus will not trigger until the squad has been revealed.
    • Mimic Beacons were game-breakingly powerful at launch as the decoy could utilize cover and also inherited defense and dodge stats from the soldier that deployed it. Player could also use other defense-boosting abilities and items (such as Specialist's Defense Protocol or Smoke Grenades) on them. Since AI always focuses on the decoy, aliens wasted their entire turn shooting it even when their hit chances were pathetically low, essentially making the item a Get Out of Jail Free -card. First major patch made attacks against decoys guaranteed to hit, thus significantly nerfing them.
  • Occupiers out of Our Country: XCOM's members are fighting to free their homelands as much as they are freeing humanity.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The shadowy Council of Nations that gave XCOM their marching orders makes a return, now represented by The Informant (AKA the Council Spokesman).
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • The Repeater modification gives the weapon it's attached to a (admittedly very small) chance to instantly kill its target on a hit. The developers said that this applies to any target, from the basic ADVENT Trooper to the Berserker. It even works on the Avatars during the final Mission, and the Ruler Enemies.
    • Entertainingly, the Repeater's instant kill effect used to have a chance to trigger whenever the equipped weapon damages a target. This includes damage caused by the Stock attachment - a weapon with both of them can One-Miss Kill. However, it was sadly patched out in an update in early May of 2016, though mod interaction with certain mods can inadvertently bring back this behavior.
    • Skulljacking an enemy is guaranteed to kill them (provided you get the 70% chance to get the spikes in their brain in the first place). It only works on ADVENT enemies, but no matter how many hit points they have left, after the skulljack is complete the enemy dies. It's a useful way to kill a pesky enemy shieldbearer or officer and maybe get some intel bonuses in the bargain.
  • One World Order: The entire planet has been unified in the wake of the alien invasion in 2015, and is now ruled by a single planetwide government known as the "ADVENT Administration". On the other hand, individual countries, nationalities and cultures still exist, which is highlighted by the underground XCOM.
  • Optional Stealth: You can now use cover to sneak past enemies and set up ambushes. It is possible to even ghost Blacksite missions with a single Ranger who can plant the explosive and extract without alerting anyone.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: The boxiness of XCOM laser weaponry in the last game could have been a mere case of being designed for function in a limited span of time, but the magnetic weaponry wielded by ADVENT collaborators is designed to this aesthetic. The same applies for XCOM's magnetic weapons, though averted with the sleekly designed plasma weapons.
  • Perspective Reversal: The previous game had you lead a globally supported XCOM against a mostly underground alien threat. This game has you fight against an alien controlled Earth as an underground XCOM. This extends to gameplay: in the first game, you had to seek out hidden groups of enemies before you could attack them, but this time your forces typically start out in concealment, with your enemies in plain sight.
  • Pistol-Whipping: How your soldiers subdue an ADVENT VIP to capture usually involves bashing them with their rifles.
  • The Player Is the Most Important Resource: Bradford and the rest of the XCOM resistance consider you as the Commander to be vital to their attempts to oust the Elders and their ADVENT regime from power. This becomes justified in the endgame.
  • Playing with Syringes: Dr. Vahlen survived the fall of XCOM and managed to establish her own underground lab. Unfortunately, without the Commander, Bradford, or Shen to keep her Mad Scientist tendencies in line, she wound up making the alien Rulers... which proceeded to escape.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The Alien Hunter DLC mission has Commander Bradford personally taking part in the mission, and he's a melee Ranger colonel. The mission also swarms you with newborn Vipers, with only 2-3 health each but with about a dozen in each firefight. As listed in the Awesome, but Impractical entry above, Bradford's Reaper skill is the perfect counter to these tons of low-health, plentiful enemies.
  • Point of No Return: Starting the Advent Network Tower mission locks you in to the endgame. Fortunately, the game is kind enough to warn you and give a chance to walk away until you're actually ready.
  • Powered Armor: The tier 3 armors (basic and experimentals) are this, with the project to unlock the basic tier 3 outright named as such, although tier 2 already start using crude exoskeletons.
  • Power Dyes Your Hair: Unlocking a soldier's Psi-powers turns their hair white, and changes their eye color to purple as well, though both can be changed if you feel so inclined.
  • Procedural Generation: Levels are generated from pre-designed pieces that are combined based on a set of mission variables.
  • Propaganda Machine: ADVENT constantly spouts propaganda that portrays the alien "Elders" as peaceful and only desiring to help humanity, demonizes XCOM and other anti-alien/ADVENT resistance as "terrorists" and "troubled individuals", and completely whitewashes the events of 2015, insisting that the aliens came in peace, only to have the "corrupt governments of old" allegedly attack them unprovoked and cause countless deaths of innocent people. The propagandist who makes the speeches looks uncannily like a "perfected" Thin Man.
  • Psychic Powers: As is standard for an XCOM game, you can gain soldiers with these.
  • Purple Eyes: When soldiers unlock the trope above, their eye color changes from whatever they were to this color.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: It's possible to complete a mission successfully while losing most or even all of your soldiers in the process. You'll reap the mission's reward, but the loss of so many troops will only spell hard times for you in the long term.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Many soldier outfits lean towards this, with costumes that are much less practical and standard than those of the previous game. Customization options can avert, invoke, or enforce this among your troops.
  • Ray Gun: Unlike the coherent green blobs in the previous game and still used by the aliens, XCOM's "plasma" weapons now fire beams.
  • Reality Ensues: One popular XCOM streamer popularized the eponymous "Beaglerush Maneuver"; which involves exploiting how the enemies' are programmed to run toward cover when Concealment is broken, even on their turn, letting players set up an Overwatch trap note . Firaxis' fix? Sometimes the ADVENT forces will just shoot the baiting soldier instead of running for cover.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: The randomly generated backstories for recruits has a fairly typical one stating how [character] was rumored to have been a criminal in a prison in [country of origin], or that they actually were a former convict, but their skills coupled with XCOM's desperation mean that it's unwise to reject their help.
  • Red Shirt: Peter Osei and Ana Ramirez, a.k.a. Gatecrasher 1 and 2, from the tutorial. While they were engaging a superior and more numerous force, they make some questionable tactical moves that end up with them both dead. Hilariously, their game files actually list them as "DeadTutorialSoldier1" and "DeadTutorialSoldier2."
  • Relationship Values: Though not visible in-game unless you dig into the code, the game has a mechanism to track the relationships between each soldier, based on factors like how many battles they've fought together, who has healed who, shooting flanking enemies, and carrying unconscious or dying troops to safety. The only visible application of this is to determine which soldiers socialize with each other in the Avenger, although certain mods (like Squad Cohesion) use these values to assign bonuses or penalties based on the troops' relationships.
  • The Remake: The game borrows a lot of elements from X-COM: Apocalypse, such as a decades long Time Skip, battles in futuristic urban environments, XCOM no longer having funding from world governments, and so on. The ADVENT even use one of the alien faction symbols from Apocalypse.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The XCOM-led resistance movement wants nothing more than to reclaim Earth from the aliens, to restore humanity's freedom, and to reveal the evils committed by the totalitarian ADVENT Administration to the masses. This is expressed by the motivations of XCOM's top staff, the Informant, and some of the randomly-generated biographies of XCOM soldiers. It is further reinforced in vanilla-gameplay by there being no penalties for committing excessive collateral damage in ADVENT cities (that could easily be spun as terrorist attacks), and no penalties for the deaths of civilians in most operations (excluding Retaliation missions, where you must rescue civilians that are working with the resistance). Granted, these game mechanics, especially the collateral damage penalties mechanic, would make the tactical missions even more difficult and less fun to play.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: During a Retaliation Mission, it is possible for a civilian to trigger an ADVENT trooper's overwatch fire. If that civilian turns out to be a Faceless, they'll reveal themselves (and probably be thinking, 'Damn, dude, you blew my cover!' 'Oops, sorry!).
  • Robbing the Dead: You can now loot enemies for materials and equipment, similar to how you could scavenge equipment from EXALT troops in the previous game.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The bane of most of the exotic and dangerous aliens is a humble flashbang grenade. It disorients non-mechanical enemies, which locks out all abilities except for basic weapon attacks, slows their movement and reduces their aim. These can turn a squad of Vipers, Sectoids or Codices into pathetic rookies missing every shot they take at you, or destroy all of a Gatekeeper's psionic zombies in one go.
  • Rocket Tag Gameplay: Just like in the previous game, at the start, your conventional weapons can usually kill ADVENT Troopers in one hit, but theirs will also kill or gravely wound in one too. Also shifts away from this as later foes are tougher, but you also have better armour.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Reveal Trailer shows a statue outside an ADVENT clinic depicting an evolved sectoid helping a human onto his feet, but as the devs implied, it could also be interpreted as the sectoid leaving the human behind.

    S - Z 
  • Save Scumming: Seems to be an incredibly popular tactic, according to the averages after completing the game. The average days spent for injured soldiers recovering is at 24, which is almost impossible without reloading after every injury.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The tutorial mission is about rescuing The Commander from stasis, and your chief scientist is researching something they pulled out of your brain that ADVENT put in you.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Several Achievements require you to deliberately constrain yourself, such as never buying Squad Size upgrades or beating the final mission without upgraded equipment. For extra difficulty, some of these will only apply if done at Commander+ difficulty.
  • Sequel Hook: Before being hinted about by an underwater base, after the final cinematic showing Resistance and XCOM forces retaking Earth from leftover ADVENT forces, another brief scene shows the wreckage of the Avatar base, and an eerie purple glow rising from a fissure in the ocean floor. Whatever the Ethereals have been worried about the past two games, it looks like it's on its way...
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • The randomly-generated biographies for recruits frequently demonstrate this status, either as former XCOM personnel, soldiers who went renegade and hunted aliens after seeing their countries surrender, or the quiet types who Bradford advises to let be.
    • Soldiers who are heavily injured in a mission have a chance to become shaken. Shaken soldiers take a penalty to their will which has a chance to be removed and _increased_ if they participate in a successful mission.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrine to the Fallen: The bar aboard The Avenger has a memorial wall covered with photos of the soldiers that are killed during the game.
  • Sigil Spam:
    • The XCOM logo, though surprisingly, not by XCOM themselves. They only have it when appropriate, such as inside the base, on the unmistakable hull of their ship, and sometimes on their operatives. Meanwhile, it's the Resistance havens that often have quite a few XCOM flags, graffiti logos and posters, sometimes out in the open where anybody with a telescope can see them. Since the only time you physically visit those locations are when ADVENT discovers and raids them, one has to wonder if those open symbols of allegiance had something to do with it.
    • The ADVENT logo is virtually everywhere. ADVENT troops have it on their uniforms, their MECs, their vehicles and on their public facilities. In the city centers and slums, it can also be seen on holographic displays, TV screens and in all ADVENT propaganda broadcasts. Even the publicly inaccessible top floors of ADVENT Network Tower have ADVENT logo sculptures for interior decoration. This trope is of course the signature look of totalitarian dystopian police states in general.
  • Simple, yet Awesome:
    • Salvo from the Grenadier is similar to the Heavy's Bullet Swarm from the previous game. It allows the user to use a grenade or heavy weapon as her first move without ending the turn. Sounds simple but greatly increases flexibility, and is also powerful on other classes that get it through the Advanced Warfare Center. For example, it allows a Gunslinger-spec Sharpshooter to soften up a pod so her followup Faceoff can kill them all, or dearmour an Andromedon or Sectopod so Fan Fire hurts much more.
    • All the moves that allow multiple attacks with a single action - Chain Shot, Fan Fire and Rapid Fire - are invaluable against aliens with reaction abilities, like Alien Rulers, Avatars or Codices, and the 15% aim penalty can be entirely eradicated with a Superior Scope.
  • Skele Bot 9000: The Derelict MECs in "Shen's Last Gift" have heads that are Terminator-style skulls, as opposed to the featureless ones of normal MECs.
  • Smug Snake: Quite literally in the "Retaliation" trailer, as a reptilian Thin Man smirks at the camera.
  • Spiteful A.I.:
    • In Retaliation missions, ADVENT troops will try to focus mostly on civilians, even if they know the player's squad is around. This unfortunately makes it much more likely they will kill all the civilians, causing the mission to end in failure even if all squad members survive and kill all the aliens. Justified though; it's called Retaliation, come on.
    • In protect the data tap missions, it is possible for aliens that have had their aim lowered to go after the much easier-to-hit data tap rather than your troops.
  • So Much for Stealth: Certain actions will always break Concealment even if your soldier isn't spotted carrying them out, like planting X4 charges in an Alien Facility.
  • Speed Run: The "Exquisite Timing" achievement requires you to beat the game by July 1st, and on Commander+ difficulty at that. Also becomes a Minimalist Run as the tight schedule means you'll be lucky to even have magnetic weapons and plated armour by then.
  • Starfish Language: How ADVENT troops bark orders at each other.
  • Stealth Run:
    • One specific espionage mission late in the campaign can be completed with only one soldier, without ever breaking concealment if you so wish.
    • Depending on how the procedural generation goes, the Avatar Project Facilities can also be done this way.
  • Stripperiffic: The Anarchy's Children DLC gives your operatives some rather unconventional armor options. The most modest option sends them into battle with a midriff-baring breastplate or an open jacket, but particularly mischievous players can send their troops into battle basically in their underwear.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • The sequel gives the destruction system a huge upgrade, with prettier explosions and the ability to demolish roofs and floors to open new entry points. The Grenadier in particular shines in this area.
    • A particularly notable change is that, for buildings with multiple stories, you can destroy the actual floors, causing anyone standing on them to fall down to the first floor and take extra falling damage. Of course, enemies can also do this to you if you're not careful...
    • Between late-game plasma weapons, heavy weapons, and grenades, the X4 charges in the Destroy Alien Facility missions can almost seem redundant. You still need to plant them to actually complete the mission, but you can almost level the entire facility just with the weapons you're carrying to fight the aliens.
  • Stupidity-Inducing Attack: Mimic Beacons. They create a holographic copy of the soldier who threw it, and once it's up, every active enemy on the map will ignore all else. Some will run across the map just to get a good look at it, and others will dive out of cover entirely just to try to flank it — even if they were already flanking another soldier, and even if doing so would leave them unable to attack it that turn! Incredibly powerful, but they require rare Faceless Corpses to build.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: Once again, the color purple is associated with the powerful Psionic abilities, which all give off a similar violet hue when activated and even gives your Psi soldier's Purple Eyes. As in the last game, the Elders' psionic aura is also purple as well. The only exception is the Commander, whose psionic aura is light blue.
  • Superpower Lottery: The Advanced Warfare Center allows operatives to learn additional skills outside of their main specialisations as they gain experience and ranks. These skills can come from the other classes, or they might be unique skills that aren't part of the main skilltrees. If you're lucky, it could be something very useful like Shredder; if you're not, it could be something redundant, like getting the Ranger's Rapid Fire on a Grenadier with the nearly identical Chain Shot.
  • Take Cover: The most important defensive mechanic in XCOM 2, with survival depending largely on whether units are behind cover or not.
  • Take Your Time:
    • Generally averted. Nearly every mission that appears on the map is time sensitive; you'll miss them if you don't do them when they appear. The Avatar Project also makes sure you don't dawdle, as the only way keep the timer from reaching its end is to destroy alien facilities and complete story missions.
    • However, it's played straight when it comes to the final mission. The Informant warns you that the Elders are about to enact a plan that will result in the extinction of the human race. Despite the urgency, you're free to continue to do your thing under the usual restrictions; the plan will not begin until you choose to enter the mission.
  • Tattered Flag: As a gesture of respect and as a beacon of hope, a severely-tattered original XCOM flag adorns the armory wall.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Shortly after the Commander returns and begins taking the fight to the Aliens, the Spokesman contacts the crew of the Avenger to let them know the aliens are frantically rushing to complete a top secret operation known only as "The Avatar Project," and draws the conclusion that the aliens have decided to stamp out the Resistance once and for all. It turns out to be an aversion; the Aliens' work on the Avatar Project is completely unrelated to the Resistance. They'd been working on it since the very beginning, and only sped up recently when the Ethereals' rapidly-deteriorating bodies took a turn for the worse.
  • There Was a Door:
    • Invoked by a good number of weapons, notably the Shredder and Shredstorm Cannons. Due to the procedural map generation, it's entirely possible the doors into a place you need to get into are inconveniently placed (especially on timed missions.) So go ahead and make your own.
    • Also common with several alien units. Gatekeepers and Sectopods would be too big for doors in any case so they just make their own. Andromedons could fit through most doors but they still prefer the direct route. Taking control of any of these units is a great way to make the trope work in XCOM's favor.
  • Timed Mission: Most missions are time-based in XCOM 2. Defusing bombs, extracting a VIP before your escape is cut off, destroying a data relay or downloading something before it gets erased, and so on. Appropriately, Bradford is a lot more insistent on you getting off your ass and finishing the timed mission objective and will start to panic if you're down to one turn left. Even missions without an explicit timer usually put you under time pressure; retaliation missions often have a civilian dying each turn to unseen aliens, and "protect the data relay" missions have the data relay already being fired upon before you get there. Lastly, the campaign as a whole is on a timer. You must defeat the Aliens before they finish the Avatar Project, or else it's Game Over, though you can buy yourself a lot of time by sabotaging blacksites and completing story objectives.
  • Time Skip: The game takes place 20 years after XCOM: Enemy Unknown, starting in 2035.
  • Too Awesome to Use:
    • Overdrive Serum. It improves a soldier's mobility, makes them immune from insanity effects, and reduces damage taken for the next two turns. The catch? It's a single use item that is lost permanently upon consumption. Add to the fact that Berserkers are excessively rare and they're typically only deployed to the field for about a month or two, and you have a small number of items of extremely limited utility.
    • Breaking Concealment as a Ranger with Phantom can be this. Phantom allows a Ranger to remain in Concealment even after the rest of the team is revealed, which allows them to continue to scout ahead for other foes. If you break Concealment, Conceal gives that Ranger one and only one more chance to go back into Concealment. Therefore, for Commanders it can be a struggle to decide whether you want to break Concealment to help against this pod of foes and maybe one more, or just remain in Concealment the whole mission.
  • Took a Level in Badass : The few aliens XCOM already faced on the battlefield in Enemy Unknown that are back in this game are all a bit different, and for the better :
    • The Sectoid, once the most basic enemy unit with tiny health, weak attacks and a boosting psionic ability that risked killing the host, and not even scary in the slightest, is back taller and more frightening than ever, with much more health and psionic powers not to be taken lightly since it can raise its dead allies as zombies and even attempt to mind control your troops (this power was in the hands of end-game enemies in the previous game) !
    • The Thin Man shows its true colors as the Viper, giving up its humanoid form for a fully serpentine build, and this time it is dangerous as hell if you make the mistake of splitting your squad : it only needs one turn to tongue-snatch a soldier to itself before grappling and constricting him/her. And it kept its poisonous attacks and gun.
    • The Muton didn't change much in appearance but got a new powerful melee attack and can also counter Rangers' melee attacks frequently. All its former weapons and grenades remain.
    • The Berserker is now so muscular that it no longer has skin, and the new mechanic that allows two moves before a melee attack makes him a very real threat to take care of before its strong attacks wreck your squad.
    • The Sectopod used to have one big weakness : its immobility combined with a moderate attack range that allowed you to ignore it while you wrecked its allies. The new version is a literal siege tower with legs that can pick up troops on high grounds very easily with a powerful machine gun and lay waste on the battlefield with massive charged blasts that will force you to reposition or die.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: ADVENT may be an evil organization who won't rest until all of humanity is subjugated, but everyone really loves those tasty burgers of theirs. Dr. Tygan muses about that's the one thing he misses about working for them, and it annoys Bradford to no end how his staff manage to smuggle them aboard and leave the wrappers everywhere. Nobody knows what they're made of, but they're so damn good they don't care.
  • Trick Bomb:
    • Grenades are limited to one per soldier (except grenadiers, who get two, possibly three with an upgrade) even if you get extra inventory slots. That's probably because they're meant to be strategic game-changers, like the Flashbang, which disables most enemies without killing them, or acid bombs that make whole areas impassable.
    • The Blaster Launcher is back, letting a soldier equipped with it deliver explosive ordinance anywhere on the map. Around corners, over buildings, through doorways and windows. . . doesn't matter. If you know where the enemies are, the Blaster Launcher can get there.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The theme that plays as your squad departs for a mission, is given a reprise when the mission is successful. If you take casualties during the mission, the theme is much more somber.
  • Tron Lines: Not to an excessive degree, but Tier-3 armors have glowing blue lines and circles running along the suit. The aliens engage in this a little with the Elders' human hosts, the Avatars, which have bright purple lines in contrast to your own soldiers' blue.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Averted this time, unlike the previous game: your soldiers don't walk around in their armor while in the Avenger. They also remove unnecessary character customization items like helmets, mask, and bandanas while in the base, but not necessary ones like glasses.
  • Used Future: XCOM goes for this look, with the Avenger being a re-purposed alien supply shuttle and the soldiers using duct tape to hold attachments on their weapons. This is contrasted by the ADVENT city centers, which are painfully clean, clear, bright, and sleek. Taken Up to Eleven with the Resistance bases and villages, which are third-world-looking collections of ramshackle huts made from whatever junk is on hand.
  • Unishment: Some Dark Events don't make things too difficult at all, and some players actually intend to let them happen in favor of countering far worse events. Some may affect only Dump Stats, which makes them all the more harmless.
    • ADVENT Midnight Raids doubles the cost of hiring new recruits. But why hire new recruits when you could just use your old veterans anyway? Plus you could always just buy said recruits around the event, since it doesn't affect the player constantly.
    • Rapid Response simply changes the time when ADVENT reinforcements arrive, since they tend to appear near the end of most missions.
    • Alien Infiltrator is pretty easy to deal with too, since the player should avoid civilians to begin with in guerrilla missions due to them counting as detectors.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: The game is notoriously unforgiving at the start in the fact that if you fail your early missions, you will be left struggling later on with inadequate support personnel, lack of supplies, inexperienced troops, and even no troops at all.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment:
    • Enemy weapons still self-destruct when the user dies, but there's no longer a way to take enemies alive, making it impossible to take their weapons intact. The weapon fragments are no longer a major resource either, you'll just occasionally get a recyclable piece like a stock or power core. XCOM only uses conventional weapons or ones they figured out how to make themselves by advancing the Tech Tree.
    • One of the research reports explains that ADVENT weapons, rather than self-destructing, are designed to administer a lethal shock if held by anyone that doesn't have ADVENT DNA. XCOM makes warning the resistance about this fact a high priority.
    • Almost averted at the ending, you see some partisans carrying Mag Rifles (and not the XCOM ones), presumably they are now capable of hacking the weapons for their use.
    • Played with thoroughly, both in and out of universe. The DLC adds customization options including ADVENT helmets with the lights changed to XCOM's blue, and some of the most popular mods simply unlock ADVENT armor or weaponry to use.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake:
    • Due to the procedural nature of the missions and the random set of objectives, it's possible (though very rare) for individual missions to be impossible to successfully win. For example, certain missions have you defend a data tap from destruction. If the game spawns on turn 1 an enemy who can inflict the burning status next to the tap, and that enemy manages to activate before you reach him, it's impossible for the player to "heal" the tap and thus end the burning status - meaning it's likely the automatic burning damage each turn will destroy the tap so fast it's not possible to clear out every alien pod on the map before it happens, resulting in a failed mission.
    • In rare cases, the evac zone may be automatically placed on an elevated structure. If said structure is destroyed (even inadvertently, such as by a Sectopod exploding next to it, or an Andromedan walking through it), Bradford will automatically relocate it to a new location, potentially too far away for the squad to reach before the mission timer ticks down.
    • A downplayed example. Items can typically only be unlocked after the relevant autopsy, but a fair amount of missions have the squad escape from the missions area, preventing any corpse retrieval, and if you have a bad enough RNG, you could potentially never acquire the right corpse. This means certain equipment is Permanently Missable, or acquired by the time you've already moved to the better tier.
    • It's possible to freeze VIPs using the freeze grenade, which prevents you from taking any actions with them. While it's possible to unfreeze them using a medkit, not having one or having already used all the charges during that mission. Even if you do manage to unfreeze them, though, the game gets a little...wonky.
  • Urban Warfare: Many operations take place in ADVENT-controlled cities.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The ADVENT Administration justifies regular security screenings and troops with assault weapons patrolling throughout cities as just a means of protecting the "perfect future" mankind now enjoys.
  • Variable Mix: Music during tactical combat transitions seamlessly from dramatic and orchestral during XCOM's turn, to menacing and electronic during the alien's turn.
  • Vichy Earth: The aliens have taken control of Earth and turned it into a False Utopia.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Soldiers now have the option of carrying knocked out (and dead) comrades back to the EVAC point but with reduced movement and the inability to fire. While it does obviously have long-term game-play benefits most players will be channeling No One Gets Left Behind.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Apart from Retaliations, there is no penalty if a grenade or other Herd-Hitting Attack, in trying to blow up some aliens and/or their cover, also takes out a few civilians. In fact, there's not even a warning.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: The Flamethrower and its upgrade the Hellfire Projector received a nerf from the genuinely useful one in the previous game and are generally considered the worst of the heavy/powered weapons. Mediocre damage, range and area of effect, doesn't destroy or even breach cover, doesn't pierce or shred armour. They can set enemies on fire, dealing damage over time and disabling special abilities, but there are other sources of such and some of the most dangerous foes are Kung Fu Proof. Their one unique advantage, making enemies panic, is bugged and doesn't even work, so much for that.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The aliens have some very effective PR and propaganda going on.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • Aliens from activated pods will usually focus on killing your troops over attacking the data tap. If you're unlucky enough for two pods to spawn with line of sight on the tap, it may be necessary to activate both so that they go after your troops rather than the tap.
    • Due to the way Concealment and detection works, it is ironically easiest to see if there are hostiles and "sneak" around by deliberately going down open areas for the widest cone of vision.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Holographic displays can be found in cities that show wanted posters of your soldiers. There is a unique animation for placing one of your soldiers next to the display, in which they react to seeing themselves on a wanted poster.
  • Wetware CPU:
    • "Skulljacking" involves forming some Predator-like blades from a gauntlet and jamming them straight into the skull of an enemy ADVENT soldier to hack their brains and (possibly) gain useful intel, at the risk of damaging yourself if you fail.
    • The Commander has been this for the last twenty years at the start of the game, being secured in an ADVENT facility with a chip in his/her head that's been using their brain to run tactical simulations, disseminating the data to ADVENT troops to make them more capable on the battlefield.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Dr. Vahlen. While occasionally referred to in the game dialogue and strongly hinted to still be alive, no one has heard or seen her in the past 20 years.
    • We don't learn what becomes of The Speaker, the leader of Vichy Earth. We know he survived an angry mob storming his stage because he still taunts you over the radio, but he remains The Unfought. On the good side, The Informant, a.k.a. the Councilman gets a Bolivian Army Ending, but his death isn't completely certain.
    • Vahlen shows up via logs she recorded about her experiments in the Alien Hunters DLC, and is heavily implied to have survived the overrunning of her lab.
  • Written by the Winners: ADVENT spend a good portion of the 20 year time skip writing that their invasion was benevolent and destroying any evidence of the contrary, to the point of phasing out much of human culture as a whole and replacing it with a lifestyle reliant on alien technology and adulation of The Elders.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: While Supplies are your most basic currency, Intel is your second currency; harder to come by, but used to secure more precious things like territory (which leads to new currency), emergency purchases from the Black Market or revealing new upcoming Dark Events.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters:
    • ADVENT propaganda refers to XCOM operations as "terrorist attacks", but of course, XCOM are the good guys in this game.
    • This is apparent in gameplay during tactical missions as walking too close to civilians in ADVENT cities will break squad concealment (much like with enemies in the game, but in a much smaller detection radius), jeopardizing your squad's safety and the success of that mission.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • Chryssalids relied on this strategy before, but their new appearance doubles down on this status. Individually they do much less damage and die quicker than their XCOM:EU incarnation, but now they're much better at ambushing and suddenly swarming your troops, and reproduce three at a time to quickly overwhelm you.
    • Surprisingly, it's the Vipers that play this trope the straightest during the Alien Hunters DLC. Your team explores what turns out to be a Viper nest, where dozens and dozens of Neonate Vipers will suddenly ambush you from every crevice of the caverns. The neonates are individually extremely weak and are practically fresh out of the egg, but can quickly overwhelm the strike team by sheer number and flanking opportunities.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/XCOM2