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What is the avatar project?
Personally, I think the alien's avatar project is their attempt to discover "The Volunteer." Experimenting in psionics to find a human powerful enough, this matches with their motives that were revealed in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which explains why it's necessary to stop it
  • It's ultimately revealed that the Avatars are super-soldier Human/Ethereal hybrids, letting the Ethereals cheat health problems, and creating an unstoppable brand of supersoldiers that would make The Volunteer look like a field-day rookie.

UFO missions meets Base Defence?
Since the XCOM base is mobile this time around and we are the "invaders", what if it's our turn to potentially get shot down, a la the UFO missions of the first game? Not only would this be a reversal in that regard, but it could double as base defence missions.
  • Confirmed. One of the Dark Events spawns a UFO, and if it manages to find you, it'll shoot Avenger down and trigger Base Defense mission.
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The Advent are what the Ethereal's from Enemy Unknown were preparing us for
They were attempting to uplift us and prepare us for "what lies ahead." The Advent just invaded immediately after we repelled the Ethereal Collective and humanity folded rather than fight off another invasion. It would explain the lack of Thin Men in the trailer for 2 and the lack of Snakemen in Enemy Unknown.
  • Unlikely. The Snakemen were probably just what the Thin Men originally are, as we see Ethereal posters and a huge ethereal is seen on the screen in the propaganda building concept art. Also, the game over of the first where the main aliens win is canon.
  • The autopsy for Thin Men in Enemy Unknown heavily implies Thin Men are genetically altered snake men, as it says they have reptilian eyes and that their bone structure is similar to that of a serpent.
  • Jossed: the Advent propaganda includes representations of the Ethereals, meaning that are indeed the ones who conquered Earth.

You will be able to weaponize Chryssalids in one way or another
Since we're taking the terrorist role now. Not to mention how cathartic it would be to give the Advent a taste of their own medicine.
  • Jossed: In the interview where the developers talked about Chryssalids, they went out of their way to specifically emphasize that you can only control them in multiplayer.
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  • Arguably not Jossed, you don't need to control the Chryssalids to weaponize there behavior. Just drop them in an enemy controlled area and let them cause havoc.
  • You can mind control a Chryssalid, but its spawn won't be allied to you, making it useless as a unit. Every kill it makes runs the risk of spawning 3 more hostiles.
  • Confirmed: Hellweave is a variant/upgrade of the traditional Nanoweave. It provides a larger health boost and automatically inflicts a small amount of guaranteed damage on any enemy that tries to melee-attack the wearer, with the possibility of inflicting BURNING status on top of that. The prerequisite research is the Chryssalid Autopsy and to manufacture the vests requires additional Chryssalid Corpses.

XCOM 2 takes place in a parallel universe.
And at some point you'll be able to contact the original Enemy Unknown universe, where humanity successfully repelled the invasion. The fact that the Volunteer survived the Temple Ship's implosion despite all appearances is pretty suspicious. And as we all know, black holes are portals into other universes...
  • While the above may not necessarily be part of the story, X-COM 2 is indeed set in an alternate version of the war, so all things are possible.
    • Building on the above it the when the temple ship exploded it sent the Volunteer into a timeline where Humanity lost and had spent the last few years building up a new X-COM to continue the fight.
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XCOM 2's "Commander" is the Volunteer.
As a corollary to the above, perhaps the "commander" this time around is the Volunteer, thrust through time and space into an alien-controlled alternate future, reestablishing XCOM as an underground resistance as a John Connor figure. Not only would this account for the Volunteer's survival, but also avoid potential fan backlash as to who the "canon" Volunteer is.

Alternatively...

The Commander was the Volunteer in Enemy Unknown.
Pretty straightforward. The Volunteer had incredible power. We know that the Commander has considerable psychic power. This game just finished the invasion before the Commander had a chance to awaken it.

The volunteer will show up, but not at first.
Considering that the Volunteer survived the portal, at some point he/she will show up at some point in the campaign. At first no one would believe them. Going along with the WMG a few spots above, maybe the Volunteer will be able to contact the EU verse. After some conversation (and a heartfelt reunion between Lily and Shen) EU's XCOM shares some of their tech, boosting the gameplay.

EXALT's role in post-occupation Earth.
In this timeline, the aliens conquered Earth early in their campaign (possibly before XCOM could even develop laser weaponry). This means that XCOM may have never even come into conflict with EXALT, and almost certainly never destroyed them, leaving them open to...
  • Serving as XCOM's partner in the insurgency (possibly even merging with them). While EXALT admired the alien's transhuman ambitions for mankind, they more than likely wouldn't approve of the Ethereal's intent to turn humanity into a slave race. Given that the two groups' interest coincide, it seems possible that they're working together. It would also explain how XCOM still has the assets to continue the fight, despite the governments of the world bowing to the invaders: If nothing else, EXALT is resourceful.
    • Not outright confirmed, but hinted at - while EXALT itself is never mentioned, the Resistance Warrior DLC pack contains some outfits and props for Rookies that closely resemble EXALT's gear from EW, including their signature orange-and-red bandanna, suggesting that at least some members of the organization have pulled an Enemy Mine with XCOM.
  • Act as the new Grey Market for the game. Given how hard up they were for xenotech during the first game, it seems natural that they'd be interested in acquiring it even after the war has ended.
  • Becoming extremely influential on Earth since they allied themselves with the Aliens (could lead to an Enemy Mine situation where they finally want the aliens out of earth so they can rule more openly)
  • EXALT loyalists are likely what compose the majority of Advent's human forces, since EXALT is pro-alien.
  • Jossed: EXALT Never came together in a paramilitary way to try to take over the world in the new timeline. At most they folded into ADVENT if they exist at all.
    • That said, it's hinted that EXALT was around for CENTURIES, long before either the Aliens or XCOM ever came into play. And, according to the developer's Exact Words, they never formed a paramilitary group to fight XCOM: it's likely that, while EXALT never openly confronted XCOM, their original form will still make up most of the Vichy Earth government, even if they are now chafing under their Advent masters.

XCOM lost the XCOM Base Defense mission in this timeline.
The regular Game Over is probably not what happened here, since the Council spokesman seems free of Mind Control and is still on XCOM's side. Therefore, what would cause the Council to fold without being subverted from within? A defeat that effectively destroys their only force with any real success against the invaders, forcing them to surrender without the aliens needing to Mind Control them.

However, some survivors managed to escape the base with what tech, equipment and resources they could carry, possibly hijacking the alien ship that eventually becomes the Avenger along the way. They go underground and try to regroup, but the aliens keep them on the run for quite some time. Eventually, however, the aliens give up the chase and the XCOM survivors have the opportunity to quietly rebuild their strength, which takes even more time. All this time adds up to about 20 years, after which XCOM reemerges and the events of XCOM 2 begin.

  • Assuming it is, there's still a little bit of a difference between what's depicted in-game: in Enemy Within, Bradford is killed when XCOM gets overrun. In XCOM 2, Bradford is alive, albeit older and deeply scarred from XCOM's defeat.
  • Implied in the post-tutorial flashback snippets, the command center falling apart and a Muton barging in to rifle-butt the Commander in the head, knocking you out.
    • Confirmed in the Avenger's logs: XCOM base defense happened only a few weeks into the invasion and involved large mind controlling base personnel. The base was lost and Commander was captured, however Shen, Central and Dr. Vahlen managed to evacuate.

Dr. Vahlen is still on the team.
She'll probably be going a bit grey by now, but her mental prowess will be undiminished - as will her interrogation skills.
  • The old guy we saw commanding the XCOM forces in the gameplay footage trailer is likely an older Bradford.
    • Confirmed. Central is back.
    • But Vahlen is not.
      • Yet. The devs rather ominously state that "we don't know what happened to her." Seems like a hook for a story mission later in the game. . .
      • Worth noting that a random image you get after scanning for intelligence has the name "Vahlen" scrawled on a wall in white paint.
      • Log entry on Avenger states that she was drawn to very extreme measures in fighting the aliens. I wouldn't be surprised to see her a leader of EXALT-like extremist organisation in Spring DLC, given how far she took gene modifications in EW.
      • A random quote from Bradford while idling in the base says that he picked up a mysterious transmission that sounds like it might be... German. Coincidence?
      • With the release of the Alien Rulers DLC, she ends up pushing the limits of genetic engineering and creates extremely powerful versions of the Viper, Berserker, and Archon that serve as random boss encounters.

With XCOM more or less in EXALT's position now, the player will have to deal with covert operations by the Advent government.
Every once in a while, a new recruit could turn out to be The Mole. Commanders will have to spend resources on background checks (in lieu of intel scans), or risk being compromised.
  • On the other hand, XCOM's own covert operatives will be able to carry out EXALT-type operations: inciting rebellion (as analogue to spreading panic), draining government funds, etc.
    • Confirmed. XCOM can destroy vital facilities, break scientists out of custody, assassinate or abduct VIPs, or arrive for cleanup after guerrilla operations like intercepted convoys and trains.

The base will still have an "ant farm" structure.
Only this time, you are doing one or more of the following:
  • Converting empty or redundant sections of the base into new facilities.
    • Confirmed; the Avenger is a derelict alien vessel converted into XCOM's HQ, with debris-filled rooms being cleared out for new facilities.
  • Building completely new sections / nacelles to the ship-base.
  • Upgrading existing facilities to be more and more efficient.
    • Confirmed, most of the facilities can be improved by adding engineers and installing upgrades.

In the 20 years since the ADVENT came along, some of the aliens bred with humans, willingly or otherwise.
Resulting in the more human like aliens. And you'll be able to recruit them to your side. But the higher ups don't like the idea of half-humans fighting alongside "pure" humans. This inevitably forcing you to make a hard decision that determines the future of X-COM: a free earth for the sake of mankind or a free earth for those who seek freedom.
  • Given the fact that a good portion of the aliens seem to be female, plus fanbase reaction to some of the new stuff, it's more than likely "Willing"...

XCOM won the battle, but lost the war.
Everyone seems to assume that the canon ending is not the one where the temple ship blew up, but is instead the non-standard Game Over screen. But Bradford popped the champagne corks early when they took the alien base, only to realize that, nope, there's lot more aliens to fight. And everything up to the Temple Ship mission was the Ethereals trying to test humanity anyway, rather than simply curbstomping the human race into submission - it's mentioned multiple times in the research that if the aliens truly wanted to wipe us out, they could. EASILY. So perhaps, the "blowing up the temple ship" ending where the Volunteer sacrifices themselves is canon... and that's when the aliens decide to take the kid gloves off. Suddenly, dozens - if not hundreds - of Temple Ships arrive in system. Thousands of battleships. Millions of elite mutons dropped all over the world simultaneously... Not even an XCOM capable of taking down a single Temple Ship at great cost would be able to hold the line.
  • Jossed. Word of God is that XCOM in the XCOM 2 timeline did not even have access to Carapace armor when the alien invasion won.
    • Which gives us a better timeline of when XCOM lost. Given carapace is step 2 on the research for alien materials, they probably never had a successful enough mission to get the materials to research it. Which leads to the theory XCOM is crushed in its first conflict and it was a downward spiral from them.
    • Avenger logs state that XCOM base was destroyed "a few weeks" into the conflicts, while the complete victory over humanity was achieved in two months.
    • Given Continuity Snarl in the new Tactical Legacy Pack DLC where your squad totes late-game Enemy Unknown equipments, including Plasma Rifle.

The effectiveness of swords was an accidental discovery
One of the rookies brought a sword because it was family tradition, and when ammo ran out they used the sword as a last resort, but it surprisingly worked well which resulted in the adoption of swords as standard equipment.

Alternatively, someone gave a rookie a sword instead of a gun as a cruel joke, but ended up racking kills with it to the point that the XCOM leadership decided they should pursue that avenue.

  • Given the guerrilla warfare aspect of XCOM, it's likely that using blades was used as a way to conserve precious ammo. Supported by the fact the default blade is a machete, which has been known to be wielded as a standard melee weapon for many armed forces, and even more so for rebel armies.

"What lies ahead" is going to be addressed.
The Ethereals mentioned needing to uplift humanity in preparation for something in the future. Given that they're in the actual process of uplifting humanity in this game, it's likely that we'll finally learn what that something is.
  • "What Lies Ahead" is the Brainsuckers from Apocalypse.

XCOM lost because so many operatives died they ran out of viable recruits.
The average XCOM player can probably tell you how many operatives they burn through.

Zhang will be recruited, again.
Considering that, according to the devs, XCOM lost before even having Carpace armor, Zhang probably wasn't recruited. He'll either join XCOM after being on the runaway or will serve as The Mole in the Aliens' society.

Asaru will return.
XCOM is going to need a powerful ally. Who could that be except for Asaru? Nothing like using fire to fight fire.
  • In my opinion, the last cut scene effectively demonstrates that Commander was the host for Asaru all along.

This game's equivalent of EXALT intelligence will be evidence of the Advent's hidden evils.
The Advent regime, thanks to its massive propaganda machine, is a Villain with Good Publicity. Showing the people of Earth their so-called benevolent rulers' true colors (footage of atrocities, perhaps?) will put a dent in that image.

Adding to the above, the Panic meters will be replaced by Obedience meters.
Stirring up enough trouble with the Advent in a particular country or region will inspire more resistance among the general populace. You can bet, however, that the regime will move to strike down any possible insurrections before they can fully form - meaning more trouble for XCOM.
  • Jossed, as the Avatar project is unrelated to controlling the populace.

The mechanic of picking up downed allies also extends to enemies.
Because of XCOM's guerilla Hit-and-Run Tactics, any and all loot has to be physically taken to the Skyranger, and that includes bodies. Alien corpses are no longer a commodity but a rare and priceless contribution to XCOM's resources and research, and alien captives even more so. After all, in order to obtain one of either, your soldiers have to lug that scaly/slimy/etc piece of dead weight all the way to the extraction point, while getting shot at.
  • Of course, this begs the question of how the hell you take a muton's body with you. A MEC, perhaps?
    • Jossed. Evac missions render it impossible to pick up alien/ADVENT bodies. You only get them in missions where you don't evac.
    • You also get plot critical corpses automatically (like your first Codex for example) even if you do evac from the mission.

Meld is used in gene modification. Meld is also orange. Advent soldiers bleed orange. Advent uses gene mod clinics. Simple infusion... or gradual transformation? We never did find out what the aliens used meld for - all we know is what we used meld for...

The "alternate timeline" angle will factor into the story somehow.
Given that the game is set after a Bad Ending to the original game anyway, it's safe to assume this bit will be exploited somehow. The potential what-ifs are too cool NOT to be explored, at least in DLC.
  • Maybe there could be a Mirror Universe DLC, featuring an Evil!XCOM? Just imagine playing as the Good!Aliens, against a hit squad of "human supremacist terrorists"; or pitting your best troops against their evil counterparts!

Deciding where to bring the Avenger and how long to keep it there is going to be a major gameplay mechanic.
Keeping the Avenger in a particular country will let you do missions in that country. However, the longer you stay on the ground, the closer the aliens will get to finding the ship and forcing you to haul ass.
  • Doesn't seem to be the case. UFO hunting an Avenger spawns after uncountered random Dark Event or automatically at certain point of plot progression. You are encouraged to avoid getting into proximity with it, but you seem to be reasonably safe just staying on the ground. Obviously, the more regions you have, the more space to maneuver you have. Even if UFO spots the Avenger, Bradford might be able to disengage, additional regions might be increasing the chances of this as well.

At least one mission will involve kidnapping an Advent VIP for intelligence purposes.
The Speaker at the Unification Day event glimpsed in the gameplay preview, for instance. Sneak up as close as possible, blast his bodyguards, knock his lights out with the arc thrower (or the current equivalent), hoist him over your shoulder and run like hell from the military response. And once you're back on-base, let Dr. Vahlen have free rein.
  • Confirmed. One of the mission types is to neutralize an ADVENT VIP, who you can either kill, or crack on the skull with the butt of your gun and carry him/her to the evac point. Of course, you have to get past the ADVENT troops in the area, as well.

Not everyone lives under direct Advent control like in the cities; there are independent settlements in more rural areas.
It's been stated that the Advent designed their cities to be attractive to humans and lure them in, implying that some live in places where they are (less) under the government's control. The weathered-looking buildings in the desert from the trailer could be one such location. Defending these places from Advent raids or the like could be another mission type.

XCOM fell apart due to Curse of Babel issues.
This game has different nationalities speaking the same language with different accents. Before, it was entirely separate languages. Unless every soldier is an omniglot or somehow have a universal translator (well, universal for Earth languages, at least), communication issues are bound to crop up... and when you're a military organization trying to fend off a global invasion, this could be catastrophic. Perhaps it was...
  • Jossed, considering the multi-lingual nature of XCOM still persists in XCOM 2 without any negative consequences, and it's more implied that XCOM fell when the aliens kidnapped the Commander during the XCOM Base Assault, decapitating XCOM while also dealing irreparable troop losses.

There Will be Rescue Missions
Occasionally a teammate left behind might be captured by the Advent and you'll find their whereabouts and have a limited time before they are Interrogated/Executed to mount a rescue.
  • Confirmed.
    • Kinda. Troopers left after evac are dead and gone, but there are rescue mission for civilian VIP. They tend to join civilian personnel on the Avenger, assuming you succeed at saving them.
      • Nope, Confirmed, Soldiers left onfield, as long as they weren't bleeding are capable of showing up to be rescued. it's just RNG as to how long before it happens. This Troper had a Trooper show up on a VIP rescue three months after he'd went MIA.
    • In the War of the Chosen expansion, one ability the Chosen have has them capture a soldier for interrogation. When this happens, a covert action shows up that unlocks a mission to rescue the captured soldier.

The Advent Soldiers, the more Humanoid Aliens and the Gene Clinics are all related
The Advent soldiers bleed orange blood - a color shared by Meld in it's natural state, suggesting some rather extensive genetic modification. And then the aliens are looking a wee bit more Humanoid this time around (most notably the Sectoid). In shorthand, the Ethereals have been collecting Human DNA via the Gene Clinics and using them to upgrade themselves, while also upgrading the Human soldiers under their control with Alien DNA (which is made possible with Meld). Part of X-COM's mission (if not the whole plot) will revolve around exposing what goes on at the Gene Clinics.

The new Sectoids are not actually Sectoids.
They're humans who have been genetically modified to the point that they look like and have similar psychic abilities to the Sectoids from the previous game.
  • Partially confirmed. The Evolved Sectoids are Sectoids, but they have been improved with a generous sprinkling of human DNA.

Alien rebels will work with XCOM
  • Perhaps they are criminals, exiles, and other low-lives who think the would would be better for them if Advent wasn't around. Perhaps the aliens have a lower class (whether economic or racial) who is unhappy about the way their government treats them. Perhaps there are just some aliens who object to Advent's imperialistic policies, oppression of indigenous peoples, and destruction of native culture. Whatever their motivations, the aliens are not Always Chaotic Evil and will help you, whether directly (joining XCOM as scientists, engineers, soldiers, or the like), indirectly (providing XCOM with funds, intelligence, and resources), or incidentally (fighting and weakening Advent). You will have to balance the benefits they bring with greater risk of infiltration, the possibility of your new "friends" trying to take control once Advent is nearly defeated, or simply losing public support due to humans seeing you as working with the aliens.
    • Almost entirely Jossed. Almost because there is a scannable intel-giving even which concerns a sectoid about to expire, and which provides some information under interrogation before expiring. Every other alien is out for blood - yours, specifically.
    • Partially confirmed with the War of the Chosen expansion because the Skirmishers faction is composed of rogue ADVENT soldiers.

Roscoe Ulysus Sirius and Dr. Reis Markus will show up as Co-Dragons to the Advent Administration
Sirius will be the leader of The Church of Sirius, and one of the many human speakers for the Advent's propaganda to the civilian populace. Dr. Reis Markus, meanwhile, will control the operation of Gene Banks, and whatever diabolical experiments take place within. Bonus points if they were originally XCOM personnel, and the reason they join Advent after XCOM's defeat is similar to the ending of Let's Play of XCOM UFO Defense.

At least one of the news broadcast personalities will make a direct Shout-Out to The Simpsons
Specifically, the Trope Namer for Kent Brockman News "I, for one, welcome our new Advent overlords. I’d like to remind them that, as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to be processed through their Gene Banks."
  • Bonus points if the same broadcaster later back-tracks the same way Kent Brockman does when Advent is destroyed/kicked out of their city:
    "Well, this reporter was... possibly a little hasty earlier and would like to... reaffirm his allegiance to this country and its human president. May not be perfect, but it's still the best government we have. For now." (Quickly tears down "Hail Advent!" poster as camera pulls back)
    • Semi-confirmed. After the last mission, a large cutscene plays, mostly the inverse of the opening scene, with XCOM and resistance people broadcasting about defeating ADVENT, caring for refugees, etc. There's one newscaster still loyal to ADVENT, awkwardly trying to brush off the global rebellion as minor insurrection and urging people to stay calm.

The ending will be MONSTROUSLY Downer, no matter what you do
The second game of the original series, Terror Of The Deep, ended with humanity victorious against the alien threat... by effectively damning Earth. Seeing as how the remakes seem to be advanced homages of the original series, it's possible that the ending to the second game of this series will also be a destructive "success". Maybe the sheer destructiveness of XCOM as terrorists will drive them off the deep end, or the Council will finally reveal their true intentions.
  • Jossed, at least at first glance: between exposing ADVENT's agenda to the world, and destroying the Avatar Project with the Elders, humanity is united as one front to push the ADVENT forces to the brink of total collapse. However, given the hints from the Elders that they were fleeing an even worse force that annihilated their home planet, and The Stinger at the ruins of the Alien Fortress, humanity likely hasn't fought its last war against an alien menace...
  • Kind of confirmed. People are evacuating cities and joining refugee camps en masse and the supplies are thin. It cannot be healthy social situation. The trailer is very cheerful about the whole thing, but there is global war going on against well equipped and very desperate opponent assisted by refugee crisis of unmatched proportion.

There will be a Take That! somewhere regarding the Viper's Evil Is Sexy reputation
Since Firaxis is clearly aware of the Viper's popularity, it's likely that they'll make some reminder that, y'know, they're still Always Chaotic Evil Bastard Aliens. Some examples:

Dr Shen will be working for the Advent and one of the missions will be to bust him out
In the E3 gameplay trailer breakdown posted by Firaxis one of the devs states that the Advent 'have MEC's' as some rather familiar looking robots stride in with the new look beserker. Given the similarities between the white Advent mechs and the MEC 2 Sentinel it looks as though Dr Shen was coerced into working for the Advent.

Dr. Vahlen will be the working for the Advent

Another version of The Outsider will appear.
Remember the gem-creature you had to capture back in Enemy Unknown? What if the Advent administration still has something like that in their ranks, but even more dangerous?
  • Seemingly confirmed with Codex enemy. You even need to "skulljack" them just like you needed to capture live Outsider in EU.

The final battle involves a massive, planet-wide battle.
While you'll be in control of the main XCOM squad, you might get glimpses or radio chatter from other anti-alien soldiers fighting all over the world as you make one final push to drive off the Advent.
  • Confirmed: During the final mission, XCOM storms the Ethereal fortress to bring an end to the Avatar Project and the alien leaders, while the rest of the world fights against Advent in one huge offensive. Central gives you glimpses of it via radio during the mission.

The final boss is not on Earth.
Just like UFO Defense, you will go to another planet to face the enemy's leader.
  • Jossed. The final mission takes place in the depths of Earth's ocean. However, you do also fight and destroy the Elders, and the Avatar super-soldiers they are using as hosts.

The tutorial will involve:
Capturing an alien ship and making it your base.
  • Doubting this one. The Gamescom preview seems to imply the Avenger is already up and running by the time the Commander arrives and that the tutorial mission might be the rescue mission to get the Commander back.
    • Jossed, the tutorial involves rescuing you from a gene clinic; the Avenger has been recovered and fixed some time before that.

The fifth class will be...
Put theories here:
  • A sort of Covert Operative that will be able to pass scanners, walk in broad daylight and even in front of the Advent troops without alerting them.
    • If that's the case, that class will probably be called "the Infiltrator".
  • "Sec Ops" - successor to the PSI trooper, XCOM acquires psychic troopers much earlier by researching the enhanced Sectoids and their upgraded powers.
  • A Boring, but Practical Combat Medic.
  • To be honest, it's more than likely going to be the Psyker, albeit reworked to bring it in line with the other four classes we currently have.
  • Fifth class is confirmed as the Psi Operative. Video and overview of their skill tree here.

The Volunteer is working for the aliens this time.
The Volunteer from the first game (or even Volunteers since there could be more than one person with the potential) will be either mind controlled or willingly guided by the Ethereals like they wanted in Enemy Unknown. This could either make them an enemy unit or an opportunity to recruit Psi-Ops by having them switch sides. If there's just the one Volunteer though, could make an interesting final boss.
  • Could also work with the theory about the Volunteer teleporting into this timeline from the original one. They might have to face themselves on the other side of the war.
  • Sort of played with: When the first Avatar shows up, players of the first game will likely find their outfit to be rather familiar...it's a slightly ADVENT-ized version of the Psi Armor from Enemy Unknown.

The Incident that broke Bradford out of his BSOD
Bradford spent two decades in a Heroic BSoD until something snapped him out of it and got him to restart XCOM. Theories as to what that incident was:
  • Finding Dr. Vahlen working for ADVENT
  • Meeting Shen's daughter
  • Spotting civilian resistance and getting caught up in a firefight with them, then uniting them under the XCOM banner.
  • According to the Tie-In Novel, it was when he learned that XCOM had established the Avenger as their new base of operations and were making actual progress against ADVENT.

Annette Durand will be involved with the plot.
Every other major change in Enemy Within (MEC Troopers, gene mods, human enemies) is coming back in force in this. Why wouldn't they also include the extremely powerful psionic who played a key role in an alien attack on XCOM in this game? Especially since she was involved in the attack on XCOM in the original, and in this game the aliens already defeated XCOM.

The Vipers were deliberately engineered to be attractive to human sensibilities.
As the aliens are trying to keep the humans subservient, making their giant snake people look less alien is something of a concern.
  • This WMG gets more plausible when you recall there's a canonical example of this already; Archons are Floaters rebuilt into a form more like cybernetic angels because their old appearance was too disturbing for humans.
  • Jossed, but oddly semi-confirmed. According to devs, Vipers are the true, unmodified forms of Thin Men, but their Non-Mammal Mammaries are a deliberate placement of their venom sacs. The torso's musculature makes spraying it easier, while also attempting to appeal to human lust.

The Council Rep (now the Informant) is controlled by the Etherals.
Given his catchphrase 'We will be watching', and the Etheral's goal of testing humanity, particularly X-Com, and watching their progress, and his sudden re-apperance upon the recovery of the Commander, and the reveal of his being mind controlled in the game over of the previous game, it's possible that he was always being controlled by the aliens, who put X-Com into motion to see what humanity's best and brightest could do, with the Commander's rescue by X-Com after the war being enough to make them give humanity another chance after their previous failure.

The evolved Sectoids are a hybrid of the Sectoids and the Outsiders from The Bureau
The resemblance certainly is there, it's possible the Ethereals kept enough genetic material from the Outsiders to use to make these leaner, meaner, more aesthetically-pleasing Sectoids.
  • Close - it's explicitly stated that the Sectoids are hybrids, but a hybrid of Sectoids and humans.

What bits of media did ADVENT ban?
To start, I think they banned anything produced by Firaxis, as some of the background lines confirms Firaxis exists in the XCOM universe, and they banned anything with an alien badguy.

why the soldiers can specifically be from Scotland
When picking the countries to have represented in the game Firaxis probably didn't know how the independence referendum would pan out and if Scotland would still be part of the United Kingdom when the game came out.

There will be a epilogue DLC about taking the fight to the alien's planets
It fits the audacity of XCOM expansions and Bradford has a line saying "maybe when this is over we can take this ship and go colonize one of [the alien's] planets".
  • Assuming Firaxis doesn't take up on that nod with an outright sequel. After all, XCOM 2 takes inspiration from Apocalypse, so an Interceptor take might not be impossible...
    • Since The Stinger seems to take place under the ocean, we may actually have Terror In The Deep as the next sequel/expansion.

The Speaker is the very same Thin Man that put the implant in the Commander
That smirk wasn't just him being sadistic. He was well aware he's doing his last grunt work before getting a cushy job.

The Speaker was indeed killed during the start of the riots.
The aliens just have multiple Speakers, and they trotted a new one out to try and regain control/harass X-Com.
  • Alternately, the Angelis Ethereal was simply replicating the Speaker's voice with their psionic communication since the turn before the Speaker starts goading XCOM, the Ethereal ends their speech by commenting to herself about how the Commander was unwilling to listen to her words or voice, ending it in a way as if musing that a voice that's usually viewed with trust and respect by humanity would allow her to convey her message. Unfortunately, she didn't consider that the voice she picked wasn't so popular with humanity any more and was never trusted by XCOM to begin with.

Alternatively, The Speaker survived.
Remember how Thin Men could use poison spit? The Speaker might have used this ability while he was being mobbed. This unfortunately means that whoever attacked him suffered agonizing deaths by poison.

DMX is going to be DLC
Most likely as a playable character, which is VERY likely considering the man's criminal record before the alien invasion. It would mostly capitalize on stuff like this.

The Commander is merged with Asaru from The Bureau.
An unparalleled tactical and strategic genius with enough mental strength to control an avatar body and hold off three hostile ethereals at the same time...hmm...and their power glow is the same blue as Asaru's ascended form...

Every game of Xcom Enemy Unknown/Within happened in this canon, including victories.
The Aliens were using the commander at the start of the game to run battle simulations and war games in his head, every single game of Xcom Enemy Unknown or Within was one of those war games. It was a duel purpose test and data mining effort by the aliens to determine the most likely outcome of the war in different scenarios and to determine the potential worth of humanity as well as a way to build a tactical response system that would counter human warfare if they ever revolted. Expansions like Enemy Within were to add more variables to the scenario and test the human resolve to fight and willingness to permanently alter themselves in the name of survival and independence.

The Avatar controlled by the Commander in the last level was originally Annette Durand
  • She is/was a very powerful psionic, able to create a shockwave without any psi training, and the aliens were ready to blow up a dam over her while EXALT was willing to fight their allies for her so she had to be quite powerful and the Commander's Avatar is able to curb stomp three Avatars.

Alternatively, the Commander of the XCOM 2 timeline was Annette Durand (or another soldier selected to be The Volunteer) in Enemy Unknown/Within
  • Again, counting Annette as being the most powerful psionic being in the world (to the point that the aliens used her as a conduit to en-masse mind control the personnel of XCOM's base long enough to begin their assault), being able to survive being a Wetware CPU in the alien's Psionic Network and then winning a Beam-O-War against multiple Ethereals is easily within her grasp. As for what she's doing coming from Enemy Unknown? Well, it's been confirmed by Word of God that The Volunteer, be it Annette or another XCOM member, managed to survive canceling the black hole caused by the Uber Ethereal's ship, with the implication they went somewhere else instead of dying. In this case, Annette/The Volunteer gets blasted to the past of XCOM 2, and tries to invoke a Stable Time Loop by becoming the Commander of XCOM - only to get overwhelmed by the aliens when the Commander of the Enemy Unknown/Within timeline held their ground, thus leading to their defeat and enslavement by the aliens.

Dr. Vahlen is still alive, but leading her own resistance faction
  • She might have taken extreme measures to hide herself, because she was personally responsible for the painful torture captured aliens had to endure. If they were still psionically linked, the Ethereals would probably want payback for making them feel all that pain. However, she's still helping out XCOM in her own way, and might even be leading her own rebel organization but in a more subtle fashion. In missions where XCOM is raiding sabotaged supply vehicles, we never see any trace of the resistance fighters; maybe Vahlen's really good at hit and run.

There will be story DLC involving a search for Dr.Vahlen
  • The twist: She's now a combatant, and after 20 years of running battles with ADVENT, she's become the most dangerous Specialist in the world.
    • Close. In the Alien Rulers DLC, she creates three units that are empowered versions of the viper, berserker, and archon enemies. These empowered aliens end up getting loose and serve as random boss encounters.

ADVENT burgers are NOT people.
  • There's just no reason for the aliens to waste good Human Resources on food, when they're working hard on the Avatar Project. Rather, the "meat" in ADVENT burgers is a genetically engineered and "vat-grown" meat substance, designed by the aliens for maximum flavor. All the best tastes humans generally agree on, combined with a few choice chemicals that directly stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, making them psychologically addictive. It's just another means of controlling the human populace. Gene Therapy clinics to cure disease and increase health and longevity, clean and shiny city centers with unlimited power and high-tech luxury devices, sexy snake ladies, and the best food you've ever had and as much of it as you can eat.
    • On the other hand, there may be rejected candidates that don't have the juice for Avatar Project, or just a handy way to dispose the bodies of slaughtered dissidents and XCOM members without mass graves or furnaces.
      • There is also consistency to think about. ADVENT burgers are Trademark Favorite Food, so one can expect them to be made with a consistent recipe. And given how many of them must go around, there just shouldn't be enough rejects in the Avatar Project to put into every burger. That is not to say that humans aren't being eaten. We don't know what the aliens themselves eat...
      • We found out in the Enemy Unknown. It's Alien Food and it has human DNA in it.
    • Besides all the obvious logistical issues of feeding a population with itself, the Ethereals probably designed them under the assumption they themselves will be eating ADVENT burgers (or some less "Crass" form of the same meat, like steak) once the Avatar project is finished.

Dr. Vahlen is working for Advent... as a double agent.
Hear me out here: Dr. Vahlen is probably the most knowledgeable person about alien biology on the planet pre-invasion. Assuming the base defense mission is when XCOM lost the war, that means that they had assaulted the alien base- XCOM HQ is attacked in response to them successfully invading the base and capturing/killing the Sectoid commander (exactly one month in-game time), meaning that Vahlen probably had the know-how to induce Psionics in human beings. In addition, depending on how long one waited to assault the base, the species encountered up to that point can range from Mutons and Chrysalids to Cyberdisks and Floaters.

When XCOM fell, Vahlen was most likely captured or killed- since her body was never found, and Bradford is confident she's still alive, we can assume "captured". In an ironic twist given both her nationality and her reputation among the aliens, she's given asylum, provided she uses her research to further their cause. Essentially, "Join us, or become them".

Since the invasion ended, Vahlen has been forced to work with Advent, leading to the genetic breakthroughs present in XCOM 2- while the aliens could modify the DNA of a Sectoid, Muton or Viper just fine, human DNA was harder to grasp, until they found out it was compatible with Meld. Vahlen is responsible for, in no particular order:

  • Human-alien hybridization (ADVENT troopers, evolved Mutons, evolved Sectoids).
  • Possibly the evolution of mechanical units- Archons are probably hers, but the new Sectopods seem like they'd be more in line with Shen's work.
  • The creation of the Speaker, having been made more human from his original Thin Man form, though not perfect-both as a visual cue to the audience, and a way of Vahlen staying defiant to the Elders.
  • Gene therapy clinic development- the orange color associated with the "therapy beds" seems to suggest a use of Meld.
  • The creation of Advent Burgers- a cheap way to keep the population in check with quality food.

And then, come 2034-2035, she finds out a few interesting tidbits of information:

  • Shen's daughter is alive, and she's commandeered an alien ship.
  • Bradford is alive, and he's with Lily Shen.
  • The Commander is still alive, and he has been used to ensure alien victory by way of his wargame simulation.

Acting on all this information, she decides to leak some intel. It's never specified where Bradford got the intel as to the Commander's location, just that he acted on it as soon as he got it. It could have come from anywhere- a file sent in an un-encrypted e-mail, a direct line to the Informant, or even rumors spread around the globe, piecing together a message.

Now, one of two things happens here, both equally likely:

  • Vahlen is not found out, and continues working with the aliens, who fast-track the Avatar project after their key strategic asset is removed. Vahlen, a trustworthy asset, is put in charge of it, and she keeps leaking details about Avatar to the Informant- things like where their next facility will be built- but doesn't have full access to the data, which is why you need to find the location of The Blacksite, the Forge, and the Psionic Gate via hacking into various things.
  • Vahlen, paranoid of being found out, flees her center of research with files pertaining to the Avatar project. Advent doesn't catch onto her presence for a good while- she's a priority asset, she can be trusted, and probably did this prior to the Commander being rescued. She traveled to some far-off country of little strategic significance- probably living in slums of a city center in a third-world country- but eventually, has to pack up and leave, and, through various assumed names, travels the globe, taking revenge on aliens in rather... creative manners.
  • Jossed: As of Alien Hunters, we find out that Vahlen has been conducting genetic experiments in a hidden lab with three alien subjects so dangerous that the Etherals had them frozen to prevent them from running amok.

The Commander is one of the Missing Primarchs from Warhammer 40k.
It would explain his military ability, and the surprising lack of muscle atrophy from being immobile for 20 years. The reason no one notices anything is because of his Warp mutation - instead of growing wings or being a cyclops, he's of normal size and proportion.
  • Alternatively, s/he's been quietly altered by Magnus of the Thousand Sons, having used his last bit of sorcery to affect the point where humanity first learned to hate the alien, making it so that the human most altered by the Ethereals (merging with the psionic network) survived and showed that s/he was still human in all the important ways. He did this to find some modicum of internal forgiveness by altering history just enough to be accepting of psykers (the Psi Lab actually creating them on relative command) and genetic alterations (the Commander's Avatar)-thus, starving the Chaos Gods of trillions of worshipers driven to their side and leading to a less grimdark future. Of course, Tzeentch knew about this, but decided to let it happen-a humanity more accepting of psykers and change means more fruitful ground for his own cult...

Advent ME Cs were based on notes stolen from the original XCOM base.
In Enemy Within, if you rush for it specifically, Dr. Shen can roll out the first MEC Trooper in less than two months. He probably had detailed notes on his own personal project robot suit before the invasion started, and it only became viable so quickly once XCOM studied MELD in the Enemy Within timeline to provide the appropriate cybernetic interface with the pilot. Since this timeline had the original base get attacked and overrun, Shen had to go on the run with his daughter. Who knows what personal notes he left behind in his haste?

Fast forward to when Advent needs a heavy mechanized unit for situations that don't call for a Sectopod, they modified Shen's original notes to make it an entirely robotic unit and integrated it into their forces.

  • Confirmed by the Shen's Last Gift DLC mission. Julian states that he helped the aliens with,"perfecting their designs," and mentions that Dr. Shen's work was helpful.

The final threat the Ethereals warned us about has already been revealed
A combination of theories posited so far - Somewhere in time and space, an unknown "evil" race dominates not only their universe, but also spill out into alternative dimensions, where they encounter pre-XCOM 1 Ethereals. Some of the members of this "evil" race try to encourage the Ethereals to ascend by sharing their superior technology with them, while others bear a grudge against the Ethereals (for reasons that will be made clear shortly) and try to eliminate the Ethereals with a degenerative virus instead. The Ethereals' degenerating bodies makes them desperate and they ultimately search for dimensions not dominated by the "evil" race. In at least two of these alternative dimensions, they find the freedom to experiment on lesser races in an effort to save themselves and ultimately ascend. However, in every single one of these dimensions, humans adapt and adopt the Ethereal's borrowed technology and use it to defeat the Ethereals. What's more, the humans evolve beyond the capabilities and technology possessed by the Ethereals, and eventually conquer them and go on to dominate the universe. The humans ultimately spill out into alternative dimensions, where they find Ethereals that have never encountered humans before and have no degenerative virus. The humans are the "evil" race that create their own worst enemy. This would actually go some way towards explaining the Ethereals' words at the end of XCOM 2, where they claim that the humans are the original aggressors

The link between the Outsiders of XCOM and The Bureau
The humans-into-orange-vial process seen in XCOM 2's blacksite may have already been undertaken on the Outsiders seen in the The Bureau by the time XCOM 1 began. The Outsider Shard may be a technologically re-worked version of the orange vial seen in XCOM 2.

The Commander is a Time Lord.

The Commander is being helped by a renegade Ethereal
At several points during the game, we see an Ethereal silhouette doing hand waves in the camera's direction - when the Commander flatlines as the brain chip is being removed, and when the connection to the Avatar is established. My theory is that there is an Ethereal alongside the Commander's own mind within his brain. Initially, it was placed there to keep him under control, but it realized that Mankind had better chances of defeating the great menace that its own people. So it decided to help the Commander by keeping him alive and helping the connection with the Avatar. This explains why the other Ethereals call the Commander a 'betrayer' in the final cutscene - also it could just be them being hypocrites, since they forced the Commander to work for them in the past.
  • Building off of this, the renegade Ethereal in question may be Asaru, considering the bright blue psionic aura the Commander's Avatar has in the final mission.

EXALT pops up after XCOM 2.
EXALT's goal in EW was to use the alien invader's technology to take over the world. What better time to do that than in the inevitable power vacuum after XCOM defeats the ruling aliens?

XCOM will WORK FOR EXALT after XCOM 2.
Ok, this is going to take some time to explain: After the original XCOM (as in UFO Defense), XCOM was disbanded as a military organization, and forced to become Private Military Contractors for F. Denman Williams during XCOM: Terror From The Deep. Considering The Stinger teases a possible set-up for Terror From The Deep, with psionic energy bubbling up from the remains of the Avatar Project base, it's possible that the post-ADVENT world would have the nations of the world reestablished by EXALT, and with F. Denman Williams or his counterpart serving the Councilman's role as a go-between for the privatized XCOM and their EXALT paymasters, with the two working together (barely) to fight against whatever force destroyed the home planet of the Ethereals.

We will have control of some of the aliens in X-com 3.
Advent is a decapitated army at this point, and the ethereals actually admit that much of the army would not serve without psychic domination. With possibly their entire army stranded on earth, who's to say some of the alien races can't be reasoned with? The sectoids at least are of proven human level intelligence, as are the vipers.
  • Its also possible that after being freed from Ethereal control some of the aliens would simply willingly join up with X-com to defend against the upcoming threat

In the end the aliens lost because that did not understand Intoxication
Over the course of the final mission the etherials or elders which ever you want to call them repeatedly appeal to the commander to stop the war because of all the years he spent "with" them presumably in the alien psy network before he was saved. They expected it to work, legitimately and without irony, which is why they tried talking so many times. The reason it didn't however wasn't human ingenuity or the will to survive, it was how the human body reacts to intoxication of any kind, drugs, alcohol, anything that alters the state of mind to a certain degree. See thanks to human physiology memory formation can be effected by an altered state of mind, for example being blackout drunk or so fucking high you don't remember anything you did while under the influence until the next time your in the same state. The actual name for it Alcoholic Memory Syndrome, posits that because a person is under the influence the way there memories are recorded is slightly altered from normal making it very difficult if not impossible to remember when sober but when next intoxicated to roughly the same level those memories become accessible again because your mind is functioning the same way. The result of this is that the commander experienced a roughly decade long blackout because of the high he was experiencing off all that psonic energy flowing through his body. He legitimately couldn't remember the entire decade he'd spent in the network as a result.

thee IS no greater threat
all of the posturing, patheticly transparent excuses for attempting the cold-blooded genocide of humanity, Hypocrisy and untold trillions of Other Sentient Beings they've slaughtered in their millennia-long rampage of murder, subjugation and enslavement cover nothing more then their Physical deformity / degenerative condition, and an unwillingness to continue sustaining themselves with their PSI powers( as they are revealed to have been doing in the EU timeline in the autopsy/interrogation reports) long enough for a SANE cure, if not simply out of sadism.

T They've CLEARLY survived their condition for hundreds to thousands of years on an individual basis (from Autopsy evidence in the EU Timeline), and with their level of technology and amount of resources at their disposal,there is ZERO ingame/universe explination given for the conveniently sudden "deteriation"in their condition, and, most suspiciously, there is LITERALLY no excuse for the pitifully crude, assembly-line techniques they use for harvesting Human Genetic material then simple laziness or pointless sadism (not to mention inefficient, since they are KILLING all their subjects for a short-term payoff of material instead of prolonged harvesting that could EASILY be implemented via regular gene clinic check-ups- or being honest and offering rewards for individuals willing to donate tissue samples for cloning- a technology they are allready confirmed to have mastered to the point of flawlessly replicating entire complex organisms, as the entire Sectoid race are VERY heavily suggested/ theorized by Vahlen in EU to be mass-produced clones due to the near identical nature of every specimen encountered- not to mention the ADVENT Trooper strains!)the latter method,while while being slower to START, would gain an exponentially higher yield as their sample base expanded.

  • If this is the case, then what are the weird purplish tendrils crawling out of the wrekage of the ethereal underwater base?
    • weird purplish tendrils of energy that look a lot like weird purplish psionic energy coming out of the pile of Ethereal bodies?

The greater threat is the Kaiju from Pacific Rim
The glowing trench shown at the end is the portal they come through. The Jaegers are scaled up ME Cs using a mixture of sectopod tech and the Avatar control system. And XCOM and the Jaeger program are both multinational organizations that have to deal with councils made up of the world governments who keep cutting their funding.
Not all Advent Troopers are Vat Grown
Some of them are genetically modified human volunteers as originally speculated. There are also are some Advent Troopers which are completely unmodified 100% Human Baseline. These used to be the majority of the Advent Army but as time went on they became a smaller and smaller section of Advent forces. Now those that remain are assigned to non strategic areas and for PR reasons. "Don't believe those insidious rumors citizens! Advent Forces are your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. But don't take my word for it, here's Sergeant Jane Allison." (Jane has her helmet off).
  • Which may explain why some XCOM-affiliated partisans were able to wield ADVENT Mag Rifles at the ending as those partisans were probably ex-ADVENT soldiers who defected to the resistance after discovering the truth of their alien masters and their agenda, taking their weapons with them.

The sequel will involve the now liberated factions of humanity dragging each other to hell in a civil war
Yay! You defeated the aliens with mass-murder and terrorism, exposed their genocidal plans to the point of global paranoia, and ruthlessly shattered their leadership with a psionic nuke! Now billions of enlightened citizens across twenty different segregated sections of an entire planet whose original inhabitants belonged to hundreds of warmongering, rapist racists can use the advanced plasma-nuclear technology to make peace and live happily-

Okay cut the crap, we all know that Humans Are Bastards and We ARE Struggling Together. What do you THINK will happen the exact moment that the entire planet is completely deprived of its dominant government?! With some people staying in the hyper advanced cities and most flocking into the technology-deprived wilderness, the remnants of former extremist nations can now use those shiny new plasma terrorist weapons that Advent was constantly wiping them out for brandishing, AND the fact that you just destroyed Advent's greatest super-soldier project, the one that they probably broadcast to the entire world (out of spite) as the Milky Way Galaxy's last line of defense against a psionic eldritch planet-sized all-devourer that is going to eat the entire galaxy in less than five centuries, you can expect that the world isn't going to hold on to One World Order for a second long. A lot of people are going to be VERY angry at XCOM, some are going to try and fill the power vacuum (possibly Exalt), and a few of your own soldiers are going to defect out of loyalty to their original countries, horror at all the innocents you forced them to grenade, or disgust at how you have completely fucked up the world.

Annette Durand never existed.
A young, pretty, very powerful psyker with a unique superpower that every side wants working for them and does fine in combat without any proper training? Sounds rather like a fanfic character, or at least as close to one as you'll get from a Crapsack World like the one in the games. That's because she was - There was no real Annette Durand. Instead, the character Annette was the Angelis Ethereal making an Author Avatar in the Commander's tactical simulations. Perhaps she was simply creating the character to see how the Commander handled powerful psi-operatives, thus creating tactics the Elders themselves could use, or perhaps she was just being a nerd because she's fond of the Commander (traces of which sneak through in her interaction with him). Either way, there was no real Annette Durand, and that's why she doesn't appear in the sequel.

Completion of the Avatar Project WOULD NOT doom humanity.
The ethereals are certainly conniving, ruthless bastards. That much is pure to be seen from the destruction/enslavement of several other failed host species. However, humans were given rather preferential treatment because of their genetic predisposition for handling psionic energy. That same energy that has caused the near-extinction and wasting degeneration of the ethereals, which is what the avatar project had hoped to combat. Unfettered though they are, I don't think the ethereals would be as ungrateful for having found what they were looking for in humanity as to purge them from existence.

Hypothetical situation: XCOM and the resistance is quashed, the Avatar Project is completed, said avatars are now "rolled out" to the five or so ethereals that are left, who exert themselves as the dominant powers. As their rule and survival is all but assured, I see no reason why the ethereals and ADVENT wouldn't just leave the contented, docile population of the city centers alone. ADVENT clearly has enough troops to keep the peace within the centers, the media is firmly under their control, hardly anything happens without their knowing within those centers, and the average person is genuinely happy and healthy. There's little reason to worry about what will happen if the grip on the reins is loosened a bit. While it may not be a particularly ideal future for humankind, it is a future, and I don't think it's nearly as dark or apocalyptic as the bad ending of UFO Defense

EXALT was the Commander's subconscious attempts to rebel against the Ethereals.
It's said in-game that the later events of X-Com was the Commander being used as awet-ware computer, and that X-Com went down before EXALT showed up. It would integrate Enemy Within. For the first however many times, the Commander was 'running' Enemy Unknown, and as they tried to rebel they moved on to Enemy Within.

EXALT is one of the Factions that you can recruit in War of the Chosen
They will either be the name of the Reapers, or the Skirmishers, faction. My personal belief is the Skirmishers, since Exalt wanted to use alien technology and biology to improve themselves. This is why Exalt is against you in the original X Com Enemy Within. What actually happened is that people that were "improved" by the aliens realized that this was for the downfall of humanity, and instead rebelled against the Elders.
  • Jossed on the account of the Skirmishers. They're ADVENT soldiers who broke out of their microchip-based control.

The Chosen are the Furies
The Furies all have static classes and genders which the Chosen mirror. Additionally they were all chosen by the Ethereals for their psionic potential.

  • Matthew "Alecto" Hawkins Sniper / The Hunter Male
  • Fatima "Tisiphone" Tariq Assault / The Assassin Female
  • Said "Megaera" Tariq Support / The Warlock Male

They were the first pass at making a Human/Ethereal hybrid and became The Chosen after years of experimentation and conditioning.

Durand is MIA, possibly the leader of the Templars or possibly killed during her rescue mission.

  • Pretty thoroughly Jossed. The leader of the Templars is a former XCOM Psi Soldier named Geist that bears no resemblance to Annette. While the Chosen are former humans, they aren't the furies.

Meld never really existed in the XCOM universe
If such a useful resource existed, the desperate XCOM forces in the sequel would certainly want to get their hands on it, or we'd see it mentioned by Tygan somewhere - being an ADVENT defector and all. Instead, it's never mentioned at all.

Most likely, Meld was a fictional resource that existed only within the tactical simulations that the Commander was running for ADVENT, to:

  • spur him/her on to more aggressive tactics in keeping with the aliens' willingness to sacrifice their own,
  • justify the existence of MEC Troopers and gene mods, which would - in the real XCOM - have been considered outrageously unethical, and
  • control the extent to which the Commander was deploying those troops, so as to emulate the relative scarcity of such units in the ADVENT arsenal.

The Ethereals are not a species. They are all one specific being with there numbers coming from across dimensions, and they're running from Humanity.
The Elders or Ethereals are a series of ancient beings seemingly of identical body type and outfit, with one notable exception, who speak as a united group. This troper believes that the seeming universality of there abilities and decrepit build would not be conducive to a species proper, even if humans went the accention route it is virtually certain that at least a few million would choose to stay behind and continue having children naturally. Rather this troper suspects that the Ethereals are all variations of same being coming from various different dimensions with the most powerful variation among them becoming leader.

Further more they are waging war across the different dimensions and have been extremely successful. With access to multiple dimensions they simply picking a fight with each species to learn its weaknesses then exploit them in the next dimension to conquer them and turn the new conquest on the originals. No species ever survived an onslaught like this because the enemy would always know exactly what weakness they had somehow and exploit it. That is until humanity got into the mix with our perfect blend of brain, brawn, and psionic potential.

The Ethereals saw in us something far greater then anyone before had presented the chance at extending their dwindling lives. The Ethereals for all of their power and technology had reached the absolute limit of what they could do to preserve their bodies. More and more of them failed leaving the inhabitants as powerless wraiths kept existent by the psionic power they wielded but also trapped by it, left unable to rule from beyond the mortal coil. Humanity had just the right mix to be reengineered into the perfect shells for them to inhabit with all the strengths they currently had plus the might of the Ethereals.

The problems began almost immediately as we proved far, far more resistant and flexible then any other species had. To the point of actively fighting back against the invasion and winning but that was all part of the plan. Once it was clear they had lost the Ethereals jumped ship to a new dimension and tried again upping their game with the newly gained knowledge of the humans. It didn't work, for the first time in recorded history the humans didn't fall to the same faults as their counterparts in the previous dimension. Sure it worked for a time but as soon as they had self-analyzed and discovered the fault they would correct it and recover to win again.

Taking it as a fluke at first the Ethereals repeated the process again and again each time getting more creative with the attack itself but always met with failure. Too much variation, too much adaptability was slowly draining what they had left in terms of both vitality and resources. The defeats piled up as they scrambled for a solution until the an Ethereal itself fell into the hands of the enemy and suddenly the fight got much more serious. They hadn't pieced it together yet but it was now virtually certain that the particular world which had seized one of their own would eventually figure out how to cross dimensions and find the rest. It also happened to be one of the worlds they had brutalized most harshly giving the inhabitants ample motive for revenge.

The XCOM 2 Ethereals used the knowledge they had on XCOM itself to hunt down a world where the base shared coordinates with another they had already assaulted and launched an all out assault ending the war before it began in earnest. They captured the commander, the man who somehow had always managed to out maneuver them, and tried to figure out just what was so special about him. Nothing, that was the answer. By all rights he was just another human of the exact type they'd slaughtered millions of but somehow this one man just kept on beating them so instead of of trying in vain to discover some secret about him they put him to use analyzing human tactics from combat across dimensions while trying desperately to finish the project they'd started long ago while there were still Ethereals to saves.

Then it happens again, even though they won they still haven't really won because someone somewhere on this tiny blue speck is still willing to fight. Not only that but in a matter of under two decades they not only free the one person who seems to always beat the Ethereals in the end but they've not go a whole lot more of the weapons and technology that the Ethereals fraught so hard to keep from them. Now they've got the resistance on one side doing that damnable thing humans always do, adapt to the situation, and something far worse at their backs out searching for them. An entire dimension of extremely pissed off and highly augmented humans whos capabilities put the Ethereals themselves to shame. The only consolation is that if they fail in creating the new avatar species to carry them through this conflict these two unstoppable human jugernaughts will probably kill each other when the Ethereals are gone.

There was a Fourth Chosen, the original Chosen.
The three chosen we see all have well defined personality flaws that make them easily manipulated, greed and obsession, pride and zealotry, and psychotic delight. Given the chosen seem to have once been human or at least are partially composed of humans it seems likely these negative traits were intentionally fueled by the elders to keep them in line. However based on the extreme reaction they show toward defiance of any kind by the chosen it seems likely these three were not the original.

This troper suspects that the original chosen was a human exposed to the Golop device and allowed to develop to its fullest potential including all three traits the chosen display in excess stealth, martial prowess, and psionic potential. It was powerful beyond its peers in the invasion force, too powerful. The Elders destroyed it because while it did have exactly the traits they wanted it could not be controlled and bent to there will. The three chosen were inferior copies meant to cover that weakness through competition and psychological faults.

Five alien food rations says the commander was the fourth Chosen.

The Elders we see are the last Elders in existence.
Between the degenerative plague effecting their species and the constantly referenced greater threat they use to try and get XCOM to surrender it seems likely that the Elders are near extinct. That would be why in the original game they started small before bringing out the big guns and why the current Advent are restricted to the city centers.

Take a look at the progression in the first game, sectoids who are relatively disposable, infiltrator thin men, and terror bombings. The Aliens were clearly hoping to invade and then have humanity surrender in fear quickly. But then as the resistance to their attacks grow they deploy bigger, rarer, and more powerful devices. Just take a look at the Heavy Floaters and Elite Mutons, clearly they're supposed to be body guards not front line troops! The Elders growing desperate started deploying their own entourage into the field hoping to stop XCOM before things got any worse.

Come the second game we find out the Elders are dying from some incurable wasting disease and desperately hoping to use human DNA to stitch together the best of all other alien genetic material. However we see that even if their bodies die they continue to exist as psionic energy, multiple disembodied ones appear, meaning the body is just their to interact with the physical world as well as amplifying their powers. That and they have so few troops left they can barely control their own cities and have to constantly cull the population of zombies they accidentally created constantly to avoid being overrun. They don't even regularly patrol the skys anymore only sporadically deploying UF Os to hunt their enemies.

Separated it seems arbitrary or like they're simply overconfident but put together the picture becomes clear. The Elders are a dead race, the only survivors hiding out on earth from something real and incredibly deadly. Their own technology is rapidly breaking down with only the most critical projects still receiving funding or resources. The risk of losing control is so great they're intentionally handicapping all their soldiers on the genetic level to prevent uprisings that could potentially succeed. Even the elders themselves are only barely maintaining their intense mind control over their most docile soldiers with the help of advanced technology to boost their psionic prowess to compensate for how few of them are left.

Ultimately this even provides the nature of the bigger threat they're trying to prepare for sacrificing humanity in the process. Whatever it is feeds on psionic energy. Devouring the disembodied Elder wraiths, robbing the living ones of the psionic power that sustains them causing rapid desiccation, and ultimately following their psionic trail across the galaxy right to earth. Presuming psionic energy is the source of life, as implied, Humanity is in big big trouble.

Gatekeepers are Ethereal who succumbed to their disease
Gatekeepers are Ethereals who died or nearly died to the disease that is causing their body´s to degenerate.Think about it, Gatekeepers are the most powerfull psionic enemy except the Avatars, like the Ethereals of Enemy Unknown. They are probably not a subject species like the other aliens. It does not make sense that the Ethereals would leave such an psionically powerfull species alive, even less to give them a powerfull robotic shell.

But it would make sense if the Gatekeepers would be dead or degenerated Ethereals. Maybe in an attempt to cure their disease multiple Ethereals got turned into these mounds of flesh. And the other Ethereals , maybe to use their leftover psionic might or maybe out of respect to their lost bretheren , formed these robotic shells for the victims of this mishap.

This would explain a lot about the Gatekeepers. Their rarity and late game appearance would come from the scarcity of these beings,due to not being able or willing to make more of them. Their psionic power would spring from the Ethereal origins of the creature. And they look like the most "sophisticated" of the alien units , because the Ethereals designed their shell to remind themselves and their subjects of the authority the sad creature inside once commanded.

Finally Gatekeepers are tied to the Gate, the most trans-dimensional object in the game and the Ethereals themselves are often theorized to be trans-dimensional

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