Retaliation is one of the two ADVENT methods of combating the Resistance in XCOM 2. As opposed to the more esoteric AVATAR Project, Retaliation consists of the more tried-and-true method of stamping down the bootheel until the opponent stops moving. Retaliation is the equivalent to the classic XCOM staple, the Terror Mission, and behaves very similarly in mechanical terms.
The Retaliation Counter Edit
Like the ADVENT Project incrementing, ADVENT Retaliation Strike missions happen on a timer, which can be viewed on the Dark Events screen. The first Retaliation Strike will take place approximately at the end of the first month and subsequent ones will happen approximately every five weeks afterward. However, a Dark Event, Resistance Informant, will advance the counter by two extra weeks if allowed to continue.
Failing or ignoring a Retaliation Strike will scatter the Resistance in that region of the world. Contact with the region will be lost and must be reestablished, any radio relays in the region will be destroyed, and the income of the region will be permanently reduced. Additionally, if a continent bonus involving that region had been achieved, it will be lost until the requirements are reestablished.
What To Expect Edit
Retaliation Strikes take place in Resistance camps already under attack by ADVENT forces. The squad will arrive at an edge of the map, sometimes on a cliff, and have to make their way into the settlement. Almost no structures in settlements will consist of more than one story, but there will be quite a few of them, along with other assorted debris to provide cover and break line of sight. Here and there, permanent fires will have been started due to the ongoing destruction, effectively disabling areas of potential cover. Occasionally, settlements will feature explosive tanks or towers, which can be targeted for effect.
Scattered throughout the settlement are civilians. It is required to save at least six of them or the mission will be failed, and ADVENT will wipe out the camp. Civilians have a "fat cross" around them--all tiles directly adjacent, and one extra in the middle of each side--represented by a glowing blue circle. Moving an XCOM trooper into any of these squares, regardless of line of sight, will result in the civilian being saved--sent to the Firebrand dropship and thus out of danger. Moving through the squares will not be enough--the trooper must stop and talk to the civilian to order them to safety.
Also throughout the camp are ADVENT troops. These can be expected to be at rough technological parity with those in other concurrent encounters, but slightly more numerous or stronger, with emphasis on faster troops such as the Stun Lancer. Retaliation Strikes are also the first place several aliens will be introduced, namely the Faceless and the Chryssalid.
Every turn that an ADVENT troop squad remains unencountered by XCOM, it will select one civilian in the fog of war and attempt to kill it. This is extremely likely to succeed--Retaliation Strike civilians have only one hit point and, while they will attempt to seek cover and flee from aliens near them, are not very evasive. It is possible for the aliens to miss; however, if one unrevealed squad misses the next will then attempt to kill a civilian. Once one civilian has been killed per turn, unrevealed squads will stop attempting to kill until next turn.
This effectively puts XCOM on a very tight timer--they have to engage all the enemies on the map before six turns have passed, or the mission is almost certainly lost.
Enemies which have been revealed will, for the most part, fight XCOM in their normal fashion. However, some, such as the Stun Lancer in particular, will prefer to keep attacking civilians, while others such as Mutons may make unpredictable decisions as to which to prioritize. ADVENT's goal here isn't to kill you, it's to wipe out the settlement--if they manage to stall you then additional troops may well run off into the fog to resume hunting.
- Eliminate all enemies.
- Save at least six civilians.
- Do not die.
First and foremost: do not ignore Retaliation Strike missions. Unless you have to choose between stopping an ongoing AVATAR timer and stopping a Retaliation Strike, the Strike takes priority due to the massive onuses failing it brings and the narrow time window to stop it in.
Retaliation Strikes are some of the toughest missions you will face outside of preplanned plot missions; in addition to the distracting and extremely stringent "timer", Retaliation Strikes (like Terror Missions before them) typically feature more and tougher enemies than any other mission type--enemies which you'll have to kill much more quickly than normal.
Who To Bring Edit
As such, Retaliation Strikes are not places to train rookies. Send your absolute best and boldest on these missions, outfitted with everything you can give them.
Strikes feature no hackable terminals, very few robotic enemies, and much fewer opportunities for Overwatch than normal, so Combat Hacker Specialists are likely to struggle. Combat Medics remain useful given how dangerous the enemies are, but you should really only bring one--you NEED damage.
Sniper Sharpshooters will also find it hard to excel--many Strikes lack dominating high ground or consistent fire lanes, hampering their ability to lay down death from afar. Gunslinger Sharpshooters, on the other hand, can snipe when required while also laying down enormous amounts of accurate pistol fire, making them quite useful against the hard-to-hit enemies that plague Strikes.
Both types of Grenadier will do well on Strikes--Demolitions for being able to put out boatloads of guaranteed damage, Heavy Gunners for Holo-Targeting and Suppression, and both sides for being able to shred armor, which will become more and more common in later Strikes. Be extra careful about where you place your grenades, however--civilians will be killed outright by any type of grenade in the game.
Both types of Ranger are also extremely useful in Strikes. Assaults are more exceptional, due to their extremely high damage and ability to cover ground quickly while still attacking; however, Scouts are the only ones with Concealment in Strike missions and, if used skillfully, can quickly take stock of most of the enemy troop squads before getting bogged down in engagements.
Almost every potential Psi-Operative skill is useful in a Strike mission, whether it's locking down enemies with Stasis, dealing guaranteed damage with Soulfire and Insanity, granting extra actions with Inspire, nullifying enemy psionic effects, or just doing obscene damage with Null Lance or Void Rift. Those with the latter should be careful, however--civilians caught in the blast will be killed.
What to Bring Edit
In a Retaliation Strike, more than any other mission type, you need to focus on dealing damage. You're going to be facing a lot of enemies that hit quite hard, and due to the structure of the mission, you're going to be encouraged to pull as many of them onto you as fast as you can. To keep from being overwhelmed, you need to be able to clear the table rapidly.
As such, your bog-standard explosive is almost certainly your best option. It'll shred some armor and deal damage that nothing can dodge away from. You won't run into any robotic enemies in the early and most of the midgame versions of the Retaliation Strike, though you might start seeing the REALLY nasty ones later, so you can put off the Bluescreen and EMP. You WILL, however, be facing several types of enemies with varying levels of armor, so dedicated armor-strippers like the Acid Grenade might be worth saving a slot for.
Having said that, Retaliation Strikes will--right up into the endgame--be excellent places to save your old Flashbangs for. Flashbangs will shut down a lot of the nasty secondary abilities that make the enemies you'll run into here absolutely miserable, like the Stun Lancer's blade, the Muton's counterattack, or literally anything the Berserker tries to do. It can also break Psi effects when used on the caster, which is invaluable against Mind Control when you don't have the time to try and figure out how to kill the caster with the guns you have left.
What To Do Edit
The official objective of any Retaliation Strike is to save six or more civilians. While you can run your dudes up to civilians to get them out of the battle zone--and you should, if they're on the way or in danger--the best, most effective way to save as many civilians as possible is to kill the enemy troops as quickly as you can.
As a result, and due to the way undiscovered squads work in this mission type, the civilians act as more of a timer than anything else. What you should be focusing on doing instead is exploring as much of the map as you possibly can, as fast as you can, so that you can pop the out-of-sight squads and make them focus on YOU instead of the helpless squishies. Each time an undiscovered squad kills a civilian, you'll get a shot of them doing it, which should give you a general idea of where they are--they don't teleport around like XCOM 1 squads, but they will move. Head in that direction.
When you run into enemies, fight them, but do not stop moving. You don't have the luxury of time to stand and fight. Wipe things off the table as quickly as you possibly can, and move onward. Only once you're sure you've found every squad of ADVENT can you afford to start trading shots and playing it safe. This doesn't mean you should do stupid things like leaving soldiers out of cover, but it does mean you have to force the hit-dice to work for you rather than waiting for them to agree to it. That means advancing and flanking, which you should be doing anyway.
It's possible, especially on higher difficulties, that you won't be able to steamroll fast enough to go for the "kill them first" option. This is why these missions have rescuable civilians and not a standard timer. If you're running into a stonewall, break around the edges and hunt down at least six civilians, just to make sure you don't lose. Once that's done, then you can fight the enemies at whatever pace they demand.
Who You'll See Edit
ADVENT Retaliation Strikes, as a rule, feature more enemies than your average mission, and stronger ones--not a TON more, but more. As a result, you'll definitely run into at least two enemies in these for the first time, and maybe some other ones too. Having said that, they don't run wildly ahead of the rest of the missions in terms of what you'll run into, so apart from new surprises what you'll be dealing with is slightly different enemy layouts under a strongly different mission setup.
The first Retaliation Strike, and probably one or two after, will feature the first appearances of the Faceless, backed up by your usual mix of ADVENT baseline troops with a higher-than-average percentage of Stun Lancers and Sectoids. Vipers will work their way in at some point. Eventually, you'll see your first Chryssalids in one of these (as expected, they are the equivalent of the Terror Mission), backed up by Mutons, the second level of ADVENT troops, and maybe a Berserker. Whether you start seeing Berserkers here or not will probably depend on whether or not you've done your first Avenger Defense--if you have, they tend to start showing up then. Sectopods will eventually join the party. [This section to be completed once I get a run late enough in the game again to know what shows up in the lategame.]
Who To Shoot Edit
First and foremost: if you uncover a Stun Lancer of any variety, the Stun Lancer dies first.
Stun Lancers in most encounters will suicidally and single-mindedly rush your troops for the sake of getting that hit in, which makes them a terrifying initial threat that turns into interesting street art shortly afterwards. Stun Lancers in Resistance Strikes will suicidally and single-mindedly rush civilians. Even if you've seen them, or have already shot them. The rule of one civilian per turn will still apply, but Lancers won't stop just because you're fighting them and they're fast enough to get out of your effective range if you allow them. They're your first target.
Second targets, if they're there, are Chryssalids. Chryssalids will at least stick to the plan, for the most part, of picking the tastiest-looking XCOM soldier and dogpiling him. This is still really, really bad. Additionally, sometimes they'll decide they want civilian for dinner instead. Either of these options can easily lead to you getting absolutely overrun with bugs. If you see one Chryssalid on the map then there'll be at least three, and probably six--the burrowed ones still compose "squads" like the normal ones, just squads that don't all pop at the same time. Keep careful count--you don't want to lose track of how many there are and have one you missed jump you when you thought you were done with the things.
After those two, whether you normally target the big threats or the small threats first, in Resistance Strikes you want to go after the small threats--especially those on the edges of the enemy line. You need to keep moving forward, and if you have to choose between keeping one Berserker or three Elite Troopers on the table, you want the Berserker. At least he can only hit one thing at a time--the troopers can outflank you and they'll be much harder to box in or lead in circles. You don't want to be leaving these big threats alive, necessarily, while you're going looking to invite their friends to the party, but stopping the massacre is priority one. Plus, single guys on the edges of the line can and will try to fall back to groups still undiscovered in the dark, making them stronger and delaying the threat--and you cannot afford delays.
Low-priority threats are anything that you know will be focused on you, even if you don't make an effort to engage it. This is a fairly limited list, but it does include Sectoids and their Psi Zombies--though depending on how you feel about Mindspin and whether or not you have a Psi Op of your own along to keep its effects clear, you may want to make them a higher target. Also lower down is anything so big you're going to have to spend multiple turns to kill it, like a Gatekeeper (God forbid) or a Sectopod (possible). Again, these are things you don't want to leave alive because they'll very quickly leave you dead, but if you can mitigate, stun, or dodge them while you're picking off their supporting cast, you should probably try.
Other Things To Keep In Mind Edit
Unless the Faceless Infiltrator Dark Event is going on, Resistance Strikes are the only missions where you're going to encounter Faceless. You WILL encounter them--each Strike has at least one Faceless mixed into the civilians hiding around the map. On any difficulty other than Rookie, they'll only reveal themselves under one of three conditions:
- You move an XCOM soldier into the "fat cross" of their civilian disguise. (They will also sometimes reveal themselves if an XCOM soldier is within striking range, but it's not consistent.)
- You kill every other thing on the map.
- They trigger alien overwatch fire. Normal civilians have Shadowstep so that they do not trigger reaction fire, so if an alien shoots a civilian while on overwatch, that civilian is a Faceless infiltrator.
Faceless on their own aren't very dangerous, but one appearing in the middle of a Strike that's already chaotic and collapsing can be a death sentence. Unlike many early-game enemies, Faceless never upgrade, so by lategame their damage will be kind of weak compared to some of the other stuff flying your way. However, they still have a big truckload of hitpoints, and their attack is a huge sweep that can hit at range, hit multiple people, and--possibly the worst--destroy cover. You can't hope to plan your entire strategy around the possibility of every civilian being a Faceless, and you shouldn't! If you already have the situation largely in hand they're not going to swing the entire tide back around. But you should start thinking about it if things are already in a bad way.
The Good News Edit
Thankfully, ADVENT Resistance Strikes are the most predictable missions in the game, in that it tells you more accurately than any other mission you don't start yourself as to when they'll be coming. As such, you can anticipate them showing up and prepare accordingly, if necessary. Leave your strongest troops off of missions close to the Strike date so they're not in medbay when the time comes, and maybe even save some supplies for last-minute purchases. These are your most important missions to counter, but completing them will give you a very important reward, increasing the income for that region.
Unique Dialogue Edit
Resistance Strikes use a set of maps divorced from any other mission type, and as such occasionally feature sites and features which Bradford will comment on that offer a little more of a look into the Resistance backing you up.
- On seeing a truck with a satellite setup on the back
- "The Resistance has recovered and repaired a couple of these mobile communications jammers over the years. So far, they've proven invaluable.
- On seeing a tire run or shooting range
- "I'm glad to see the Resistance has their recruits training. They need to be prepared for the next ADVENT sweep of this area."
This is the section for notes, if any come up.