Continuing the Series, I’m going to take a strong look at the Specialist class, just like I did with the Sharpshooter and the Grenadier. I’m going to cover why I like and don’t like what I took, and how it helped me play the game. If you consider class based decisions and abilities spoilers, I’d stay out now. otherwise, dive in with me to take a look at the Specialist class.
New to the program in XCOM2, the Specialist is a soldier who uses hacking and other forms of electronic warfare, including his Gremlin drone, to resist the enemies of earth. The Specialist has a clear support role, with a number of skills that enhance other units. That does not mean they skimp on combat, however. Loaded with a traditional combat weapon and using the Gremlin as a weapon, the standard issue Specialist can still pull their weight in a firefight.
The Specialist is unique in that it gets two abilities at Squaddie Rank that are active choices. Hack, which allows you to attempt to breach the Alien network remotely, and Aid Protocol, which grants an ally a bonus defense for the round.
I used Hack much more than Aid Protocol, but it is simply because I have the penchant to have aliens be dead more than I do to wait around for them. While there are clearly circumstances that you would want to use Aid Protocol, most of them do not come up until later in the game after your soldiers have leveled up a bit.
Hack has saved my life in a number of situations, however, and I would never go into a mission without at least one Specialist. Hack the Terminal, Rescue the VIP and Capture the VIP almost all require hacking to achieve the objectives, and it can be critical to have the Specialist use their gremlin simply by achieving LOS to the target. Not having to be on the actual tile for hacking created some fun situations. Sometimes, the best method of achieving the objective involved me using a grenade to blow out the side of a building to give the specialist LOS to the Tile and be able to hack from a safe distance. The Aliens didn’t particularly enjoy that tactic.
Medical Protocol v. Combat Protocol
There are two distinct paths for a Specialist, and I think that both are very solid choices. When Ice, my Medic, fell, I was severely impaired for a number of missions afterwards. However, Combat Protocol is the clear winner here in terms of skill choice. While in many circumstances it will be better to keep your operatives up and running, often the best way to do that is not by healing and being defensive, but by finishing enemies off. To this end, Combat Protocol does its job splendidly. Its initial two damage is laughable, but there is nothing worse than leaving an enemy up with 1 hp and them hitting your solider with a critical and killing them. The Gremlin never misses, does a set amount of damage, and gets better with Gremlin upgrades, to a max of 6 damage with a MKIII. Even more significant, the Combat Protocol does more damage to robotic opponents, which there are many. Even if your a medic, this is a key skill to keep your crew alive.
Revival Protocol v. Haywire Protocol
Haywire protocol has to be one of my favorite abilities in the game. Yes, revival protocol allows you to remove status effects, but it seems to just be better not to have the enemy get a chance to apply those effects. With a skulljack equipped and a lucky +20 hacking skill hack from the network in early levels, the Haywire protocol is one of the strongest tools in the Specialists arsenal. Knocking out robotic enemies, even for a single turn, can spell the difference between victory and defeat. The most frequent targets were Turrets and Advent MECS, with the MEC being the higher priority due to its strong area attack and heavy armor. I’ve rarely found use for the Possession attack, as I am often outnumbered and pushing to kill as many enemies as possible in a single round. Failing a Haywire Possession would not only not remove an enemy from play, it generally makes the better in all the wrong ways, namely defense and aim. I’d rather not take the chance, even on a 75%, and simply knock the unit out.
Field Medic v. Scanning Protocol
This choice sucks. I get little use out of both effects. However, the ability to use three first aid kits instead of one has more potential use that a single shot at scanning a nearby area and hoping enemies are in it. It is much more common for me to know where an enemy is than it is for me to have either a general idea or a vague idea. There may be reasons to take Scanning Protocol, but I was never a fan. Simply add a First aid kit and move along.
Covering Fire v. Threat Assessment
I’ve mentioned before that I will often fall back at the smallest sign of trouble, and I cautiously make my way around most missions. The Aliens are stronger and better equipped than I am. In this regard, Covering fire was a godsend. Sending my Specialist forward first enabled me to go into overwatch and still get a shot off at the enemy even if they just stood still and tried to shoot me, a win-win. This also made it so that if an enemy advanced into my line of fire, but not while in it, I could take a shot if they decided to get feisty. Threat assessment makes sense, sometimes, as you can keep your healer back and give a more accurate soldier your overwatch shots, but I never found the cooldown increase to be worth it. I can overwatch and use covering fire every turn.
Ever Vigilant v. Guardian
Guardian is clearly Superior. I do not often run around like an idiot. That said, I get how ever vigilant can work, I just can’t take it. Guardian granting a coinflip for an extra overwatch shot is pure gold.its like kill zone, but on my specialist. Easily my favorite ability in the class, and every one of my specialists took it. Who can say no to free shots! Really!
Restoration v. Capacitor Discharge
Capacitor Discharge is an amazing ability. Beyond the significant damage it can deal, which increases v. Robotic enemies, a guaranteed stun (I don’t care what any tac tip says, its never not stunned for me) can be a lifesaver, especially paired with another specialist using Haywire and a Grenadier tossing Flashbangs. Making sure your enemies are as ineffective as possible is a very strong way to keep your operatives alive. The AOE on this ability is also large enough that I’m always catching two opponents, often more. Keep this ability in your back pocket as a panic button or use it on your second group of enemies to achieve another ambush, and you’ll be in a good position.
The Care and Feeding of Specialists
I’ve got but one word of advice: Skulljack get that puppy up and running and on a specialist as soon as possible in order to increase their hacking capacity significantly. Grenades, as always, are the starting loadout, but can swiftly be replaced with the rounds of your choice. I used my combat Specialist as a robot hunter, so equipping Bluescreen rounds or AP rounds worked the best. Combined with the damage from the Gremlins Combat Protocol and the Haywire ability, I was sure that my Specialist could take care of any robotic opponent that needed it.
Equipment, though, is a tricky thing. Warden armor is nice for equipping a medkit or an ammo type and the Skulljack, but the WAR suit offered to many benefits to turn down, including the cool and powerful Plasma Blaster. For Weapon Mods I chose the Scope to increase Guardian and Covering Fire percentages and the Reapeater. Any chance to kill an alien unit outright during their own turn is worth it, and these guys can take a lot of shots.
I really enjoyed the Specialists and tried to take two on each mission because of their versatility and capabilities. I was never disappointed.
Next week, Rangers!