Hands on: XCOM 2 ‘Shen’s Last Gift’ DLC

‘Shen’s Last Gift’ to XCOM 2 is a brutal new robot soldier

Shen’s Last Gift is the third and final add-on from XCOM 2’s initially announced DLC expansions. It adds a new story mission early in the game, which rewards you with a powerful new class of soldier that you can build in the proving ground, the robotic SPARK.

Revenge of the nerd

Just as Alien Hunters’ mission brought Central Officer Bradford into the field, Shen’s Last Gift has chief engineer Lily Shen get in on the action. Early in the game, before completing the first Advent Blacksite mission, Shen picks up a strange signal through channels only her father would know how to use. It provides coordinates of a secretive, but apparently abandoned Advent robotics facility, to which Shen leads the investigation.

Shen is a powerful specialist with skills from the combat hacker side of the tree well beyond what your soldiers will have this early in the game. Her abilities for dealing with mechanical foes come in particularly handy during the mission, since the abandoned robotics facility is – unsurprisingly — swarming with robots.

Fighting your way through the AI-controlled facility with its horde of Terminator-reminiscent robots is no cakewalk.

Fighting your way through the AI-controlled facility with its horde of Terminator-reminiscent robots is no cakewalk. This long mission requires that you are conservative with your limited-use items and abilities if you want to be equipped to handle the giant robot boss fight at the end. Fortunately, you get some reinforcement along the way with the first SPARK.

SPARK’s are the eponymous last gift of Dr. Shen, the chief engineer from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and father to Lily. Apparently the prototype built here by Dr. Shen served as the model for all of Advent’s Mech soldiers. Once you’ve liberated the original midway through the mission, though, it will join your squad to help, and then you will be able to build more at the proving ground.

SPARKle motion

Like Advent’s mechs, the SPARK is a large combat droid packing a serious punch. Standing head and shoulders above your other soldiers, their size prevents them from taking advantage of cover bonuses, but they make up for it with armor plating instead.

Like soldiers wearing powered armor, SPARKs can equip heavy weapons built from the proving ground. They also wield a heavy autocannon that shreds armor like grenadier attacks do. Adding in a dash of utility, the SPARK also comes with a little flying robot companion of its own, the BIT, which can remotely hack like specialists do, though with substantially lower skill. All of their equipment is upgradable alongside the other classes, tied to your research.

SPARKs level up and acquire skills from two parallel trees like all of the other standard classes. All SPARKs start with Overdrive, which allows them to take three actions in a single turn, with no actions ending it until all three are spent. Multiple attacks are hindered, however, by a 15-percent recoil penalty after each successive shot. It operates on a four-turn cool down.

Like Advent’s mechs, the SPARK is a large combat droid packing a serious punch.

The War Machine tree of skills encourages a more aggressive style of play, getting particularly good use out of Overdive with Adaptive Aim removing the recoil penalty and Wrecking Ball allowing it to barrel through walls and obstacles while in Overdrive. The powerful Hunter Protocol further down the tree allows for a chance to take a free overwatch shot whenever any enemy is revealed, letting you use the SPARK to aggressively charge forward and start mopping up Advent immediately.

Future Combat lends itself to a more supportive role, starting with Bulwark to allow all adjacent regular soldiers to get full cover for staying near the SPARK. Getting in front and covering its fellow soldiers is rewarded with Intimidate, causing enemies that attack it to potentially panic and Channeling Field absorbing attacks that increase the power of the SPARK’s next standard attack. Repair makes it useful to have multiple SPARKs at the same time, allowing repairs on robotic units.

Our take

SPARKs are a powerful addition to XCOM’s ranks, allowing for even greater flexibility in squad composition as they can provide both some of the specialist’s support and the grenadier’s serious firepower. Overdrive is especially useful in a lot of situations, providing a little bit of added flexibility when you need it most. With their high base damage, my SPARKs were often able to save the rest of the squad and singlehandedly wipe out an unexpected pod.

The mission itself isn’t a particularly substantial addition, but SPARKs are well worth the price of admission as another tool in your arsenal from early in the game. They expand upon XCOM 2’s general design principle of resisting min-maxing and optimal play, instead allowing for a wider range of strategies that can take you to victory. They also of course add more toys for modders to tinker with, which is always a good thing. We’ve quite enjoyed XCOM 2’s first round of DLC, and look forward to a more substantial expansion akin to Enemy Within.


  • SPARK robots are a fun new class
  • New story mission


  • Story mission not particularly unique or interesting

From NES to PlayStation, retro gaming is booming. But will it last?

Everyone craves the good old days, and companies like Nintendo and Sony are cashing in with their mini versions of beloved retro consoles. But is this fad built to last or will our fixation with pixelated graphics come and go like mom…
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Product Review

Anybody seen my grenades? ‘Battlefield V’ shows up late and unprepared

Battlefield V’s War Stories give us a new perspective on World War II, but the game’s lack of polish across both its campaign and multiplayer modes are almost impossible to ignore.

‘Blockchain gaming’ startup gets $16 million in Series A funding

A gaming startup, Mythical Games, has raised $16 million in Series A funding to work on their concept of blockchain gaming. The aim is for the startup to develop games for the PC, console, and mobile markets.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

‘Fortnite’ named Ultimate Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick awards

This year's Golden Joysticks, the gaming awards handed out by GamesRadar, have been announced and Fortnite has been named the Ultimate Game of the Year. It beat out Red Dead Redemption for best game, but Red Dead was named critics' choice.

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.

‘Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers’ to launch next summer with gunblades, Viera

Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers will be released in summer 2019. The third expansion of the MMORPG will include new story content, dungeons, and raids, in addition to gunblades and the Viera.

The Fix PUBG campaign is over: What’s next for ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’?

The PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds development team declared that the Fix PUBG campaign was over. Here are the results of the three-month campaign, as well as the future plans for the multiplayer Battle Royale shooter.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…

Get an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 for just $200 at GameStop starting Sunday

GameStop is currently running an early Black Friday sale that offers an Xbox One S or a PlayStation 4 slim model for just $200 apiece. Both consoles come with a free game, and other games are also on sale.