It is similar to a game offering you a choice between $5 or $7. You take the $7.
That's all bunk, pretty much every strategy game has an optimal build order while at the same time leaving some wiggle room for variation and the same is true for XCOM. Labs are not remotely 'useless', having a lab means having access to tech a few days sooner, which can be the difference between your team being outfitted with, say, carapace instead of standard armour for the next field mission. This can be a life-or-death difference when you're playing Ironman (or at least refrain from savescumming).See above. Labs have a function, but they are always outclassed by engineers.
No good strategy game has one right way of doing things.
It's a combination of reading other AARs and playing the game a lot. I won once on Classic Ironman, though that was long after I'd become bored with the game.George, I don't know how you claim such experise at base construction if you admitted only completing the game once. Read wikis much?
Heh. "Plainly ridiculous." A little dramatic there.Also, the game has tonnes of interesting tactical and strategic decisions basically at every minute. Buy heavy plasma or titan armour (since you can't afford everything most of the time)? Move to a half-cover flanking position or try to take a lower chance shot from full cover? Use this shredder rocket now on this Cyberdisc or save it in case a bunch of Mutons pops out later? The critics have a reductionist view of the game which is plainly ridiculous.
The game does offer decisions sure. The problem is there's no depth to any of them, and some decisions are really, really obvious (engineers>labs is the biggest).
A lot of the decisions you mentioned at the tactical level aren't really deep either. For example, in your first example, "heavy plasma v titan armor" - this is simply a question of +2 offense or +2 defense? It's like the kind of choice TWD offers - neither is wrong, per se, but neither is very interesting. In your second example, you are really playing the random number generator there. Whether it's a good decision to move from cover A to cover B depends on two things the game never makes clear:
A) will moving to cover B activate a new squad of enemies? B) what will my % chance to hit be in the new spot? (INSANE that the game does not make that clear)
Because neither of those things is clear, you are really playing the RNG more than flexing your tactical muscle.