An XCOM 2 Diary: The Wizened + The Doomed, Day 1

It’s tradition now: when an XCOM game comes out, you recreate your friends, colleagues and record-collection-stealing former lovers then send them out to be murdered by aliens. Basically, it’s the Sims with Sectoids rather than sex.

So let’s do it again: an XCOM 2 [official site] Iron Man/perma-death diary starring the staff of RPS, who you can download and add to your game below.

But they’ll only star briefly. Whenever someone dies, they’ll be replaced by one of this site’s readers. Who will also almost certainly die. That’s how much we love you.

Before I go into how that works, let’s meet the starting team. Full disclosure: I’ve already been through the tutorial, in which only Graham (and three randoms) was available, and after surviving that I purchased everyone else. Which leaves me with no cash in the attic for base renovations – let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite me later. I then took Graham, Adam, Alice and Pip out on their first mission proper, Operation ICE FACE, more on which shortly.

Everyone save Pip and John created their own characters, and they are all available here to download and place in your own XCOM 2 pool – here’s how that works if you don’t know already. My account’s waiting for approval at the time of writing, but I’ll also add and share that pool to the XCOM Barracks once I’m in. In the meantime, you can grab any number of famous faces for your own game from there if you don’t like the look of our ugly e-mugs.

Adam “Professor” Smith

Our cowardly Manc has wound up being a Ranger – i.e. shotguns and swords. Which is ill-fitting someone who’d rather have as much distance between him and the aliens as possible.

Alec “Sad Sack” Meer

What am I sad about? Anything. Everything. Particularly my no-doubt imminent death, and also my awful hair. I haven’t been out in the field yet, as starting squad sizes are but four, so who knows what weapon I shall wield?

Alice “Didn’t enter a nickname” O’Connor

Ice Face incarnate, eh? I’m honestly wondering if Alice somehow had a hand in developing the character creator. Initially her build was wearing a hat, but it was removed due to a last-minute panic that it wasn’t cool enough. She has been promoted to a Specialist, which means healing and/or hacking.

Graham “Graham Smith” Smith

Towering, shaggy-haired silence: this is XCOM 2’s character creator at its most eerily accurate. Sterling leader that he is, sniping-focused Sharpshooter Graham scored three kills in the tutorial alone, and as such already outranks everyone else.

John “Papa Bear” Walker

John doesn’t do strategy games in any shape or form, and hence will never see the horrendous colour scheme I’ve slapped across his armour. He does sometimes wear a baseball cap in meatspace too, though. No missions yet, so class unknown. Let’s all pray it’s not a healer.

Philippa “Three Ps Dammit” Warr

Alice built Pip, so I take no responsibility whatsoever for that hat. I was seriously considering bouncing Pip off the team after she scored six consecutive misses in her first outing, but then she took out two guys with one shot, so all is forgiven.

Again, the team are all available to download and add to your own Character pool here.

This quartet proved their worth in Operation Ice Face, a mission to prevent Advent and their Sectoid chums from destroying some sort of communication beacon. It went suspiciously well: this was my first time playing XCOM 2 on Commander and Iron Man difficulty, and I was braced for a wipeout. My 20-odd hours of practice on Veteran gave me a slight advantage, but I’m expecting that to change once the game starts hurling more than basic enemies at me.

Graham took to the rooftops and scored another three kills, bringing his total to an impressive half-a-dozen from just two missions.

Adam took out an Advent reinforcement from Overwatch seconds after the dropship arrived, then lobbed a grenade at another one that was sheltering inside a building, blowing it to smithereens.

This opened up a line of sight for Pip to one-shot a Sectoid which had psionically reanimated a fallen Advent grunt, thus earning two simul-kills.

Alice coolly trotted up right behind the final Advent soldier and emptied a round right into the back of its head, clearing the field of enemies and thus giving us the greenlight to go home.

A job well done, soldiers. I’m proud of you. And now I’m faced with the dilemma of whether to send you out again as you’re the most capable guys in the entire resitance, or try to build a b-team based around Meer (hello!) and Walker so I’m not in a hole if any of the A-team bite it.

But they are going to bite it, because I’m playing at XCOM 2’s second-hardest difficulty (if I played at the hardest this diary would be on a hiding to nothing) and with Iron Man perma-death turned on. If someone dies, that’s it. No take-backs.


Whenever an RPSer dies, they’ll be replaced with a new character bearing the name of one of our readers. Those names, initially at least, are those of our treasured Supporters, who signed up in this initially private, now public, post. The names in the offing are all in this here Google spreadsheet, which will also be updated with anyone in-play’s class and status (i.e. alive/wounded/dead). Names will be picked, appropriately, with a random number generator, so it’ll be always a surprise who signs up.

When I run out of names – and if I do it means I’ll have had an expensive, extremely stressful campaign – I’ll fling the doors open to everyone, Supporters or not, to volunteer their names.

That’s the setup. Tomorrow, the campaign begins in earnest. Who shall I get killed first?

With apologies to Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie for the title of this diary.

How to use the XCOM 2 character pool

The Character Pool is essentially an import/export function for user-made soldiers. Add someone to it – either in-game from the Armory or out-game with a file you’ve downloaded – and they’ll become available as a recruitable Rookie. You can also specify that you want them to be high-ranking soldier rewards or even NPC VIPs on escort missions – though these will crop up more randomly, and in any case that’s not what I’m doing in this diary.

If you want to add characters to your pool – for instance, the RPS team, available here – here’s what you need to do:

In Windows Explorer (or whatever alternative you use), go to My Documents \My Games\XCOM2\XComGame\CharacterPool\Importable

You can then paste in any *.bin file (or copy any out to send to someone else). Then you need to fire up XCOM 2, click Character Pool from the main menu, click Import and then select the file you just pasted in. You’ll then see a list of characters included in it, and can choose which ones you want to add to your game’s pool of rookies. If you want someone to appear as a higher-ranking unit (e.g. for mission rewards) or NPC VIP, you can fiddle with toggles at the bottom of their details screen.

That’s it, pretty much. If you’re starting a new game you’ll be given a random mix of Pool characters and randoms for the first, tutorial mission, but can buy any Rookies in the Pool following that.

For more on XCOM 2, visit our XCOM 2 guide hub.


  1. Hideous says:

    Oh no, now I wish I had seen that original post. RPS keeps logging me out :(

    • Hideous says:

      And my supporter status has apparently run out! I should fix that.

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        Yeah, they still haven’t developed a system to inform supporters when it runs out :(

    • Vandelay says:

      Missed it too, although I don’t think I have had the signing out bug for a while.

      So, if we sign up now are we going to be in the second pool of names, whether we are supporters or not?

  2. preshrunk_cyberpunk says:

    Ooooo pick me, pick me!

    • preshrunk_cyberpunk says:

      Also, from this point on I will always have the mental image of Alice as a blue-haired, mohawked, cigar smoking soldier. For better or worse.

  3. DrollRemark says:

    I was going to complain that the order had changed from when I commented on the original post, but then I saw that it’ll be randomly assigned, and that’s good with me (I mean, it’s the XCOM way!). Can’t wait to get flanked on my first mission and die a sad, lonely death.

  4. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    Oh lovely, I was just wondering when we were going to get one of these in the forums a day or two ago. I can only hope I too will get to die a clumsy and vain death.

  5. mpk says:


    I created a few work mates and when one of them annoyed me the other day, I threatened to kill him. It took a few seconds until he realised I was talking about XCOM, but the look of abject fear and hatred was a sight to see.

  6. Xocrates says:

    I think you’ve confused the difficulty levels names in the post. There is no “Normal” difficulty, the difficulties are “Rookie”, “Veteran”, “Commander”, and “Legend”.

    Based on the post you seem to be playing on “Commander”, not “Veteran”, right?

    • anHorse says:

      rookie is easy
      veteran is normal
      commander is classic
      legend? is impossible

  7. JFS says:

    Yay :) I’m officially abandoning my first playthrough now after having to play the post-tutorial mission three times in a row, and now having had two squad wipes shortly after another. The second one wasn’t even funny, I encountered the first “pod” and got epically fucked up in two rounds. You’re gonna need those names, Alec. You’re gonna need them.

  8. Horg says:

    Here’s a quick tip to improve XCOM2s performance problems beyond what you can do in game, for people who have not already seen this posted elsewhere / figured it out for themselves. Set up a profile for whichever XCOM2 .exe you are using in your GPU software. You want to set the variable MaxPrerenderedFrames=1 (for Nvidia cards) or FlipQueSize=1 (for AMD cards). I’m not sure if the default AMD software can do this so you might need to sue RadeonPro or something comparable. Also disable in game Vsync + frame smoothing and enable dynamic or adaptive vsync in the profile. Just doing that basically doubled my frame rate and reduced the running temperature of my GPU from 84°C to 70°C. Stutter is still present but reduced during movement animations and gone otherwise.

    Alice will die first, btw. Such is life for the ranger, and the aliens will not suffer anyone who wares sunglasses into battle to live.

    • SuicideKing says:

      You really just need to use FXAA, Tiled AO, and turn shadows down. I’m not getting stellar performance by any means, but I have a GTX 560 and save for one mission, I usually get ~36 fps.

      Outside of missions it’s more like 22 fps, but then again I just clear the min reqs.

      • Horg says:

        If you are only getting 36fps average, you really should try the software profile fix. It made a huge difference and it’s not complicated to set up.

  9. Balaks says:

    What’s the odds on your entire squad being obliterated within 3 missions? God speed gentlemen (and ladies)

    • JFS says:

      Usually, the only hope is to have someone in the sick bay and not present in the field when disaster strikes.

  10. thekelvingreen says:

    British and Scottish are different nationalities in XCOM2? That’s interesting.

    • Xocrates says:

      This was already true in XCOM: EU

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Can you be Welsh too? That would be ace.

        • Thulsa Hex says:

          Unfortunately, nope.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Language variety is surprisingly spartan compared to EW, unfortunately.

          • Gorncaptain says:

            There are accents now though, so instead of generic American being the only English options, my troops can have Australian, English, Scottish and Irish accents. It’s great.

          • Shadow says:

            That kind of variety is tightly focused on English accents, though. You have that, and then the entirety of Spanish speakers sounding like Spaniards, no Portuguese and no languages east of Europe, basically.

            There’s mods commencing work on that, at least, but I would’ve hoped more official support. I wouldn’t mind paying for a well-done, reasonably expansive voice pack DLC(s).

      • Banyan says:

        I vaguely recall an interview with lead designer Jake Solomon when EU came out where he was talking about his Scots heritage influencing the bagpipes music in the remembrance screen. The independence referendum was current when EU was published, and it seems to be game canon that Scotland seceded, because it amuses Jake.

    • Hematite says:

      They are in Scotland, but they’re not in the United Kingdom.

    • anHorse says:

      Yeah but they still have to pick British English in the voice options for the scotch accent

      Although both male and female sound like a shrek impression

      • neffo says:

        Scotland leaving the UK wouldn’t result in it leaving Britain. (That would be a challenge.)

        • Cederic says:

          Oh, I don’t know. The Scots don’t want to host the nukes so we could use them to turn Scotland into its own set of islands unattached from England and Wales.

  11. Thulsa Hex says:

    I’ve been playing on Commander/Ironman difficulty since launch and haven’t gotten past the first blacksite mission, yet. I’ve restarted many times, and am reluctant to lower it just yet since one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had was due to my friend and I refusing to play through Enemy Unknown on anything less than Classic/Ironman. I think for EU, it took us 8 or so restarts before we caught a break; I’m already on attempt 25 with XCOM 2…

    I’m starting to wonder if the game throws too many curveballs to be feasible on C/I for a first play through. Quinns also tweeted something to that effect, saying that it essentially requires you to save scum your way through first campaign, which is disappointing if true. Anyone here gain any ground on C/I, after going in blind from not having played on lower difficulties? Is it normal to have no promoted soldiers left after the first blacksite? Is it feasible to continue if so?

    I’ve actually gotten pretty efficient at most of the mission types leading to the blacksite but have been screwed a handful of times by the escort/assassination missions, where you have to evac at a fixed point. I’ve lost count of the times that my soldiers were only ONE TILE away before the timer expires. I feel like that if I got the balance right on these missions, I’d be having a better overall campaign. Man this game is a bastard. A lovely, mean-spirited bastard.

    • Xocrates says:

      I’ve only made one non-ironman run on “Veteran” so far – which I did occasionally need to save scum extensively in order not to get my ass extensively kicked.

      I don’t think it’s a case of the game throwing too many curve balls, so much as them hurting a lot more. Late game when you’re familiar with the various enemy and mission types and are appropriately geared, the game is roughly equal to EU, but the early game is absolutely murderous, especially going in blind, as they throw much more powerful stuff much earlier. As a point of reference, the Sectoids here are roughly equivalent to the Sectoid Commanders in the first game, and you get them on mission 2.

      • Thulsa Hex says:

        Thanks! Yeah, it does seem especially brutal up front, which I don’t mind at all tbh. I was mostly worried whether or not there was a point where I could gain a foothold and be more prepared to take on nasty surprises, and Quinns’ tweet (link to exacerbated that doubt. I think I’ll soldier on, for now!

        I’m getting more efficient, for sure. I had new weapons and increased squad size on my previous attempt, and new armour was imminent — all before the first blacksite mission (but then lost all my best guys to one of those failed evacs). I’m also discovering the virtues of the combat specialist, especially vs. turrets. Getting there… Getting there…

        • onionman says:

          I just finished my first run through the game on Veteran/Ironman without doing a non-Ironman run first, and I would advise you AT THE VERY LEAST to spoil some of the later plot points for yourself. I was doing great but my run nearly ended halfway through when a new enemy type appeared (related to plot events) that, without advance warning as to what exactly is about to happen, is ridiculously unfair. Actually this happens twice, but the second time you can probably figure out in advance that you’re going to need to prepare.

          Commander/Ironman is doable on a first run, but I strongly suggest not going in completely blind.

          • Faze2 says:

            Did you ever play terror from the deep? First time you met lobstermen… holy crap. Nothing in EU/EW or Xcom2 quite rivals how unkillable lobstermen were without the right weapons.

          • onionman says:

            I bounced off of the original X-Com/UFO as a kid, but I love love love the rebooted series and was planning to give the original a try in the very near future. However, I was only planning to play the original original, not TFTD, since I’ve heard it’s basically a reskin and doesn’t add much except more hair-pulling difficulty. Do you think this is an unfair assessment?

        • onionman says:

          Also small things like NEVER EVER EVER EVER TRY TO MELEE A MUTON

          • vecordae says:

            MUTon…MUTilate…Hrm. I wonder.

            Oh well.

          • Thulsa Hex says:

            Ha! I accidentally read something about Muton melee woes, so I’ve been safe enough there. The stuff about later game events is interesting, though. I’ll take it under advisement, thanks!

          • onionman says:

            If you don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll just say this: when it comes time to use a certain plot-related utility item (you’ll know which one), make sure you have plenty of actions left on the rest of your team. You’ll thank me later.

          • onionman says:

            Oh, and one last thing: from the sound of it it seems as if you might be trying to rush the black site mission. Really, there’s no need to, completing it or any other facility mission will lower the doomsday clock (and delay future progress) by a fair amount, and critical story missions will lower it even more. You’re far better off making sure you have tier 2 weapons and armor, even if it costs you a few more ticks on the doomsday clock, than you are trying to complete that mission before you’re adequately prepared.

          • Faze2 says:

            That’s valuable advice. Taking it will definitely save you some dead rangers.

            RIP Sally ‘Snakehunter’ Campbell :(

          • Thulsa Hex says:

            Thanks for the tips — especially considering that utility item event. I’ll be sure to be cautious when the time comes!

    • Faze2 says:

      Sounds like you’re being too aggressive. Less charging in, more overwatch traps. Make a plan for the turn with backups before you do anything. Early game can be brutal b/c theres not much in your toolbox except relentless grenade span.

      I found watching Beaglerush’s xcom vids really helpful for my own Ironman play:

      • Thulsa Hex says:

        Thanks! I watched a couple of those. I don’t think I was being too aggressive, but these videos confirmed for me a flaw in my tactics that I was already starting to suspect: I shouldn’t have been putting all my guys on overwatch when springing traps from concealment. Sure it looks cool when it works, but I’ve realised that going straight into the alien turn if some of my guys miss their shots is unnecessarily risky. Also, having that extra move or two after springing the trap makes cleaning-up far more efficient. I’m having a much better time now that I’ve made that change.

        • Kitsunin says:

          For ambushes, in the video he makes it sound as though the enemy gets to take their turn if they reveal you on their turn, in the current version — this isn’t true. If they discover you on their own turn, they have to choose between taking cover and shooting from where they are. And from what I’ve read and seen, only one member of the scattering group can choose to shoot instead of taking cover.

          What this means is that one of the most effective ambush strategies is to have them discover your overwatch’d team on their turn. You just need to be a little careful of that possible single shot (especially because them discovering you means somebody is flanked).

    • Kitsunin says:

      I’ve been playing 26 hours so far (on Veteran! But I had almost no experience with XCOM 1), I think I’m really far in and I have yet to fail a mission or reload my game. Early on I was consistently having half my squad die (I didn’t understand “pods” then, however) and at this point it’s been like ten missions since my last casualty. I’ve yet to lose anyone better than a corporal either. The second curveball, if that’s referring to what I think it was, was completely ineffectual.

      If you want to play in ironman I’d advise you to remember that alt+f4 will bring you to the start of your last turn when you reopen the game, because I’ve had some bugs screw me. One I had someone turn and shoot my mind-controlled guy instead of the sectoid after I selected the sectoid. Another time a civilian corpse got stuck making the falling noise dozens of time per second and after a couple turns(!) everything slowed down to a terrifying crawl. It sat there for literally minutes between turns just repeating this godforsaken noise, and only went away when I reloaded from the turn the bug started and my panicked soldier did something other than kill said civvie.

    • Herring says:

      I’m playing on Commander / Ironman and the best advice I can give you is;


      I’ve had so many aliens appear and me think; “Hmm, I wonder what that does?” only to have it do something horrifyingly awful. Flashbangs knacker their aim and stop them using many special abilities and _totally_ prevent melee attacks.

      I got to the special alien appearance mentioned in this thread because I hit it with a FB as soon as it appeared I had no idea what it did till much later. Which actually meant I got to learn about when it wasn’t on its own…

  12. C0llic says:

    I’m playing non iron man commander, and had to restart my campaign twice (one early restart which was too early for me to learn enough, and one legitimate failure end screen). It’s a much tougher early game to get a handle on. Personally I don’t think there’s any shame in a little save scumming to get through the story, then you can ironman later.

    • C0llic says:

      And that was intended to be a reply. Oh well!

    • Thulsa Hex says:

      I completely agree that there’s no shame in save scumming or retrying. I reload all the time Fire Emblem or Valkyria Chronicles, for example. It’s just with XCOM I’ve always gotten more out of it if I’m forced to accept events as they happen. The resulting tension is an essential part of my enjoyment of these games.

      • C0llic says:

        I completely agree. It does add something. I’m also impatient though, and while I love rolling with my mistakes and misfortunes, the drive to see all there is tends to be stronger for me at first :)

  13. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    The only reason I haven’t played on Ironman mode yet is because of the LOS bugs. I’m fine getting my ass handed to me in a legit fashion on Commander difficulty, but I have to keep the reload option available when my squad gets wiped because the aliens can sometimes magically see through several solid walls and/or ceilings and snipe at will. I even had an alien kill my captured VIP while they were still in a locked cage; I somehow got LOS on him from afar even though I wasn’t near the door and there were no windows, but I got control of him and so the aliens could see and shoot him.

    • Horg says:

      The advent burger factory has that bug as well, everyone should avoid fighting in there if it spawns on a mission for now.

      • onionman says:

        Advent burger factory??? How did I miss this in a successful 40 hour campaign????

        • Horg says:

          It’s the aliens most closely guarded secret. No one knows where they get the meat.

      • Ufofighter says:

        What!? I’ve just finished a Commander/Ironman campaign without seing that map.

    • Thulsa Hex says:

      Bugs are actually my biggest fear. I’ve encountered a roof tile type that’s definitely bugged so that it’s functionally transparent to units on both sides. Also had a civilian spot me through a closed, opaque door. At least now enemies have those line of sight indicator icons when you hover the cursor over tiles you’re considering moving to. Lifesaver.

  14. Ufofighter says:

    That subtle reference to the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” did not pass unnoticed.

  15. Thulsa Hex says:

    Thanks for the tips and advice, guys. I started a new C/I campaign this evening and it’s going extremely well. It’s just after the second supply drop and I have only lost a single soldier (a grenadier died on the first retaliation mission). None of my other soldiers have even been hit! I have two each of all classes (except for the single specialist), and since none of them have been wounded, the A-Team is leveling-up really well.

    Mission-wise, they’ve all been successful — even the “capture the alien VIP” one went by the numbers. I have magnetic weapons (but not gauss), a squad size of 5, new armour is imminent, the AWC is awarding my higher level soldiers some excellent random perks, and I’ve been relatively lucky with securing supplies, scientists and engineers. I even found a stash of cool ammo (critical chance +20 & critical damage +1) and special poison gas grenades. The Avatar Project track is at about half-full.

    I’ve definitely had some good luck, but also feel like I have a much better handle on the early game. Going to bed now, feeling chuffed!

    • onionman says:

      Really glad to hear you’re finally reaching a stable path. Keep blasting those ayys :)