XCOM 2 Tips: How To Survive And Thrive

I’ve played around 300 hours of XCOM 1, and 50 of XCOM 2 [official site], for my sins. I know full well that this does not make me any kind of expert but I’m experienced enough that XCOM 2 has not yet kicked my flabby little bottom. A lot of people are finding the game very punishing though, so I thought I’d try to help – both by sharing my own advice on how to keep your soldiers alive for longer and by inviting anyone else to share their own tips in comments.

This isn’t a definitive guide, but instead a grab-bag of assorted wisdom, both early and advanced, that I’m certain will help if you’re having a tough time with this wonderful (if sadly malfunctioning) strategy game.

It’s dangerous to go alone

Obvious perhaps, but the single greatest piece of wisdom I can pass on is about the management of action points. Don’t exhaust five soldiers’ movements and actions then send the sixth hurtling forwards into the unknown on their own, because that means there’s no-one to help out in the event they stumble across a new pack of enemies. Late in the game, lone wolves become vaguely plausible – e.g. the Ranger’s Untouchable skill – but done early on it’s simply suicide.

A good habit to get into is to always have a Sharpshooter and/or Specialist still active before you send anyone into the unknown. The former can provide long-range damage, while the basic Aid function of the latter can provide a significant defensive bonus to even squadmates which are half a map away. As these guys rank up, the help they can provide becomes immense – for instance, a Sharpshooter can fire three times in Overwatch, while the Specialist’s flying robot thing can double the defence of Aid. The early Specialist Scanning Protocol unlock is also useful for identifying whether there are any enemies just around the corner.

Bloodless Efficiency

Explosives can destroy cover, which can massively increase the to-hit chance on any enemy which was hiding behind it, or open up brand new lines of sight to aliens who were sheltering indoors. Very often, it’s smarter to not spend an action on a standard shot that will only knock a couple of hitpoints off a tough enemy or is simply unlikely to land, and instead see if your Grenadier (or indeed anyone with a grenade in their pocket) can rearrange the scenery so the rest of their squad has better odds.

As with the first point, about travelling alone, this ties back to the importance of using your squad in the correct order. Using an explosive to destroy an alien’s cover after everyone has already taken an unsuccessful shot might help you out next turn, but you might have lost a couple of soldiers at that point, or the enemy might have moved to a new location with fresh cover. The sequence that your soldiers act in as almost as important as the actions they take.

Armour Wars

Explosives have another extra boon: they shred Armor. Those are the cheeky yellow blobs at the end of enemies’ health meters, and for each one of those any shot you land will usually lose one point of damage. So, again, a Grenadier’s bomb might do significantly less damage than a shot from her standard weapon, but it’s worth it if it takes a point or two of Armor away, so the rest of the squad can then score bigger hits. Don’t even think about taking on a Gatekeeper or Sectopod without softening it up with explosives first.

Don’t over-Overwatch

Overwatch is the bedrock of XCOM: banking your soldier’s action for a turn so that they can instead automatically fire at any enemy which enters or moves within their line of sight. It’s used both for pure caution and to set up elaborate traps, so that an enemy whose cover is removed or who makes a beeline for an apparently vulnerable player soldier ends up getting the Alex Murphy treatment the second he wriggles a toe. Learn Overwatch. Love Overwatch. More on that shortly, but first: don’t use Overwatch too much.

There are two main downsides to Overwatch: the first is that, most of the time, shots taken this way have a reduced chance to hit compared to a standard in-turn short. It’s tempting to presume that Overwatch is a get out of jail free card when all your soldiers are in cover and you think the aliens will thus have to come to you, but you might be squandering perfectly good in-turn shots that way. Also bear in mind that, bar a late Specialist skill unlock, Overwatch only triggers on movement, not on action: so an alien who stubbornly refuses to leave the pillar he’s hiding behind will be free to fire hot plasma or lob a grenade at you.

The second downside is that Overwatch only allows standard shots. Before you set all six soldiers into Overwatch, consider whether any of them have any other abilities that would have a more beneficial effect.

A Grenadier’s bomb blast might not be sufficient to totally murder anything, for instance, but it could take enough hit points off two, three or more enemies that, when the rest of the squad’s Overwatch does trigger, they kill rather than merely wound your foes. A Specialist equipped with a Mindspike could go insta-kill an Advent Shield Bearer with it, which means the blighter won’t be able to clad his chums with extra protection. A Sharpshooter who’s gone down the pistols side of the tech tree will get to take two shots once he’s ranked up a couple of times. A Mimic beacon will keep enemy fire off vulnerable soldiers’ backs for a turn. All sorts, basically: Overwatch is great, but it can be a huge, huge waste of enemy-management opportunities.

Cover is not optional

This should be obvious, but I’m including it just in case. Cover isn’t just a minor boost to defensive odds: it’s very often the difference between life and death. Leave a soldier out in the open and not only will the enemy be more likely to hit him, but every foe in sight will make him their number one target because of that. He’s dead, basically. Unless you have the Ranger’s Untouchable skill, throw an aim-confusing smoke grenade around him or use the Specialist’s quietly vital Aid defence-boost skill.

Later on, a psi-operative’s Inspire skill can also give an extra action point to someone left standing in the open – plan this in advance and you can have someone run to an exposed front line to take an easy shot, then be psionically granted an extra action so he can get the hell out of dodge.

The best time to use Overwatch

Like I say, Overwatch is the bedrock of any XCOM strategy, but it has its shortcomings. However, it loses one of those – the reduced chance to hit – if you’re firing from Concealment. (Concealment being the stealthed mode you begin most missions). The game does give you a short ambush-from-concealment tutorial near the start, so I won’t repeat that now, but I don’t think it says anywhere other than on a loading screen tip that you don’t have the aim handicap this way. Use it; especially in combination with high-ranking skills, you can end up with the most deliciously deadly traps. However, keep the following in mind:

Don’t spring your Concealment ambush too soon

It’s very, very tempting to set up an Overwatch trap on the first enemies you see on a map begun with your guys in Concealment. You thirst for blood, yes, but it’s also a frightening concept to leave any foes alive: they could come back to bite you any time. However, once the trap is sprung, your Concealment’s over for the rest of the mission (bar some Ranger abilities and hack rewards) and you’ll never get that sweet, sweet unpenalised Overwatch again. So, see if you can make it to the second pack of enemies before you unleash hell – primarily because that way you can start combat a little closer to your objective rather than have to battle the whole way to it.

A bit later in the game, your squad should become capable of dealing with more than one pack of enemies at a time too, so it pays to try and ensnare more foes into that initial trap rather than waste the opportunity on just a couple of basic grunts.

The first group of enemies you spot usually patrols the map, so if you keep out of sight there is a reasonable chance they’ll wander out of mutual sight range. However, they might instead wander closer to where your guys are crouching, so make sure they’re sufficiently sheltered – if flanks are exposed they’ll be seen and Concealment is over for everyone.

On page two, XCOM’s most overpowered gadget, tactics for taking down their most dangerous foes, some base-building tips and how to handle those timers.


  1. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Since you mentioned the mimic beacon, something that’s confused me: do you permanently use up stuff like grenades (ignoring frag) and medkits when you use them, or if you build one do you have one that restocks after each mission? I’m sure I used a specialist with medkit to heal twice, but still seemed to have a medkit to equip on the next mission. I had thought it worked the other way round.

    On a semi-related note, it may be a bug but weapon upgrades seem to remain when the gun gets upgraded, so you may not need to hoard your upgrades for the better guns. F’rinstance, I put a scope on a basic starting sniper rifle, then had a magnetic sniper rifle with a scope in my inventory when I upgraded.

    • veerserif says:

      Items don’t get used up during missions; the only exception is the Overdrive Serum, which is one-use. And, yes, if you don’t change your soldier’s primary weapon, all weapon mods will carry over once you upgrade weapon tiers.

      • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

        Cool, thanks. Had been holding off building any as I didn’t want to waste the resources.

  2. Andy_Panthro says:

    I’d add: Don’t be afraid to play on a lower difficulty!

    The initial stages can seem brutal, until you know what you’re dealing with. Unless you’re really confident, or a glutton for punishment, you might not want to go for that Commander/Ironman run as your first go.

    Also, I’d slightly disagree with the concealment stuff, I’ve been attacking the first group I meet almost always. Mainly this is because you don’t know if the next group of enemies is just around the corner, and you really don’t want to be caught between two groups (or three, as I have, which required a reload because it went so utterly badly). The concealment and the timer limits don’t work very well in my opinion, except for those particular missions where the timer doesn’t start until you leave concealment.

    Sectopods are also my least-favourite enemy. I always try and take them out with snipers ASAP. Andromedons can be pretty brutal too, but the best option there is to have a Psi-trained soldier with mind control.

    And finally, the Viper tongue-grab is over far too large a distance for my liking, it really caught me by surprise the first time!

    • klops says:

      I also prefer the concealment tactic you mentioned – take the first enemies out if they are somehow in the way. Works better for me at least in veteran.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Yes I would also echo “Don’t be too precious about concealment.” It’s not really a stealth game, and you’ll often end up setting yourself up to be completely surrounded by enemies when you do finally get spotted.

      I got crushed on two base missions because I thought I’d be clever and try to get all the way to the objective in concealment, only to get spotted, surrounded, and taken apart by aliens. When I finally learnt my lesson and was much more clinical about taking out squads as I met them, I did the next map almost without a scratch.

      It’s a trade off. Use the surprise to deliver the biggest punch possible, but don’t think it’s that important to hold on to.

    • wcq says:

      I agree about the concealment. Nearly every time I’ve tried to sneak past enemies it has ended in disaster, since I’ve usually ended up surrounded.

      I also find that it’s more important to find good cover than get in close when making ambushes. Your troops’ overwatch shots have a tendency to miss, regardless of distance, and going in too close means that you
      A) have a chance of triggering another squad of enemies. You should never fight more than one squad at a time, if you can help it.
      B) have a chance of the enemies you tried to ambush surviving and flanking you in their turn.

      My tip for doing good in the early game? Explosives. They destroy cover, they shred armor and they cause guaranteed damage. They can even bust those pesky turrets by destroying the floor under them, which instantly kills them. So, I’m usually fielding two grenadiers when I can. Baiting enemies to move near explosive tanks in the environment is also a great tactic, if you have the time for it.

      Sure, explosives may destroy loot, and loot is nice to have, but I’m not going to exchange a soldier’s life for some bling for a gun.

    • Orumo says:

      I rather prefer to use a different aproach to ambushes. I set up pieces so the aliens discover my overwatching squad, usually using the alien patrols against them.

      This way they lose their turn being fired and, when all the pods do their discover animation I end in my turn again with some aliens dead or, at least, very damaged.

      Triggering an ambush in your turn with several enemy groups at sight, usually ends with my squad in a very difficult position with a lot of dangerous actions taken against them.

      • wcq says:

        Well, that works until the enemies decide to just shoot that guy they discovered during their turn instead of scampering to cover.

        They do that sometimes, you know. I don’t know if it’s random or decided by enemy type or what. Ruined my day, I can tell ya that for a fact.

      • Schnallinsky says:

        this is called the “beaglerush maneuver”.

        • Schnallinsky says:

          … and firaxis took steps to stop this working all the time, i.e. some units just shoot instead of scampering for cover.

    • Schnallinsky says:

      there is a mod (called “true concealment”) that activates the timer on certain mission types only when your squad is discovered.

      this affects only mission types where it makes sense that the aliens would start something if they know an enemy squad is in the area. i love it and it saved my butt right before when i had the “timers halved” dark event.

    • Sihoiba says:

      I also strongly advise not setting every soldier to overwatch when you trigger an ambush as in general I find myself wanting a couple of soldiers spare to clean up any problems resulting from missed shots.

      I also try and trigger overwatch ambushes with whichever ability either a) guarantees kills an enemy or b) hurts the most of them at once.

      Never use hacking to initiate an ambush!

  3. Dead Spyder says:

    I loathe Sectopods. I am now stuck on a must-win mission where I have to battle an army and sectopods and I fear I must start over again from a far previous save to make a different tech decision.

    Any more tips on just Sectopods who break all rules and logic of the game? (two turns! TWO TURNS!)

    Every other enemy I have been able to take on easily. I have a max size squad. I have magnetic, gaus, shrapnel shotguns, stun blades, predator armor. I have multiple captains on my team. I do not have a hacker specialist. I have two guys in Heavy Armor with rockets. I will take the advice on the mimic beacon but what else can I do?

    Usually when I get to a place like this in a game, I usually chaulk it up to making a mistake in a upgrade tree that I ignored but I covered as much ground upgrading everything as possible while ignoring what I could and I ended up in this position, where I have to defeat this base to reset the avatar clock which is a day away from expiring.

    • Thurgret says:

      Playing on normal/veteran difficulty, I have warden armour and plasma weaponry, which I assume are top tier stuff because their descriptions say so, and am about to attack the Advent Blacksite. Or was, but I’ve stopped playing because there’s no voiced dialogue in my game any more because of a bug, and I can’t keep track of what’s going on. Maybe you’ve let your campaign progress outstrip your technology? Or are just on a higher difficulty level.

      • Thurgret says:

        Should add, I haven’t seen a Sectopod yet. I did see something called an Archon and blasted that, but I don’t really know what it is because, again, no voices. I quit that mission and haven’t gone back to it.

        • veerserif says:

          Sectopods are the giant robot walker things that can rear up to 2 storeys tall (then shoot you with a height bonus). They’re definitely not Archons. They might only show up past the (first) ADVENT blacksite, which is a relatively early story mission.

    • Rince Wind says:

      Use acidgrenades/bombs and rockets to strip its armor (or any other explosive, or a grenadier with shredder), then shoot it with everything you got. Use it all in one turn. Snipers with AP ammo help as well and you might want to retrain a specialist (preferably one who got the +20 to hack) to have haywire protocoll. Even just stunning it for 1 turn is immensly useful.

    • rittstar says:

      you should consider to train a specialist for that. if you did not do it from the beginning on, its a problem later on.. every mission where you have to hack something (workstation), take a specialist with you and try the hell to hack that with the specialist, because it will grant him a permanently +20 in hacking to his stats, next mission you have to hack something? take this specialist to grant him another +20 in hacking permanently.. my hacking specialist have 160 in hacking now, i can take over the adv. mechs, andromedon, defense towers, and disable sectopod 2 rounds

      • rittstar says:

        but if youre facing sectopods and using still magnetic and gaus, then you made very poor design choices in your tech tree, i play on commander and use only 4 squad, because i want the achievement, i havent build a lab and i have only 3 scientists, and now i think i research the last thing to research, then i jump over to the shadowchamber researches.. so how the hell you facing sectopods and hunting them with magnetics :) thats very hard boy :)

        • Dead Spyder says:

          Sadly that’s the only options I have. I have gone for every weapon and armor upgrade I could and autopsied everything that’s come my way. My research is empty. Might I have just gotten unlucky and not faced missions that would offer me the more advance options?

          • Jediben says:

            2 Heavies with the Rupture and Hail of Bullets skills and Plasma cannons make a mockery of EVERYTHING. Slap 10/15% Hair Triggers and +3 Ammo count and you have the potential to kill a Sectopod and whatever is standing behind it in one turn.

      • Kitsunin says:

        160 hacking, seriously? Geez, I got tier 3 weapons a few missions ago and I have yet to see a single opportunity to increase a specialist’s hacking stat.

        • PikaBot says:

          Every time you successfully hack something, it boosts the soldier’s hacking stat by a small amount.

        • DrollRemark says:

          The towers with the swirly lights on them are permanently hackable I think. I don’t think they serve any purpose other than to try and detect you when you’re in concealment, but you can still hack them after.

          • Kitsunin says:

            I know, they just never gave me the +hacking outcome. It was always either a tactical benefit or an intel cache.

          • DelrueOfDetroit says:

            It’s not one of those 89%/44% bonuses in the boxes you get for hacks, you just get a small hack bonus added to your character.

    • Archonsod says:

      Blue Screen Protocol is your best friend when it comes to Sectopods. All EMP weapons (and ammo) deals extra damage to robots, with the bonus of reducing their hacking resistance if they survive. EMP grenades have a chance of inflicting shutdown too. For best results put on a Grenadier with Shredding.
      For hacking you want a specialist with Haywire Protocol and a skulljack with Skullhammer researched (it boosts hacking ability). Needless to say it’s hugely worthwhile to autopsy robotic opponents for Gremlin upgrades – higher Gremlin levels affect all Gremlin skills, including healing. Hackers can shut down robotic enemies for a couple of turns, or if they make a slightly harder roll take control (nothing more fun than hacking a Sectopod and having it’s own friends tear it apart). The capacitor discharge skill at the end of the hacking tree is also brutal against robotic opponents, and also damages and stuns organic ones too.

    • Hoot says:

      Bluescreen Rounds on a Sniper + EMP nade on a Grenadier = goodbye Sectopod/any other mech you fight.

      As any XCOM veteran will tell you, always roll with x2 Grenadiers.

    • PikaBot says:

      Don’t fucking let that sectopod attack you, EVER. If you can’t burst it down, you need to stun it for a turn or two while you clean up the rest of the pod.

      There’s a Proving Ground project, Bluescreen protocol, which gets you Bluescreen ammo and EMP grenades. These deal bonus damage to mechanical units – bonus damage which disregards their armor – and lowers their hack defense. If you’re expecting sectopods, always bring this shit.

      In addition, one of the first thing you do when you get a Proving Ground is spam Experimental Ammo until you get some armor-piercing rounds. The unit who equips these gets to completely disregard up to five points of an enemy’s armor. Stick these on a sniper with Deadeye and you can rip through Sectopods really fast.

      Finally, psionic damage disregards armor as well. A good Null Lance will take off nearly half of a Sectopod’s health.

      But overall, the most important thing you can do to deal with sectopods is to buy yourself a turn. Using all of the above, you can probably kill a sectopod in one turn of concentrated fire. But sectopods don’t come alone; they always have friends. Ideally, you want to kill everything else, and then come back to finish off the sectopod. There are three ways to buy yourself a turn: a combat hacker, a mimic beacon, or a psionic trooper with Stasis.

      For a combat hacker, use up any and all Bluescreen weaponry you have first to lower its hack defense, and then try to stun it. It’s not guaranteed, but you should have pretty good odds. DON’T get greedy and try to take it over. If you stun it, murder everything else and then turn back to it.

      A mimic beacon’s the least reliable method, because it might die before eating up the sectopod’s attack. Make sure you toss it a fair distance away, but still within sight, and behind heavy cover. Once you deploy it, kill EVERYTHING ELSE: you don’t want a stun lancer running up and critting it and preventing it from drawing the sectopod’s attention.

      The last and most effective method is to use Stasis. Stasis freezes the enemy in place for a turn, preventing it from moving, but also from taking damage, until your next turn. It can be applied from anywhere in line of sight, and can’t fail, so it’s one of the most powerful abilities in the game. Stasis the sectopod, kill everything else, and then deal with the sectopod next turn. You’ll probably want to use Stasis last, so that it doesn’t protect the sectopod against any AoE abilities you use/any extra shots you have left over.

    • Dominare says:

      I like how you specifically stated which tech you’ve got, and then got a bunch of “advice” telling you to use things you’ve already said you don’t have.

      Without any combat specialists, hammering it with explosives (you said you have rockets which can shred 2 each) to reduce its armour and finishing it off with your Gauss weapons is the only viable approach. Engage it from range, its large size and inability to use cover means that your squad should always have a good chance to hit it even when shooting from distance. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to destroy it the same turn you activate it with what you’ve got, so you need to accept the fact that there’s a chance you’re losing a soldier.

    • bfwebster says:

      The best way to beat Sectopods is with EMP grenades/bombs and the Bluescreen Rounds. To get these, be constantly doing research in Experimental Grenades and Experimental Ammo in the Proving Grounds modules on board the Avenger. EMP grenades/bombs will not only do significant damage to the SP, they will often take it ‘offline’ for a turn or two. Likewise, I’ve had a well-developed Sharpshooter using Bluescreen Rounds take a Deadeye shot at an undamaged Sectopod and reduce it just 4-6 HP left.

      Note that these same weapons (EMP, Bluescreen) are very effective against both Codexes and Gatekeepers.

      • Jimbo says:

        Bluescreen rounds have to be researched and then you can build as many as you like in Engineering. I forget what it is exactly that unlocks Bluescreen Protocol for research – a mech or turret I think.

        It’s AP rounds (among others) that come from Experimental Ammo in the Proving Grounds. There’s a couple of strategic map bonuses you can get which make a lot of Proving Ground development instantaneous.

    • typographie says:

      I won’t claim it’s easy, but Haywire Protocol is an extremely useful way to deal with a Sectopod if you have a Specialist with a high tech score. I was able to take control of three or four during the course of my recently completed playthrough.

      Also, a high-ranking sniper with a good position, Plasma Lance, and AP Ammo will make [relatively] short work of a Sectopod or Gatekeeper.

  4. Rince Wind says:

    Do not forget flashbangs. They have an incredible radius when used by a grenadier and disable most special abilities on organic enemies including the codex’ cloning and other psi abilities. A disoriented codex ist just a muton with bad aim and no close range attack.
    Flashbangs, together with the mimic beacon, are the humble tools wot make you win. Both things can basically grant you an extra turn.
    While the flashbang might not get all enemies, as sometimes a mimic beacon can, it is also guaranteed to work for the whole turn, while the beacon might fall to an unlucky crit to the first shot.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Disorienting can also last for multiple turns. It also lowers movement and accuracy.

    • veerserif says:

      Flashbangs also break mind control/psi zombies from sectoids. In the early game, they’re a must-have for me.

      • klops says:

        It’s fun how people have so different must-tactics. I’ve never built any flashbangs in my game.

        • Kitsunin says:

          It’s funny, because as soon a I read that flashbangs disable sectoids and breathed a massive sigh of relief, sectoids completely ceased to be a threat even without them.

          • TormDK says:

            I don’t understand why people are so afraid of them?

            Their build-up cannon is easily negated, and their main gun doesn’t seem overly accurate.

            Gatekeepers are far more annoying IMO.

          • Jimbo says:

            That’s sectopods. Sectoids are the annoying mind control aliens at the start of the game.

  5. bills6693 says:

    I’d add: guaranteed Damage!
    Basically, it’s best to kill of an alien if possible, and rely on RNG as little as possible. So take shots with your guys but keep your guaranteed damage to the end. This means grenades (worst as there is still a damage range) but even better gremlin combat protocols and stocks on weapons (1 damage on miss). This means if you have an enemy with 1 health left you don’t risk letting him attack you by trying to kill him with a 70% shot- as you are guaranteed to give at least 1 damage if you have a stock. Same for the other ones- they can’t miss.

    I always try to have at least 3 soldiers if possible with stocks or gremlin shocks or explosives so that I can always kill off enemies using maths, not chance. And it saved my squad multiple times from possible disaster

    Also, if you hack a mech/turret while concealed and take it over it doesn’t reveal you- the squadmates don’t realise it’s under your orders. Use it for particularly evil ambushes!

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      You can find stocks that do more than 1 damage. I found one that does 3 damage.

      I also discovered the other day that enemies can see the Gremlin. I had a concealed ranger on point and used an Aid Protocol to give her some extra defense should the group of enemies up ahead discover her. It broke the concealment.

      Hacking may be dependent on the same idea. It’ll work as long as nobody can see the Gremlin.

      • bills6693 says:

        Strange. Yestarday I took over a mec stood next to a load of guys and they didn’t notice. I had it till the next turn when I started shooting everything up… and there’s no way they could have not seen the gremlin if it was following the normal ‘detection radius’ rules, it was right there.

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Hmm, I don’t know then. Is there a glitch possibly?

          I discovered yesterday that using Haywire Protocol on an out of range sectoid (to check what percentages and bonuses I could get from it) and then cancelling the protocol will trigger then enemy.

    • Horg says:

      Gremlin combat and revival protocol make a great early game build for your specialists, you can clear panic and mind control (which gives the soldier their full turn back) and kill confirm in a single turn. Training out of those later is a good idea though, med protocol / haywire and field medic is my preferred final build. Stocks, better guns / aim and higher will stats make the first build a little obsolete.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Curing panicked soldiers can basically give a soldier an extra turn. You of course have no control over that first set of actions, but it can be helpful sometimes.

      • khamul says:

        A level 3 gremlin will do 10-11 guaranteed damage to a robotic enemy in the late game with combat protocol. 6 to an organic one.

        You only get 2 shots, compared to unlimited with a stock. And you miss out on med protocol, which is pretty great. But still – that’s a big enough benefit that I find it pretty hard to choose.

        • Horg says:

          My thinking on that is that revival becomes a bit redundant, so you want haywire instead. Then you have haywire and combat on the same soldier, and while guaranteed damage is nice, a stun or hack is frequently better. So you can drop combat and get medical, which combos with field medic really well. The ability to remotely heal someone can save a mission. It’s much better than just having med kits, and field medic is up against scan which is just a weaker battle scanner, so a no brainer for me once you can spare an item slot for scanners.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Regarding grenade RNG: Count on the grenade dealing the lower damage number. The game does not tell you, but there’s actually only a 20% chance of getting the higher result.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      This, I regularly have missions with 100% hit percentage, even late game. Just stay close and flaked, kill everything, repeat.

  6. Frank V. says:

    I don’t have anything to add but I have to say this is a fantastic article. By far the best “XCOM 2 Tips” article I’ve read. And sadly, I suck at the game so I’m reading all I can.

  7. Horg says:

    At legend difficulty the concealment overwatch trap is a suicide play, as is trying to sneak past pods and leave them behind. You will get followed and they will get you in an L shaped flank, which usually means dead soldiers. It’s much more stable to use concealment on the first pod for a free crit and then mop up on your turn with grenades and specials. Inherent defense of higher tier aliens, as well as the increased armour / health, means that overwatch alone usually wont wipe a pod and the survivors will get a turn against you.

    The AWC gets top priority on legend as the wound timers go up to Long War levels of 40 days or so. You don’t get that much value out of the GTS until someone hits sergeant anyway, and it builds faster than the AWC so it can go up second. For base efficiency, put the GTS in a corner spot, the AWC in a center spot and your first power plant in the other corner. On the second row, build a workshop under the AWC and have resistance coms and the proving grounds either side. This way you get maximum use from your workshop gremlins. Once you get down to the power coils, delete the first level power plant and replace it with a lab or something else that doesn’t need staffing with engis.

    Something I learned today, don’t turn off beginner VO. It disables the nagging voice ques, but also most of the geoscape events during the first month. Some of these can be very valuable, a free engi for example, so it sets you back quite a bit with beginner VO off.

    • Horg says:

      One thing I forgot to mention, know when not to use roofs / upper floors. Gravity kills your guys just as well as the aliens, and the AI seems to know how to use it against you. If your activation means that something with a grenade will get a turn against you and you can’t crowd control it, get off the damn roof.

  8. C0llic says:

    Good tips there. However, I do think you missed one important early tool. Use flash bangs. These disable mind control, make vipers let go and perhaps even more importantly they prevent the codex from cloning. They’re the other essential early game tool alongside mimic beacons (and you get them faster).

  9. Caleb367 says:

    I’d add: do invest some resources in experimental ammo projects back in the Proving Ground facility. I had some armor piercing bullets come up, gave them to my sharpshooter, and he became a relentless killer of robots (makes the weapon bypass 5 points of armor – not “shred” it, just ignore it). Had him one-shot MECs pretty regularly with a gauss rifle.
    Also, Bluescreen ammo is a must when dealing with superheavy turrets or Sectopods, as it deals additional damage AND makes it easier for a specialist to hack it.

    Speaking of specialists: did you notice enemies (XCOM too, btw) get knocked out of overwatch if they take any damage? Specialist GREMLIN attack is perfect for dealing with that. Guaranteed hit, bypasses cover, does low damage but deactivates overwatch and lets other soldiers move without fear.

    Lastly, I’m not 100% sure about that, but I think that when you start a new game (no tutorial) the first squad is picked from the character pool.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Bluescreen ammo is amazingly helpful, not just against Turrets, Sectopods and MECs, but I think it also works against Guardians too.

    • aircool says:

      Stun grenades are great for removing buffs from aliens and putting an end to their battlefield chicanery.

      I love the amount of ‘stuff’ in the game. You can tool up for specific targets, or bring a selection of items that can quickly change the battlefield dynamic just when you need it.

    • rmsgrey says:

      I got Venom Rounds (which I stuck on my Sharpshooter – making pistol shots effectively lethal for a lot of enemies – almost lethal from the hit, and then poison damage to finish before they take their turn) – the AP went to my Ranger, who was most likely to be away from the shredding effect of the grenade launchers.

      I also got some nice armour-vests – one with an 8-point regen, and one with immunity to environmental effects.

      And my Grenadier packed poison and acid grenades (along with incendiary rounds) – good for shredding armour and making the survivors regret having been in the blast radius.

      The various Experimental ___ in the Proving Grounds are well worth it – at least until your entire squad is carrying them.

  10. Askis says:

    I’d add that all of your Rangers should have Phantom.
    Not only can you keep someone in concealment after engaging your first pod, Rangers with Phantom also start in concealment on missions where you’d normally start without it.
    Being able to scout out pods, set up your squad, then trigger the pod with a sniper is invaluable.

    Also, make full use of your actions.
    Got a soldier who’s in a good position and want to take a shot?
    Reload first or use Defense Protocol if it’s a Specialist.
    Snipers being the exception of course.

    • Archonsod says:

      Phantom is a two-edged sword. It keeps the ranger concealed, however that also means it keeps him out of overwatch unless something spots him. Sometimes it’s far better to have a shotgun ready to keep any Archons or stun lancers off your team’s back than someone in concealment; particularly once you have battle scanner (which handily also identifies faceless before they transform).

      • Askis says:

        Overwatch is a double-edged sword in itself, which enemy will be hit, will the shot hit at all etc.
        Trigger a pod without using your Ranger, the aliens will take cover from your revealed squad, then flank and use that shotgun on a target that’s been (hopefully) weakened by overwatch fire from your other soldiers.
        Works best with the skill that adds aim and crit chance when attacking from concealment of course, but allows that Ranger to unleash hell all the same.

    • kalendaryo says:

      Phantom Rangers work really well in retaliation missions, especially if you have a mobility PCS equipped and a Specialist with a scanning protocol or someone with a battle scanner. Your team can engage pods while the Ranger rescues civilians. You still have to be wary of getting flanked or being surprised by a Faceless, though, so equipping a mimic beacon on the Ranger helps with survivability.

  11. aircool says:

    Watching some of the heavier aliens trashing their own buildings as they walk through walls is quite funny to watch.

    Don’t forget to bring a hacker. There’s some pretty cool bonuses to be had from hacking towers. Once I got control of an Archon and used his Blazing Pinions to destroy an objective (along with his buddies).

    One tip for Revenge Attacks; very much like XCOM’s Terror Sites, you need to rescue civilians. Ignore them (even though they now have names to make you feel bad when they die) and just go for the aliens instead. Unless things go really badly, you’ll always be able to save more than the six needed.

    AP ammo isn’t the most exciting choice on offer, but it does mean that you don’t need to rely on breaking armour.

  12. aircool says:

    Oh, and gas grenades. They’re great for making ‘no go’ areas for the aliens; use them like you’d use a sheepdog herding sheep.

    • DrollRemark says:

      They also do almost as much damage as their equivalent explosive grenade, and when you add in the chip damage from the start of the alien’s turn, it’s at least as much*, if not more. Plus they have a wider radius, and also shred armor. I always carry one on a spare Grenadier.

      *All grenades can be upgraded, so the non-explosive types won’t suddenly seem useless in comparison to the plasma grenade when you get it.

  13. Frank says:

    On your last point: a 100% shot is also not a guaranteed hit. Mutons deflect 100% melee attacks all the time, seems like.

    • Premium User Badge

      ooshp says:

      Yeah I kinda wish they hadn’t obscured the hit calculations and dodge mechanics like they did. Did they really think people buying a PC-only, mod-friendly XCOM game are going to be overwhelmed by the information?

      • popej says:

        Yes, Nobel prize winners ONLY play games on PC.

        The lesser human beings using console boxes simply could not comprehend such complex mathematics.

      • Archonsod says:

        They’re not particularly obscure. Hit chance is broken down for you in the box when you’re choosing a target; dodge appears to be a flat % that the shot will graze based on the targets dodge stat.

  14. Premium User Badge

    ooshp says:

    RNG luck in the first month is the most important ingredient, just like XCOM 1, 2 and EU/EW.

    My first few Classic/Ironman attempts were undone on early timed missions by LOS bugs (as in flanking concealment breaks through multiple walls & floors) and RNG nightmares. Multiple squad wipes lead to no squad size increase, leading to failed timed missions, leading to no resources, dead soldiers, the slow and painful limp to failure that reeks of XCOM.

    Restarted on Classic/non-ironman, finished Gatecrasher with 0 deaths! The aliens can actually miss me when I’m in high cover! All of a sudden I’m up to gauss weapons and plated armour with 1 soldier going down the entire campaign. I have not manually saved a game or re-loaded once.

    Needless to say, I’m reasonably angry at the world. I’ve severely shrunken my manhood by going non-ironman when it was totally unnecessary – not a single LOS bug so far, and I haven’t seen my best SS miss 10 80%+ shots in a row.

    As the last part of the article points out, a 90% shot is not a guaranteed hit. But in that first month, you don’t have a choice. 4 grenades will not clear a map, your soldiers WILL be one-shot in high cover, and they WILL happily miss every shot on a 1-health trooper for a couple of turns.

    • Premium User Badge

      ooshp says:

      Oh, and the only non-launch mod I installed is the AWC mod that enables the free perk retroactively. The decision to roll the rank where the perk unlocks at the start, and not grant it to soldiers who rank up AFTER the centre is built is, I’m fairly confident, an oversight and a bug.

      Penalising your day-1 surviving soldiers is just silly – the mod will enable the perk unlock for soldiers who have already progressed past their random unlock rank, the next time they get a promotion. If you get someone to Colonel before building it though, they’re still gimped.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Totally with you on that mod, it’s just silly that your more experienced soldiers randomly get no benefit from the AWC.

        Stop Wasting My Time is the other essential mod. The game is inexplicably stuffed full of listless pauses (that I assumed were due to poor optimization) and that mod quite simply gets rid of them and improves the pacing twofold.

  15. klops says:

    Early game telepathy guide: Mind shield item gives immunity to panic and mind control.

    Research a dead Sectoid, build a mind shield, position the soldier with the mind shield closest to the Sectoids on the field.

    • Askis says:

      I always assumed Sectoids would ignore anyone with a Mindshield…
      Good to know that’s not the case :)

  16. celticdr says:

    Well that settles it – I’m going to have to get XCOM 2, thanks again Alec, another game you convinced me to buy!

  17. mavu says:

    – most important Psi ability: Stasis.
    Take one enemy out of the fight for one round. invaluable.

    – bring Battle scanner on retaliation missions, they decloak(?) faceless posing as civilians.

    – once you have a squad size upgrade or two, keep your phantom ranger concealed as long as possible, the scouting is invaluable, and lets you deal with turn limited missions more easily by knowing when and where its safe to dash.

    – stunlancers are always priority target number one. First, because they are actually very dangerous with their dash-and-attack move, second because I hate them.

    – try to get the vulture perk early, having more loot its not to be underestimated.

    – half cover is no cover.

    – build a lab, and prioritize engineers in missions.
    The money reward is almost always less than what you pay for an engineer, and I found 4 scientists are enough if you have a lab.

    – Don’t try to sneak through a whole mission. It feels very James Bond, until it doesn’t, and you need to hire 4 new soldiers. Better kill the first pod and keep your ranger concealed.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Engineers certainly are more useful than Scientists. I’m not really sure what to do with my spare Scientists, even facilities that would surely be better staffed by them are taken up by engineers instead.

      • rmsgrey says:

        Additional Engineers are useful until suddenly they’re not – once you’ve fully staffed all your facilities, any additional Engineers are just hanging around killing time. And even before you hit max staffing, you can often have downtime in some facilities, meaning you can get full benefit from a smaller staff much of the time.

        Additional Scientists are useful (until you run out of research projects), but have diminishing returns – each research project takes a certain number of man-hours to complete, so the actual time to complete is simply that number divided by the (adjusted) number of Scientists – I think Tygan counts as 2, and Scientists in the Laboratory definitely each count double – so if you have a 100 man-hour project, with no Scientists, it would take 50 hours; with one it would be 33 hours and 20 minutes; with 6 Scientists, and both Laboratory slots filled, it would be 10 hours, and adding another Scientist would save less than an hour (which is still about 2 days on a 5000 man-hour project that would take Tygan on his own a little over 100 days).

        Additional Engineers are more useful than additional Scientists in the mid-game, but in the early-game they’re fairly even, and in the late-game, additional Scientists at least do something, while additional Engineers are completely useless.

  18. Yyve says:

    Thanks for this article. I have learned some really good tips from both the feature and the very informative comments it has attracted. A good read.

  19. Rack says:

    That is not how numbers work! On any given 90% shot you are 63% more likely to hit than a 27% one. It may be more likely that the shot you miss on is a 90% one if you take enough of them but that is not the same thing. Numbers have no memory.

    • Rack says:

      Well I messed up the xhtml there. That was supposed to be quoting the line that any given 90% shot is less likely to hit than any given 27% shot.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        He means you’re not going to miss a 27% shot because you aren’t going to attempt it.

    • ABen says:

      I think it wasn’t necessarily well phrased, but his point is that you’ll probably see more missed 90% shots, simply by virtue of almost never taking 27% shots.

      As an aside, people are also much more likely to remember missed 90%s, since they feel like they should “almost always hit” (which they do). No one’s going to be surprised, or remember when their 27% shot misses.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Numbers do have a memory in this game. If you land/miss several shots in a row the game will force you to miss/land a shot. It does the same for the aliens.

      There is a mod that removes this, but I couldn’t find it in the 400+ mods currently in the Workshop.

      • Silent_Thunder says:

        That’s not true somewhat. While it does cheat the RNG after several consecutive actions, it ONLY does so in the players favor, NEVER in the aliens. It’s essentially an anti-anger mecahnic.

        The exact bonuses are

        > Added hit chance for Xcom after consecutive misses.
        > Reduced hit chance for aliens after consecutive hits.
        > Added hit chance for Xcom if squad reduced to Reduced hit chance for aliens if Xcom squad reduced to Bonus hit chance multiplier for ALL Xcom shots (Normal and Veteran difficulties)

        And here’s the mod in question.

        > Added hit chance for Xcom after consecutive misses.
        > Reduced hit chance for aliens after consecutive hits.
        > Added hit chance for Xcom if squad reduced to Reduced hit chance for aliens if Xcom squad reduced to Bonus hit chance multiplier for ALL Xcom shots (Normal and Veteran difficulties)

        • Silent_Thunder says:

          Wow it ate the formatting. I’ll try again.


          Added hit chance for Xcom after consecutive misses.

          Reduced hit chance for aliens after consecutive hits.

          Added hit chance for Xcom if squad reduced to <4 soldiers.

          Reduced hit chance for aliens if Xcom squad reduced to <4 soldiers.

          Bonus hit chance multiplier for ALL Xcom shots

          link to steamcommunity.com

          • Silent_Thunder says:

            And it still ate the formatting. Copy and pasting from mobile is a nightmare. The last point only applies to Normal and Veteran. Not Commander and Legendary.

          • Silent_Thunder says:

            And again I rue the lack of edit. Someone looked into it further, and it appears the bonuses mostly only apply to the 2 lower difficulties. Only the miss shot streak bonus applies to Commander, and none of the bonuses apply to Legend.

            “1.2x displayed accuracy for all xcom shots on diff 0, 1.1x on 1, none higher

            +10 xcom accuracy after a miss streak on diff 0 or 1, +15 on 2, 0 on 3

            -10 alien accuracy after a hit streak on difficulty 0, none higher

            +15 xcom accuracy with less than 4 soldiers on 0, +10 on 1, none on 2-3

            -10 alien accuracy with less than 4 soldiers on 0-1, none on 2-3”

      • iucounu says:

        Last night I played my first blacksite mission, which was going OK until a combination of a couple of Advent squads, a Codex, and the first turrets I’d ever seen chewed my veteran squad to bits. My last Ranger, “Duchess”, managed to take out the pair of turrets with her sword. Then as the sole survivor of her squad, with one hit point to her name, went on an absurd Kill Bill-style murder spree.

        She clambers down off the roof and pops her head into the main building, where there’s an Advent officer, a trooper, and a snake. She kills them one by one with her shotgun. A MEC and another couple of troopers rush in. She critical hits the MEC and then spends another two rounds cleaning up the troopers, who can’t seem to hit her.

        At the end of the room is the McGuffin vial thing. She grabs it, is surprised by a Sectoid who’s been lurking around the back, dodges an attack, and blows him away. Now she’s at the back door, with two turns’ worth of moves to get to the evac point. Unfortunately, Advent troops are dropping in to pretty much the same location.

        At least three times, this happened: a squad would drop, and the Duchess would take out one trooper as they moved in. The remaining two would run up to the doorway she was taking cover in, and take up cover positions right outside it, activating overwatch. Then the Duchess kills Trooper one. Trooper two would run and stand where Trooper one was, and activate overwatch, and the same goddam thing happens.

        By the end of the mission, she’s taken out six or more squads, including MECs, snakes and Sectoids, single-handed with one point of health. Amazing drama though it was, I honestly can’t see how I could possibly have nailed all those die rolls? Something fishy (but awesome) is going on.

        • iucounu says:

          (Like, this was a lot better than +15 aim for me and -10 for them.)

        • Goldeneye says:

          Yours is the first story I’ve seen with that kind of tactical revengeance action. Maybe you were just playing Rules of Nature as BGM?

  20. ABen says:

    Re: Understanding Abstraction

    Does XCom2 not have the rundown of factors going into the %-to-hit? I think it was F1 in EU/EW that would show you every factor going into the calculation (i.e. x% aim skill + y% high ground – z% low cover – a% smoke) or whatever.

    That was probably the most useful tool for me understanding what was actually happening in a battle, and surfacing that information made me a lot less frustrated overall, since it made sense to me.

    • Kitsunin says:

      It does! Though you have to click an arrow to make the tabs pop out which is kind of dumb, and the current mod which makes the tabs start popped doesn’t work for a lot of people.

  21. froz says:

    “Use roofs! Roofs are good. You get a longer line of sight, you’re harder to hit, there can be fewer obstacles to cross once you’re up there and some Sharpshooter builds get a bonus action if they kill an enemy at a lower elevation.”

    As far as I know you are not harder to hit if you are on higher level then enemy. You have a big bonus to accuracy when shooting enemies on lower levels.

    “Thus, you are increasing the odds of the numbers not being in your favour on a high-percentage shot. It is as or even more likely you will miss on any given 90% shot than on a 27% one, because you are taking far more 90% shots”.

    Any given 90% shot? Not sure if it’s my English, but shouldn’t that be “on some of your 90% shots”. Any and each of 90% shots have exactly 90% chance to hit, no matter how many times you try (excluding the cheating by game engine). However, the more times you shoot, the more likely you are to have some misses, but the miss could be as well your first shot as your 1000th shot.

    I have one question. Do scientist outside the extra lab you can build are usefull? Do they contribute at all? I have a feeling that yes, they do – so what’s the difference between them (and why they are marked as begin free on the list?) and scientist who are using slots in the lab?

    I noticed that the more scientists I have, the lower the bonus (in percentage) displayed in the “you got a new scientists” window as well as in the lab menu. This probably works like engineers working on clearing the same side (each next is lower %, but each one is actually contributing exactly the same). Hope someone can clear this whole thing up for me. Thanks.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Pretty sure it’s as you think, but Tygan seems to contribute considerably more than the scientists. The numbers line up exactly with how time would be saved if you imagined each scientist contributing X points per day, where you need Y total to complete a project.

      So if you imagine Tygan produces 10 points/day, the first produces 3 which is roughly 33% of 13, the second produces 3 which is roughly 25% of 16, and so forth. The numbers given by the game indeed start at 33% and go down to 25%, 20%, 16%, etc.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Practically speaking, this means each scientist enables you to finish a static amount of extra research projects within a given timeframe i.e. you don’t get diminishing returns (assuming the game divides the projects into chunks smaller than days internally!)

        • Kitsunin says:

          Oh, and a scientist produces double the points when placed into a lab. So essentially 1 filled lab space = 1 bonus scientist.

          • froz says:

            Thanks, that’s good to know :). So I didn’t need to rush with building lab as my first building…

      • rmsgrey says:

        The numbers work out if you treat Tygan as a Scientist permanently stationed in a lab – so he’s worth 2 points; the next scientist is worth 1 more (which is 33% of 3), and so on…

  22. DrollRemark says:

    Even sniper rifles get less accurate over enough of a range. So the old XCOM:EU approach of hiding your Squadsight Sharpshooter on the first tall building you find won’t always work. On the larger maps they’ll end up being useless as the rest of your team gets too far away from them.

  23. photoheathen says:

    I’m curious how many soldiers people are using. Are people using one or two highly ranked squads, or is three or four even squads the way to go?

    My first play through I was still conditioned by Long War where you needed dozens of soldiers, so I felt I had to keep at least four soldiers of each class. I’m going to start a new game though and I think I may focus on using and ranking up only two or three soldiers of each class.

    I’m still not certain which is the better long term choice though.

    • Horg says:

      I think 18 is a reasonable number to aim for. I like to have 6 grenadiers because I use two of them per mission more than any other class, one demo spec with suppression and one cannon spec. Reserves are a 50-50 split on each spec. Snipers I sometimes use two of on non-timed missions, so I like 3 of them with the sniper tree, and one extra gunslinger for timed missions where static marksmen can be a hindrance. Rangers I mostly use one of, sometimes two for extractions, so having 3 with the phantom shotgun spec is good. I usually build one blade-master just for the hell of it but i’m still not convinced they are worth bothering with. Specialists I typically use one per squad, early game build with combat protocol and revival, late game build with medical, haywire and field medic. You can probably get away with just 3 specialists and have 5 rangers as they get put in danger more than other classes. That should be enough of a roster to fill out the ideal squad for any mission and rotate around injuries / deaths.

    • bfwebster says:

      Early in a campaign, I find I need at least 4 to 5 of each class because of more frequent injuries (and deaths) and longer healing times. Towards the end of a campaign, as soldiers buff up, have armor, and have the ACW to speed healing, I find myself using just the top dozen or so soldiers more and more frequently.

  24. Jimbo says:

    Don’t worry too much if you struggle with the first few missions: the game is never more luck-dependent than it is during these early missions. The overall difficulty falls off a cliff as soon as you unlock predator armour and medkits. Bad luck becomes much more survivable after that point.

    It’s kind of a weird game in that virtually all of the difficulty is dictated by which point in the turn cycle you happen to aggro the enemy mob. If you pull them with the last move in your turn (usually due to impatience or no method of detecting them at the start of the game) you’re potentially losing someone. If you pull them at the the start of your turn then you’re probably wiping them out before they ever get to fire a shot.

    • JFS says:

      In this regard, it’s just as bad as XCOM 1. Pod activation is 80% of the tactical game. Thag, alsong with the free moves to cover, still isn’t very tactical or realistic. It’s very gamey, and too relevant to overall mission success. Especially now, where more emphasis is on mobility and flanking, but both are highly dangerous. Same goes for sneaking oast pods. Simply don’t, cause it’s likeky to come back and bite you, and even on Veteran difficulty you can’t afford big losses.

      • Dominare says:

        The point in your turn at which you activate the pod is simply a turn-based representation of whether your squad gets the jump on the aliens or they get it on your squad. Complaining that it isn’t “realistic” when you’re playing turn-based combat is, frankly, a little silly.

        • froz says:

          Game about futuristic warfare where enemy units just outside of your viewing range cannot see you and completely ignore their teammates being massacred – that’s not realy realistic, is it? Come on, sometimes the enemies can even see each other, but they do not react. Then you go in, trying to use your melee weapon and activate 2 more pads. Or a snake drags you in and only then suddenly his friends wake up.

          I’m kind of ok with it, but I would prefer if it was done differently. All enemy units should actively hunt you down when someone discovers you. They should know what you position is, as long as any enemy unit sees you. Of course the game would have to be completely rebalanced then. I think it could be quite fun if basic enemy units would be much weaker, but you would have to deal with more of them at once and not just 3, then another 3 etc. This feels very gamey and you have to adapt to that kind of thinking to have any chance winning the game. For example, if you would ignore it (or don’t know about it), you could keep trying flanking enemy, which is just a bad idea in general (flanking = activating more enemies).

          However, I understand that game design decision. AI design is definitely much simpler and cleaner that way (however, AI is really stupid in some ways, for example it completely don’t know how to use roofs and elevation, at least on Veteran and it almost never focus-fire, which would be devastating to players of course).

        • JonWood says:

          It occurs to me it may be possible to mod out the free move that pods get on activation, which would be a huge win in my opinion. Maybe attempt to have all pods active from turn 1 to balance things out a bit (and add some proper suspense).

          • Horg says:

            Someone will mod out the free move to cover eventually, and then hopefully people will realise why it’s in the game and stop calling it a ”stupid design decision”. You can see what would happen if the aliens didn’t scramble when you get revealed on a flank in concealment. They shoot your guys on their turn, someone dies, and there is literally nothing you can do to stop it. Alternatively, you find the enemies first and they don’t scramble for cover, you kill the entire pod while they are exposed and move on. For the directional cover system to function with the free move removed, the aliens would have to be constantly re-orientating themselves to your squad and only using two directional cover positions to even have a chance to fight back. That’s even gamier than a free scramble move.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:


            There’s basically two situations in the game.

            1. You activate an enemy on your turn, they get to attack you on their turn.

            This is similar to situations in UFO where the alien appears from out of fog of war and can attack your squad before you do anything.

            2. The enemy blunders into you, takes cover, and skips the rest of their turn.

            This is similar to situations in UFO where you spot the aliens first and can act before they do.

            Basically, the situations are switched around from the original UFO, but otherwise the same. The biggest difference is that you have control this time round and can reduce the chances of the former happening, while in UFO it was uncontrollable.

      • Jimbo says:

        I think detection needs to be easier (you are supposed to be ‘the hunter’ in this campaign after all), but the actual engagement phase needs to be harder / last longer. At the moment it’s pretty consistently decided in the opening turn.

        Rangers especially should be better at detecting enemies without triggering them. Currently I find them the worst unit for scouting ahead, because if you are going to lose team concealment by blundering into detection range before you can even see where that is, it’s better to do it with someone that doesn’t have the Phantom skill.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Yeah I enjoyed both games, but this remains the weakest part of the game, and one of the reasons I slightly prefer Xenonauts. Playing the battles well is just too gamey because they whole point is to NOT flank, and NOT rush, and just move forward very slowly as a creeping ball of death activating one pod at a time.

        There is no advantage to concealment, no advantage to going around. The way to play is as a steam roller moving very slowly through the pods one at a time.

        • Saul71 says:

          “no advantage to going around” I don’t know if you’re familliar with real life tactical combat, but you don’t “move around” so much (or you get shot in the face)… in a battle zone, when suspecting ennemy activity, you lay a thick covering fire and then assault on very short distances… Combat Mission was pretty good is simulating that… but that would be a different game altogether… Xcom is, to me, the right kind of gamey (it certainly throws a few curve balls and punish slopiness), and I have no expectations of realism in a game where Vipers can roll out a 10 meters tongue as solid as steel in such a slender body…

          • Joshua Northey says:

            Its not so much about realism as that there is a very straight simple by the book way to play that centers around abusing the game mechanics. I mean the idea that enemies 40 meters away complete ignore a big firefight and their allies dying 10 meters from them because you cannot see them yet is fundamentally silly.

            Games are not doing a great job when the deficiencies in the mechanics are one of the foremost things in your mind when making a strategy.

  25. clive dunn says:

    One weird quirk (bug) of the Mimic device is occasionally, after the hologram has been taken down, a sectoid will reanimate the ‘corpse’ as if your soldier was the one being killed. Funny to see your own soldier kill its own zombified self. Obviously a bug but quite entertaining.
    One of other bug i’ve found with the Mimic is after it’s been shot it’ll still ‘exist’ on the battlefield as you get the warning that you’re about to cause freindly fire if you try firing a grenade where it was.
    And by the way, that CAPLOCKS trick for getting out of the end mission screen is genius.

    • DrollRemark says:

      That reminds me, I need to file the bug I found somewhere:

      My Bladestorm Ranger gets rushed by an enemy lancer. His attack misses, she responds with an admonitory swish of her blade, and the latest upgrade to it means that it causes a burn. He gets hurt by the burn, and then RUNS TO COVER AND SHOOTS AT MY RANGER.

      *angry face*

  26. bfwebster says:

    Towards the end of my 2nd campaign, I was typically bringing along two Mimic Beacons on each mission. They not only have the advantage of saving your butt when you uncover a large pod of MOBs, but they are very useful in luring several enemies into a tighter bunch, which means you can often do more damage with any type of area attack (grenades, bombs, various firing cones/lances, etc.).

  27. Baranor says:

    Since we are adding tips: a sniper with an exo suit with rocket makes for a nice combo. She will be behind the lines and rockets have range, plus you can shoot them on the move. Add in Lightning Hands and Face/off and you’ve got a murder machine.

    I’ve had a few situations where I did not need one heavy hit but 2-4 smaller ones to reduce enemy numbers or wipe them out. Move the sniper up, lightning hands on a target, face/off next.. and suddenly 75% of your foes take 3-6 damage.

    Be brutal. Shoot at stuff that will explode. When in doubt start a pod off with explosives. And that concealed ranger is worth her weight in gold.

    • Jimbo says:

      I need an enemy with about 100 health so I can try the Quick Draw / Lighting Hands / Fan Fire pistol spam combo on a ruptured target.

  28. Unsheep says:

    The tools for beating any game:

    “Think, Strategize, Win.” – Jeff Green 2014

  29. rob says:

    Is that last paragraph really saying that, in addition to the RNG helping players out, there is a raw statistical effect that means only picking 90% probabilities makes them less likely?


    • Jimbo says:

      He means if you take 1000 90% shots for every 100 27% shot then you’re going to see more misses from the former than from the latter.

      The ‘any given’ bit is a mistake.

  30. Saul71 says:

    Great thread. After 20 years of having my ass handed to me on a plate by the different iterations of xcom, here are my two cents on this great new version:

    For beginners => never be caught with your pants down (aka don’t uncover aliens on the last move of your last soldier)… think of the map as divided in 2; the “known” (already explored, safe) and “not yet known” (lethal). Except if you’re really running late on a timer, only uncover the new map with your first two or three soldiers (and only with half their movement). If nothing new, the others will come up to the edge of the discovered place, not one step more (actually a mod showing the exact line of sight would be great)… If you activate a pod of enemies, you have plenty of actions to deal with it, including stepping back the first 2/3 back outside the visibility range, to draw the aliens in the firing range of the 3 or 4 others (who can position themselves for an overwatch ambush… aliens advance when they don’t see targets). As a rule of thumbs, when not on a timer, stepping back and drawing them in (towards your “long shot” snipers) is often a right solution.

    On that note, a Sniper with field of fire is a killing machine…. It works wonders on the initial ambush, giving your sniper (generally the main damage dealer) one shot per enemy rather than one shot…

    For intermediate => Tab is your friend; Circle through all your soldiers at the start of a turn, and list their potential actions… then prioritize and combine… then, and only then, play… obviously the grenadier who gives a +15 aim goes first, as does the useless rookie who can throw a grenade to blow the cover, etc. Stasis or haywire come last (stun the active target most likely to cause damage)… this game is superb because of the sheer variety of combo you can devise and pull off.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Except if you’re really running late on a timer, only uncover the new map with your first two or three soldiers (and only with half their movement).

      See, I’m not sure that’s as applicable with the new concealment mechanics. Whilst I would still agree with moving only one action’s length to start with, if you’re still concealed and can’t see an enemy, I’d say it’s fairly safe to move up a bit further. Not necessarily the maximum possible range, but maybe half that into decent cover (preferably two sides, but definitely against the direction you’re moving). Cover protects you from being seen during concealment, and enemies on patrol generally don’t move that quickly anyway.

      On that note, a Sniper with field of fire is a killing machine….

      I’ve only just discovered Kill Zone on snipers and yes, it’s the perfect thing to have ready when you break cover. Should be noted that it doesn’t care how much ammo you have either (wonder if they’ll patch this?) – even with one bullet in their current mag your sniper will shoot at every enemy that moves within the cone.

      • Saul71 says:

        “Not necessarily the maximum possible range, but maybe half that into decent cover (preferably two sides, but definitely against the direction you’re moving)” => I see you point, but the disadvantage is that sometimes you will move into a “spotted” zone that was not perceivable at the start of your move (if you go too far on your max move), especially with civilians / what I sometimes do is to graple quite far ahead with my first move, on top of a building, basically taking a chance (if the landing spot is under scrutiny, but I find it is rarely the case), which “opens” a large chunck of the map quickly

  31. Captin Dan says:

    Hi, not sure if this has been mentioned yet but pressing caps lock during the loading screen really cuts down the loading times.

  32. Shake Appeal says:

    I’m about to polish up my Commander/Ironman run, and my pro tips would be:

    1. Spam grenades.
    2. Research plasma grenades as soon as possible (Muton Autopsy and Proving Grounds required).
    3. Spam plasma grenades.
    4. Start researching Faceless Autopsy just before your second Retaliation mission (because you need two Faceless corpses to make a Mimic beacon).
    5. Spam Mimic beacons.
    6. It’s fine to let the Avatar progress clock up to full as long as you have a Blacksite or Facility in ranger to knock it back down. There’s a grace period of two weeks or so in which to hit one.

  33. Richeh says:

    Is it a tactical advantage to dress your squad like the Black Eyed Peas?

  34. bfwebster says:

    All great tips (and, yes, 2 Mimic Beacons is, IMHO, the minimum; they have saved my soldiers soooo many times, it’s not funny).

    A few more tips on attacking Codexes. First, they are highly vulnerable to Bluetooth Rounds and EMP grenades/bombs (as are Gatekeepers). Second, a Sharpshooter with the Faceoff skill (and especially with Bluetooth Rounds) can take out several cloned Codexes with a single action.