XCOM 2 Guide To Strategy, Performance, Mods & More

XCOM 2 is out, we are playing it, and we are writing about it. You might be struggling to find that writing though because it’s being washed away in a flood of other posts. If that’s the case, then step inside here for everything we’ve written about the game so far.

This post will be updated as we write more about the game.

XCOM 2 strategy guide

XCOM 2 is a hard game by design, which is why you might want to read Alec’s 16 XCOM 2 tips. He’s a bit of an expert.

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.

XCOM 2 performance tips

XCOM 2 is great, but not without its glitches and performance issues. This XCOM 2 performance fix might help you some. This XCOM 2 remove delays mod might also help you by making combat a smoother experience. Or you might be wondering why the caps lock keys skips load times.

We asked development lead Jake Solomon about some of the performance issues, including XCOM 2 framerate problems:

“Maybe this is damning on me, but I’m sitting here talking to you now on the laptop I use to play it on,” explained Solomon, “and I didn’t see these issues. We didn’t catch this stuff in compatibility testing. We’re fully, fully accountable for the product in people’s hands, so we certainly take responsibility for it.”

Not all of it is bad, mind you. Alice has found that some XCOM 2 glitches can be remarkably pretty, especially those which happened in the final mission. Warning: the images contain some spoilers for the final mission’s setting, when you can see through the pink fog:

XCOM 2 mods

If you’re looking for the best XCOM 2 mods, then look no further:

The aliens are here, they’re up to no good, and now it’s time to get rid of them. This list is the best mods XCOM 2 [official site] has to offer so far and should help you achieve that goal, or at least help you to fail (again) in style.

You might also be interested in this review of the XCOM 2 launch day mods, which were made by the same group who made the popular Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown:

I am incredibly happy that people will be able to mod new aliens into the game – it’ll make that whole Enemy Unknown factor relevant for a long time, if the mods be kind – and this is a lovely start. Centurions look great and they’re just enough of a twist on the existing Mutons to add the kind of overlapping skillsets that XCOM 2 has turned into an artform.

XCOM 2 review

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ve even decided to buy the game yet. Our XCOM 2 review might help you make up your mind:

While this is a game to be chewed over and replayed time and time again (I’ve finished the campaign once and started it more than a dozen times), the first playthrough is a wonderful thing. In this post-invasion, and indeed post-occupation, storyline, you might think that the term “Enemy Unknown” no longer applies, but whether you’re facing adaptations of old foes or encountering fresh horrors, XCOM 2 has the ability to surprise and shock at almost every turn of its hefty plot.

Or you might need more information, in which case Alec makes a compelling case for 14 reasons why XCOM 2 is so damned exciting:

I’m a big fan of XCOM 1’s soundtrack; it shares a composer with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and thus has a similar brand of moody synths, evoking Tangerine Dream at their best. But the tone was always “bad things are about to happen.” In XCOM 2, the tone is “OH MY GOD AMAZING THINGS ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN”, even though the game’s setting is a far more horrific one. Every mission briefing is soundtracked as though this is the climactic encounter. Every Skyranger landing feels like I’ve come to save the day, not just perform a routine intel op. Every post-battle screen makes me feel like my guys just graduated with firsts from the University Of Awesome. It should be ridiculous. Hell, it sounds ridiculous when written down. But it works so well. XCOM is going to save the fucking world, yo.

Or you maybe need a more relatable entry point, such as a comparison to a game you might have already played. For example, Steven Messner’s tale of learning to love failure in XCOM 2 and Darkest Dungeon:

My first ten hours in XCOM 2 were some of the hardest I’ve ever muscled through in a video game. No, it wasn’t that my alien adversaries were willing to punish my every move with a barrage of laser fire that cut down every single member of my squad who I had, in a moment I now severely regret, named after the people in my family (sorry, Dad). It wasn’t the harrowing struggle of winning back Earth from an overwhelming force, either. It was that paralyzing reality that I had no clue what I was doing, let alone if I was even doing it well. When Central Officer Bradford resuscitated me and handed me the keys to the resistance, I desperately wanted to crawl back into the cryotube he found me in while screaming “I’m not who you think I am!”

Or maybe you’re more interested in where the game is going in the future, and want to read Adam’s suggestions for XCOM 2 expansions:

As I said in my XCOM 2 review, the game is an instant classic. It might not shake up the formula quite enough to win over those who didn’t get along with its predecessor but for those who did enjoy Enemy Unknown, it’s a weighty and thoughtful follow-up. It’s also a far more meaningful and consequential sequel than Terror From The Deep ever was. With that in mind, I’ve considered three possible futures for XCOM, with no spoilers whatsoever for XCOM 2.

XCOM 2 diary

If you’re looking for an entertaining tale of derring-do and dismal defeat, then look no further than Alec’s XCOM 2 diary, in which he plays through the game in ‘Iron Man’ permadeath mode. It’s soldiers are you, the readers and there are four parts so far.

XCOM 2 basics

Lastly, you might simply want to know: what is XCOM 2? Alice and Pip have the answer, and much more:

Pip: So do I need to have played XCOM to get XCOM 2?

Alice: Not really! Mostly it’s a game about making little people move around a grid and try not to get shot in the face. ‘Reclaim Earth from colonising aliens’ is a p. simple pitch, and you’ll only miss out on references to lots of “Oh boy, this reminds me of the last big meat monsters…” and “Oh gosh, you know who would’ve loved to see this meat monster? That guy from the first game.” There are aliens and they’re up to no good, so you want there to be no aliens.

Or you can find out some general XCOM 2 stats, including how many aliens players have killed so far. At the time of writing the answer is 118,643,299, which you’d hope would mean that XCOM 3 is a turn-based strategy games about your soldiers resting on a beach somewhere.

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50 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    Is every XCOM2 post from now on going to have that screenshot of a sectoid? (you know the one I mean!)

  2. aircool says:

    It’s even better than the last XCOM. As for the music… when it’s quiet and you get that single, low note from the contrabassoon…

  3. Premium User Badge

    DrollRemark says:

    You appear to have put the topics in reverse order.

  4. Bull0 says:

    I’ve played almost nothing but XCOM 2 for two weeks. It’s definitely starting to wear thin. Generally really happy with the game (latest patch nonwithstanding – it’s fucked my game up way more than it’s helped) but looking forward to some big mods and the official DLC.

    • aircool says:

      I’m looking forward to the next one… if you’ve finished the game, you know what’s coming.

      • Premium User Badge

        garfieldsam says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if that ended up being a DLC tbh, but either way I’m stoked

  5. Amplituhedron says:

    This ini tweak completely solved XCOM2 performance issuses for me: No idea why its not getting more attention.

    link to steamcommunity.com

    • GernauMorat says:

      Just wanted to second the ini tweaks. Game went from borderline unplayable on my laptop to pretty smooth

      • aircool says:

        I remember using them for XCOM. Even now the Skyranger cut aways still stutter in XCOM a bit.

        So yeah, I used these as well. Nowhere near the same impact they had on XCOM, but an improvement non the less.

      • laiwm says:

        Just tried them out and can’t say for sure whether they’ve helped yet (I think most of the stuttering I’m experiencing is due to the framerate dropping out of the range that FreeSync handles), just wanted to point out that there’s an important note in those instructions about some of the config lines being duplicated in that file – you’ll need to search and change all of them to be sure they’ll take effect.

  6. Coming Second says:

    Don’t feel like there are enough posts about this game.

  7. Zankman says:

    Holy crap how many posts are there about this game?

    I don’t care which game it is, I hate it when a game takes over RPS like this. It’s just too much.

    • froz says:

      I love those posts. Really. I understand that it might be irritating to everyone who is not into this game (like all the fallout 4 posts were for me), but to me they are nice to read. Well, maybe not this one specifically, because it’s just a summary of other posts.

      • Zankman says:

        You just said it yourself, though: If it isn’t for a game you like…

        I’m saying that it is very annoying and bad regardless of game, whether I like it (like this one), am indifferent (Fallout) or dislike it (MGS).

        • froz says:

          Well, while Fallout posts irritated me a little, I simply ignored them (or most of them). I didn’t ask RPS not to make them.

    • OmNomNom says:

      I completely agree and I love this game. It’s bad enough with all the LoL posts.

  8. Mrice says:

    I finished Xcom 2 roughly the week it came out, took me a good 50 hours but i was very addicted. It was fun. I liked the story.

    If i learnt anything through the game, its invest in psionics. They are absolutely some of the most OP troops you can ever have. “Null Lance” which i believe can be learnt as early as their second skill, is capable of one shot killing multiple cortex in a single turn, preventing their clone ability, and also ignoring cover.

    Psionics are also trained on the timer instead of in combat, so you dont even need to field weak psionics. Just bank em until they are crazy strong and then let them stomp all over the battlefield.

    Whenever i next play the game i am absolutely going to field an entire team of psionics (and maybe a specialist for hax + health). Its going to be terrifying.

    • Premium User Badge

      Philopoemen says:

      The abilities available to Psi-ops to learn are random – meaning you can learn high level abilities like Domination early on if you’re lucky.

      It seems weird that there’s no “rank” requirement, but there you go.

      • Mrice says:

        I suppose the fact that their success rate / damage is linked very firmly to the psionic amplifier upgrades, which themselves are locked to the tech tree, means that even though they can get domination right at the start its got a piss poor success chance until later in the game.

    • aircool says:

      It’s good that you can play the mid game in so many different ways. My current playthrough went with the AWC first whilst concentrating on armour.

      I intend to pursue psionics on the next playthrough.

  9. subedii says:

    Personally I don’t think I’ve encountered any real bugs in my (one so far) full playthrough. Caveat that I’m running on Linux mint so who knows how that might or might not be affecting things. That said, performance could’ve been better, though the Poolsize .ini tweak helped some ( Amplituhedron linked it above).

    Big props to Firaxis and Feral for doing a solid Linux port as well. It looks like performance is about equal on either platform.

    • Mrice says:

      I only encountered two bugs that i actually remembered during a 50+ hour playthrough. Finished the game before the most recent patch mind.

      1) i picked up a knocked out VIP and carried him away, for some reason his hitbox stayed where he was knocked out, so i couldn’t grenade the enemies that crowded around his car. And when the car accidentally got blown up anyway, it killed him, whilst slung over my rangers shoulder, on the other side of the map. Very annoying.

      2) I had a Advent lancer glitch out trying to sprint to zap my grenadier, whilst climbing up a drain pipe, and coming into the range of the snipers cone of effect over watch skill. For some reason this was a bit much for the game and the Lancer teleported instantly to the grenadier and knocked him out, then teleported back, then teleported to the top of the drainpipe and was shot by my sniper.

      Both were a bit of a pisser, but not a big deal.

  10. Ashraven says:

    Subjective and unpopular opinion, but I’m perplexed by the overwhelmingly positive response that this game is getting. Even if you put all the glaring technical issues aside, it’s still filled with deeply flawed gameplay mechanics and is inferior in damn near every way to all the classic squad based TBS games that preceded it.

    The fact that this is like the 80th article on X2 since its release is the only thing that moved me to comment on this, usually I keep my cynical and grumpy opinions to myself.

    • cakeisalie says:

      I agree. As I’ve said before, it’s a good game and certainly an improvement on the first one but it doesn’t live up to hype and many of the flaws have been totally glossed over. The balance is poor (very difficult to begin with and far too easy by the mid game, followed by an a massive difficulty spike for the final mission).

      The AI is very uninspired bordering on stupid at times – enemy troops regularly walking through fire/acid/poison and completely expose themselves for no good reason (like when they stop one tile short of you without attacking). The difficulty is mostly artificial/exploitive, coming from the aliens’ numerical superiority, their large health and armour, the over reliance on timers, and the awful pod discovery mechanic which brings a new trio of enemies into play because you happened to step one tile too far and effectively gives the aliens’ a free turn. And increasing the difficulty level mostly revolves around increasing economic and combat penalties for you while buffing the aliens health and numbers, as opposed to ramping up the AI (to be fair this is a problem with many strategy games).

      The music is uninspired and instantly forgettable. And the characters and much of the dialogue are awful. Bradford has basically turned into Sam Fisher and 20 years of ageing seems to have only resulted in a few scars and a bit of stubble. And he never shuts up. And Shen is such massive and annoying cliche (like something out of NCIS). Whereas the story is pure trite. That said, I’m not so bothered about these aspects in a TBS game, but again they’ve been overlooked in reviews.

      And I still think the original games were better with far more depth to them.

      • froz says:

        Oh yes, enemy combat AI is really terrible. But I’m afraid if it was any good, the game would be unbeatable. For example, enemy doesn’t know the concept of focus firing. It usually doesn’t know it should first destroy the cover and then shoot units that were behind it. It almost never takes the adventage of higher ground when it can. Quite contrary, I’ve seen aliens going down from roofs to the ground just so it’s easier for me to kill them.

        Enemy also has worse weaponry then your units near the end. That’s funny, when you take over enemy unit with a lot of armor, other units can’t deal with it. They just have too low damage output and can’t/don’t know they should use grenades/rockets etc.

        The game is still fun, mostly because it’s not meant to be symetrical, so AI having much more units is fine.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I think one reason for the positive response is that it’s a sequel, and the first XCOM/EU game filtered out those who don’t like this design and prefer the style of the “classic squad based TBS games that preceded it.”

      So we’re mostly hearing from people who enjoyed the first XCOM/EU game, and are enjoying this version too because it’s basically just an iteration of that first one. Those who didn’t like the first one are going elsewhere for their TBS kicks.

      FWIW I enjoyed XCOM/EU and am enjoying this one, although I think Firaxis took a cheap and cheesy shortcut by using arbitrary timers, instead of finessing the design in other ways that would prevent the abuse of creeping overwatch.

      • JFS says:

        I concur. XCOM 2 isn’t a bad game, it’s got good atmosphere and great customization options. It isn’t the 9+/10 second coming many make it out to be, though. Its technical side is bad, and the design isn’t that elegant. It is fun, I find, but the game on its whole has many shortcomings. The worst for me being that it is way too gamey and formulaic, with a fake difficulty resulting from that.

        • gwathdring says:

          I have yet to play a TBS game that ISN’T gamey. Cinematic, simulationist or otherwise not-as-gamey games tend not to be top-down semi-omniscient strategy games where both sides politely take turns with exception for a few special abilities on each side. TBS is a very mechanically intense genre. If anything the new XCOM series leans more towards the cinematic and less towards mechanical intensity. Things like the two-action turn instead of action points and a host of other features make it less about intense tactics and more about broader strokes–both for better and for worse.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Where DO you go for a modern UI sophisticated TBS kick?
        I would have thought after all the ratings Divinity is something for turn based combat, but in terms of replacing games like JA2 or Silent Storm its just nowhere near that kind of feeling.

        Where IS the next Jagged Alliance 2 / SS? Been soooo many years..

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Well, we just recently had an article where after over a decade RPS finally realized that we DID have an excellent turn based squad tactics game, aka Silent Storm, that was worth not just mentioning and covering, but wishing back for more as well.

      So, I guess that’s something for the last 10-15 years.

  11. Le_Bossu says:

    This is not even close to everything RPS has written on XCOM2. There’s a total of 47 post with the tag. Since the end of November there have been 35, i.e. roughly three a week, every week.

    Given the amount of PC games deserving of (and failing to get) wider coverage, there’s something seriously off with those figures.

    In comparison GTAV, a far bigger game, with far broader cultural impact has 65 tagged posts but about half of them have nothing to do with the game itself (Rockstar documentary, best of lists, etc.) and the first 3 of those posts were in 2011, and stretched out over the intervening years.

    All this for a game with a metacritic 7.0 user score and 25% negative rating on steam (not bad but not exactly genre-breaking)? Does someone at RPS part-time at 2K?

    • Premium User Badge

      DrollRemark says:

      If anything, the fact that this gets far more attention than GTA, despite its score, just goes to prove that RPS still gives the spotlight to games they like, not what consensus says deserves it.

      • Le_Bossu says:

        Its nota matter of taste. The game is popular, they’re not exactly highlighting what they think is an under-rated gem. Its a matter of excessive, non-stop coverage, to the point where they seem (in this post) to have completely run out of possible ways of mentioning the game so they make a post just in case we’ve forgotten what they previously said about this masterpiece”.

        ” You might be struggling to find that writing though because it’s being washed away in a flood of other posts.”

        I hope this was a self-aware joke, as though it was possible to avoid the XCOM-2 deluge.

        “This post will be updated as we write more about the game.”

        This is certainly a reliable prediction.

        • Itdoesntgoaway says:

          Stop the presses – subjective opinions and divergent tastes exist.

          More seriously, there have been numerous occasions when RPS is taken over with seemingly endless MOBA posts – as an example – (which I personally despise) but it takes naught but a modicum of self awareness to realise that they are not obligated to do or write a single damn thing they don’t want to (with the inverse also being true). Nor am I obliged to read any of it, or wanting for content on whatever I personally prefer in innumerable places on the interwebs.

          So maybe, just try to get a little perspective?

          • Le_Bossu says:

            “Nor am I obliged to read any of it”

            The inherent hypocrisy or making the net-equivalent argument of “If you don’t like the USA, get the hell out” apparently lost on someone more intent on choosing to write in a deliberately stilted and unnatural manner.

            The prior posts come from someone who actually likes the game and the genre (hence my own subjective assessment of the value of my perspective). Again, a comment on the fact that the level of incessant commentary seems to be passing beyond poor editorial judgement into contractual obligation. But heaven forfend criticism of one’s darlings should occur.

          • Shadow says:

            XCOM 2 was just released and is THE PC game of the moment. We don’t get superb, big-name PC exclusives all that often, so I believe it’s perfectly fine to celebrate it.

            Whether the amount of coverage is excessive is quite debatable, and it’s not really eclipsing anything. The vast majority of the weekly volume still covers other subjects and games, down to little free roguelikes like Armoured Commander, so I don’t really get what all the fuss is about.

          • gwathdring says:

            @Le_Bossu There is a meaningful distinction between “If you don’t enjoy the content on this voluntary entertainment website, perhaps a little self-perspective is in order when you start acting like you are owed less coverage of a specific game the site’s owners are really excited about” and “If you don’t like the state of civil rights and/or other legal and cultural matters that inescapably effect your day-to-day existence, your financial future, and your very livelihood–kindly fuck off and stop complaining despite the fact that the nation state system really doesn’t give you much of a voluntary option most of the time for both better and worse.”

            Your comparison is a bit daft, even as exaggerations go. Not because it’s so extreme–that’s the point of exaggerations–but rather because it is mostly extreme due to features that are not shared between the two points of comparison.

    • aircool says:

      I got annoyed at all the ‘how awesome is Witcher 3’ posts. I hated the controls and combat to the point of frustration, uninstalling the game three times now.

      But it is a good game and I accept the fact that it’s such a good game that so many people want to talk about it. Ironically, I love XCOM 2 despite all it’s faults and have no time for those angered by the reviews and publicity; I am comfortable with my hypocrisy.

    • C0llic says:

      I don’t know why large amounts of coverage of a particular game upsets people so much (or seems to). This website has always been a set of subjective opinions rather than a website that slavishly reviews every new game.

      If you think they should cover a game then let them know. Email the staff about something cool, and perhaps they’ll want to write about it. I just don’t get the complaining about this. And it happens every single time multiple RPS people get sucked into a game. The latest metal gear game, and fallout 4 being the other most recent examples.

      If inconsistent amounts of game coverage truly annoys you, then this probably isn’t the website for you.

    • Graham Smith says:

      Le_Bossu has been banned.

      On my better days, I can just about tolerate the people who feel the need to complain about the frequency of posts they don’t want to read, but I can never tolerate people accusing us of corruption or of committing a crime. If you said the same to a shopowner in their shop, or a homeowner on their home, I imagine they’d tell you to leave just the same.

      Between “you write too much about this game” and “slow news day?” equivalents on posts about more niche subjects, it’s tempting to imagine that a reader’s ideal site is never updated at all.

      Luckily many of you are far more willing to share your thoughts when you’re enjoying something – so thanks to all of you who do!

    • RegisteredUser says:

      GTA V is bollocks and more people liking bollocks doesn’t make bollocks less bollocks.
      So to GTA I say: Bollocks.

      Also RPS can spread its attention any bollocky way it likes.

  12. Michael Fogg says:

    Just wanted to say that this is the best PC game since the previous one came out in 2012, and that was also the best PC game in years, so I fully support the notion of those games getting a lot of coverage on a blog dedicated to PC gaming. I’m hoping for an ongoing ‘mod spotlight’ sort of series. And of course, already waiting for an announcement of the first expansion (possibly to be released before xmas?)

  13. Don Reba says:

    Wait, wait, wait, what’s XCOM 2? This is the first time I hear about it!

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Dear Don Reba,

      may I interest you in this here bridge..

  14. Cederic says:

    The irony is that we’ll miss the xcom 2 posts because they’re lost amongst the noise of all the xcom 2 posts.

    At least the diary is entertaining.