XCOM 2's soldier classes are one of the best examples of how Firaxis have carefully overhauled the systems introduced in Enemy Unknown. Rather than simply adding further classes to the established roster, XCOM 2 performs an intricate restructuring of Enemy Unknown's archetypes. It remixes the abilities of the original classes, while also adding new skills that radically change how these soldiers are best used. Classes that were enormously powerful in Enemy Unknown now only function well with appropriate support, while others that were tactically difficult to use are now a vital component of any team of alien hunters.
So we've taken a more detailed look at XCOM 2's class system, and ranked them in order of their importance in the field. We'll examine how each class functions, what their best and worst abilities are, who looks down on who, the works.
NB: this article considers only the four starting XCOM classes. There's one class we haven't mentioned in this list, because talking about it might be considered a spoiler. In any case, our advice for that class would simply be "acquire it", because it is astonishingly powerful.
Here are the contents:
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XCOM 2's best class!
XCOM 2 Sharpshooter Tips
The best class in XCOM 2 is also the one which has been most fundamentally reworked. Enemy Unknown's snipers were, frankly, a bit of a pain to work with. Until Corporal rank, The Sniper class was unable to shoot or enter Overwatch after moving. Even then, you had to sacrifice Squadsight if you wanted any flexibility in the class.
By comparison, XCOM 2's Sharpshooter is absolutely essential to any deployed squad.
They're devastatingly effective at long range while remaining surprisingly useful in close
quarters. Two elements of the class are key to this. Firstly, Squadsight is unlocked for all Sharpshooters at Squaddie rank. To briefly explain, Squadsight lets your Sharpshooter fire at any enemy that can be seen by your squad-mates, provided there is a viable line of sight from the Sharpshooter's position. This makes them highly effective at long range much earlier in the game, particularly if you can find some high-ground from which you can gain a good overview of the battlefield.
Secondly, although Sharpshooter's still suffer a movement penalty of sorts - they cannot fire their rifles after moving - they are equipped with a pistol which can be fired after moving. The pistol does a comparatively small amount of damage, but Sharpshooters can blast the tongue out of a Viper's mouth with it from fifty yards. The pistol is great for finishing off enemies injured by other soldiers. It's even possible to build the entire class around the pistol, transforming the Sharpshooter into a Wild-West style Gunslinger capable of squeezing off up to six shots in a single turn.
While the Gunslinger skill tree is surprisingly powerful, with Lightning Hands in particular being a crucial ability for all Sharpshooters, they're still most effective in their long-range build. A Sharpshooter placed on high-ground with the Death from Above and Long Watch perks provides a rock-solid foundation for the rest of your squad to move forward from.
Best Ability: Lightning Hands is an early skill that lets Sharpshooters fire their pistol without costing an action, and any free actions offered by XCOM should be taken full advantage of. Lightning Hands is useful for Gunslingers for obvious reasons, but it's also handy for long-range Sharpshooters who suddenly find themselves on the defensive.
Worst Ability: Aim - provides Sharpshooters with an Aim and Damage boost after using Hunker Down. Seriously, who uses Hunker Down?
Hints: Avoid placing Sharpshooters on rooftops near ADVENT Mecs, as their cluster-missiles can blast a Sharpshooter back to ground level, causing both explosive and falling damage while leaving them horribly exposed.
XCOM 2 Grenadier Tips
While Sharpshooters are the most tactically rewarding class, Grenadiers are the most immediately satisfying. During the early game, their grenade launchers are extremely useful for dealing damage to multiple enemies. As the game progresses, however, they evolve into more of a support unit, depriving enemies of cover and stripping armour bonuses in order that other soldiers can deal effective damage.
This is undoubtedly how Grenadiers are best used. They can be excellent damage dealers themselves, but because their hit-rate usually hovers between 60 and 75 - they have an annoying tendency to miss their target at important moments. A safer tactic is to team them up with a Ranger, so that the Grenadier can whittle down the enemy's armour while the Ranger moves in close for an almost-guaranteed kill. When a shot isn't viable, Suppressive fire is a useful alternative, although it does eat up ammo.
Best Ability: Shredder, without a doubt. Unlocked at Corporal Rank, Shredder upgrades all Grenadier attacks to rend armour, which is vitally important because ADVENT sure loves its armour. Shredder is also generally more effective at removing armour than explosives, and even Grenadiers with the worst eyesight can hit a towering MEC unit fairly reliably.
Worst Ability: Blast Padding: Gives your Grenadier additional armour protection. Has its uses, but it's also not very interesting and to acquire it you need to sacrifice Shredder.
Hints: Don't forget to stock your Grenadier with grenades most appropriate to a mission, as they can fire them further, have a larger explosive range, and get additional ammo. If in doubt of what enemies you'll be facing, Acid grenades are a safe bet, as they do both immediate and protracted damage as well as eating armour like Maltesers. Stuffing your Grenadier's pockets with explosives also frees up your other classes to use some of the more interesting items, like the Mimic and the Battle Scanner.
A respectable third.
XCOM 2 Specialist Tips
I'll be honest, I was sorely tempted to put the Specialist last. In their early ranks, Specialists are a weak class. Aid Protocol is possibly the dullest ability in the entire game, and they only have three or four abilities that might be considered "fun."
That said, within a couple of ranks Specialists become incredible assets, with both specialisations of the rank sporting some cracking abilities. The Battle Medic is an essential build for anyone who isn't an XCOM expert. The GREMLIN drone makes it far easier to heal squadmates, as it can be done remotely, while unlocking the Field Medic ability provides a single Specialist with up to 4 heals.
While the Battle Medic's abilities are important for starting out, the Combat Hacker specialisation is where all the fun toys lie. Unlocked at Sergeant Rank, Haywire Protocol sends the GREMLIN drone to hack a mechanised enemy, either shutting them down for several turns, or even briefly switching them to your side. Turning the gun of a Class II ADVENT MEC on its allies is one of XCOM 2's greatest joys. Scanning Protocol is also a valuable asset, as it lets you glimpse further into the map without alerting enemy units, handy for avoiding running into a massive cluster of enemies.
Best Ability: The Colonel-rank abilities, Restoration and Capacity Discharge, are both excellent area heals and attacks respectively. But Haywire Protocol is a similarly mission-changing ability that is unlocked much earlier. Be warned though, failure to hack a mechanised unit gives them both a defensive and damage boost, so choose wisely between shutting down and assuming control.
Worst Ability: Aid Protocol. Only provides a small defence boost, and gives a bad first impression to what is actually a pretty good class.
Hints: Don't forget about Hack! The GREMLIN drone can hack all-important mission terminals from a distance, which gives a little extra leg-room in timed missions, and also lessens the likelihood of running into a big group of enemies unprepared. Furthermore, on certain missions you can hack the CCTV arrays to return your squad into Concealment.
It isn't the winning that counts.
XCOM 2 Ranger Tips
I imagine a lot of XCOM 2 players will be surprised to see the Ranger at the bottom of the pile. It's the most mobile of the classes, able to attack after sprinting either by using its sword or the "Run and Gun" ability. The Ranger is also a sturdy defensive unit, able to slash at any enemy that comes within melee range using the brilliant Bladestorm, and at Major rank unlocks the "Untouchable" ability, which guarantees that after scoring a kill, the next attack against the Ranger will miss.
The Ranger is certainly XCOM 2's coolest class, its power and mobility making it the equivalent of the Queen in Chess. But here's the rub. Like the Queen in Chess, a good XCOM player can manage absolutely fine without one. The Ranger's main function is dealing damage, which all other classes are perfectly capable of provided they're used in the right way. In addition, because Rangers like to get up-close and personal with the enemy, it's very easy for them to end up isolated and in trouble. Basically, they're deceptive. They seem like a vital asset because of their strength and versatility, but they encourage recklessness and can easily lead a squad to disaster.
Although it feels like a waste of the more entertaining abilities, Rangers are arguably more effective when they avoid combat altogether. It's possible to build the class around the Concealment mechanic, enabling them to stay hidden from enemy sight longer than other squadmates, and they can even go back into hiding after being revealed. Used this way, Rangers can move ahead of your main force safely, reveal enemies on the map without alerting them, and allow you to position your Snipers, Grenadiers, and Specialists effectively. This tactic is especially useful for missions with larger numbers of enemies, as you can set up multiple ambushes, taking out enemies before they have a chance to respond.
Best Ability: Bladestorm. Whether you opt for a Concealment or Assault-based build, Bladestorm is an indispensable defensive ability.
Worst Ability: Deep Cover: Automatic Hunker Down if you don't attack. Largely pointless because your Ranger is only likely to avoid attacking when they are concealed.
Hints: If you can, equip your Rangers with a Mimic, which creates a decoy unit that attracts enemy fire. That way, if your Ranger does end up isolated and outnumbered, they can use the Mimic to absorb enemy fire for a turn before moving to a stronger position.