XCOM 2 is a really hard game. No, that doesn’t quite cover it. XCOM 2 is brutal and uncaring, it will lay waste to the best of your plans, and laugh as it does it. However, this difficulty comes with the extreme jubilation that players can receive when those plans aren’t destroyed, and go off perfectly. New players will find that XCOM 2 has a lot of intricacies to worry about, so we wanted to put together some tips for beginners, just to get started with the game. These won’t dive very deep into the systems behind the game, so check out our other guides for some of those.
Be Prepared to Lose
XCOM 2 is very similar to a roguelike in the way its campaign is structured. You can lose this game, and you most likely will a few times, especially at the beginning. Just get ready to lose and use your first plays through the campaign to figure out the mechanics, and how best to tackle the game on your next time through.
In fact, if you are a true beginner you might even want to start a practice game, setting the difficulty lower and using the game to just mess around and learn how to play. Once you get the hang of things, end the game yourself and start a new one at the difficulty you feel is right. This will prevent you from having too much time invested in a game before realizing that you’ve been making horrible mistakes the whole time.
95% Means 95%
XCOM 2 isn’t messing around when it gives you a percentage chance. You can be standing right next to an enemy, nothing between you and him but air. The game will run the calculations and say there is a 95% chance of hitting, and that that hit will kill him. Your soldier is all by himself, with just this one enemy nearby, so you go for it, only to watch in horror as your highly trained soldier fires his futuristic machine gun into the dirt.
In other games 95% chances pretty much mean 100%, as the game fudges its random number generator to favor the player. XCOM 2 doesn’t do that. If you fire 20 shots with a 95% chance you will almost certainly miss one, and might miss a couple if the die rolls don’t go your way. Do not put your entire mission on the line for a single die roll, no matter how sure it is. Even that 100% shot might get reduced damage due to dodge, and those explosives might go off like you planned, but they don’t shred through armor enough to kill. Always have a backup plan or things will go south very quickly.
Your Soldiers Will Die
This is war. Aliens have taken over the Earth and it’s up to you and your ragtag group of soldiers to take it back. Of course, some, or perhaps many of those soldiers won’t make it to the end of this fight (check out this guide for tips on keeping them alive). XCOM 2 uses a perma-death system too, so losing soldiers is especially bad, as they won’t respawn or come back in any way. This means all the XP they earned, and special items they were carrying are gone…unless…
Never Leave a Man Behind
Did you trick out one of your soldiers with all of your best gear and weapons, only to watch them die after missing a 95% shot? If at all possible, send one of your other soldiers to their body and pick them up. This will essentially eliminate this soldier from combat, making them unable to fight, but still able to move around slowly, so save it for when there is less fighting going on. If they can make it to extraction while holding the body you will get back the items that the soldier was carrying.
Rotate Your Soldiers
Soldiers in XCOM 2 don’t just take a few bullets to the chest and walk it off. After coming back to the ship they will need time to recover from their injuries, both physical and mental. This takes them out of the combat rotation, meaning if you relied on them as your most powerful unit, you are in trouble. To avoid this and many other problems you should manage your troops well, rotating them in and out of combat.
One of the best methods of handling this is to have a couple of different teams of soldiers. Youc an deploy them all together every time they are available. This will level them all up at the same pace, and allow you to manage the capabilities of the team, ensuring that it has the right mix of soldier classes. Don’t just focus on these two teams though, keep the rotations going and have some backups. This will really help if you lose some key members of your main teams, as you can sub in one of your backups and get back to business.
Upgrades, Upgrades, Upgrades
The key to winning XCOM 2 is keeping your soldiers alive, and the key to doing that is making sure that they have the weapons and equipment necessary to win missions. This means researching new technology, building new items, and generally working to upgrade the capabilities of your soldiers. Starting out the game you’ll find Sectoids to a real menace, taking control of your soldier or making them stop following your commands. Once you have the Mindshield item though they are one of the easier enemies in the game, all because you got an upgrade and slapped it on your soldiers.
Armor is another major improvement, as it enhances your soldiers health, but also gives them extra equipment slots and other upgrades. Later versions of the armor even give your soldiers new and extremely powerful weapons to use. Getting the bigger and better forms of armor will turn you from a ragtag squad into a real fighting force.
Use Your Turns Wisely
XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game, which means you need to really focus on every single action you take. In a given turn, each of your soldiers gets two actions, but the way you implement those actions can be the difference between success, and watching your team get totally wiped out in a single turn. Some of this is covered in the guide on how to keep your soldiers alive, but we’ll give some general tips here that also help turn the tide of battle.
First off, always make sure that you are moving into cover, unless you are positive there are no enemies around. Finishing your turn, only to activate a pod of enemies, which then have complete line of sight on your soldier is terrible. Secondly, without specific perks, firing your main weapon will always end your turn immediately, your side weapon, such as a pistol or grenade, will usually do this as well. Keep this in mind, and use that initial action for something useful before firing. Move to flank, reload your weapon, or really do anything that is even slightly helpful before firing that gun.
You can also switch between your soldiers mid-turn, so move one of them up and then leave them and use someone else if you’re unsure of how to proceed. This gives you more choice once you do encounter enemies, in case you need to move someone back, or fire off some shots. And if your soldier has nothing to do, you always have one option.
This can not be emphasized enough, Overwatch is the key to mastering XCOM 2. The feature puts your soldier in a state of readiness, allowing them to fire on anything that moves within their field of vision. Using this feature you can setup ambushes, especially while you’re still concealed from the enemy, or just cover each other and take out enemies while not on your turn. Got a guy who’s too far out in front and can’t make it back to the rest of the team? Put the other members of the squad on Overwatch and let them kill anything that tries to flank him. Having trouble taking out the enemy? Move back a bit and set up a nice kill area, letting the enemy move to you.
Always Keep an Eye on the Avatar Project
XCOM 2 consists of two games really, the in-mission action, and the management of your ship and the overall Resistance. We touched on the latter a little bit with the upgrades discussion, but there’s more to it than just researching stuff. The Avatar Project is the ultimate alien endgame, so you always need to be keeping an eye on its progress, and fighting against it if necessary. Take down Avatar facilities to set the project back, and choose the right Dark Event to go against each month.
If you have The Avatar Project under control, spend some time gathering supplies and intel, making new contacts, or recruiting new soldiers. These will become key once you are out of options and need to take on a tougher mission in order to set the project back a few pegs.
That’s about it for now, these should really get your started in your fight against Advent and the alien menace. Be sure to check out our other guides if you need more help, and leave a comment below if you have some specific questions.