7 Essential XCOM 2 Tips
XCOM has always been a tough but fair series. It pits you against seemingly insurmountable odds (especially on higher difficulties) and rarely hands you anything on a plate. But if you know what you’re doing you’ll find that you can actually make it through the campaign with very few upsets. If you find yourself struggling, here are seven important tips that’ll turn you into the most efficiently ruthlessly XCOM commander possible.
Flank and destroy
This applies to Firaxis’ last XCOM outing, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but it’s worth restating if you were either bad at that game or never played it. It’s probably the single most important thing to know about ground combat and the tutorial perhaps doesn’t do enough to hammer this home. Your odds of scoring a hit on an enemy units which are either flanked or out of cover are dramatically increased compared to typical shots. If you can’t safely get behind your current target without leaving your unit in a compromising position, consider destroying your target’s cover with grenades or other explosives. You might also be able to get enemies to expose themselves by luring them out into the open with Mimic Beacons or by falling back outside of their firing range.
Rush Magnetic Weapons
In keeping with XCOM tradition, your starting weapons are about as effective as B.B. guns with wonky sights. Getting equipped with the first firearms upgrade, in this case Magnetic/Gauss weapons, is an early priority. They’re more powerful, more accurate and all-but essential to efficiently dealing with alien ground units in the early to mid-game. Be aware though; after researching them you’ll need two engineers, not to mention a good amount of supplies, on hand to be able to construct all the different types (shotgun, sniper rifle, pistol, etc.) necessary for your whole squad.
Make full use of the Black Market
The Black Market is surprisingly useful this time around. You can still earn little extra currency (a.k.a supplies) through selling unwanted resources there but now you can also trade in Intel for staff, weapon upgrade mods, Personal Combat Sims and, most crucially, supplies. Had a tough mission appear but don’t quite have enough supplies to construct important weapons and armour for your troops? If you’ve got a good amount of Intel consider making a trade for an all-important stack of supplies. If you’re low on active, promoted troops check back either here or at XCOM HQ for potential hires. Don’t worry about missing a crucial mission while you fly to the Market or HQ either as they won’t expire as long as you don’t hit the hit fast-forward button.
Psi Operatives are essential
Troops trained in psionics have never been more powerful than in XCOM 2. Now a dedicated class to themselves, Psi Operatives wield some of the most vicious and useful abilities in the game – such as the devastating Null Lance that can do up to 12 damage each to multiple enemies – all of which negate enemy armour. Better yet, PSI Operatives can learn up to fourteen (!) of these in your PSI Lab given enough time, meaning they will rarely been caught with nothing to do on a turn. They’re also essential for the following incredibly useful technique…
With the Domination ability a PSI Operative can permanently take control of one enemy unit per battle. This is different from the usual XCOM mind control not only because it has a high success rate (when you have the best PSI Amp available, at least) but also because it lasts for the whole battle, meaning you don’t have to worry about the controlled unit reverting back to the alien’s side. Take control of one of the more sturdy enemies like an or Archon or a Gatekeeper and you’ll effectively net yourself a powerful yet expendable extra team mate who you can use as a scout, a meat shield and an extra gun. Similarly useful though not permanent is the Specialists’ Haywire Protocol ability which is essentially mind-control for mechanised enemies.
Move everyone first, act second
This one sounds kind of mundane but it can really save your arse. Many times have I used the majority of my team’s actions in my turn, only for my final unit to be spotted by a group of aliens, essentially leaving my troops as sitting ducks until my next turn. Get used to moving all of your units to the maximum distance that still allows them to take one action (a.k.a. within the blue grid) first, then decide on what action each should take afterwards. Remember, your units’ reaction shots during the enemy’s turns are less accurate than shots fired in your own, so it’s best to minimise your Overwatch usage whenever possible. A faster but more risky spin on this method is to use one unit as a forward scout; moving them first then having the rest of your team act afterwards in the event that any enemies crop up.
Delay and distract
Given how you have limited actions per turn, sometimes giving yourself more time in an encounter can be crucial. Flashbang grenades (which are available from the beginning of the game) can essentially render many enemies in a large area impotent for a couple of turns. Mimic Beacons will cause foes to waste a turn firing on a hologram of a solider. Retreating to a secure position can lure enemies into a kill alley. With all that said, be aware that many missions now have time limits, so just remember keep an eye on the clock.