XCOM 2: 11 essential tips for beginners

By Kris Goorhuis, Monday, 8 February 2016 09:22 GMT


XCOM 2 beginner’s tips

Welcome to one of the most daunting and (sometimes) frustrating games in mainstream media. Sharing knowledge with the community can make these sorts of things a whole lot easier. We’re trying to do our part to make the transition to the command chair a little smoother, if you so desire the assistance.

That’s the first question you should ask yourself. How much outside help do you want? How much satisfaction do you derive from figuring things out for yourself? Do you want some basic pointers, in depth guidance, or a blank pallet to explore with? This here is the first, and may steal some of the fun away if you’re not careful.


Pay attention to your path while moving under concealment

Note the line drawn between a character and the tile you’re about to send him to. If it leads through a door or window, he may be about to dramatically and, more importantly, loudly, barrel through it. Committing to such a move would be tantamount to shouting at every alien in the vicinity that you’re skulking about. Watch for the red icon when you’re mousing around and pause for a beat to be sure of your choice while maneuvering near the mine traps buildings represent.


You can’t always see which tiles will reveal a concealed character

The path ahead may look clear and devoid of those you’ll-be-spotted-if-you-stand-here overlays, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. An enemy’s field of vision, as far as concealment is concerned, isn’t revealed to you until you’ve spotted them. Do advance a bit more freely, but don’t sprint ahead with abandon. Also, beware objects that block line of sight. A cluster of enemies may be strolling from behind just after you’ve arrived.


Learn to love overwatch

Sometimes you don’t have a great shot available and you’d rather keep an ADVENT officer pinned. Maybe you’re hoping they’ll make a move anyway, barreling into the embrace of your team’s field of fire. Overwatch is an essential tool. Its reaction shots do suffer an aim penalty for their haste, but that penalty may be significantly less than firing at an enemy behind bricks. Remember that reloading costs just one of your two actions, and you can overwatch immediately afterward if you don’t move. Placing a couple members of your squad into overwatch before your own advance may let you soften up any new pods of baddies you uncover before they can hustle to safety.


Explosives perform many functions

If every visible enemy is holed up behind heavy cover, try blowing that cover away with a nicely placed grenade. Leading an attack with a grenadier can not only open the way for clear shots, but shred armor and remove overwatch from any targets caught in the blast, letting agile allies slip around for a flank. They’ll even open up new avenues of assault if a wall needs a new door and, if you happen to find enemies on a roof, will collapse the floor underneath them.

Further, if you absolutely must finish off a wounded enemy before they can act but don’t want to take a chance on unsure probabilities? Anything within the target radius of an explosive is guaranteed to take damage.


Contacting resistance cells is crucial

The game is going to ramp up its difficulty regardless of whether you’re ready. Sterling play in combat and a bit of luck won’t be enough to keep you in the fight if the resistance can’t maintain supply flow momentum. Keep it rolling by investing in the resistance network – your friends in hiding are the principal, reliable source of XCOM 2’s equivalent of cash. Expanding communications to new territories should be a primary concern, and spare supplies might be best spent on income-boosting relays.


Think hard about whether you’d like to “save scum”

Save scumming, or reverting to an older save file to undo mistakes and poor outcomes, is a tempting practice when things go awry. But the permanence of disaster is one of the things that makes XCOM what it is – do you want to remove that? It’ll alleviate short term frustrations, but you’d be tuning out a specific flavor of experience.

You can. Play the game however you enjoy it most, but take a moment to consider just how that is. Iron Man mode can remove the temptation by controlling your files, if you’ve reached such a conclusion. Otherwise, remember to save frequently.


Crosshair icons show who can see who

…and will show who a selected soldier can target when he reaches the square your cursor is hovering over. Don’t race ahead just to discover there’s a random doodad in the way. Watch for the line of sight indicator appearing next to enemies’ health bars to ensure you can take the shot you want when you arrive at your destination.


Invest in recruits before you need them

Bad things happen. Chances are you’re going to lose some star players along the way, and you’ll need to be capable of filling the void left by their death. Think long term – what happens if a mission goes to hell in a handbasket and your A-team is summarily dismantled? Take a rookie or two along once in awhile. It’s like rotating inexperienced pokemon through battle – the young ones may not be doing the heavy lifting at the moment, but they’ll be pulling their weight soon enough. The guerilla tactics school will help by letting you push someone through that first level and assign whichever class you wish.


Abandoning a mission is better than losing everyone

This thing is brutal. Every success and failure matters, and big problems will cast ripples through the rest of your crusade. But each campaign is not a completely fragile thing: you can take losses, fail missions, and miss events while still finding success. That’ll be significantly easier, however, if you can make the call to scrap an operation spiraling the drain before it claims your entire squad.


Be careful with character customisation

XCOM is already game that encourages players to become attached to soldiers. More than valuable assets, they carry a certain amount of personality, and it’s easy to build a fiction for familiar faces. Losing them hurts. It hurts even more if you spent ages customizing their every option or, heaven forbid, named and styled them after friends and loved ones.

Then again, maybe the emotional swing is part of the fun. Just be aware that you may be setting yourself up for heartache down the line.


Accept that your first campaign is doomed

It’s easy to screw up a firefight. The strategic layer is overwhelming even if you’re following a detailed guide, and XCOM isn’t terribly keen on helpfully nudging you forward toward its climax. To say nothing of the many subsequent attempts you’ll probably make before you see end game, your first is undoubtedly going south at some point. Enjoy the learning experience and don’t worry overmuch about getting things right immediately out of the gate.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.