XCOM 2 guide: the best autopsies, abilities and gear
XCOM 2 offers some of the best tactical/turn-based experiences you could find in the genre, improving immensely over the first game. Worrying about how to handle things out in the field is great and all, but making the most out of your limited resources aboard the Avenger and choosing what tasks to priorities, is half the fun.
The following tips are crucial for your first few hours with the game, and cover some of the early soldier abilities you need to have, items that need to be researched, and autopsies you need to perform first. While your XCOM 2 play-through could be different from ours, it’s hard to argue with results, especially this early.
Read on so you don’t have to play catch-up all the time. There are some very minor spoilers within, but nothing about story or in-game events.
Increase your squad size
At the start of the game, your squad can only have four members. Four is fine for the first couple of missions, but if you don’t increase the squad size after that, you will run into plenty of situations where having someone covering the back would’ve salvaged a seemingly impossible situation.
However, in order to be able to do that, you must first build the Guerrilla Tactics School (GTS). You should build it as soon as you can, and your first item should be increasing the squad size. You get to increase it twice, from four to five, and another time to six.
It will cost you some resources, but it’s absolutely worth it. The GTS also has a number of essential upgrades that will help out a tonne. Have a look at everything once its built, and shoot for the upgrades that complement your play-style.
Build smoke grenades
Explosives are pretty effective in XCOM 2. But you know what can sometimes be more useful? A portable defence bonus! You can build as many of these as you want and you should always equip at least one of your soldiers with one.
When detonated, a smoke grenade gives bonus defence to anyone standing in its radius. This radius is fairly large, and remains for a few turns. This is particularly helpful for situations where your cover gets shot to hell two turns in, maps with lots of open spaces, or when you really need to protect someone who’s about to die/VIP.
It’s also great for advancing quickly in time-sensitive missions. Beware though, as enemies, too, can benefit from it if they’re standing in the radius.
Develop acid and gas grenades
Acid grenades can sometimes be more effective than regular grenades. Their effect lasts for a number of turns, and they’re excellent against armoured enemies, which you start seeing a lot of the more you play. They offer the same radius and range of regular grenades, but it’s their armour-shredding and damage-over-time that makes them very deadly.
XCOM 2 also has gas grenades, which work great against organic enemies (the majority of enemies in the game), and also damage them over a number of turns. Both grenades can also be used in area-denial tactics, meaning you could use them to prevent an enemy from moving to certain spots if you need to protect a flank etc.
There is one catch, however, building either of these can only be done through the Proving Grounds facility. This new facility lets you roll the dice on researching experimental ammo and experimental grenades, and both grenades belong to the latter category.
When you land on either of these (your third option being incendiary), you don’t unlock an infinite supply. Instead, you’ll need to roll the dice again to get another.
Get Long Watch for your Sharpshooters
After ranking up once, all Sharpshooters get the Squadsight ability. Much like the first game, Squadsight lets you see enemies you normally wouldn’t be able to, if at least one squadmate has LoS to them.
Reaching the Corporal rank lets you specialise your soldiers. For Sharpshooters, we recommend choosing the Long Watch ability. Long Watch allows the Sharpshooter to trigger Overwatch with Squadsight. Meaning your Overwatch will cover longer distances, which is ideal for long-range combat.
Both of these abilities apply penalties to range, however, and the farther away the target is, the less effective shots will be. They also benefit from elevation, which should ideally always be how you position this class. So keep that in mind.
Get Medical and Revival Protocols for your Specialists
Survivability during the first few hours of XCOM 2 is the most important thing for your troops. And with combat being mostly based on dice rolls, you should take any guaranteed benefits you can get.
With that in mind, it’s best to equip a couple of your Specialist units with both Medical and Revival Protocols. The first can remotely heal or stabilise units in the field, a godsend when units away from the group get heavily damaged, or worse; come near death. Both of these actions are guaranteed, and you even get two charges of this ability if the Specialist has a medkit equipped.
Revival Protocol not only brings unconscious or bleeding out units back on their feet, it also removes any negative status effects like panic, disorientation, and others. If you run into Sectoids a lot, or your troops panic on a whim, you’ll be thankful for this.
Your other options, in Combat Protocol and Haywire Protocol, are simply not as powerful as these two, at least in the beginning.
Get Blast Padding and Heavy Ordnance for your Grenadiers
Grenadiers are your heavy, launcher-equipped soldiers. You should consider equipping them with Blast Padding to grant them one extra point of armour, as well as a 60% reduction to the explosive damage they take. You can’t argue with the extra armour early on, and the explosive protection is just a bonus.
Heavy Ordnance is also fantastic. It gives the grenades in your grenade slot one more use, which is a no-brainer in most situations, especially if you only have one Grenadier in your squad. This bonus also carries over to smoke grenades, and battle scanners.
Perform autopsy on an Advent Trooper
Over the course of the game, and as you run into the many horrors the aliens throw at you, you will get the chance to perform an autopsy on pretty much all of their units. Each kind you dissect unlocks new tools for you to develop, as well as open up others for autopsy.
The Advent Trooper in particular gives you access to the Battle Scanner. You make these at Engineering, the same way you do grenades or medkits. You can make as many as you want. Battle Scanners are incredibly useful. You throw them like grenades and they reveal everything around them. This includes disguised enemies like the Faceless, and the radius is fairly large.
One particularly good way to use them, is to bring them on missions that require saving X number of civilians. Because very little of the map is revealed upon starting a mission, these can be extra helpful at letting you free a few civies before shit goes down.
The more you wait, the more civilians get shot. So freeing three or four before firing a bullet is always great. They’re also helpful later on at detecting position-revealing tech aliens use, like towers, turrets, gates, etc.
Perform autopsy on a Sectoid
Performing autopsy on Sectoids yields two great benefits. The Mindshield – an item you create in Engineering, as well as opening up research – and eventually mastery – of Psionics for your soldiers.
The Mindshield is a godsend for members of your team that’re susceptible to Sectoid manipulation. If you have to take one of these on a mission, and fear they’d get stunned, panic, or worse – turn against you, you should have that soldier wear the Mindshield.
It functions as you’d expect it to. You can build as many of them as you want, and anyone wearing it does not suffer from the annoying and aggravating side effects of dealing with Sectoids in the field. Suddenly, those slender bastards are pushovers.
The other thing you get from dissecting Sectoids is being able to understand Psionics, and, in time, establish your own Psi Lab, which trains your soldiers to use Psi-based abilities.
BONUS: assign engineers to facilities
This is another thing XCOM 2 doesn’t do a great job at explaining. Some facilities benefit greatly from having an engineer present. Ideally, you should have all engineers be busy doing something. If you have nothing to build or experiment with, always have someone tend to facilities that allow it.
The Power Relay is the prime example of this, assigning and engineer to one grants a massive power bonus. This makes it so you don’t need to build another relay so soon after the first, which should last you a long a while yet.
Engineers can also be assigned to the Psi Lab, once that’s built, among other structures. Just click on any facility and you’ll see at the top under Staff, whether or not you can assign engineers to it.