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Beginner's Guide – Use These 10 Tips To Survive XCOM 2's Brutality

by Ben Reeves on Feb 05, 2016 at 12:00 PM

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For 20 years, we've lived under alien rule. They've invaded our cities, taken over our governments, and they're exploiting our people. Overthrowing this ruthless hegemony won't be easy, but we've complied a quick list of the most important battle tactics that every commander should know before they join XCOM. If you want to survive XCOM 2's ruthless onslaught, keep these tips in mind.

Don't miss our review of XCOM 2.

Be Prepared To Die
This first tip is more of a mindset than a trick. XCOM is a challenging game, but it's designed around the idea that you're not going to walk through each mission unscathed. Many of your soldiers will get gravely wounded, and some of them (okay, many of them) will die. Part of the fun of XCOM games is embracing the mentality that everything is going to go to hell, and you're going to have to manage the fallout. However, pulling off a successful mission even when everything feels stacked against you feels amazing.

Engineers Are Your Friends
Just like in Enemy Unknown, you can recruit new engineers and scientists to aid in your research and the construction of new weapons and tech. Scientists certainly have their uses as they help speed up research, but Engineers are far more versatile and valuable, especially early on. Engineers help dig out new rooms, and are needed to staff certain rooms. For example, putting an engineer in a power generator will increase its output. Staffing a medical center with an engineer will improve your squad's recovery time. Try to collect several engineers early on.

Grenades Are Your Other Friends
At the beginning, your soldiers will come equipped with one grenade. Don't be afraid to use it. In the early missions, grenades are basically a free kill for weaker enemies, and they are a good way to make sure your rookies level up. Later on, your Grenadiers will earn the ability to carry extra grenades, and produce larger larger explosions. This is great for taking out groups of enemies (ideal as a first attack when concealed) or stripping the armor off more powerful enemies. It's not a bad idea to take two Grenadiers on each mission, especially after you upgrade your squad size... which leads us to our next point.

Build A Guerilla Training School ASAP
The Guerilla Training School is a useful room to have, and it should be one of your earliest additions to the Avenger. Not only does it allow you to train Rookies into any class you'd like, it lets you buy a significant number of bonus perks for battle, including the ability to increase your squad size – which you'll also want to do as soon as possible. Most of the Guerilla Training School's upgrades are fairly valuable, so continue to check in there and buy those perks.

Upgrade Weapons And Armor ASAP
Even a squad of your best soldiers will only be as good as the equipment you give them. If they're running around with duct tape under their boots, they'll likely end up as a smear on an alien's boot. Good things to research early are Magnetic Weapons and Plated Armor, which allow you to build better weapons and armor respectively. Early on, this research will take a long time, since you don't have many scientists, but if you've unlocked the Black Market, you can spend resources to have the research rushed, which halves its development time. That isn't a bad deal.

Next Up: extracting dead soldiers, how to best use cover, and psionically-powered operatives.

Don't Put Off Building Your Resistance Comms Center
As you progress, you'll discover that the aliens are working on something called the Avatar Program. Their progress on this program is represented by a meter on the world map. As aliens progress in their research, they'll fill that bar. When this research is competed, you lose the game. You can stall their progress by destroying research bases and completing certain story objective, but in order to do both of these things you need to broaden your communications networks. Of course, in order to broaden your communication network, you must build and staff a Resistance Comms Center on the Avenger. You can hold off on building a comm center for a little while, but don't wait so long that time gets away from you, and the aliens win.

Don't Forget About The Psi-Lab
The Psi-Lab shouldn't be your first priority (build that Guerilla Training School), but don't wait too long to build a specialize psi-training area. Psionically-powered operatives are XCOM 2's fifth class, but they don't level up the traditional way. In order to learn new skills, you need to station a rookie inside the Psi-Lab. Thankfully, psi-operatives can learn some of the most interesting and powerful abilities in the game. These squaddies are a lot of fun to use, so start training your army of Professor Xaviers early.

Almost Always Be In Cover
If you've played XCOM before, you know that it's important to take cover. However, remember that full cover is far better than half over. This means that, depending on the situation, it can be better to use all your moves to take up position under full cover (make sure the enemy can't just flank you on their turn, either). Along the same lines, remember to use overwatch often. It's often better to simply go into overwatch and wait for the enemy to come out of hiding than take a shot that only has a 30-percent chance of hitting anything.

Extract Your Dead Soldiers
Chances are, you're going to have a few soldiers die in battle. Don't sweat it. It happens. But when it does, make sure to have one of your squadmates run over and grab the fallen comrade's body. Not only will his friends and family appreciate that, it will ensure that you collect all of the special gear you had equipped on that soldier. If you leave his body for the aliens, you'll lose all the items he was carrying, and you've spent too much blood, sweat, and tears to let all that go to waste.

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
Once you get the hang of combat, luck willing, you'll probably encounter a string of battles where your soldiers emerge relatively unscathed. This is great, but don't get too cocky. XCOM does a great job of continually upping the ante, and things won't stay peaceful for long. To help mitigate future disasters, don't bring all of your best soldiers on every mission. Consider bringing one, or even two, lesser-experienced soldiers along for the ride. This helps you spread your experience across a wider squad, so that when you encounter the mission that takes out several of your best squaddies, you have several great apprentices waiting in the wings.

Looking for more XCOM love? Check out our classic look back at the game that started it all.