It is truer each Monday that it was the prior.
XCOM is hard.
Now, though, It has settled into my bones and I have become weary. Not of the game itself, but of the endless repetition of starting over, of each tortured revolution back to whence it came in order to slam down with its full and awesome might upon my battered and broken soul, screaming in anguish that I once again have to suffer the lessons of introduction.
Yet I continuously fail, the fault of which lies at no ones feat but my own. Where I should learn, instead, i continue to make mistakes, so many of which send the game into an inevitable spiral that reaches its terminus not at a final destination, but at the beginning, where I start uphill again.
Be warned, there are spoilers.
I am not a subtle person. I don’t know if this is common knowledge yet. My strengths lie in brute forcing a situation; in making a solution where none exists, and hammering, over and over, again at a problem until it gives up its secrets. This has stretched beyond my sterotypical example of Dark Souls – where I grabbed the strongest armor, the best shield, and a simple yet effective weapon and simply face tanked the game. My mages focus on damage output (Skyrim) My Snipers power through with the largest weapon possible (Fallout, New Vegas), and I built a character that simply wades into every fire fight with pistol drawn (Fallout 4). I could continue.
XCOM presents a very different challenge that, this may shock you, I cannot play out with any subtleties. Stealth is a strong tactic in the game, allowing you to get an ambush on an opponent if you set it up correctly, eliminating a whole pod of aliens before they get to act. Its a massive advantage on the missions you have it available to you. Well, at least that is how I see it. It also can present you an option to perform missions carefully, without being detected, to get out with minimal confrontation. If you can capitalize on the missions parameters while also maintaining stealth you have a very strong chance of extracting with everyone alive after a brief, but likely intense, firefight.
I just can’t do it. The one time I made a really good go at it, i lost the linchpin of the operation after they placed the explosives, sacrificing himself for the greater good. It was the one and only time that I eliminated an advent facility.
When playing the tactical aspect of the game, I have a very specific and blunt way of applying my squad. I minimize the chances of missing shots, rely on predetermined damage, and depend on a pre-determined priority of enemy combatants.
The first step in making sure that I get to play the game I want to is the Squad composition. I’ve yet to get to a point in the game where I can reliably get 6 squad members, so I’ve made do with five. My favorite squad setup is Heavy x2, Specialist, Sniper x2. I will take a Ranger, if needed, instead of one of the heavies or snipers. It has been challenging building a solid squad with good tactics, as I often suffer continuous casualties, forcing me to continuously rotate a squad of disparate skills into battle. Its not the best for making a plan.
Recently, I’ve started going on overwatch as soon as I am done with the first move of a soldier during the turn. though this is at a penalty to hit the target if they do fire, It leaves me with a better chance to hit when I do randomly discover a pod in the center or end of the turn. often, these pods explode towards cover and make my life miserable. Overwhatching the soldiers can easily catch them flatfooted and allow a few more hits than you’d normally expect as they flee to cover.
once they are in cover, though, I’m pretty sure I still have them, given my proclivity for grenades and explosives of almost every type. Each soldier has one every mission, with Heavies having 2, and three if I can get them up to Deep Pockets. Once the pod is pulled, I take my time and analyze the percentages of every shot, from every squad member to every enemy, taking note whether or not I can move to a flanking position, their cover type, and whether its destructible and how much effort it takes to destroy. Trees, surprisingly, are a giant pain in the ass. They are low cover, but if you blow em up they remain low cover, just in stump form. Some rocks and boulders are less durable!
Once I’ve assessed the positions of both my squad and the enemy, I will set the Grenadiers loose, moving to position to both deal damage to as many targets as possible as well as reducing as much cover as I can do dust. This has two strong effects. First, it opens the enemy up to flanking shots from most of the squad. Importantly, though, it also forces the enemy to retreat to a stronger, more cover filled position. This means that the enemy does not get to use abilities and fire their weapon, which is strong.
once the cover is clear, I generally move to eliminate the most dangerous enemies, generally in this priority (because I’ve only met these enemies so far)
Mutons – Plasma Weaponry is very good, and the Mutons are particularly accurate.
Mechs – These have super powered weapons, a huge AOE attack, and heavy armor. If I can neutralize it with a Hacking protocol, all the better.
Advent Stun Lancers – WIth their long range and many methods of crowd control, they need to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Advent Troopers with Guns – These troops do a serious amount of damage, and are often speedy enough to get around and flank. Not units to be taken lightly.
Advent Sheild Bearers – this goes up massivly on turn 2+, but on turn one I know they are simply going to creat a barrier. none of my troops are in harms way at that point. Afterwards, once they have given their allies a shield, I need to kill them first as that will drop the shields.
Vipers – These are some of the worst low priority targets. They often bind their targets and do 2 damage right off the bat. They remove the bound member from combat until they are damaged (that specialist comes in handy), but I can very reliably get the solider out of the grasp and back into the fighting
Sectoids – Turns 1-2 they are very low priority. They will likely create a zombie or control someones mind, but often that simply means that I focus on them and destroy them the next turn, killing the psi Zombie and freeing the mind controlled model.
Once the priority list is down, I’ll gauge which enemies have the least hit points, stack that against what type of priority they are, and start trying to eliminate enemies. It does me no good to leave a target at 1hp. if they aren’t dead, they are likely firing a weapon next turn, and it seems they so rarely miss.
Finally, I try very hard to keep a tight formation, while it might seem useful to spread out, it is rarely so and you will often pick up another pod. While it is recoverable, it is often at great cost to your soldiers. Wounded soldiers take a long, long time to recover so it is often advisable to, when possible, to reload and advance slowly those first turns after a firefight.
Failing a mission has consequences in XCOM2, but they are not so dire as in XCOM:EU. If you need to, get the hell out of there and save your soldiers, its better for you in the long run.