The tactical, turn-based combat of XCOM 2 involves a significant amount of depth and strategic complexity. Though you’re guaranteed to lose a few good soldiers on the battlefield, we’re here to help minimize your losses. Keep these combat tips in mind in order to successfully complete each mission with your entire squad intact.
Although resource management plays a large role in XCOM 2, your success in defeating the alien oppressors relies heavily on the quality of your squad and overall tactical approach during each mission. This guide features several combat focused tips and best practices that will help you complete each mission with minimal casualties.
Cover Your Flanks
As a general rule of thumb, you should always move to keep your soldiers in cover, ideally full cover, whenever possible. Tiles marked with half or full shield icons indicate spots that provide partial or full cover, respectively. Enemies will often miss shots on soldiers in full cover, but keep in mind that soldiers are still vulnerable to attacks while in partial cover. Try to keep your flanks protected and predict the direction which enemies may come from. The goal is to keep a barrier between your soldiers and the enemy forces as you move toward the objective, so try to position your team accordingly.
At the start of most missions, your squad begins in a state of Concealment. This means each soldier will move in an undetectable stealth mode until you decide to shoot or otherwise become detected. Utilize Concealment for as long as possible to prevent an early conflict from delaying your plans.
Make Overwatch a Habit
One of the first actions you learn about early on in XCOM 2 is the Overwatch ability, which allows you to put soldiers in a battle-ready attack mode at the end of their turn. Soldiers on Overwatch will react to any enemies that come within range. Overwatch is perfect for ambushing unsuspecting enemies and for squeezing in some extra damage between turns. Make it a habit to put at least one or two of your soldiers on Overwatch each turn in order to defend and potentially save nearby squadmates.
Upgrade and Promote Soldiers
Soldiers that perform well during each successful mission will likely have promotions waiting for them in the After Action Report screen. If you forget to promote your soldiers at the end of a mission, make sure to go back into the Armory to promote them there. Promotions assign class types to recruits and grant new skills and abilities for soldiers who partake in successful missions.
The Armory is also where you can edit your soldiers’ loadouts and upgrade their arsenal. As your scientists continue their research, new gear upgrades will become available and must be built by the engineers. Make sure to apply newly built weapons and armor to all of your soldiers in order to improve their effectiveness during combat.
Balance Squad and Play Roles Effectively
As soldiers gain combat experience, they will be promoted to specific class types. These classes break down into Rangers, Sharpshooters, Grenadiers, Specialists, and the coveted Psi Operatives. Each class type features their own unique style of combat, from close-quarters sword strikes, to long range sniping.
Try to include one of each soldier type on your squad for each mission, in order to balance the roles necessary for combat. Make sure to play to each soldiers’ unique set of skills by putting them in situations that optimize their abilities. For example, your Ranger can take point and move along the frontline, while your Sharpshooter can provide cover fire from a distance in Overwatch mode.
Use Medkits and Gremlins for Healing
After a bit of research, Medkits become available as an equipment item for your soldiers. Medkits allow soldiers to partially heal themselves during battle, which can come in handy during more challenging missions. Try to equip at least one member of your squad with a Medkit before each mission to aid their survival. However, keep in mind that equipment slots are limited early on, so Medkits will need to replace existing frag grenades or other utility items.
Gremlins are unique remote-controlled drones that are available on the Specialist class. Initially, the Gremlins cannot heal squadmates, but will provide a level of protection for one turn instead. Apply this protection buff to squadmates that have taken damage and are in danger of an enemy attack.
As you promote the Specialists, new features become available for their Gremlins, including the ability to heal squadmates. Utilize a healing Gremlin to heal soldiers from afar during combat. This eliminates the need for additional Medkits, allowing your soldiers to carry different utility items.
Push Toward Timed Objectives
Most missions involve a timed objective that must be achieved within a certain number of turns, which will be indicated on the upper right corner of the screen. Continue to advance your soldiers toward the objective location, even if enemies have spotted your team.
While it’s important to eliminate enemies as soon as possible, it’s more important to reach your objective in a timely fashion. Even if you are able to kill a handful of enemies, the number of turns it takes to do so may be more than you have to complete the mission. Once your primary objective is complete, only then can you focus on defeating any remaining enemies, as indicated on the objectives list.
Extract Fallen Soldiers in the Field
In XCOM, there’s nothing worse than watching one of your favorite soldiers bleed out on the battlefield. Though losing a soldier is always unfortunate, you can take comfort in the fact that their gear can be salvaged with a bit of extra effort.
During combat, soldiers can carry fallen squadmates to a nearby extraction point to rescue their body from the battlefield. This allows you to keep any gear that may have been equipped on the fallen soldier’s body. However, extracting soldiers poses an added risk to surviving squad members, so just make sure the coast is clear before sending a soldier on a rescue attempt.
Extract If Necessary
Some missions simply take a turn for the worse. When your soldier numbers are getting low and it seems as though your squad has little hope for recovery, call in an extraction helicopter using the button in the upper right corner, or “P” on the keyboard. This will allow one of your soldiers to place an extraction zone on the ground. You then must get all of your remaining soldiers into the extraction zone to escape via helicopter. This will usually result in mission failure, but if you are desperate for an extraction, then you likely were going to fail the mission anyway. It’s better than losing an entire squad of soldiers in the process.