Greetings, Commander. The aliens continue their stranglehold over our planet. You and the brave men and women fighting for XCOM are our secret weapon. Many soldiers died bringing you these invaluable tips, so that others may live. Keep fighting and we’ll win this war. Good luck, Commander.

Know the Timing on the Avatar Project

The only way you can really lose XCOM 2 is if the Avatar Project is completed. However even when the bar fills up, a 20-day countdown timer begins. You get a bit of a grace period to immediately launch an assault on the nearest enemy base. Make sure you’ve been making the right contacts and always have a base to infiltrate when the counter gets too high.

Base Management

XCOM 2 is pretty forgiving when it comes to building your facilities. Prioritizing which to build first is largely a matter of preference. Build that Guerrilla Tactics School ASAP, as it provides the upgrades needed to field additional soldiers. Stick it in one of the top corners. You’ll also want your Workshop somewhere in the middle. It’s the only building that cares about adjacency, and you can staff an engineer to then staff nearby buildings via remote gremlins.

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One Free Skill with Purchase of Advanced Warfare Chamber

Once you build the AWC, any soldier can learn a free random skill from any of the four base classes upon leveling up. Don’t wait too long to build it, as each soldier apparently has that free skill unlocked at a randomly hidden rank – provided the AWC is built when they reach it. Having a sniper with Rapid Fire or anyone with Deadshot is pretty darn cool. Note that staffing the AWC with an Engineer also halves your injured soldiers’ recovery time – a must have!

Use Rangers as Scouts

Swords are fun. But rangers often get themselves killed when rushing ahead to deliver that sweet melee justice. Instead use your highly mobile, stealthy warriors as scouts. The Phantom skill lets them stealthily remain in Concealed mode even after your first Ambush. Conceal gives them a second chance at concealment. Use these skills to cleverly snoop around the map and find enemies without immediately activating them.

Flashbangs are Your Best Early Game Item

The early game is notoriously difficult, but you do have an early-game secret weapon. Try to have at least 1-2 flashbang grenades equipped on your soldiers at all times. Flashbangs will disable all the nasty psychic stuff the Sectoids throw at you, including mind-control and psi-zombies. They also save soldiers from Viper strangulation and stop the Codex from cloning when hit. Flashbangs also don’t affect your own soldiers, so use them liberally.

Sharpshooter Gunslingers Love Special Ammo

The Proving Grounds lets you research random new items and upgrades. Get an ammo item done early and stick it on your pistol-focused Sharpshooter. Those pistol-firing gunslingers can get off more attacks that any other class, including hitting everyone within range. Having Venom or Dragon rounds equipped means a chance every enemy could be poisoned or burned. Spread the love!

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So Many Explosions

Your soldiers are obviously your best resource, but coming in a close second are the hefty amount of explosives you will research and acquire. Grenadiers will become the linchpin of your strike force. Rarely did I employ less than two. Armor-shredding grenades are incredibly valuable in the late game against increasingly tough foes. EXO and WAR suits provide additional heavy explosive firepower needed to destroy cover and chew through enemies. Research those plasma grenades ASAP!

Mimic Beacons are the Best Mid-Late Game Item

Mimic Beacons will save lives. Even after a recent patch that weakens their defensive capabilities, the ability to throw a holographic soldier on the battlefield when you’re facing overwhelming odds is critical. Every alien will ignore your soldiers and attack the Mimic Beacon that turn, giving you some much needed breathing room. Have no less than two equipped after you can build them. Note that they require two Faceless corpses each, which you’ll only see in Retaliation Missions.

Scoff at Robotic Foes with Haywire Protocol

It’s tempting to make your Specialists pure battlefield medics, but Haywire Protocol is way too useful once you’re constantly facing Turrets, Andromedons, and Sectopods. The next best thing to killing an enemy is shutting them down for a few turns. In the late game you can get lucky and take control of a robotic enemy, which is an incredible advantage. Make sure to equip the Skulljack to boost your hacking skill, and practice hacking ADVENT towers for nice bonuses and better hacking stats.

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Psi-Soldiers are The Best

XCOM 2 has a not-so-hidden fifth character class once you build the Psi-Labs. Don’t wait too long to construct them and get someone training. Psi-Soldiers don’t gain experience but instead take time to research each new ability. There’s no limit to the amount of powers they can take. A fully upgraded Psi-Soldier is like a god among insects, capable of mind-control, stun, heavy damage, and support. Note that it takes an untrained rookie to become a Psi-Soldier. And it turns their hair white for some reason.

Know Your Mission Types

The biggest new challenge curve in XCOM 2 are timed missions. Some require you to shut a device down in 8 turns. Council Missions task you with recovering a VIP and extracting them in 12 turns. Downed UFO missions start off untimed, but gain a timer once you find the aliens and the UFO. Alien Facility and Retaliation Missions are not timed, but are more difficult. When it’s time to choose a Guerrilla Ops Mission, prioritize delaying the Avatar project. For mission rewards, look for Engineers, then Intel.

Use Battlefield Scanners on Retaliation Missions

Scanners will reveal an area and are great scouting tools. They become doubly important on Retaliation Missions, as they automatically scan civilians for any shapeshifting Faceless impostors. They also spot any underground Chryssalids lying in wait. You could also use the Specialist skill Scanning Protocol. Knowing where the enemy lurks is the key to avoiding embarrassing disasters.

The Right Soldiers for the Right Job

If you know your missions, then you know what you’re getting into and can plan accordingly. For example, I leave my awesome long-range Sharpshooter at home during VIP extractions, as they have to spend far too much time moving up to not get left behind. Use less (maybe not any) Grenadiers on Supply Raid missions so they don’t destroy your precious loot. Use a Bladestorm Ranger on Retaliation Missions to give those pesky Chryssalids a taste of their own medicine. And use as many Psi-Soldiers as possible all the time, because they’re generally awesome.

This article was written by

Eric is a freelance writer who enjoys talking about video games, movies, books and Dallas-based sports teams. He's a featured community blogger on and every week he watches a random film from his collection of several hundred DVDs and live tweets about it @RogueWatson. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife and daughter, two dogs, two cats, two fish tanks, some hermit crabs and a bookshelf full of Transformers.