XCOM 2 Advanced Combat Strategy Guide – Missions Tips, Turn Limit, Civilian Rescue, Squads

By   /   Feb 10, 2016
XCOM 2 update

What you do in XCOM 2 between missions is highly important to your success, but your field operations make the heart of the game.

XCOM 2 as a turn-based strategy game is brutally unforgiving, but there’s absolutely no such thing as an impossible mission in the game. All you need to do is think a little, become tactically astute, and apply what you’ve learned on the ground.

Of course, saying all that is easier said than done. The game’s tutorial behaves more like a story prologue than an actual tutorial. For experienced XCOM players it’s a healthy reminder of the ultra-basics of the game.

For more help on XCOM 2, read our PC Console Commands, Class Builds Guide, Avenger Base Building and Commander Difficulty Walkthrough.

XCOM 2 Advanced Combat Strategy

For newcomers, no way in hell does it ever prepare you for what’s up ahead. That’s why this guide is here!

Combat in the game isn’t simple, and it tends to become tougher as your progress, even if you’ve been researching weapons and upgrades to make life easier for you.

Towards the later stages of the game, it becomes very difficult to carry out a mission without getting someone at least injured. Then there are timed missions, and there’s enough being said about those.

Both beginners and veterans can take use of this combat guide. If you have anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments section below!

Squad Formations

Increase Your Squad Size
This is something not many talk about. At the start of the game, your squad will have a limit of four, which can later be increased through the Guerilla Tactics School (GTS).

Build the GTS as soon as possible, and use your supplies to increase the squad size – first to five, then ultimately to 6.

Balanced Formation
Assuming you’ve managed to get 6 squad members, it’s important to field a balanced squad for majority of the mission. This means having a squad that has enough versatility to face every situation possible.

Notice there are 2 distinct paths to level one specific type of class (except Psionic Operative, which we won’t discuss in too much detail because of the randomized leveling and the fact that it’s optional).

For example, a Specialist can be a dedicated Medic if you choose to build them that way, or they can be a dedicated hacker, giving you a massive advantage against robotic enemies.

It’s important to have a set of soldiers with mirroring builds, and you should always have one or two backup soldiers in case your primary ones are sidelined for an extensive period with injury (which happens a lot in XCOM 2).

When you have unlocked the fifth and sixth squad slots and increased the overall squad size. I recommend the following:

  • Sharpshooter – A pure marksman who will stay back and pick off enemies with great precision.
  • Grenadier – A demolition’s expert who can also shred armors of tough enemies.
  • Specialist – A Medic Specialist whose job will be to heal allies and provide aid with the Gremlin.
  • Specialist – A Hacker Specialist who will scan the battlefield and attempt to hack robotic enemies.
  • Ranger – A stealthy Ranger who stays concealed for long periods and can flank enemies.
  • Ranger – An aggressive Ranger who gets up close and personal to finish off weakened foes.

This type of squad formation will give you the tools and firepower to combat any and every type of enemy, and is especially useful for Blacksite Facility missions and Alien Retaliation missions where one must rescue at least 6 civilians.

Keeping this formation will grant you a lot of balance overall. Try it yourself and you’ll see just how well it works.

There are some exceptions to this balanced formation rule though. Certain types of missions will force you to prioritize a specific class because of the way it’s set up.

For example, you may want to ditch the Sharpshooter altogether in certain timed missions where your squad will have to extract a VIP within a limited amount of turns.

Sharpshooters are given the least amount of grids to move in the battlefield, and because of their function to stay back and do damage from a distance, there’s a chance they will make you lag behind.

On the other hand, Rangers can move the farthest, which makes them excellent for turn-limited missions and also the challenging UFO Dark Event mission.

Rangers combine especially well with Sharpshooters as they can stay concealed and provide the Sharpshooter ultra-long vision without having to compromise their cover.

Try experimenting with 2 Snipers, 3 Rangers, and 1 Specialist for certain turn-limited missions. You won’t regret it!

On-Field Strategy

Okay, so you’ve now understood how you want to build your squad. You’ve selected them, and you’ve landed on the battlefield. Cool. Now, it’s time to get into the real tactical stuff.

During majority of the missions, your squad will be concealed at the start of the mission. This means the enemy is not aware of your position. Use this to your advantage.

As you move forward, red grids with eye icons on them will start to show. These are grids which would break your concealment if one of your squad members steps on them.

It’s important to spread your squad out during Concealment, and discover the first set of enemy. Enemies in XCOM 2 almost always move in packs or mini-squads, usually comprised of 3 to 4 different enemies.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call each mini-squad an enemy unit. At the time of concealment, it is extremely important that you do not discover more than one enemy unit.

If you do, there are huge chances of you to be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, because the moment your concealment breaks, on the next turn both enemy units will get a chance to move in.

The objective should always be to outnumber your enemies, and doing so against two enemy units is impossible.

When to Break Concealment
The moment one of your squad members discovers an enemy unit, you should spread your squad to attack from different directions. Be careful when you do this though – you do not want to discover additional enemy units.

Do not break concealment on the same turn you discover an enemy unit!

This is extremely important! If you discover an enemy unit on one turn, do not break concealment on that turn. Instead, make sure your entire squad has line of sight on the unit, and can attack on the next turn.

Keep all your squad members on Overwatch, wait for the enemy turn to end, then break concealment with the first move of your next turn by attacking. This is because the moment you break your concealment with an attack, the enemy will disperse.

If you had your team on Overwatch the turn before, they’ll take a shot as the unit runs around. Many times you’ll be able to completely annihilate an enemy unit in a single move by doing this.

Even if you don’t, chances are you’ll lay in one or two hits, which can make life a lot easier for you. Once you’ve broken concealment this way, you’ll have the all but one of your entire squad members to control and attack the enemy unit as necessary.

Spreading Out
In order to cover maximum ground and give you good angles, spread your team out well.

Don’t jumble them up closely together. A narrow team is easy pickings for enemies who wield explosives, and the intelligent AI of the game will take advantage of this poor tactic.

While spreading out, stay true to a specific formation. If you’re using a balanced squad like the one recommended above, use your Rangers as the two forward-most players, the Grenadier just behind the Rangers, two Specialists wide of the Grenadier, and the Sharpshooter at the back.

Make sure all of these players are facing towards the enemy unit in general, and that all of them have line of sight to at least one enemy in the unit.

Choosing the Correct Cover
Without any cover, your soldiers are as good as dead. Cover is shown by a shield icon, and it determines how well guarded your soldiers are in a specific direction.

A half-filled shield shows half cover, a fully filled shield shows full cover, and a red shield shows cover which will leave you exposed against enemies.

You should almost always try to position your soldiers behind full cover. Make sure the cover is directly between you and the enemy to give yourself a defense bonus.

A full cover greatly reduces the hit chance for an enemy. This is true also for enemy units, who are significantly harder to hit when in full cover.

Often though you’ll be forced to take cover behind objects that provide only half cover. In such cases, you’ll have to brave it out and hope the enemy misses.

Half cover becomes a much better option than full cover when you’re taking cover behind a car. It’s perfectly fine to do so for one turn, but know that cars blow up if they catch fire.

You should also be extremely careful about inflammable objects. Organic objects such as trees, wooden houses, crates, barrels etc. can catch fire. Heck, even grass can.

Immediately move away from a location if it catches fire, even if it’s providing full cover! Fire tends to grow, and will eventually begin to burn any soldier near it. The burn mechanic in XCOM 2 is relatively new and adds unnecessary DoT damage if you’re not careful.

Certain times you’ll come across large walls or buildings that over full cover for multiple soldiers. It’s highly tempting to get multiple soldiers behind it, but you have to remember to spread out!

Enemies like Mutons, Elite Troopers, Andromedons, Mechs, and several others will take advantage of your poor positioning by throwing explosives, which can damage multiple enemies at once.

For this reason, never have two players take cover behind the same object, especially when you’re facing enemies known to have explosive arsenal.

Once you’ve established your cover and an enemy is in line of sight, it’s time to attack. The game uses a calculation based on certain variables to determine the success chance of your attack, which is displayed as a percent. We’ll term this as accuracy.

Accuracy is largely based on three things: your soldier’s rank, your soldier’s position relative to the enemy, and the enemy’s cover. A soldier’s rank generally tends to improve their accuracy, but the most important two factors are positioning and enemy’s cover.

The non-melee enemies in XCOM 2 are very smart, and will almost always look for the best covers. There isn’t much you can do to influence an enemy’s movement decision, but once an enemy is behind a wall or object that provides full cover, you can try to expose them.

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