XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Five tips for defending Earth

Written by Barry Villatoro

After spending around fifteen hours of my first playthrough of XCOM : Enemy Unknown, I had all but completely lost Earth. My A team was annihilated, I was flat broke, UFO’s were ripping through my Raptors, my scientists and engineers were behind on projects and nearly every country abandoned the XCOM project. With each new deployment the situation became worse. Squadies were being sent out against Beserkers, Mutons and Hyderdiscs. A job well done meant at least one soldier lived. It was bad.

I could see where my mistakes were made, the bad choices, wasted money and the horrible tactical decisions. So, I made the choice to start over with my newly acquired knowledge and basically kick some ass. I did kick ass, big time. I figured I’d share the changes I made to turn the tide on my second playthrough. So here’s some tips to keep the aliens from handing you your ass.

Keep your squad alive – I know, duh, right? In order to do that though, you’ll need to take your time on the battlefield. When a missions starts, you may feel the urge to start dashing everywhere to find the aliens/objective. Instead of dashing, try moving one section at a time, then setting your soldier to “Overwatch.” You’ll be less likely to uncover E.T. threat while leaving yourself open. This way, when you uncover the E.T. threat and they begin to move on your position, the soldiers you have on Overwatch will have the chance to do some damage. Some classes have abilities that increase the usefulness of their overwatch immensely. Snipers have “Opportunist” that removes the aim decrease from Overwatch, making them incredibly deadly. Support classes can gain the Sentinel ability that allows them to fire on two different enemies while on Overwatch. Keep your squad in proper cover, close enough to watch each others backs, not close enough to each other for them to be perfect targets for a grenade and let the E.T.’s make the mistakes.

Satellites are your friend – This holds true for many reasons. Satellites can instantly bring down the panic level of a country almost completely. The more satellites you have increases the amount of staff and cash that will be donated to your project each month. With increased satellite coverage, you’ll be more likely to pick up UFO signals and shooting down UFO’s gives you the chance to raid the crash site for research/engineering materials. On my second playthrough, I made it a point to have satellite uplinks and satellites in construction at all times. After a couple of months you’ll have enough money and staff to keep your research projects up to date. Most importanly you’ll be able to send your squads onto the field equipped with technology equal to or rivaling that of the E.T.’s.

Gear matters – I spent time and money on a plethora of research projects, not knowing exactly what I needed. Now I know I needed stronger weapons and armor, without a doubt. By the time I gave up my first playthrough I had hardly touched the laser weapons. On my second playthrough at the same spot, I had a plasma sniper rifles in the hands of my best snipers. After an autopsy or interrogation of a new alien, you’ll have the option to research the handgun of the newly acquired technology. For instance once the laser pistol is researched, the research project opens up for the laser rifle, light-plasma research leads to the more advanced plasma weapons. It’s not only about  weaponry, but armor as well. Each armor type has specific uses along with the obvious changes in defense and health. Coupling together the right weapons with the perfect armor for a specific soldier is very important. I used Titan armor with assault class soldiers with shotguns and used them like tanks. They can take a hit, but hit back harder. Plasma rifle equipped Sniper in Archangel gear is one of the deadliest soldiers in XCOM. Support class Medic in Ghost armor, they can travel from point A to point B healing and reviving on the battlefield with ease. You get the point.

Create the perfect squads – Knowing what type of soldier you’re trying to create with a specific class will allow you to create squads that are prepared for any engagement. Each class can be directed with skill tree choices to evolve into distinct sub-classes. For instance, a Support class can be designed to be a medic by choosing skills that allow the soldier to carry more medkits, heal and revive downed soldiers with more health, as well as giving them a wider range of movement. The support class can also be ultimate reinforcing soldier given the Sentinel ability, the capacity to carry more smoke grenades to provide defense to another soldier that has been flanked, and the option to add Will and Aim enhancing chemicals to their smoke grenades. Choosing different skills among soldiers of the same class will allow you to send out squads prepared for any mission.

Dominate the sky – Having a well armed fleet of fighters with dodge matrixes, auto-targeting and target trackers are invaluable. You won’t necessarily need more then one fighter over each country and no more then two of the usable items on hand. I did always keep my fighters up-to-date with latest weapons allowed on my craft. The Firestorm class fighter is incredible and can easily put own any UFO with the right weaponry. Like I said before, shooting down UFO’s will give you the mission option to go and raid the crashes for materials. Also allowing a UFO to escape will most likely end up with a lager class UFO returning to that country for a number of reasons, from abductions, terrorizing or even to destroy that country’s satellite. Warning, a satellite being destroyed will immediately end with that country going into panic and abandoning the XCOM project.

I did the opposite of everything mentioned above and was forced to abandon my own project and start over. Hopefully some of these tips will help keep you from getting your ass handed to you. Are there tips that I missed? Add them below to help your fellow gamers.

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About the author

Barry Villatoro

Twitter : @IamWeapon | Former citizen of Azeroth and Atreia | Favorite fighting game - DefJam: Fight for New York | Favorite RPG - FF6 | MMA | Sushi | ATV's |

  • ColdComfort

    Tip 1: Satellites. You’ll need these for money.
    Tip 2: Satellites. Have you built some yet?
    Tip 3: SATELLITES. Money from the sky.
    Tip 4: EVEN MORE SATELLITES. Everyone feels better knowing there’s satellites up there.
    Tip 5: Satellites. Seriously.
    Bonus Tip: You can sell the alien corpses and artifacts for even more money if funds are tight.

    • Did you mention satellites?

      • ColdComfort

        Damn, I knew there was something…

  • WhosoeverJoe

    I spent money on SHIV projects that were a waste. Definitely should have focused on armor and weapons for the soldiers.

    • Yeah, the SHIV is fun but a massive waste. Especially the Alloy Shiv, which is buggy as hell and can’t be equipped with weapons.

      • IamWeapon

        I liked the SHIV projects at first, but they’re more expensive and less adaptable.

  • Thank you! as a first time xcom player I really need this.

    • IamWeapon

      I would also say, never be afraid of a new enemy, just cautious.

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