XCOM Enemy Unknown Refresher – Part 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based, squad-based tactical strategy game with elements of base and crisis management. Available on PC, console platforms and iOS, this game was released to extremely positive reviews from reviewers and fans alike, and has gathered many Game of the Year awards since its release.
With the huge expansion, XCOM: Enemy Within, due for release in Novemeber this year, it’s about time you went back to (or invested in) XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Here’s Part 2 of our XCOM: Enemy Unknown Refresher Series designed to equip you with all the tactics and information vital to surviving the main game. Check out Part 1 for a beginners guide to XCOM if you’re new to the game.
Watch out for Part 3, which will go in-depth into the alien species you will face.
Knowing your enemies is not enough; you must know your soldiers own capabilities before you can work effectively in combat.
While you’ll be familiar with perk choices and weapons to an extent, listed below are some of the most effective soldier builds for each class; in some cases this will be only one choice, but other minor alterations to that build will be explained.
The Support Soldier
The Support soldier is best when it is living up to its title. When choosing perks, you must tailor your soldier towards being a Medic and providing Overwatch.
First of all, choose Covering Fire over Sprinter; while being able to move further per turn might make more sense for a medic needed urgently, Covering Fire allows your soldier to take reaction shots against enemies who simply fire and don’t actually break cover. You shouldn’t be splitting your troops up so that they cannot be reached in one move, and the Overwatch upgrade can allow more free shots under more circumstances.
The next upgrade should be Field Medic. Sure, the Smoke Grenades are useful but shouldn’t be relied upon. Plus, Field Medic should be a no brainer anyway; allowing your Support soldier to get three uses out of their Medikit fully enables their ability to carry almost their entire squad through a tough fight.
While Suppression is useful in some circumstances, Revive allows your medic to bring a critically wounded soldier back into the fight fully. Sure they’re wounded but you always need as many guns in a fight as possible. In any case, your Support soldier should always be going into Overwatch if they have no one to heal or will more than likely miss the shot. Suppression should be left to Heavies.
The next choice in perks is a more personal one. While Dense Smoke increases the smoke grenades coverage and defensive bonus, Combat Drugs makes covered units stronger willed and more likely to land critical hits. This is very useful when your team is surprised by powerful and intimidating enemies or enemies with Psi Powers.
This next choice may seem counter-intuitive but choosing Sentinel over Saviour is the better choice. Sure, being able to heal more health with a single Medikit may sound fantastic but thanks to the Foundry upgrade to Medikits and the preference to save them for stabilising/reviving critically injured soldiers means that the already excellent Sentinel ability shines further upon inspection.
Sentinel allows a second reaction shot to be taken during Overwatch. This allows your Support soldier to take a second shot against moving foes and firing foes (assuming you did the smart thing and chose the Covering Fire ability). Essentially this doubles your chance of damaging or killing foes and makes the Support soldier a true team player.
The Assault Soldier
Right, Run & Gun is a given to all Assault soldiers right off the bat; it is so very important to this class. It allows you to fully use their huge sprinting distance while retaining your ability to use other skills, close distance and flank completely while being able to land a powerful shotgun attack.
The first perk choices comes between Tactical Sense or Aggression; the former increases defence by +5 (to a limit of +20) per enemies in the soldiers sight while Aggression increases critical chance by +10% (to a limit of +30%).
This is a personal choice, but Tactical Sense edges out Aggression slightly. Firstly, you are going to be placing your Assault soldier in the very thick of the enemy lines and the ability to potentially survive multiple shots far outweighs the potential for a critical hit on a single target. Plus, if you’ve flanked and closed the distance then your critical chance is going to be very high anyway. Go for survival!
Lightening Reflexes should be the next choice. This perk should be chosen for every Assault soldier, without exception. It allows you to essentially defuse the threat posed by an enemy on Overwatch, something that becomes all the more important later on in the game. It causes the first reaction fire against this unit to always miss, freeing up movement for the entire team. It also has huge synergy with the way you should be using the Assault soldier; pushing through enemy lines of sight to flank and slaughter. Choose this perk without hesitation.
Flush and Rapid Fire are two very different perks and choosing between them can cause controversial debate. I have used Flush more because it forces foes out of cover and into reaction fire or away from the battle, but it also carries an increased chance to hit the target generally. This means that you can safely finish off weakened enemies without worry.
On the flipside, Rapid Fire works very well with the in-your-face nature of the Assault soldier. You can often get close enough with a shotgun to take out many of the biggest threats in two brutal shots. However, this is a gamble that can often fail to pay off thanks to the chance to miss one or both shots, even at close range.
Close Quarters Specialist is the next no-brainer choice for this class. This perks confers an automatic reaction shot against any foe that moves within a 4-tile radius of the soldier. At this range, the Assault soldier’s shotgun will almost always hit and this ability allows you to end a turn and know anything that comes charging in will get blasted. This ability will both save your soldiers life and eliminate some of the most dangerous melee-based foes in battle. Don’t even look at the other perk choice; this one is vital.
The final perk choice is an agonising one, and can often lead to two Assault soldiers in one squad running each perk. Killer Instinct can stack up with Run & Gun and the Ghost Armour to allow for incredible critical hit damage on high value targets. Cloak, sprint, and if possible use Rapid fire as well for guaranteed critical damage on the first shot and a powerful second shot as well.
Resilience is a better choice for higher difficulties however, because against multiple foes you are likely going to be shot at and even worse flanked after making a high risk sprint and kill. This perk makes you totally immune to critical hits, rendering foes that are flanking much less effective and with your best armor on, this will allow you to safely take several shots without worrying about flanking vulnerabilities.
The Heavy Class
The Heavy is your most flexible damage dealer. Using Rockets and LMG’s, the Heavy excels at putting a lot of powerful rounds down range. Slow to move but with the potential to hit like a tank, the Heavy is vital to survive fights with tougher enemies later on in the game.
Firstly, Bullet Swarm should be your first choice, despite the useful aim bonus that Holo-Targeting applies to your team. Bullet Swarm will allow you to fire and then perform a second action. This means that you can fire first and then move to a better position, flee or even fire again. This will allow you to pound powerful rounds down range at tough enemies. Two Heavies with this perk and a powerful LMG can take down almost anything.
Shredder Rocket is loved by many thanks to its ability to make enemies hit by your rockets 33% weaker to all other incoming damage. This ability works really well when the Heavy is tailored towards rocket usage. However, consider Suppression because it is the only other class aside from the Support who can have this ability and, frankly, your Support should always be on Overwatch.
HEAT Ammo is the next clear choice for the Heavy. HEAT Ammo allows you to deal double damage against robotic enemies, which when combined with Bullet Swarm allows two heavies to annihilate even the deadly Sectopod in one turn, should all shots land. It will also allow you to deal with Cyberdiscs when they first appear in the more fluid mid-game when your team is perhaps not properly equipped to fight them.
Danger Zone is the next clear choice as it allows suppression, normal rockets and Shredder Rockets to cover a huge area which far outweighs the desire to carry two extra grenades. Your other teammates can carry grenades if you wish, but being able to use rockets renders them obsolete pretty fast. It will allow you to soften up an entire squad of hostiles and annihilate cover in a huge area.
Finally, Rocketeer and Mayhem may be a hard choice at first, as extra damage to grenades and rockets might sound good, but being able to carry two rockets is a must. This is especially important when you gain access to the upgraded rocket launcher in the late game. Combined with Danger Zone and even Shredder Rockets, this makes the Heavy not only deadly and destructive but also a great team player as well.
The Sniper Class
The Sniper is one of the most important units to have in the late game. While initially rather weak, the Sniper soon becomes incredibly deadly when fully upgraded and kitted out with the infamous Archangel Armour and Plasma Sniper.
Firstly, always choose Squad Sight. Snipers should be accurate and once in a good vantage point they should never have to move. Squad Sight will enable this by allowing your sniper to fire at any enemy within sight of your team, assuming the line of sight is clear. Snipers would otherwise be crippled by their standard vision range and you’d have to keep moving them. Squad Sight makes the sniper. Set up, stay put and rack up the kills.
The second choice is difficult; Gunslinger makes the Sniper more effective with a pistol. This skill is most useful for ranking the Sniper up past the early perk-less stages but not much else. Therefore, choose Damn Good Ground for the long term because once kitted out, you’re going to placing your Sniper at high altitudes and even in mid-air, so the extra aim and defense given by this perk really helps ensure kills and survivability.
Another tough choice, Disabling Shot and Battle Scanner provide interesting tactical options. Most people swear by the stealthy vision that Battle Scanner allows. However, later on in the game your soldiers, especially ghosted Assault soldiers, will be able to achieve the same effect much further away from your Snipers position.
Disabling Shot allows you to disarm most opponents, forcing them to flee or reload their weapon to be able to fire again, thus buying you a turn. This ability might not work on certain tougher late-game enemies, it will work on most foes and allows you to neutralise a threat that’s slipped past you as a result of a mistake or a missed shot.
Executioner may sound cool but you’ll be one-shot killing most enemies by the late-game anyway. Choose Opportunist because it eliminates the aim penalty inflicted by putting your sniper on Overwatch while allowing said reaction shots to cause critical hits. This means that a well-positioned Sniper with Squadsight can cover an entire team and easily one-shot kill enemies who dare move from cover half a mile away.
The final perk choice will either allow you to chain successive kills on tough flanked or exposed units, or it will allow you to fire two shots off at once regardless of whether you land a kill or not. Many people like the ability to chain kills together granted by In The Zone, but the clear winner here is Double Tap. This allows you to fire twice provided no moves were made. It also allows Disabling Shot and Headshot to be used alongside the standard shot in one turn. This will allow you to tear through potentially dangerous enemies in the late game.
The Psionic Class
While the Psionic Class is actually just a Sub-Class that any of the above classes can become if they are ‘Gifted’, it is worth noting just how powerful this end-game class is. While Psionic attacks have no effect on certain enemies like robotic foes, the offensive abilities can cause huge problems for enemy times while the more defensive abilities provided invaluable protection against dangerous enemies and incoming Psi Attacks.
A gifted Psionic soldier gains initial access to the Mindfray ability, which is extremely useful for crippling a priority target. It is also highly accurate, meaning that your soldier gains access to an easy damage dealer whilst also reducing the targets aim, will and mobility substantially.
Psi-Inspiration and Psi Panic are two very powerful abilities but the clear choice here is Psi-Inspiration. Choosing this removes Mindfray and Panic from all allies within three tiles and also strengthens their will for two turns. This makes battles against other Psi –capable enemies much more easy to cope with if they begin to drag on. Psi Panic can be useful to disrupt the enemy but the effects are too unpredictable; often the panicked foe will fire at your team, with the potential to hit and kill the poor soldier. Sure, it will incapacitate the target for a turn afterwards but don’t take the risk.
The final unlock for most Psionic soldiers is a choice between Telekinetic Field and Mind Control. Telekinetic Field lasts for one turn but distorts and deflects all incoming attacks over a wide area, and grants +40 defence to all units, friend or foe, within the field. This single turn power can protect your entire team with the potential to cause reflected damage on enemy targets. Much more useful than smoke grenades, this ability is hugely useful if things begin to go south.
Mind Control is incredible fun to use; it takes control of the target for three turns and allows you to pluck difficult foes such as the Muton Elite from the enemies control and turn them against their former allies. This allows you to send a once-dangerous foe on a suicide attack against the rest of its squad, giving you an extra soldier while reducing the enemy’s numbers by one.
Instead of choosing between them, have a squad with at least two Psi-gifted soldiers; one tailored for the defensive Telekinetic Field and the other for Mind Control.
While at first glance it may seem like that Psi powers would suit Assault class soldiers more, this ability suits every soldier and is an asset to any unit that can wield them.