XCOM: Enemy Unknown Strategy Guide: How To Survive

Adam Barnes


Can't get through a mission without losing a squad member in XCOM: Enemy Unknown? Try these helpful hints to improve your survivability.

Published on Oct 17, 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a game of two halves, so you'll need to take heed of these ten tips in base management and combat to make your battle against the alien invasion that little bit easier.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Base Building

Careful management of your base is of utmost importance, perhaps even more so than the missions themselves. Follow these general housekeeping instructions and you'll soon come out on top.

1. Satellites, Satellites, Satellites

Satellites are the single most important part of XCOM. More satellites in the air means more income, less panic and – if you get a blanket coverage over a continent – even special rewards.

It's tempting to go for the cash incentive too, but be smart about your placement: using satellites can lower the panic in an area and that should take precedence.

And remember: Interceptors should accompany satellites; the cash flow is nice, but it's useless if UFOs can simply escape your grasp.

2. Defence Is The Best Form Of Defence

Picking your research properly can be tricky but there's always one simple rule: go for defence.

Those shiny new laser rifles might be tempting, but as the tougher enemies appear you need to be able to take a lucky shot before you can deal one.

Carapace armour is the first you'll come across, make sure you get that as early as you can. You can start researching it as soon as you pick up five Weapon Fragments, and will need Alloys and Elerium for later upgrades.

3. Engineers Over Scientists

While research is important, if you're in two minds about whether to get more scientists or more engineers then we'd suggest the latter.

The more engineers you have the cheaper it'll become to buy satellites, weapons and armour. More scientists will lower the time it takes to research something, but a greater number are needed to have an impact.

As long as you're smart about how you bolster both departments, you should have no issues: Workshops over Laboratories.

4. Build An Officers Training Hall

Getting one of these in your base as early as possible will make future battles considerably easier. Building one enables you to purchase special upgrades with extra cash (which, if you have enough satellites available shouldn’t be an issue anyway).

The most important of these is increasing the squad size, first to five and then to six: it goes without saying that this will be a huge boon when defeating the alien invasion.

After this look to improve the speed with which your squad recovers from wounds, then increase the XP gained from battles.

Note: playing on Normal or Easy means you'll begin with an Officers Training Hall already, but it's use is still just as important.

5. Be Careful Where You Build

Facility planning is extremely important. Sensible positioning of power generators or satellite uplinks will increase the extra power or number of available satellites provided by each building.

Try to plan your structures ahead of their construction to avoid you having to pay to remove elements - look at the layout and decide where things should go, even down to the lower levels.

Oh, and remember to keep an eye on the power consumption: Access Lifts use increasingly more ‘bits’ of power: bear that in mind so you don’t need to delete existing buildings.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Combat

How you fare in battle will directly influence how panicked the world is and, in turn, the confidence of the XCOM Council. While it’s important to make the strategic decisions yourself, these guidelines will help your squad survive a mission.

1. Take Overwatch

Overwatch gives you an extra shot on an enemy that crosses the user’s field of vision: it doesn’t always hit, but it’s useful all the same. Use this in tandem with careful squad-member ‘bunny-hopping’, moving from cover to cover slowly to avoid rushing into a group of Mutons.

That being said, don’t let Overwatch be your first action in a turn - move your soldiers into position first, then head into Overwatch. You may trigger an enemy spawn, and you could regret having used a soldier’s turn already.

2. Know Your Squad

It’s important to know what each class is capable of. Heavy’s are great for their Suppression ability, severely hampering an enemy’s ability to move or attack; Assaults can make use of Run and Gun to get real close and blast them with their shotgun while the Support class can use the Smoke Grenade to cover weakened allies and increase their survivability. Snipers we’ll get to separately.

You'll likely have your own preferences, but with the addition of a fifth and sixth squad slot consider including additional snipers for damage or support for healing.

3. Level Up Your Snipers

They’re a little crap at first, we won’t deny that, but once a Sniper learns Squad Sight they quickly become one of the most important soldiers to have around.

This’ll let them blast at enemies in the field of view of other soldiers, providing a shot is possible, and later upgrades - like Opportunist - will increase their destructibility. They won’t have to brave the front lines either, making them even more likely to survive.

Their best use is by sticking them on higher ground or in an area with a lot of open space: perfect for Squad Sight.

4. Flank, But Carefully

This is a tricky one. Spreading your units too far will make it hard to support each other - and worse of all, more likely to run into additional aliens - while sticking together makes it more likely that you’ll be flanked yourself.

Regardless, try to flank your enemy whenever you can (you’ll know they’re flanked when their shield icon turns yellow).

It’ll increase your chances to hit, and make it hard for the aliens to counteract your strategy. Just don’t overextend yourself, you still need to be careful.

5. Burning Cars

Unchecked, this is easily the biggest killer of squad-members. Hiding behind cars for cover often makes sense - sometimes it’s the only option - but should a vehicle take too much damage and it’ll catch on fire.

Make it your priority to move anyone in the area to a different location because in one turn that car will explode and kill anyone caught in the blast.

It’s a ticking time-bomb that, if you’re concentrating on bringing down the alien scum, you may forget about entirely. Don’t.



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