Getting off to the best start in XCOM 2 is important. The sequel has added a lot of strategic depth over its predecessor, and the extra events and resources you’ll encounter on the global layer bring their own new questions—what facilities, research and resources to prioritize are all more in-depth concerns than they used to be.
There’s many ways to play and you’ll need to adjust and react to the unique situations your own campaign presents, so don’t take my advice as the only way to do things, but more a general guide to give you direction and get you thinking about how to manage your own resistance operations.
This page: Research, Facilities
Early: Modular Weapons, Alien Biotech, Advent Officer Autopsy, Resistance Comms and Radio, Magnetic and Gauss Weapons
Mid: Hybrid Materials, Plated Armor, Elerium, Powered Armor
Late: Plasma Rifle and Weapons, finish Shadow Chamber projects
Autopsy ASAP: Muton, Advent MEC, Andromedon, Sectopod, Gatekeeper
The key to XCOM’s research is knowing what you’ll gain from each pathway and then beelining for the tools you need to succeed. Starting early with Modular Weapons, Biotech and Officer Autopsy grants key weapon upgrades and makes the Advanced Warfare Center and Proving Grounds available for construction while also opening up pathways to important autopsy tech. Resistance Comms and Radio lets you start establishing your global network, necessary for gaining income and operational reach and thus critical to start early. With these early techs complete, begin Magnetic Weapons as your first major project.
Once the Magnetic and Gauss projects are complete your damage takes a big step up, well timed to start dropping the new tougher enemies you’ll be facing as we enter the midgame. Hybrid Materials leads into Plated Armor next, and once you’ve completed these projects you’ll have strong defensive capabilities to match your offensive power. There’s some important autopsies to watch out for during this phase, but our next key project is Elerium which then sets us up for Powered Armor.
With our gear providing peak survivability and utility, it’s time to max out our firepower. Powered Armor is a simple one-tech way to enter the late game that also gives you access to advanced heavy weapons, after which we can collect all the conventional weaponry techs—Plasma Rifle, Storm Gun, Beam Cannon and Plasma Lance all take a chunk of time to complete and will keep your scientists busy for a while as you prioritize the weapons you need most depending on your squad. As you enter the final stretch of your campaign, complete whatever Shadow Chamber projects remain and don’t get overconfident as you approach the finish line.
There’s some important autopsies that you should prioritize as soon as you have the option. Muton and Andromedon autopsies will give you huge boosts to your explosive power, while MEC and Sectopod autopsies are key to improving the Specialist’s GREMLIN. Gatekeepers grant you the most powerful Amp for your psi troops. Faceless autopsy is important early to gain the powerful Mimic Beacon, but don’t jump on it straight away—you’ll need two Faceless corpses to create the item after the research, so there’s no point completing the tech until you’ve gained the extra bodies through your second Retaliation mission. All of XCOM 2’s autopsies help in some fashion, so don’t be afraid to delay starting big technologies to quickly pick up a new trick or two first. Stun Lancer and Archon autopsies deserve mentions for providing more powerful Ranger swords, so if your squad relies on melee prowess be sure to pick these up.
The Shadow Chamber is another scientific avenue that you’ll have to improvise your timing on. Without saying too much, it serves as an important way to reduce the pressure of AVATAR progress. I’d recommend researching Shadow techs whenever you need some help pushing back the doom clock.
Early to Mid: Guerilla Training School, Advanced Warfare Center, Power Relay
Mid to Late: Proving Grounds, Psi Lab, Second Power Relay, Shadow Chamber
Optional: Workshop, Laboratory
Every campaign needs to start with a Guerilla Training School, providing essential squad size upgrades and other important improvements while also allowing you to train idle rookies into squaddies (of the class of your choice) at base. The Advanced Warfare Center is a great second facility, doubling the healing of injured soldiers in its infirmary and granting extra abilities to your troops as they level. These two structures should keep your Engineers busy for the first couple of months, after which you’ll need a Power Relay to support more structures.
Once that’s complete, get a Proving Grounds up and begin churning out experimental tech. Your Sharpshooters will thrive with the extra ammo types (like AP rounds) you’ll create, while key improvements like better explosives, experimental weapons and armor and the aptly named Skulljack device will bring your squad up to a fearsome level of flexibility. Once you’re rolling along with supplies (and Elerium) to spare it’s time to establish a Psi Lab and begin adding Psi Ops troopers to your squad to benefit from their fantastic talents. You’ll need some more power soon—you can upgrade your original relay or build a new one on an excavated Conduit room to benefit from boosted power generation.
With all your tactical bases covered, you can finish your key facilities by establishing the Shadow Chamber, granting you access to explorative research that peels back the secrecy surrounding the alien’s goals. Don’t dally too long on this building, as you’ll need it sooner or later to help thwart AVATAR progress and advance your own campaign goals.
Throughout your campaign it’s up to you to decide when a Workshop or Laboratory are worth the investment. A Workshop grants two GREMLINs for each Engineer you station inside, and these drones can do the same jobs as engineers for any adjacent rooms. If you’re short on Engies, this can be a good way to double your construction and room boosting abilities when positioned and timed properly. A Laboratory simply boosts your scientific output—I think resources are too tight early on to justify the cost of this structure, but once you start having supplies to spare you can’t go wrong with unlocking tech faster. Speaking of luxuries, don’t forget a Defense Matrix in the lategame, as the extra boost it gives you on any Avenger Defense missions is worth having once your income is outpacing your expenses.