Get Engineers, contacts, and intel
You’ll reveal lots of events on the worldwide geoscape screen, such as discovering caches of supplies, finding bonus missions or even gaining free equipment. There’s a few things that are critical to focus on for starting your campaign, however—engineers, contacts, and intel.
Engineers construct your base facilities and excavate rooms for you to place those buildings in. As excavating rooms gives you supplies and resources in XCOM 2, more engineers not only speed up your construction but also rapidly ramp up your income. Be sure to grab them when you can, from mission rewards, finding them in random events, or buying them from the Resistance HQ and black market.
Each Resistance Contact allows you to contact a new region. Normally you only gain contacts by building Communications facilities, but occasionally you’ll be able to grab free contacts from randomly generated events. Always jump on these chances to keep your territory expansion from stalling.
Intel is a secondary resource that you spend to expand to new regions, but it’s also spent at the black market to buy various artifacts and items. You’ll never have enough intel to buy everything you want, so when the game gives you an opportunity to gain more, don’t let it go to waste. Because...
The Black Market is awesome
Sometime in the first few months of your campaign you’ll gain access to the black market, a shop where you can sell excess loot and equipment for supplies, but also buy various things in exchange for intel. The key point is that the things you can buy are freaking awesome.
For example, you can buy a research boost that will halve the time it takes to develop a certain tech. You can buy resources, supplies, weapon upgrades, and even personal combat sims (stat boosts for your soldiers). You can buy scientists, engineers, and even highly experienced soldiers, perfect for bolstering your roster with some more veterancy.
The black market refreshes its inventory after every supply drop, so check back regularly to grab new gear and boosts. An early boost to your Magnetic Weaponry or Plated Armor research is too good to pass up, saving you weeks of research time while your scientist count is still low. After that, shop often to pick up more powerful upgrades and boosters as time wears on. Just be careful not to dump all of your intel into the market, as you’ll still need some to expand to other regions and progress your campaign.
Aim is everything
There’s a lot of upgrades and attachments to use in XCOM 2 that increase all sorts of important stats, but in general, one truth should guide your focus—you can’t kill them if you don’t hit them. Aim is one of the most important stats for your soldiers to develop, and while it grows naturally as they gain promotions, there’s plenty of other ways to bolster it.
Scopes improve the aim of all attacks made with the weapon you attach it to, while “Perception” personal combat sims grant flat aim to everything the soldier does. The difference is important—a Gunslinger who uses their pistol won’t gain aim from a scope that’s attached to their sniper rifle, nor will a Ranger be more accurate with their machete just because you duct taped an optic to their shotgun. Perception sims are more important for these classes if you want to improve their effectiveness, ensuring accuracy no matter what weapon is used.
There are cases where aim is less important. A Ranger may value speed or health over precision, and a Grenadier who focuses on explosives has less need for reliable accuracy. In general, though, soldiers who can hit their targets save you a lot of headaches in XCOM, so invest early and often in ways to increase their aim. They’ll pay you back with a lot of dead aliens every mission.
Save your corpses!
Dead bodies are very valuable in XCOM 2, both yours and the enemy’s. As morbid as it may be, your first sets of upgraded armor must be built using scavenged ADVENT plates. That means a dozen ADVENT Trooper corpses for your supply of plated Predator armor, and then handfuls of ADVENT Trooper or Stun Lancer bodies for each EXO Suit or Spider Suit, respectively.
I made the mistake of selling all my Trooper corpses early on, because as previously discussed, the black market is awesome. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Predator Armor requires 12 Trooper corpses to build! Ha ha, what a great moment. (Note: It was actually a terrible moment.)
For similar but different reasons, you need to look after your own dead as well. When a squadmate dies, you can order another soldier to pick up his body. While this at first may appear pointless, it serves a very important function by allowing you to extract your dead trooper. Beyond sentimental reasons, this is critical for keeping the soldier’s gear, because if you extract from a mission without taking a soldier’s body you lose all the gear they had. Winning a normal mission doesn’t require you to extract, of course, but on missions that force you to extract such as VIP rescue operations, manually taking your bodies home is necessary even if you win. Unless you don’t mind losing all that expensive stuff they were carrying. And speaking of extracting...
EVAC is (usually) there for you
On most missions in XCOM 2, your soldiers can call in the Skyranger’s landing zone to any location near them, allowing for an immediate extract of any soldiers inside the LZ. This serves an obvious purpose: letting you get the hell out after your mission has turned pear-shaped. It serves another equally important purpose, though—CASEVAC, or casualty evacuation.
In EU, soldiers who were downed but not outright killed would enter a ‘bleeding out’ state, where you had a few turns to stabilize them with a medkit. If you didn’t have a kit, that soldier was doomed unless you quickly finished the mission before they expired. In XCOM 2 you have another option, as your soldiers can pick up unconscious squadmates and take them to the LZ, extracting them to the Skyranger before they bleed to death. This is also helpful if a soldier is set on fire, poisoned or otherwise afflicted and you have no way of curing their status; simply extract them before they die and they’ll take no further damage.
There are caveats to this maneuver, of course. Extracting an unconscious soldier requires a squadmate also extract with them, removing another valuable trooper from your mission. There are also mission types where calling in extract is not possible, often missions such as VIP Rescue where your main objective is reaching an evac zone and placing it next to your squad would be a little too easy a solution.
Beagle is a staunch opponent of alien invasions. You can watch his XCOM and other gaming videos on his channel, youtube.com/beaglerush. Disclosure: Beagle’s YouTube content has occasionally been sponsored by 2K Games, the publisher of XCOM 2.