Wednesday, December 19, 2012

XCOM Enemy Unknown - A guide for Classic difficulty with Ironman option using snipers

Target Audience
This article is mainly for experienced XCOM players who can complete a game in Normal difficulty. This article explains my strategies to win a game in Classic difficulty with Ironman option. Before you read this article, I suggest EVIL TACTICIAN's very good guide, XCOM: Enemy Unknown Classic Ironman Strategy Guide. That guide inspired me to try Classic Ironman and it explains most of the fundamentals. However, if you still have difficulties in your game, you can read this article and find more detailed or different strategies to ease up the journey in Classic Ironman.

In this article, I explain detailed Sniper driven strategies and a few new tricks. My squad is virtually a Snipers team with three or four Snipers, one scout (an Assault) and one or two Supports. I think this strategy is one of the safest and easiest way to win the very difficult game.

Victory comes with sacrifices
My victory report after completing a whole game for the first time - 51 good soldiers were lost

In the first mission: Don't risk anything - Easier said than done.
When you start a game, the central officer says 'Don't risk anything', but you need to risk your soldiers to complete the first several missions. Unlike in Normal difficulty, enemies can and will shoot you down when you are in half or full covers. Grenades are a rookie's best friend. Run into enemies and throw grenades. If he promotes after killing enemies, pull him back to keep him alive. Try to save more than a half of the squad. Actually, you can restart the game until you have a perfect result with all 4 soldiers alive and promoted.

In the second mission: Saving the squaddie Sniper Ryon
When you get a first Sniper, now your whole squad need to protect him and support him to promote. Let your Sniper to kill enemies safely with other's protection and sacrifice. If you also have an Assault, he is the second priority to save. When things go wrong, and if you think you can't complete the mission without risking your Sniper, evacuate your Sniper and other remaining solders to the evacuation zone and give up the mission.

From the third mission: Now fishing begins.
When your Sniper promotes to a corporal, you can give him Squad Sight ability. Only with this ability, the soldier becomes a true Sniper, who can shoot far away from the front line and still be hidden. From now on, you can try to have risk-free fishing games. Still, you should not choose difficult missions in the abduction mission selection menu.

The Assault is a scout and a bait.
Advance the Assault, or any other solder if you don't have an Assault, and when you see an enemy, attack it with your Sniper and pull your Assault back in his 2nd move. In the next turns the enemies will most likely come to you. Keep shooting the enemies with your Sniper, and keep pulling back your Assault out of the enemy's sight.
An enemy lured out by my Assault - You just don't know you are already dead.
The Assault should advance very slowly, like two or three steps in his first move and overwatch in his second move. Don't try to take cover every time. It is better for the Assault to just stand still in an open field than to take cover in his second move and make contact with aliens.

The formation is everything.
Wining or losing is already decided before making a contact. In this game, time is on your side. The time (turns) is an unlimited resource for you to beat the mighty enemy. So before moving your scout forward, take time and put your Snipers at good spots with wide visibility so that they can have shots as soon as your scout contacts enemies.
An near end formation, but it is similar in early and mid games 

Your Assault should not perform an assault.
Don't use Run & Gun ability into the enemy line. A lesser and lone enemy can be a bait. Aliens are also fishing. Tell your Assault that it is not the time to be a hero. Assaults have Tactical Sense ability and can be equipped with protection vests, so they don't get shot and die easily. Get your Assault hunker down to raise his defense further and throw a smoke grenade from your Support if the Assault can't get out of danger zone.

Sniper's pistol is a super pistol.
Sniper's laser pistol can have the same base damage of laser rifle when Sniper's Gunslinger ability (+2 damage) and Improved Pistol III technology (+1 damage) is adopted, and in that case Sniper's plasma pistol has more base damage (6 damages) than light plasma rifle (5 damages). Reference: Weapons (XCOM: Enemy Unknown).

Pistol can be further enhanced by other Improved Pistol technologies in the foundry. Further more, Snipers are usually equipped with SCOPE and their basic aim is higher than others. So in close combats, Snipers are still good at damage dealing with their pistols.

Tip: Squad member's sequence and shortcut keys
My squad's gear - Snipers with Archangel armor, others with Titan armor
Put your Assault at center so that he/she is focused first. During a mission, the sequence of focusing can be changed occasionally, but you can press F2 to get your Assault focused. Keys for others are shown in the picture.

Tip: Overwatch for all squad members
Shortcut key for Overwatch is 'Y'. This command has delay, but you can press TAB and Y repeatedly to make all squad members in Overwatch without having to wait for each delays.
Death from above - 3 snipers on reaction shots
You can also set Overwatch for all members with a single key, but you need to install AutoHotKey program. See:

Tip: Moving your soldiers simultaneously with TAB key
When a zone is clear, and before you enter a new building, you have to move other soldiers near to the Assault. Moving one by one takes time. You can move one soldier and while he is running, press TAB key to get control of another soldier and click a spot to move him too. In this way, you can see a few soldiers running at the same time. Just don't run into an uncharted sector. Aliens don't take kindly for your breaking in.

Tip: Hover SHIVs as Incubators
When you have fully grown veterans and you need to raise only one or two soldiers, 4 or 5 Hover SHIVs can participate in missions instead of veterans. Because you are OK even if all the SHIV and rookies die, missions can be done very fast without careful moves. However, difficult missions can be hard to complete with SHIVs and rookies.


  1. Would really love to see a YoutubeHD about the "perfect" first mission and getting the good base layout so that you don't have to restart and how-to nail the satelite thing by month 1 and 2, great guide, thanks!

  2. Hi Ashbjorn! Thanks for reading my article. I may not be able to make YouTube videos for now, but I can comment on your points:

    - A perfect first mission: Well, a perfect mission would be all 4 soldiers are alive and all of them are promoted. I don't think I can make a tactic to guarantee it, so for me, I have to try about five times to get the result.

    - Good base layout: It depends on the thermal position of your base, which is randomly positioned at the start of a game. However, one small tip is that you don't try to make the most effective layout. Just put satellite center and power generators on the first or second level. The deeper you go down, the high cost they will be. You can't afford it at the beginning. Later in the game, when you have a formidable squad and good income base, you can reposition your previous layout to make it more effective, but that is not required. When you have a good squad, the game is getting easier, so you can still win the game even if the base layout is not the optimum.

    - Satellites for the 1st and 2nd months: If my memory serves right, you can have total 2 satellites in the 1st month, and 3 more in the 2nd months. More details can be found in the EVIL TACTICIAN's guide which are introduced in the first paragraph of this article. In the early stages of the game, you should focus on saving you squad and the satellites. I can't afford to put resources on researches like squad size increase to 5.

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