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    dkirschner's XCOM 2 (PC)

    [July 23, 2022 10:19:07 AM]
    There are many things I didn't know when I made my last entry. Funniest is that I thought I was halfway through the game. I was gauging that by my progress killing enemy "rulers," which are like mutated escaped science experiments that appear randomly in battles. Turns out that content is a DLC! I might not have been sweating so much if every mission didn't have the chance to spawn an uber-enemy that took an action after every single action any of my soldiers took. Seriously, those enemies were harder than any other in the game, including the avatars at the end. I am proud to say that I killed each avatar on the last mission before it even had a chance to attack. That's how badass I was at the end of the game. If I'm being honest though, I was only that badass thanks to save scumming throughout most of the campaign. As of my first entry, I hadn't been doing that. A few of my soldiers had permanently died, they were constantly gravely wounded, and I came within 20 game hours of the avatar project being completed. With the fear of having to start the entire campaign over, I started reloading when something bad happened, including a soldier dying, discovering enemies on maps when I wasn't ready, and mis-clicking my moves. I think that if I had played without ever reloading, I would have become frustrated and quit. Or, if I did power through, I think I would have lost my first playthrough and done better on the second one because there is so much to learn. By the end of the game, I was WAY smarter and, like I said, dispatched really the entire final mission with barely a scratch on me.

    Some things I learned that really helped:

    - Cover is everything! Never ever be out of cover. And high cover is twice as good as low cover.
    - Positioning is also everything! Never let enemies flank you, lest your cover be no good. Also, as you face tougher enemies, stop clustering your soldiers together. Spread out and try to flank the enemy.
    - Don't rush, even if it's a timed mission. If you rush, you will certainly run into enemy sight. Only advance early on your turn so that if you do stumble upon enemies, you have soldiers with moves left to control them.
    - Focus on upgrading weapons instead of armor. If you are using cover and positioning to the max, and being smart about movement and abilities, you're not going to get hit all that much. But you will be relatively fragile. Upgrade those weapons to do tons of damage fast!
    - You don't have to prioritize destroying enemy facilities or countering every dark event. It's fine if the avatar project is nearing completion, so long as you can destroy a facility to set them back when you need to. Also, some dark events are fine to ignore. For example, as the above tips suggest, anything that gives enemies poison weapons, spawns an extra enemy, etc., isn't that bad if you don't get hit often. On the other hand, some are high priority. There was one that doubled intel costs when I REALLY needed to make contact with new regions; it gave me a lot of grief for a month.
    - Other things I learned would have really helped in the earlier parts of the game which, if I replayed it, would be much easier. Those involve the fact that engineers are really valuable. I was so slow to build up my base and it cost me a lot of time and sorrow. Know that you need to build your base, that you will need more power and more comms especially. Get engineers early if possible and put them to work.

    Turns out I had other DLC too. The SPARK robot is DLC (though mine died and I never rebuilt one) and some special weaponry that I built was DLC, which undoubtedly helped me out. So I wasn't playing the vanilla game. I was playing it refined and expanded. I thoroughly enjoyed it--even the stress--because I had to think and plan so much. Success is immensely gratifying. It's set up for an XCOM 3, and I will definitely play, but hopefully will be better at it from the get-go!
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    [July 7, 2022 12:19:23 PM]
    XCOM 2 is brutal and I freaking love it. I have no idea how far I am through the game. Halfway? But I almost LOST and it had me so scared. XCOM 2 has a metagame with a lose state. The aliens are working on something called the Avatar project which, if completed, ends the game. They make advances on the project that fill a progress bar on the top of the geoscape screen. I am not entirely sure of the rules governing when and why they make progress. It seems they randomly build a new facility or complete some research. Right now, there is a "Dark Event" I can see that the aliens have queued that, if I don't address it within the month, will add two ticks to the progress bar. I am also not entirely sure of the rules governing when and why I can decrease the progress bar. I know that by completing (some?) main story missions, attacking black sites, attacking research facilities, and so on, one or two ticks on the bar will go away. This "add two ticks to the progress bar" Dark Event has me worried because often you have to choose which of the Dark Events to deal with, and the progress bar only has three empty ticks left. This would bring me to within one tick of losing. Usually there are three Dark Events queued at a time, and they all introduce problems. This is certainly the most pressing right now, but I have to wait for the game to give me the mission to stop the Dark Event. I don't know if it always does! I've had to let several Dark Events happen. Currently, for example, the aliens have beefed up their encryptions and I am burdened with 100% intel costs, which means that contacting new regions is very expensive. But I need to contact new regions because the aliens have built research facilities there. I need to destroy the research facilities to bring the progress bar down. So, the progress bar will keep going up unless I can make contact with new regions, which currently requires double the intel. Will I be able to gather enough intel to contact the new regions and destroy the research facilities before they complete the Avatar project?! Aaah!

    I learned quickly that there are never enough resources to spare. I am always short. I have a laundry list of upgrades to make to armor and weaponry, research, buildings, communications, that all seem urgent. This is a game of baby steps and meeting a hundred little goals along the way, each of which feels monumental. And since you could have used every upgrade last week, everything feels like it comes too late yet just in time. For example, I recently completed research on magnetic weapons technology, which unlocks the purchase of magnetic varieties of common weapons (assault rifles, shotguns, pistols). This was huge, increasing firearms damage by about 33%. Enemies already use these weapons, so finally I am on par again! Well...except that you don't just "get" the weapons. You have to buy the upgrades after conducting the research. I bought assault rifles first since that's the standard loadout for rookie soldiers (all soldiers begin as unclassed rookies) and the Specialist class. That got me through a mission, which rewarded me with enough cash to upgrade shotguns, which I have equipped on my Rangers, who are killing machines. I skipped pistols because they are only used as secondary weapons for Sharpshooters and instead started researching gauss technology, which will let me upgrade cannons (Grenadier class) and sniper rifles (Sharpshooters). They already dealt the most damage (except for my Ranger killing machines), so I figured they could wait. But I also really need to upgrade armor because I do occasionally get one-shot. In the last mission I ran, an Advent Trooper shot my Sharpshooter for 7. One-shot kill! Of course I reloaded. Death is permanent and this game lets you save scum, which I am not above doing. Or at least, I was above doing until I almost lost the game. But I don't have money for any of these upgrades! I'm three ticks on the progress bar away from losing (again), and I desperately need to spend my resources on contacting new regions, recruiting resistance members, and destroying research facilities.

    Here is the story about how I almost lost. I've described how you decrease the aliens' progress on the Advent project by destroying research facilities. They had built three, all in regions of the world I had yet to contact. You have to spend intel to contact regions before you can attack the research facility. But let's break down all the things I didn't know until the progress bar had almost filled! I had three ticks left on the progress bar, as I do now. I didn't understand that "regions available for contact" was a resource limited by your communications buildings. You need to build comms in order to enhance your capacity to maintain contact with more regions. When I realized this, I didn't have any free space on my ship to build comms. I had to use engineers to clear debris from empty rooms. This took perhaps 10 days to clear debris. In that time, the aliens filled the progress bar another tick. Down to two! But oh no! Comms cost 3 power to build and I only had 2 power, so I needed first to build a power relay. I assigned an engineer to begin clearing another room and assigned a second engineer to build a power relay. This took another 10 or so days to complete. Another tick on the progress bar. One tick left. I am freaking out. Power relay complete, build a comms station. 10 more days. Comms station is built and I still have one tick left! This might be doable! I traveled to the region I needed to contact, paid 30 intel. 3-5 days to contact the region. Shit, shit, shit. Miraculously, the aliens made no more progress. Region contacted! The research facility is actually one more region over. I knew that, but didn't know that intel costs to contact new regions increase the farther you are from your home base. Shit, shit, shit. I have 30 intel, but not the 60 required for contacting a more distant region. How do I get intel?! I googled this. Some missions, hacking certain enemies, and going back to your home base to scan for intel, which passes time, are all options. I flew back home and started scanning. One day. Two days. *ALERT! The Aliens have made progress on the Advent project!* I thought it was game over. I was ready to start over with all the knowledge I learned during this failed run. But a timer appeared for 20 days. I had 20 days left to delay the Avatar project! I scanned for a few more days to gather enough intel, flew back to the region, made contact, blew up the research facility. The progress bar ticked down by 2 and that seems to have buoyed me. I breathed a massive sigh of relief.

    I haven't been almost dead since then. Now that I understand power and contact resources, I can plan ahead better, though my soldiers feel underpowered and I have had some terrifying missions, including some painful solder deaths, like my SPARK mech and a pretty advanced Grenadier. Recently, I had to attempt a couple missions while short on squad members. One I had to try with 4 (of 6) soldiers. I went sloooow and steady (luckily it was an untimed mission) and actually beat it with only one soldier getting injured. When soldiers get injured, they take time to recover (sometimes over 20 days!), and you can't use them during this time. This is why I had 4 soldiers to take on that one mission; everyone else was recovering. Playing safe is really important because otherwise, you will end missions with a full squad of injured soldiers. Then on your next mission, if it's thrown at you quickly, you'll have to rely on your benchwarmers and have far fewer options to build a good team for the mission. The biggest factor in playing safe is using cover. Your soldiers are either out of cover, in half cover, or in full cover. Shots have a +20% chance to miss against a unit in half cover and +40% in full cover. Full cover is GOOD. I read advice somewhere that said "half cover is no cover at all." I position units in full cover whenever possible. You can also flank and be flanked, which enhances hit % and critical hit chance. Never end your turn out of cover and do not let enemies flank you. They will ruin you!

    Another wrench in my plans is when the game (randomly?) puts a boss in missions. There are three escaped alien science experiments that occasionally appear. They always take me by surprise. The first one is a scripted story mission that sets up these bosses. It is a Viper variant with two full rows of health. I don't even know how much that is. 30? 40 ticks of health? Enemy soldiers right now have probably 7 health on average, for comparison. Oh, and bosses aren't alone. They come out with other enemies too. I actually did a good job against the Viper. After depleting one full row of health, he opened up a portal and ran. The game hints that you'll see him again and finish him later. Well, I did see him again and finished him off. Then I encountered another boss, a hulking Berserker who gets a move after EVERY action you take. Not every unit's turn. Every ACTION. You move. He takes an action. You shoot. He takes an action. You reload. He takes an action. This thing has three full rows of health. He obliterated me the first time and it took me several tries to learn. This may have been the mission where I lost my SPARK unit and/or my Grenadier, and I am sure that everyone else was injured. He also warps out when you deplete a row of health. The second time he appeared was actually when I had a squad of four, but I noticed that he was--as a berserker might do--attacking anything in sight. I just set up an ambush, let him rampage around and kill all the other enemies, then focused fire to quickly bring him down a row of health. Poof, warped away, and I even knocked out a good chunk of his final row as he ran. During my last session, I encountered him again in a mission, but saved and quit there. He's far away and has two enemies patrolling with him, and I've got a strong squad on this mission, so I should be able to take him out pretty easily. But there's a third monster somewhere, and he might appear at the worst possible time! As with everything else in this game, all you can do is methodically prepare and hope that you're ready for what it decides to throw at you.

    Hopefully I have a game victory to report in short order!
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    dkirschner's XCOM 2 (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 28 June, 2022

    GameLog closed on: Friday 22 July, 2022

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Granddaddy of tactical games. Loving it. --------- Very difficult, but easier toward the end with upgrades. Intense decision-making. Great game!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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