544885_largerCan't go to the beach because it's covered in Chryssalids? Tired of 98 pound Sectoids kicking plasma in your face? Worry not, friend. Colonel Atlas has a plan for you.

The learning curve on Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown [$9.99] isn't as steep as on Julian Gollup's original, but there's a lot of depth to this game, and the interplay between the game's tactical combat and resource management layers is crucial to success. Like the original X-Com / UFO: Enemy Unknown, you can lose this game by inches, working yourself into an unmanageable position with terror levels rising across the world.

Even if you win all of your battles, you can still lose the war by failing to make progress toward assimilating alien technology and understanding their goals.

Combat 101

  • Tanks, but no Tanks XCOM is a turn-based cover shooter. Armor helps your units survive one, maybe two hits, that's it. An exposed squaddie is a dead squaddie. Even the heaviest of your SHIV support vehicles can easily get toasted in a single round.
  • The Best Defense is a Cautious Offense - at the same time, rushing headlong toward the enemy, even to claim a kill before they get to act, invites tragedy. Advance slowly, from cover to cover, and plan on leaving a few of your units with good line of sight free for overwatch (response) attacks.


  • Work the Numbers - pay attention to your to-hit chances. Cover works both ways, so if you've got a low-probability shot, you're often better off taking overwatch and hoping your enemy steps into view. Also remember that a height advantage makes it easier to land hits and harder to get hit, and that units in smoke are harder to hit, but suffer no penalty to their own attacks (unless the enemy is also in the smoke cloud, a tactic the AI favors).

Base Basics

  • Excavate Early and Often - dig out empty space before you need it, as building new facilities takes a long time, and you don't want to have to wait extra days to clear the room you need for that new thermal power plant or psionic training facility.
  • Eye in the Sky, Money in the Bank - it takes about 20 days to build a Satellite Uplink facility, and just as long to build the satellites themselves, which the game won't let you do until you have uplink capacity for them, so plan ahead and make this a top priority at the beginning of a new game. Also, make sure you order at least one interceptor (from the Hanger) for each continent you're launching satellites over, so you can protect them.
  • Engineers Rule, Scientists Drool - you need more engineers than scientists. At least twice as many engineers and workshops. Between Foundry Upgrades and building gear, you'll use them more, and the cost per item, in terms of alloys and Elerium as well as credits, is based on how many engineers and workshops you have. As if that wasn't enough, certain items and upgrades require a minimum number of engineers.
  • Training Day, Officer Hoyt - as soon as you can (right after the first mission on Normal difficulty) buy the Wet Work ability in Officer Training. +25% XP gain is something you can't live without. Upgrade your squad size immediately when you unlock those training options. There's one other bit of training you need as soon as you can get it: the automatic Rookie level-up to Squaddie, so when you get new troops, you immediately know what they're good for, instead of having to take them into combat with no skills once or twice just to find out their character class.

Human Resources

  • Support - don't underestimate the Support squaddie. If I had to pick just one class to play the entire game with, it'd be Support. If you have a dedicated medic, you'll want a Support unit for that job, but that's not all. Support units with more combat oriented skills are the best scouts and medium-range fighters in the game, with high versatility and my single favorite ability: high-level Support squaddies get an extra accessory slot, and a properly kitted-out Support unit can fill any role. Treasure a Support unit with Psionic talent: that piece of the puzzle makes a medic into a one-soldier hospital and headshrinker, and turns a combat Support squaddie into (IMHO) the deadliest unit in the game.


  • Sniper - there are a couple of classes that you can nerf if you take the wrong ability early on: for my money, a Sniper's not a sniper until (and unless) they get Squad Sight, allowing them to target enemies in any of your units' spotting radius as long as they have line of sight. If you then take the Gunslinger ability at your next level up, you can then use your sidearm to devastating effect after moving, negating the value of the Snap Short ability  A well-placed Sniper is your long-range, fire support, and defensive umbrella (on overwatch) all in one. The weaknesses of this class are that you will more-or-less always want to equip them with a Scope, foreclosing any other use of their Accessory slot, and that the best sniper rifle can only be built (at great cost) not captured from the enemy.
  • Heavy - the second time the Heavy levels up, the Bullet Swarm ability can be chosen. Forget Holo-Targeting, take Bullet Swarm. The game's description makes it sound like this ability allows you to move after firing, but it's much more useful than that: as long as your first action is a basic attack, you can do anything with your second "move" including making two attacks in the same turn, attacking and going on overwatch, or even firing your gun and then launching a rocket. This makes your Heavy soldiers into the rooks of XCOM: place them well at the end of your turn, and they can unleash hell the following round.
  • Assault - these are your close-in fighters, or depending on the abilities you select and their equipment loadout, strong mid-range riflemen. The game says that "most" of your squaddies will be Assault-class, but that's a scurrilous lie. About 25% of your new recruits will be Assault-class, the same as any other type. That matters, as your Assault units are more likely to get killed than any other type, especially until you get some decent armor. If you're optimizing an Assault squaddie for close combat (close = shotgun), focus on defensive abilities - they'll need them. The mid-range variant can focus more on damage boosting abilities.


Intermediate Tactics

  • Set to Stun - alien weapons have a deadman switch: kill that Sectoid, and his gun bursts into fragments. If you stun him, however, that plasma weapon is now yours. This is by far the easiest way to outfit an entire team with plasma guns, but your Arc Projector caps out at a 70% chance to hit. The advanced Arc Projector project boosts that chance all the way up to a maximum of 95%, making it the most essential upgrade in the Foundry.
  • Blast 'em - the Blaster launcher shoots a smart bomb that can literally turn corners to hit its target, but this powerful replacement for the Rocket Launcher is a hidden piece of tech. You have to research enemy fusion cores to get it, and those are only found on their battleships. If you're doing well, you might not be seeing battleships: to lure one out, ignore a regular contact with a UFO and wait. There's a good chance a battleship will show up next to take advantage of your lassitude. Now all you have to do is shoot it out of the sky and take out its entire crew. Cakewalk.
  • Out of the Frying Pan - Suppressing fire (Heavy, Support, SHIV) is a good way to reduce the threat value of an enemy you can't take out this turn, but it has more uses than that. You can use it as a more focused alternative to overwatch, and to negate an enemy's reaction fire (especially valuable against Muton Elites and Sectopods). But there's one more combo that's less obvious: Suppression allows you to take a reaction shot on your turn. When an enemy has good cover, you can use the Assault unit's Flush ability to inflict a little pain and force them to move. The problem is that flushed enemies tend to move to another hiding spot. However, if you have one or more units suppressing the enemy before you Flush them, they will all take their shots as soon as the target is exposed. Squish.
  • Hushabye Muton - the Ghost Armor may seem underpowered, as you can only go invisible four times per mission, the effects only last one turn, and are lost if you open fire. If going invisible took an action, the suit would be nearly useless, but "stealthing" is the only free action in the game. The enemy completely ignores invisible units, offering unprecedented new strategies (my measure for great ability and gear). Ghost Armor is great for scouts (usually Support or Assault units), and can provide your Sniper with a little extra security, but it's best used to set up flanking attacks and ambushes. It may sound paradoxical, but Ghost Armor was made for the Heavy squaddie. Go invisible, waltz right past enemy lines, and then open fire the next turn. If you position yourself well, you'll be able to make two flanking attacks (with Bullet Storm) and they'll never know what hit them.

In the end, a large part of the fun of XCOM is coming up with your own squads and strategies. These tips should help you get going and avoid missing key advantages. Advanced strategy is all up to you: you may find a way to make Holo-Targeting pay off, or a mind-blowing combination involving smoke grenades and Archangel armor. You can share your favorite strategies and tactics in the forum or in the comments below.

  • Eseres

    Do this X-COM game really cost 19.99? Thats 150 NOK, man 😛
    This game better not have any IAP crap, because that would make me flip the F out LOL! Okey, from jokes and over to pump-action-shotgun.
    How many people downloaded this game, and how many of them was happy spending that amount of money on it? Was it worth it?

    I don't mind spending a mountain of money on a game, as long as its good and have NO iap. Game developers needs food, clothes and a roof over their head too 😉


    • Jake7905

      Yes, it's 20 bucks and it's well worth the price of admission. It's the full game, no IAP's, and takes a LONG time to complete. (Along with plenty of replay value) To get the complete picture head over the the TA Forums, you'll find a ton of helpful user feedback.

    • Lzyslckr

      Nope, no IAP. But on some IOS devices there *wiil* be crashes so save often.

    • Bool Zero

      Totally worth the price. Folks on 3DS and Vitas debatably don't get games as good as this one and pay twice as much... iOS gamers have been spoiled by the .99¢ standard and seem to not consider that there are still full fledged gaming experiences being made. This is a port of an awesome PC and console game that came out a little over a year ago. It is well worth the price of admission (admittedly, for a certain demographic of gamers) and simply reading some online reviews and watching some videos will determine if this is a game for you or not. I personally own this game on three platforms (PC, 360 and iPad) as I deemed it worth it; a thing I don't do for most games even if I like the game a lot. For genre fans this is the upper echelon of the genre and a must own, even with its minor bugs and occasional crashes on iPad 2.

      If more games of this quality appeared on iOS mobile platform I would have no issue paying $20 for games. In fact, I'd encourage it as I am tiring of the .99¢ disposable game model. Its nice to get a full featured game from time to time instead of endless runner 9999 or social farm builder timer sink 12,000,000...

      • Birth1118

        Bought the same game for three times? Wow man you're a real fan. Pity though we can't have the saves synchronized amongst different platforms like hero academy did.

    • bilboad

      This is a full port of a game that was just released for PC and Xbox last year. It is the full game with no IAP. It currently costs $40 on XBLA, so $20 is actually a great deal. This is a huge game, with much more content and complexity than most iOS games. If you like turn based strategy games, this is one of the best games of the genre on any platform.

      • Boris Yankov

        Still, it was $9.99 on Steam two weeks ago, and free with PSN+ Subscription.

      • bilboad

        How long was it out on PC before it dropped to that price? In any case that was just a temporary sale. It's back up to $40 on Steam, which shows that $20 is a very fair price for it, which is all my point was. When it's been out as long on iOS and they've had a chance to make back the money they spent on the port, I'm sure they'll have a sale on the iOS version as well. If you really don't want to spend $20 on it then wait for it to go on sale.

      • Boris Yankov

        Fair point.
        In my case, I really want to play it on my iPad, but I already have it on PS3, and am kinda reluctant to give $25 (because it is 18 EUR in European app store).
        Hopefully it will be on sale soon. Great game, no doubt about this.

    • SpacePenguinBot

      XCOM was a game of the year award winner for 2012 on console and PC. It cost $60 at launch. You won't find another game like that on the App Store at any price.

      Regarding IAP: There has been some payed DLC for the game on consoles/PC (released after launch) that was not included in the iPad version, so there may be additional content for purchase later on. You won't see any of the "IAP to make the game not suck" kind of thing you see in free games though.

    • pajman sarafzadeh

      probably the best game to make it to IOS, worth every penny. No IAP BS but i would not try it on less than an IPAD 3 or IPhone 4S. its a beast

  • Jake7905

    Though this mini strategy guide will definitely help those new to XCOM, I found there was a lot of fun to be had figuring out successful strategies on my own, using trial and error.

    The best game on IOS.

    • bilboad

      Agreed. This seems like a really helpful guide, and I appreciate it. But I stopped reading after the first few tips, because I really like figuring these things out as I'm playing the game. One of my guys gets killed, and then I realize "Oh, if I'd done this particular thing differently that would have been a lot less likely to happen", and then when I put my new tactic in practice and actually do better it's very satisfying.
      I will definitely bookmark this article though, in case I hit a plateau and am not improving anymore.

      • Jake7905

        100% agree with everything you said.

    • anabolicMike

      Good call on figuring things out on your own. I don't agree with the best game on IOS though. Sure it rocks but that title goes to Kings of Dragon Pass. That game snuck out of no where and punched me in the face with awesomeness lol

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        King of Dragon Pass?!?!? Uh... nope. Regret buying that dud, even though highly rec'd by TA.

  • Kirs

    Damit! For a minute, I thought this was going to be news about an update! Need add on content....cant wait..

  • pantoneblack

    Archangel Armor + Squad Site Sniper = Death from above. Seriously changed my game after getting that armor. Almost feels to easy at least in open terrain.

    • Birth1118

      How so? I thought the skeleton armor and the damn good ground have already made a sniper a killing machine. The flying ability only weakens it.

    • Kirs

      Yes. Thats my mandatory sniper loadout as well. I use Assault heavily as well...Ghost Armor+Shotgun from Stealth flanks and Crit perks, almost game breaking when combined...:p

  • shortandnoisy

    A lot of good tips in there, but some mistakes too.

    You can make satellites without any uplink capacity, the warning that shows in the engineering menu doesn't try and stop you any further than saying you won't be able to launch.

    Bullet swarm doesn't let you shoot then use a rocket, you get the same text as if you'd tried to move then use your launcher. You also can't use your launcher then shoot.

    I'm not sure if going invisible with the ghost armour is the only action that doesn't take a move, is taking off with the archangel armour not the same too? Not sure and lost the save where I had researched to it, so I can't check.

    Another good way to use snipers is snap shot, ghost armour and when they're high enough, in the zone. In one turn a well equipped sniper can kill enough aliens to empty his rifle, and still have a turn left to get into cover/go invisible/reload.

    • Scaramouche

      "In the zone" is almost OP, IMHO.

      Doesn't stop me from using it.

  • Alexythimia23

    For anyone wondering? I had second thoughts of spending this amount of money as I'm not a massive turn based fan, but as it turns out this was a 24 carat corker of a move on my part lol this game is not only kick ass fun but a hell of an experience that i wont forget, to the point in 20 years time i can safely look back on when i bought this game and think, remember when xcom was released on iPad back in the day when aaa games were a rarity? Well i do and it was an awesome game lol so if an experience like this is not worth 20 dollars or 14 pounds etc i don't know what the hell is!

    • Achilles Gabon

      I can safely say the same in as far as "looking back 20 years". This was an awesome game 20 years ago with UFO/XCOM Enemy Unknown as a DOS platform- turn based game. The recent refresh had just made it even better with a WHOLE LOT of improvements. Up to the about a couple of years before this XCOM (2012) was released, I was still playing the original XCom and it's other follow through in the series. 2012 would have been about nearly 20 years since i FIRST played the original UFO/XCOM game.
      This is awesome and well worth the money.... too bad i can't earn more time like I do money.... =)

  • BobCat5142

    A little help with non combat related things please

  • rewyan

    Has 2K been living under a rock? Mobile games don't cost 20 bucks. As good as a game may be, it just looks ridiculous being $20 on an App Store where quality games should cost around $5

    • SpacePenguinBot

      Those $5 games are only "quality" compared to the free games. Compared to AAA console titles, they aren't so hot. XCOM was a game of the year (2012) on consoles and PC that sold for $60 at release. You won't find another game like that on the App Store for any price.

    • toxiccheese

      Are you living under a rock? This game is worth way more than the $20 price tag. I've played it on Mac and now my iPad. Both experiences have been amazing. I'll gladly pay $20 for a game on iOS as long as the quality and gameplay are up to par with this level of gameplay. iOS needs more devs like this... Devs who aren't afraid to price their quality games accordingly.

    • Rusothil


    • flashbackflip

      Go play your freemium bullsht

  • SpacePenguinBot

    "it takes about 20 days to build a Satellite Uplink facility, and just as long to build the satellites themselves, which the game won't let you do until you have uplink capacity for them"

    This is false. The game warns you that you don't have uplink capacity, but you can build them anyway.

  • thematrixx

    A game of this calibre with no IAP crap?! Well worth the price!!

  • Sekelani

    This game is the best game on the App Store. It's worth the $20. I read countless reviews and did extensive research.
    To all the people thinking twice about purchasing the game. Go for it. I have an iPhone 5 64 gig. And it works smoothly. Countless hours. GO GET IT MATES!!!

  • http://www.yepi2.info/ Yepi 2

    An image like so alien. it will be interesting I will try it. thank you

  • Zephram

    I've done extensive fact checking, and it seems most sectoids are in the 70 lb. range. (Not 98, sheesh!). ....Well, there is Lloyd, though I believe he may have undergone head enhancement surgery.(Sectoid chicks love a lot of head).

  • jForsythe

    Can you get the Super Soliders like on the console or PC version.?

    • Bool Zero

      Yes, you have to register through the game or link your account and then you can type in all the names just like the PC version.

  • tinkie277

    I have to say this is in my top 3 games on iOS! Very addictive, just desperate for the multiplayer add on!! I would pay this for every game if I meant it didn't have the IAP!!!

  • Eseres

    Okey, guys. You all conviced me to DL this game asap 🙂
    I want to thank everybody for all the feedback on this one.
    And yes, for a full quality game, 20 buck is really nothing at all.
    I also hope these kind of games will become more frequent on mobile devices.

    • tinkie277

      Get it, honestly you won't regret it.

  • knowsnothing

    Xcom wikia has some great advice on squad tactics.

    I've got my six soldiers divided into two moving groups, each with one assault, one support, and a heavy or sniper.