NKF's X-COM Apocalypse: Starter's Guide
NKF's X-COM Apocalypse: Starters Guide
An article by NKF (seriously, it has his handle in the title)
Spelling/grammatical error are present throughout this article. Though the primary focus is the content, the errors will be flattened out as they are found. Much of the current content is at present being committed directly from memory with no direct reference from th e game.
For first time players, starting an X-COM Apocalypse game can be very difficult. Even veteran players of the first two games or the reboot may find the game to be a challenge to understand. Thankfully the concepts and ideas of the game are easy enough to grasp. But where do we begin? There's so much to start with. This guide will help guide you through the first mission, air skirmish and hopefully give you an idea of what to expect afterwards.
What this guide is not:
It is not a complete start to end walk-through. It is a guide to help new or returning players get up and running with the game.
It is not meant to be a replacement for the game manual. Players are assumed to know most of the essential interface commands and how to get to the various interfaces such as they buy-sell and research interfaces.
It does not tell which of the many McGuffins are considered to be the best, since everyone will their own way of playing the game. What equipment, vehicles, troops, etc you want to use will be entirely up to you.
Also, this guide is not a technical guide and assumes that you can actually get the game to run.
Baby Steps: Starting the game
Starting a new campaign is generally a simple task of picking the right difficulty level and jumping right into the action. But then there are some nutters out there that are pedantic about the starting conditions and must have them a certain way.
Choosing a Difficulty Level
If you just want to start the game right away and not worry about too much about what you start with, head to the next section, otherwise read on.
The main reason to deliberate on what difficulty level to play is, as per its name, the difficulty. To increase or decrease the challenge by increasing the number and strength of the enemies that you face. There are also a variety of other factors that difficulty will influence, many can be advantageous or pose an additional challenge. They are:
- Score Progression: The number of enemies you fight in combat directly influences how quickly you will increase your score. On easier levels, less enemies will mean a slower raise in score. Inversely, on harder levels the larger number of enemies will make make the score raise faster.
- Alien Tech levels: Difficulty level will influence how soon or how late the various pieces of technology are unlocked by your accumulated score level. Easier levels have much higher score requirements, while harder levels have lower score requirements. Combined with the last point on score progression, technology unlock will unlock very slowly on easier levels, while it unlocks faster on harder levels.
- The Map and base sites : Difficulty will determine which of the 5 city maps that you will be playing on. Each map has a unique layout for its many buildings and infrastructure. Additionally, the more difficult the level, the more base site locations you'll have available to buy. On easy, you can build up to 6 bases. On Superhuman, up to 8.
- Starting Relations : X-Com will have slightly improved starting relations with some organizations on easier levels.
Your first base
Once you have selected the difficulty, the game will start and automatically buy your first base. You cannot select which base you will get. The game will insteady randomly pick one of the available bases on the map. The select will mainly be between the first three or four of the possible choices. All agents, tech staff and base facility placement will be randomised. Only the starting vehicles, agent equipment and the types of starting base modules will remain the same between each game.
You can meddle with fate somewhat by doing a base scrum and re-randomised evertyhing. Do this by restarting the game on the desired difficulty level over and over until you get the base configuration you like the best.
Please don't spend too much time doing this if you can't get the results you are after. Due to the sheer number of variables such as the location, layout, agent stats, etc, you are very unlikely to get the perfect setup. Pick one that is acceptable and get on with the game.
Base Types: Finding the Perfect Home
So, what types of bases can you get and how will they work as your first base?
Bases are mainly differentiated by the top-side building, its public face, and the interior corridor layout. There are also the number of launch ports and the physical location of the base in the city, though these features are not as important.
There are two types of buildings that X-Com bases can be built under. Slums and Warehouses.
- Slums are massive buildings that tend to span large areas. Structurally, slum building segments are very weak and will get destroyed very to light attacks. If your slum is attached to any adjacent buildings, they too will suffer a collapse should any part of your building fall. On the other hand, slum blocks provide large building area for facilities, making them excellent for constructing large multi-purpose bases. Slums essentially offer space at the the cost of defense. If you plan to only use one base through the game, a slum is a good choice.
- Warehouses are the opposite of slums. They are smaller but the external buildings are sturdy and can withstand more damage. The interior layouts are quite varied and tend to be small and constricted. Despite this they are well set up for defense and many appear to be designed for the various 2 × 2 facilities. If you choose to use a warehouse as your main base, you will very likely need to buy additional bases as the game progresses so that you can further expand your research or engineering.
The different base locations offer a variety of corridor layouts. The layout will determine how many facilities you can build and how well you can control the flow of enemies through the base.
The above are examples of the Warehouse layouts. They are small and this restricts the number of facilities that can be built in them. They do feature central defensive choke point or tight passages that enemies are forced to funnel through to get into the base. A cluster of security stations provide excellent protection for these bases.
The Grav-lift is located centrally on most of these maps.
The above are examples of the Slum layouts. They feature large floor plans with plenty of building space. This makes them suitable for large all-purpose bases. The downside to the larger space is that agents and technical staff will be spread all over the base in the event the base is attacked. This can put individual agents or techs in extremely vulnerable positions should they start isolated near any of the enemy access points. Enemies will have lots of ways to infiltrate the base as well.
Grav-lifts are often placed off to the side of these maps. This is advantageous. By moving the repair bay next to the grav-lift and cordoning off the area with security stations, this will provide better control of where enemies can enter the base.
Note that even by restarting the game over and over, you will not be able to select every possible layout available on the map. You will be limited to the layouts of the bases the game decides to select.
A bit of Housekeeping
Huzzah, you've bought your base! Now you can jump right into the fun and get started with the game. From here the choices of what you want to do are very open ended and need not follow any particular order. For the sake of this guide, we'll assume you'll want to first inspect what's in your base. We'll start by looking at the base itself and everything in it from the vehicles, the soldiers, Techs and etcetera.
The very first thing you may want to look at is how much money you have. Money is very tight during the early stages of the game, and your success will hinge on how well you can manage your bank balance until you are able to sustain yourself via other means.
Once you've done that, head on over to the base screen.
Touring the base
The base screen allows you to manage and redesign your base. It is also a hub that lets you access other various functions such as research, trading and managing your troops and vehicles.
Have a look at the facilities in your new base. You will find that is has come equipped with all the facilities you need to get you through the first few days of the game. Due to the random placement of the modules, it will likely look like a mess. You can adjust the base as you play.
From here you might want to take a moment to make plans and decide how you would like to shape the base as you progress through the game. Decide, for example, what parts of the base you will want to clear up to make room for any of the more advanced facilities that you'll be wanting to build. You may also want to think about where you would like to install security stations. (Refer to the in-game Ufopedia for information on the various facilities if you are unfamiliar with their functions.)
You can start adding some of the new modules now if you want, though it is not strictly necessary at this stage. You will not have made any enemies yet, so you are safe from retaliation for the time being.
Hovering your mouse over any facility in the base area will bring up additional applicable information about it, such as current capacity.
The Toys: Vehicles
To start with, your base will come outfitted with a small fleet of vehicles for you to play with:
- Valkyrie Interceptor × 1 (non-standard, has a weaker engine than a purchased Valkyrie)
- Phoenix Hovercars× 2
- Stormdog × 1
- Wolfhound APC × 1
All the vehicles are divided into two classes, ground and air vehicles.
- Ground Vehicles
- Ground vehicles are vehicles that are restricted to traveling on the road. While blessed with an array of powerful weapons, they are restricted to the road and cannot travel to off-road sites like UFO crash sites. They suffer instantaneous death if the road directly beneath them is destroyed.
- Air Vehicles
- Air ships can fly anywhere and will likely form core of your anti-UFO fleet. Aircraft can fly at four different height levels. This is useful to avoid friendly fire or to control how misfired shots are dispersed. They do suffer nearly instantaneous death if they are caught underneath any falling debris.
Here are some of the author's thoughts on your default starting vehicles. Remember that this is merely opinion. Feel free to form your own.
- Valkyrie Interceptor
- The Valkyrie interceptor is adequate but eventually makes for a poor interceptor due to its low expandability, weak hull, size and limited weapon mounts. It does have longer weapon hard points than a Pheonix Hovercar, allowing it to arm a pair of the more powerful Lancer 7000 laser. It serves as an excellent troop transporter until you can make the advanced interdimensional ships.
- Phoenix Hovercar
- The Phoenix hovercar can be thought of as a smaller variant of the Valkyrie. It is weaker, but harder to hit due to its size. It is also much cheaper to replace if destroyed. Mixed with Hoverbikes, Hovercars provide budget-friendly air power for early UFO encounters.
- The Stormdog isn't particularly noteworthy and is ill suited to combat despite its impressive standard weapon. The Stormdog can be used as a transport around the city, but there are generally better transport alternatives. If strapped for cash, you can scalp the Stormdog off by taking it apart and selling it for more than what it sells for.
- Wolfhound APC
- Due to the road limitations, the APC is not good for combat. As the first APC is free, the Wolfhound makes for a economic troop transporter for sending a second or even third team of agents to handle multiple alien drops around the city. As it is restricted to the road, the APC will arrive after the air skirmish is well and truly over, keeping its occupants safe. But if you need the cash more, there's no great loss in stripping the free APC down and selling it.
You can inspect all your cars and planes from the vehicle inventory screen. This screen can be accessed many ways. From within the base screen or through the Cityscape interface via the vehicle tab. You can also get to it by clicking a building in the Cityscape to bring up a list of all vehicles present in the building and (left?) clicking on a specific vehicle. (Actual method needs checking )
The vehicle inventory screen is where you do all of your vehicle maintenance and modification. Any vehicle in your possession can be accessed from the long unsorted list down the side. Various vehicle vital statistics are shown on the left panel.
In the middle you will see a blue wire-frame outline of the vehicle. At the top of the will be the weapon hard points and a box in the middle for accessories. The number of weapon hard points and the size and shape of all the boxes varies depending on the type of vehicle.
A Look at the Staff
Roll call! Time to inspect the staff that are battling the evil squiggly gribbly grabbly aliens that threatening humanity (and commerce) once again. Like the vehicles, the agent equipment screen can be access through a variety of ways, from the Cityscape or base interfaces, or directly from the agent tab in the cityscape or on the agent icons in the agent/vehicle list of the building they are occupying.
The equipment screen shows your agent's vital statistics, combat history and the agent's inventory on the left. The middle has a paper doll where you can put on and take off equipment. On the right is a list of all your agents which you use to select a particular agent or for selecting a group of agents (by ctrl+clicking). The bottom of the screen shows all the available agent equipment in the base that your agents can use.
Unless you've changed your team lineup with Hybrids or Androids, you will begin the game with 10 human agents by default.
Since agents will have random stats, take some time to inspect the stats of your agents to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. To see the actual values, hover the mouse cursor over the bars you want to inspect. Don't be too disappointed if there isn't a marksman or heavy weapons expert amongst the team. There's a good variety of gear that will allow any type of agent contribute well to the battle.
The 10 starting agents will start out equipped for battle with a variety of weapons. You may find the initial setup to be inadequate to your needs, so feel free to change it. Head on over to the buy/sell screen and get some new weapons. Wait for the weapons to arrive, then come back here and start outfitting everyone.
(The rest of this section may may work better as a tips-and-tricks section - ed)
One time saving tip is to un-equip all of your agents and then start building up their common kit from scratch - all at the same time. To do this, ctrl+left click on the agent portraits until all of the agents in the base are selected. Start removing items from the visible agent's inventory. All agents in the current selection will start removing (any) items from the slots you select. Note that you may have to go through and manually remove some items.
Once all agents are unequipped, you can use this very same method to re-arm the entire squad. For now, decide on a standard kit that everyone will be using. Items such as armour, medikits and various small grenades.
For your main weapons, equip your troops manually, or use small group selections to work with particular roles.
Keep in mind that there is a finite supply of ammo in X-COM Apocalypse, Conservation of ammunition is something you must deal with. One suggestion is to use a good mixture of weapons so that you don't exhaust one type of ammo too quickly, and mix in unlimited ammo weapons like the Stun Grapple (and later Power Sword and Mind Bender).
You may want to single out agents by the strength levels to decide what equipment to arm them so you do not over-encumber them. The Speed/TU meter will show how affected each agent is when you add or remove equipment. You will always be encumbered to some degree, so you will want to minimize it as much as possible.
Lets look at the brains of the operation. The support staff are made up of quantum physicists, biologists and engineers. They can be hired and fired just like the agents.
Each person in their respective field will have a score up to 100 that determines how fast they can work. The higher the number, the faster research is done or the faster something can be manufactured.
Since you've just started, there is not a lot do in any of the tech department except for the Biochemistry lab. You will have access to the Bio Transport module. This is a storage module that you can install on your troop carrier that lets you ferry captured aliens and corpses from the battlefield to a alien containment facility. Research on the aliens and their biology is vital to winning the game, so you may as well get this started right away.
In the long run, you will want to hand pick the techs with the greatest scores. However, at the start make do with whatever is available as it is best to have the work flowing than not at all.
The First Mission : The Alert
After you've had your fill inspecting and setting up your operations, there little else you can do but wait. This is because you have no idea where the aliens are at this point in time. Use the time compression settings to let time pass and you'll eventually get a distress call alerting you to an alien presence somewhere in the city.
The siren is a bad sign and one you want to avoid as much as possible. This indicates that the alien infestation in a building has reached a point that it has started to cause concern amongst the residents. The siren will also put a red circle around the affected building when you look at the overhead map. This circle will shrink as time goes by.
Later on you'll be able to track down alien infestation sites the moment the aliens are dropped into the buildings. However, unless you save and reload, there's no way to avoid the first mission from announcing itself with an alert siren.
After the siren has sounded, you'll get to choose to launch your ships to investigate. If you need more time to do something before the mission, you can abort the launch. Just remember not to let too much time pass before you go to investigate.
Once your ship arrives at the building, click on the building and click on the ship to highlight the ship and all the agents that are on board. Down the right side of the screen you will have options to Investigate or Raid the building. What do these options mean?
Investigate will cause your troops to do a search of the building for aliens. If any aliens are present in the building, your troops will enter the map and you can start hunting for the aliens. If no aliens are in the building, it will cause a minor negative relations hit with the owners of the building. Since this is your first battle and there will clearly be aliens in the first building, this is the option you will be using.
The Raid button instigates a hostile action that will cause you to enter the map and fight against the building security guards. Any aliens in the building will also appear. AS soon as you do any harm to the security guards, they will turn hostile on you. This will cause a severe relations penalty once you complete the mission, but is a good way to get a lot of equipment to use or sell. You do not want to use this option for investigations.
The First Mission : The Choice
When you arrive at the site and start the investigation, you'll be given the very important choice of choosing between turn based and (pausable)real-time combat mode. Each mode has its advantages and quirks.
The choice game mode is a major topic that can cause schisms amongst X-COM fans. The game does appear to be developed more for its real-time combat mode however its turn-base mode is functional and plays reasonably well. The best solution to this dilemma is to experiment with both modes until you find that you are most comfortable with.
Alternately go with the complete opposite of what you're familiar with. Experiencing the culture shock early and mastering the system will be beneficial in the long run.
For veterans of the first two X-COM games in the original trilogy that are new to Apocalypse, the turn based mode is very different from the earlier title.
Your First Mission: The Mission
The very first mission is a simple hunt for some Anthropods and Brainsuckers. The Anthropods will only be armed with Brainsucker launchers and are not armed with any weapons that can deal physical harm to you.
Though easy, don't get too complacent as Brainsuckers can let the aliens permanently take control over agents. If this happens you will have to contend with live rounds. The agent will effectively be dead and can never be recovered.
As soon as all the Anthropods and Brainsuckers are either dead or have fled the combat zone, you'll win the the mission.
If you wanted to completely confound the aliens on this mission, you could opt to send in a lone or all android team. As you will be able to walk about unhindered for this mission. it's an excellent opportunity for you to practice the various interface controls to see what does what and how to move the agent around.
In real-time, you should also take the opportunity to adjust the auto-pause settings to your liking.
Your First Air Skirmish - or Not
After your first mission, there'll be no more alien sightings. You can then rest up and let time pass until the alien's make their next move.
When the aliens do make their move, they will launch a small fleet of probe and scout UFOs through the three dimension gates that you've probably noticed floating about the city.
Skip the next lot of preamble if you're already familiar with how the UFOs are organized.
Mushroom saucers Hierarchy
Though these are not official game terminologies, and are just some the author has made up, UFOs appear to fall into two distinct roles. Escorts and drop-ships.
Those are the two most common ship roles you will encounter. Later you will also encounter aggressive attack UFOs that will come into the city to destroy certain buildings.
A dropship is a UFO that transports and drop aliens into a building. They are the ones that pop into the city and fly to a building, beam down aliens and then make a mad dash for the nearest dimension gate. Later in the game, on rare occasions you will get a sparkly blue beam which has been coined 'Micronoid Rain'. No aliens are dropped but there's a chance the organization will get infiltrated instantly. Later on, the larger capital ship will also drop Overspawn to inflict damage to the city.
Escorts are fighter type UFOs that function solely to protect Dropships. Escorts (the role, not the UFO type) typically consist of very heavily armed UFOs that make mincemeat out of your starting vehicles and equipment. They attack nearby enemies. When the dropship has fled or has been destroyed, they will flee to the nearest dimension gate.
Later in the game you will get the two capital ships. The Battleship and Mothership. They are quite variable in their roles. These typically fill the dropship role but also have some serious offensive capabilities to protect themselves and have minimal or even no escorts. When they appear together, the battleship escorts the mothership.
The entry point of each UFO is unpredictable, as each time a UFO materializes, the game will call on the random number generator to decide on which gate to come through. This can lead to UFOs appearing all over the city. No matter where they materialize, UFOs acting as escorts will attempt to link up with the dropship UFO that they are protecting.
Air Combat: For Great Justice!
So your first bunch of UFOs have been spotted. The only thing to do now is launch your ships and engage the UFOs in aerial combat.
Like your very first mission, this should also be a doozy since your opposition will consist of the type 1 and type 2 probes and scouts. They are unmanned vessels with very minimal hull strength and limited firepower. Just pick your favourite ships and they'll do fine.
A few things that can be helpful to you prior to the actual event is to set the auto-pause settings in the options so that the game halt every time a UFO enters the city. This is useful for keeping track of each UFO that come into the city. Scattering your forces at strategic points around the city is also fairly helpful at casting your net wide to catch most of the UFOs if you're not sure where they'll be entering the city. Try to balance it so that you don't end up thinning your forces too much and keep them within a short flight distance of each other. This way several ships can come to the aid of another if it is outnumbered.
While fighting, the UFOs that you want to keep the most attention on are the dropships, in this case the three Probes. Theses ship will drop enemies into a building and then flee to the nearest Dimension Gate.
Keep a thumb hovering over the space bar to pause time. Make it a habit to frequently double click on the UFO icons in the UFO tab to switch between the three probes to see what each one is doing.
If any of the dropships starts beaming aliens down, mark the building in some way or remember it and send a team there to clean up the mess immediately. Whether the UFO escapes or is destroyed at this point, the site will now have aliens in it and must be cleaned out.
One mistake that many players might fall into is to send fighter aircraft into battle with agents riding them. Vehicles in X-COM Apocalypse, though it is never disclosed how they function, fly by themselves and do not require pilots. Any agents on board are only passengers.
Later, when you get much more powerful ships that offer lots of protection and firepower, you can safely have a team tucked away on the ship so that you can immediately initiate a recovery mission after shooting down a UFO. Early in the game, the safest method is to only keep troops on a designated troop transport, and send out fighter aircraft unmanned.
Recovering the UFOs
You've shot down the UFOs, you'll want to send a vehicle with a team of agents to recover them. At this early stage you will not have to worry about attending a ground mission as these ships are unmanned. You will still need a team (minimum one agent) on board the ship to initiate the recovery.
Later in the game, once larger UFOs start appearing, they will generate UFO crash sites that you will have to battle your way through in order to secure the UFO. Unlike building sites where you can send multiple transports and pool all the agents at the site, you will only be able to send one transport in to recover these sites, so make sure you have a large transport on standby to send your agents into this type of mission.
The I-Can't-Defeat-Them approach
Okay so you may not always have the resources or firepower to deal with the UFOs. Another way is to just leave the UFOs alone. That means don't attack them. However do keep your eyes peeled and track of the dropships and note where they deposit their troops. Once the escorts are clear, send in a ground team and clear out the ground missions.
This will most definitely not by the case for your first encounter with the UFOs, but is included for future reference.
This method is a less aggressive approach that doesn't cause as much damage to the city. It does mean your agents will be busier.
If you do attempt to take this approach, remember that still need to capture at least one of several key UFO types to be able to build an interdimensional troop transporter in order to reach the alien dimension, and ultimately win the game.
Your Day Job: Bug Extermination
So you weren't successful at keeping the dropships from dropping some troops into a building. No matter - that's where your agents come in.
Load them up for any event, pop them on the transport and send it to the mission site. For normal missions, you have the luxury of splitting your teams up into any number of transports and bases and have them link up at a mission site to clear out the mission together. The one difference is for grounded UFO assaults, only one transport can be sent in at a time.
Once the transport arrives, select the team and start the mission by 'investigating'. Raiding will cause building guards to appear that you must fight. this will make the organization hostile towards you - so do not use this option unless you clearly wish to initiate hostilities while fighting the aliens at the same time.
Note that the main drop-sites that you investigate will often be the hardest and have the most enemies. There are exceptions to the rule, but the main site will often be the strongest source of alien infestation. It's imperative that you clear these out as soon as you can or else you'll have a major headache cleaning out the smaller sites through the rest of the day.
By now the aliens might be slightly better armed than before with the introduction of some non-humanoid enemies with built-in ranged attacks. Start using better tactics and make better strategic use of your weapons' various strengths. Be sure to make your agents wear a full set of armour too - if you haven't.
End the mission by either clearing the map of enemies either by killing them all or letting them flee. Other methods include getting all your agents killed, or have all your agents leave the site via the exit pads.
Get used to this bit as you'll be doing this for the rest of the game.
Beginner Mistake Another beginners trap is to get into the habit of of unload troops into a building prior to investigating it. Do not do this - agents only need to be highlighted to put them into the mission.
The reasoning behind this is simple: At the end of the mission, your ship auto-launches. Since your troops don't climb back on board the ship, they'll be left behind. In the city this isn't an issue as you can just have the ship set down and pick up the troops, or have the troops march home on foot.
Much later into the game, when you assault the alien home dimension, the consequence of your ship taking off after a mission are extremely dire. This is because the buildings get obliterated when you complete the mission, along with the launch tube that leads to the building. Since you can no longer land at the site, any agents that survived the collapse of the building will be forever stranded and can not be recovered.
After the mission: Monitoring Infiltration
Congratulations, you've cleared a site! Now you've got to deal with the other sites you've marked off. Before you leave each site, be sure to remember where they are. This can be done easily by just parking an unmanned vehicle at the building such as a Hoverbike.
Once you've cleared all the sites, your job won't be over just yet. Now you have to monitor the infiltration levels for rest of the day. Even though you cleared the main sources infestation, some aliens will will have already spread to surrounding areas.
Let the day pass in short bursts of time, of say 10 to 30 minutes. Pause and go to the graphs screen and update the top-10 infiltrated organization chart. This will be your major source of information on where the infiltration is occurring. It won't tell you exactly where, but it will let you know who is being infiltrated so that you can narrow down the source.
If you see any rise in infiltration levels, note the company that is being affected. If the rise in infiltration is very gentle, then you can probably ignore it for the time being. If it's a very sharp rise, then you must do something about it. Graph lines with hardly any rapid increase will generally peak and drop off naturally after a few hours. If they rise above the half way line, then the organization will be taken over by the aliens.
Time to sort them out! Go back to the cityscape view and open up the top-down display of the city. Open up the organization tab and select the icon of the company you wish to investigate. This will highlight all the buildings on the map that they own on the top-down map. Locate the buildings belonging to this company that are closest to the drop sites that you cleared earlier that day.
Send your team there and investigate the site. If it wasn't a mistake, then a mission will start. Clear out or chase off any aliens in this mission. Once you've cleared the site, go to any other sites that are having rising infiltration levels.
Repeat the whole process over again by letting time pass, checking the top-10 graph and investigating suspected sites. .
Once the graph lines have stopped rising, then you can start relaxing a bit as you have cleared the alien menace for the rest of the day.
Now, you might be wondering why you are doing all this active patrolling when you could just be waiting and let the authorities throw an alert at you to notify you of any threats. You can do this, however the alerts are sporadic and tend to occur late into the infestation, where it has become too widespread to the point it us unmanageable. In a sense, the alerts are indicating that you are neglecting your duties to the city and have let the infiltration spread. Ideally, apart from the first mission, you don't want to ever hear an alert again.
Before the clock ticks over to midnight, make sure any injured agent in your employ is at a base with a medical facility. 12am is when any healing is done. Any agents studying will also get the benefit of their training labs if they are at full health at this time and assigned to either lab.
Defeating the aliens, with bigger guns, and science
Well, probably not with bigger guns as the aliens haven't got any of the good stuff yet at this point. For that to happen, you need to do more missions against the aliens and build up your activity points. Or go and attack someone like the Cult of Sirius or any other organization of your choice and build up those activity points. Time is also a factor in controlling the tech level of the city guards.
At the start the only project with immediate practical value will be for the Bio Transport module. This is needed to capture aliens, which are in turn required to get bigger and better labs where you can build bigger weapons to defeat and capture bigger and badder aliens. And so goes the cycle!
Start the research on the bio transport module. When that's done, put one onto your troop transport. Capture some aliens then bring them back to the lab for analysis. That will give the bio-engineers something to work on. Tip: Invest some time in the Multiworm as it will lead to both a better lab as well as the useful Toxigun.
The Quantum mechanics generally will not have a lot do at the start, but they eventually get very busy as the aliens bring in new advanced weapons.
Until the Biochemists and quantum mechanics have more technology researched, the Engineers will probably be the worst off in terms of work at the start of the game apart.
Looking towards Future Air Skirmishes
Or getting more advanced with the air battles.
Beyond the first air battle, the aliens will gradually start sending bigger and more powerful UFOs in as you clear the technology hurdles.
From here on, you'll want to start putting more thought into preparing yourself for the future air battles, and developing strategies to cope.
One of the problems you might have found at this point is the limited coverage your base has over the city. You're stuck in one spot, yet the gates amble around all over the city.
How to solve this dilemma? Well, you can buy a new base. That has its fair share of problems, such as cost and its own positioning in the city.
The best way to clear your coverage problem is to make use of one of biggest perks X-COM gets: free parking.
Your ships can fly to and land in any building in the city. They can stay docked at the building for as long as they like without burning any of their fuel. Then when they are needed, launch and attack UFOs as they appear. When they need to be repaired, refueled and re-armed, send them back home for a few hours. Once repaired, they can be redeployed around the city.
That solves one problem, but the next problem is the increasing strength of the visiting UFOs. You can't even think to shoot them down with the few ships you have at the beginning. This means you have to start increasing your air force size and start upgrading its firepower.
A popular practice that players employ is to buy Hoverbikes and Hovercars and arm them with lots of cheap weapons like Bolter lasers, 40mm Auto Cannons, Janitor and Prophet missiles. Or if you've got the cash to spare: Lineage Plasma Cannons, the most powerful beam cannon on the market. This is a cheap way to bulk up your forces fast and it's easy to replace each ship if they get destroyed. The large numbers allows you to spread them out into small squadrons all over the city. Be aware that with lots of aircraft they they are susceptible to friendly fire. One way to avoid this is to have the aircraft fly at different elevations. Every four aircraft in a squadron can fly at a different elevation. This keeps them out of each others' way and it allows four aircraft to occupy the same city tile.
Another practice is to buy a small number of strong ships with heavy firepower like the Hawk Air Warrior, however their cost can be quite prohibitive in the first couple of weeks. Small wings of Hawk Air Warriors armed to the teeth with missiles, Lineage cannons, Lancer lasers and a missile evasion matrix can prove to be very formidable against a fair number of mid-level UFOs. Their limited numbers limit their ability to cover most of the city.
Yet another practice is a combination of the swarms and heavy hitters. A swarm is first sent in to distract a UFO, and then the heavy hitters swoop in with their heavy guns firing. This is even more costly to maintain, and a strategy that may be more viable towards that mid to late portion of the game.
Looking to Future Ground Battles
As with the UFOs, you will start noticing an increase in enemy performance on the ground. To combat this, start using your head.
You begin the game with a lot of powerful weapons, mid-level protection (by way of Megapol Armor). You get access to a wide range of advanced weapons and goods that introduce more functions such as flight (by way of Marsec torso plates) during the first few weeks into the game, or you can even pilfer them off enemy organizations. There are other useful gadgets like the mind bender and motion scanner. Use everything you can get your hands on to your advantage.
New weapons and shiny armour are good, but none of this means anything if you don't start coordinating your agents in battle. Remember: you are the center of communications for your agents. You control everything that they do and you keep an eye on everything that happens around them. If you fail in this role, your agents will only be able to do so much to protect themselves and eventually succumb to the enemy.
Get them all moving - watch what they are all doing, make sure they are always aware of what's happening around them and always take your time during any pauses/turns to issue orders. Use cover in the form of walls or smoke clouds. Think of how you can use this cover to your advantage and fight the enemies on your own turf.
Naturally all this comes with time and the more you practice. Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that the strategy will work all the time. Be flexible.
Future Technology Research
One of the most important tasks that you need to do in research is capture the type-3 Transporter UFO as quickly as you can as they are critical to wining the game, but only appear in a limited time frame. Missing out on them could that you will be unable to complete the game.
Beyond that, there's not a great deal of strategy needed for research beyond prioritizing your research to get you better offensive and defensive technologies to keep the playing field level.
Tip: For transporting stuff to be researched, storage capacity for equipment and the bio-transport module is infinite. You only need one of each type to gather everything in the field. Even base storage for equipment is infinite. However, being over capacity will prevent you from buying or transferring equipment into the base.
Future Base Expansion
As you play, you will need more room to build some of the larger tech facilities like the workshops.
(more to come)