XCOM 2 Mega Guide: Squad Setups, Skills, Loadouts, Weapons, Research And More

A complete guide for XCOM 2.

Posted By | On 10th, Feb. 2016

XCOM 2 Mega Guide: Squad Setups, Skills, Loadouts, Weapons, Research And More

Firaxis have released XCOM 2, the sequel to their 2012 hit XCOM: Enemy unknown, which in turn was a reboot of the classic PC strategy franchise. XCOM 2 is everything Enemy Unknown was, but bigger, better, and just more in general. With the decision to keep this game PC exclusive, Firaxis was freed from any considerations that might hamper their decision making, and they have been able to turn in, as a result, a game that is a modern classic of PC gaming.

XCOM 2 is a viciously difficult game- it has a lot of nuance and depth, a lot of layers to the level of tactical foresight and on the spot improvisation that it demands from the player. The true mark of an XCOM player is getting through the entire game- without any help whatsoever. But at the same time, there’s no shame in turning to others for assistance if you realize you’re unlikely to be able to complete the entire game by yourself. That’s what we are here for. In this guide, we’re going to cover character customization, character pool, all classes, squad setups, characters builds, recommended skills and loadouts, best weapons, Psi Operative, base building and management, research, tips, tricks and strategies.

Alright, you ready for this? Let’s go.


XCOM 2 has a surprisingly in depth character creator- seriously, there are RPGs that are less full featured in these regards (looking at you, Bloodborne). There are just so many meaningful choices on offer, and people have already begun to create all manner of wacky characters by now- including many based on popular characters from movies and TV shows.

This section of the walkthrough provides you with a quick explanation of the character creator, and how it works, so that you can harness it and create your own version of a Chie Satonaka who Galactic Punts those aliens’ butts out of orbit.


The fun doesn’t end with just creating your characters, though- XCOM 2 also lets you share your creations with everyone! The video guide below demonstrates how XCOM 2′s character pool works.


Like RPGs, XCOM 2 has classes, which differentiate your characters from one another; moreover, like with RPGs, each class in XCOM 2 has a highly specific function that it fulfills (though they all can and should be able to look after themselves on the field).

In this section of the guide, we take a look at the multiple classes that are available in XCOM 2. (Ranger, Grenadier, Specialist, Sharpshooter and Psi Operative)


Building your squad is extremely important in XCOM 2– unless you do, you’re going to be left with some unbalanced or underdeveloped characters who will eventually fall prey to the aliens. Like in an RPG, where your individual character growth matters as well as your party setup, XCOM 2 makes it necessary for players to pay attention to how their individual characters develop, as well as the formation of their staff.

The Ideal Squad Setup

Eventually, you will have all six slots open up, allowing you to have up to six people in your squad at a time. Ideally, when this happens, your squad composition should be as follows:

  • Rangers x 2
  • Specialists x 2
  • Sharpshooter x 1
  • Grenadier x 1

On the hole, this balances your squad well enough for you to be equipped to handle most situations thrown your way- as long as your individual character builds aren’t messed up. Let’s move on to those, next.

Ranger Builds

Rangers are cool- they get great melee capabilities, great infiltration and stealth capabilities, and great movement range too. They’re a very flexible class, which allows for a lot of variation in the kinds of Rangers you can build for yourself. On the whole, however, it is recommended that you have one stealth focused Ranger and one assault focused Ranger.

Stealth Ranger Build


  • Shadow Strike
  • Bladestorm
  • RapidFire
  • Phantom
  • Conceal
  • Deep Cover

Loadout: Shotgun (or other close range assault weapon) with auto aim or accuracy enhancer. Also consider enhancing this character’s defensive capabilities, since while this build stealthy and dishes out massive damage, it will be a sitting duck if caught off guard

Assault Ranger Build


  • Run and Gun
  • Bladestorm
  • Shadowstep
  • Blademaster
  • Reaper
  • Untouchable

Loadout: Definitely have an armored vest, or some other form of defensive armor. Research advanced melee weapons to make this character as lethal as is possible at close range- they’ll be your XCOM equivalent of a barbarian.

Specialist Builds

Specialists are, as the name suggests, highly specialized character builds, who can perform some extremely important support functions- being able to dish out damage is well and all, but without a Specialist or two in your squad, you’re going to be sitting ducks pretty soon.

The reason two Specialists are recommended is because of how completely different each build can be- by having two Specialists in your squad, you can essentially have one medic and one engineer in your squad.

Medic Build


  • Field Medic
  • Medic Protocol
  • Revival Protocol
  • Restoration
  • Guadian
  • Threat Assessment

Loadout: A medic is your ‘support’ unit. In this case, the medic makes sure none of your other units are on the verge of dying, or taking too much damage. Equipping your medic with MedKits, then, is a rather obvious thing to do.



  • Capacitor Discharge
  • Haywire Protocol
  • Combat Protocol
  • Scanning Protocol
  • Threat Assessment

Loadout: Engineers are more specialized than Medics, so it is best to invest into ancillary offensive capabilities as well- grenades, assault weapons, and stabilizers such as auto aim enhancers.

Sharpshooter Build

Short Range/Long Range Hybrid

Sharpshooters are essential to your squad’s safety, providing long range support, and allowing you to even open the line of fire early, should you so wish. Sharpshotoers are also a highly versatile and flexible class- they allow you a lot of variation, and you can experiment until you find the one build that works just right for you. However, our absolute favorite Sharpshooter build is the Short Range/Long Range Hybrid, which makes your Sharpshooter a formidable opponent on the field.


  • Steady Hands
  • Deadeye
  • Serial
  • Long Watch
  • Faceoff
  • Quick Draw

Loadout: Naturally, a short range/long range hybrid requires a short range weapon, such as a pistol, and a long range weapon, such as a sniper rifle.

Grenadier Build

Finally, your squad needs a Grenadier. Grenadiers are essential- they deal a devastating amount of damage, they can change the environment to something more suited to you, and they can destroy enemy cover. They are heavy fire units, which attack at a distance. Below is our preferred Grenadier build.


  • Demolition
  • Heavy Ordinance
  • Rupture
  • Salvo
  • Volatile Mix
  • Blast Padding

Loadout: Equip them with specialized demolition charges from Proving Grounds, as well as custom grips- this ensures they deal maximum damage, and that they do it even when they do miss.


XCOM 2‘s already overpowered character builds (as explained above) can get even more devastating with the right weapons in their hands. There are some extremely powerful and lethal late game weapons that can make your squad units basically amped up killing machines. The video below covers the this late game equipment, and how you can make it work to your advantage, in great detail.


An extremely powerful unit, Psi Operatives can be extremely useful to have on your side- but as a result, they can also be extremely difficult to get your hands on. You need to start working on getting a Psi Operative extremely early in the game. Below, we walk you through this process.

Note: This section may have spoilers! Pursue this section at your own risk.

  • Early in the game, you will encounter Sectoids. You must kill at least one of them.
  • The corpse of the Sectoid becomes available at the Base. Head on over to the Research Lab, to perform an autopsy on the body.
  • Once the autopsy is completed, you can now run Psionics research. Do so.
  • After the Psionics research is completed, you will see Psi Lab under Build Facilities. The Psi Lab will require 10 21 days of base research time, Elerium Crystals, 175 Supplies, 5 Power and 55 Supplies.
  • Once the lab is complete, you can assign any soldier to it for Psi Operative Training.


XCOM 2 isn’t just happy with throwing multiple variables for your individual character builds, squad setups, loadouts, assigned powers, research, and map objectives at you- no, it also has to have a base management sim aspect to it. Proper management and development of your base is extremely important- since the base is, well, your base of operations, and also where you will conduct research to unlock weapons, units, and abilities to wreak more damage on the enemy, you need to be careful with how you develop it. The video below walks you through some basic aspects of managing your base.


All research in XCOM 2 has a cost- there is the explicit cost, of course, the cost of resources necessary to undertake that research, but more importantly is the time cost associated with that research. Everything that you research will take some time- and there is a staggering amount of stuff for you to research, with a lot of it simply being useless fluff or dead ends- you’ll want to not waste your time with this stuff, and instead, focus on the important stuff.

In this section of the guide, we list some researches you should prioritize, as well as some general tips and suggestions.

  • Focus on amping up your soldiers rather than their equipment. Doing so nets you decidedly less powerful end results, but it takes up a far lesser amount of research time than weapons research does. For those of you who don’t want the pace of your game bogged down, or are simply impatient, this may be the way to go:Alien Biotech->Modular Weapons->ADVENT Officer Autopsy->Hybrid MaterialsAlien Autopsies->Advance Warfare Centre->Mag Weapons->Proving Grounds->Plated Armor
  • Psionics research, as mentioned above, unlocks Psi Operatives for you. These can be devastating, and that’s awesome- but they can’t be sustained by themselves. It’s best to start researching ways to enhance their abilities once you have unlocked them, as well as to start researching ways to shield your own army to withstanding Psionic attacks:Alien Autopsies->Advance Warfare Centre->Mindshield->Advanced Psi Amp
  • Make sure you acquire more scientists. Having more scientists significantly speeds up the time associated with each research.
  • The game recommends researches that progress the story- don’t do it. I mean, yes, you have to do it eventually, but don’t just do the story based researches. Doing so is like playing GTA and only doing the story missions, or playing Persona and only focusing on the dungeons and battles- in other words, it’s not how you want to play the game at all. In general, for every one story based research you conduct, conduct 2-3 non story based ones. This will go a long way towards unlocking the most powerful abilities at your disposal.
  • Focus on ensuring your units are better equipped in battles. Research that beefs up your armor and weapons can take a lot of time- the end results are worth it, but this means that you need to get started on it as soon as possible:a. Modular Weapons->Hybrid Materials->Magnetic Weapons->Plated Armor. b. Mag Weapons->Gauss Weapon Research->Predator Armor->Spider Suit->E.X.O. Suit->Alien Autopsies. This research makes your soldiers far more capable of dealing out massive amounts of damage, while also being capable of taking a good beating as well.


I mean, this is already a pretty exhaustive guide we’ve prepared for you guys here, but, here’s some general stuff, some basic tips and suggestions that can greatly aid your XCOM 2 experience, that really didn’t quite fit anywhere else:

  • Don’t sneak past patrols. You risk being caught in a two front battle if you are discovered later, and have a squad of enemy units ahead of you, as well as the patrolling units flanking you from behind.
  • In the early game, have a Specialist use the Combat Protocol and deal 2 damage to enemies with a 0% chance to miss.
  • When soldiers die, it is sad. Nothing can bring them back to life, but you can at least ensure that you recover any valuable equipment they may have been carrying. If you want to keep one of your dead soldiers’ equipment, you can order another soldier to pick their body up when you are retreating, and carry the body back to the extraction zone.
  • Keep track of armor! Armor can reduce all damage you deal to just 1 point of damage. You want to keep track of which enemy units have armor, and use grenades to shred that armor.
  • Similarly, use grenades to kill turrets– once the ground under them is blown away, they fall and die instantly (on that note, all enemies take fall damage in this way).
  • Target the Sectoids. Doing this frees any units it is controlling, and instantly kills any Psionic ‘zombie’ units it may have animated.

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