If you’ve just joined thru Steam, odds are that you are a fan of Firaxis XCOM and are trying this out because it’s ‘The spiritual successor to XCOM’ by the man who invented the genre. While that’s true, there are some significant differences between PP & XCOM which can (and do) trap the unwary. Which is what this guide is all about.
1. DON’T START ON LEGENDARY
This will start out fairly easy, but as Pandoran Evolution kicks in and the game develops, you will find the mid-game a serious challenge until your squad gains the high-level skills that can make the endgame a bit of a cakewalk – if you’ve figured out how to use them properly, that is.
If your macho pride simply can’t cope with the idea of being a mere Veteran, then try starting on Heroic, but don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉
2. FIRING DOESN’T END YOUR MOVEMENT
In fact, it’s much more granular than that. For instance, in PP, you can expend 1.25 APs on Moving, fire your weapon for 2APs, then continue to spend your remaining 0.75 of an AP Moving some more.
When your Squaddies start getting skills that give them back APs in various ways, they can add these to their Actions, enabling them to Move/Fire, Move/Fire, Move almost ad infinitum if you time it right.
But the important thing to remember is that Firing your weapon doesn’t end your turn, and that opens up a whole host of tactical possibilities that simply weren’t available to you in XCOM.
And talking of tactics…
3. HIGH COVER IS NOT FULL COVER
Atmo, the game uses the same Cover Icons as XCOM (which is only fair since Julian Gollop coined them for the original X-com). However, a full Shield Icon simply means that the cover obstacle is higher than your head, NOT that it will give you 90% Cover.
Because of the way PP’s ballistic system works, Cover in PP is simply an obstacle along the trajectory of the bullet. If the bullet’s trajectory doesn’t cross that obstacle, the Cover gives you no protection at all.
In practical terms, this means that Low Cover (Half Shield) will protect your legs and lower torso, but leaves your head, chest and arms completely exposed. High Cover (Full Shield) can block everything up to your full height, but only if the shooter is within the front 30 degree arc of the cover! This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but anything flanking you by more than around 30 degrees can see round your cover and can shoot at you freely. In addition, since there is no Hunker Down facility currently in PP, any part of your body that is sticking out from behind that cover is fair game.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that once you’ve got a handle on how cover works in this game, you can make it work to your advantage.
For instance, if you’re standing one tile back from the corner of a building, nothing can see you and you are in completely Full Cover. When it’s your turn, you can use the AP system to simply step up to the corner of the building, take a shot, then step back into Full Cover again.
Also, because Cover obstacles block bullet trajectories, you don’t have to completely hug a Cover obstacle to get cover from it. All you have to do is make sure that it is positioned between you and the Shooter and that you are close enough to the obstacle for it to block the shot.
Which brings me on to…
4. CLEAR LINE OF SIGHT IS NOT ALWAYS CLEAR LINE OF SHOT
This is because the aid is triggered by sightlines, not shooting lanes (no matter what the Tutorial might tell you). The aid will trigger even if only the little toe of the target is sticking out from the undergrowth, because as far as it’s concerned, you can see that little toe, therefore you can see the target.
But just because you can see the target doesn’t mean you can see enough of it to shoot at (unless you’re a badass Marksman who can shoot off a little toe from 10 miles away).
A general rule of thumb is if the targeted location lights up in Free Aim mode, you can shoot at it. If it doesn’t, it means the obstacle is in the way and you will hit the obstacle rather than the target.
My advice? Be cautious. Don’t rush out in the open to blast the target unless you are absolutely certain that you are going to see enough of it to get a clear shot.
And that brings me on to…
5. WHEN IS A 100% SHOT NOT A 100% SHOT?
PP uses a ballistic system, where it calculates the trajectory of each bullet from a burst, which randomly traces a straight line through a circle in the target area. The size of that circle is based on how accurate the gun & shooter are.
This means that if you press ‘Free Aim’ on the firing menu of the Tactical Display, you can pull up that circle, known as the Targeting Reticule, and target specific locations (Head, Torso, Arms & Legs) of the target. There is a 100% chance that every bullet in the burst will pass within the outer circle of the Targeting Reticule and a 50% chance that each individual shot will fall somewhere in the inner circle.
This is a ballistic system, and as the bullet is passing through the air, the animation of the target keeps moving ever so slightly, to mimic the fact that you are shooting at a moving target. So it is possible that even if the reticule is completely covering the target when you pull the trigger, the shot’s trajectory will pass through the outer edge of the circle at a point where the animation has moved to create a gap.
When you are shooting at a target with lots of dangly bits, or which is holding a weapon, it is equally possible that the shot will pass through the gaps between those dangly bits or under its armpits.
So even if it looks like you have a 100% chance to hit, you will miss on occasion. It’s not as bad as the old 99% chances missing 9 times out of every 10 in XCOM, but it is just as frustrating.
It is also worth noting that the algorithm that does this tends to cluster most shots around the outer edge of the inner circle, so if you place the centre of the Targeting Reticule on a target’s head, with the inner ring surrounding its head like a halo, you actually have less chance of hitting the head than if you aim at its chest with a portion of the inner ring intersecting its head. Don’t ask me why – it’s just the way the system works.
And talking of how things work…
6. OVERWATCH IS DUMB (BUT ALSO QUITE CLEVER)
It’s all to do with those pesky shooting animations again. When OW triggers, the shooter goes into an animation that shows them taking aim and firing. If you’re not careful, in the split second between the animation triggering and the shot going off, the target can move behind an obstacle and the shot hits the obstacle rather than the target. Also, OW is triggered by LoS & Perception, so if your Squaddie spots something moving behind an obstacle, the old ‘LoS isn’t Line of Shot’ rule can kick in and you shoot the obstacle rather than the target behind it.
There are a couple of simple ways to minimise the risk of this happening.
If you’re trying to stop a Nasty from getting to you, the simplest thing to do is adjust the length of the cone so that it stops in front of any big obstacles along the route. That way, OW will only trigger once the Nasty has gone round that pesky obstacle, rather than sheltering behind it.
Sometimes, however, you will want to take a long-range shot against something like an approaching Siren, but you don’t want to waste your OW on the lesser Crabbies around her. In that case, you can narrow the cone (on my laptop I pinch-in the trackpad, I think you use the mousewheel on a PC), creating a long, thin avenue about the width of the target which will only trigger if that specific target moves. Of course, you can’t prevent another Nasty from crossing in front of the target and triggering the OW shot, but if you’re lucky the ballistic rules can work to your advantage here, with shots from the burst of an auto-weapon missing the triggerer and continuing along their trajectory to your target – though tbh that is extremely rare.
And be aware…
7. SOME NASTIES SHOOT BACK!
Frankly, this is nowhere near as powerful as it used to be before it was nerfed (stupidly in my opinion, but don’t get me started), but it is something you should be aware of, especially when the Arthron Gunners start evolving truly badass weapons.
Because of this, my advice to new players is to delay attempting the first New Jericho Mission: ‘The Dreamers Awaken’ until you have some experience of how the game works, since the RF’ing enemy can pose a bit of a challenge to inexperienced players.
And because of this, there is one other thing you should know:
8. SHOOTERS STEP OUT OF COVER
So shooting from High Cover is fairly useless if you are expecting it to give you some shelter.
Shooting from Low Cover is generally ok, in that it will give you the kind of coverage that Low Cover always gives you, but shooting from High Cover is essentially the same as shooting from no cover at all where Return Fire is concerned.
9. DON’T START LotA TOO EARLY
Wait until you’re Aligned on 50 Dip with a couple of the Factions, and your A-Team is at Lvl7 and fully kitted-up before you even start attempting it.
LotA’s Ancient Sites are the hardest and most deadly missions in the game, and the risk:reward ratio is such a punishing drain on resources (and manpower) that until you have a good, strong infrastructure and a way of replacing losses quickly, it’s a sure-fire way of dying a death of a thousand cuts. So I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole until the mid-late game.
Also, the LotA storyline only makes sense if you trigger it after you’ve discovered what Symes’ Grandfather uncovered, so for both narrative and practical reasons, I would urge you to wait.
10. INVEST IN RESEARCH LABS
Then you get to the Endgame and discover that the Research hoops you have to jump through are tediously endless if you haven’t invested in enough Labs earlier. So do bear in mind that you will need a good Research infrastructure to get through the endgame without constantly twiddling your thumbs, and invest accordingly.
That’s it. I hope this helps you to enjoy this game without making some of the classic mistakes I have seen so many XCOM players make. Once you get the hang of it, you will find that it is infinitely more flexible than XCOM, but if you try to play it the way that you play XCOM, it can be brutal.
11. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING
Don’t try to do everything. Unlike XCOM, this game doesn’t hold your hand on the strategic layer – it doesn’t present you with a list of 3 options and say ‘but you only have the capacity to do one.’ Instead, it presents you with a myriad of possibilities and leaves *you* to make the strategic calculations about what is most important. But if you try to defend every Haven, explore every POI, hold every Mine or complete every Special Mission, you will fatally overstretch yourself and ultimately fail.
This is especially true in the Endgame, when you simply cannot defend every Haven that gets attacked. You need to keep your eye on the prize – which is researching an ultimate solution with the help of whichever Faction you’ve tied yourself most closely to – and defend just enough Havens to keep the Human Population from tanking while you do this. So pick your battles, don’t try to do everything, and never forget that your ultimate goal is to Research the maguffin that will trigger the Final Conflict. Everything else is secondary.
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