I am a veteran of XCOM2, played over 2000 hours on that game, with all kinds of mod builds now, and I love it. Prior to that, I am a Civ V and VI player, XCOM1, Xenonauts, and going wayyyyyy back, the old XCOM Apocalypse and XCOM Defence games. So I love this genre.
The first hour playing was just not good. The tutorial is poor, it failed to teach very much of use, and just managed to confuzzle me. So off I went to the bastion of tutorials (youtube) and found out what I needed to know to start, and came back to try again.
After that, I was sucked in. The first 5+ hours whizzed by and it was 3am and … you know how it is when a game starts being addictive. I simply love the aiming system and the body part disabling and taking out some of the enemy abilities. Superb idea. The feel of the game was just excellent.
The next 10+ hours or so was really fun, although I could see the difficulty curve shooting up.
I am a methodical casual player, who likes to minimize the damage I take, turtle up, and slowly isolate enemy units and take them out cleanly. This is how I play other games too - and I also reload when things go badly. And even when it started getting harder - I kept loving it!
Around 15-20 hours into the game, my soldiers are all reaching level 4 or 5, having done a lot of these scavenger missions, and I am starting to meet some really tough enemies, but still winning (but it’s now close to the edge).
Then I arrive on one haven defence mission and I am surrounded by a force 10x stronger, with lots of new enemies, and it wipes me - EASILY. I tried a few times - same results. I reload and miss that mission, but the next mission is the same, and so on.
I read up online about the game, and find out about the “dynamic difficulty” implementation. I read that, I can “game” the game by just deliberately taking some damage on my soldiers and getting a rookie or two killed on purpose. This does not sound sensible, but several posters make the same remarks, so I try it.
Next mission, I choose a scavenger hunt and send a few low levels, get 3/4 accidently-on-purpose killed, and the fourth gets out badly damaaged. I then do another mission and take loads of avoidable damage on my whole squad (noone dies this time), but I half-mess-up the mission (on purpose).
The game then… gets a little easier again…
This is dumb as a brick as far as game design is concerned, sorry.
Forget missions, do training:
My soldiers are still level 5. I cannot do enough damage to kill the enemies now.
So I create a base with lots of training centres and just leave them in it. They reach level 7 in no time. All those missions gave me so little XP, but sitting at home watching simulations and my guys are all supermen now.
This is not what I expect (and it is not making a lot of sense either…)
Now with just seven soldiers, all level 7, I can take out a really tough mission, but I get no XP or skill points, and I use more resources than I gain from the mission. And whilst far away from home, my main base gets attacked and falls and there is nothing I can do about it.
A superb idea, and with some balancing this will be a wonderful game. But right now, the balance here is all over the place.