Where "difficulty spike" really comes from IMO

After experiencing the difficulty spike in my 3 playthroughs since buying the game a week ago, and reading the multiple opinions on the forums, this is my take;

. The real issue is map size, combined with how many enemies there are, combined with how enemies activate.

Sure there is some class, enemy balancing to be done but it is not critical imo.

The real issue is that the game can easily spike to a situation where your guys are outnumbered/outgunned and tactics cannot save you. I am writing this as i come off a mission where my main squad is at lvl 5 (so mostly they have utility abilities and not yet the killer abilities like rageburst) and they are up against 12 enemies, one of them is a fire worm artillery alien.

Here is the problem, because of the hp/armor spike, my soldiers cannot solo kill an alien yet. So I have 5 soldiers, vs 11 aliens + 3 worms/turn, where i need 2 soldiers to kill 1 alien. Now why is this a problem? Well because the map is so tiny that by the end of turn 2 all of the aliens are on top of my soldiers. Plus worms. And also because all enemies on the map activate at the same time!

The enemies in theory should only attack you when they become “alert” but since the map is so tiny any move immediately exposes you. Not to mention there is cheating going on since aliens always move in your direction even before they see you…

In recap;
. tiny map that does not allow tactical maneuvering
. outnumbered fights of 3 to 1 and maybe more
. enemies that require multiple soldiers to kill, but can kill you in one turn (without rageburst)
. all enemies on map activate immediately and zoom in on you (unless it is a scavenge mission with crates)

These factors in my opinion are the problem with combat. If i could maneuver around the map, if cover was a real thing (it isnt in this game), and pick my fights, it would be totally ok to have stronger enemies, and be outnumbered.

Make the maps bigger. Allow for aliens to be “pulled” in a tactical way instead of the zerg that it is now, and I guarantee the fights will now seem so unbalanced.

That is the thing that worked with XCOM/UFO defense, you could decide when/how/how many enemies you would engage if you used proper tactics.

I am confident this is easy to be fixed with the introduction of the DLCs and has the game expands.

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My personal theory is that they were forced to release before they had a chance to test it properly.


To reduce the outnumber issue, well I think a requirement is get level 7 soldiers, at least some, and some class or multi class are already quite more powerful at level 5 (for elite) or 6.

Otherwise, some suggestions:

  • Reduce numbers is first not rush forward. Let them come or bother on objectives as buildings or civilians, attract attention slower.
  • If the map is bigger it increases ability to be more discrete and they need more turns to come at you.
  • Instead of rushing prefer a slow scouting and find strong positions.
  • In hot of battle it can help a lot to retreat to a stronger position or to force some enemy leave a strong position.
  • Instead of killing consider options with disabling. It’s not a miracle tool but it can help manage better a larger crowd.
  • If you play at Easy or Normal, consider use two planes teams, and a vehicle, that is 5 soldiers and a vehicle. The vehicles helps greatly temporize a hot phase to absorb many attacks. It as also some usage that can help as moving wall, and temporary retreat cache.

Then some points about Stronger enemies:

  • Sirens, stop panic when you see one :-P. Hear sound to know if there’s one, but no sound is no guaranty. Consider soldier control as a lure to expose them but not as the end of world. They don’t like Overwatch and sometimes it can help. They are short range, exploit it particularly against their AoE that can panic.
  • Archon with worms, a Priest and control will tuned them down a lot. Consider bash with a 2H weapon, and not with the special skill increasing bash power or consider each bash damage the weapon. Consider a high precision sniper with 1AP pistol doing enough damage but really often it’s not worth the gambling. Consider paralyzing pistol with a high precision sniper. Worms walk distance is short and explosion range is short, so don’t forget you can delay some too far or far enough if you move. Vehicle don’t bother and won’t trigger the explosion but can be used as lure for the thrown or as an obstacle to increase a worm path.
  • Bombard and jelly Archon, top cover is your friend, organize your combats from building with cover, the good point is it’s a lot of fun. In some case a very high obstacle between a soldier and an Archon will disable the bombing, so move soldier close to the obstacle will ensure a 100% protection, it’s a matter of height and trajectory but not about full cover.
  • All Archon, hear sound to detect them. Walking sound is your enemy and probably dash sound even more. Typically some sniper not moving much and not close to moving loud team will hardly attract an Archon bombard. Vehicle is cool to make sound and have the chance to attract the bombard. Never used but perhaps sometimes it applies put a few soldiers in vehicle rush to Chiron and kill it. Caution most Chiron have very dangerous close range attack, I had half a team with broken weapons because of Chiron Earthquake.
  • Scylla, I haven’t yet met any Scylla with cannon so out of this point, beside in Citadels your goal with Scylla is delay as much than possible to bother with them, first priority is the crowd of lesser enemies. Sometimes you can delay a lot to attract them, when you detected one ensure not move through a position where there’s a los to the Scylla (blue line shows it). Against jelly attacks consider use turrets and vehicle. A trick with Scylla move is only living/mechanical material will block their path, perhaps also special structure to defend not sure, so civilians/turrets/vehicle/other enemies are good to block their path. Against jelly remind spread your soldiers. For corruptors see next section about them.
  • Corruptors, forget the aliens movies and stop panic as soon as you see one :-p You’ll need learn what soldiers can do that but in general a two hands weapon bash kill the corruptor. At Easy (not sure at Normal) it seems you can use burst or sniping without hurt the soldier, use free aiming and watch carefully target change and choose the location the farther from soldier head. Paralyze doesn’t help if the corruptor is already on a head but the pistol paralyze can be a nice tool before. Sometimes overwatch can be a good protection, ensure overwatch close enough for precision and long enough to allow soldier reaction time trigger. Be sure to be very cautious with any isolated soldier, try avoid it when possible if there’s corruptors around. Corruptors can help a lot with civilian and the reverse is true, a civilian with a corruptor is almost a garanty of a civilian rescued there’s perhaps come counter case because of Siren/AOE/Scylla, civilian are a powerful tool against corruptors.

Well this is a new campaign, and my soldiers are only lvl 5 when the game threw a 12 enemy mission at me. Please do explain how “get lvl 7 soldiers” is a solution?

By manipulating a bit the auto scaling, sigh sorry but I don’t have better, difficulty levels won’t help in that matter.

EDIT: I don’t know yet all the tools to manipulate the auto scaling but this is what worked for me:

  • During first month, favor a lot explore, minimize combats.
  • Skip all scavenging.
  • Build some training center in your base, focus on recruiting and put soldiers to level up.
  • No soldiers death once they are level 3 is your top priority.
  • Pick a vehicle asap.
  • The vehicle is more xp for soldiers and a mechanical soldier already at max level.
  • For Haven defense 3 soldiers and a vehicle is rather powerful.
  • Even 3 soldiers and a vehicle is often stronger than a soldiers team at lower level.
  • Pick a second plane asap, and do everything with two planes.
  • The two planes is a team with a vehicle which is a stronger team for lower level soldiers, but also 5 soldiers.

The real issue is map size, combined with how many enemies there are, combined with how enemies activate.

I Think that is the point and you are right. If the map would be 4 or 8 Times larger the battles would be better. You mention all the things that would be better. In my opinion this would solve many problems with the difficult spike… thumbs up! Hope snapshot read that…

I agree with you that maps could be bigger and that would help the player in terms of survival, but I have a comment and a question.

This is false statement. I often had them moving in other direction when they weren’t “Alerted” in other missions than Scavenge.

Why it isn’t?

I meant it is not cover as in a game mechanic, although you see a symbol showing you are in “full cover” the only thing at play is physical obstruction. And since you cannot see from the angle of the enemy or know their accuracy you are never in full cover as people discover once a leg or an arm get shot off. I can place a soldier in “full cover” and the enemy takes one step to the side and now i am no longer in full cover.

In other words it would probably be better if we did not have the cover symbols giving us a false illusion, and instead let the player learn that what counts is physical obstruction and shooting angles.

As to the other point, I have tested on maps sitting my soldiers inside buildings and not moving and the enemy does come straight at us if there are no other objectives on the map. Maybe it was coincidence.

. tiny map: Agreed, doesn’t need to be every map but some more large maps would be nice.
. outnumbered fights of 3 to 1 and maybe more: Good times
. enemies that require multiple soldiers to kill, but can kill you in one turn: When outnumbered disable is better than a kill. Disarming an enemy, often literally, should be a go to tactic.
. all enemies on map activate immediately and zoom in on you: I think it just feels like that because there’s a 50% or so chance that they’ll always move in your general direction. Combined with a small map they’re just more likely to notice you as a result.

It probably was. As I had a lot of mission where enemies not alerted were moving away from me or parallel to my locations and there was not other objective on the map. Mostly happened on ambush missions but on other too. :slight_smile:

I agree, as my main point is that the maps are too small for any real tactical maneuvering.

You have bad habit from recent XCOM. This is not “full cover” and “half cover” those are “high cover” and “low cover”. If enemy is at some angle to you they can always hit you even behind high cover.

All covers give some degree of protection as obstacles for ballistic system. The differences of high vs low cover:

more obstacle vs less obstacle
soldier stands vs soldier squats (bigger target vs lower target for flanking enemies)
soldier can step to side and shoot from behind cover (not true for all high cover objects) vs soldier will shoot from where he stands.

A lot of Zzz’s advice above is good, and I would endorse both the comments that Yokes has made.

It sounds to me that you are getting hammered because you are trying to play this like XCOM. Don’t. Treat it as its own unique thing with similar-looking but unique mechanics.

As Yokes says, this is not ‘Full & Half’ cover, it is ‘High & Low’ cover. ‘Full Cover’ is hiding behind a wall - not at the corner of a building, but one step back where the enemy can’t see you (cos they’re all greyed out). If they can’t see you, they can’t shoot at you, except for Chirons, but if you hug the wall tightly enough chances are their artillery will overshoot you.

And because this isn’t XCOM, you don’t stop moving once you’ve fired. So on your turn, step to the corner of the wall, take your shot then step BACK into full cover again! Then, if you have the APs, whip out your Shotgun or Anu blaster pistol and set up an Overwatch screen to blow the bejazus out of anything that comes round the corner.

Don’t advance into the centre of the map. Take cover inside & behind the rocks and buildings on the edges - and don’t fire on the first thing you see! Set up an Overwatch Screen that doesn’t cover half the map, but instead stops about 10 tiles in front of you, so that any Crabbie who advances isn’t Alerted by your fire until they’re so close you’re guaranteed to hit them.

Worms are easy to deal with (see Zzzz’s advice). The only 2 Chirons to worry about are Goo & Explosive. If you spot them get inside fast! Think of this as an urban conflict - use the buildings to your advantage, but as much as possible stay on the ground floor, because artillery has a nasty habit of blowing a floor out from under you.

This is where I disagree with Zzzz. I tend to concentrate on neutralising the Scylla before I take out the other Crabbies, but I don’t attack her straight away. In a Haven defence, the Scylla is usually (but not always) not alerted immediately, even though she starts close to you. You can usually sneak away in the other direction and set up a short range OW screen designed only to trigger if she comes your way. My preferred tactic is to set up my Snipers as far from her as possible and take pot-shots at her when I’m ready (if you have a high enough level, Marking Her For Death on the turn you want to take her down is always a good idea - as is Quick Aim, to enable you to set an OW screen for any Fraggers etc if she dies). This then lures her towards the snipers - right into the sights of my Armour-Breaking Berserker and Gatling-Wielding Heavy hidden on her flank. At Lvl 5, think of taking a Scarab along with you, so that you can pump a few explosives into her too. At Lvl 7, just use Rage Burst, but be prepared for the Fragger spawn. Ideally, you don’t want to kill her - just inflict enough damage that she runs away.

In a Citadel it’s even easier. Set up your Snipers in your Evac Area and start shooting at her asap. Set up the rest of your squad at the first cover line in front of them and wait for her to come to you. She usually won’t have the movement allowance to reach you in 2 turns - but she will come into range. At that point, Mark For Death, Armour Break, explosives, and (if needed) a RB from your Heavy ends the Mission. Usually, you don’t need the Rage Burst.

Once again, think of taking along a vehicle if you have an 8-slot Transport. As well as dealing a shitload of damage each turn in its own right, it has the added advantage of shielding you from Siren Mind Control - and there is nothing more satisfying than driving your vehicle right next to the bitch, turning it around to let your Berserker/Assault hop out the back, shove his Shotgun up against her head, blow it off, then hop straight back into the vehicle again.

Hope that helps. It really isn’t as difficult and unbalanced as you think it is - you just have to stop trying to play it like XCOM and treat it as its own unique beast. And this comes from someone who both loves XCOM and refuses to use any of the ‘cheezes’ people have described on these forums.

Didnt read past this. Same as i didnt read the other “advice” posts as neither of you obviously read the OP.

As i mentioned, i know all the tactics that work, i know the OP builds, and current meta, from both experimentation and reading the forums. I am not complaining I can’t play the game. I stating the imbalances in the game so it can be improved.

Also any game that has a huge number of possible class/weapon/gear combinations like PP does but players have to default to a couple of meta builds to beat it is clearly unbalanced.

OK, I was only describing the way I avoid all the things you were complaining about from happening.

I too have faced a tiny scavenging map with 12+ Crabbies bearing down on me, all with MGs that can kill me in 1 shot. The way I dealt with it was by sneaking behind the nearest building so that they didn’t spot me & ‘alert’, setting up Overwatch ambushes and not treating High Cover as ‘Full Cover’.

I do agree, though, that the meta builds are clearly broken. However I disagree that you have to use them to win, because I don’t use them at all.

Ok if you have no difficulty problem why do you need larger maps? This isn’t what will fix the obviously wrong auto scaling that can derail a lot.

No for larger maps that are boredom to explore and that push to boredom isolation tactics. Yes for a few larger maps, but not for fixing any difficulty problem.