Hey, I love XCOM and thank you for giving me this opportunity to nerd out about XCOM.
Yes, it feels very overwhelming initially, especially when Bradford won’t shut up. To some degree it’s part of the experience, but WotC added a bunch of extra voice lines too and it sometimes feels like 3 people are talking at you constantly on the geoscape. The end-of-month report guy can also just be really mean and judgmental because you gained like one bar of avatar progress, even if you aced every mission and blew up 300 advent supply raids. Sadly the only way past it is to play the game enough that you get confident about your decision-making, because it will very rarely outright tell you that you’re making the right play when you are.
If you’ve gotten literally no engineers before the blacksite, which I’ve had happen to me once (there’s no reason to rush the blacksite, btw – a lot of players will leave it for much later, because it’s a guaranteed -2 avatar points) you’re kinda playing from behind, but if you’re not on the maximum difficulty, it’s salvageable. It’s pretty random whether you’ll get a lot or none or just enough initially; over the course of the game it’ll even out, but it means every campaign feels a little bit different.
“Playing from behind” is, to me, part of the XCOM feeling in general, and I think this is intentional design: you’re an outnumbered guerrilla force against a global occupation army. In the lategame that kind of turns into triumphantly stomping on Advent with all of your overpowered toys, but early on, you’ll always feel like you’re just barely pulling through.
Especially with War of the Chosen it’s expected that you’ll focus on some of the available options and neglect others, because there is a lot of options now – some people just never get psionics, or sometimes a research breakthrough pops that makes your mag weapons as good as the third tier of weapons and so deprioritizes that research, you can just never use the squad bond system (or start using it much later than I did), etc. The roughest possible priority list is: make sure you don’t lose via Avatar (get enough resistance contacts to hit facilities/get resistance orders and covert ops that lower the doom timer) -> make sure you’re more or less up to date with the enemy tech curve (huge power spikes in the tactical game are when you get mimic beacons, mag weapons, plasma grenades – I prioritize those very highly) -> pursue the plot stuff.
Might post more later cos golly gosh do I love talking about XCOM.
EDIT: The game doesn’t make it clear, but you don’t lose instantly if a Chosen gets pushed to max knowledge; it just means you get an Avenger Defense mission and only failing that mission results in a game over. Obviously it’s really good to take out the Chosen (their loot is great), but with so many things to keep track of, if you’re gonna have to neglect something, you can neglect that.