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I understand most of what's going on in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but I don't quite get what Interceptors are for. I know that when I Scan for Satellite Activity, I can come across a UFO, and then scramble Interceptors to attack it. If the attack is successful, then the UFO will crash and I can send in my team to fight them on the ground.

However, what's the point of all this? Is it just a random event where I can acquire more resources to spend on stuff? Does it have absolutely no bearing on the main storyline? Does it decrease panic levels?

Also, can I only encounter these events in areas where I have a satellite? Should I invest in strong weapons for my Interceptors? When I started the game, I had a choice between North America or Europe as my base. I'm glad I chose Europe because Research seems far more useful than Interceptor upgrades, at least for the time being.

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I believe if you fail to intercept, the UFOs may return and destroy your satellite. Also, the first interception is scripted, I think. –  agent86 Oct 10 '12 at 17:46
    
Not to mention that it gives you a chance to salvage UFO parts for research. –  Sterno Oct 10 '12 at 17:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is in fact an event where you will get a chance to get more resources. This is really important; you need to acquire certain materials to do certain research to get a path to victory in the game, and that says nothing of getting your soldiers properly outfitted.

As to the randomness, that's not likely. The aliens have an agenda and it will play out on the geoscape. UFOs have missions; shooting them down prevents them from carrying those missions out. Allowing the aliens to carry out those missions will help spread panic/alien presence (at a high level) which is bad for you.

I have only ever seen ufos where I had satellites deployed. Eventually you will need to upgrade interceptors as they will start encountering much larger, more powerful craft.

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Also, an ignored UFO will double back later to shoot down your satellite -- which is a high-panic event. –  Shadur Oct 14 '12 at 8:31
    
shooting down UFOs also contributes to your rating at the end of each month –  z ' Oct 16 '12 at 13:52
    
@Shadur In fact the UFO coming for your satellite apparently always is a battleship, no matter what type of UFO you previously ignored –  Zommuter Aug 27 '13 at 8:22

Just to add to some of the answers here, missions where you shoot down UFOs are excellent training missions for your green inexperienced soldiers to get some levels.

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Especially when placed against those Berserkers that make even my Colonels whine and shoot each other ;) –  Orc JMR Oct 22 '12 at 8:52
    
oh oh and add a sectopod and you are ready for a double promotion.. :D –  jonleech Nov 8 '12 at 3:08
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and not that it is possible for a double promotion link –  jonleech Nov 8 '12 at 3:10

It's very important to keep on top of the incoming UFO's, else they will get increasingly bigger and shoot down your satellites (as well as increasing panic, etc.). At this point you're on the path to losing, which in XCOM is frequently non-reversible.

It's frustrating, because if you get stuck at a point where you didn't pre-invest in the right resources to shoot down UFO's, no amount of strategy will help you: you just lose. Unlike the combat-based aspect of the game, where good strategy (and luck) can overcome bad odds, the base management portion requires extensive "psychic" knowledge of the aliens' attack timing to plan and build accordingly, else you're just screwed.

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One-use items for interceptors are pretty cheap and can often turn the tide of aerial battle in your favor. –  kotekzot Nov 8 '12 at 12:23

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