I think playing on Normal mode might have been a mistake. I'm doing all right in the battles (it's been hours since I had to reload), but on the strategic layer, my entire situation is going to hell faster than I can stay on top of it. Egypt panicked, dropped out of the Council, and is now covered in some kind of sinister purple mist. Much of South America is likely to follow. I'm making progress on the story missions, but I can't help feeling like my infrastructure is going to fall apart from underneath me.
It's probably all part of the story, and it's not like I was getting a great deal of use out of those countries anyway, but I feel like the walls are closing in on me. The aliens are everywhere, and I don't have the resources to stop them.
I can see now how replaying this game could be very satisfying. I went into it not knowing how to manage my economy, and it only after reading some online guides that I realize I should have front-loaded my satellite production for more money and better UFO protection in order to have a bigger budget going into the late game. As it is, I'm continually strapped for cash, and my small stable of powerful soldiers is spending way too much time in the infirmary. If I don't get to the end of the game soon, I may well fall irretrievably behind.
So, it would be nice to go into the game forewarned, and thus build my force into an efficient and orderly fast-response unit capable of taking on the aliens from a position of strength. But to do that would require going back to the beginning and applying what I've learned to a blank slate. I'm far too deep into the game to do that now.
But I have to admit, I don't like this feeling of being pressed, of having few resources and many expenses, of facing a foe of overwhelming power and hoping for a miracle to win. As much as it's true to the situation that the game depicts, it's kind of stressful in real life. Whenever I start up Steam, I can't help but wonder, "is this the time I finally fail?"
In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor annoyance, but it's one more annoyance than I had three days ago. I think I could grow to love this game, if I ever got good at it, but I'm not sure I have the mental endurance to make it to the end of my current playthrough without losing hope.