Ok XCOM. You're amazing. I take everything I said about you back.
Well... most of it.
The problem is partially with my side. I'll admit it, I'm terrible at strategy games. Once I realized this and forced myself to push the difficulty down to easy -- a rarity considering most games are becoming increasing simpler these days -- I toughed out the rough couple of first months in the game, got accustom to the mechanics, and worked my way through.
And I've played it pretty much non-stop since then. It's amazingly addictive; the mechanics are solid, there is always a threat of nation support going away, and even on easy, your squad can be decimated if you let impatience get to you. Towards the end, I actually started to care about the soldiers that made it alive since they grow to be so powerful.
Some of my original comments stand. It feels slightly unpolished overall. Mechanics aren't very well explained both in battle and in the base, and it's hard to know what is actually important at points. At least on easy, the whole laser-weapon upgrade path is largely skippable -- why bother sinking resources into it? The story is a bit haphazard and sparse as well. I would have liked to see more (both in amount and quality) of cinematics as the fight progresses.
In some cases, the game seems downright glitchy. The action cam can be weird at times, for instance, showing a soldier firing backwards at an enemy or clipping through objects. That's a minor complaint compared to some of the simple UI glitches I've encountered. When firing my Sniper's headshot ability on the first of two shots, the UI clearly shows it's available again, when it is not (it gives an error saying the action isn't available and the UI updates when you try to take the second shot). Glitches like that hurt accessibility.
Even with all of the above, this is an amazingly addictive, if not quirky, game. If you aren't good at strategy games -- bite the bullet, change the difficulty to easy, and enjoy.