Mod for victory! The best XCOM mods around

Posted October 18, 2012 by Richard Plant in Editorial
All of the people you know will someday die

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has now been out for just over a week, and it seems that everyone in the world has been playing it in some form. While Firaxis have put sterling effort into the console versions, and no Xbox or PS3 player should feel hard done-by, strategy games for me have always been a strictly PC pursuit, so it was great to see the heavy metal box edition performing like a champion.

What’s even better though is the fact that the ever-reliable take-it-apart-and-put-it-together-again crew have been hard at work on some tasty mods to enhance your playing experience. From unlocking a hidden New Game+ mode, to rebalancing difficulty settings, to tweaking gameplay elements, we’ve rounded up a few add-ons you’d be well advised to take a look at.

All these mods and more can be found in the XCOM section of the Nexus Mods website.


Skip Opening Logos

Simple one this: it’s just a batch file that makes a backup copy of your game’s settings file, then inserts a new one that skips straight past those annoying logo movies to the title screen. Who has time to waste on staring at a shiny badge for the thousandth time, there are aliens who need killing!

This ‘mod’ isn’t really hugely inventive, since it’s a pretty simple matter to find the requisite lines in the XComEngine.ini file and comment them out yourself, but why go to the bother when someone else has done all the heavy lifting for you?

Balance Mod

This mod makes several small but important tweaks to elements of the strategic command you exert over the globe. Firstly, thanks to modder arietatray perusing the disabled elements of the game’s source, the option to find the UFOs that are conducting terror and abduction missions is re-enabled. That means that you have the chance to shoot down more aliens before they land, reducing panic, while forcing you into combat more often, with the attendant chance to lose your precious experienced soldiers.

I can't get no plasmatis-faction

The mod also adds a number of other tweaks to the formula, with missions now offering 5 engineers or scientists as a reward instead of 4, satellite build time being cut in half and soldiers starting health being normalised across difficulty levels.

Second Wave

Now here’s a conundrum. If the developers left a feature out of the game that was originally intended for inclusion, but couldn’t be finished for lack of time or resources, are we missing out on content that could extend the life of the game, or just third-class frippery that we can all do without?

Well, worry no more, because arietatray is here again to save the day. The Second Wave mod enables a number of options that were disabled in the game code that make a second playthrough of the game a more challenging and random experience. Some of them are confirmed working, while others are seemingly bugged.

  • Damage Roulette: Weapons have a much wider range of damage (works)
  • New Economy: The funding offered by individual council members is randomised (works)
  • Not Created Equally: Rookies will have random starting stats (works)
  • Hidden Potential: As a soldier is promoted, their stats will increase randomly (not tested)
  • Red Fog: Any wounds taken in combat will degrade a soldier’s stats for that mission (bugged)
  • Absolutely Critical: A flanking shot will guarantee a critical hit (not tested)
  • The Greater Good: The secret of psionics can only be learned by interrogating a psionic alien (not tested)
  • Marathon: The game takes considerably longer to complete (bugged, makes the game unwinnable)
  • Results Driven: A country will offer less funding as it’s panic level increases (not tested)
  • High Stakes: The rewards granted for stopping alien abductions are randomised (works)
  • Diminishing Returns: The cost of satellites increases with every one that is built (works)
  • The Blitz: The aliens will target a larger number of cities every time they launch an abduction attack (not tested)
  • More Than Human: The psionic gift is extremely rare (not tested)

This mod is not compatible with the Balance Mod as yet.

Guaranteed Psionic Soldiers

Advanced players who have had the opportunity to deploy squads of mad cackling psykers will understand the appeal of this mod. The batch file will tweak a number of factors to improve your chance of discovering psychic power lurking in the soft squishy brains of your recruits, and reduce the training time required to unleash their particular brand of mayhem on the battlefield.

Warspace Extension

Here we get to the meat of the matter. Many players have complained about some issues with the game at higher difficulty levels, where the programmers have increased the tension and danger by allowing the aliens to ‘cheat’—giving them free bonuses to aim and critical hit chance. The Warspace Extension mod tweaks almost every element of the combat section of the game with the goal of “making the player’s decisions more meaningful, rather than being punished randomly”.

Get up to get down, 911 is a joke in your town

Here’s a full list of the changes:

Weapons rebalanced

  • Conventional guns are average.
  • Lasers do less damage but are more accurate. Higher chance to damage the environment and do criticals.
  • Plasma weapons do more damage but are less accurate. Highest chance to damage the environment and do criticals.
  • Plasma weapons take a few more shots to damage the environment compared to vanilla settings (in which they destroyed almost everything with a single hit).
  • Arc Thrower now goes in the pistol slot (it has full animation and graphics, so I guess this is how it was originally made).
  • Pistols have slightly less accuracy compared to rifles.
  • Pistols need to be reloaded, just like every other weapon.
  • Shotguns do more damage but have a bit less accuracy compared to rifles. Shotguns should be more useful now.
  • Sniper rifles have slightly more accuracy compared to the other weapons.
  • The sniper rifle’s close range accuracy penalty has been removed (it still needs two moves to be able to fire, I think that’s harsh enough).

Strategical (sic) map rebalanced:

  • The missions the player ignores won’t decrease the panic level of entire continents any more, but only of specific countries.
  • Panic penalties will mostly apply to single countries, but the panic penalties are bigger.
  • When it’s time to decide whether to leave the council, continents with a satellite have a small chance to stay, countries with a sat have a bigger chance.
  • Satellites are more likely to decrease panic levels inside the country once a month.
  • Countries with no satellite in their continent will leave at the end of the month when their panic level reaches level 4.
  • Normal satellites have a very tiny chance not to be destroyed by UFOs when undefended.
  • Stealth satellites have a much bigger chance not to be destroyed by UFOs when undefended.
  • European countries give slightly more money to give the player an incentive to put your satellites there.
  • Increased chance for UFOs showing up.
  • UFOs doing missions can be intercepted sometimes.

Characters rebalanced:

  • Human rookies start off with a bit less accuracy.
  • Human soldiers gain more Will with each level to decrease the chances of panic.
  • Human soldiers who panic won’t try to kill your own soldiers any more (the guy who thought this was a great idea deserves to be shot).
  • Soldiers who take damage during missions will be recovering for a MUCH longer time, especially if they are “gravely injured”, so don’t get hit!
  • Tanks take a few more days to be repaired when heavily damaged.
  • Carapace, Titan and Archangel armours provide two item slots instead of just one.

General Tweaks:

  • Civilians killed during Terror Missions will turn into zombies on Normal and Classic (it already was so on Impossible).
  • On Normal and Classic difficulty levels, the AI should now use more than 5 NPCs (it already was so on Impossible)
  • Normal, Classic and Impossible difficulty levels should be the same now, apart from hard-coded differences, like more enemies and unlocking the full AI.
  • Basically, if you want full AI, play on Classic or Impossible.
  • Keep in mind, this mod was made for the Classic difficulty level, but I guess Impossible should work too. AI is shackled on Normal, so don’t play that!
  • 2nd Wave is enabled.


Phew, that was exhausting just reading that. I’m off for a lie down in a darkened room with a cup of tea now. Happy exterminating!

About the Author

Richard Plant

Author, producer, dreamweaver… also actor. Willing to talk at length about JRPGs for food.