XCOM Analysis: Second Wave choices

"Second Wave" options are tweaks to gameplay the player can turn on for a new run, permanent to that run. They cover a fairly wide array of ideas, and range from nearly invisible, minor changes, to major paradigm shifts in how the game fundamentally works. Most of them have to be unlocked by beating the game, with a minimum difficulty requirement attached -among other points, prior to Enemy Within adding some exceptions, it wasn't possible to unlock Second Wave options on an Easy difficulty run.

There's a very loose trend of the unlocks that demand higher difficulty victories tending to make the game harder, where the more basic ones are more likely to overall help the player. I suspect this is intentional, and think it's a good principle. Not so sure on the actual implementation of that principle.

Damage Roulette

Damage is much more random. Available by default.

Specifically, "regular" attacks can roll anywhere from 1 damage to 50% higher than the weapon's base damage, rounded down. (eg an Assault Rifle is base 3, so it could roll as high as 4, because half of 3 is 1.5, round down, you get 1 to add to its base of 3)

Critical hits work differently in Damage Roulette, as well. Normally a crit's damage is, as far as I can tell, arbitrarily assigned by the developers, with weaker weapons having proportionately stronger critical hits, but stronger weapons still getting more absolute damage added to critical hits. I haven't been able to identify an actual formula behind it. In Damage Roulette, instead crits add the weapon's base damage on top of whatever roll you got: an Assault Rifle will do a minimum of 4 damage on a crit, since 1 is the minimum roll and 3 is its base damage.

This Second Wave option makes combat much less predictable, but it also has the odd quirk of making critical hits much more appealing to build for, such as on the Assault. After all, if you can force a crit, you can count on a minimum amount of damage that is higher than 1, and this minimum goes up the further you advance your weapon technology. So, ironically, focusing on the unreliable crits is actually a way to improve the reliability of your damage output if you have Damage Roulette on.

I don't have any strong feelings on Damage Roulette either way, though. Overall it's really basically a challenge mode, because the player is generally doing the majority of the shooting, and under-performing giving the enemy the chance to get in shots is a much more likely scenario, when comparing to having the option off, than getting lucky and getting a kill-shot that wouldn't have been possible with it off. But I don't think it's a particularly interesting challenge option. It does little to change your behavior, beyond encouraging even more hyper-conservative play.

Which the game is already oriented toward anyway.

Oh well.

New Economy

Funding from countries is randomized at worldgen. Available by default.

Reduces the player's ability to plan out their Satellite coverage before they've even started the game.

On the other hand, if a player really cares, they can just keep resetting until they get what they want.

I like the idea of having country funding variable to potentially change the player's priorities, but eehh. New Economy isn't very good at that.

Not Created Equal

Soldiers have randomized starting stats. Available by default.

This specifically randomizes Aim, Will, and Mobility. 1/3rd of your soldiers will be a little slower than usual, 1/3rd usual speed, and 1/3rd faster than usual, divided evenly between 1 Mobility faster and 2 Mobility faster if they do end up faster than usual. Unfortunately, the game never ever actually tells you a soldier's Movement stat, presumably because there's no need in normal play, and so you can only determine this stat by bringing a soldier into the field and manually looking at their movement range.

Will varies from 25-59, where 40 is what you get if this option is off. (It increments in units of 2, which oddly means it's not possible to get a soldier with 40 Will if you turn Not Created Equal On) Assuming all possibilities are equal, half your soldiers will have better Will than the default, and half worse.

Aim is 50-80, where the default is 65. It increments in units of 5. Assuming all possibilities are equally valid, that means 3/7ths of your soldiers will be below the default Aim, 3/7ths above, and 1/7th exactly at the default.

Note that these numbers mean that Not Created Equal has soldiers have the same starting average stats as if you have it off.

I'm not a fan of Not Created Equal being on, not by itself. When combined with certain options, it can create interesting, difficult decisions, but by itself or when combined  solely with options like Damage Roulette that don't directly interact with it, Not Created Equal in practice means the player's squad tends to run higher quality than in the base game, in spite of the fact that all three stats are set up so that "better" and "worse" (Relative to the defaults) are equally likely. It basically turns into a question of how willing the player is to spend money to improve troop quality, only instead of actually spending money directly into soldiers to improve them, you buy groups of soldiers, sack the worst of them (Or use them as disposable scouts), and keep the ones that meet whatever is your minimum standard of quality.

Exacerbating this is that Will isn't all that important a stat -it's perfectly practical to ignore it, focusing solely on Aim and to a lesser extent Mobility. It's not as if the Volunteer needs to be competent at Psi to complete the game, and anyway you'll almost certainly have some soldiers with better-than-average Will score in among your high-Aim soldiers. Also, having good base Will can be drowned out by having Will gains from leveling up, which is always random.

In short, turning Not Created Equal on does a fantastic job of illustrating why it wasn't made the default state of things.

All that said, I think it's actually pretty interesting when combined with Training Roulette, as Training Roulette encourages you to give every soldier a chance, just in case they have some godly combination of skills. If you have both on, you can find yourself putting up with soldiers with awful base stats because they have an amazing skill combination. That kind of thing.

Hidden Potential

Soldier stat gains from leveling are randomized. Available by default.

This specifically effects HP, Aim, and Mobility. Will gains are already randomized.

For HP, all classes except the Heavy have a 50% chance of gaining a hit point per level up, while the Heavy has a 60% chance. This is a little odd in practice: Assaults and Supports will, on average, reach the same HP as if Hidden Potential is not turned on, but Heavies and Snipers under Hidden Potential will average more HP than if the option is off.

For Mobility, all classes except Heavies have a 20% chance of gaining an additional point per level, while Heavies only have a 10% chance. This is very odd all around, as normally leveling never provides an increase to Mobility. As such, if Hidden Potential is on, your squad will consistently be faster than if it's off! The exact amount of speed advantage will be random, but they'll be pretty consistently ahead -with 7 level-ups, only Heavies have a decent chance of not rolling at least one gain by the time they've reached Colonel.

Aim's gains are individual to each class.

Assault: 1-5 per level

Support: 2-6 per level

Heavy: 0-2 per level

Sniper: 3-9 per level

Mec: 1-5 per level.

The Assault and Heavy will, on average, hit worse Aim than if Hidden Potential is off, while all three other classes will typically be better off with it on. An incidental consequence is that any Heavy you are considering converting to a Mec should probably be converted as early as possible -it will almost always result in higher Aim and Movement, and the slightly lower HP gain chance from no longer being a Heavy is essentially irrelevant. Conversely, if you're planning on converting a Sniper or Support to a Mec, you're best off maxing their rank and then converting them. The Assault can be converted whenever you feel like, as their numbers aren't changed by the conversion.

I actually like Hidden Potential, and it's one of the Second Wave options that makes Not Created Equal more interesting. Since you can't actually assume a soldier with good bases will end great nor a soldier with mediocre bases end mediocre if Hidden Potential is on, Hidden Potential encourages you to give every soldier a chance, preferably getting them to max level or close to it.

... and then sack the ones who ended up godawful.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the fact that Hidden Potential tends to make your soldiers better than in the base game. I actually think it's pretty cool that you can luck into lightning-fast soldiers -a soldier who pulls off the unlikely feat of gaining Mobility on every level-up will actually be just under a Chryssalid's speed, and that's before you enhance their gear with skills (Sprinter) or equipment!

Still, it's a little weird to me that you can gain Mobility if you have Hidden Potential on, when that's not normally a level-up gain. It's an unexpected implication for what presents itself as merely randomizing the usual growths.

Still, I think Hidden Potential is a fun little option.

Red Fog

When soldiers take damage, they suffer penalties to Aim and Movement for the remainder of the mission. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Normal difficulty.

Specifically, -15 Aim if the HP loss was only to the portion provided by armor, -30 Aim if they lost any of their own HP under the armor, and -2 to Mobility either way. (Reminder: soldiers normally have a base of 12 Mobility) I'm unclear whether these penalties stack (eg does getting shot twice reduce Movement by 4?) and if so I have no idea what happens if a soldier stacks too many of these effects. What does the game do if you would hit 0 or less Mobility? Dunno.

Note that healing soldiers doesn't undo the Red Fog penalties. Ending the mission is the only thing that makes the penalties go away.

Red Fog is an interesting challenge mode choice that partially addresses one of my complaints with the game -that it feels far too much like Rambo Simulator 9000. With Red Fog on, taking damage is bad, even if the damage never reaches lethal levels. Your soldiers no longer shrug when plasma melts off half their face and keep going as if nothing happened.

On the other hand, I kind of resent that it only applies to the player's units -being able to leverage Red Fog's effects for your own benefit would add an element of depth to the game, especially if the penalties do stack. In that case, setting up for a capture would involve repeatedly hitting the target with weak shots to wear their stats down until they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from inside the barn, at which point a soldier could safely approach to Arc Thrower them.

Oh well. It's still a decent Second Wave option.

Absolutely Critical

The flanking crit bonus is +100% rather than +50%. Conversely, Hardened reduces crit chance by 100%, rather than by 60%. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Normal difficulty.

Turns flanking, hoping for a crit, into a sure thing instead of a probable thing. Oddly, my understanding is that Aliens (And EXALT) don't benefit from the change -that they still only get +50% crit chance for a flank on your units.

I'm not really clear why this isn't the default behavior when it comes to firing on exposed targets. Randomness is not inherently good, and the biggest payoff for a flank being only a chance to get bonus damage has always seemed a strange design decision to me.

The Greater Good

You can't unlock Psionics without interrogating a Sectoid Commander or an Ethereal. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Normal difficulty.

This is only a very slight difference. Normally you can unlock Pisonics by performing an Autopsy on a Sectoid Commander -The Greater Good removes that possibility, and only that possibility. I'm a bit puzzled as to why it's a Second Wave option. Yes, it means that access to Psionics isn't essentially automatic once you've completed the Alien Base mission, but that seems a small point. Especially since Psionics aren't even a gamechanger in the first place.


Everything takes longer. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Normal difficulty.

Doubles Research time, doubles how long Facilities take to construct, doubles the costs of Facilities and all items (This includes weapons and armor), doubles the time your soldiers spend in the Infirmary when injured, and also alters the Alien deployment table so Alien types that show up later take even longer to show up.

Other costs are not altered, and other things that take time are not delayed. Foundry Projects, for instance, take no longer than if Marathon is off. Soldiers gain experience at the same rate, Alien activity occurs with the same frequency, Satellites take the same amount of time to build, the Officer Training School's upgrades are unmodified...

Marathon is a big change in how things play out, tending to lead to more elite squads relative to the challenges the player is facing and also relative to the quality of the gear on the player's soldiers. The fact that Research is delayed in particular slows down the player's ability to move through the storyline.

I have no particular feelings on Marathon. I do find it interesting how it effects a fairly scattershot set of things, distorting what comes easy and what doesn't. Expanding your base takes longer, not only because individual facilities take longer to build but also because it eats more of your funding to build one and so directly discourages expanding your base. Meanwhile, your soldiers are mostly impacted by how it slows down your ability to equip them -the other ways they get better are unaffected or less-affected. In some ways it seems more interesting as a variant mode for these kinds of changes than for the "marathon" aspect per se.

Overall a cool option.

Results Driven

Funding scales to Panic levels. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Classic difficulty.

Specifically: at level 2 Panic, a country provides its usual funding level. For each step away from that, funding is modified by 25%. So, going from 1 to 5, you end up with: 125%, 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%.

Results Driven makes it a lot more important to manage your Panic, and in particular to focus on countries you've already got satellite coverage on, to whatever extent you can focus on that. I appreciate this because it makes Panic a bit less binary -instead of a country's panic level being irrelevant unless and until they actually leave the project, the player actually cares about the exact Panic level. It also means the player's money situation is something they have to pay attention to beyond dumping satellites all over the place at the tail end of each month.

It adds real depth, is what I'm saying.

High Stakes

Randomizes the quantities in the rewards for Alien Abductions. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Classic difficulty.

I'm not a fan of High Stakes, since it tends to exacerbate the existing tendency to optimize your choices when it comes to Alien Abductions. Now you'll be seeing outcomes like "two countries have godawful rewards, and one has an amazing reward" and just take the amazing reward.

It can, of course, result in cases where you get a poor reward to stave off severe Panic in a country, that kind of thing, but overall it's basically randomness for randomness' sake. If it was a base part of the game, I wouldn't mind it, exactly, but I'm not sure why I'd put in the effort to turn the option on when it's not doing anything to make the game more interesting to play.

Diminishing Returns

Satellites get more expensive the more you build. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Classic difficulty.

The cost increase includes raising the minimum Engineer requirements. On the plus side, the base Satellite construction time is decreased from 20 days to 10 days, so your initial Satellites will come quicker.

I like Diminishing Returns. A concern I have with the base game is that it's... fairly easy to end up covering the entire planet with Satellites and thus maximizing your funding fairly quickly. The only thing discouraging you from doing so as fast as possible in the base game is the time and money that goes into setting up the Satellite Uplinks/Nexuses. Normally, a Satellite's price of 100$ will be recouped within 1-2 months -the lowest country funding is 50$ per month, so breaking even at two months is the worst-case scenario just in raw money terms. That's before all the other benefits of having Satellites all over the place -namely, they prevent Alien Abductions from targeting the country, you get additional Engineers and Scientists each month for having more countries covered, and if you have an entire Continent handled you get the special Continent Bonuses.

So in the base game, spamming Satellites is a fairly mindless plan. With Diminishing Returns on, your later Satellites will increasingly struggle to cover their own costs in a reasonable time frame, complicating the decision a bit, and encouraging you to focus your efforts, such as picking which 2-3 Continent Bonuses you most want and not bothering with Satellites in the other countries until you've got cash to burn.

I like it.

More Than Human

Successful Psionic tests are very rare. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Classic difficulty.

You will always get a Psionic soldier by no later than your sixth test, same as the base game, but your odds of soldiers testing positive without the game cheating for you are much, much lower than normal. In practice you can basically assume you won't have a second psi soldier without losing your first one, as we're talking like a 1% chance of a success if you already have a Psionic soldier. If you feel like testing additional soldiers in hope of lucking out... well. I can't stop you. But it's a bad idea.

I don't really care for More Than Human. The game has already taken steps to move the player away from full teams of Psionic soldiers, and More Than Human's exaggeration of this point isn't particularly interesting, especially since Psionics, though useful, is just not that amazing in the remaquel.

Making this worse is Enemy Within's introduction of the Progeny DLC. Since the four soldiers you get over the course of it are exceptions that will automatically test positive for psychic powers, it's trivial to get yourself a team of five psychics in Enemy Within, even with More Than Human running. Simply test six regular soldiers (Or stop before six if you get lucky), and then test the four you get from Progeny. Mecs are sufficiently useful you'd be unlikely to run a full team of six psychic soldiers anyway.

Total Loss

Everything a soldier is carrying is lost on death. Unlocked by beating the game on Impossible Difficulty.

I like this one, because it addresses something I consider a major flaw with the game's overall design -the degree to which the player's forces improve by permanently raising the minimums on their gear.

That is: in the base game, once you've manufactured six Titan Armors, you're done. Once you've got six Plasma Rifles, you'll never need a seventh one. Once you have six (Okay, seven in Enemy Within, thanks to Covert Operations) Plasma Pistols, you're done. Six Arc Throwers? Never building another one. Casualties may lower the experience level of your soldiers, but rookies in the late-game will be wandering around with end-game gear no matter how hard a time XCOM is going through.

Total Loss addresses this, making a soldier's death more significant than the loss of an experienced soldier. It can be a loss in firepower (Because you drop a soldier back to Laser instead of Plasma), and can require a significant investment of resources to correct, or at least a greater willingness to aggressively capture Aliens.

It also addresses secondary flaws in the game's base design -that for instance the Foundry Project that gives you unlimited Alien Grenades is fully worthwhile if you're running Total Loss, because no matter how many Alien Grenades you capture, you could still run out through casualties. (This is particularly relevant to the base game, where no Mec Grenade Launcher exists to benefit from the unlimited Alien Grenade Foundry Project)

I'm actually a little sad it isn't the default, or more accurately sad that the default has items 100% immune to destruction no matter how your soldier died.

... strangely, even being killed by an explosion won't destroy their gear normally, even though explosives will render Alien gear into a form so fine you can't even get Weapon Fragments out of them. One of those things you either suspend your disbelief on or have your enjoyment of the game chipped down just a little more.

War Weariness

Council funding lowers over the course of the game. Unlocked by beating the game on Impossible Difficulty.

Yes, it will eventually drop to zero, leaving you to rely entirely on selling stuff and gift money from missions.

Like Diminishing Returns, you should think twice about spraying Satellites at everything. If you're far enough into the game, a Satellite might never recoup its $ value!

I like War Weariness in principle, though I'm not so sure about in practice. One of my complaints with the game -which is a flaw with the original XCOM, really- is that your defeat condition is sufficiently arbitrary and essentially unrelated to actually playing the game poorly that you end up being able to basically muddle through indefinitely.

In fact, even being in debt can't cause XCOM to be disbanded -but War Weariness at least means that you're facing something of an uphill battle, and so can't simply stall indefinitely. Among other points, it discourages things like delaying attacking the Alien Base to exploit the worldwide Panic reduction it provides. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much time pressure War Weariness really puts you under, and while the remaquel isn't as silly as the original XCOM is about you being able to fund yourself without the Council, I still have to wonder how much it actually hurts a good player's situation.

Still, I like the idea of it.


Elerium in storage decays. Unlocked by beating the game on Impossible difficulty.

You lose roughly 4.52% of what you've got for each day that passes. Note that this loss occurs continuously, not at any particular increment. (That is, it doesn't roll a check every midnight or something) The only way you can really game the system is that Elerium tied up inside projects has its decay halted, and so you can potentially start a project that uses Elerium, cancel it, restart it, etc, to hoard Elerium.

This is flavorful, but I don't think I particularly care for it as a gameplay mechanic. It mostly means you'll sell the Elerium you find early on, and that once you've got things to spend Elerium on you'll typically have less than you might like available. It's... just not that interesting a mechanic. Annoying, more than meaningful.

Alternate Sources

Power requirements of Base Facilities are doubled. Unlocked by beating the game on Impossible difficulty.

Your initial, free (ie not attached to a specific building) supply of Power is also doubled, so the initial portion of the game is minimally impacted, but your actual Generators have their usual generation, and so you'll need to dedicate more of your base to supplying Power.

I don't like this Second Wave option. It slows the game down and alters base-building dynamics, and obviously makes the game a bit harder overall, but it's not actually interesting. It's just sort of... there.

Training Roulette (Enemy Within)

Soldier skills are largely randomized in distribution. Unlocked by beating the game at all.

I love this option.

Details: first, note that it doesn't effect Mecs at all, and their skills are similarly not tossed into the randomization pool. The latter point isn't so bad, because several of the Mec's skills are just clones of skills on the core four classes, while others are, not to put too fine a point on it, garbage. Still others are basically compensating for lacking access to regular options -Jet Boot Module, for instance, mostly serves to compensate for their inability to climb ladders and the like plus their lack of access to Skeleton Suits, Ghost Armor, Archangel Armor, and the Muscle Fiber Density Gene Mod. For a regular soldier, Jet Boot Module would actually only be substantially noteworthy if you lucked into it as being an early skill on one of your early soldiers. So only a handful of the Mecs skills are really missed. The flipside that Mecs lack access to the randomization mechanic is a bit more disappointing, admittedly.

Second, note that a number of skills are locked. These skills are always found at their usual position on their usual class. All the Squaddie-level skills are included in this (Assaults get Run & Gun right away, nobody else can get it, etc), but it also includes effects that are attached to the soldier type's equipment (eg Squadsight and Snap Shot only do anything with Sniper Rifles) cases where the effect would be nonsensical due to another skill being locked (Killer Instinct modifies Run & Gun's behavior, and so is useless if you don't have Run & Gun), or, in some cases, seem to have simply been deemed fairly distinctive to the class for no reason I can discern. (eg Rapid Fire, Disabling Shot)

Third: there's a few limitations even beyond that. Specifically, Snipers will never get Bullet Swarm (Which, on the one hand, they're forced to get either Double Tap or In The Zone, so they get similar functionality anyway, but on the other hand, Snipers are the class that would most appreciate being able to take a shot and then move) while Heavies will never get Gunslinger. (Presumably because they'll never wield Pistols outside of Covert Operations)

Fourth: Psi skills are unaffected.

If you want the full details, you can look here.

It's a lot harder to get an amazing medical specialist if you have Training Roulette on. Where in normal play you can count on Supports being able to stack Revive, Field Medic, and Savior, in Training Roulette you have no guarantee of any given soldier getting any given one of the skills, and indeed you can end up with a character who actually does have all three in their list but has two of them competing with each other, and thus only not be able to get all three even though they have all three.

Supports are clearly the worst of the classes with Training Roulette on. Notably, a lot of the most powerful skills, including many of the ones with very substantial synergies with other skills, are the class-locked ones, with Bullet Swarm being one of the only exceptions. It's probably still worth raising your Supports, just in case a given Support happens to have an amazing skill list, or if your non-Supports keep ending up unusually bad, especially since you can always convert your Supports to Mecs if they just don't work out, but Supports will go from "a bit disappointing, aside from their medical skills" to "almost always a disappointment."

Training Roulette has no respect for how far into leveling a skill normally appears, either. Major-level skills are not randomized within the Major rank or anything like that -you can totally get Will To Survive as one of your first two options after leveling from Squaddie. (Unless you're a Sniper, but that's because Squadsight and Snap Shot are locked skills) This is mostly significant in terms of opening up more combinations -that for instance a single character could simultaneously select all of Deep Pockets, Will To Survive, Extra Conditioning, and Low Profile even though they're all Major-level skills. The remaquel doesn't have particularly consistent quality at any given rank, so it's not so much a case of getting Ultimate Power early -Bullet Swarm was already as early as it could be without being the core Heavy skill, and it's one of the best skills in the entire game. It's still worth noting regardless.

With Training Roulette on, gift soldiers from Council missions are also a lot more noteworthy, as they let you pick skills with full knowledge (Well, nearly full knowledge if it's not a Sniper, as you can't get a Colonel from gifts) of what's further down the tree. As such, a gift soldier can be quite certain whether they're going to be able to take advantage of certain synergies or not, and make choices appropriately -Sentinel+Covering Fire+Opportunist, for instance, will turn your Overwatch shots into two chances per turn to fire with no Aim penalty and they'll trigger on basically anything any enemy does.

A non-gift soldier has to either make decisions blindly or hold off on taking a skill (And thus, on gaining stats from leveling!), while still participating in missions, until they've made it further down the tree, both of which are sub-optimal. (Or you can cheat with save scumming, but soldier skills are defined when they reach Squaddie, not at any given level-up. You'd, what, play through a couple of months and then reload the beginning of the game?) This makes gift soldiers much more valuable than in normal play.

Training Roulette is also one of the Second Wave options that combines in an interesting way with Not Created Equal. Where Not Created Equal, when by itself, basically just raises the quality of your soldiers while functionally increasing their price point if taken advantage of, when combined with Training Roulette it can lead to a player hesitating to actually sack a recruit with dubious stats on the off chance they have a desirable combination of skills, In the long term, this can lead to the player actually making use of soldiers whose stats are particularly bad because the combination of skills is simply too good to pass up. When further combined with Hidden Potential, the player becomes strongly encouraged to give every soldier a chance, and only consider sacking them if they end up underwhelming somewhere in the vicinity of Major.

Training Roulette is what I wish every Second Wave option was: complicated, interesting, and flipping underlying assumptions of the design on their head to create something new out of the familiar.

Save Scum (Enemy Within)

Saving the game resets the random number generator's seed. Unlocked by beating the game at all.

Now you can save, fire a shot, have it fail, and then reload to your heart's content.

I dislike this in principle, but you could already game the RNG seed by just changing the order of who fired what shots and the like. Gaming the seed is basically a mini-game in its own right, which is sufficiently silly I'm okay with a more honest version of save scumming.

I'm just not going to use it myself.

Aiming Angles (Enemy Within)

The closer you are to flanking a target, the less Defense their cover provides. Unlocked by beating the game at all.

I like this one a lot. The very binary nature of flanking in the base game, where you can jump straight from 50% chance to hit to 90% chance to hit by moving one tile, is very game-y in a way I'm not fond of. Aiming Angles makes for more dynamic and realistic gameplay, and in particular adds real depth. It also encourages more in the way of risky play: with Aiming Angles on, it can be worth circling around a target to get a better angle on it, risking activating unseen Alien pods, where in normal play you'll generally only bother with equivalent risky behavior when using Run & Gun. I consider it a fairly significant flaw with the base game that hyper-cautious play is the optimal way to play the game, so Aiming Angles helping offset that is a good thing in my view.

I really appreciate that Aiming Angle was introduced -and it makes perfect sense to me that it's a Second Wave option rather than a baseline rule of the game, considering that it was introduced in Enemy Within.

I mean, I wish it was the baseline rules anyway, but I find it understandable that it's not.

Mind Hates Matter (Enemy Within)

A soldier cannot be both Psionic and benefiting from Gene Mods. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Normal difficulty.

I don't find Mind Hates Matter particularly interesting.

It's vaguely thematic, acting as something of an extension of the (inexplicable) decision to bar Mecs from Psi testing/powers, but gameplay-wise it's not that significant. For one thing, the Officer Training School upgrade Iron Will means your best soldiers for Psi testing will tend to be your B or C team anyway, so it doesn't particularly discourage you from slapping Gene Mods onto your A team.

For another, most Gene Mods are very limited in their effect. The loss of Mimetic Skin is a pretty big deal, but the only Gene Mod that's particularly interesting as far as Mind Hates Matter is Secondary Heart -since one of its effects is that it prevents Will loss from being not-actually-killed, and Will loss is particularly bad if you're a Psi soldier.

Otherwise though... yeah, okay, this is an overall debuff to your Psi soldiers/means that slapping even the most minor of Gene Mods on someone removes them from your potential pool of Psi soldiers, but it just doesn't seem that interesting a change.

Itchy Trigger Tentacle (Enemy Within)

Aliens that have a ranged attack and cannot take Cover have a 50% chance of firing on one of your soldiers when their pod is activated. Unlocked by beating the game on at least Classic difficulty.

This applies to Mechtoids, Cyberdiscs, Drones, Sectopods, Ethereals... and, for some reason, Floaters and Heavy Floaters? I guess because they don't really need to take cover?

I appreciate this one in concept. Aliens that can take Cover, and melee aliens, are taking advantage of the free move they get when activated in normal play. The Aliens that can't use Cover and aren't melee normally are essentially "wasting" that free action, as they neither have an unusually strong motive to close with enemies nor do they have any reason to move to cover, and Itchy Trigger Tentacle addresses that inequality.

I don't think I'm so fond of it in practice, though. It basically amounts to the player having to deal with periodically taking damage they couldn't really do anything about, and it doesn't particularly shape the way the player plays, except maybe by encouraging more willingness to carry Medikits to be ready to undo the damage. I'd love to have a Second Wave option that reduces how strongly the game encourages a slow, cautious, boring advance -something like having all enemy pods start the map pre-activated, maybe.

... but while Itchy Trigger Tentacle appeals to the part of me that dislikes certain forms of "unfairness" or inequality, I don't think it's a positive for gameplay, unfortunately.


I quite like the idea of Second Wave. It's too bad it's a bit spotty in implementation. To be fair, my understanding is that it was actually a planned feature that got cut, and only got implemented because modders digging around in the code found it was still in there, just disabled and only half-implemented, and they helped make it functional after the game was released. So it's not like it had any opportunity to be tested or anything!

Still, it's too bad it didn't have a better implementation. It's the kind of idea I wish was in more games, and success often breeds imitators. Alas.

Next time, we start covering the remaquel's multiplayer.


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