Difficulty (Long War)

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I'm fairly new to XCOM. What difficulty should I start with?
Normal.

I'm an XCOM veteran. What difficulty should I start with?
Normal.

But I'm really awesome at --
Sorry to interrupt, but just start with Normal. We don't have easy difficulties in this mod that hold your hand while you learn the ropes and we've removed every bit of code we can find that cheats for the player on the lower difficulties. It's going to be hard. The other difficulties are just harder versions of Normal; feel free to move up when you get a handle on all the new mechanics.

OMG, this is hard. I'm having to save and load lots to win all my missions
You are not intended to win every mission, and in fact if you do you'll have a very imbalanced game. You can and will see Supply Ships and Battleships in March or April and you're not intended to beat them. Take heart though, Long War is balanced around winning some and losing some. You can get countries back if you lose them and you can keep fighting as long as even one country supports you. You're expected to have dozens of soldiers on your roster, so losing your highest ranked sniper isn't the end of the world. There will be a lot of UFOs to assault, so if you don't shoot some down or fail to assault them there will be many more.

Difficulty levels

In general, higher difficulties cause you to have less resources at your disposal, while there are stronger and more numerous Aliens present on tactical missions. Aliens also advance their research faster, granting them extra abilities, stats and stronger alien types earlier in the game.

Normal

Tactical

  • Drones have -5 defense.
  • Floaters have -1 mobility and -5 defense.
  • Heavy Floaters have -5 defense.
  • All Exalt Elite units have -1 base HP.

Strategic

  • More weapon fragments are recovered after missions.
  • UFO missions grant 40% more Alien alloys.
  • More elerium is recovered from UFO power sources.
  • Alien research rate is at 70%.
  • Council members with satellite coverage grant 110% of their maximum funding.
  • Council members without satellite coverage grant 50% of their maximum funding.
  • 200 points of panic is spread to council members at game start.
  • XCOM base gets +2 "free" power.

Classic

Tactical

  • All enemies have +5 aim.
  • Thin men gain +5 extra aim. (+10 total)
  • Floaters have -5 defense.
  • Outsiders gain +5 extra aim. (+10 total)
  • All Exalt units have +1 base HP.

Strategic

  • Slightly more weapon fragments are recovered after missions.
  • UFO missions grant 20% more Alien alloys.
  • Alien research rate is at 100%.
  • Council members without satellite coverage grant 40% of their maximum funding.
  • 400 points of panic is spread to council members at game start.

Brutal

Note that these base values mentioned do not include leader, navigator or alien research bonuses.

Tactical

  • All enemies have +10 aim.
  • Thin men gain extra +5 aim. (+15 total)
  • Outsiders gain extra +10 aim. (+20 total)
  • Floaters have 6 base HP up from 5.
  • Mutons have 10 base HP up from 8.
  • Muton berserkers have 22 base HP up from 20.
  • Drones have 4 base HP up from 3.
  • Zombies have 15 base HP up from 12.
  • Mechtoids have 27 base HP up from 25.
  • All Exalt units gain +2 base HP.
  • Ethereals and Sectoid commanders gain +20 will.
  • Uber Ethereal gains +20 will and +5 def.

Strategic

  • Alien research rate is at 110%.
  • Council members without satellite coverage grant 33% of their maximum funding.
  • 600 points of panic is spread to council members at game start.
  • Less elerium is recovered from UFO power sources.

Impossible

Tactical

Unchanged from brutal difficulty:

  • All enemies have +10 aim.
  • Thin men gain extra +5 aim. (+15 total)
  • Outsiders gain extra +10 aim. (+20 total)
  • Floaters have 6 base HP up from 5.
  • Mutons have 10 base HP up from 8.
  • Drones have 4 base HP up from 3.
  • Zombies have 15 base HP up from 12.
  • All exalt troops gain +2 base HP.
  • Ethereals and Sectoid commanders gain +20 will.
  • Uber Ethereal gains +20 will.

Changes in impossible:

  • All non-mechanical enemies but sectoids and zombies gain +5 will. (Adding a total of +25 will to Ethereals and Sectoid commanders)
  • Sectoids have 4 base HP up from 3.
  • Muton berserkers have 25 base HP up from 22.
  • Seekers have 5 base HP up from 4.
  • Mechtoids have 30 base HP up from 25.
  • Cyberdiscs have 23 base HP up from 18.
  • Heavy Floaters gain +1 mobility.
  • Uber Ethereal gains +10 def.
  • "Easy aliens" gain +1 base damage (Sectoids, Floaters, Thin Men, Mutons, ballistic EXALT, seekers, chryssalids, zombies, sectoid commanders, outsiders).
  • "Hard aliens" gain +2 base damage (Berserkers, Cyberdiscs, Mechtoids, Heavy Floaters, Muton Elites, Ethereals, Sectopods, EXALT Elites, Uber Ethereal).

Strategic

Unchanged from brutal difficulty:

  • Less elerium is recovered from UFO power sources.

Changes in impossible:

  • Alien research rate is at 130%.
  • Council members without satellite coverage grant 25% of their maximum funding.
  • 800 points of panic is spread to council members at game start.

Easy Levels

We really want to support all levels of pain tolerance: since Beta 15e, the Long War download has 4 additional easier difficulty levels included, but you have to make a file change to get them working. Doing this will replace the key settings for the four default difficulties. It does not change static in-game text, so the difficulties will be still be labeled "normal", "classic", "brutal", "impossible" -- however, this "impossible" is still a bit easier than standard "normal".

To play with the easy settings:

  • go to your version of C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\XCom-Enemy-Unknown\XEW\XComGame\Config\
  • rename the file DefaultGameCore.ini to AltDefaultGameCore.alt or something like that. The goal is disable the usual settings file.
  • rename the file DefaultGameCore - Training.ini to DefaultGameCore.ini -- this enables the alternate settings file to be used by the game.
  • after doing this, you MAY have to also delete the file XComGameCore.ini in your version of C:\Users\John\Documents\My Games\XCOM - Enemy Within\XComGame\Config

This last step is troubleshooting and shouldn't be necessary for most players, but sometimes the game fails to update the file it actually uses (XComGameCore.ini) with changes to the file users should edit (DefaultGameCore.ini), and this will ensure that the update does take place.

See also

Vigilo Confido shield.png Long War: Overview
Overview

Mod Information Change Log New CommandsDifficulty LevelsSecond WaveTroubleshooting GuideDev ConsoleCustom Modifications