Research

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The war between Man and Alien is not fought waged purely on the field of combat. It is also fought with science.

Research is a decisive factor in winning the game. X-COM forces start the war outclassed by their alien foes and their more powerful technologies. By capturing alien artefacts and researching them, X-COM forces gain access to vastly improved weapons, armour, base facilities, new aircraft, and other useful technologies. Researching captive live aliens provides information about the aliens' methods and traits, and ultimately how to beat them.

Research Basics

Researching a topic is simple. As the Commander of X-COM all you need to do is to pick a research topic and assign a number of scientists to work on it. Then sit back and wait until they are done.

In order to research , you will need to have the following:


  1. A research topic
  2. Laboratory
  3. Living Quarters
  4. Scientists

Research topics are made available several ways. They are provided at the start, obtained by capturing alien artefacts, or deriving them from previous research topics/interrogations. Each research topic require a certain amount of research hours to complete. This value is hidden to the player but you are given a general indication of the progress. This value is randomly adjusted ±50% at the time the topic is started, so some projects may finish sooner or much later than expected. After a research topic is complete, you will be able to build and use the technology and sometimes gain access to new topics to research.

The laboratory is where your scientists get to do their work. Each lab has space for 50 scientists. You can have a maximum of 255 scientists working on a project at a time, though it is recommended to work within multiples of 50.

Living quarters are required to house the scientists, and sometimes for captured aliens that are being transferred from another base. It is unclear why the latter is required, but bed space is temporarily allocated for aliens at the destination base while they are in transit.

Finally, and most importantly, the scientists themselves. Each scientist that is allocated to a project will reduce that project's number of research hours by 1 every hour. Calculations to the remaining research hours are applied at midnight every night. The scientists are otherwise free for most of the day.

With all these available at a base, you can go into the lab, bring up the available research topics, pick the topics that interest you and then allocate a certain number of scientists to work on them. You can assign all scientists to one topic, or split them across several as needed.

At the end of each day, the scientists will decrease the research hours needed to complete the topic they are assigned to. Once the research hours on their topic reach 0, the research is complete and the scientists are free to be assigned to other topics. Where applicable, you will now be able to use and manufacture the researched technology.

For more detail on how research works, the amount of time required for specific projects or other information such as the maintenance costs, refer to the auxiliary articles at the end.

Research Basics: Starting

You start the game with one Laboratory, sufficient space in the Living Quarters, 10 Scientists, and the following research topics that you can start on immediately: Laser Weapons; Medi-Kit; Motion Scanner

The choice of which technology to start with is entirely up to you, as there are merits to all the possible choices (irrespective of what some veteran players may argue!). They are quick to research and provide good equipment that can last all through the game.

In addition to deciding which topic to start with, you will need to consider how to improve your research operations with your limited starting resources. The starting set up is reasonable, but will quickly prove to be inadequate once you get research topics that require a greater number of research hours to complete.


Some good short-term options to consider include:

Buying an alien containment allows the capture and interrogation of aliens. While interrogations as a whole serve mainly as a means to provide more background information to the plot of the game, a few ranks such as the Navigator or a Sectoid Leader provide some high level research. If found early, are very useful to have and can set the tone of the rest of the game.

Raising your number of hired scientists to 50 allows you to fill all vacant spaces in the first lab. Keep in mind that the lab is rented, so any unused workspace will mean you are not getting the most out of your monthly investment.

Long term options you want to consider:

  • Building additional living quarters
  • Building additional laboratories
  • Hiring additional scientists (50 per living quarter and lab)

All three points work hand in hand to increase the number of scientists at your disposal, allowing you to work through the research topics at a faster pace.

Caution: Be aware that research facilities and staff are expensive to obtain and maintain. Over-exerting your limited finances to build a massive research facility right from the beginning may prove to be much more detrimental than beneficial to the cause. You may want to only plan your expansion at this stage.


A comfortable medium for beginners and perhaps any level of player is to work with 100 scientists. It strikes a good balance of speed and the maintenance cost is not too hefty. Veteran players familiar with what technologies they are after can easily get away with 50 or even lesser scientists.

Scientists quantities of 150, 200 and 250 are best considered later once you have more reliable means of income.


Research Basics: Beyond

After your first mission, you will start to obtain new topics in the labs depending on the artefacts and aliens that you are able to bring home from the battles. This opens up a world of better technology that you can access right away. Many of these technologies will also form the foundation of even higher tier technologies that you will need in due course.

Due to the open nature of this game, and the various playing methods that players will adopt, there's no one true path on how to proceed from here. Pick what technologies fancy you the most, or go for the ones with the most immediate benefits. Make up your own system of how research must progress, or just start picking topics at random. It's entirely up to you.


See Also

For more advanced information on research, refer to:

UFO Badge X-COM: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense
Research:BasicsPopular Sequences and TipsTreesLive AliensTechnical Details