Best Starting Weapons (TFTD)

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Starting a game in TFTD is outright frightening - especially if you've played the game a few times and know what to expect. Half the time your starting weapons will feel ineffectual and some of them most certainly are. As always, a good mixture of weapon types will always be recommended, but here we'll have a look at the early general weapons that you'll most probably want to arm your aquanauts with to make things easier.


General Firearms

General firearms cover all of the weapons that you will be commonly using on a squad-wide level. Note that two weapons that could be classified as heavy weapons are included in this lineup as well as their balance and versatility allow them to have dual roles.

Dart Gun

Probably the most ineffectual weapon in the entire series. It does offer the usual one-handed grip, speed and low cost. It's severely crippled by its low damage rating. It can be used to (eventually) knock down Aquatoids, Gillmen and Deep Ones, on the easier difficulty settings, but will deal negligible damage to most terror units.

Note that even on the easiest setting, an Aquanaut that comes face to face with a Gillman, and fires 5 snapshots at point blank, will usually fail to kill it. (Average of 16 AP - armor deductions vs 80 health)

Though lacking as an offensive weapon, it does make for a fair weapon to train reactions or for improving firing accuracy due to the excessive amount of effort it requires you to put in to it.

Since the Dart Gun is not able to stand out on its own like many of the other early weapons, it will have to rely on other weapons such as Torpedo Launchers or grenades to the brunt of the work for it. It can then be used as a cheap way of finishing off a nearly dead enemy. "Cheap" can be interpreted on many different levels - so use which ever interpretation that comes to mind.

Jet Harpoon

This weapon is a fairly average weapon. It has reasonable speed with auto fire capability and good accuracy. This is negated by low damage and a small ammo magazine. You must therefore compensate by taking more care with each shot or carry more ammunition.

Thanks to its good accuracy and speed, it works well in ranged combat against soft targets like Aquatoid, Gillmen or even Deep Ones. Tougher enemies will need heavier firepower.

Even on easier settings, 2 hits will not necessarily kill a Gillman. Within the enemy's firing range, this can attract reaction fire. To avoid this, as with any weapon, it is safest when employed in a sniping role with the sniper/spotter strategy. If used in an assault role, it is recommended that auto fire be used at near point blank range against previously damaged enemies to ensure a quick kill.

Though presumably intended as the bread-and-butter starting weapon to arm all your aquanauts with, it quickly reaches obsolescence thanks to the increased armour levels and AP resistances in TFTD as well as a host of vastly more powerful weapons such as the cannons, or even the first tier weapons in either advanced weapon families.

If they are employed, they are best used in combination with other weapons to snipe or finish off wounded enemies.

Gas Cannon

The Gas Cannon functions as a high powered cannon, rocket propelled grenade launcher or a fire starter. Its balance of moderately high firepower, accuracy and ammunition variety make it a generously well rounded weapon to start the game with.

The cannon is slow, heavy and only has 8 rounds of ammo. The trade-off is double the firepower of the Jet Harpoon with equal firing accuracy. Most importantly, for a conventional heavy weapon it does not suffer from the underwater-only restriction.

Of the ammunition types, GC-AP and GC-HE shells are standard every-day ammo, while GC-Phosphor are the only fire-starting rounds that can be deployed normally on land.

On land, until you get the Displacer/Sonic, HE shells will be of particular value as you will be able to use them to strike targets through the ceiling above you in the event that you cannot access the area by foot. GC-HE rounds can even rival the Sonic Pistol for taking down Lobstermen - unfortunately it is not as fast nor does it have enough ammo to truly match it.

GC-HE Shells turn the Gas Cannon into a mini-Torpedo Launcher that can be fired on land. There is reasonable argument that the Gas Cannon makes for a better Torpedo Launcher. See Gas Cannon vs Torpedo Launcher for more in-depth analysis.

Hydro-Jet Cannon

The Hydro-Jet Cannon is the automatic fire version of the Gas Cannon. Where the Gas Cannon excels at single shot attacks, the Hydro-Jet Cannon excels primarily at automatic fire. Despite being the slowest automatic fire weapon in X-COM's arsenal, this is also its greatest strength thanks to variable ammunition types. It carries more than twice the ammunition with only a small drop in stopping power. With the advent of Ion Armor or better, it makes for a frightfully effective close combat weapon when armed with HE shells.

It is unfortunately saddled with being an underwater-only weapon.

If this were not the case, it could have surpassed the Gas Cannon in destructiveness. The Hydro-Jet Cannon can be fired via reaction fire while on land. Though, as the snapshot weapon in the game, this is not a practical way to operate it.

One solution to this is to use them underwater and swap them with Gas Cannons when on land. Another solution is to carry an equal amount of Gas Cannons as are Hydro-Jet Cannons. This is a fairly workable solution, due in part to TFTD's higher item limit, and because half of your squad weapons will later consist of Gauss or Sonic Weaponry, so you will not have to double up too many cannons. Both methods add an unnecessary level of tedium to their usage. A less tedious solution is to only carry one or two hydro-jet's on top of your standard all-purpose weaponry load.

Gauss Pistol

While only a pistol, it is vastly superior to the Jet Harpoon. It is small, one handed, fast in addition to auto fire, a large 20 round ammo clip and deals much more damage than the Jet Harpoon. It makes a good weapon for scouts to use or for making reaction shots. Up close, it can do high damage with its auto fire mode. As they are quick to manufacture, you can outfit most of your crew with these weapons in a short amount of time.


The main downside to the Gauss Pistol however is that it is not as accurate as the Jet Harpoon, and the ammunition must be manufactured. The increased ammo count and speed make up for the accuracy and price difference.

The Gauss Pistol, while more powerful than the harpoons, is still limited to fighting enemies with low external armor protection. This means it is for the most part useless against the more powerful terror units. Primary enemies, the Lobstermen are 70% resistant to the damage while Tasoth are 30% resistant. It is best complimented with other high powered weapons such as grenades or (much later) drills.


Gauss Rifle

Similar to the Gauss Pistol in overall usefulness, but is two-handed, larger, a little slower and only has 15 round clips. In return, it is balanced by having more firepower and better accuracy than the Gauss Pistol. It is the best replacement for the Jet Harpoon.

Of particular note is that it rivals the Gas Cannon's AP shell in raw power - both deal 60 points of damage of their respective types. Alien resistances to the damage types will be the ultimate decider which type is better, though the Gauss Rifle will generally deal more damage thanks to its speed.

Compared to X-COM UFO where its counterpart the Laser Rifle could easily rival the alien's top weapon, the Gauss Rifle does not survive well in the long run. It is best thought of as stepping stone or interim weapon before transitioning over to the Sonic weapons.

Despite this, it is still one of the most powerful auto fire weapons in the game, and is faster than the sonic weapons. This may very well keep it seeing service later into the game against soft targets.


Heavy Gauss

The Heavy Gauss is a poor third tier weapon for the Gauss family because it is severely outclassed by the Sonic Pistol in almost every aspect except a more accurate aimed mode and is cheaper to mass produce. Nevertheless it is a heavy hitting weapon for its damage class, useful against heavily armoured targets that are not overly AP-resistant, but may not necessarily make for a good weapon to arm the entire squad with - at least in comparison to the other starting weapons that are available.

Compared against standard and Gauss weaponry, the Heavy Gauss is one of the most powerful solid round projectile weapons available. If you regularly use the Gas Cannon with AP shells, the Heavy Gauss can make a reasonable replacement by way of a strength for speed trade off. The ammo packs away better than Gas Cannon shells and has a few more rounds. Note that damage resistance of some of the aliens will play a big role in determining whether AP or Gauss is the better choice.

Due to the amount of research time it takes to get this weapon, and since its predecessors perform better in general combat (i.e. vs. light-medium armoured targets), it questionable if you should invest your research efforts to develop this weapon, rather than starting on the Sonic weapons instead. The main argument for this is if you wish to obtain the craft Gauss Cannon, for an economic advantage. One counterargument against this is that it further delays getting the progress on the Sonic Oscillator, for a tactical advantage. This may depend on whether your current priority is tactical or economic advantage.There are also the related SWS associated with the craft weapons. In this instance, the Displacer/Sonic is hands down the best of the pairing due to the severe economic implications caused by the ammunition errors that plague the Coelacanth/Gauss.

General Firearm Summary

Because there is an assortment of weapons to work with, and various players having completely different philosophies towards combat, there can not be one ultimate weapon as all the weapons vary in performance and functionality.

In most cases a mixture of weapons often outweighs the benefit of arming the entire squad with just one type of weapon.

However, amongst them, three of the more outstanding starting weapons that you can start your campaigns with include the Gas Cannon, Gauss Pistol and Gauss Rifle.

General Firearm Summary: Gas Cannon

For stronger Aquanauts, the Gas Cannon is the great all-rounder and is the best weapon that can be purchased from the very start of the game and does not require any research to obtain.

While not the most powerful weapon, it is strong enough to kill absolutely every evil alien you may come across. Even the Lobstermen, however they require a significant amount of of patience and an equally large amount of ammunition.

It also more or less makes the Torpedo Launcher redundant.

Even towards the end of the game, it may no longer be useful as a squad-level weapon, but may continue to see limited use for its ability to strike targets through the floor above it on land missions where you may not be able to access some upper level areas by foot.

Much of the Gas Cannon's prominence unfortunately comes from the fact most of the other heavy weapons are limited by their underwater-only status - though it is respectably formidable as it is. Without the under-water restrictions, it would be easily rivaled by the Hydro-Jet Cannon.

As soon as you begin a game of TFTD, it is possible to equip the entier squad primarily with Gas Cannons and HE shells, with AP rounds as back ups. Hydro-Jet Cannons and similar mixture of ammo can be added to supplement the cannons during situational parts of missions. Gas Cannons can easily be your bread-and-butter weaponry before obtaining any of the more advanced weapons.


General Firearm Summary: Gauss Pistol, Gauss Rifle

For weak or nimble Aquanauts: The two gauss weapons listed are highly recommend as complete replacements for the Jet Harpoons. Though these weapons will not available for use the very minute that you start the game, their research path can be started immediately.

The two gauss weapons combine moderate firepower, high speed and generous ammunition supplies that most purchasable weapons are not able to offer (all at the same time). The Gauss Rifle is the most popular of the pairing thanks to its overall balance of firepower, speed and high accuracy. The pistol is favoured for its high ammunition capacity, speed and all the inherent qualities associated with one-handed firearms. In the end, the choice of either weapon is heavily preferential or role dependent.

In contrast to the lasers, their First Alien War counterparts, these weapons can not last all the way through the game. Their primary role is to act as temporary improvements over your initial assault weaponry, the Jet Harpoon and Dart Gun until Sonic Weapons are developed.

As using Gauss Weapons is entirely an elective choice on the player's part, please refer to Skipping Gauss Weapons for a differing view.

Heavy Weapons

Heavy weapons consist of weapons that are heavy but deliver high powered explosives. There are a variety of starting weapons that fit into this class, the Torpedo Launcher, the Gas Cannon and the Hydro-Jet cannon. There are also a variety of grenades, but those will be discussed under supporting weapons.

Though they have already been mentioned amongst the standard firearm lineup, The Gas Cannon and Hydro-Jet Cannon are actually mid-weight weapons that are versatile enough to fill the dual role of standard firearm and the heavy weapons role at the same time. Therefore only the Torpedo Launcher will be discussed in this section. Jump above to Gas Cannon and Hydro-Jet Cannon to refer to their respective discussions.

Torpedo Launcher

The Torpedo Launcher is truly a heavy weapon, both in the literal sense and in usage. It is designed to deliver high explosive torpedoes accurately. It provides the highest damage potential for a ranged starting weapon.

The Torpedo Launcher comes with various drawbacks. Like its parallel, it is slow to operate and has large and heavy ammunition that limits the reloads. It also carries the under-water only restriction. When in its normal operational environment, the torpedo launcher makes up for all of its shortfalls by delivering high firepower with high aimed accuracy.

The under-water deliberate firing restriction does not cripple its land usage to the same extent as the Hydro-Jet Cannon due to its high individual shot strength makes it worth attempting given no other alternatives were on hand.

Mind you, this also has the biggest potential for disaster if the torpedo misfires and hits a nearby group of aquanauts!

Like the cannons, it carries multiple ammunition types. Two weights of High Explosive torpedoes and a phosphor torpedo.

It is worth noting that the difference in damage potential between the small and large torpedoes aren't as remarkable as their older counterparts: the small and large rockets. The large torpedos only deal an extra 5 - 15 damage than the small torpedoes. For comparison, the large rockets did 12 - 37 extra damage than the small rockets.

Taking the price and weight of the small and large torpedoes into consideration, the small torpedoes may be much more favourable of the two ammunition types due to their lower weight and cost. The difference in damage is minuscule at best except when fighting more durable enemies.

The large torpedoes have a reasonably wide area of effect, making them useful for clearing terrain obstacles such as clusters of coral that may conceal enemies. Though there are much better alternatives such as the Magna Pack Explosives, the torpedoes can be fired at a great distance given a clear firing angle. This makes them a much safer means of clearing obstacles at range.

With phosphor torpedoes, they have the highest blast radius of all the phosphor projectiles. The low tile-burn factor of the underwater maps do not assist in making them any better than their counterparts.

Whether by accident or design, if the Large Torpedos are a parallel to Large Rockets, then the Gas Cannon is the equivalent of a Heavy Cannon that can fire Small Rockets. There is now a 25 average, 12-27 gap between the GC-HE and Large Torpedo. For an argument regarding using the Gas Cannon as a replacement for the Torpedo Launcher, refer to the Gas Cannon vs Torpedo Launcher article.

Heavy Weapons Summary

The overall qualities of the Gas Cannon with HE shells practically renders the Torpedo Launcher obsolete. The GC-HE is akin to a miniature variant of the Torpedo Launcher that can also be deliberately fired on land. It has more ammunition per clip, can be fired twice a turn, with better snap accuracy. It can do more damage to a single enemy in a turn than a single large rocket if all the shots connect. Of the three weapons, the Gas Cannon needs the least micromanagement/doubling-up of weapons for land sorties.

The Hydro-Jet Cannon with HE shells is in a similar position. The auto shot does provide it with higher overall damage per turn than the other two weapons. The under-water only restriction makes it less useful than the Gas-Cannon for land sorties.

The Torpedo Launcher is however one of the few starting weapons that can deliver high power at high aimed accuracy, and can clear a very large area (at a distance) in a short amount of time.

The first two weapons are best for when you are "on-the-go" or if you would like to make more efficient use of your time units and resources. The Torpedo Launcher is better for when you need power "to a point".

Supporting Weapons

Supporting weapons cover weapons that are used mainly in supporting roles and are generally used in tandem with the ordinary ranged firearms discussed earlier.

Thermal Tazer

The rather huge nerfs to Dart Gun and Jet Harpoon, and the rather large buffs to Thermal Tazer make this a rather good standard weapon, relative to EU. In fact, in this game, melee weapons as standard squad equipment is a very viable strategy, especially once you have Drills.

Able to put down just about any alien in 1 turn of fire, this weapon is really high up on the effective firepower rankings in the game.

Melee attacks also do not draw reaction fire. Which can be a huge advantage considering enemies longevity in TFTD, for instance against a Tasoth, a point blank burst from a Gauss Rifle will sometimes not kill it, causing a point blank reaction shot, causing grevious injury, before a second burst takes it down.

Overcoming the lack of range can be a serious problem, though creative drill lovers will have developed strong ambush and tactics which might overcome this detriment.


Magna-Blast Grenade

As a brief overview of grenades: grenades excel at their indirect fire nature by being able to be thrown over low obstacles. This makes them tactically useful in situations where direct attacks cannot safely be performed.

Thanks to a series of unusual detonation requirements, armed grenades can also be held onto for quick deployment later during the mission. This makes up for their otherwise extremely time consuming arming and throwing costs.

Unlike ordinary firearms that rely on firing accuracy to hit their targets, grenades make use of a combination of the Aquanaut's strength as well as their throwing accuracy to reach their targets. Strength is the more important stat to consider as it increases maximum throwing distance. Throwing accuracy is used to determine how close the grenade will land on the tile selected. Thanks to the area effect nature of grenades, throwing accuracy is perhaps not as important as firing accuracy is for ranged attacks. The area effect nature also allows them to strike large targets multiple times.

Finally, unique to TFTD, grenades are sufficiently clad in enough armor that allow them to withstand their own attacks. This allows stacking multiple grenades on tougher targets on the same turn.

The Magna-Blast is your model beginner's grenade, that, through mastery or just plain ignorance of physics, can be thrown underwater as easily as it were on land. All other grenades follow suit.

Though the Magna-Blast is the weakest of the grenades and you have immediate access to better explosive weapons, it still encapsules all of the qualities mentioned earlier.

The Magna-Blast is also the lightest and thus longest ranged standard grenade you can use until the advent of the Sonic Pulsers, where the balance in grenade performance gets tipped over completely.

Magna-Pack Explosive

The Magna-Pack is a heavy "grenade" that specializes in raw power on a budget. It combines the strength of a Large Torpedo and a grenade into one neat bundle. It need not be stressed that it can also work on land, making it one of the most powerful one-hit weapons that you can use at a terror site right off the mark.

Despite its strength, it has twice the weight of the standard Magna-Blast, forcing you to use twice as much strength to achieve the same throwing distance. This therefore narrows the usage of these packs down to stronger Aquanauts. Because of this, many players opt to either not use it, or plant it like a demolitions charge as an alternative.

Note that since there is no (or rather, incorrect) experience attribution to planting a Magna-Pack, it is therefore an activity that is discouraged unless the user throws the Magna-Pack at the ground at least once a few turns before planting the Magna-Pack.

Aquanauts with high strength levels obviously have no need to worry and can merrily toss them about with ease.

Very strange and unorthodox tactics have been created with these weapons, ever since the "aliens spot all X-com agents after Turn 20 and launch a ferocious charge on them" was discovered.

You will also usually not fall prey to a Base defence before you can research better weapons, but in the event that you do, lining up a choke corridor with well timed explosives can be very rewarding.

Particle Disturbance Grenade

The Particle Disturbance Grenade is a specialty grenade used for setting traps. It sits between the Magna-Blast and Magna-Pack in terms of power. Though it is used like other grenades, it functions differently. When armed and planted, it detonates if any units walk into its tile or into any of its adjacent tiles. It will however ignore units walking out of its trigger radius. It does not detect vertical motion and ignores any units that land in its trigger tiles.

The Particle Disturbance Grenade is generally used to trap passages or doors, or even just to act as a warning system to alert you of enemy approach. It can even be used to snare enemies, forcing them to damage themselves if they so much as move during their turn.

One serious flaw with Particle Disturbance Grenades is experience attribution. No experience is awarded to the user. Instead, it is awarded to the person that detonates the mine. This wacky effect means that players should not become overly reliant on the Particle Disturbance Grenades.


Dye Grenade

Though this functions like a weapon it is not so much a weapon but a means for creating a cloud of ink (or smoke when on land) to mask your troops from the aliens. Essentially TFTD's answer to UFO's smoke grenade.

The nature of the cloud propagation has changed slightly from X-COM UFO, so that it billows out into a larger cloud over a few turns rather than starting with a thick dense cloud and then weakening from there.

The idea is sound, but the execution fall short as it does not appear that that it has been taken into account that the effectiveness of the cloud lessens over time.

The minuscule power of 10 isn't strong enough to create reasonable sized cloud. Often a torpedo or even Magna-blast grenade can potentially create a more effective screen in shorter space of time.

Land vs Underwater Use

While most weapons (including starting weapons and researched weapons) are fully "dual environment" capable, some weapons are less effective in one environment, while others cannot be used at all in one environment.

Reduced Effectiveness Underwater

  • Phosphor ammunition

Reduced Effectiveness on Land

  • Dye Grenades? [comments please!]

Not Usable on Land

  • Hydro-Jet Cannon
  • Torpedo Launcher
  • Coelacanth/Aqua Jet turret (the Coelacanth itself can be used on land, but its Aqua Jet torpedoes will not fire)

There are also some non-starting weapons that cannot be used on land:

  • Disruptor Pulse Launcher
  • Displacer/P.W.T. turret (the Displacer itself can be used on land, but its Pulse Wave torpedoes will not fire)

In addition there are certain alien attacks that (probably due to bugs) can only be used on land, not under water.

NB These weapons can be fired on Land during Reaction fire, or by Berserk units, but those are probably bugs rather than intended game behaviour.

Supporting Weapon Summary

Due to their varied nature of these weapons, most of these items cannot be compared amongst themselves like the ranged firearms, so there is no one best weapon amongst them.

For the grenades, the Magna-Pack Explosive is probably the most powerful bang-for-your-buck at this stage of the game, but its weight precludes it from being easily used by most new aquanauts. The Magna-Blast on the other hand is a very light-weight explosive but is easy to carry and easy to throw. Though it often cannot kill in one hit, it is a good way to quickly cripple and put many early enemies at a tactical disadvantage. The particle disturbance grenade is stronger than the Magna Blast, but is more suited to setting traps due to its unique trigger. The dye grenade is purely for extremely patient stealth.

See Also

Weapon Analysis