The Meld is an alien substance introduced in the Enemy Within DLC whose precise origin and composition are unknown but which allows the aliens to perform cybernetic and genetic modifications on life forms, including humans. After its recovery from a battlefield and upon completing the necessary Research, the Meld can be used by XCOM to transform soldiers into MEC Troopers or to perform genetic augmentation on different parts of their bodies.
The Meld will mainly be recovered from the aliens, during Abductions or UFO missions, where there will be canisters spread around randomly on the battlefield. The containers are equipped with self-destruction devices with timers so it will be necessary to reach the canisters before time runs out to capture the substance. Explosions, and misses from any sufficiently powerful weapon may also destroy them.
While 'Paedia and in-game descriptions include "self-destructs" and "explosions" as the canisters count down, this is not the case: it appears that the canisters seen in the field are possibly dispersion systems. In the overarching plan (caution: spoilers) the aliens have, it seems more in line that deliberate manipulation of Earth's biology is the intent for the sometimes haphazard placement of the canisters.
Conveniently, once captured or timed out: the canisters can still be used as cover, and destruction afterwards does not reduce the amount of Meld recovered.
- Meld is composed of organic nanomachines and needs to be researched (Meld Recombination) to be used.
- Meld cannot be sold at the Grey Market.
- All the abductions and UFO maps have been redesigned to include 2 Meld canisters.
- The 2 Meld canisters need to be captured during a certain timeframe, otherwise they will self-destruct forcing a player to move swiftly to find and capture them. 1 canister is located on a location easy to reach, another in a hard location. The canisters can be hidden to force a player to look for them.
- Meld canisters can be destroyed with explosives.
- When you kill all aliens on a mission you'll automatically recover any intact Meld containers, including still hidden ones.
- The Meld can be used to create either MEC Troopers (a new class) or to genetically increase any class abilities (Gene Mods).
- The Meld also brings 2 new base facilities: Genetics Lab and Cybernetics Lab. Both cost §50 and require 3 power and 10 days to build. The Cybernetics Labs count as workshops and the Genetics Lab with Laboratories for adjacency bonus.
- For consideration on building them early or late; whether you want 5 engineers, or low-level MEC troopers, with what limited resources you'll have early on, for example.
- There are reflective Meld 'crystals' in the Ant Farm view. Zooming in on them, angled facets show a brick wall with a window, facets facing the camera seem to be reflecting a sprite of a green-irised eye.
- There is a small tutorial (optional) to show how Meld works.
- Mechtoids and Heavy Floaters, drop 5 Meld per kill.
- You'll get one-time amounts of Meld for researching Meld Recombination and for assaulting the alien base (a total of 50 Meld).
The biggest question of most Commanders is, MEC Troopers or Gene Mods? Both are powerful additions to your squad and you can't go wrong with either, however there are ups and downs to both. You can easily do both, but at a limited quantity (at least not without several months farming Abductions and UFOs for Meld).
Another is "when?" -- or more to the point, if to spend money and Meld on lifing your early soldiers from crap/"okay" to decent/good, thus increasing their chances of surviving the early months, or save it for, say, your late-game Psi Squadron, making them damn near invincible? In this case, MECs may be better to invest in first, as at least you can take the main cost, the MEC Suit itself, and let your late-game MEC Troopers inherit these costly devices, while Gene Mods, some of which carry a hefty pricetag of their own, ought to be used sparingly on any soldier you're not planning on taking into the Temple Ship.
Collecting large quantities of Meld is easy early on when Abduction Missions still occur. Once Abductions no longer happen, the amount of Meld you get falls considerably. While shot down UFOs and certain enemies provide some, it isn't nearly as much as the routine Abductions. With there usually being about 2 or 3 Abductions a month, this eventually becomes a significant amount of Meld no longer acquired.
Meld bonuses are mutually exclusive. A MEC Trooper cannot have Gene Mods, and a Gene Modded soldier will lose his or her Gene Mods if turned into a MEC, wasting the Meld already invested into the soldier. Plan accordingly.
Gene Mods are passive powers and bonuses added to a soldier.
- Cheap. Fully outfitting a soldier with 5 gene mods costs between 60 and 110 Meld, depending on which Gene Mods are chosen.
- This is of course provided you don't switch mods.
- Passive. All of the Gene Mod abilities are passive bonuses which apply when certain conditions are met, meaning you don't have to make any changes to your game play.
- Same Soldier, just better. A Gene Modded Sniper is still a Sniper. You don't have to sacrifice your kick butt Sniper to make them better with your Meld.
- Adjustable. If you picked the wrong mod, found out you really don't like that mod or the mod is no longer as necessary on that soldier, you can change it.
- Be careful though as this can be expensive. It's best if you choose your mods and stick with them.
- Items, armors and class abilities can give some of the same perks as Gene Mods can without putting a soldier out of action for 3, 6, 9, 12 or 15 days and using up Meld and Credits.
- Although in many cases, Gene Mods can add to or complement many these perks. For example, Archangel Armor and Muscle Fiber Density. The Gene Mod allows a soldier to get into the high ground just as easily as the Archangel Armor or Grappling Hook armors can, but on flatter maps, the Archangel Armor can still give you the needed height bonus.
- Time. For every mod you put on a soldier, they will be unable to do a mission for 3 days. If you stick all 5 mods on at once, the soldier will be out of action for 15 days.
By making a soldier into a MEC Trooper, they become an entirely new class.
- Destructive. MEC Troopers have a number of powerful area of effect and cover busting abilities. Some of these aren't limited by item usage like rockets and grenades are.
- Be careful as some of these might hurt your own troops.
- Tough. MEC Suits provide massive health bonuses allowing the MEC Trooper to take an obscene amount of punishment before having to go into the infirmary, let alone be killed. This is on top of a hefty Will bonus making it even harder to kill them.
- Powerful. MEC Trooper guns are quite powerful compared to other guns.
- Three words: Alien Face Punching.
- Expensive. Although it only costs 10 Meld to make a MEC Trooper, it costs 200 Meld to give them a Level 3 Paladin suit (40 for the Warden, 60 for the Sentinel, 100 for the Paladin).
- Fire Magnet. Remember how you felt the first time you saw a Sectopod? The enemy has the same reaction. With a level 3 Paladin suit, the MEC has only 20 defense. To make matters worse, they can't go into cover, making them very tempting targets.
- No Psionics. MECs cannot be Psionics and Psionics cannot be MECs.
- No Inventory. Yes, the suits give options which can somewhat mimic some of the standard items, but they still don't get a proper inventory.