Research Basics

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Please note that this page has become deprecated. The information on this page is a mix of random information that has now been integrated into more appropriate articles. This page will be deleted or re-appropriated to another purpose in due course.

Research Costs

You start the game with one Laboratory and 10 Scientists. You will want to add 40 additional Scientists when space and money permit, so as to unlock new technology as soon as possible. This is expensive: 40 Scientists have a hiring cost of $2.4 million (and a monthly salary of $1.2 million), and require the addition of a new Living Quarters, at a cost of $400,000.

An additional Laboratory, Living Quarters, and 50 Scientists (for a total of 100) is recommended when you can cobble together an additional $4.2 million, so as to unlock all useful alien technologies within the first few months of the game.

Many of the game's most important research topics require the capture of certain specific live aliens, so it is recommended you start building an Alien Containment at the very beginning of the game. As few as three aliens need to be captured and researched to ultimately unlock all the critical research topics which are dependent on alien captives. See The Minimum Three for more details.

Initial Research Projects

You are given Laser Weapons, Medi-Kits, and Motion Scanners as research topics at the beginning of the game. Every subsequent research topic becomes available by completing a previous research topic, or by capturing new technology found on the battlefield. You cannot research any given alien item until you have a sample of it in your possession.

Alien artifacts from the battlefield cannot be manufactured or used (or even thrown!) by your soldiers until they have been fully researched. In fact, you start the game unable to manufacture any items until you have completed your first research topics.

X-COM commanders differ on which technologies are best researched first, although the initial three topics are all good choices. Laser Rifles are an enormous improvement over standard armaments, particularly against Cyberdiscs, the toughest early foe. Laser weapons are reasonably powerful and do not require ammunition, making them useful for the duration of the game.

Medi-Kits are rapidly researched and of great utility, especially once your soldiers are outfitted with armor. Armor technology is also a high priority, although it is relatively time-consuming to research and subsequently manufacture.

Motion Scanners can help you pinpoint the location of your foes, and are the most profitable item that can be manufactured in the early game. (See Manufacturing Profitability.)

After your first combats, advanced alien weapons become available for research. Heavy Plasma, Small Launcher, and Blaster Launcher (if you can find one) are all popular early research choices.

Commanders who wish to supplement their incomes by manufacturing profitable items should research Laser Cannons early on, as they are the most profitable production item in the entire game.

Once you manage to capture an alien Navigator, you should research it as soon as possible, as the Hyper-wave Decoder it unlocks is an invaluable technology. Researching a psionically-enabled alien (a psionic Sectoid, which means either a Leader or Commander or any Ethereal) should also be a top priority, as psionics becomes an enormous factor as the game progresses.

The Minimum Three

You only need to capture three live aliens to unlock the research topics that will allow you complete the game. These three aliens are, in the following order:

  1. Any random alien
  2. Any Leader or Commander
  3. Any Commander

By studying these three aliens, you can unlock the end-game mission Cydonia or Bust. These same three aliens can be used to unlock all additional technologies dependent on alien captives by altering the list as follows:

Hyper-wave Decoder
Substitute "any random alien" with "any Navigator"
Psionic Laboratory
Make sure your captured Leader or Commander is Sectoid or Ethereal

Thus, to unlock all technology that matters, you only need to research:

  1. Any Navigator
  2. Sectoid or Ethereal Leader/Commander
  3. Any Commander

Studying any alien (including the above three) can also produce a variety of UFOpaedia entries, such as alien species information, UFO stats, and alien mission types, which also adds to your score. See Live Alien Research for more details.

The minimum alien artifacts needed for research to win the game are:

  1. UFO Power Source
  2. UFO Navigation
  3. Alien Alloys
  4. Elerium-115.

The absolute minimum amount of Elerium-115 needed will vary depending on whether you found 2 UFO Power Sources or had to manufacture one. (you need 2 to build an Avenger)(It costs 16 Elerium to build a power source) You also need 12 Elerium to fuel the Avenger, UNLESS you take advantage of an exploit which allows you to fly an aircraft with 0 fuel. Since Elerium is found pods of 50 units each, you only need to capture 1 single pod of elerium.

How To Capture Live Aliens

Capturing the above three aliens, especially early on in the game, can be difficult. However, Mind Probes can make it much easier to single out specific aliens, and once you get Small Launchers, things are pretty easy. Be sure to build an Alien Containment at the beginning of the game, and don't bother to capture any aliens alive until it's built.

Using Stun Rods is tricky, except when you can sneak up on an alien from behind. However, sending a swarm of rookies with Stun Rods into a UFO can be worth it in order to capture that first Navigator. Don't attempt this if there are multiple aliens facing your soldiers -- you will get shot to pieces.

If you spot an alien with a Small Launcher, you can often get him to knock himself out by walking up to him point-blank and letting him shoot you next turn.

Occasionally you will simply get lucky -- conventional weapons can deal a small amount of stun along with a lot of conventional damage. Current opinion and testing shows that aliens may be immune to stun due to smoke inhalation.

When an alien is unconscious, you can see what rank it is by standing over it and picking it up. Bring the most desired aliens back to the transport and have a sentry with a Stun Rod watch over them in case they wake up again. If your Containment is getting full, any undesired aliens can be killed while unconscious using any form of grenade or HE ammunition.

See Also


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