Research Popular Sequences and Tips

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Research Popular Sequences

Research time is given in total Scientist days and average days needed for one Laboratory (50 Scientists). Two Laboratories (100 Scientists) will take approximately half as long. The listed times are averages: actual research times will take between 0.5 and 1.5 times as long (see Research time: notes for more details).

A -> before an entry signifies the total time required to complete that project. For example, Laser Pistol requires Laser Weapons (50 days) + Laser Pistol (100 days); ->Laser Pistol is 150 days.

Ignoring start-up costs, a full Laboratory of 50 Scientists can be assumed to cost $50K per day to run.

Laser Pistol

An option which should not be overlooked. Researched extremely quickly, 53% more damaging than than a basic Rifle, one-handed, fastest rate of fire of any weapon (good for scouts), can be manufactured for profit. Good for covering the span before you get Laser Rifles or Heavy Plasmas they remain useful for the entire game. Laser Pistols are an excellent secondary weapon to attach to your belt in case you run out of ammo, forced to drop your main weapon, or want to train reactions.

Laser Weapons      50     1.0 day
Laser Pistol      100     2.0 days
Total:            150     3.0 days

Laser Rifle

Respectable damage, high rate of fire and no ammo required. A good alternative to Heavy Plasma for some of your troops.

->Laser Pistol    150     3.0 days
Laser Rifle       300     6.0 days
Total:            450     9.0 days

or         Laser Pistol + 6.0 days

Laser Cannon

Not the best Craft weapon (it has excellent firepower, but is handicapped by limited range), but the most profitable manufacturing item in the game. Completing this research topic also permits you to build Tank/Laser Cannons, which have a much more powerful weapon than Cannon and Rocket tanks, and are effective against several dangerous units, particularly Sectopods.

->Laser Rifle     450     9.0 days
Heavy Laser       460     9.2 days
Laser Cannon      420     8.4 days
Total:           1330    26.6 days

or         Laser Rifle + 17.6 days

Small Launcher

Small Launchers make capturing aliens a snap, and have surprisingly broad tactical use. One stun bomb can knock out several weak aliens at once, and unlike explosives, they are safe to use in confined quarters. Furthermore, stun bombs do not damage equipment, making for potentially higher UFO Recovery Values. Stun bombs are also quite effective against 4-space terror units (Reapers, Cyberdiscs, and Sectopods) as each square takes independent damage from the stun blast.

Small Launcher     550     11.0 days
Stun Bomb          180      3.6 days
Total:             730     14.6 days

Heavy Plasma

Just about the best weapon in the game. There's a reason why every alien eventually carries one of these.

Heavy Plasma          800     16.0 days
Heavy Plasma Clip     400      8.0 days
Total:               1200     24.0 days

Plasma Beam

The best Craft weapon, 100% effective against everything except Battleships.

->Heavy Plasma   1200     24.0 days
Plasma Beam       660     13.2 days
Total:           1860     37.2 days

or         Heavy Plasma + 13.2 days

Blaster Launcher

When you absolutely, positively, have to kill every alien in the room. Accept no substitute.

Blaster Launcher    900     18.0 days
Blaster Bomb        300      6.0 days
Total:             1200     24.0 days

Fusion Ball Launcher

Useful against Battleships when using multiple crafts; use Plasma Beam otherwise.

->Blaster Launcher      1200     24.0 days
Fusion Ball Launcher     880     17.6 days
Total:                  2080     41.6 days

or            Blaster Launcher + 17.6 days

Fusion Ball Defences

The most compact base defense facility besides the Mind Shield.

Note: Due to a weird programming logic, once aliens have discovered your base, they must launch a ground attack. If the first battleship is blown up by air defenses, they will send another... and another... and another... ad infinitum. While there is no real substitute for a proper base layout strategy, defenses such as the Fusion Ball Defenses are best employed as a temporary measure to delay the invaders while you prepare yourself for the attack.

->Fusion Ball Launcher     2080     41.6 days
Fusion Defence              800     16.0 days
Total:                     2880     57.6 days

or           Fusion Ball Launcher + 16.0 days

Personal Armor

Wearing this, you might actually survive a shot or two. But don't press your luck. The survivability rate is still far better than not wearing any armour as well as smoke filters.

Alien Alloys       400     8.0 days
Personal Armor     180     3.6 days
Total:             580    11.6 days

Power Suit

You might survive a shot or three.

->Personal Armor     580     11.6 days
Elerium-115          450      9.0 days
UFO Power Source     450      9.0 days
Power Suit           205      4.1 days
Total:              1685     33.7 days

or          Personal Armor + 22.1 days

Flying Suit

A shot or three plus much greater visibility and mobility.

->Power Suit      1685     33.7 days
UFO Navigation     450      9.0 days
Flying Suit        330      6.6 days
Total:            2465     49.3 days

or            Power Suit + 15.6 days


Your first advanced ship. A standard Interceptor armed with Plasma Beams can often do just as well, but the Firestorm offers enhanced acceleration and a high air speed that makes it useful for short air skirmishes. This technology may be most desirable as part of the path to unlock Hovertanks.

Alien Alloys          400     8.0 days
Elerium-115           450     9.0 days
UFO Power Source      450     9.0 days
UFO Navigation        450     9.0 days
UFO Construction      450     9.0 days
New Fighter Craft     600    12.0 days
Total:               2800    56.0 days

There is high overlap between UFO technology and armor technology. Many commanders will often research Power Suits or Flying Suits before embarking on UFO construction:

->Flying Suit        2465    49.3 days
UFO Construction      450     9.0 days
New Fighter Craft     600    12.0 days
Total:               3515    70.3 days

or             Flying Suit + 21.0 days


A craft with unique properties. Most commanders use it as a stepping stone for the Avenger.

->Firestorm (via Flying Suit)    3515     70.3 days
New Fighter-Transporter           700     14.0 days
Total:                           4215     84.3 days

or                            Firestorm + 14.0 days


They don't call it the Ultimate Craft for nothing. Two or three Avengers plus a handful of Interceptors can give you complete air superiority over Terra. It also allows you to bring twice the manpower into battle than you could before. What's not to like?

->Lightning        4215      84.3 days
Ultimate Craft      900      18.0 days
Total:             5115      102.3 days

or              Lightning + 18.0 days
or            Flying Suit + 53.0 days

Grav Shield

If your base invasion defense strategy involves the use of the defense modules, a Grav Shield is a great space-saving base module that allows each and every one of your defense modules to fire a second salvo.

->Lightning     4215      84.3 days
Grav Shield      930      18.6 days
Total:          5145     102.9 days

or            Lightning + 18.6 days


A popular (and expendable) scout. Immune to Psi attacks, like all tanks. It can be built immediately after the completion of Firestorm and Plasma Beam research topics.

->Firestorm       3515     70.3 days
->Plasma Beam     1860     37.2 days
Total:            5375    107.5 days

Note: Apparently, v1.0 has a bug where it is immediately available for construction after researching Plasma Beam, Elerium and Alien Alloys. In that case, you don't need the Firestorm topic.


In the field, it's less popular than the Plasma Hovertank due to the expense of its ammunition, which also does less damage than the man-portable Blaster Launcher. For base defense, the free Hovertank/Launcher ammo that is granted to you to protect the base turns this tank into the ultimate expendable defensive unit. It can be built immediately after the completion of the Firestorm and Fusion Ball Launcher research topics.

->Firestorm                3515     70.3 days
->Fusion Ball Launcher     2080     41.6 days
Total:                     5595    111.9 days

Psionic Laboratory

Once you get psionics, the aliens' days are numbered. It's tricky catching a Sectoid Leader or Ethereal, but the sooner you can, the better. With a psi lab you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Any live psionic alien      192     3.84 days
Psionic Laboratory          420     8.4 days
Total:                      612    12.24 days


Barely useful when Psionic Skill is low, but way too useful when it's high. A transport full of Psi soldiers is as scary to the aliens as the Ethereals were at first to you.

->Psionic Laboratory     420     12.24 days
Psi-Amp                  500     10.0 days
Total:                   920     22.24 days

or          Psionic Laboratory + 10.0 days

Mind Shield

With a single Mind Shield at each base, the aliens will keep attempting Alien Retaliation missions, but most of them time, they'll zig-zag around, unable to find your base. Shooting down any Retaliation scout you see in addition will ensure that they almost never mount an attack on your base.

->Psionic Laboratory     420     12.24 days
Mind Shield              360      7.2 days
Total:                   780     19.44 days

or           Psionic Laboratory + 7.2 days

Hyper-Wave Decoder

One of the most important technologies of the game. Build one at each base you own and you will be able to see just about every alien craft that enters the Earth's atmosphere as well as identify the UFO type, crew and what mission it is on. Every craft you intercept will please your funding nations, and can be worth millions in salvage value. A Hyper-Wave Decoder is your meal ticket: grab an alien Navigator the first chance you get.

Any live alien Navigator     192      3.86 days
Hyper-wave Decoder           670     13.4 days
Total:                       862     17.26 days


Your final mission. Win it, and you are a savior; lose it, and humanity dies. You have to perform the research in this particular order, so don't forget to research The Martian Solution before you interrogate your first Commander, or else you'll have to capture another one. The same goes for your first Leader -- but if it's a Sectoid, there's a good argument to research it immediately and get the Psionic Laboratory sooner: the research delay to get Alien Origins can add up to set Psi-screening back a month, since the results from the Psionic Laboratory only come at the start of a month. Once you get Psi soldiers, you can capture another Leader without much trouble at all.

In addition to completing these research topics, you must have an Avenger built before you can travel to Cydonia. The Avenger can be researched and built at any time, independent of the Cydonia-specific research topics. None of these topics are useful aside from unlocking Cydonia, so you can save most of it until you're ready to complete the game.

Any live alien            192       3.84 days
Alien Origins             300       6.0 days
Any live Leader           192       3.84 days
The Martian Solution      500      10.0 days
Any live Commander        192       3.84 days
Cydonia or Bust           600      12.0 days
Total:                   1976     39.52 days
->Avenger                5115     102.3 days
Total:                   7091     141.82 days

Stand-alone technologies

In addition to the above research sequences, there are four useful technologies which have no research "dependencies" and can be studied directly. Medi-kits and Motion Scanners are two of the initially-available research topics (described above). Both enable moderately profitable manufacturing early in the game. The Motion Sensor is a vital tool when superior enemies force you on the defensive. As your troops grow stronger, Med-kits are a force multiplier that help you take the offensive with more confidence. Alien Grenades are a substantial improvement over the standard X-COM grenade, packing almost as much punch as a High Explosive, but far easier to carry and throw. Mind Probes can show alien rank and stats (useful for singling out Leaders and Commanders), although their usefulness is dwarfed by that of the Psi-Amp.

Medi-Kit           210      4.2 days
Motion Scanner     180      3.6 days 
Alien Grenade      200      4.0 days
Mind Probe         600     12.0 days

Research Tips

General Research Tips

In principle, doubling the number of scientists means you get the results in half the time. In reality, because of rounding errors, it is better to run several small projects in parallel. The again, small projects may take a long time to complete. Don't be shy of pooling your entire workforce on a single project if you want to get quick results.

Scientists at different bases cannot pool their efforts: if you have two bases work on the same project, it will take as long to complete as if you had only base working on it. If possible, you should build all your laboratories at a single base to allow all your scientists to focus on one project at a time.

You cannot begin researching any alien technology unless you have a sample of it on base. However, once you begin research, you do not need to keep the sample on hand. If you begin every project as soon as it becomes available to you, you can sell off all alien items (including alien corpses) which you do not wish to keep around. You can also transfer aliens to another base's Containment unit after you have begun researching them. You do not need to assign any scientists to a project to begin it: only assign your scientists to whichever project you wish to complete next. So a useful routine is to check for any New Projects in the Research screen immediately after each Battlescape mission. Start any new projects with zero scientists. Once you have done this, you are free to sell any and all loot without any negative effects for your Research. (Note that this would not always be true in Terror From The Deep, where for certain topics at least one instance of certain items must be present in Stores.)

If you build two labs and hire 100 scientists as soon as you can afford it, you can research all the most desirable alien technologies within 7-8 months (by July or August). With three labs and 150 scientists, you can research all the best stuff by June or so. More scientists than this will not appreciably speed your progress.

Aliens: The Minimal 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.

Aliens: The Optimum Three

The three aliens listed above can be used to unlock all additional alien-dependent technologies by altering the list slightly.

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 Leader/Commander or Ethereal Leader/Commander
  3. Any Commander

Minimum Equipment

To win the game, the barest minimum UFO components that you will need to recover are:

  1. UFO Power Source
  2. UFO Navigation
  3. Alien Alloys × 120
  4. Elerium

Elerium is obtained in pods of 50. You only need to recover one. Of the 50 units, you must set aside either 12 or 28 units to prepare the Avenger for the final mission.

The first 12 units of elerium is mandatory as it used to fuel the Avenger. The additional 16 units may be required to build a second UFO Power Source, as the Avenger requires two in its manufacture.

See Also

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