Talk:Laser Rifle vs Heavy Plasma

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Speaking of head shots, UFO:AI has a head shot feature. :)

I'm not entirely convinced that the Laser Rifle is the best weapon in the game, though it is a dramatic step up from conventional weapons in the early game. I recall that often it wouldn't be able to kill the enemy in one shot, while the Heavy Plasma or Plasma Rifle would. Unlimited ammo is a very nice feature, but by the endgame I was usually swimming in plasma ammo and elerium. Also, can plasma rounds destroy certain wall sections that lasers cannot? -Captain Foo 08:19, 29 August 2008 (PDT)

Arguably indeed. It's not the best weapon in the game, but neither is the heavy plasma. It's a good all-rounder though that can match the pace of the Heavy Plasma. What the laser rifle offers over the heavy plasma in addition to the unlimited ammo is one extra free slot on the transport (which you can use to include even heavier firepower) and a faster firing mode. It's moderately powerful enough to tackle anything in the game - if perhaps not with one shot (which is where the speed offsets its lower damage - more shots = more damage). The faster speed also allows the laser rifle to be a more effective reaction-shot weapon (only the pistol and laser pistol are better). Because the aliens are swimming in heavy plasmas, you still have the option of grabbing one off the ground if you need that extra firepower to breach inner UFO walls, so you are not denied the abilities of the heavy plasma by arming a laser rifle. I guess you could say that it offers flexibility. - NKF 14:18, 29 August 2008 (PDT)

Hi again guys. Personally, I do think the laser rifle is the best squad weapon in the game, but mainly for aesthetic reasons. Strictly the heavy plasma gives you the most net firepower, even taking into account the ammo requirements. OK, in a theoretical 'siege' scenario where the aliens were too well dug in and you needed to fire huge numbers of rounds, the laser rifle would come out ahead - but I'm not aware of any such missions. The ammo requirement of the heavy plasma doesn't materially compensate for its increased firepower. In my view this makes it an unbalanced weapon from a game design point of view - similar to Psionics, it is just too 'optimal' to make the game balanced. And that's my somewhat sentimental reason for preferring the laser rifle. Good, clean, effective, does-the-job human technology - none of that alien nonsense!

Actually let me advance an indirect argument why the laser rifle might actually be the best weapon in objective terms as well. Heavy Plasmas sell for a small fortune, and are a large proportion of the total value of all recovered items. If every recovered Heavy Plasma was sold, instead of being used to equip troops, that is a very significant flow of capital investment that can be used to rapidly build up the strategic power of X-COM - building Hyperwave decoders, bases, aircraft, and recruiting more manpower. In this strategy, captured Heavy Plasmas could still be used tactically during a battle for key objectives such as penetrating UFO interior walls. I haven't tested it, but I have a strong belief that would be a faster route to victory. Thoughts? Spike 07:44, 30 August 2008 (PDT)

The only thing I'll point out is the Heavy Plasmas needed to equip troops is a small fraction of the supply. After a few missions, you'll be swimming in them, especially if you're doing supply ship raids, which will generally let you haul back about ten. Earmarking 20-30 Heavy Plasmas for troop use improves combat effectiveness and allows you to more easily collect more. Arrow Quivershaft 07:48, 30 August 2008 (PDT)
Agreed, i wind up with way more heavy plasmas than i could ever possibly need. also, they kill mutons dead.--(name here) 08:56, 30 August 2008 (PDT)
Everyone and their grandmother's neighbour's cousin's (twice removed) pet dog has a heavy plasma before long. The game practically forces you to end up with way more supplies than you'll ever need - and money - to win the game. I guess if you're adamant on using the Heavy Plasma as your main weapon, the preference on whether to load a heavy plasma or a laser rifle onto the ship is when you get to use the heavy plasma. From the very start (sans the extra goodies), or a few turns in (and a handful of extra high explosives/large rockets). There will be some on the field anyway. I like to use a mix of weapons myself, but don't stock heavy plasmas on the troop transport for that very reason. The Art of War states that "One heavy plasma taken from the enemy is worth ten bushels." or something like that... Um, never mind. Both weapons get the job done, so it's a matter of preference. - NKF 09:10, 30 August 2008 (PDT)

For what it's worth, I usually did bring along a set of laser rifles on later missions as insurance in case my troops run out of ammo. Their primary weapons were heavy plasma and plasma rifles of course, so the laser rifles usually got left in the dropshop. I'm not sure the laser rifles got used in late game except for really really long missions, but I suppose the insurance is good. Captain Foo 10:11, 30 August 2008 (PDT)

Why bother? There's spare Heavy Plasma all over the battlefield. Just stop by your nearest Dead Alien Armory(TM) to continue bringing the fight to those invaders! Arrow Quivershaft 17:03, 30 August 2008 (PDT)
Continuing on the 'economic/strategy' argument... OK fair enough, it's only the Heavy Plasmas you equip your squads with that matter, since everyone's going to sell off their surplus. A Heavy Plasma 'costs' slightly above $150K more than a Laser Rifle (more if you include ammo costs). So your opportunity cost, anytime you don't have more money than you can use, is >$150K per soldier armed with Heavy Plasma. So for ten soldiers armed with Heavy Plasma, you are forgoing (say) an extra 2 Large Radars, a Hyperwave Decoder, an extra base, 1500 days of continuing (no new hire) research, or 750 days of new-hire research. For the opportunity cost of arming 20 soldiers with Heavy Plasma ($3M), you can build a whole extra base complete with Interceptor and Large Radar. That's going to double your intercept rate (?) and effectively double your progress in the game. Do the tactical advantages of Heavy Plasmas make up for that? I'm not sure. Spike 10:50, 30 August 2008 (PDT)
Shoring up cash deficits is why the good programmers gave us these to build. Arrow Quivershaft 17:03, 30 August 2008 (PDT)
If you seriously lack enough money to build overlapping detection bases across the globe, you should try selling alien alloys more. it's like high tech scrap metal.
In the game variant I play - XComUtil with "'new' laser weapons" - you can't make a profit manufacturing Laser Cannons (see XCU Profitability). But that's not really the point. Of course there are many ways of making money in the game, from manufacturing or salvaging or taking care of the rich funders, or whatever. But for all of these methods of making money, without exception, it 'takes money to make money'. You have to invest, first, in the capabilities you need. So for example, maybe AQ would prefer to invest $1.5M into Laser Cannon production facilities, whereas at this stage of the game I tend to be needing extra base coverage. (If you have worldwide hyperwave coverage by the time you research Heavy Plasma, your research is much too slow or you need to play on a more difficult level). So the question is, at a relatively early stage in the game, when you have just researched Heavy Plasma, are there not better things you could invest the money on rather than getting a moderate tactical advantage on the battlefield? Every 10 soldiers armed with Heavy Plasma instead of Laser Rifle costs you at least $1.5M of cash you could use to improve your strategic position in whatever way makes sense to you. So keeping the Heavy Plasmas in your squads creates what is called an "opportunity cost" - the cost of not being able to do something else with that money, which might actually help you win the game faster. I don't know about everyone else, but at the point when I unlock the Heavy Plasma Research topic, $3M - $6M (cost of retaining 20-40 Heavy Plasmas) is nice chunk of money to have. I'm needing money for all kinds of things - increased base coverage, recruits, R&D, maybe saving for Psi Labs, I am always short of cash. That's really how it should be. XCom is a tactical combat game combined with a strategic resource management game. Resource management games are pretty pointless if the resources you are trying to allocate are not fairly scarce. Also, resource management games should not contain methods of "printing money" - these are effectively design flaws in the game. That's why I like to use the XCU "'improved' laser weapons", as it makes the manufacturing profitability much more reasonable.
As for tactics vs strategy - to draw a historical parallel, the Germans in WWII arguably had the tactical advantage through most of the war, in terms of technology and weapon quality. They were defeated by Russia and the US at the strategic level, and at the economic level, by massive production of materiele - large quantities of moderate quality weapons and equipment that overwhelmed German resistance. A lot of military historians believe that if the Germans had spent less effort on improving their weapon technology, and more effort on strategic production, the outcome of the war could've been very different. Spike 10:57, 31 August 2008 (PDT)
It also takes money to manufacture Laser Rifles(and in your game, Elerium as well), whereas Heavy Plasmas are free; just pry them out of dead alien hands. :) A matter of preference in any case. Arrow Quivershaft 15:43, 31 August 2008 (PDT)
I did factor-in the production costs of the Laser Rifles vs the opportunity costs of not selling the Heavy Plasmas. Manufacturing Profitability includes these costs, including the costs of workshops and Engineers. But you make a good point about the time taken to manufacture them. Time is very often 'of the essence'!. I guess it depends what's happening at this point in the game (when you get Heavy Plasma technology). Usually for me at this stage I can manufacture Laser Rifles faster, or let's say more reliably, than I can acquire Heavy Plasmas in combat. No doubt, if I didn't have enough Laser Rifles to arm my squads, I would hold on to Heavy Plasmas. But I think I would sell the Heavy Plasmas as the Laser Rifles were delivered from the workshops. Later on of course Heavy Plasmas more or less grow on trees. As you say it's a personal choice really. Spike 16:06, 31 August 2008 (PDT)

What are we after here when we look in a weapon? Availability? Operation? Financial gain? The laser rifle can be researched and used the quickest. After that the initial investment you will have to spend on four or eight rifles pays for itself for the rest of the game. The heavy plasma is literally free, but it takes time before you can start using it. On the other hand it offers a path to the ultimate aircraft weapon in the game (like the laser rifle, an expensive investment that will last the rest of the game).

Although money and exotic materials are really a non-issue once you get into the swing of things. In the end you just use what you suits your needs best.

I recommend those who are adamantly in the lasers-rox crowd give an all heavy plasma weapon game a go. Those in the heavy plasma-only crowd should give a strictly laser game a go. Not as much fun as going all out with just rocket-launchers or laser-pistols (+ suitable sectopod countermeasures), but hey. -NKF 01:59, 1 September 2008 (PDT)