Engaging the Enemy (Apocalypse)

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General Battlescape Tactics Against Hostiles.

  • Relevant mainly for Real-Time game mode. Turn Based Tactics are also available.

As progress is made by slowly fighting, understanding, and defeating the alien menace after each mission, each new alien encountered may need a new method of battle tactics developed from the experiences in the earlier parts of the game; fine tuning those that worked and disregarding ones that got your agents killed.

Understanding the aliens is not as important as understanding the weapons and devices available to X-Com. Know your tools.

Engage The Enemy

  • Visual range of any unit is 24 cells maximum. If any hostile visually detects a target, others out of visual range, but within range of their weapon (carried or grown-in) may also engage. Only one unit needs to see the target, others will immediately know where to aim.
  • Understand the different damage types available and which weapon is best against which lifeform.
  • Listen to the aliens! The sounds they make identifies who and where they are on the battlescape. Knowing what to expect allows you to plan tactics, weapon use, positioning, etc.
  • Motion scanner is essential. No surprises = no ambush.
  • A darker section of ground usually indicates a shadow from the structure above. If fighting with many explosions, structural collapse is possible and often fatal to anyone caught underneath.
  • A single X-Com unit moved to a location may not be facing the desired direction. To allow an agent to end up facing a certain way, the movement action of a single agent should be performed by giving waypoints using Ctrl-LMB so that the final destination is in one cell that is closer to 'the action'. The agent will turn just before this last waypoint and stop in the last one... facing the action! This tactic is best used for an agent that needs to move far and cannot wait for them to arrive just so that you can manually turn them via RMB. Any waypoints directly on blue-exit-tiles will cause the agent to escape the battlescape.
  • Flying agents are better to suited to combat since they have more freedom to move, can fly up to avoid melee units, avoid ground explosions if high enough, infiltrate buildings by unconventional access, can drop explosives onto hostiles instead of trying to throw heavy ones, are able to hide in more areas, can quickly reach the best sniper positions, can do alot more things than an agent limited to the ground.
  • Destroying walkways, platforms, elevated sections etc. can cause injury to any unshielded entity due to falling from great height and can restrict movement or trap any ground-based entity.
  • Grenades with an active, but short, timer may air-burst before impact.
  • The fastest way to denote a grenade is to set timer: 0.25 seconds. Open inventory of your unit and place the grenade on the ground. If using drop, the animation plays very briefly of the grenade falling, then you get the blast. There is short but noticable delay by dropping when it matters.
  • Agents equipped with long range weaponry will fire on hostiles which they cannot see themselves but are spotted by other agents. To best use this tactic, a flying agent out in the open or on a roof with a long ranged weapon will fire at any unseen unit if the hostile is within their weapon range.
  • Moving flying agents to new locations when in overhead battlescape view will give a location as normal but it will end at ground level (destination icon will be a circle instead of a cross). eg: an agent airbourne at level nine is moved to a new location in flat terrain (in overhead view), they will finish the move at level one.
  • Stun gas clouds make units run in all directions, will knock out entities easily, briefly negates their offense and should be used often
    against anything hostile everyone even when stun-capture-recovery is not possible ie: defence forces
  • Any gas effect can be replaced with a new gas effect. eg: stun gas will replace smoke on the battlescape ...and may extinguish a fire.
  • If an agent can see an unconscious unit and you want that agent to stand on the body when in overhead view, Alt-LMB in the body since just clicking LMB will attempt to select that unit.
  • Standing on any part of an unconscious unit will prevent them from becoming active. Caution with injured Poppers.
  • Any unconscious unit can be killed at via forced fire to finish them before they wake up.
Note: when manually shooting with direct fire at a knocked-out entity, if the ammunition impact makes a ricohet sound, the ground was shot! Any fleshy impacts will not make a sound when the body is hit. Impact on a Megaspawn makes an armor-impact sound‡. Once dead, message bar: "Hostile Unit has died. Your agent's position and posture should be changed to get a better shot if it is difficult to hit a oddly positioned entity. When prone, shooting past the alive body will cause the thing in the way to be hit instead. Caution with Poppers and any alien which used a Brainsucker Launcher.
  • Any corpse will allow a projectile to pass through. Unconscious entities can be used as cover.
  • If any entity is mind-controlled by X-Com, any exotic technology they carry is 'known' to X-Com (how to use it, shoot it, etc.) only for the period of mind control. X-Com does not learn anything from using unresearched alien technology is this fashion. Any unknown alien technology will always display "Unresearched Item", including when it is still carried by the mind controlled unit.
Note: a mind-controlled entity is classed as an X-Com unit. Some aliens will not attack their 'old friend'.
  • Large alien lifeforms may not be easily visible (see below: Psimorph and Megaspawn). If any alien cannot be seen but their position is guessed determined by their sound, shooting past their expected location (down the corridor, at a far wall, a landscape feature etc.) will often hit this unseen alien. A weapon impact with these unseen aliens will not make a sound‡ and the weapon projectile may appear to stop in mid-air finishing with its particular hit-effect.
  • Translucent windows allow an X-Com agent to peer inside the UFO. If a hostile is spotted, agents may fire on the target but will not penetrate the strong window, wasting ammunition however, a psionic agent can safely (attempt to) manipulate any victim seen within since the window sections are also very resistant to alien weaponry effects.
  • Any alien firing at your agents outside see-through windows will only hit the strong window. They do not understand that it is ineffectual. Any hand-held recharging weapons will deplete their energy reserves then fire much more slowly. This can be used to reduce the potency of an armed Anthopods or Skeletoids before they engaged by other X-Com agents. Any alien using an Entropy Launcher will soon expire their ammuntion if firing at the agent loitering outside an intact window.
  • Hostiles which cannot be seen and are firing their weapon may be generally located by their weapon's projectile trajectory and direction.
  • If the enemy is using a Personal Cloaking Field, or is in thick smoke, their location can be accurately determined by the 'originating point' of their weapon fire. The unit could be obscured with stealth or by smoke but their projectile is completely visible immediately upon firing if any X-Com agent is looking in that general direction.
  • In the later parts of the game when your agents have personal shields and dirsruptor armor, brainsuckers will still be a threat in the same capacity as they were a threat in the very first mission. Nothing you can use protects against this alien (except using Androids). Prevention is the best option with overwhelming firepower! Poppers become much less of a threat when an agent is equipped with (at least) a shield and better armors to the point of poppers being nothing more than a mini mobile smoke screen. The only proven method of equally reducing the threat to zero of brainsuckers, poppers is by flying high off from the terrain.
  • When X-Com is technologically advanced, an agent only with two swords and two teleporters can fight face-to-face against all hostile entities in an uninspiring combat tactic of "appear-stabstab-vanish". eg: use one teleporter to appear behind any alien, quick death from dual sword attack, use second teleporter to immediately disappear to a safe area.
  • Incoming missiles tracking a target can be easily avoided by teleporting away ...next to hostiles since the missile may still track your agent but hit something in the way.

All alien lifeforms mentioned in Common are the usual types used throughout the whole game. The aliens mentioned in Uncommon only start to appear later and are used mostly in a combat-support role.

Fighting: Common Aliens

Common alien threats are brainsuckers, poppers, anthropods, spitters, multiworms and hyperworms, alien eggs, and (appearing later) skeletoids.

Aliens With Grown-In Weapons

  • Brainsuckers are the most serious of threats on the battlescape, but are a zero threat if only using Android agents. Brainsuckers must be killed immediately and without much thought into how. A lone or isolated agent can only use three certain actions besides weaponry when faced with a brainsucker: go prone (need space) and don't move until it is too tired to keep jumping, fly upwards (need marsec armor) five levels or higher from the terrain below and side features (not at level five), standing under (not crouch) or flying directly under any ceiling/roof/structure/doorway (need a building) so that your agent's head "touches" the 'top'. If an X-com unit does not have any other option and is fast (drop heavy items), moving them quickly and randomly may cause the brainsucker to get too tired from constantly missing the agents head. Stand on the alien and don't move until your agent has armed back up... or just don't move! (if your trooper is alone on the battlescape, good luck!)
  • A brainsucker has low health and is easily stunned with a grapple. The trade off being reduced accuracy of a two-handed weapon until all brainsuckers are gone.
  • If a pod is heard to have cracked open but the brainsucker is not sighted, turn your agents (RMB) in all directions until found, which being so dangerous, agents could (should?) ignore other aliens types until the brainsucker is dead. Pods under an agent will not hatch, pick them up before your agent moves.
  • An agent mid-suck cannot be selected (inventory access is blocked for the agent, but this can be circumvented). Using others to shoot at or near the victim with explosives may kill it quickly. If possible via inventory access, a 0.25 second grenade (stun or explosive) on the ground may remove the brainsucker threat and possibly injure or kill the agent if not wearing armor.
  • A brainsucked agent is classed as an alien.
  • If an agent is lost via a 'brainsuck', the 'alien' is now the most severe threat since Megapol or Marsec Armor is resistant to damage from early weapons, and those very same weapons and explosives are now pointed at your troops! A stun grapple hit, stun gas grenade set off, sustained auto-shot fire from stronger weapons (autocannon with armor piercing rounds, or plasma gun etc.), and mind control can be used to neutralise this contaminated agent. A brainsucked agent using their stun grapple against flying X-com troops will cause your stunned agent to fall out of the sky! Beware of ammunition/explosives cooking-off.

Special Note: It is possible that so many brainsuckers have been created on the battlescape that the game will not allow more to hatch until the entire population (not just brainsuckers) on the map is reduced (killed, not stunned). It will be common to see pods which do not hatch littering the battlefield, however, they still may break open if the game will allow it.

  • Poppers are the very close second (or first if inside enclosed areas) serious threat to your troops. A popper is the fastest alien encountered for its only tactic is to find the nearest hostile, get as close as possible at full speed, then pop (explode)! Choosing between a brainsucker or popper as the immediate threat to be dealt with is a matter of how close the popper is to your troops. A popper dying from armor piercing rounds, explosions, or incendiaries will immediately explode. A fatal wound may also detonate a popper unexpectantly. The explosion is powerful enough to detonate other poppers nearby, often resulting in a chain-reaction of explosions, heavily wounding others caught in the blasts. If this opportunitistic tactic can be used when a crash recovery is in progress and within a corridor, the aliens may be too injured and demoralised to fight and all may start to panic. This one action of chained explosions may turn the battle quickly against the alien horde.
  • A wounded and unconscious popper is best avoided since it may explode at anytime since it is unknown if the wounds are bleeding (fatal wounds) so it may be wise to blow it up with a weak explosive, but only if it is an obstruction or too close to proceed past safely.
  • Poppers are usually the first out of a UFO when they are present. A proximity mine can be thrown just in front of the door which will stop it being anything more that just a smoking scar on the terrain.
Note: A UFO door may block the explosion when opening if the proximity mine is set with a very short delay. A setting of 2sec/4.5m at the closed door works well.
  • A popper leaves a trail of smoke whenever moving. This many conceal others behind it, and with the second and third etc. popper making the smoke thicker, it may be better to move away briefly until it clears so you don't get surprised.
  • A popper on motion scanner is easily picked out since the speed it moves at leaves a strong signature on the scanner minimap.
  • If any are seen running on open ground, it may be possible to lead-the-target with an autocannon explosive round or a thrown grenade.
  • Poppers following each other in a loose line may 'tunnel' through a gas cloud (stun or anti-alien) since: Any 'new' gas cloud will displace the 'old' gas cloud. Their movement causes a local smoke-effect (bubbling butt chemicals?) which will displace the current gas cloud as they pass through it (until stunned or killed) with the second and third etc. in line building the smoke tunnel further until it dissects the 'old' cloud. Their smoke tunnel is easily removed with another type of 'new gas'.
  • If any aliens are found grouped together with a popper, an explosive thrown into the group, or aim for the popper with weaponry which causes it to detonate when killed will save ammunition, injure or kill many aliens and may cause panic.
  • Poppers within buildings can be an unexpected deadly threat since an agent flying past an open(ing) window will allow the popper to see your trooper and thus detonate. Note: This is similar to a Boomeroid when behind a wall. It won't explode until it can see you (a door/window opens).
  • The threat of the large explosion is entirely avoided by flight. Flying above the ground (same method as with Brainsuckers) completely negates any threat from this creature if the environment allows flying so high.
  • Spitters have inaccurate aim but when it impacts, the enzymes eat armor and flesh only weakly, posing a minimal danger unless a group has targeted a single agent, thus, any groups of these should be broken up with explosives. They usually don't attack first when a battle starts and prefer to wait until others have 'had a go', hence, they may be already panicking by that time. A average agent can rush in for a kill and get some experience!
  • Multiworms will burst open when killed. birthing four Hyperworms. The multiworm is has high health but a short range enzyme spit. Use the environment to be at an elevated level, if possible, and engage it with hard-hiting weapons such as the laser, plasma gun, or heavy launcher with explosives from a medium distance to avoid the spit and its melee babies. If in close with a multiworm, retreating further away is the best tactic since they are slow moving. Explosives (autocannon) from multiple agents will wear down the creature until it 'bursts', with continued fire (or a stronger AP-grenade explosion) to also kill the babies. An injured multiworm can be bombarded with stun (grapple or gas) until unconscious which will not cause the creature to 'birth'. Standing on (until mission end?) any part of the worm will keep it subdued.

Special Note: The battlescaspe population will determine if hyperworms will be allowed to appear after the multiworm dies. This is similar to why brainsucker pods don't always break open.

  • Hyperworm is a fast 'snake' and quickly needs to get close to eat (melee combat). Its high speed makes a hyperworm the last threat which needs urgent attention. Shooting at the hyperworm with autocannon high explosive rounds is the best tactic since, where there is one...
    If an agent can fly and is out of the hyperworms melee range, the worm now is just a nothing but a mere annoyance that needs to be silenced. If face-to-face with a hyperworm, use the brainsuck-in-action tactic of dropping a live grenade, or run!
  • Multiworm Alien Eggs are easily avoided since they cannot move, have a weak enzyme projectile and pose a minimal threat. Distance is the only problem with eggs since an agent turning a corner may come in close range to its weapon. A motion scanner should be used to limit any surprises.
  • Chrysalis is no threat whatsoever. A chrysalis is a coccoon-like alien usually found together with alien eggs, located in less travelled areas of a building or UFO. It has no offensive capabilties, does not move, and does not 'hatch'.

These two alien lifeforms (egg and coccoon) may block corridors which may prevent other aliens from proceeding into battle. Shoot the others first. The egg and coccoon does not need to be killed for a mission to end successfully (ie: eliminate all aliens) since they are both recovered alive at mission completion. Shooting both dead can earn experience by agents needing improvement.

Aliens Which Carry Weapons

There are only two alien lifeforms in the whole game which can carry any (alien or earth-based) weapons, grenades and devices. The blue Anthropod and the yellow Skeletoid. Tactics against these two types are the same with the only difference is that the skeletoid can fly.

  • Anthropods and Skeletoids are the foot soldiers of the alien menace. They can use any weapon available on the battlescape since they can pick up anything dropped when needed (some weapons they won't bother with because they don't cause death).
  • Beware of these two aliens in the early parts of the game since they will all carry Brainsucker Launchers until they develop more advanced weaponry to complement this weapon. The launcher is never obsolete and will be used until the end.
  • When they use the inaccurate brainsucker launcher, they will shoot the pods only in the general direction of your troopers. With this one weapon, they may be briefly the second most dangerous alien ...until all pods have been fired! Anthropod and Skeletoids themselves, are completely harmless without a weapon or grenade. They have no in-grown weapons! Concentrate on the brainsuckers instead when they are about (careful with those poppers, too). Kill the foot soldiers before they can launch more pods.
  • If they are in a corridor, they may be unable to aim high to shoot pods over your agents' heads.
  • Approaching a dead alien which used a brainsucker launcher may cause loose pods in their inventory to break open. The pod loaded inside a dropped weapon or any unconscious aliens will prevent the pod from hatching.
  • If fighting high in the air with an unshielded skeletoid, a quick shot of stun grapple instead of a prolonged fire-fight will cause the alien to plummet to the ground, and usually die.
  • As the game progress these two aliens will acquire better weaponry and will eventually start using exotic devices also. Concentrate fire on one at a time or the one with the 'biggest gun' since most other common aliens will now be minor threats, except brainsuckers (always) and poppers (usually).

The anthropod, being limited to the ground, can be out-manouvered against flying agents by deformed terrain, broken walkways ...anything that can limit your own agents when ground-based, applies to the anthropod as well. The skeletoid suffers no such penalties. Where your agents can fly, the skeletoids can follow!

Fighting: Uncommon Aliens

  • Megaspawn is the large tank of the alien forces. Its grown-in weapons being the disruptor beam and a dimension missile launcher makes this slow mass of flesh extremely dangerous. Avoid the missile inflight by using cover with hide-and-seek tactics (you hide when the missile seeks).
  • A megaspawn is too slow to chase troops and is usually stuck inside the UFO. Any of these tanks outside, however, should be attacked with the strongest weapons available en-masse from cover and from different directions all at once. Depending on the weaponry available to X-Com, the multiworm injure-and-stun tactic works, and followed up by standing on the unconscious unit (overhead view, large red circle, stand one agent on any part of the circle).
  • The missile may be avoided by a fast agent running perpendicular to the incoming warhead. The turning rate is too loose to track such fast movement and it usually ends up over shooting and exploding nearby. ...nearby being better than in their face!
  • The megaspawn may use their dimension missile launcher in tight spaces or in close combat, although the beam weapon is prefered. Beware of anything collapsing.
  • Micronoid and Psimorph lifeforms use psionic powers as their only method of combat. They both have no offensive weaponry, are slow moving and they avoid the main battle. The only difference between the two, the Psimorph can fly, is larger and has slightly better psionic skills and much more health. These two lifeforms will use panic and stun psi powers on X-Com agents often with the psimorph using mind control against psi-weak X-Com agents, from medium distance to assist other aliens in battle. Battlescape tactics to fight these lifeform is easy and simple ...like shooting a slow moving chrysalis. Stunning the psimorph uses the same tactics as for the megaspawn, with the micronoid immune to stun gas but not to stun grapples. Any time these two aliens are present on the battlescape, an android is the prefered trooper to use.

These two alien lifeforms (Psimorph and Megaspawn) cannot enter corridors which are one level high. X-Com agents may not see them unless both the agent and the large alien are out in an open area.

Fighting: Unique Aliens

  • Queenspawn is the egg factory of all those Multiworm Eggs! This alien is only found once. A live specimen should be a priority for research. This yellow, tentacled, immobile, octopus-like alien has very high health and a very strong enzyme projectile weapon. This important alien is often surrounded by eggs (that need to be scrambled with some Vortex power) and a defending force of Megaspawns, including having reinforcements available from the nearby 'orange pads'. Capture of this lifeform is a difficult operation. Its health must be reduced to less than half without killing it and then must be constantly gassed with stun grenades until it passes out. Getting too close to its tentacles results in a deadly whip hence, stun grapples may not the best option. Distraction of the queenspawn is possible with one agent whilst another stealthy agent can get closer, if lucky, to use the grapple.

Fighting: Humans

The human population of Mega-Primus go about their business without any concern of the Alien threat to their city or way of life. Civilians are irrelevant and are not considered.

  • When fighting inside any building, conservative use of explosives is recommended, unless the building is owned by a hostile organisation.
  • Hybrids and Androids are not used anywhere unless hired by X-Com. Any and all inhabitants of Mega-Primus are always classed as human irrelevant of what their portrait picture may show when probed or mind-controlled.
  • Humans only appear in two areas: their own buildings and your base.
  • Civilians cannot use weapons since they do not have an inventory.
  • All defence forces use weapons which are available on the market until exotic types are acquired automatically as the weeks progress.
  • Defence forces do not use removeable armour since all use in-built armor. Its protection ratinge varies with Difficulty.
  • All human units are comparable to human X-Com agents in physical attributes whereas civilians are irrelevant. They do not gain experience in battle and do not increase their attributes over time. eg: the gangster fought at week one is the same when fought at week sixteen except their equipment will be mostly exotic.
  • Defence forces will not use certain weapons eg: power swords. If hostile, they will (rarely) use a stun grapple against your troops but prefer a weapon that kills.
  • If out of ammunition for their weapon, they may take some more from anyone unconscious or may place their current weapon in the backpack and take a different weapon as long as it is loaded. No weapons are discarded when empty. Excess ammunition may be thrown about the battlescape and either be picked up by others or left alone.
  • A hostile may (rarely) pick up mind bender and may attempt psionic attacks on your psi-weak units.
  • Any neutral unit can be forced to move by throwing an unarmed grenade next to them. Their 'programmed' response is to flee until they are outside its blast radius. When a dud grenade is thrown, all within the effective area may flee but others outside (the blast radius) may attempt to steal the grenade once they realise it was not a threat. Smoke grenades are ideal for this tactic but other types are likely to be stolen if not recovered soon. Neutrals may throw their own live grenade towards your dud to blow it up and remove the perceived threat. Boomeroids from X-Com agents are targeted for removal as a priority, beware of any explosions. This "fleeing from grenades" tactic can be used to unblock corridors of grouped neutrals or to force anyone kneeling to stand and run (stun grapple sometimes does not work on kneeling units).
  • Defence Forces may become more technologically advanced than X-Com and Aliens!!

Next: Anti-Alien Strategies For Troops
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