Making The Game Harder (EU2012)

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This page is intended for players who finish the game frequently on the higher difficulties (Classic/Impossible/Ironman/Second Wave) and would like to keep the challenge alive or to add a little extra spice to their games.

Naturally it is quite easy to handicap yourself while playing the game: using only conventional weaponry, no armor, only pistols, etc. Some of these situations are detailed here, in addition to exploits/cheats/tactics that make the game easier, which you might want to refrain from using.

Feel free to suggest more or try any of these ideas (or all of them!). Some may make the game very hard or even impossible to win. Most of these ideas are based on a similar page for the original game.

Ingame Maximum Difficulty Settings

  • Impossible and Ironman settings
  • Use all Second Wave options
  • Under the Game Options, uncheck the option that shows the aliens Health Points bar

Second Wave Settings

Second Wave is designed to enhance the game play experience. Most settings increase the difficulty level but others have a mixed effects after players have mastered them.

Maximum Difficulty

  • Damage Roulette - random damage can affect both sides in battle but it limits more the planning of the human player than the AI, specially when playing without enemy HP bars visible (one of the game options). You'll only know if that Plasma Sniper Rifle shot dealt 19 or 1 damage to that still standing Ethereal if you hit it with the next shot...
  • More Than Human - a must have. Limits the use of Psionic soldiers to 1 or 2 on each game, instead of bringing a full Psionic squad and walking completely over the aliens. And, with The Greater Good you may also start considering how wise it is to bring your only Psionic soldier to every fight due to the rare chance of finding another one.
  • The Greater Good - requires a live alien to research Psionics.
  • Red Fog - affects only XCOM soldiers. Makes prolonged fights more difficult due to the loss of stats from injuries in combat.
  • Results Driven - funding is affected by panic level. Once full satellite coverage is achieved it becomes less effective.
  • Diminishing Returns - satellite cost greatly increases after each one is build (can be double).
  • Total Loss - losing a fully equipped soldiers will now also cost greatly in credits and material resources, besides its training.
  • War Wariness - funding will drop each month until it reaches zero. Period.
  • Alternate Sources - HQ power costs are doubled. More credits and construction space required for Engineering.
  • Mind Hates Matter - Psionic soldiers can't have Gene Mods.
  • Itchy Finger Tentacle - non-cover aliens have a 50% chance of shooting on sight instead of overwatching

Mixed Difficulty

  • Marathon - This option doubles or even triples the time and costs required for research, building, manufacturing, etc.
In terms of combat, the player actually has more time to train soldiers because Marathon gives more missions with the same type of aliens before the next higher type of alien species or UFO appears, with an player disadvantage for the first few months as the player has to deal with being underequipped vs the aliens for a longer time.
However, this option has a more drastic effect on the game difficulty in the strategic portion of the game, especially in the higher difficulty levels. This is because panic increases and abduction mission frequency will not be altered from the normal game, whereas it takes more than twice as long to get your satellites, Uplinks/Nexuses, Alien Base research, etc., up and running. On Impossible difficulty, it is not unlikely to lose 4 countries in the first month and only be able to get 1 satellite up in the 2nd month.
  • New Economy & High Stakes - both the randomization of the countries funding and the mission rewards can work either way, either helping or challenging the player. But unlike in the battlefield it is more easy to correct any mistakes.
  • Not Created Equally & Hidden Potential - if you have the credits, you can just sack lower stat rookies and replace them with better ones.
  • E-115 - stockpiling Elerium becomes more difficult but at the same time selling it right after UFO recovery brings much needed credits in the early game.
  • Absolutely Critical - actually balances the effect of Damage Roulette due to the certainty it provides of the shot inflicting some Critical Damage. The aliens will also benefit from it but it also makes the player to use more deadly flanking maneuvers.
  • Aiming Angles - benefits both the aliens and your soldiers.
  • Training Roulette - can either create super soldiers or give them nearly useless abilities.

Speed XCOM

Complete the game as quickly as possible. You can either do this:

  • In real time - see how many real hours it takes to finish the game.
    • Current known record for real time is 1:07:46. Video available here.
    • A detailed guide to XCOM: EU speedrunning can be found here.
  • In game time - see how many game days it takes to finish the game.
    • Current known record for in game time is 93 game days (June 3rd). Victory screenshot available here.

The quickest results can be achieved if playing on Easy difficulty.

Harder at Home

Handicap yourself from options in your base:

  • When building facilities, don't get any adjacency bonuses.
  • Limit yourself to building two satellites a month.
  • Bite the hands that feed you: refuse all Council Sales/Missions
  • Don't buy additional soldiers: your starting pool is all you got.
  • Not What We Signed Up For: Completely ignore the Covert Operations division.
  • Choose only one type of reward from Abductions/Council Requests/Missions for an entire campaign, and ignore the others:
    • The Idle Rich: Only accept § rewards, restricting how many Scientists and Engineers you receive. Enhance by putting on Marathon.
    • Bookworm: Only Scientist Rewards. Advanced research will get done quick-- too bad you can't build/buy any of it.
    • Just McGuyver It: Engineers Only. All you'll have for a while is Medikits-- but they'll be the cheapest you ever could afford to buy two of!


Offensive Psionics

  • No use of psionic powers allowed.
  • Only 1 Psionic soldier capable of using Psionics
  • No Mind Control

Defensive Psionics

  • No Mind Shields or Psi Armor allowed (with the exception of the Volunteer for the final mission).



  • You may not use or research any alien related items. All artifacts recovered from missions must be sold immediately, with the exception of those required to progress the storyline. This essentially means that you'll be restricted to only conventional weapons to fight, either in the air or on the ground. Good luck.
  • You may also never accept scientists as mission rewards or build any Labs. The only scientists you are allowed to receive are those from satellite coverage.

Conventional Only

  • You may only use conventional weapons, armor, and/or 1st level SHIVs & MEC suits throughout the entire game.


  • A lighter version of the above: only allow yourself to upgrade either weapons or armor.

Laser Squad

  • You may only deploy Lasers weapons and/or Carapace/Skeleton armor on any combat mission, once they become available.

Rise Of The Robots

  • After getting the Foundry (which should be your 1st priority) you'll use as many SHIVs as possible instead of human soldiers. MEC Troopers may also be used.
  • Rock'em Sock'em Robots: Guns are for sissies. PUNCH. EVERYTHING.

Limited Squads

  • Don't purchase Squad Size I & II and stick to the 4 soldier squad throughout the entire campaign. (now available as the Army Of Four achievement).
    • Try going MECless in addition to only having 4 members.


  • Only use pistols throughout the entire game
    • Heavies and several abilities become useless, together with Frag and Alien grenades.
    • On the plus side, you'll never have to reload your weapon or worry about ammo the entire game.
    • On the minus side, most aliens will now require at least the double of shots to eliminate them, even with a fully upgraded Plasma Pistol (and capturing and researching one should be a top priority).
    • The key abilities to have for Pistols are: Rapid Fire and Bring 'Em On (Assault) and Gunslinger and Double Tap (Sniper), which have both effects of allowing a 2nd shot and increasing the pistol's damage. The Foundry's Improved Pistol upgrades are also essential.
    • Headshot, Snap Shot and Disabling Shot are useless for Snipers, Rifle Suppression for Supports and Flush for Assaults.

Top Gun

  • Only use Interceptors - don't build Firestorms
    • It may be impossible to shoot down the Overseer using only Interceptors, specially at the higher difficulty levels.
  • Don't research advanced Air to Air weapons and stick to Avalanches.


Trying Something New

Don't choose any of these abilities while leveling up soldiers:

  • Squadsight, Disabling Shot, Opportunist and Double Tap (Sniper)
  • Field Medic and Revive (Support)
    • Don't assign an ability to a Colonel rank Support removing both Sentinel and Savior.
  • Rapid Fire (Assault)
  • HEAT Ammo (Heavy)

Voluntary Retirement

  • Once a soldier reaches Colonel rank it is immediately retired and dismissed from service as a reward for his/her services fighting the alien invasion.
  • Or the same as above but dismiss all commissioned officers, which means everyone from Lieutenant upwards.
  • Or you could limit your soldiers to a single "tour of duty" comprising a set number of deployments. 10 is a challenge; 20 is close to a normal game.

Valkyrie Squad

  • Dismiss all the ugly XY mutts still alive at the Barracks after the 1st mission and only use female soldiers during the entire game.

Single Class

  • Use only one class of soldiers during a mission or the entire game.


  • Very much like the "Ain't No Cavalry Comin'" achievement:
  • Near the start of the game select ten soldiers to be your Very Important People. (or V.I.P.s for short)
  • Change their armour or names to indicate that they are V.I.P.s.
  • You must bring at least one V.I.P. along to every mission.
  • If a V.I.P. is killed you may not replace him.
  • If all of your V.I.P.s are dead, you must completely abandon the current campaign.
  • In the event that all of your remaining V.I.P.s end up in the infirmary and awaiting recovery you may still play until they recover, after that you must again bring at least one V.I.P. to each mission.
  • You may also pull a V.I.P. out of a mission if things get hairy.

The Few

Never was so much owed by so many to so few.
  • Complete your game without hiring any additional soldiers.
  • If all survivors fail the Psi test that's game over.
    The Progeny campaign can solve this problem by allowing you to recruit 1-4 guaranteed psionics from missions

Adding more players

This option makes the game more interesting, rather than harder, for now, there are more players, each one having a role in XCOM. Now, real-world events could effect XCOM, such as illness, marriage, jobs etc. etc. Teamwork, and cooperation are very much an important an important element now, because there is now more than one player. It could make the game harder because arguments and other problems could create a rift between players, and thus, divide XCOM. It could also make the game easier because one player only has to worry about one thing at once.

  • Multiple Players for the soldiers
    • Pretty self explanatory, one player for every soldier
  • One player as "Commander" and more players to control research and/or engineering.
    • This requires fewer players, one to control the army, one player on research, and one player handles engineering, they can now all agree on a budget for each other, such as dividing the alloys and weapon fragments for the research team and engineering, for example. You can even have another player to control interceptors and/or satellites and seeing that country requests are fulfilled.

Enemy Within

Meld Related

  • "Mechless" – Complete the game without using any MECs
  • "Geneless" – Complete the game without using any Gene Mods
  • "Meldless" – Complete the game without researching Meld Recombination. On the upside, you don't have to risk going after the Meld on missions. This is basically the original game with a few extra items and more powerful enemies.


  • "Passe' Aggressive" - Ignore EXALT activity entirely.