Second Wave (EU2012)

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Second Wave is a game mode enabled with the fourth patch released for XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Second Wave was initially unavailable to most players, but was partially accessible to modders who unlocked it manually through manipulation of the game's code. The developers subsequently prepared the full content for release with the help of modders who had discovered how to activate it and had tested its features, according to Jake Solomon.

Second Wave adds advanced gameplay options to increase the difficulty and randomness of the game, described below. The options are unlocked as the player wins on advanced Difficulty Levels.

Default Options

Damage Roulette

Weapons have a much wider range of damage.

  • Does not apply to explosives.
  • Random damage range varies between 1 and the weapons' base damage + 50% (rounded down), a critical hit adds the base damage value to the previously calculated random damage. Example: an Assault Rifle with a 3 damage stat can deal up to 1-4 damage or 4-7 critical damage.
  • Note: If using this in conjunction with 'Absolutely Critical', aliens that do not use cover will take an inordinate amount of '1 Damage' hits.

New Economy

The funding offered by individual Council members is randomized.

Not Created Equally

Rookies will have random starting stats.

  • Range of Will: 25~59 (normal 40), values will vary by increments of 2 to the lower 25 limit.
  • Range of Aim: 50~80 (normal 65), varies in increments of +5. Note that this is one way to make the Heavy class more useful in the endgame, at the expense of having to hire, screen and fire a lot of soldiers after getting the OTS New Guy perk.
  • Range of Movement: 11~14 (normally 12), 1/3 chance of getting 11, 1/3 chance for 12, 1/6 chance for 13, 1/6 chance for 14 movement.
  • All soldiers will have the same Health Points, value is defined by the difficulty level.

Hidden Potential

As a Soldier is promoted, their stats will increase randomly.

  • HP: Heavy has 60% chance per level of +1 HP, all other classes have 50%.
  • Will: same increase as without Hidden Potential (variable between 2 to 6). With OTS's Iron Will, all classes can gain up to 13 Will per rank.
  • Aim score raises depend on the soldier's class:
    • Sniper: 3-9, giving an average total Aim increase of 42 (slightly better than normal)
    • Support: 2-6, giving an average total Aim increase of 28 (better than normal)
    • Assault: 1-5, giving an average total Aim increase of 21 (not as good as normal)
    • Heavy: 0-2, giving an average total Aim increase of 7 (worse than normal)
    • MEC Trooper: 1-5, giving an average total Aim increase of 21 (better than normal)
  • Movement: Heavy has 10% chance of +1 move per rank gained, all other classes have 20%.
  • To manipulate this option to make soldiers with very high stats; save before the last action of a mission, and check the scores in the mission results screen of anyone who does gain a rank, and reload until you get the desired stats. Keeping some sort of logbook to write these down is ideal.
  • These values are taken from Nexusmods wiki
  • Thus, with Hidden Potential, Not Created Equal, & OTS's Iron Will (and New Guy, for when making bulk soldier recruitments), the highest possible stats:
    • Will (all classes): Squaddies: 72. Colonels: 150.
    • Aim:
      • Sniper: Squaddie: 89. Colonels: 143.
      • Support: Squaddie: 86. Colonel: 122.
      • Assault: Squaddie: 85. Colonel: 115.
      • Heavy: Squaddie: 82. Colonel: 94.
      • MEC Trooper: Dependent on rank upon conversion.
        • Thus, Heavies should be augmented as Squaddies (113 max), Assaults whenever, and Supports and Snipers as Colonels.

Normal Victory Unlocks

Red Fog

Any wounds taken in combat will degrade a soldier's stats for that mission.

  • -15 Aim with light wound (only extra Health Points from armor removed), -30 with heavy wound (soldier HPs).
  • Even 1 point of damage is considered as light wound, even though that HP is from armor.
  • Movement is impaired by wounds too, each injured soldier has -2 movement.
  • Debuff is not cured with Medikit heal.

Absolutely Critical

A flanking shot will guarantee a critical hit.

  • Shots to flanked or exposed target has +100% crit chance, rather than +50%.
  • Hardened target has -100% chance to hit by critical, rather than -60%.
    • So it negates +100% from exposed penalty, but still 10% higher chance to be critically hit than normal. (where they has 60% - 50% = 10% resistance to crits.)
  • Unconfirmed - Does not affect aliens' chance to crit.

The Greater Good

The secret of psionics can only be learned by interrogating a psionic alien.


The game takes considerably longer to complete.

  • This option perhaps brings the most change to overall gameplay, as storyline progression is affected directly by the changes to research time and facility construction.
  • Time for Research: x3.
  • Time for facilities building: x2 (i.e.: A Satellite Uplink now takes 28 days).
  • Cost of building items and facilities: x2 (including advanced materials such as Alien Alloys or Elerium).
  • You may want to try Marathon in Easy or Normal mode, as you'll need the additional funds (and the free satellite) to be able to manage Panic (doing so in Impossible with Marathon is very very hard: you might not be able to compensate fast enough with Abductions raising panic).
  • Days in Infirmary: x2.
  • Marathon don't work if tutorial is activated.
  • Item requirements for researches, Foundry upgrades, cost of soldiers, interceptor costs, OTS upgrade costs remains the same. For example, satellites still take 20 days to build.
    • This actually makes a strong case for making XCOM HQ in South America, as instant early interrogations to reduce other research times may put you ahead of the game. Or, if lucky with credits, in Europe, and building laboratories to also reduce time.
  • Alien progress is slowed after April. For example, first Mutons and Abductor UFOs show up in June, rather than May. Floaters and Large Scouts will still appear in the second month. For more details see Species Deployment.
    • In effect: Storyline progression is greatly slowed, both on XCOM's end, as well as that of the Aliens. But, as the experience requirements to level your soldiers remain the same, this means that you may end up with Colonels before you even see a Muton; the higher-level Abilities giving you a combative edge against the stronger aliens that appear later.
    • With the Slingshot DLC making a Muton capture in the 2nd month plausible, it's possible to get a massive lead on Plasma weaponry - if you focus Abduction/Council rewards on Scientists.

Classic Victory Unlocks

Results Driven

A country will offer less funding as its panic increases.

  • Funding is boosted by 25% from countries with level 1 panic and is cut by 25% for each panic level above 2 (125% of funding at panic level 1, 100% at panic level 2, 75% at panic level 3, 50% at panic level 4 and 25% at panic level 5).

High Stakes

The rewards granted for stopping alien abductions are randomized.

  • This means the number of engineers or scientists (2 to 6) and amount of credits (about 100 to 300) you get is randomized. You can see the rewards before launching the mission.

Diminishing Returns

The cost of satellites increases with every one that is built.

  • This also increases engineer requirements for satellites.
  • Cost goes up when you complete satellites, so try to make multiple satellites at once to save money.
  • Satellite build time is decreased from 20 to 10 days.

More Than Human

The psionic gift is extremely rare.

  • You'll automatically gain one amongst the first 6 soldiers tested on the Psionic Lab.
  • However, after the 1st Psionic soldier the odds of getting a 2nd or 3rd will be very low.
    • The chance for Psi is calculated by dividing the trainee's Will by 8, and then further dividing it by (1 + number of already existing psi soldiers). As an example, the chance for a 2nd Psionic when testing a 120 Will soldier would be: 120/8/2 or 7.5%.

Impossible Victory Unlocks

Total Loss

Lose all gear from soldiers who die in combat.

  • Applies to any weapons, equipment or Armor that the soldier was carrying during the mission.
  • Think twice about giving equipment to rookies who will be used as cannon fodder.

War Weariness

Overall funding levels drop inexorably with every month that passes.

  • With enough time, funding levels will reach zero, leaving only the Gray Market and missions to raise credits.


Elerium stores will degrade over time.

  • Elerium has half-life of 15 days, which means you lose approx. 4.52% of Elerium stock per day. (or 1% per approx. 5 hrs and 13 mins.)
  • At the beginning it is better to sell all recovered Elerium until you can actually use it for manufacturing.
  • Later, after you capture a UFO try to use as much of it as possible.
  • Elerium used in Engineering, Foundry and Research projects is 'saved', so one way to keep some Elerium is to start projects and stop them before their completion to recover and use the Elerium into something more useful.

Alternate Sources

The power requirements of all facilities are increased.

  • Power cost of all facilities are doubled.
  • Base power (30 on classic) is doubled too, but Power Generators make same power.

Enemy Within Options

Enemy Within Second Wave options


Training Roulette

Randomize all class abilities sets.

  • You may have Heavies with Lightning Reflexes and Opportunist.
  • Does not affect base class abilities, nor abilities that require specific weapons (ex. Shredder Rocket). Is not confined to ranks, so a Corporal could get Low Profile or Sentinel.
  • Does not affect Psi or MEC abilities.
  • For more tips see Training Roulette.

Save Scum

Saving a game will reset the RNG seed for the shots.

  • This is essentially a cheat that can be used even on Ironman.

Aiming Angles

The closer you come to flanking an enemy the more their cover bonus declines.

  • Can be very useful, makes the game more intuitive and realistic and less about either/or line of sight predictions - but Thin Men will also appreciate this option a lot.

Normal Victory Unlocks

Mind Hates Matter

Genetically modified soldiers cannot undergo psi testing; gifted soldiers can never receive genetic modification.

Classic Victory Unlocks

Itchy Trigger Tentacle

Non-cover aliens with ranged attack have a 50% chance of firing at your soldiers on sight.

See Also