A soldier is an elite XCOM operative who has military training and executes combat missions in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Soldiers are managed and recruited through the Barracks. Between missions soldiers can be seen participating in a variety of off-duty activities on the various levels of the Barracks facility while in the "ant farm" view.
|“||Maintaining an adequate number of troops is crucial to ensuring XCOM is able to respond to the alien threat. If soldiers are lost in combat, replacements can be hired in the Barracks. Additional highly specialized soldiers are sometimes offered as a reward for assisting a nation in distress.||”|
– XCOM Database, XCOM: Enemy Unknown
As Earth's first and last line of defense against the Alien invaders, XCOM's soldiers are deployed by the Commander (player character) to engage in ground combat. They fulfill a variety of roles based on their class and abilities to complete the objectives at hand.
XCOM starts out with a group of twelve Rookie soldiers. Additional soldiers can be recruited via the Barracks and arrive at headquarters three days later. Each recruit costs §10 on Easy and Normal difficulties, and §15 on Classic and Impossible. Additional soldiers can also be received as a mission reward from the Council.
Generation and Customization
When recruited, a soldier's gender and nationality are randomly selected. When acquired as a mission reward, a soldier originates from the country where the mission took place. Gender and nationality restrict the possible outcomes for a soldier's randomly-generated name and physical appearance. Upon attaining the rank of Sergeant, soldiers also receive a nickname, randomly selected from a list pertaining to their class and gender.
Other than for an International Service Cross medal option in XCOM: Enemy Within, a soldier's nationality is completely inconsequential to gameplay. Gender is also trivial, except for when obtaining the "Flight of the Valkyries" achievement. While a soldier's most inconsequential attributes are random, factors related to combat such as initial stats and abilities, are fixed.
The player can customize a soldier's name, nickname, voice, and appearance, but their nationality and gender cannot be changed. Additional appearance options (such as armor decoration and tinting or new hair/helmet choices) are available through purchasable downloadable content, such as the Elite Soldier Pack, or by editing the game's XComGame.int file.
Ranks and Experience
Soldiers start out as Rookies with basic abilities. As they earn experience (XP) by killing enemies and completing missions, soldiers increase in rank, rewarding them with increased stats and additional abilities (based on the soldier's class).
To be available for purchase, upgrades at the Officer Training School require that XCOM have at least one soldier at Sergeant rank or higher.
|Complete Storyline Mission||120|
|Complete Mission Without KIA||20|
|· Wet Work grants an additional 25% XP per kill.|
· The Star of Terra medal can grant +25% XP for mission completion to all squad members ranked Lieutenant or lower.
XP Required Per Rank
|XP Required Per Rank|
|Rank||Enemy Unknown||Enemy Within|
(Classic / Impossible only)
|· Soldiers obtained as a mission reward join XCOM ranked Squaddie or higher.|
· New Guy automatically promotes new and existing Rookies to Squaddies.
Soldiers have several specializations available, known as classes. Upon receiving a promotion to the rank of Squaddie, soldiers are randomly assigned one of four classes (weighted slightly towards the class XCOM has fewest of) that determines the weapons and abilities they can use:
|Assault||Specializes in close combat. Uses shotguns, rifles, and pistols.|
|Heavy||Specializes in using explosive weapons. Uses LMGs and rocket launchers.|
|Sniper||Focuses on taking enemies out from afar. Uses sniper rifles and pistols.|
|Support||Heals, conceals, and buffs allies; provides suppression fire. Uses rifles and pistols.|
|MEC Trooper EW||Operators of MECs, these soldiers act as heavy fire support and cover destroyers, and can be built to excel in close combat.|
In addition, soldiers may become members of the following sub-classes:
|Psionic||Soldiers can possess a supplemental set of psionic abilities. To test for psionic capabilities, a soldier must spend 10 days in the Psionic Labs.|
|Gene Modded EW||Gene Mods allow soldiers to be genetically engineered in the Genetics Lab, granting up to five modifications that provide superhuman abilities.|
|Covert Operative EW||A special temporary assignment in which a soldier is selected to complete a Covert Operation.|
- Becoming a MEC Trooper requires the conversion of a soldier from their base class via the Cybernetics Lab. Each class results in a different type of MEC Trooper; all are ineligible to be genetically modified, psionic soldiers, or covert operatives.
- Genetically modified soldiers retain the possibility of being psionic soldiers (unless the "Mind Hates Matter" Second Wave option is enabled) and covert operatives, but cannot become MEC Troopers.
- The position of Covert Operative can be filled by any soldier, except a Heavy or MEC Trooper.
Soldiers have access to a variety of general and class-related abilities in combat. General abilities allow soldiers to perform basic actions such as initiating Overwatch, tossing a Frag Grenade, or using a Medikit. Class-related abilities allow soldiers to perform specialized actions such as a Heavy pinning down an enemy with Suppression while protected by a Support's Smoke Grenade, or a Sniper using Double Tap to take out an alien that an Assault has Flushed out into the open.
Soldiers' attributes affect their survivability and effectiveness in combat:
|HP||How much damage the soldier can take.|
|Will||Resistance to psionics and panic. Also a factor in psionic testing, and the successful use of psionic abilities.|
|Aim||How accurate the unit is.|
|Defense||How difficult the unit is to hit.|
|Critical Hit Chance||Chance that a successful hit will be a critical hit.|
|Critical Hit Damage||Critical hit damage.|
|Movement||Movement ÷ 1.625 = Maximum number of tiles a soldier can move each turn. A hidden stat, the only way to determine it in-game is by observation.|
|Sight Radius||XCOM soldiers have a 27-tile sight radius. Hidden stat.|
Rookies start with the following stats:
|HP||Determined by the game difficulty. Easy: 6, Normal: 5, Classic: 4, Impossible: 3.|
A soldier's innate Defense, Critical Hit Chance, and Critical Hit Damage stats are zero. Factors such as weapons, equipment, abilities, and position on the battlefield contribute to their score.
- Predefined increases to HP and Aim based on class.
- Randomized 2-6 point Will increase. This is calculated at the end of the mission. A method of ensuring the maximum stat increase is to save the game during the mission that will end with a soldier's promotion, then re-load the save until the soldier's will increases by the desired amount.
Options and Upgrades
The following game options and upgrades modify how soldiers' attributes are generated or increased:
|Not Created Equally||Second Wave option||Randomizes initial Will, Aim, and Movement stats.|
|Hidden Potential||Second Wave option||Randomizes HP, Aim and Movement stat increases.|
|Iron Will||Officer Training School upgrade||Gives 2 to 6 additional Will when soldier ranks up.|
Soldiers have four equipment slots available to them, and their gear load-out can be managed in the Barracks or while selecting a squad for a mission:
- Body Armor: The primary armor worn by the soldier. Some armor types grant additional abilities.
- Primary Weapon: A primary weapon based on their class.
- Secondary Weapon: A Rocket Launcher/Blaster Launcher for Heavies or a pistol-type weapon for the other classes.
- Item: An extra item such as a Frag Grenade, Nano-fiber Vest, or Medikit that is unavailable in the previous slots.
In XCOM: Enemy Within, MECs fulfill a composite equipment role for MEC Troopers. MECs use the Body Armor slot but are upgraded with Tactical Subsystems that fulfill roles similar to Secondary Weapons and Items.
Initially, soldiers are fielded in squads of one to four units. The Squad Size I and Squad Size II upgrades available at the Officer Training School increase the squad size to a maximum of five and six soldiers, respectively.
The composition of a squad for any given mission is left to the discretion of the Commander, with the exception of the XCOM Base Defense mission in XCOM: Enemy Within. The choice of units deployed in the field greatly influences the squad tactics that are most efficient to complete the objectives.
The squad leader is determined when selecting soldiers to board the Skyranger before embarking on a mission. If one soldier is higher in rank than any other in the squad, the role of squad leader is assigned to them. If two or more soldiers share the highest rank, other criteria such as position in the squad selection screen, number of missions completed, or number of kills are considered. The squad leader can be identified by a yellow star over their rank icon in battle. The Lead By Example EW upgrade allows them to substitute their Will for that of all nearby lower-Will squadmates.
Soldiers involved in combat are susceptible to injury and death. Whenever a soldier incurs damage exceeding that of the HP bonus granted by their armor, the soldier is flagged as wounded. Upon return to base, they become unavailable for subsequent missions while recovering in the Infirmary. Procuring the Rapid Recovery training from the Officer Training School greatly reduces the amount of time soldiers spend out of action due to injuries.
If a soldier is injured during combat, for the remainder of the mission they are subject to a Will penalty, visible as "Battle Fatigue" when viewing the soldier info interface. If injured by less than 50% of their total health, the penalty is -5 Will. If injured by more than 50% of their total health, the penalty is -10 Will.
When a soldier is heavily (but not critically) wounded, they are considered to be gravely wounded. Other than an increased recuperation time in the Infirmary, this status is the same as wounded. It does not require stabilization or entail critically wounded's Will reduction penalty.
When a soldier loses all of their HP during a mission, they either die or become critically wounded. Soldiers of a higher rank are more likely to be critically wounded instead of dying. Critically wounded soldiers must be stabilized or revived with a Medikit or they will bleed out and die in three turns (including the turn they were injured), if the mission is not completed by then. Critically wounded soldiers, even if saved, incur a permanent -10 (-15 on Classic or Impossible) reduction to Will. In XCOM: Enemy Within, this penalty can be avoided with the Secondary Heart Gene Mod.
Critically wounded soldiers are not targeted by enemies, but can be killed before bleeding out in the event of an explosion. Take care while fighting enemies that are equipped with explosives or explode upon death (such as Cyberdiscs), as well as near combustible objects in the environment (such as vehicles).
When a soldier dies during a mission, that soldier is permanently removed from the unit roster and their information is recorded on the Memorial Wall in the Barracks. This information includes the soldier's rank and name (and nickname if applicable), total kills, total missions performed, the name and in-game date of the mission they died on. In XCOM: Enemy Within, the information also includes how the soldier was killed and lists any medals they may have received. Their medals are returned to XCOM and can to be reissued to another soldier in three days.
Fellow squadmates are subject to a "Fallen Comrade" penalty of -5 Will if they witness a soldier being killed in action during a mission. In the event of multiple deaths, the penalty is -5 Will per soldier killed.
- Main article: Squad Tactics (XCOM: Enemy Unknown)
- Soldier roles and team composition often define the ideal play style and tactical approach for missions.
- Snipers should be in the rear and in cover, with a clear line of sight towards the enemy. Also, a viable late-game strategy is to provide a Sniper with the ability Gunslinger and a fully-upgraded Plasma Pistol.
- Assaults (or an assault team consisting of two or more Assaults) should be deployed on the front lines with heavy armor so they can move in for the kill, or should be kept on the flanks so they can use Run & Gun to sweep in to take out weakened enemies. While it might be tempting to use Rapid Fire at point blank range, in many cases just one shot is enough to kill (provided they don't have Critical resistance).
- Supports are multipurpose and can be used for more than just healing, especially with the Covering Fire and Rifle Suppression perks, as they can pin down enemies with ease and prevent them from firing.
- Heavies should either be positioned in the core of the team, providing explosive support and Aim buffs to your Snipers, or closer to the front, next to the Assault in low cover, providing covering fire and drawing fire away.
- Be aware of the power curve for each class
- Heavy class soldiers are very powerful in the early game with their Fire Rocket and Bullet Swarm abilities, as well as improved base weapon damage; however their low Aim stat progression (75 at Colonel) makes their effectiveness taper in the late game.
- Inversely, the Sniper's poor Mobility makes them clunky and unwieldy in the early game; however their Colonel abilities (In The Zone/Double Tap) and high Aim stat progression (105 at Colonel) make them the quintessential late-game carry.
- In Enemy Within, subtle balance changes mean that a Sniper, while still a good soldier, is not necessary, including on Impossible difficulty.
- Assaults and Supports both maintain well-rounded power curves (89-90 Aim at Colonel) and their specialized roles keep them relevant at all stages of the game.
- On harder difficulties where the early stages of the game are punishing, consider composing a squad with more Heavies to start; but gradually transitioning to more Snipers as the game progresses. Alternatively, in Enemy Within, one may transition to an aggressive playstyle, and need not employ Snipers at all, or use a Snap Shot Sniper if so inclined.
- Soldiers "level up" as they progress through missions based primarily on how many aliens they kill. When a squad can safely take out a cornered alien, consider weakening it with a few hits before using a soldier you want promoted to take the kill shot.
- One useful way of improving your soldier roster is to take all-Rookie teams on the first few missions, to ensure XCOM has a large number of soldiers with a few kills and promotions under their belt. Retaining a diversity of classes is extremely useful, as an injury to a particular class soldier no longer requires a different team composition and shift in strategy/play style for the next mission. A choice of many adequate soldiers as opposed to a few highly trained ones may pay off in the long run, as a strategy focused on training a handful of vets can unravel very quickly with the death of even one key soldier. An inflated roster with promotions and kills evened out among the squad is thus recommended.
- This strategy, despite being viable and useful, should be employed with care. Fielding multiple low-ranked soldiers may delay the acquisition of important OTS upgrades (including Squad Size I and II) and soldier abilities (such as the Sniper Class' Squadsight).
- Try to strike a balance between promoting as many new soldiers as you can, and bringing enough vets to not lose any vets in battle.
- Consider mission difficulty and likely opposition when deciding how many vets to bring.
- Soldiers leveled up in the first half of the campaign are generally lacking compared to those trained with the benefits of Officer Training School bonuses. Moreover, in the latter parts of the game, soldiers can be promoted faster due to: the Wet Work upgrade, an increased number of aliens to kill during missions, a solid team of professionals backing up the newcomers, and setting up Squaddies for promotion kills. Other benefits include higher-stat soldiers obtained by using the Second Wave randomizers (Not Created Equally & Hidden Potential) and filtering out low-stat soldiers. The latter-game bonuses greatly favor a transition to a "second generation" squad, even if the first-generation Colonels are still alive and well. A Second Wave second-generation squad can easily possess an average of 100+ Will stats and 85 (Heavy) to 120 (Support and Sniper) Aim stats. Of course, all of this is greatly complicated in Impossible Ironman playthrough, where staff rotation may occur "naturally".
- The Barracks capacity is limited to 99 soldiers; this is reduced to 70 in XCOM: Enemy Within.
- In the Civilization V: Brave New World expansion pack, one of the units is the a squad of XCOM soldiers equipped with Titan Armor and Heavy Plasma guns. They function as an upgrade to the paratroopers and have a "Skyranger" perk which allows them to be deployed from friendly territory up to 40 hexes away and are the strongest infantry unit in the game. In addition, a steam achievement called That's XCOM baby! is granted if a player's XCOM Squad is killed from full health in a single AI turn.
- One item of concept art includes a soldier with a flammable canister on his back, which may indicate that flamethrowers were planned, but removed at some point.