A Soldier is an elite XCOM operative who has military training and who 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 off-duty activities on the various levels of the Barracks facility while in the "ant farm" view.
As Earth's first and last line of defense against the Alien invaders, the soldiers of XCOM are the most important units in game; they are the primary and the most versatile units who can be deployed by The Commander (player character) to engage in ground combat. Initially soldiers are fielded in squads of up to four units, but you can purchase upgrades from the Officer Training School to increase the squad size, to a max of six.
You start out with a group of 12 soldiers, all of whom are Rookies. New soldiers can be purchased through the Barracks and will arrive three days later. New soldiers cost different amounts based on the game difficulty; on Easy and Normal they cost §10 and on Classic and Impossible they cost §15. An additional soldier can also sometimes be received as a reward from a mission by The Council.
When recruited, soldiers are given a random name and appearance from a predetermined list based on the soldier's nationality and gender (which are also randomly determined upon recruitment). Upon attaining the Sergeant rank, soldiers are also receive a random nickname from a predetermined list, based on their class and gender. The player has the option to customize each soldier's name and appearance but the soldier's nationality and gender cannot be changed. Soldiers obtained as a mission rewards will be from the country where the mission took place.
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 ExperienceEdit
Soldiers start out as a Rookie and only have access to the most basic abilities. As soldiers gain experience during missions, they will gain new ranks, allowing them access to new abilities based on their class (see below). The ranks soldiers progress through are Squaddie, Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, and Colonel. The upgrades from the Officer Training School all require you to have a soldier at a particular rank before you can purchase them. A Soldier obtained as a mission reward will already have a Squaddie or higher rank.
Soldiers have several specializations available to them known as Classes. Upon receiving the promotion to Squaddie rank, soldiers are randomly assigned one of four Classes that determine the weapons and abilities they can use as they rank up:
- Assault: Specializes in close combat.
- Heavy: Specializes in using explosive weapons on your enemies.
- Sniper: Focuses on taking enemies out from afar.
- Support: Helps allies by using smoke grenades or healing them.
Additionally every Soldier has the possibility of gaining the following sub-class:
- Psionic: Every soldier has a random chance of possessing a set of psionic abilities, based on their Will. If unlocked, a soldier gains the abilities from this sub-class in addition to those from their original class. To unlock them, a soldier must spend 10 days being tested in the Psionic Labs.
XCOM: Enemy Within adds a new available Class and sub-class:
- MEC Trooper: Specialized operators of Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuits, these soldiers act as heavy fire support and cover destroyers. Requires conversion of soldiers from the base Classes via the Cybernetics Lab. MEC Troopers are not eligible to gain the Psionic sub-class.
- Gene Mods allow your soldiers to be genetically engineered in the Genetics Lab, granting them superhuman abilities. Gene Mods provide the player with the possibility to further specialize the four base classes.
Soldiers have access to a variety of general abilities and class-related abilities in combat. Abilities allow soldiers to perform actions ranging from the essential actions of placing a Soldier on Overwatch or tossing an equipped Frag Grenade to the specialized actions of having a Heavy pin down a dangerous enemy with Suppression while protected by a Smoke Grenade from a Support or a Sniper performing a Double Tap on an alien an Assault has just Flushed into the open.
Every soldier has five attributes:
- HP: How much damage the soldier can take.
- Will: How resistant the unit is to psionics and panicking.
- Aim: How accurate the unit is.
- Defense: How much harder the unit is to hit.
- Movement: How far the unit can move each turn. (Note: Movement is a hidden stat not displayed on any stat screen in game.)
Rookies start with 40 Will, 65 Aim, 0 Defense, 12 Movement and 3-6 HP depending on the game difficulty chosen. The Second Wave game mode option Not Created Equally randomizes the starting Will, Aim, and Movement for Rookies. On one hand a Rookie can start out with 59 Will, 80 Aim and 14 Movement which is significantly better than standard, while on the other hand you can also end up with one with 25 Will, 55 Aim and 11 Movement, which is substantially worse than standard. The only in game way to know what Movement stat your Soldier has is to test it on a battlefield.
As soldiers gain ranks they will receive predefined increases to their HP and Aim based on their Class. Soldiers also gain a randomized 2-6 point Will increase for each rank; if the Iron Will training is purchased this is improved to a possible 4-12 point increase. The Second Wave game mode option Hidden Potential randomizes the HP, Aim and Will stat increases; Iron Will improves Will increases by an additional 2-6 points per rank. In addition, soldiers have a 20% chance to gain 1 Movement per rank; Heavies only have a 10% chance.
Soldiers are subject to a wide variety of bonuses and penalties that modify their attributes during missions.
Every soldier has four equipment slots available to him and his gear load-out can be managed in the Barracks or while selecting your squad for a mission:
- Body Armor: The primary armor worn by the soldier. Some armors 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.
Soldiers involved in combat are susceptible to injury and death. Whenever a soldier receives damage exceeding that of the HP bonus granted by his armor, the soldier will be flagged as wounded and upon return to base will be unavailable for missions while they recover in the Infirmary; purchasing the Rapid Recovery training from the Officer Training School greatly reduces the amount of time injured soldiers are out of action.
Whenever soldiers lose all of their HP during a mission, the soldiers either die or become critically wounded. Soldiers of higher rank are more likely to be critically wounded instead of dying. Critically wounded soldiers require a Medikit to stabilize or will bleed out and die after 3 turns (including the turn they were injured), if the mission is not completed by then. Critically wounded soldiers, even if saved, will incur a permanent -10 (-15 on Classic) reduction to Will. In XCOM: Enemy Within, this penalty can be prevented via the Secondary Heart Gene Mod.
- Critically wounded soldiers will not be targeted by aliens, but can still be killed before bleeding out via explosives. Care should be taken while fighting around enemies using Alien Grenades or enemies which explode after death, such as the Cyberdisc.
Whenever 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, this information is expanded to included how the soldier was killed and any Medals they may have received.
- Soldiers "level up" as they progress through missions based primarily on how many aliens they kill. So in certain missions, where you feel your squad can safely take out a cornered alien, you may want to weaken it with a few hits and then bring in a soldier you want promoted to take the killing shot.
- One useful way of improving your soldier roster is to take all Rookie teams on the initial few missions, to ensure you have a large number of soldiers with a few kills and consequent promotions under their belt. The diversity of classes and a slightly inflated soldier count which you can potentially obtain from this method is extremely useful as an injury to a particular class soldier no longer means you will have to take a different team composition into the next mission requiring a complete shift in strategy and play-style. A choice of many adequate soldiers as opposed to a few highly trained ones may pay off in the long run (and is essential on harder difficulties) 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 over the squad is thus recommended.
- The strategy described above, despite being viable and useful, should be employed with care, however, as several of the upgrades provided by the Officer Training School require one of the operatives among the player's rooster to have achieved a certain rank before they can be purchased. Fielding multiple lowly ranked soldiers might not only delay the acquisition of such upgrades, including the invaluable yet cheap Squad Size I and II, but also result in greater hardships throughout the playthrough, considering that some abilities, such as the Sniper Class' Squadsight, are essential to guarantee that the unit in question remain effective.
- Soldier roles and team composition often define the ideal play-style and tactical approach in-mission. Your Sniper should be in the back in cover and with a clear line of sight towards the enemy. Your Assault (or an assault team consisting of two or more Assaults) should be deployed on the front lines with heavy armor so they can sweep in for the kill, or should be kept on the flanks so they can use Run & Gun and sweep in to take out weakened enemies. Your Supports are multipurpose and can be used for more than just healing, especially if you take the extra movement perk, as they can quickly positions themselves to take a shot, or move in with an Arc Thrower to stun and capture an alien. Your Heavies should be in the core of the team, either lighting up targets with Holo-Targeting so as to ensure their squad mates can kill the targeted alien, or positioned in a manner to enable them to fire a rocket at a concentration of enemies.
- The soldiers leveled up in the first half of the campaign are generally lacking compared to the ones trained with the benefits of Officer School bonuses. Moreover, in the latter parts of the game, soldiers can be promoted faster, because of the corresponding Wet Work bonus, more dangerous missions with more aliens to kill, and a solid team of professionals backing up the newcomers and setting up the Squaddie promotion kills. Other benefits include possible high psionic saturation of the newcomers, and generally higher initial stats when combined with Second Wave randomizer (both benefits come into play because of the free funds to mass-recruit and filter out Squaddies and presence of seasoned veterans to fend off the invasion while newcomers are chosen and screened in Psi Labs). Again, when combined with Second Wave random promotion bonuses to stats (which also let the player filter out the best), 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 between them. Of course, all of this is greatly complicated in Impossible Ironman playthrough, where staff rotation is nearly constant.
- Be aware of the power-curve for each class. Heavy class soldiers are very powerful 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 late game. Inversely, the Sniper class' poor mobility makes them clunky and unwieldy early game; however their amazing Colonel abilities (In The Zone/Double Tap) and high aim stat progression (105 at Colonel) make them the quintessential late-game carry. 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 your squad with more Heavies to start; but gradually transitioning to have more Snipers as the game progresses.
In the recent Civilization V: Brave New World expansion pack one of the new units included are Squads of XCOM soldiers equipped with Titan armor and Heavy Plasma guns. They function as an upgrade to the paratroopers and have the "Skyranger" perk which allows them to be deployed from friendly territory up to 40 hexes away and are the strongest infantry unit to date in Civilization V.