2013-12-25_00246XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within are easily my favorite game(s) to come out in at least the last 3 years. There were other honorable mentions along the way, but none of them drive me to play again and again in the way that XCOM does, has, and will continue to. With the announcement of XCOM2 to come this November, I’ve been itching to make an attempt at the longest version of the game published: Marathon Mode. Though Impossible is an option I’ve been eyeing, its not likely to come to fruition.

I’ve beat Classic, and Classic Ironman, so I figure the next, honest, step is that to Classic Marathon Ironman.

Of course, spoilers beyond, though I assume you know that, as I walk through the options I choose for my Marathon Game

XCOM is kind enough to give you a plethora of, for lack of a better term, developer mods that are accessible after you beat the game the first time. Additional options are unlocked after beating the game on classic, and again on impossible. I love these mods, called second wave, more than I really should. My first couple of goes at Marathon mode had my trying all sorts of insane combinations and trying to just use everything at once. That did not end well. This is my current setup.


Here are my assessments of the Options, along with why I’ve picked them, and why not.

Damage Roulette – Weapons have a much wider range of damage

  • This Sounds good at first, but proves to be too much of a burden. I’m not against having, and loosing, more soldiers over the course of the game, but this was insane. Over the course of about 6-10 attempts at using this, I never made it out of the starter mission with less than half the squad dead. it definitely felt as if there was a significant lean towards lower, rather than higher, damages, making the whole of the situation less fun.
  • Recommended: No.

New Economy -The funding offered by individual council members is randomized

  • I tried this one on a few games, and have ultimately come to enjoy it. Changing the status quo of the council and their funding lets you see a radically different world state. the hardest part about this is that the starting nations for each continent are not set at the highest income level. without this, you start with the most money you can for a given continent. With New Economy, you may start out in the poorest country in the world by random chance. This makes getting your first satellite up and running even more important in order to achieve the funding you need in order to be able to continue the XCOM project. You need to determine your income flow, and get satellite coverage over those countries that will contribute the most to the funding of XCOM. Sorry USA – your only willing to put in 70 Xcombucks, you’re on your own!
  • Recommended: Yes.

Not Created Equally – Rookies will have random Starting Stats

  • This one is hard to determine exactly what it does for you, because I never really paid attention to the stats of the rookies as they came in to start with. I am a staunch fan of having every soldier that is under my command being a unique and different person, so I’ve taken strongly to this option. In hard number terms, it allows you to spend more money to ensure your rookies are awesome right off the bat. 80 Aim is nothing to sneeze at, though you will be flooded with poor, terrible 55’s more often than not.
  • Recommended: Yes.

Hidden Potential –  As a soldier is promoted, their stats will increase randomly

  • As above, this one is hard to figure out the exact benefit, as I don’t know the numbers of the standard classes. As stated above, though, I do like each soldier to be their own unique person, so even though this could be a detriment, I turn it on every game. Seeing that rookie with the 80 aim promote into a heavy and then get a massive aim bump, becoming extremely accurate with a LMG or Heavy Plasma is pure joy.
  • Recommended: Yes

Training Roulette – Each soldiers training tree will be mostly randomly generates. Does not apply to MEC Troopers

  • Look, What can I say. They had the same love of uniqueness in their soldiers that I do. Enabling cross-class skills that can make each and every solider I see a unique and characterful individual – Do I really have to say I like it again?
  • Recommended: Yes

Save Scum – Loading a save game will reset the random number seed, so taking an identical action may yield different results

  • This is hard to get if you’ve not played the game, or read about the Number Seed before, as it changes that aspect of gameplay in a very significant manner. As best I understand it, when you start a mission, the game generates a preposterously long string of percentage outcomes. Once you start playing the mission, you start eating through those numbers, in a very specific order. If the first number is a 99, then you are going to fail it, no matter what your percentage of success says on the screen. When you’re deep into the enemy base, and you’ve one solider left, and one alien, and you miss that 95% shot, reloading your save won’t change – that 95% shot wills till miss – because your’re still pulling that same “97” from the list, with the same results. The only way to change it is to do something different (pass the turn, say) and then the alien will have the 97 on their turn, giving you the next number in line “73” and allowing that attack you make to hit.  Save Scumming gets rid of that preset list of numbers and generates a new one. When you save and reload, you can take the exact same actions with possible new results. However: The game is made this way for a reason. Don’t do it.
  • Recommended: Never.

Red Fog – Any wounds taken in combat will degrade a soldiers stats for that mission

  • This is a call back to the original game where your soldiers, those that survived being hit by the enemy, would have their combat capabilities reduced. Neat, but not my cup of tea
  • Recommended: No

Absolutely Critical – A flanking shot will guarantee a critical hit

  • This one is something I am more terrified to try than I’d like to admit. It has all the hallmarks of a solid addition to the game, but there is that part of me that knows that anything that does more damage is of a larger benefit to the enemies than it is to me. Almost always er on the side of caution when it comes to damage. you’ll be taking a lot more to your soldier than any individual alien will.
  • Recommended: No

The Greater Good – The secret of psionics can only be learned by interrogating a psionic alien

  • Once again, this hearkens back to the original game, where you had to interrogate live versions of specific aliens in order to learn specific skills. I remember memorizing where the Floater Navigator was in order to get the Hyperwave Decoder… I digress. Here, you have to grab and interrogate a live alien with psionic powers in order to, I assume, start psionic research. if your interested in playing the longest game possible, evoking the feel of the original or making sure you get some damned use out of that Arc Generator, here is your option
  • Recommended: Yes

Marathon – The game takes considerably longer to complete.

  • This is deceptively short for such a massive change. Nearly everything takes 2x or 3x longer than it does in the original version. Building, Alien Incursions, Reaserch, Foundry Projects, Engineering, Recovery – Everything. This makes the game last much, much longer, but their are upsides. First, the rate of the alien incursion doesn’t change, the introduction of new aliens simply slows down. The game will still hand out abductions at a decent rate, and council missions will still appear repeatedly throughout the month. That builds the second advantage: the shortage of materials that made funding in XCOM: Enemy Unknown so reliant on the council is now gone. Selling everything is not only possible while progressing, its almost encouraged. Finally, it increases the necessity and use of a variety of a variety of items I’d not thought about prior. Flash-bang Grenades, Reaper Ammunition, and simple hand grenades all come in vastly more useful in the longer runs.
  • Recommended: Obviously

Results Driven – A country will offer less funding as its panic level increases

  • I’ve not had the nerve to try this combined with marathon. I have this terrible habit of letting countries go insane with panic before bringing them back from the edge to join to cause. Reducing the influx of monthly cash due to that I feel would be completely devestating.
  • Recommended: No

High Stakes – The rewards granted for stopping alien abductions are randomized

  • This option has turned my standard choices for alien abduction interventions into much more difficult problems than in previous games. Normally, I would try and keep down every countries terror level while also getting the best from among the terrified countries. However, with randomized rewards providing amazing prizes for low-risk countries, these choices have become much more impactfull. Turning down a bevy of engineers who will help save the earth in order to save only Canada is a hard pill to swallow.
  • Recommended: Yes

Diminishing Returns – The cost of satellites increases with every one that is built

  • This is for those people who hate everything, ever. I cannot image what happens when the price for satellites increases instead of decreases over time. I have a large enough problem with keeping up as is!
  • Recommended: No

More than Human – The psionic gift is extremely rare

  • The first game of Xcom: UFO defense I played, I never made a single psionic solider. In addition to the single-minded focus of a 13 year old of blowing everything to pieces, the processes took my soldiers out for way to long for what seemed to be to little gain. Enemy Unknown, I think, took it too far in the opposite direction. Now, I’ve had a whole squad of psionic warriors. This may help alleviate this problem that I have and make the ending have more impact.
  • Recommended: Yes

Itchy Trigger Tentacle – Upon being revealed, some aliens may attempt to shoot at soldiers instead of moving or going into overwatch

  • Until I started writing this list, I’d not thought highly of this option. It came to me, however, that this would mean that, from time to time, an enemy that is revealed would not go to ground or overwatch, but would instead stand out in the open after attempting to kill my soldier. Now, I don’t know how high that’d raise my casualty rate, but I’d be willing to attempt it on my next playthrough.
  • Recommended: Maybe?!

Aiming Angles – Units receive an aim bonus the closer they are to flanking an enemy

  • Sadly, until I read this as a second wave option, I thought it was how the game played. I definitely don’t need the aliens getting better lines and shooting my exposed troopers any easier, was the initial assessment. However, after playing with it for only a short time, its exceedingly intuitive and how you feel the game plays anyway. Adding that little bit to hit based on your angle makes the games feel more compatible with the vision I had for it.
  • Recommended: Yes

Mind Hates Matter- Genetically modified soldiers cannot undergo psi testing; gifted soldiers can never receive genetic modifications

  • First, let me say that Gene Mods introduced in the Enemy Within expansion are freaking fantastic. Mimetic Skin is one of the easiest and best ways to blow the game neatly in twain. You can see where this is going? I can’t imagine keeping a soldier alive long enough without them against the new enemies and the Exalt Faction to get high enough Willpower that I’d even have them able to be tested, which is now extremely rare and attainable only after having interrogated a psionic alien. Geeze! I’m not doing that to myself.
  • Recommended: No

Well, thats my look at Second Wave in a nutshell. Now that I’ve taken on beating Marathon mode, I’ll have my best strategies and ways to work the game so that you don’t have to try 15 times to figure something out, I’ve already lost 18 Ironman games, why should you!