XCOM 2’s Day One Mods Reviewed

XCOM 2 [official site] isn’t just a big pile of tactical brilliance, it’s also a big mod-friendly pile of tactical brilliance. Theoretically, that means someone will iron out the things that annoy you and build on the things you love. It also means we can expect anything from an increase in moustache variety to a revamped campaign or series of total conversions.

To kick things off, Firaxis commissioned the clever folks who made the Long War mod for Enemy Unknown to produce three day-one mods for XCOM 2. They are neat additions but, more than that, they’re signposts toward an exciting future.

All of the mods can be installed through Steam Workshop, using either the launch menu link or the actual Steam page.

I’m going to tackle these in order of how excited they make me so let’s start with the “Leader Pack”.

Leader Pack Mod

My judgement of the Leader Pack, which adds a sort of sub-class to the game, is painfully unfair. I’m ranking it third out of three and I haven’t even seen half of what it offers yet because I’d need to level up a soldier with the new leadership ability. The reason it comes in third is nothing to do with my lack of experience though; nor should its ranking be taken as an insult.

Leadership opens up two new skill trees, as with the core classes, and any soldier of sergeant rank or higher can be sent to the Guerrilla Tactics School to become a leader. Be sure not to send all of your best recruits for leadership training as soon as they qualify though – they’re like the middle management of the XCOM universe and don’t like to work together. Give them flunkies and they’re delighted; put them in a squad of equals and they’ll sulk until Sandra gets demoted back to the rank and file where she belongs.

“Except in dire emergencies” only one leader can be sent on a mission at any time, y’see. Plus, the trainee will be out of action during the training period (8 days in my current save).

The first two abilities you can choose from are “Get Some” and “Collector”. The latter confers a 50% chance of gaining a single Intel point whenever a non-human enemy is killed. There’s a proviso – “as long as the leader is healthy”. I’m taking that to mean the leader doesn’t need to be in the field to use that bonus, although I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem like much of an advantage if it only works on missions that the leader is actually…leading.

If you’re as unconvinced/confused about Collectors as I am, “Get Some” seems like a shoo-in. It’s what I expect from a Leader class, providing a buff to squadmates. In this case it’s a +20 critical hit chance to all allies within Command Range for one turn. Get Some costs an action point to activate.

The only reason I’m slightly hesitant to recommend this mod relates to the rich nature of the existing classes. Even though there are only two branches for each, mixing and matching skillsets is rewarding, and this might muddy the waters a little. Come back to me with tales of your ace Gunslinger before you decide to spend precious time training leaders.

Muton Centurion Alien Pack Mod

Ah, the Muton Centurion. It’s a bit of a bastard and no mistake.

I am incredibly happy that people will be able to mod new aliens into the game – it’ll make that whole Enemy Unknown factor relevant for a long time, if the mods be kind – and this is a lovely start. Centurions look great and they’re just enough of a twist on the existing Mutons to add the kind of overlapping skillsets that XCOM 2 has turned into an artform.

You’ll see packs and squads of enemies on every battlefield, and they’re almost as cannily constructed as your own squads. A melee unit plus a support unit plus a cover-defying/destroying unit. Bingo. Like the leaders described above, the Centurion can provide buffs to his buddies using the War Cry ability. He’s also tougher and meaner.

The Long War team have given their Centurion a unique appearance, with a new set of armour and face mask, but the main reason I enjoy this mod is because it shows that the new skill matters more than the creation of an entirely new alien. Take one of the existing creatures and look at it sideways – consider how it could surprise long-term players or provide unexpected advantages to its brethren. The best aliens aren’t the ones that have the highest numbers – they’re the ones that confuse the normal order of things and make the player rethink their own tactical approach.

SMG Pack Mod

This sounds like the most boring addition but it is definitely the best. You can tell because I’ve put it in the top spot and I know about these things.

It does exactly what you’d expect:

Adds three new submachine gun-type weapons to the game, one per tech level, for the XCOM side. They grant mobility and concealment bonuses, but they do less damage, have less ammo, and have some long-range aim penalties relative to the assault rifle of the same tech level.

They can be equipped by any soldier who can equip the assault rifle (so Psis, Rangers, Specialists and rookies).

The reason that’s exciting to me is because it provides a new way to customise individual soldiers. Not with a fancy moustache or a new hat, but with equipment variants that will alter your tactical approach.

Over the many hours I’ve already spent with XCOM 2, the thing that has stuck with me the most is the variety of approaches it allows me to take. In missions that restrict the turns available before failure especially, a tight plan is essential. You need to know where everyone should be two turns down the line at the very least and then you need to work out how they’re going to get there. That’s exciting and tense. And it’s terrifying at times.

Adding new tiers of weaponry that can be switched in and out, changing the finer details of each soldier’s skillset, is an excellent way to bring out even more tactical variety. It seems sensible to equip every ranger with an SMG rather than a bulky assault rifle but I’d always want my rookies to have that little bit of extra firepower so that they can get a couple of kills under their belt.

But maybe your approach will be different. I’d love to see more new weapons, armours and, yes, moustaches and hats.

Right now, if you’re just starting out, there’s no reason not to install all three mods. SMGs seem like a smart move, even if you end up never using them during your first campaign. Muton Centurions will spice up the mid-game nicely and…well, maybe I would hold off on the Leader Pack. It’s an unnecessary distraction during that first run, perhaps, grabbing attention that is better used elsewhere.

Save some time and energy and spend it checking your Resistance Comms because you’re really going to want more than you think you need. It’s not quite the new satellites, that comms capability. But it ain’t far off.

For more on XCOM 2, visit our XCOM 2 guide hub.


  1. OmNomNom says:

    Wheres the co-op mod!?

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      ^^^ seconded. XCOM 2 sounds like a really great game, but co-op is the thing that will get it out of my Steam wishlist and into my Steam favorites.

    • machstem says:

      As much as I love coop in games, I’m having a hadd time imagining how they could fit it into this game style.

      Part of the game’s allure is building a base for research and training squads. I like spending time building aND thinking ahead and not worry about my coop teammate bored waiting

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Maybe the meta-game isn’t too coop friendly but I really love the idea of playing the missions with a friend, controlling 2 units each, discussing strategy, bailing each other out etc. Really hope a mod lets me do this soon. I loved playing Dawn of War 2 in 2 player coop with my mate, each controlling 2 units, this could give a very similar (although turn based) experience imo.

      • GomezTheChimp says:

        You`d have to be chicken to play the, wait for it…coop game.

    • soggyburrito says:

      I don’t know if you’ve ever played XCOM, but COOP doesn’t seem fun at all. The whole point is that you control all of your pieces on the battle field. It would be about as fun as playing COOP Chess.

      • vranacat says:

        Ironically, couch co-op XCom is one of the favorite things to do among my friends and I. We divvy up the soldiers, customize them to look outrageous so we can tell them apart, have one person handle strategy while we yell suggestions at them, and then toss a controller back and fourth during the levels so that each person can move their soldier. Makes a surprisingly great party game.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          Yeah exactly, being able to plan things out with other people then executing the plan to varying degrees of success is something I would really enjoy in XCom 2, I’m sure a mod will do this but it’s probably a bit too much work for a day one mod. I really hope we see it in a few weeks or even months though.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        You’ve obviously never played Divinity Original Sin co-op. Or a table top rpg.

        Turn-based tactics go together with co-op gameplay like peanutbutter and chocolate.

    • Troubletcat says:

      Always confused when I see people saying co-op would defeat the fun… I can think of at least 3 different ways to make it work and have it add something to the game rather than remove (provided you’re playing with people you know and not randoms)

      Obviously for the actual battles you divvy up the soldier slots between the (up to 6 I suppose) different players. The question is how to deal with the strategic game.

      3 options.

      1: Host does everything in between missions, friends watch and provide advice. This is probably the most straight-forward but obviously the crappiest.

      2: Who controls the strategic game swaps after each mission so everyone gets a turn. Still kind of crappy but okay I guess?

      3: Best option – host has a permissions menu where they set which facilities/options each player is in charge of. So maybe one player is tasked with managing the engineering facilities, one with the research facilities, one with command, etc. Can divide more and more for the required number of players.

      As for what this adds to the game, it seems incredibly obvious to me. It adds the fun of collaborating with and/or trolling your friends while working through the campaign, so it adds both a new element of teamwork and the possibility for way more hilarity when people have different ideas on what to do next. If it’s not obvious to you how that adds even more fun then I’m sorry that you don’t have any friends.

  2. Fersken says:

    Though not a mod, there is a fan made comic at link to comic.strategycore.co.uk

    This comic started before the release of XCOM (the previous one). It also includes music by the composer of the original XCom/UFO games.

    • heretic says:

      Wow just clicked through the first few panels this looks awesome!!!

  3. Punning Pundit says:

    There’s a mod to turn the Gremlin into a Corgi. I hope that mod ends up being polished and stellar, because a flying helper Corgi is exactly what this game- all games- need.

    • Nauallis says:

      It would be great if the gremlin could be turned into a flying microwave oven. That would be super helpful. Hot pockets! Except probably the dinging would interrupt ambushes.

    • Ufofighter says:

      I was thinking in a magic fairy. It’s pretty much what already is.

  4. bangn_ says:

    Perhaps you should label your artical as *CONTAINS SPOILERS*


    • Boozebeard says:

      Where’s the spoiler? If you consider anything here spoilers then maybe just don’t read articles about it? I don’t see how this could be any more spoiler free and still have been relevant to the headline.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      *CONTAINS SOMETHING SPOILED* more like, those damn Muton Centurions sure reek of MELD baths.

  5. Danarchist says:

    I would happily trade my table gum collection for a mod that lets me increase, or even get rid of, time limits in missions. It kills the strategy part of the game for me and actually makes me want to hold off playing any more until one exists.

    It reminds me allot of when the Final Fantasy games went from turn based to !!Action bar awesome!! based combat. No more considering my next move while sipping my beer took a huge chunk of enjoyment away for me. If you need faster pacing play a shooter with the other short attention spans =P

    • HopeHubris says:

      Are there actual real time limits, or just turn counters?

    • machstem says:

      Was this added into Xcom 2?

      I don’t remember Xcom having that…and I agree. It was my only gripe about Chrono Cross.

      • machstem says:

        …Chrono Trigger

      • HopeHubris says:

        Looks like it is just a turn limit on some missions, which was already a thing in XCOM

        • Danarchist says:

          The turn limit is more than half the missions. I am guessing you haven’t had a chance to try it yet or you would understand :)

          I dont mind one or two like that, but it is damn near every mission.

          • soggyburrito says:

            I don’t understand how a turn limit increases the pace of the game.

          • froz says:

            @soggyburito – it’s quite simple, really. Turn limit forces you to advance faster, you cannot take the most cautious approach or you won’t finish within the limit. Thus it results in increasing pace of the game.

    • Kitsunin says:

      So confused, how does needing to accomplish more in a given turn kill the strategy and not amplify it?

      How does it stop you sipping your beer? Because you need to think too hard? That would contradict your first statement.

      • Danarchist says:

        Strategy has to do with thinking, not speed. Think chess, moving pieces faster has no effect on end result.

        The sipping beer thing was referring to the changes to final fantasy, versions after I think 8 all have a timer bar that runs out for each characters turn.

        I really have no idea why I feel the need to reply on forums lol

        • HopeHubris says:

          Yes, and the turn limit doesn’t require you to think faster. You have as much time as you like to think about the strategy you need to execute in order to complete the goal, while also adhering to the turn limit

          • Silent_Thunder says:

            Also professional chess (And Baduk too if you swing that way) has a clock, so even in realtime there’s time management. So the analogy sorta falls to pieces no matter which way you look at it.

          • w0bbl3r says:

            But there is only a single strategy; run.
            You can’t really use the stealth mechanic except to set up an ambush on the first party of enemies. You can’t sneak around, you can’t hack anything (because you will definitely fail and set off an alarm, meaning you won’t beat the counter), and you can’t fight the war how a real resistance army would.
            You end up with going on 50% casualty rate per mission because you have to engage the enemy when you aren’t ready, and you have to take nonsense risks all the time.
            If this was a real limited army, with few men and resources, they have lost the war after the first 3 missions because they have a non-sustainable casualty rate

          • Goldeneye says:

            Having watched youtube streamers like Beaglerush and Christopher Odd play XCOM 2, I can say with much certainty that you’re definitely wrong on that front, as they’re able to engage enemies and accomplish the objective with 2-3 turns to spare without needing to rush (in fact, the latter player gives the advice of “don’t stress about the timer too much”). The turn timers don’t really dampen the tactics, on the other hand it strengthens it by making players think up of how to most efficiently position and engage within the limited turn restrictions, which in turn results in more creative and interesting positioning, rather than slow, methodical overwatch bounding. Concealment is there for a reason: it allows you to have freedom of movement to position yourself without fear of accidentally tripping an enemy pod, and thus getting rid of the need for overwatch bounding that slows down the game. If you’re not using that powerful opportunity to at least get into position to be near the objective before you engage, you’re doing it quite wrong.

            Also, many operations in the real world do operate under the limits of a clock, whether it be caused by an enemy timetable, or an unexpected occurrence like bad weather or faulty intel.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            Yes, but in the real world if the clock runs out they don’t fade to black and give you a score tally. “In the real world” does not function as a defense here. While the mechanic can do as you described it can also greatly curtail opportunities for experimentation and play, and create a sense of pressure that isn’t necessarily welcome all the time. Personally, I was much fonder of the model they used in Enemy Within. There, it was another tactical choice.

        • vranacat says:

          Just an FYI, the ATB system was actually used in FF IV-IX and in a heavily modified form in XII and XIII. :-)

    • arkhanist says:

      There’s 2 mods up in the workshop now; one that increases the turn limit by 4 for most turn-limited missions (2 for UFO missions), and one that eliminates them as much as possible. I’m glad they’re up for people who really want them.

      I won’t be using them personally though as I’ve found the time pressure about right in such missions to keep me moving rather than just overwatch-turtle in high cover. Being forced to adapt to less than ideal situations, and decide who to risk to get out of them seems fitting for my scruffy group of terrorists freedom fighters before the full weight of ADVENT responds and cuts my escape route. Injuries and deaths have an impact well beyond any single mission too; I haven’t had to choose – yet – between finishing an objective and saving all my (remaining) squad members, but I’ve come close enough to it that I suspect I will at some point, and wouldn’t want to avoid that.

      But then I cut my x-com teeth on TFTD, so I’m used to sacrificing troops for the greater good :)

      • arkhanist says:

        And famous last words; one of my experienced soldiers panicked under fire and ran away from the non-standard exit zone. I had everyone else in the zone (including two knocked out soldiers), and too many exposed with hordes bearing down on me to take one more turn. So I left her behind. I felt like a dick, but it had to be done.

        What was awesome is that a later VIP mission was to rescue her from a secure transport. That time, they all made it out. Just.

    • amateurviking says:

      Gotta say, I am not rushing around (in the turn-based sense), and have had plenty of time left for most objectives. Also a rather memorable times when I snuck around the entire enemy force and stole a macguffin then got to the evac by the skin of teeth as they all zeroed in on us.

      Good times.

  6. horsemedic says:

    It’s really strange to rank these, let alone review them, when you haven’t used them all (or any of them? it’s unclear) and aren’t entirely sure how they all work.

    Just call it an overview. It’s a fine overview of the mods.

  7. Spinkick says:

    Soooo, for my first play through, should I enable these or not?

    • machstem says:

      I won’t ever add a mod to game until I’ve at leat tried it without but I ironically won’t buy most games that support mods until several mods are released.

    • Zelos says:

      The SMGs and muton are basically part of the base game as far as I’m concerned.

      The leader mod is iffy, but I don’t see any real reason *not* to enable it as the strategic layer is dense enough that unless you go out of your way you’ll never even unlock it. In that sense, it’s the most “mod-like” of the three; the game was clearly designed without it in mind so it doesn’t quite fit in perfectly. But there’s nothing actually wrong with it.

  8. sairas says:

    ok, it’s a good game but much closer to a basic sequel than anything revolutionary so seriously: how much did firaxis pay rps for selling out like this?

    also seriously: the mod I’m waiting for is controller support which should show up before valves steam controller exclusive runs out and an official patch unlocks it.

    • Goldeneye says:

      Why does it need to be revolutionary though? XCOM 2 is the kind of sequel that just polishes up and improves on the gameplay of its predecessor by adding more stuff on top of the already proven game mechanics, rather than try to tackle a whole new direction of gameplay (like say X-COM Apocalypse is to X-COM), which in my experience with seeing people’s reactions to sequels, is pretty much what most people want – familiar enough to be relatable, but adding enough new stuff to be exciting. XCOM 2 though actually does implement whatever new mechanics it added, like Concealment, very well into the gameplay, along with quality of life improvements that its predecessor lacked (like LoS indicators). If RPS is a sellout for its glowing coverage of XCOM 2, then why not go after all the other reviewers, both large and small, who also have the same opinion? Did they get sold out too?

      • JFS says:

        IMHO, the game is quite good, but not as brilliant as RPS and many others made it out to bee. Several design choices hamper the brilliance. It’s very hectic, has a lot of stuff going on, is difficult (some of it fake difficulty or results of the other mentioned design choices), forces you upon a playstyle via timers, and apparently you need to pursue the main quest straight away or lose. That’s sad, because the game mechanics themselves are well done, it looks better than XCOM 1 and has a much more interesting theme. If only Firaxis had capitalized on that!

    • anHorse says:

      CORRUPT RPS covers good and popular game with MORE THAN ONE ARTICLE

  9. Baranor says:

    The SMG’s look like fun to me. I’d like some more variety gunwise. Yay.

  10. Atomica says:

    I haven’t played this yet, but it’s wonderful to see a developer so engaged with the community from the start. Nice work Firaxis.

  11. Faults says:

    The mods are coming out at such a pace that I predict that by the time I complete my first run on XC2, I could load up a bunch of mods and have a substantially different play experience for my second one.

    I am so excited about the future of this game. I hope that Firaxis continue to support it with expansion packs and the like.

  12. carewolf says:

    The game is more than buggy enough as it is, I dare not install any mods in case they introduce even more bugs.

    Unless someone releases a bug-fix mod.

    • JFS says:

      In a game with such a small margin for error, there really shouldn’t be bugs that make you adjust your playstyle because you fear that grenade will *not* land where it shows it will. I’m just glad it actually exploded after half a minute of nothing happening but inexplainable fires showing up without a sound.

  13. MaxMcG says:

    I’d love a gore mod. Those ranger swords are really crying out for some gibs.