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Video Game / XCOM: Long War

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XCOM: Long War is a Game Mod for the tactical strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, more specifically its Enemy Within DLC. The mod serves as a significant expansion of the base game, adding more classes, more loadout options, a wide variety of additional perks, skills, and equipment, and rebalances several of the base game's more notable Game Breakers.

Additionally, as the title suggests, it's long. Really long. Whereas the average game of Enemy Within could be completed in around 20-30 hours based on difficulty, Long War can easily take upwards of 40...and that's on the easiest difficulty.

Which in this game is the original game's Normal. Did we mention this mod is tough? As in "Terror Mission with Chryssalids in the second month" tough?

The game greatly expands on the options presented to the player in the original game; you can field larger squads, there are twice as many classes, nearly every class has multiple weapon and equipment options, there are far more perks (and the perks have more variety to them), and you gain more and more benefits as the game progresses, due to expanded research, a deeper Psychic Powers system, and increased rewards from completed missions, satellites, Council missions, and so on. However, you'll NEED those bonuses, as the aliens get their own share of new toys and tricks, and the previously-unthreatening EXALT get some new upgrades as well. On top of this, time passes more slowly and there are many more missions; players can expect to complete three-to-four times as many missions as a typical game of normal Enemy Within.

Long War is also available for XCOM 2, but this time split into multiple mods for more modularity:

  • Alien Pack: Adds a large number of enemy types, including various kinds of ADVENT specialists and bringing back "favourites" like the Chryssalid Greater Hive Queen.
  • Laser Pack: Laser weapons return as a Tier 1.5 in between conventional and Magnetic Weapons.
  • Leader Pack: The return of Officers.
  • Perk Pack: Changes the perks available to existing classes, with a new third tree to choose from, and adds new classes too.
  • SMG Pack: The SMG returns, now with a reduction in detection radius for troops using them.
  • Toolbox: Increase maximum squad size to 12 and brings back a variety of Second Wave options.

As of January 5th, 2017, a sequel mod to Long War was announced, simply titled Long War 2, which is created by Pavonis Interactive, formerly known as Long War Studios. It was released on January 19th.

In addition to incorporating all the above mods, Long War 2 makes some rather drastic changes to the strategy layer. Among others is the Infiltration mechanic, which allows you to send a squad ahead to prepare for missions. Higher Infiltration levels make the subsequent tactical mission easier, but require smaller and less well-equipped squads to be sent to attain. Another change is the ability to assign personnel to regions to carry out tasks.

A version of Long War 2 has been made for the War of the Chosen expansion, known as Long War of the Chosen.

XCOM: Long War examples of:

    Long War 
  • Ascended Extra: As of beta 14, General Van Doorn will join XCOM if he is successfully extracted during the relevant council mission.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Slightly bigger than in vanilla game, but it's still here - starting squad size is 6, which can be upgraded to 8 for regular missions, 10 for alien base and EXALT HQ assaults, and 12 for the final mission. On the other hand, some of the covert ops will restrict you to 4 soldiers and your covert operative.
  • Armor Is Useless: Now that it's a choice, averted. While tactical vests grant mobility, higher tiers of armor offer significant survivability against their lighter counterparts, and once the enemies start bringing their big guns to bear, the extra HP will be much appreciated. These items are especially useful on Scouts expecting to activate Overwatch fire, as a 1% chance for those to connect will inevitably one day hit them.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI is far smarter than in the base game, converging on your squad from multiple directions, exploiting line-of-sight to avoid fire and lurking right outside of sight range to prevent you from advancing.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: High-explosives, especially if used recklessly. Explosives are powerful, dealing great damage, and they obliterate cover, meaning survivors will usually be Exposed and thus easily taken out with a follow-up shot. However, overuse of them can destroy cover your squad could have used, and you can potentially wind up needing to advance through a killing field of enemies with no cover locations. Additionally, enemies killed this way don't drop any loot; while the larger number of missions and aliens in general makes this less of an issue, overuse can still leave the player short on needed materials later on down the line. Finally, rockets are heavy, and each additional one a Rocketeer takes will slow them down a little bit more, forcing them to either sacrifice firepower or armor to make up the difference or else lag behind the rest of the team. In addition, rockets can scatter and fly wildly off course even when used on a blue move.
  • Badass Normal: Officers, to a degree. They can still be Gene-modded, but cannot be either Psionic or MEC troopers.
  • Boring, but Practical: Infantry, an offshoot of the Assault class. No special powers, fancy flanking maneuevres, or flashy explosives. Instead, they simply shoot twice a turn if they don't move. Combined with a good Aim stat and a strong weapon, they can deal much more damage than nearly any other class, and will be a mainstay in many players' squads.
    • Snipers, as always. Even with the Nerf they get in the mod, they're still powerful, capable of inflicting significant damage from far beyond the reach of retaliation. While a single Sniper with Squadsight and a spotter won't be clearing entire maps anymore, they still bring a lot to the table.
    • Medics. Thanks to boosted durability, being able to heal quickly and reliably is a significant advantage and will prevent many casualties...but Medics have mediocre combat abilities and will likely spend most of their time not healing hugging a wall and taking pitiful shots at the aliens with an SMG.
    • Flashbangs. Takes an equipment slot, no damage, but cripples the stats of affected enemies, and very few are immune. Good use of flashbangs can render otherwise-lethal enemies impotent.
    • Battle Sensors and the Motion Detector. The former also takes an equipment slot, but has drastically-boosted radius and throwing range compared to the base game, and it lasts for a whopping two turns. The latter adds a radar only for the using unit and only for a single turn, but it can detect anything, including enemies you haven't seen. Between these two, it can become trivial to get the drop on the aliens nearly every time.
    • You can get some very interesting starting bonuses depending on which country you pick - Germany's "Neo-Panzers" and Japan's "Robotics" encourages a focus on MEC Troopers and SHIVs, Egypt's "Gift of Osiris" encourages a psionic focus, etc. But two choices that are guaranteed to be useful no matter your playstyle or how the game goes are Nigeria's "Pax Nigeriana" (+1 movement across all your soldiers) and the United Kingdom's "Special Air Service" (+3 Aim to every soldier).
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Most leaders but special mention goes to terrors such as the Chryssalid Greater Hive Queen, with some whooping fifty hitpoints, an escort more than able to exterminate you already, and a base damage of ten. Have fun!
  • Can't Catch Up:
    • Played straight but at the same time rigorously opposed by the game itself; soldiers that never see use will never get stronger, and overdepending on your elites can leave you crippled if they die off, leaving you to recruit newbies who can't compete against the just-as-powerful enemies. However, the game introduces a "fatigue" system that weakens and wounds soldiers if used too often back to back, so players are encouraged to mix up their rosters between missions.
    • Overwatch-focused builds tend to lose usefulness in the lategame, when many Elite Mooks have Lightning Reflexes making Overwatch shots much more likely to miss.
  • Clown Car: The small scout UFO trap/ambushes. A small scout shouldn't be able to hold that many alien troops. Especially ridiculous when you have multiple Sectopods and large units.
  • Continuing is Painful: Wounded soldiers permanently lose Will, and the effect can stack with multiple injuries; players are encouraged to play safe and keep their troops alive, or otherwise their elites could wind up being crippled in the long run.
  • Crutch Character: The Carbine-class weapons are intended to serve as crutches to your lower-ranked troops. They deal less damage than standard assault rifles and have reduced crit chance, but they're lighter and have bonus to Aim, allowing soldiers with lower stats to still contribute to firefight.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Several strategies that are useful if not indispensable in vanilla, like satellite rushing, no longer have the same effect here. Fall into the trap of reusing them here at your own peril.
  • Decomposite Character: Vanilla's Heavy is split into the Gunner, who gets the LMG, and the Rocketeer, who as the name suggests gets the Rocket Launcher.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Battle Rifles, heavier variants of the Assault Rifle that pack higher damage, but are heavier and suffer an Aim penalty if the user moves. The loss in accuracy and increased weight would be a concern on most classes...except for Infantry, who are designed for sticking to cover and get high Aim bonuses. A competent Infantry with a Battle Rifle can consistently land two highly-damaging shots per turn if used right.
  • Disc-One Nuke: In the first or second month, a Large UFO might land of its own accord and be attackable. If successfully captured, it will provide a wealth of resources... if you're skilled and lucky enough to do so.
  • Early Game Hell: Unlike the base game, this trope is alleviated in Long War with a much greater breadth of starting options - your Rookies might still have no abilities, but at least they now can carry two items at once from a much greater list of starting items to deal with their unlikeliness to hit things over just tossing frag grenades all the time. Additionally, plasma weapons no longer reliably destroy cover they hits and stops even the Aliens missing your soldiers being potentially quite lethal, and more starting weapons have been added, including the "Carbine" and "SMG" line of weapons, which are assault rifles with less damage and critical chance (A big penalty if the soldier using it is accurate), but the former grants an aim and mobility bonus to its user (A big bonus if the soldier using it isn't because doing some damage is more than doing none!) while the latter grants a large mobility bonus to its user (and even Rookies can't miss things next to them with an SMG).
  • Fission Mailed: No matter what you do, in the first month one country is guaranteed to withdraw from XCOM. This is required thanks to the new alien base mechanic - they can only spawn in countries that left the Council and you can regain them by destroying the base, but clearing one base is also required to progress the story.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: Can sometimes happen if the AI is feeling particularly evasive. Often this leads to triggering more pods of enemies in the path to find it.
  • Guide Dang It!: The reason you haven't unlocked the final Psi ability for any of your soldiers yet is because it's restricted to soldiers who've managed to Mind Control an Ethereal, but even once unlocked the soldier needs to be wearing Vortex Armor to actually cast it!
  • Know When to Fold Them: Unlike in vanilla, not every mission or UFO interception is expected to be winnable; every now and then you will encounter missions that are just too tough and it's preferable to abort rather than risk a Total Party Kill or, possibly worse, a Pyrrhic Victory where you clear the mission but at the cost of wounded soldiers losing valuable Will and other stats. Fortunately, the new ability to retake countries back into the Council fold by doing an alien base assault makes panic increase for doing so less punishing than in vanilla.
  • Nintendo Hard: XCOM wasn't an easy game, but Long War really takes the difficulty up to eleven. Even the mod's readme file essentially says "We don't care how many times you've beaten Impossible; here, you play on Normal or you lose all rights to complain".
    • The first mission already will show you what the deal is about. You can mitigate the difficulty by choosing the "Cinematic Mode" and "Not So Long War" options.
    • To the mod's merit, this unusual difficulty does not force the player to adopt an ultra-defensive, exploitative playstyle. On the contrary, the new mechanics are carefully balanced to encourage risk taking and dynamic offensive tactics, provide the player with advanced ways to assess and control the battlefield, and actually increase the engagement tempo, while also making missions longer and thus more demanding of resources management.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Berserkers were given the Muscle Fiber Density perk (which allows them to jump up to the top of buildings In a Single Bound) after the devs found Beaglerush abusing their inability to climb rooftops if XCOM soldiers physically blocked all the pipes or ladders.
    • Once the final objective is activated, the game spawns 16 battleships, one on each of the council nations, to bring them down. This is due to Beaglerush (again) figuring out that he could activate the final mission, then sending the troop carrier there and recalling it back to base to pass time and play the clock so all his equipment could finish to be build/repaired, and all of his soldiers could be healed, without incidents. This rule patch ensured that when the final mission is activated, players have to undertake it right now instead of cheesing an easy comeback.
  • Prestige Class: To a degree. Beyond the standard classes, a soldier can become either a MEC trooper, gaining a modified version of their original class with greater firepower and durability, an Officer that grants the entire team buffs, or Psionic, gaining a whole new set of spell-like abilities. Interestingly, each is limited differently. You can only have so many officers, and many are rank-limited, Psionics are based on Random Number God, and MEC troopers are simply very resource-intensive.
  • Red Shirt: Literally! Rookies get red-colored armor by default, and only get bumped up to the standard olive drab on reaching Squaddie status (barring the player's customization whims, of course.)
  • Scratch Damage: Averted, expect to see early enemy robots like Seekers tank ballistic shots like it's nothing, thanks to the new Damage Reduction mechanic.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Scouts, an offshoot of the Sniper. Take the Sniper's long-range headshotting One-Hit Kill potential, combine with the Assault's high mobility and propensity for flanking, and add on Super-Reflexes resulting in copious Dodge the Bullet, and you have a high-speed, high-kill-count murder machine. Just don't leave them hugging cover on the front line.
    • Engineers, better known as grenadiers. While the same rules for Rocketeers does apply, the Engineer gets access to a much wider variety of grenades, including Chems, Smoke, and the Boring, but Practical Flashbangs. More to the point, grenades cost no additional weight, unlike rockets, so Engineers can sling around both offensive and support grenades without any sacrifice in mobility or offensive power.
    • LMGs. Heavy guns that can't be moved and fired in the same turn, they have huge range including limited Squadsight, essentially making them mini-Sniper Rifles, and MASSIVE damage output. While their accuracy is a bit low, this is easily compensated for, and Gunners can get a variety of perks that make them even more deadly. Properly-deployed LMG Gunners can wipe out swathes of enemies on their own.
    • Shredder Ammo and Shredder Rockets. The latter lack the cover-destroying properties of normal rockets, and can't penetrate cover either, meaning placement is key to hitting the enemy, but they deal even more damage and, more importantly, add a debuff that increases damage taken by affected enemies for several turns. The Shredder Ammo adds that debuff to all normal damage inflicted as well. Use of these can make tough, hard-to-kill enemies like the Giant Chryssalid much easier to handle.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several, on both sides of the conflict.
    • There are twice as many classes, and some of the weaker ones become far more useful; Heavy in particular was split into Gunner, epitomizing More Dakka and capable of insane amounts of burst damage, and Rocketeer, who are capable of obliterating cover and clusters of weaker enemies entirely.
    • SHIVs were pretty underwhelming in the base game, due to having limited loadouts, utility, and falling short of soldiers in nearly every way by the lategame. Now, they get a much wider range of weapons and support modules, and can be anything from a mobile death turret to a portable stealth-detecting radar that doubles as hardened cover.
    • Psionics weren't bad to begin with, but Long War adds far more options to their arsenal, and high-level Psionics are terrifying engines of death and disruption the base game's psychics couldn't even hope to approach. Keep in mind this goes for the enemy, too...
    • Early Sectoids are still the same Goombas they always were...but later ones get some nasty psionic powers that can wreak havok if not dealt with quickly...and these are the regular ones, mind, not the far more powerful Commanders.
    • The Thin Men are tougher, more accurate, MUCH faster, and their signature Hollywood Acid got a buff that makes it last longer and have much stronger negative effects, to the point that a gunked soldier without a medic nearby is effectively useless for several turns.
    • Surprisingly Inverted for the infamous Chryssalids; they're still fast, durable, and hit like a truck, but their overall damage output has been nerfed slightly which, along with the generally-increased toughness of XCOM operatives, means their attacks aren't quite the One-Hit Kill they used to be; they're still a major threat, but you can survive a hit or two with sufficient armor, meaning no more fears of sudden, unexpected Permadeath.
    • In the original game, EXALT could be a challenge early on, due to starting with decent gear and some unique powers, and the Covert Ops missions could occasionally be a pain, but whereas the player started developing better equipment and more capable soldiers, EXALT never grew beyond their initial level of power, meaning that they quickly became Money Spiders and little else. In Long War, they grow and gain upgrades at the same rate as the player, and can even field their own versions of your super-elite top-tier soldiers; watch in awe as EXALT Snipers One-Hit Kill you from beyond your visual range, EXALT Heavies demolish entire swaths of cover with Blaster Launchers, and EXALT MECs run down your squishy fleshlings. They also get larger numbers, AND can appear alongside aliens in any missions they'd normally appear in - including Terror Missions!.
    • Oh, and remember those Covert Ops? EXALT get to keep all their nifty toys for those missions, while the player is still limited to an unarmored, undergunned Covert Operative (that starts on the far side of the rest of your squad, and must survive or the mission is a failure) and a fraction of the troops you could normally bring. These can easily be some of the hardest missions in the game.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Averted. Both aliens on the ground and UFOs will get upgrades over time, keeping early-game mooks able to remain nasty even against a lategame XCOM squad.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Somewhat infamously, Outsiders. In the original, they were dangerous thanks to high mobility, good aim and decent damage, but they were also Glass Cannons possible to kill in one flanked shot. Here, they retain all their strengths, but their health is now boosted to 10, and on top of that, they regenerate 3 health per turn. Taking one down in early game often requires round of concentrated fire from entire squad. This is the first sign that Long War doesn't pull any punches.
  • Zerg Rush: One of the main sources of increased difficulty is that pods are often larger than in vanilla, meaning it's much harder to kill off a whole pod in one turn. This also applies at the strategic layer; multiple UFOs and/or multiple missions can be in play at the same time. If you don't have reserve troops and interceptors, you're in trouble.

    Long War 2 
  • Adaptation Expansion: In vanilla, Faceless were just enemies in Retaliation missions. They could get annoying if you tried to save a civilian that reveals himself to be one, but otherwise weren't much problem. Here, their infiltration role is expanded to affect the strategy layer, doing detrimental things like siphoning Supplies until you flush them out.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI is significantly smarter in Long War 2 compared to the vanilla version. If they hear gunfire, an explosion, broken glass, or a civilian begins yelling from seeing XCOM too close, then nearby pods will go to "Yellow Alert" state. While in this state, they get boosted sight ranges, move faster than non-alerted patrols, take preparatory actions (such as Sectoids raising zombies), and some of them will even be able to shoot at your troops the moment they see them.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Ablative body armor is one of the few items XCOM has in abundance. More often than not it makes the difference between death and a long stay in the infirmary.
  • Can't Catch Up: Happens to XCOM. In addition to getting better unit types as the game progresses, in Long War 2, ADVENT will also get permanent combat upgrades and perks via Dark Events that not only never expire, but can stack indefinitely. While they can be countered like any Dark Event, they're intentionally made much harder to do so, and even the best players will see them start to pile up as the game progresses. No matter how much momentum you can build, if you don't take every advantage to progress towards finishing the game, the aliens will eventually outpace you and combat will reach a point where easy fights become slogs, and slogs become nearly unwinnable.
  • Decomposite Character: Vanilla's Ranger class is split into two; the Assault gets the shotgun moves while the Shinobi gets the melee and stealth skills. Technically three if you count the new In Name Only Ranger. The Grenadier is also split into the Gunner, who gets the cannon, and the Grenadier, who gets the Grenade Launcher.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • Even if you can liberate every region, it's better not to liberate the very last one. Doing so triggers Advent invasions across all of them, which pretty much instantly rolls back all your precious progress.
    • While every mission has benefits to being taken, doing every mission that comes your way will anger ADVENT quickly, and especially early before you've gotten the option to spread out your operations, will start to spike their activity in the problem areas. This can lead to significantly-harder missions before you're prepared. While you still need to be taking missions frequently to keep your momentum going, it's smart to pick and choose a few here and there to let go. Thankfully, tying this in to the infiltration system makes things easier, since there will usually be missions that simply don't have the time to be undertaken effectively; a significant part of learning the game is learning what you can (and can't) afford to let go.
  • Easy Logistics:
    • One of the ways Long War 2 averts this is by requiring time for the called-in Skyranger to arrive. Naturally, this is bad news if you have a soldier who's bleeding out and needs medevac pronto...
    • It also goes back to requiring individually-manufactured weapons and armor instead of squad-level upgrades.
    • Faceless infiltration units will also disrupt your available supplies by stealing some of them from each region each month.
    • Since there are far fewer missions where you can salvage the battlefield now, it also becomes harder to acquire large numbers of ADVENT corpses for research or sale.
  • Guide Dang It!: There are a lot more elements both in the strategic and tactical layers that bleed into each other and are poorly explained. This opacity is cited by none less an avid player of the first mod than Beaglerush himself as the main reason why he gave up on LW2. As just one example, even starting a liberation chain requires you to find a mission to hack a workstation that gives an intel reward and nothing else. Completing at least one liberation chain is needed to make the Avatar Timer visible at all, unlike in vanilla where the player will always get to see it without needing to do anything specific. Given how it's possible and even encouraged to be selective in which missions to take, it's entirely possible to give it a miss and never end up starting a liberation chain until the Avatar Timer invisibly dooms your campaign.
  • In Name Only: The Ranger in Long War 2 has more in common with the original's Infantry than the one from vanilla 2.
  • Interface Screw: Long War 2 adds some variation on the loading screens that change while loading such as the humans of Advent's city centers in blindfolds and chains, a cut in with the Ethereals, and the true nature of Advent's soldiers. Oddly enough one such image changes Advent's symbol to that of EXALT.
  • Mix-and-Match Weapon: The signature weapon of the Technical class is an Arm Cannon that combines rocket launcher and flamethrower.
  • Necessary Drawback: The Infiltration mechanic now encourages Commanders to vary their squad deployments. Unlike in vanilla where the metagame is to always deploy the largest possible squad with the heaviest, newest gear, doing so here will mean lower Infiltration percentage and thus more and tougher enemies if the time limit runs out. There are thus many times where deliberately sending an understrength squad with light gear in order to get weaker enemy forces is not only viable but preferable.
  • Optional Stealth:
    • Stealth receives a greater emphasis in this mod compared with the base game, but it is still possible to operate very loudly and aggressively. However, this often results in huge numbers of enemies swarming your squad, since large squads with heavy weapons have a hard time infiltrating. It is often much more effective to sneak in with a smaller squad of lighter, stealth-specialized troops, at the expense of having little heavy firepower if they do get detected.
    • Some missions can potentially be completed with only a single Shinobi trooper or Sharpshooter, although getting detected can be an instant mission failure as the Shinobi or Sharpshooter gets gunned down by an entire squad of enemy troops.
    • It is possible to clear missions with low infiltration, but in order to do so, you need to chuck stealth out the window entirely and bring multiple Grenadiers and Technicals to flatten the battlefield with massed grenades, flamethrowers, and missiles to wipe out the enemy swarms.
  • Timed Mission: Rather than dropping squads off immediately and having to complete the mission under a strict time limit as in the base game, you Infiltrate a squad, deploying soldiers but not starting the mission immediately. As time in the Geoscape passes, the Infiltration rating increases from 0% to 100%; the higher the rating when the mission is launched, the more favorable conditions (fewer, lighter enemies and detectors.) All missions that can be Infiltrated have expiration periods, and Infiltration takes longer the more, heavier troops you send. Dispatching a full squad with top-of-the-line equipment can result in only netting 20-30% infiltration before the point of no return hits, resulting in a much more difficult mission. It's usually a far better idea to send smaller, lighter squads to hit high Infiltration rates to make the missions much more manageable.
  • Zerg Rush: If the Infiltration progress on a mission is low, you can expect large numbers of enemy troops. Because of the troop distribution of each pod, many of the enemies you'll fight will be lower-ranking infantry, but there will be tons of them.
    • This can actually work in your favor if the mission in question allows you to salvage bodies from the battlefield; although the fighting will be tough and area-of-effect attacks essential, if you can make it to the end of the battle you will be able to salvage abundant amounts of material.