Top five mods for XCOM: Enemy Unknown – balance tweaks, second wave options, and much more

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

By on October 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Even though XCOM: Enemy Unknown has only been out for a week, the first wave of mods are already starting to hit. Anxious PC players, filled to the brim with ideas about how to change, improve, rejig or otherwise go-to-town-on the game, have started hacking around in the executable to either unlock features the developers left out, or bring the game that little bit close to the remake they always wanted.

We’ve taken a look at the five most awesome mods to come out already, each of them reeling under hundreds or even thousands of downloads so far. All these mods come to us courtesy of the XCOM Nexus, naturally.

Getting your mod on

Most of the mods here involve changing the base XCOM executable file, which is problematic because it means it’s difficult — if not impossible — to run two mods at once. This is a problem that has been handily solved by a forum user named dreadylein, whose ModPatcher solution allows you to quickly and easily set up mods. As with all modding, make an extra backup somewhere just in case!

Balance Mod

Last Updated: 14 October // Download here

The Balance Mod is the most popular XCOM mod on the Nexus by a long shot, perhaps primarily because it changes the setting that hides UFOs currently conducting terror or abduction missions. As a result, you can now see UFOs peforming all sorts of villainy all across the map and, in Arietatray’s own words, “you have a lot more work to do and a higher chance of losing soldiers”, but more of a chance to get in there, punch aliens, and stop panic from spreading.

Included in the mod is a small tweak to the reward you get from abduction missions (five scientists or engineers), as well as lowering the build time for satellites from 20 to 15 days, as well as normalised soldier health.

Second Wave Mod

Last Updated: 18 October // Download here

As if Arietatray wasn’t doing enough, their Second Wave mod is the (fittingly) second most popular game mod. The option for a second playthrough is turned off by default in the game’s native executable, which is perhaps for the best as re-enabling it tends to break a few things — but nothing the dedicated modder can’t fix.

Once you’ve beaten the game for the first time, this mod will enable the ‘Second Wave’ option when you start a new game. The following variables can then be enabled (although not all of them are confirmed to be working yet).

  • Damage Roulette: Weapons have a much wider range of damage
  • New Economy: The funding offered by individual council members is randomized
  • Not Created Equally: Rookies will have random starting stats
  • Hidden Potential: As a soldier is promoted, their stats will increase randomly
  • Red Fog: Any wounds taken in combat will degrade a soldier’s stats for that mission (bugged, does not work)
  • Absolutely Critical: A flanking shot will guarantee a critical hit
  • The Greater Good: The secret of psionics can only be learned by interrogating a psionic alien
  • Marathon: The game takes considerably longer to complete (broken, makes game unwinnable, do not activate)
  • Results Driven: A country will offer less funding as it’s panic level increases
  • High Stakes: The rewards granted for stopping alien abductions are randomized
  • Diminishing Returns: The cost of satellites increases with every one that is built
  • The Blitz: The aliens will target a larger number of cities every time they launch an abduction attack
  • More Than Human: The psionic gift is extremely rare

If you want to install both this mod and the Balance Mod above, be sure to follow the instructions on the download page very carefully.

Anti-Cheat Mod for Proper Classic Difficulty

Last Updated: 14 October // Download here

“I love playing on Ironman + Classic,” writes Darkreaver1980, “but I really hated the cheating AI. It gets +critical chance and +aim% on classic, which leads to unfair gameplay.” This mod fixes that particular problem, giving full alien AI without any buffs or bonuses.

But that’s not all! Construction time on satellites is halved, and UFOs now have to prepare for terror and abduction missions, which gives you a chance to shoot them down with interceptors and thus prevent the missions from happening at all. On abduction missions, you’ll still have three UFO’s to shoot down, but if you can manage to do it — no abduction mission for you. Sounds easier, right?  Unfortunately, Darkreaver1980 has also removed the ability of the starting interceptor to shoot down UFO’s, and told them to destroy your satellite network as a priority.

The Anti-Cheat Mod also enables the Second Wave options listed above.

Warspace Extension Mod

Last Updated: 18 October // Download here

Already being described as the first “must-have” XCOM mod, the Warspace Extension introduces a slew of tweaks and rebalances aross the board, from weapon damage, to map enhancements, to character and item changes. “I wanted the player’s decisions to become more meaningful, rather than being punished randomly by the game all the time,” writes modder Black Alpha.” Check out this list of changes:

Weapons rebalanced:

  • Conventional guns are average.
  • Lasers do less damage but are more accurate. Higher chance to damage the environment and do criticals.
  • Plasma weapons do more damage but are less accurate. Highest chance to damage the environment and do criticals.
  • Plasma weapons take a few more shots to damage the environment compared to vanilla settings (in which they destroyed almost everything with a single hit).
  • Arc Thrower now goes in the pistol slot (it has full animation and graphics, so I guess this is how it was originally made).
  • Pistols have slightly less accuracy compared to rifles.
  • Pistols need to be reloaded, just like every other weapon.
  • Shotguns do more damage but have a bit less accuracy compared to rifles. Shotguns should be more useful now.
  • Sniper rifles have slightly more accuracy compared to the other weapons.
  • The sniper rifle’s close range accuracy penalty has been removed (it still needs two moves to be able to fire, I think that’s harsh enough).

Strategical map rebalanced:

  • The missions the player ignores won’t decrease the panic level of entire continents anymore, but only of specific countries.
  • Panic penalties will mostly apply to single countries, but the panic penalties are bigger.
  • When it’s time to decide whether to leave the council, continents with a satellite have a small chance to stay, countries with a sat have a bigger chance.
  • Satellites are more likely to decrease panic levels inside the country once a month.
  • Countries with no satellite in their continent will leave at the end of the month when their panic level reaches level 4.
  • Normal satellites have a very tiny chance not to be destroyed by UFOs when undefended.
  • Stealth satellites have a much bigger chance not to be destroyed by UFOs when undefended.
  • European countries give slightly more money to give the player an incentive to put your satellites there.
  • Increased chance for UFOs showing up.
  • UFOs doing missions can be intercepted sometimes.

Characters rebalanced:

  • Human rookies start off with a bit less accuracy.
  • Human soldiers gain more Will with each level to decrease the chances of panic.
  • Human soldiers who panic won’t try to kill your own soldiers anymore (the guy who thought this was a great idea deserves to be shot).
  • Soldiers who take damage during missions will be recovering for a MUCH longer time, especially if they are “gravely injured”, so don’t get hit!
  • Tanks take a few more days to be repaired when heavily damaged.
  • Carapace, Titan and Archangel armors provide two item slots instead of just one.

General Tweaks:

  • Civilians killed during Terror Missions will turn into zombies on Normal and Classic (it already was so on Impossible).
  • On Normal and Classic difficulty levels, the AI should now use more than 5 NPCs (it already was so on Impossible)
  • Normal, Classic and Impossible difficulty levels should be the same now, apart from hard-coded differences, like more enemies and unlocking the full AI.
  • Basically, if you want full AI, play on Classic or Impossible.
  • Keep in mind, this mod was made for the Classic difficulty level, but I guess Impossible should work too. AI is shackled on Normal, so don’t play that!
  • Second Wave is enabled.

The Warspace Extension mod is designed to be played on Classic Difficulty, with full AI — but the creator gives a warning against save scumming. “This mod is more ‘fair’ than vanilla,” writes Black Alpha, “and is best played by letting the bad decisions simply happen, don’t reload. You can recover from bad decisions.”

Remove Opening Movies and Logos

Last Updated: 11 October // Download here

Why do games companies think we want to see their movies and logos, and hear their sound effects? Quite frankly, we don’t, and this mod gets rid of them. The mod is a batch file, which will create a copy of your XComEngine.ini, (named XComEnginecopy.ini) and place it in the same directory. The batch file will then remove the run lines for the introductory movies and logos from the ini. Excellent stuff.

Have you found your own favourite mod? Let us know in the comments!

16 comments (Leave your own)

I haven’t even read the article yet but THANK YOU SO MUCH


There are mods for XCOM? Now i want even more :(


Right now there’s really just ini tweaks and stuff. Jake Solomon did say at one point that the unreal engine is cool for modding so don’t be too surprised when they show up.


Yeah the ini mods are actually edited into the EXE of the game so currently it’s a bit of a work around from the protection side of things, however they are working well.

I have a personal mod similar to Anti-Cheat/Warspace with my own personal flavour to it, still testing though so not in release format yet.

Suffice to say this game can be made easy as pie, or harder than a Werewolf in a meat factory…


Playing warspace extension atm. Damn it’s good.


I want a mod to remove the aliens’ bonus turns…


Do these mods disable achivements? >.>


Serious question: why do people care about achievements?


I just got the game and installed Warspace Extension to start with.

The others seem more like the author’s pet peeves… being able to see all UFO activity seems more like a cheat, not a mod.



And by author I mean the mod author, not Tim.



I’ve been trying to mod my xcom…got it today played it in classic and was like WTF MAN OVER-POWERED ALIENS!?

but the mods don’t work :/ tried blocking hosts, playing offline and steam is determined to update it even offline…it doesn’t update but the window pops up stopping it from loading the game…

probably have to wait for another fix.


Regarding: ‘Remove Opening Movies and Logos’ Mod.

When I perform a search for ‘XComEngine.ini’ to try and discover it’s location in order to “place the mod into the same folder”, it merely takes me here:
C:\Users\STUART\Documents\My Games\XCOM – Enemy Unknown\XComGame\Config

Copy and pasting the mod file: ‘Xcom Intro Remover’ into this folder does nothing.
Please Modders, do not assume we all know what you know and inform us of the exact and full location – please.


Not initially knowing what a ‘Batch file’ even was, I eventually double-clicked on it and now all is fine – ty for ace mod.



Sorry bout that hehe. But it did say in my description to open it/double click ! :)


I would like to see simple mods such as remove reload on all Laser weapons.

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