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X2 Hotfix Balancing - Community Feedback Thread

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There's a number of threads on the forum that have appeared about the current balance of the game. As it looks like we'll probably put out another hotfix for V6 before we push it out onto the Stable branches I figured it would be good to have a central place to talk about balance issues so I can introduce some changes in the hotfix.

As I've stated many times in the past, the game currently has terrible balancing and we're not prioritising the game balance right now - but tweaking numbers doesn't take long so I'm happy to do a quick balance pass. Please try to keep this thread limited to changes that just involve editing numbers on weapons, or relatively small but important code tweaks (e.g. shifting weapon fire modes back to TU %s rather than flat costs). 

The floor is open to discussion, but the following topics have been raised recently:

  • Accuracy of aliens
  • Effectiveness of Ballistic Rifle
  • Effectiveness of Ballistic LMG
  • Suppression in general
  • Firing being so expensive that soldiers can't move very far if they also want to shoot with any degree of accuracy
  • Alien Plasma Weapons noticeably stronger than Alien Magnetic Weapons
  • TU cost of throwing grenades is too low

Feel free to give your thoughts on those issues or bring up anything else you'd like to discuss.

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Posted (edited)

Human rifles seem a bit under powered when hitting unamoured aliens, still have n’t had a one shot kill. Worst thing I’ve found are the amount of aliens that surround the transport in the industrial/port zone (the one with all the containers). On more than one occasion have had to reload to an earlier save as my troops have stepped off the aircraft and over half of them have been shot. Personally I take off and nuke the site from orbit, that would get all the buggers.

Edit: The LMG as it stands is more of a liability than a useful tool. With the amount of rounds it fires shouldn’t there be a higher chance of a hit?

Edited by stewpidbear
LMG

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Somewhat related, in that I think it's an easy change to make: Can the alpha test starting lineup of soldiers have some rookies, some experienced soldiers, and some veterans, with a clear indication of the experience involved? It's hard to get good intuition about balance without seeing how different levels of soldier handle, and being able to get experienced soldiers has dependencies (including balance being reasonable).

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My vote would be for raising nade costs to 40 for damaging, 20 for support/flash.

This TU system is fun to play with, but needs limits, like maybe an increasing cost, or the Vagrant Story approach of lowering accuracy and evasion with every attack taken (aka the Risk system). I kinda want to see this explored more, but love both. The meta leans too hard to TU training right now, since shotguns can annihilate everything with no accuracy. 

Another idea might be to allow remaining TUs to be used as a dodge roll of some kind, giving a reason to not just use them for overwhelming spam fire. 

X1 suppression would be nice to have back, I'd love to see a sort of dead zone to the friendly fire of it, in order to allow HMGs more freedom. 

I like that HMGs cost less to fire in relation to other weapons, XDiv style, but them dealies can't hit anything even 2 tiles away, I'd assume this is due to the point blank thing not being in yet? 

 

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The only thing of Human Weapons are the Sniper-Rifle and the LMG. They uses to much TU % for only 1 Shot. 2 Shots were better.

Like I said too the Alien Weapons ignore Cover and Chrunching of the Soldier. Esp. the Plasma-Weapons. That have to be fixed asap.

That Plasma is stronger then Magnetic Projectile is fully OK. That´s the same as in the new XCOM-Series or the old X-Com Series. All Weapons have limitations. Projectile Weapons are almost weaker than Engergy Weapons, equal of Aliens or Humans.

TU Costs of Grenades are good, why should we have more? You have to move / crunch after the Throwing too so it´s absolutly ok.

That the Aliens have different Accuracy makes the Game much more interesting then the Predecessor. You need other Playstiles for every Alien-Race and it will be very interesting in the Final stage where you have to beat the End-Brain or whatever.

Suppression could be a bit higher, esp. for the Aliens.

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1 minute ago, Alienkiller said:

The only thing of Human Weapons are the Sniper-Rifle and the LMG. They uses to much TU % for only 1 Shot. 2 Shots were better.

Like I said too the Alien Weapons ignore Cover and Chrunching of the Soldier. Esp. the Plasma-Weapons. That have to be fixed asap.

That Plasma is stronger then Magnetic Projectile is fully OK. That´s the same as in the new XCOM-Series or the old X-Com Series. All Weapons have limitations. Projectile Weapons are almost weaker than Engergy Weapons, equal of Aliens or Humans.

TU Costs of Grenades are good, why should we have more? You have to move / crunch after the Throwing too so it´s absolutly ok.

That the Aliens have different Accuracy makes the Game much more interesting then the Predecessor. You need other Playstiles for every Alien-Race and it will be very interesting in the Final stage where you have to beat the End-Brain or whatever.

Suppression could be a bit higher, esp. for the Aliens.

From a how weapons work perspective a Sniper Rifle does require a lot of time to take a shot, its not like a pistol where it is point and shoot, you have to take into account wind speed and direction, you are looking for a pin point kill shot trying to find the chink in armour or the place where there is a gap between plates etc when using this type of gun so one shot is very likely.

Heavy weapons due to the nature of them would be similar but more because they are support weapons, not designed to be accurate per say (I know you could make an accurate shot with one if not going full auto or burst etc but generally that is not how they are used at all) but enable suppressing fire to stop others shooting the rest of your team by forcing them into cover.

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OK that´s a good Point for the LMG and Sniper.

Then you should have more TU´s to get in a new Cover after you shot with your Sniper.

What the LMG belongs there should be more Shots in 1 Burst and 2 Bursts for the TU´s about the lesser Acurracy.

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Yes, so for this discussion we should all bear in mind that there's several important bugs in the game at the moment that make things behave incorrectly:

  • The cover angles in the game are very narrow compared to X1 - cover only gives cover in a narrow cone in front of the cover rather than the full 90 degree cone of protection that it did in X1, so units shooting diagonally can shoot around the cover far more easily than they could in X1. This is something we're planning to fix but at the moment some cover protects against shots coming in from less than half the number of tiles it did in X1. So just bear that in mind when considering weapon lethality, particularly that of alien weapons!
  • Suppression doesn't work properly because weapons only apply suppression if they actually hit the target, so low-accuracy weapons are currently generating much less suppression than they should.
  • Terrain loses resistances much faster than intended, so "tough" terrain like UFO walls are much more easily destroyed by weak weapons than they should be.
  • Grenades are just a mess in terms of their throw path right now.

We'll probably try to fix up the first three issues in the next major build (not the hotfix) because they've got quite a major effect on gameplay. Grenades we'll revisit in the medium term.

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I've done lots of little tweaks and messing around with the numbers. From that, I've come to the following conclusions.

 

Alien Magnetic LMG: The theme of ths weapon is MORE DAKKA, currently it doesn't deliver. The Brute doesn't use this weapon except in overwatch and when standing next to a Xenonaut if that Xenonaut is in cover. I believe this is because the current to-hit is too low to meet whatever the AI threshold for minimum to-hit is. I increased the Accuracy of the weapon up to 60 and the Brute started using it instead of finding a piece of cover and hiding. The Brute still misses a lot, it's just the Brute now actually uses the thing! I increased the number of shots fired from 5 to 7 and reduced the damage to 30. By making those changes the terror value of the Brute is improved because each time it fires it unleashes a storm of shots that the unlucky Xenonauts may or may not survive (makes you appreciate cover more). Finally, I increased the TU cost to 40 so the Brute doesn't just stand in one spot and dakka away. 

 

In short: (Burst) Accuracy: 60, (Burst) Shots Fired: 7, Damage: 30, TU Cost: 40

 

Alien Plasma Rifle: The plasma rifle is currently overpowering in the early game. That is to say there's no point in wearing combat armour because the base damage (60) plus the random modifier less 20% is usually more than enough to kill a Xenonaut wearing combat armour. I get the impression that Combat Armour is supposed to be like Jackal armour from X1 - it may save your life once, but don't expect any more! With this in mind I reduced the damage the plasma rifle from 60 to 50. There's still a reasonable chance that the plasma rifle will kill a Xenonaut wearing combat armour outright and that's because of the swingyness of th  random modifier but more often than not a Xenonaut wearing combat armour would go from 60HP to 4-7HP, whereas a Xenonaut in tactical armour always died. 

 

In short: Damage: 50

 

Alien Magnetic Rifle: The first alien you meet using it is the Sebillian. Thematicaly, the Sebillians are damage sponges, damage sponges aren't that interesting to fight against. I looked for ways to make the Sebillian more interesting to fight against and I took a cue from the magnetic LMG and the magnetic pistol. Both weapons fire bursts of shots. As the Sebillian is supposed to have poor eyesight, why couldn't the Sebillian spray and pray to compensate for their poor eyesight? This took a lot of work and I still don't think I've got it completely right. However, I made snap shots fire 3 shots, bosted the TU costs of weapon modes so the Sebillian would prefer to fire a burst of shots instead of a single shot and improved the accuracy of snap shots to 60 to encourage the Sebillian to open fire instead of ducking into cover and going into overwatch. I kept damage fairly low at 45, because the impression I wanted to give is of a Xenonaut being riddled with shots when shot at by a mag rifle. 

 

In short: (Snap) Accuracy: 60, (Snap) Shots Fired: 3, (Snap) TU Cost: 20, (Normal) TU cost: 50, Damage: 45 

 

Ballistic LMG: The change I found most impactful was to up the number of shots it fires. 10 is too much, 5 is too little. I can't decide wether 7 or 8 is a good number. I personally find 7 is enough

In short: (Burst) Shots Fired: 7

 

Ballistic Rifle: The rifles are much better in the hands of a solider with high TU (80+) than a solider with low TU (55 or lower). A high TU soldier can rattle off several aimed shots in succession and have enough TU to keep moving. A low TU soldier doesn't have half as many options. I never use burst shots - there really is no point. I dropped the cost of burst shots from 30 to 20. I had prevously made snap and normal cheaper as well but I found you have an either/or situation. Either you use the cheaper snap/normal, or you use a burst. There doesn't seem to be a situation where you can make the ballistic rifle live up to its versatility, but I'm happy to be proven wrong on this point. By dropping the cost of burst, I gave low TU troops the oprtunity to put more shots downfield, quantity being quality all of its own. 

 

In short: (Burst) TU Cost: 20

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42 minutes ago, Alienkiller said:

OK that´s a good Point for the LMG and Sniper.

Then you should have more TU´s to get in a new Cover after you shot with your Sniper.

What the LMG belongs there should be more Shots in 1 Burst and 2 Bursts for the TU´s about the lesser Acurracy.

Considering the sniper rifle, yes only allow one or two shots with it, but the shots should be far more deadly perhaps allow insta death headshots?

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With one tile being equivalent to 10m for the purpose of weapon ranges, the accuracy of sniper rifles is such that the optics rails are being used to line up shots. Which is fine, considering the lack of a prone or bench rest shooting position.

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18 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

*snip*

So at the moment the alien Magnetic and Plasma weapons are conceptually intended to be different only in damage type, rather than how they act - i.e. that you might want to swap out your armour if you know you're facing Sebillians. Also, the lore has changed and now only the big Sebillians suffer from bad eyesight. The smaller Sebillians (the X1-size ones) now have normal accuracy, but also have less HP than they used to. The big Sebillians carry an LMG but the magnetic rifles don't necessarily have to emphasise volume of fire ... although the rifles could be designed as burst weapons and the big Sebillians given rocket launchers or something if we did go down that route.

But yeah, I'm not sure we necessarily want to make the assumption that all Sebillians are bad at shooting. I'm not sure going up against enemies that fire a lot of shots but hit relatively few of them is meaningfully different in terms of player interaction from facing enemies that fire fewer shots but hit more often - there's not really anything the player can do to take advantage of that, right?

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18 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

Ballistic Rifle: The rifles are much better in the hands of a solider with high TU (80+) than a solider with low TU (55 or lower). A high TU soldier can rattle off several aimed shots in succession and have enough TU to keep moving. A low TU soldier doesn't have half as many options. I never use burst shots - there really is no point. I dropped the cost of burst shots from 30 to 20. I had prevously made snap and normal cheaper as well but I found you have an either/or situation. Either you use the cheaper snap/normal, or you use a burst. There doesn't seem to be a situation where you can make the ballistic rifle live up to its versatility, but I'm happy to be proven wrong on this point. By dropping the cost of burst, I gave low TU troops the oprtunity to put more shots downfield, quantity being quality all of its own. 

Your thoughts on the specific numbers for all of the weapons are useful, thanks. To talk about the Rifle specifically - yeah, it's a bit difficult to weigh up burst fire vs. single shots without one being superior. The X1 solution was to rely on the short range bonus making autofire superior at close range, and make the burst do more suppression per TU, but have the single shot modes do more damage per TU outside short range.

In X-Com the rifle was set up so that autofire was the best way to use the Rifle in terms of damage output, but it had a medium TU cost to fire. Snap shots were less TU efficient but were cheaper than autofire, so could be used if you only had a few TU remaining. Aimed shots were more expensive than autofire and snap shots on a per-TU vs. Accuracy basis, and rarely used unless you wanted a particularly precise shot for some reason (shooting past your own soldiers, I guess).

I'm not sure if the X-Com method is superior but it's a different way of envisioning things. 

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2 hours ago, Chris said:

Your thoughts on the specific numbers for all of the weapons are useful, thanks. To talk about the Rifle specifically - yeah, it's a bit difficult to weigh up burst fire vs. single shots without one being superior. The X1 solution was to rely on the short range bonus making autofire superior at close range, and make the burst do more suppression per TU, but have the single shot modes do more damage per TU outside short range.

In X-Com the rifle was set up so that autofire was the best way to use the Rifle in terms of damage output, but it had a medium TU cost to fire. Snap shots were less TU efficient but were cheaper than autofire, so could be used if you only had a few TU remaining. Aimed shots were more expensive than autofire and snap shots on a per-TU vs. Accuracy basis, and rarely used unless you wanted a particularly precise shot for some reason (shooting past your own soldiers, I guess).

I'm not sure if the X-Com method is superior but it's a different way of envisioning things. 

I prefer the former on the AR, the weapon is intended as a mix between a rifle and a SMG, so its auto function is mainly intended to work well in close quarters. if it would work as well at long range compared to its singly shot counterpart it would render the single shot mode pointless. 

personally I'd also greatly prefer the %TU cost approach, this allows rookies and veteran soldiers to have a roughly equal punch from their weapons if they stay stationary..with the major difference being the accuracy of the shots. while the veteran will still be able to maneuver faster in the field (flat TU cost on movement) creating a visible improvement on soldier flexibility. flat TU costs have the benefit of being easy to understand..however I think many players would simply rush to TU breakpoints where they would be able to squeeze off extra shots making newbie soldiers an even greater hurdle then they already are.

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5 hours ago, Chris said:

 

But yeah, I'm not sure we necessarily want to make the assumption that all Sebillians are bad at shooting. I'm not sure going up against enemies that fire a lot of shots but hit relatively few of them is meaningfully different in terms of player interaction from facing enemies that fire fewer shots but hit more often - there's not really anything the player can do to take advantage of that, right?

Clustering is a worse idea against someone who is going to throw a lot of high-energy things in your general area than someone who is going to put one high-energy thing in your top left incisor.

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Could you make it that the Sebillians only recover HALF of their HP, or gain it back over a few turns? Like someone else said, damage sponges are not much fun, and it would be a fairer game mechanic. 

I really think the crouching should afford a reasonable defence bonus, especially behind cover. 

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Sebs recover total? Never realized that, seems pretty jacked. Been going with the strategy of "shotgun in face 6 times" or "drop a small country's worth of grenades at the feet ", haven't seen them regen in ages. 

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On 7/12/2019 at 11:48 AM, Chris said:

So at the moment the alien Magnetic and Plasma weapons are conceptually intended to be different only in damage type, rather than how they act - i.e. that you might want to swap out your armour if you know you're facing Sebillians. Also, the lore has changed and now only the big Sebillians suffer from bad eyesight. The smaller Sebillians (the X1-size ones) now have normal accuracy, but also have less HP than they used to. The big Sebillians carry an LMG but the magnetic rifles don't necessarily have to emphasise volume of fire ... although the rifles could be designed as burst weapons and the big Sebillians given rocket launchers or something if we did go down that route.

But yeah, I'm not sure we necessarily want to make the assumption that all Sebillians are bad at shooting. I'm not sure going up against enemies that fire a lot of shots but hit relatively few of them is meaningfully different in terms of player interaction from facing enemies that fire fewer shots but hit more often - there's not really anything the player can do to take advantage of that, right?

This is more of a "feels over reals" kind of explanation, but bear with me. I wanted to show a match wih my modded stats, but Bandicam seems to hate X2 and will crash it without fear or remorse.

 

It's the start of a new game. It's a wood map. You turn a solider in the chopper and spy a Psyon maybe slightly half a tile away. Perhaps 16 spaces or so. It's in the open. You take aim with a solider, aimed shot, 83% chance to ht. You hit, congrats! That's 26 damage.  The Psyon returns fire. It hits, that's 55 damage, instant death. You sigh. You get some more soliders out of the chopper and a few more shots later, the Psyon who killed the first soldier is dead. It's now the alien turn. A Psyon appears. It targets a solider who isn't quite in position. The Psyon hits, does 67 points of damage. That soldier is dead. You grit your teeth.  Another Psyon appears. One of your soliders takes an overwatch shot. She misses. The Psyon returns fire. A miss! The Psyon fires again. A hit. that's 59 points of damage. Instant death. At this point, you're ready to cinduct experiments on the terminal velocity of monitors vis. 3rd storey windows.

 

Early game, every fight with a Psyon can go pear shaped very, very quickly. The impression, and please forgive my language, is that you don't fuck around with Psyons. If I know that I'm fighting Psyons, I'm carrying lots of smoke. I have my lines of exit clear. The third man (I never fght in twos against Psyons if I can help it) is always ready with smoke in case the other two morons manage to mess it up. I would rather spent all my TU and re-position my team to lure a Psyon to me than get into a shooting match with a Psyon, because I know I will loose that fight. That's all thanks to the plasma rifle. You learn to respect it very quickly, and the plasma rifle gives the Psyon character. 

 

Now, same situation. You're facing Sebillians. The Sebillian fires off a burst. One catches the solider. He takes 32 damage. You think "I can handle that". The Sebillian fires off another burst. Another shot hits, that's 25 damage. That's a kill. But it feels different. You feel like the Sebillian has spent a lot of effort trying to kill the solider, that it's been blasting away even though it's actually only spent the same amount of TU and effort  that a Psyon does firing the same number of shots. You feel like you can take Sebillians in a shooting war, and you better be able to because Sebillians soak a hella lotta damage, so you have to be able to hold your ground against Sebillians. Shotguns are a vital weapon in the fight against Sebillians, and you need to be able to go over the top to get in close enough to kill a Sebillian. The mag rifle could give the Sebillian as much character as the plasma rifle gives the Psyon, ust based on how it feels to fight them.

 

Or look at it like this. The mag rifle. As dangerous as the plasma rifle. In the hands of an enemy with 45% more health (100% more health for the Brute) who can regenerate. Seriously? I'd almost rather face Androns. I mean, I notice there are both modifiers for armor penetration and armor destruction in the weapon.json master file. Linear weapons are noted as much for their penetrative capabilities as their power. It's one of the common memes in computer games, that railguns typically can penetrate several enemies at once and/or terrain. Perhaps fiddling with armor penetration/destruction as easy numbers to alter would be of value?  

 

EDIT: For those interested in my edits, I append my currently edited files. You'll have to replace the current files with the edited ones, which means 1) make backups and 2) don't report bugs with edited files, because even though this is just number editing, editing numbers can have unforseen effects in-game. Xenonauts2Mods.zip

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For what it's worth, the scariest part of X1 for me should have been the point where everyone was carrying around cannons, but instead was when Sebs started carrying around shotguns, and being unable to tell who could fire, or who couldn't. Hopefully you can tell the tell apart this time. 

Don't suppose the aliens will be able to reload in this one?

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On 7/13/2019 at 4:42 PM, Emily_F said:

Could you make it that the Sebillians only recover HALF of their HP, or gain it back over a few turns? Like someone else said, damage sponges are not much fun, and it would be a fairer game mechanic. 

I really think the crouching should afford a reasonable defence bonus, especially behind cover. 

This already happens - remember that taking damage permanently loses units a portion of their max HP. In X1 this was set to 50%.

It's a little lower in X2 but not game-breakingly so, and the Sebillians (except for the big bulky tank Sebillians) have less HP then they did before. In my experience regeneration is actually pretty meaningless in most cases.

(EDIT - actually, it turns out the Sebillians don't have much lower HP than they did in X1 after all, which is likely to be the problem!)

I think I disagree that cover should give a bigger defence bonus than it does given it costs 4 TU to crouch too. If pretty much any cover item is more than 2 tiles away it's more TU efficient to crouch then it is to walk to the cover, which already seems pretty OP given it already stacks with the cover.

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I believe it was Charon who previously commented on crouching. In X-Division the cost of crouching is 8TUs, making crouching more expensive and as a consequence, less of a go-to choice. Would the cost of crouching be easy to increase? 

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From some missions on the current build:

I agree with Max that the ballistic rifle doesn't seem that versatile, and is underwhelming in general. Burst fire is costly and doesn't do much in terms of suppression anyway, aimed shots are costly enough to almost make the rifle as unwieldy as the sniper/LMG. I'd favour a slight accuracy increase for all modes, and a lower TU cost for bursts to make them a valid option when the amount of bullets matters more than the accuracy. The rifle should, overall, be versatile above all. Usable at all ranges, and allowing for fire-and-maneuver tactics.

With regards to fixed TU costs for firing in general, I'll say the same thing I did when X1 tried it - the primary effect is that it further elevates TUs above all other stats in importance. High-TU soldiers essentially get more firepower, not just versatility, while low-TU soldiers become nearly useless.

Grenade throw costs are too low. I can support the idea of lowering them compared to X1, but currently they make it easy to advance while throwing grenades left and right.

A thought regarding weapon versatility and movement in general - would it be worth it to try a system where the TU movement cost depends on the weapon held?

 

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19 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

*snip*

Yeah, there's some valid points here. I think the most helpful thing to do is for me to fill you in on what I'm trying to achieve with the balancing, even if it doesn't necessarily map to what is currently in the game.

The basic idea is that the shape of the game is more like classic X-Com; in the early stages of the war your troops die in large numbers. You haven't developed the equipment to reliably protect your soldiers from alien weapons so many of the missions are a meatgrinder until the mid-game, where suddenly your soldiers will usually survive a shot or perhaps two before they keel over. Only a handful of your troops survived the opening stages of the war (more by luck than judgement) but they're now hardened badasses and your rookies now have a long enough lifespan to start levelling up. By the end of the game you've surpassed the aliens and only their elite units are much of a threat to you.

This doesn't work in the current version of X2 for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that the aliens are extremely accurate and deadly, but the starting squad is only 8 soldiers whereas in X-Com it's 14 soldiers so you can't absorb the losses like you could in X-Com. As well as adding the updated dropship, we're also going to be updating the starting dropship so it's got a larger troop capacity and has walls like the Skyranger did in X-Com and the Charlie did in X1. I'm not sure if we'll bump the starting team up to 10 or perhaps 12, as we're planning the advanced dropship to hold 15 (or maybe 16). Problem is, the tiles aren't ready for the updated starting dropship yet so we can't put it in the builds - maybe I'll add the blockout for it to an Experimental test build after we finish V6.3 though. That should make testing the balance easier.

Second thing is that the cover angles are too narrow, so there's very little you can do to protect yourself against those deadly aliens in terms of positioning (something we'll fix in an upcoming patch). Third thing is that I think in X-Com there's a much wider variety of aliens outside the UFOs, whereas in X2 the non-soldier aliens are only found inside the UFOs. This means for most of the mission you're fighting tougher aliens with better equipment. If we spawned some of the weaker aliens outside the UFOs then there would be more aliens that could be killed by a single rifle shot and carry weapons that might not instakill your troops at the start of the game. That'd probably be a sensible change.

The other thing to think about is what the individual races do:

  • Psyons - these are one of the two "easy" races you encounter in the early game, because psionic-capable Psyons don't appear for the first few weeks. After that it's generally fairly unwise to bring low-Bravery soldiers to battle against Psyons. Beyond their psionic abilities they're only standard combatants really, nothing exceptional.
  • Sebillians - these guys are the other "easy" race at the start of the game. I'll probably give them some kind of inherent resistance to energy weapons, which obviously only comes into play later in the game and makes them harder to deal with relative to other races. Depending on how we implement psionics these guys could be weak against psionic attacks.
  • Wraiths / Androns - these appear later in the game and are paired with Androns and Gun Drones. These guys are the most competent alien combatants, with high firing accuracy and reflexes, and Androns are resistant to kinetic weapons. However once you have energy weapons the combo becomes a bit less deadly.
  • Mantids / Reapers - I think we'll pair the Reapers with the Mantids, who are little spider-dudes. The Reapers are obviously extremely dangerous at melee range, whereas the Mantids use ranged weapons too. They're not tough but they are small units so they are harder to hit than normal, and are reasonably effective shooteres. I think in practice these guys will end up being fairly easy to fight, but there's an extra layer of danger any time Reapers are involved in a mission so it'll probably balance out.

Roughly speaking the Wraiths and Mantids start appearing when Corvettes and Fighters started appearing in X1. In the late game tougher Elite variants of each of the aliens start appearing.

Hopefully that gives you some kind of vague framework to work within?

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10 minutes ago, Chris said:

Only a handful of your troops survived the opening stages of the war (more by luck than judgement) but they're now hardened badasses and your rookies now have a long enough lifespan to start levelling up. By the end of the game you've surpassed the aliens and only their elite units are much of a threat to you.

One additional can of worms here is, you need to balance the level-up time for rookies with the amount of difficulty and missions. If levelling a rookie up to badass status is too easy, it doesn't feel rewarding. If it takes too many missions, you repeat the problem X1 had where people would grind many more missions that intended, in order to compensate for losses and have a squad of badasses by the Carrier/Battleship phase.

I think the solution lies in the realm of Geoscape mission spawns, that is, missions should not only increase in difficulty as the game progresses, but later phases should also spawn some easier missions, where you can send less-experienced soldiers.

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About balance in just one sentence: I think the game could be won with rookies soldiers with all levels of difficulty, the ranks should be an extra only. This will prevent being a save / load addict, and enjoy the experience more, instead being stressed because you lost your two best man in a mission and you cannot win the game anymore. You should only lose because your are losing countries, or you are doing very bad in all missions.

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