Tag Archives: Video Games

XCOM 2: The Legendary Super-Squad Mods

I promised I’d document my XCOM 2 tweaks. My goal, as stated elsewhere, was to create a “casual mode” for taking on Legendary levels of enemies in XCOM 2. It’s not the same as playing on “Rookie” difficulty, because in Rookie mode the enemies go easy on you (there’s a limit to how many will fire on you in a given round,) and the random number generator will start erring in your  favor if you really take a beating.

I wanted lots of tough, smart enemies, and I did not want them to back off if I screwed up. But I still wanted to be able to enjoy myself.

This is going to be much longer than most of my posts. Here we go!

This whole project¹ takes place in the Config folder for XCOM 2. On my machine it’s at C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\XCOM 2\XComGame\Config

This folder has around 40 files in it (as of now, anyway. More may be coming.) The key files for me were these:

  • DefaultClassData.ini—I tweaked HP, Hack, and Offense gains for each character class
  • DefaultGameData.ini—boosted the squad size
  • DefaultGameData_CharacterStats.ini—lots of small boosts for characters here
  • DefaultGameData_SoldierSkills.ini—reduced cooldown a little for the really neat stuff.
  • DefaultGameData_WeaponData.ini—lots of tweaks here. Lots.
  • DefaultGameData_XpData.ini—Reduced XP required to level up.

The very first thing I did was to duplicate the entire Config folder, and call the duplicate folder called “Config.bak.” That way if I broke anything, I could just swap the folders out and put the whole game back the way it was.


Here are the changes I made. I’ve organized them by file, and while I have not listed every last modification I made, I’ve provided specific examples of each change so that even the most timid among us can confidently mod their game.


I made lots of little changes here in order to make promotions give just a little bit more to the soldiers. The file has sections for each of the character classes (Ranger, Sharpshooter, Specialist, Grenadier,) and is further divided by each promotion they get. Here is the section that defines the various things a Ranger gets when becoming a squaddie:

; squaddie
SoldierRanks=( aAbilityTree=( (AbilityName="SwordSlice", ApplyToWeaponSlot=eInvSlot_SecondaryWeapon) \\
 ), \\
 aStatProgression=((StatType=eStat_Offense,StatAmount=3), (StatType=eStat_HP,StatAmount=1), (StatType=eStat_Strength,StatAmount=0), (StatType=eStat_Hacking,StatAmount=0), (StatType=eStat_CombatSims,StatAmount=1)),\\

The bolded line is where I made my change: I changed StatAmount=3 to StatAmount=4. The promoted Ranger gets a little bit more aim.

I boosted the Offense promotions for my Rangers and Sharpshooters, and gave my Specialists better Hacking bonuses.

This is where a Specialist is promoted to Corporal.

; corporal
SoldierRanks=( aAbilityTree=( (AbilityName="MedicalProtocol", ApplyToWeaponSlot=eInvSlot_SecondaryWeapon), \\
 (AbilityName="CombatProtocol", ApplyToWeaponSlot=eInvSlot_SecondaryWeapon) \\
 ), \\
 aStatProgression=((StatType=eStat_Offense,StatAmount=3), (StatType=eStat_HP,StatAmount=1), (StatType=eStat_Strength,StatAmount=0), (StatType=eStat_Hacking,StatAmount=5), (StatType=eStat_CombatSims,StatAmount=0)),\\

I changed the bolded text so StatAmount=5 was StatAmount=10. I did this for each promotion, because the vanilla specialist, even fully tricked out, was never better than a bad crapshoot for the cool stuff. It was almost *always* a better idea to have the Specialist shoot than hack. With this tweak I turned my Specialists into hackers. Good times!


This one eventually required an outside mod¹ because of interface problems. The MaxSoldiersOnMission line starts like this.


I made it look like this:


This meant I began the game with 6 soldiers instead of four. Once I bought squad size upgrades I was taking eight soldiers on each mission.

The additional two soldiers, #7 and #8, were auto-filled for me from the top of my soldier list, because the interface didn’t actually let me edit those two slots. I later installed the “Max Squad Size Fix” mod¹, which changed the UI, allowing me to choose everybody who came along (and their loadout.)

This change, more than any of the others, made the biggest difference for me. I was still always outnumbered, but after I bought the squad size upgrades I could treat my crew as two fire teams of four, and that was wonderful.


This was my second most important adjustment. I boosted the starting character stats so that rookies weren’t worthless, and so that flanking somebody made a real difference. The bold lines are the ones I wanted to change:

[Soldier X2CharacterTemplate]

Offense went to 75, Mobility went up by one to 13, Sight radius went to 29, and Flanking Aim Bonus went to 20.

Aim a little better, run a little faster, see a little further, and now it’s worth getting out there and flanking somebody.

I did not boost their HP. If I screwed up, I wanted to pay for it. Obviously I could have pushed all their abilities through the roof, but that would have sucked quite a bit of the fun out of the game for me.


Cooldown was all I messed with here. Many missions didn’t run long enough for a soldier to get to use their high-level abilities more than once. Here’s the Sharpshooter section:


The bolded lines all got reduced to 3. My Sharpshooters got to be awesome more often, and I was more likely to use an ability early in a mission. I still had to wait to use it again, but I was less likely to get killed, or have a mission timer run out, while waiting.

If you dig through this file you’ll see that you can boost lots more than just cooldown times. Your grenadiers might not want an aim penalty for using Chain Shot, for instance. (Upon further consideration, I know your grenadiers don’t want that aim penalty. The question is whether you want it.)


This is where I made the most changes. It’s also where I broke the game balance completely, and then backed off a bit and un-broke it.

Consider the section for the Assault Rifle:

AssaultRifle_Conventional_BaseDamage=(Damage=4, Spread=1, PlusOne=0, Crit=2, Pierce=0, Shred=0, Tag="", DamageType="Projectile_Conventional")
AssaultRifle_Magnetic_BaseDamage=(Damage=6, Spread=1, PlusOne=0, Crit=3, Pierce=0, Shred=0, Tag="", DamageType="Projectile_MagXCom")
AssaultRifle_Beam_BaseDamage=(Damage=8, Spread=1, PlusOne=0, Crit=4, Pierce=0, Shred=0, Tag="", DamageType="Projectile_BeamXCom")

I added 2 to each of the “Damage” values, and increased the Spread from 1 to 2. Now instead of doing 3-5 damage the conventional assault rifle did 4-8.  Sectoids and Officers still required two hits, but never needed three (far fewer “oh geez why won’t you die” moments.)

In my first pass I added 3 to each value, and that was too much, because far too many things could be killed with a single shot.

There’s a section like this for each of the weapons. Here’s some help with the terms, should you need it:

  • Damage: starting damage roll
  • Spread: random number to add or subtract from the roll
  • PlusOne: I don’t know, so I left it alone
  • Crit: Amount of damage to add if it’s a crit
  • Pierce: Amount of armor to ignore on a hit
  • Shred: Amount of armor to destroy on a hit

The place where I went a little crazy with no regrets was in the section for the Ranger Sword. At the top of the tech tree (“Beam”) I had doubled the damage, doubled the crit, and given it three points of Pierce. Why? Because I wanted the occasional opportunity to play Jedi Knight with the Reaper ability. SUCH FUN. Risky, too, but there wasn’t a 95% chance my Ranger would accomplish nothing and then die.

I watched part of a Twitch run where the player expressed the desire to do exactly that, and wished aloud for just such a mod. It’s a simple text edit on three lines of human-readable code.

Deeper in the file there’s a section labeled like this:

; ***** Core properties and variables for XCom weapons *****

Here you can give weapons an aiming bonus, a larger magazine size (it says “iClipSize” but we know it’s a mag), and change how much environment damage it does. I added one round to everybody’s mags, gave the sniper rifles an aiming bonus, and added some hack bonus to the gremlins. These are all pretty easy to find.

Still further in the same file, look for this:

; ***** Grenade Damage Arrays *****

And then lines like these:

FragGrenade_BaseDamage = (Damage=3, Spread = 0, PlusOne = 20, Crit = 0, Pierce = 0, Shred=1, Tag = "", DamageType="Explosion")

I bumped up the damage by two points, and the spread by one. Grenades could actually kill things, instead of just removing some cover, but they weren’t truly dependable.

Of course, I wanted to have more of them. Look for this block, and note the line I’ve bolded:

FragGrenade_iSoundRange = 30
FragGrenade_iEnvironmentDamage = 10
FragGrenade_iSupplies = 100
FragGrenade_TradingPostValue = 23
FragGrenade_iPoints = 0
FragGrenade_iClipSize = 1
FragGrenade_Range = 10
FragGrenade_Radius = 3

Maybe grenades actually DO come in an open-topped clip. Who knows? Whatever they come in, I edited this line so that now they come in twos.

This edit can be done with every grenade type. It makes grenadiers able to actually launch a crap-ton of grenades and be useful, rather than launching two and then wondering why they’re called “grenadiers” instead of “wildly inaccurate bullet-hoses.”


Here’s the last set. I made changes here because I wanted to level up multiple soldiers and experiment with their ability trees. That’s pretty tedious with the defaults. Since I was playing on Legend (where there are lots of smart enemies) I edited this block:

; Legend difficulty
PerDifficultyConfig[3]=( \\
 RequiredKills[0]=0, \\
 RequiredKills[1]=1, \\
 RequiredKills[2]=8, \\
 RequiredKills[3]=18, \\
 RequiredKills[4]=40, \\
 RequiredKills[5]=70, \\
 RequiredKills[6]=110, \\

All I did was reduce each number by a little less than half. 1, 5, 12, 25, 50, 75, and 100 were the numbers I used. Lots more leveling up, and lots more experimentation with builds.

And that’s it

Those are the files I changed, and while I haven’t listed all of my changes in detail, I think I’ve provided enough information here that folks who would otherwise be afraid to dig into the INI files will be able to modify XCOM 2 in ways that make it more like whatever it is they actually feel like playing.

I have exactly zero desire to roll the settings back to their defaults and attempt Legendary mode. I’ve played that game, and it feels too much like a very miserable job, with rare moments of joy, and a high probability of getting fired. I understand that there are people who really dig that, but I’m not one of those people.

And I’m glad I don’t have to be in order to enjoy this game.

¹The “Max Squad Size Fix” mod is found here, if you’re a Steam user, and it lives here on Nexus. It’s possible that it will not be required in later iterations of XCOM 2. I cannot vouch for its stability or support, but I’m still using it as of this writing, and it has a 5/5 star rating from the user community.

In Lieu of a Full Review…

I’ve been playing XCOM 2 lately. A full review is coming eventually. Until then, here are some screenshots which I dragged into Photoshop, and then applied artsy-filter stuff to.

The Load Screen, which uses one of your soldiers from the active game file
One of the many “Skyranger Returns” scenes, pointillized
XCom’s soldiers RTB and report. The guy in front has a sad story about “this hurts.”

If you click on any of these you’ll be rewarded with a 1920×1080 jpg that is nicely suited for use as a desktop wallpaper.


(Note: These images would not be possible without the work of the passionate and brilliant artists and designers at Firaxis Studios. All I did was screen-grab, and then stylize. Mad props to the real heroes here!)





ARK: Survival Evolved Tree Forts and Dinosaurs

I love playing co-op games with my kids. When I looked at ARK: Survival Evolved (currently in Early Access on Steam) it looked like just such a thing. When I dug into it and learned that I could host a LAN server in my house, and edit The Island to be a bit less deadly and a bit more generous, went all in with my sons.

Before long I had all four of my kids playing with me, and each other.


Currently my girls are the heavy hitters, training mobs of small dinosaurs, and then marching them into harm’s way. The game’s A.I. spawns some tough beasts, but short of the epic boss battles (which we have not bothered with), and the Alpha T-Rex (which we haven’t run into), nothing stands for long against Keliana’s swarm of dilophosaurs and dimorphodons, or Gleek’s hopping mob of giant frogs.

Keliana and I did run into a bit of trouble with our expedition from the north-east river mouth, but that wasn’t her fault. I shall now tell you about it.

We  attempted to bring 24 tamed dinos and one tricked-out crafting raft southwest through narrows and swamps. We discovered, after it was too late to turn around, that the size of our mob and the size of our raft made the trip extremely tedious. It didn’t get dangerous until I got fed up and decided on a side trip.

My plan was simple. Ride Terry, my pteranodon who kept fouling the raft’s travel, from our mob’s location at the western edge of the Eastern Plains east and south to a platform we’d been building in the middle of the Eastern Forest. There he’d be high, dry, and safe. I would then parachute back, timing my glide to get me most of the way to safety. It’s a high platform, and I’d seen my son make that kind of glide before.

(Note: The logic that goes “I saw my son do a thing in a game so it is a thing I can now do” has never gotten me into trouble before, I swear.)

A dimorphodon named Zed was following me and Terry. Unfortunately, Zed fell behind, and I forgot he was there. I landed Terry safely, lined up my jump, and leapt back the way we’d come. My chute popped perfectly, and my glide was going to be LONG. Then Zed caught up, flew straight at me, and fouled the lines of my chute.

I dropped fast. Not killed-by-the-fall fast, but definitely short-of-my-goal-by-80% fast. I landed in a boulder-filled vale just to the west of the platform. The vale’s only other major feature besides boulders was hungry carnivores. I emptied my shotgun into a ‘raptor, then finished it off with a pike only to discover that a carnotaur had stopped quarreling with a pair of sabertooths, and was charging me.

Carnos charge in straight lines, and turn poorly. I used the terrain to my advantage, and attempted to lead him back into his sabertoothed foes. It worked perfectly, except for the part where they decided to share a meal. I now had three carnivores chasing me.  I almost ran headlong into another sabertooth, but it leaped and I ducked, and then I kept running.

“Keliana, where are you?”

“North of that purple light. There’s a cliff between me and you. You’ll need to go around it.”

I turned and checked to see how close pursuit was.

I screamed.

The game does a really good job of getting predators right. They don’t roar or screech unless they’re fighting. They come at you teeth-first, and quietly.

I had a perfect view of three sabertooths, one carnotaur, and behind them, just starting to take interest, a pair of tyrannosaurs who I may have run a bit too close to without noticing them.


The nice thing about video-game cliffs is that if they’re not sheer, sometimes you can cheat them, running sideways and down, and landing without having broken your bones. I did this, knowing that my pursuit could do the same thing.

I splashed through shallows at the base of the cliffs, and then saw that I was being charged from the front by a velociraptor. It was over.

Then I saw that the velociraptor had a saddle on it, and there was a woman in the saddle.

“I’ve got you, Dad!”

I missed what happened next, because it happened behind me. I did get game alerts telling me that my tribe’s pets were killing things, but they went by too fast for me to count. I saw exactly zero flashing red alerts, which meant that Keliana had killed everything chasing me without taking any casualties.

That’s my girl.

The title of this post includes the words “Tree” and “Fort.” I’ll spare you the extended description of the  tree fort my kids and I built on the edge of the Writhing Swamp, and post a nice screencap instead.


Are we playing this game the way it was meant to be played? If the online PVP tournaments are any indication, we’re doing it all wrong.

I base-jumped into a pack of carnivores and got rescued by my daughter, who was riding a velociraptor.

Wrong is fine.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

I really enjoyed the first two Borderlands titles. I even enjoyed the stories, which is kind of ironic since my introduction to the first game was my friend Brandon telling me how much fun it was in spite of the terribly disappointing story.

I don’t write game reviews, but I’ll try to describe my experience with the latest Borderlands installment, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, in meaningful ways.

Game Play

Lots of people have complained the BL:tPS felt like more DLC for Borderlands 2. This is an outgrowth of something I actually appreciated: all my game-play reflexes from Borderlands 2 totally fit. That was a big time-saver.

The new stuff here was invigorating. Enumerated:

  • Low gravity and butt-slamming! I had to build a new set of twitch reflexes, but once I did it was pretty rewarding.
  • Action Points start at Level 2! Oh, thank goodness. One of the worst things about BL1 and BL2 was that your choice of Vault Hunter means very little for the first four levels of game play.
  • The Grinder! About 1/3rd of the way through the game there’s a mission from Janey to repair the machine that grinds up weapons to make better (sometimes) weapons. This was fun.
  • More Dialog! Your character actually has a voice this time around. You don’t get to choose what to say (this title’s  from Gearbox, not Bethesda, let alone Bioware) but you have a personality.

What did I not like?

  • Broken maps! In three places the story quest ground to a halt while I looked for the path to something critical. The low-grav jumping had me thinking I was in a platformer, but no, I was lost because the entire path required me to walk off the edge of the map. (Note: In Borderlands 1 & 2 this is reserved for Easter Eggs and Instant Death.)
  • Loooong quests. “Artificial Persuasion” in particular had several points of re-direction (“that didn’t work, let’s try this… on the other side of the map!”) and felt like it should have been staged as four different quests.
  • Platforming? Not quite. All the jumping around makes you think you can scale some things, but no, this game is still kind of 2-dimensional. Not everything can be jumped on — even things that are within jumping distance. It’s frustrating to fall through things, or bounce off of invisible walls while trying to get from point A to point M without trudging past points B through L.
  • No difficulty setting. This is a real turn-off for me, especially in a game where the story has finally gotten really interesting, because it means I need to grind and grind and grind in order to be tough enough to slop my way through a fight that you super-twitch kids will blast through on raw skill.


Gearbox delivered a pretty amazing story. I won’t spoil anything for you, but here’s some background: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel takes place about four years after the events of Borderlands, and about one year BEFORE the events of Borderlands 2. (It’s prequel AND a sequel, and they doubled down on giving it a goofy name.)

The four playable characters are people we’ve all met in the previous games, and two of them were NPCs we had to beat during boss-fights. The story-driving NPC, Jack, is the main villain in Borderlands 2, and is probably my favorite “I hate this guy” character in any story or game.

How, then, would the writers build a game with a satisfying story if half the playable characters and their boss turn out to be monsters?

Answer: Wow.

Better answer: If George Lucas had played these games prior to writing the Star Wars prequels, we’d have had much better movies to chronicle the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Vader.

I’m impressed. Everybody in the story–EVERYBODY–acted from logical internal motivations, and responded rationally to external pressures. NOBODY did things because of plot-pressure. And the end was, at least for me, very satisfying.

If you plan to play, but haven’t finished yet, be sure to sit through the credits after you beat [REDACTED]. There’s sequential art running alongside the the scrolling list of names, and that art will complete the stories of Athena, Nisha, Wilhelm, and CL4P-TP.

$60 is a lot to spend on a game, but according to Steam, I’ve logged 35 hours on it, and my son has logged 30 (using the shared library.) Between the two of us, that’s a dollar an hour for play-time. Granted, I only bought ONE copy… I’m totally going to wait for the sale before buying enough copies for my kids to play with me at the same time.