Alternatives to standard weaponry progression

Something that naffs me off in a number of a games is linear way in which the effectiveness of weaponry progresses throughout the game.

As an example, I’ve just finished Xenonauts (finally) and the tiers of weaponry available to your team are:

I Ballistics > II Laser > III Plasma > IV Mag

In each case, the latest tier of weaponry is straight away more effective than the weaponry available at previous tiers. I think this is done to give the player a sense of progression and to allow them to keep up with the, also linear advancement, of the Xenonaut forces.

This is all well and good, but what actually happens in practice is that the player, knowing that progression is linear, starves themselves of weapon advancement for the majority of the game. They know that tiers II and III will eventually become redundant and so they limit their use of these tiers of weaponry and try to progress to tier IV as quickly as possible. A second downside of this is that there’s no thought required on the player’s part beyond equipping the latest tier of weaponry available to them.

It’d be really nice in Phoenix Point to see some alternative approaches to weaponry progression which keep things interesting and engaging for the player. Some ideas towards this:

Make weaponry situational. For example; it stands to reason that there will be some types of armour that are more effective against ballistic projectiles versus lasers, but the opposite could also said to be true, sometimes a ballistic projectile could penetrate where a laser couldn’t. If the enemy are given varying resistances and vulnerabilities then all weapon types remain viable, and a good squad loadout as a whole would be one where your team are equipped with a variety or weapon types.

Give Pheonix Point soldiers perks which relate to specific projectile types. So Private Stone gains a bonus to balistic use, whereas Private Anderson prefers lasers.

Give Pheonix Point soldiers perks which relate to how long they have been using a particular weapon. So Private Harris has been using the same sniper rifle for a dozen missions and feels like it’s part of him, he’s therefore receiving a hefty accuracy bonus, and will lose that bonus if he switches to a new gun.

Give new tiers of weaponry varied, though not necessarily improved stats. So laser weaponry does more damage than it’s ballistic counter parts, but it’s also less accurate, or heavier, or has less ammo capacity, or it overheats.

Allow weaponry to be modded. So rather than upgrading that ballistic rifle to a laser rifle, you could instead choose to develop a night scope, a higher capacity mag, a bayonet, or a silencer for it.

Place some unique one off weapons into the game world. Rather than have weaponry advancements be a result of R&D they would be acquired in mission from lockers/bodies of the fallen, and then within that pool of weaponry place a few one offs - A Fostech Origin 12 shotgun, a Cornershot, a KRISS Vector. a Biomass Blister Blaster (ok, I made that last one up).


I think this alone is “enough” to make “weapon tiers” obsolete (as long as Tier V doesn’t do more damage to its “counter” than a Tier I of the other kind which is supposed to be better for that kind of armor), and the mutation-system just begs for it. (And I kind of remember it being mentioned, just not sure if it was a suggestion on a forum or a developer…)

I personally don’t like the “soldier-perk” ideas, but I may accept it if it’s “balanced enough”, can’t know without trying that out.


I’m (still) playing ufo afterlight, what they did here was make some enemies almost invulnerable to certain weapons, for example the reticulans are more the psychic oriented race, they are very vulnerable to ballistics but the don’t care very much abot lasers, beastman has different unit types, some are very vulnerable to laser and don´t care for ballistics others are the opposite so you have to mix weapons on your people, and martians wich usually go with robots are more vulnerable to EM and melee weapons, but if you want to take down a mech with ballistics you need to spend tons of magazines.

Instead of making your troopproficentwith some weapons/ammo I prefer chosing your loadout taking into account wich is your enemy like Potkeny said I don´t like very much the .“soldier-perk” idea.

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I think you have to keep an element of straight damage progression. That’s what military history has been about since the first caveman decided to add a stone head to his wooden club, but I agree that tier progression shouldn’t be represented only by damage.

LW1 weapons had variations beyond damage output :

  • Beam lasers (t2 weaponry) was more accurate
  • Gauss weapons (t3) was armor piercing, and the Gauss Long rifle had HEAT ammo by default making viable till endgame
  • Pulse weapons (t4) had increased crit
  • Plasma perks varied from weapon to weapon.

You can also mitigate the tier skipping if you use lower tier weapons as base for higer tier stuff. Let’s take the above example (sadly, LW didn’t work that way).

Soldiers start with Vanilla weaponry, then beam lasers get researched and crafted. You have two different flavors of weapons that could be used with varying degrees of effectiveness against enemies with different resistances.

Gauss weapons get researched, and can be built by repurposing existing conventional rifles. You still go to battle with a mix of laser and projectile weapons, so you don’t have to give two many kinds of resistances to the aliens, that would create artificial complexity.

Pulse lasers get researched and your engineer can just retrofit the new pulse tech to existing beam lasers and keep the fight going.

That way you can’t really skip tiers as you’ll need them later on.

The last thing to say is that you could branch the weapon tree much earlier to get another approach entirely.

Let’s say you start with conventional weapons, but quickly get to research Laser and Toxin tech, and each have their own branch, allowing you either invest heavily in one tech, or spread around. You’d have projectile TI, II and III, lasers TI, II and III, and Toxins TI, II and III.

There are options to get more depth than simply adding more damage, but I’d be disappointed if more advanced weapons didn’t also kick more ass than starter rifles.


But technical advancement and different weapon types being viable does not have to be mutually exclusive. There is not reason to limit weapon research to new weapon types only. How about giving player a way to research advanced versions of the existing weapon types? Sure, WWI rifles used the same basic principles modern automatic weapons do but there is a noticeable difference between those weapons.

Given the scarcity of the resources in PP, I expect there to be a practical reason to keep using all weapons you have, not just blindly replace the whole arsenal on a whim. With that in mind, improving existing weapon types will make a lot of sense.


Agreed, that’s why I tried to offer alternatives such as parallel tech trees of upgrade of old designs.

If you want to capitalize on replayability and a universe with scarce resources, you can have individual research per item mixed in with asymmetry. Maybe the laser version of the ballistic shotgun isn’t that great and would be bypassed in many games, but sometimes you don’t really get the resources to upgrade the ballistic shotgun and will have to make do with the inferior laser version, or maybe this game’s mutations are so against ballistics that for once it may be worth it to invest more in another tree.

Bottom line is, weapons could gain in power as well as functionality/versatility.

Most of this is probably wishful thinking and half thought ideas anyway, but I have to admit I’m curious to see the November build with a hint of the strategic layer to see the bigger picture.

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I agree, that seems like a good way to deal with weapon progression. With mutants constantly adapting to your weapons and tactics one answer is to, of course, change your weapons to something completely different. Crabmen grew tougher carapaces? Microwave gun might be a good answer. But it might be unreliable and hard to manufacture so maybe improving your firearms to give them better armour piercing and higher damage can be a good alternative?

Or maybe you switched to microwave projector weaponry but your enemies ditched carapaces in favour of being immune to radiation? This may make your firearms viable again. Things like that may make the weapon progression much more fluid and interesting.

One thing I want to warn devs against though is making weapon types and armour types too much of a rock-paper-scissors. Such approach always feels artificial and way too game-y.


That’s a very delicate balance. On one hand we’re asking different weapon techs to have different uses for different kinds of enemies, on the other hand, we’re worried about it feeling too RPS’ish!


It would be great if weapon tiers were not just increased dmg numbers.
One way I can think of doing this, would be if weapons wont become available just cuz you research lasers weapons.
I would say you research laser tech, and then research separate applications for it.
I think system like that was in Ufo: Extraterrestrials, and I loved that game.
This way, you can have different models for weapons = heavy / light or automatic / burst fire pistols rifles etc.
You could give specific “feel” for each gun, and add lots of customization regarding squad loadout.

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Well, kind of things EAW introduced with Scope could lead to “modular weapons” as a bit implemented with vehicles in Xcom: Apocalypse and in some 4x4 games like Masters of Orion.

This would give wide variety of player styles e.g. using poisoning weapons on snipers or some other weird combos - acid + melee, that players could develop. So alien research should give a variety of weapon expansions instead of linear weapon discovery.

Exactly that is what I want in game. More decisions lead to better replayability, mostly more enjoyable game (if not overdone) and I would say also increase people who go for dlc.

Thing is, the modding system in X-com 2 was… dull. No real decisions I would say. Scopes for all, repeaters for all but snipers. you get idea.
There wasnt real decision making, except special ammo. I hope PP will up on that sloppy work.


I think you came close to the answer already. All you need to do is separate weapons into research “types”, and then allow tier ups separately from that. So you have Ballistics, Directed Energy, Chemical, and whatever else you want. Ballistic tiers would go something like t1 - standard, t2 magnetic, t3 enhanced mag. Directed Energy could go laser, pulse laser, plasma. You would use the “type” to dictate strengths and weaknesses, while tiers within the type are straight power increases. May add a bit more to the management, but it could work. Depending on Intel, you may try to bring all your t2 ballistic because your energy is on t1, and it sounds like you may only have 1-2 ballistic resistant enemies on this mission. Or you give your sniper the laser, and figure he can deal with them, while it’ll pack enough of a punch to the other enemies to still help with them.


Interesting post and agree it would be great making a more interesting progression than the boring standard “tier 2 is better in every single way” we usually get, and I believe the game is already built for that. We could have guns with better shredder capability, some with better armor penetration, some with better damage output, some with better aim, and some that are just more available and cheaper to make. If you could get intel on what kind of enemies you might face you could even decide which weapons would be better for each occasion.

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But I think we have ammo types to apply those effects.

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Ammo types can have further boost such effects and/or have their own effects(HE, Incendiary, toxic etc) on top of the effects a weapon itself provides.

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There’s a couple ways to handle. Easiest would be that you just get two mods - lasers are already incendiary, but you can add other ammo for emp effect as well.

A more realistic choice would be that ammo types would be ballistic’s gimmick. It would be able to mimic any other weapon’s base effect, but with slightly less effectiveness. After all, how exactly do you load poison rounds into a laser or plasma? Or Tracer rounds into a grenade launcher (well, marking rounds and flares, but an actual tracer round kinda defeats some of the point of an indirect weapon).


Types of ammo is way that was introduced in Xcom/TFD.

I preferred the “modular weapons” as seen in Apocalypse and Masters of Orion

  • that is you have different parts of tech and produce/upgrade/mix tech to types of weapons.

As mentioned, it has great replay-ability value, mixed with skilling soldiers differently can lead
to various player styles (as opposed to massive use of classes in player styles)

I need to go back and play apocalypse again. When I first had it, I had crashing issues that I couldn’t solve, so never made it that far in. That form of modular weapons sounds quite interesting.

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Just to make it clear: VEHICLES could have modular items placed.
Weapons were far diversed from Xcom, but graphics was tiny.
Agents Equipement

Vehicle weapons


Note there are some great MODs.

I would expect some nice elements of Apocalypse to have come back, but that is up to @JulianG

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Apoc had both ammo types and modular vehicles, yes. Infantry weapons themselves were unmodifiable though. BTW there was a noticeable difference in weapon acquisition as you only researched and produced a handful of weapons yourself. Most were bought from other organizations, mainly megapol and marsec. On top of that, looting the opposing factions for supplies was a thing so, for instance, attacking a facility owned by one of the city gangs allowed you to stock up some incendiary grenades. And, unlike FXcoms, in Apoc you could take a full advantage of recovered alien weapons after researching them. I remember being particularly fond of devastator cannons and boomeroids.

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