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Soldiers begin with no class assignment. There is no way to determine which class they will assume until their first promotion. Luckily, it does not take long for a solider to reach Squaddie rank, and purchasing the “New Guy” tactic from the Officer Training School in the barracks automatically promotes all new recruits to Squaddie, which allows you to see their class before ever taking them into battle.
Once a soldier’s class is determined, it cannot be changed. If your new recruit doesn’t turn out how you wanted, don’t feel bad about dismissing him or her. Hiring soldiers is cheap, and your barracks can hold up to 99 units.
It should go without saying that variety among a squad of six is important – especially as you bump up the difficulty level. If there are no Support classes in your party, you can’t heal; no Snipers, and you’ll be taking more front-line fire than is necessary. But there are only four classes and six open spots, so you’ll obviously have duplicate classes. Thankfully, each class has a branching skill tree, so even if you have two Support classes, they could play very different roles depending on how you allocate their skill points as they rank up.
Soldiers who kill or capture enemies earn promotions; it’s that simple. There are no xp meters to fill (at least that we can see) and when a promotion is earned, you’ll be notified immediately. After battle, you can choose which ability to unlock with the new rank.
There are seven ranks, with Squaddie being the lowest and Colonel being the highest. If your entire main squad has reached Colonel rank, consider bringing in some rookies for training because eventually you’ll be…
When soldiers take damage on the battlefield, they’ll have to recover for a while after returning to base -- even if they were healed by medkits. The number of days that takes varies depending on the level of damage and the research you’ve done, but chances are you’ll encounter a situation where not all of your main squad is ready to stop an urgent UFO abduction.
Which is why -- unless the difficulty is set to easy -- having more than six main units is important. If you have a class configuration that works well in battle, try to create duplicate soldiers that can stand in for your main units. For instance, if your favorite Colonel sniper is knocked out for a few days, having a backup unit with the exact same skill set can be very convenient. Note that once a unit reaches Colonel rank, they no longer gain practical experience on the battlefield.
These robotic units are a great alternative to having trained backup soldiers. However, creating the most powerful S.H.I.V. units requires Laboratory research and Foundry projects, not to mention cash for each one. So even though you won’t feel it in your heart when a S.H.I.V. gets blown up, you’ll feel it in your wallet.