XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 5

10 April, 2015

2.30am

Another simultaneous three-pronged abduction.

The aliens have realized XCOM’s weakness, unable to be in three places at once. One squad may win a battle, but lose the war.

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The Commander’s decision is a little tougher this time. The base desperately needs money, and Nigeria is promising a respectable sum for XCOM’s help.

The base definitely doesn’t need a new sniper (yet), and is doing fine on engineers, though more are always welcome.

The panic level in Germany is not at all good though, and there’s the concern that leaving the population to fend for itself this time may produce panicked riots and force authorities there to pull out of the XCOM project to see to their own internal troubles.

Munich, it is.

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Operation Blind Thunder is underway.

The objective is simple, neutralize all hostiles conducting an abduction somewhere at a petrol station (or gas station for ze Americans) in Munich.

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The squad lineup is Squaddie Eri J3w3l, Squaddie Jeromai Wolf, Squaddie Bhagpuss and Squaddie Othnieltcs.

Sergeant “Bad Luck” Izlain was not involved in this action, having been given some R&R time after five missions in a row. (ie. He was ranking up way too fast and leaving the rest behind in the dust.)

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The transport deposits the squad in front of the petrol station.

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Sq. J3w3l ascends to the roof to take a cautious look around, while the rest fan out alongside on the ground. All quiet so far.

In the meantime, the Commander is having way too much fun reviewing Sq. Othnieltcs’ capabilities inside his MEC suit. Look at that health bar, 14 hp!

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One ability can destroy any cover a target is hiding behind and do some damage to boot. This particular suit was also equipped with a kinetic fist, instead of a flamethrower, which allows for a 12 damage (!) melee attack.

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Then the Commander took a look at the distance a MEC armored trooper can move (and still fire – dashing would double the distance shown) and gasped with awe.

Striving not to be distracted by this lethal fighting machine, the Commander orders Sq. Wolf to head to the left, where a Meld container is discovered. Still no aliens in sight.

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Moving Sq. Bhagpuss to the right though, he catches sight of the first group of aliens. A pair of Thin Men, leaning over a cocooned civilian pulled out of a car.

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They scatter for cover.

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Sq. Bhagpuss fires wildly at the pair, but misses.

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Sq. J3w3l unfortunately can’t get a good view of them from where she’s standing on the roof and has to move up to get them in line of sight.

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One is not able to move and fire a sniper rifle in the same turn (unless you choose a specific ability for it) so she pulls out a pistol instead with 78% chance to hit.

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It does hit, but it’s only a graze for 1 damage.

Sq. Othnieltcs is asked to move up, and it’s about this point in time when the Commander realizes one of the downsides of a MEC suit.

It’s so big, it’s impossible to take cover.

Oh. It’s a good thing there’s 14 health bars to work through, then.

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Of course, it -does- have a rather big gun too.

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There’s not much need to take cover if your opponent is a green puddle spreading out on the ground. (And vaporizing into the air, in this particular case.)

Sq. Wolf, meanwhile, collects the first Meld canister unmolested by aliens.

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Moving up on the right flank though, we encounter a chilling sight. A hitherto unknown and unseen pair of tentacled alien creatures. (New to the Commander too, as an Enemy Within addition!)

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We barely get a good look at them, impossible to say if they’re organic or mechanical or a mix of both, before they fade out of sight and vanish from all scanners.

Dr. Shen suggests that this invisible unit was made for the purpose of tracking isolated single targets.

A chill runs down the Commander’s spine at the realization that one squadie was sent out alone to the left to grab a canister and that the sniper is alone on the roof. Oh, this is not good. Time for Plan B, everybody find a buddy and move in pairs at the very least.

The aliens, though, get to move first.

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The remaining Thin Man snakes its way to the cover of a lamp post, braving a gauntlet of fire from Sq. Bhagpuss, who misses.

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And Sq. J3w3l, who also misses. (Though this one is, as usual, a careless commander’s fault for leaving pistol selected and going into Overwatch too quickly, having forgotten to swap back to a sniper rifle.)

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The Thin Man buggers off unharmed.

The Commander radios Sq. Wolf to rejoin the rest of the squad urgently, worried about where the invisible duo have disappeared to.

As Sq. Wolf dashes to cover the distance from left to right, a careless order leaves him out of cover, standing in front of the door to the petrol station’s office. –

A large commotion is suddenly heard inside as something spots Sq. Wolf’s shadow or silhouette against the door.

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A pair of Mind Melding aliens, and a pair of floating mechano-organic monstrosities. The -four- aliens scramble for cover, then turn to look threateningly at the only human in their view, carelessly out of cover.

Oh god.

There’s only one thing left that the Commander can think to do. Radio a coded distress burst to Sq. Othnieltcs, who gamely breaks off from the careful advance with Sq. Bhagpuss up the right flank, and dashes nearly his full MEC suited distance, smashing through a window with great fanfare and looming in the center of the room, head nearly scraping the ceiling.

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The servo-motors in the suit are too stressed from the dash to actually operate the minigun, so all we can do now is pray.

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Sq. Bhagpuss, suddenly left alone (with only one alien in sight, and two more invisible ones that could be -anywhere-), with Sq J3w3l still working her way down from the roof, goes into Overwatch behind the trunk of a car…

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The alien in front ignores Sq. Othnieltcs and fires furiously at the caught-out-of-position Sq. Wolf, critical hitting him for 6 points out of his 7 health bars…

The Thin Man ducks away from Sq. Bhagpuss again, eliciting a hail of overwatch fire, which still misses.

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Back in the building, the second alien has, thankfully, taken the bait and fires at Sq. Othnieltcs…

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…and misses.

The floating alien outside throws the other entrance open and fires at Sq. Othnieltcs (yes!)

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…and misses! (YES!)

Just then, a strange sound is heard outside, as the first of the invisible creatures reveals itself.

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Right next to Sq. Bhagpuss.

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Is this the end for our intrepid heroes, foolishly thinking they could go anywhere without Sgt. “Bad Luck” Izlain?

Stay tuned next post for the heart-stopping conclusion to Operation Blind Thunder!

XCOM: The Blogger Edition – Part 4

And the first medal of the campaign goes to…

Well, since you asked so nicely... :P
Well, since you asked so nicely… 😛

12 March, 2015

Alien activity has gone quiet for the moment.

The wounded rest and heal up in the infirmary…

At least it's not a tally of the dead... Yet.
At least it’s not a tally of the dead… Yet.

…while the XCOM Commander has a bit of time to do some base housekeeping.

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Mostly scraping up as many satellites as the miniscule budget allows.

The scientists are put to work researching the strange alien materials – given how devastating the aliens’ plasma weapons appear to be, the Commander has deemed any kind of additional armor to be a priority.

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The engineers are delighted when the first workshop is constructed, giving them more room and additional manpower.

22 March 2015

5.03am

Ten days later, the peaceful industry is shattered by sirens indicating alien abductions across the globe.

This time, there are three of them occurring in sync, as if the aliens have coordinated this on purpose.

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XCOM only has sufficient manpower to respond to one of them.

Fortunately, panic levels are low in all three countries suffering from abductions, so the Commander makes an executive decision to go for what the base currently needs more of. Scientists.

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Operation Rotting Engine will send the squad to Baltimore, on a simple ‘eliminate anything extraterrestial’ mission.

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From left to right, Corporal Izlain with a medikit, Squaddie Bhagpuss with a nanofiber vest (+2 health), Squaddie J3w3l with a nanofiber vest and Squaddie Jeromai Wolf with a frag grenade.

The team almost immediately stumbles on a pair of aliens as Sq. J3w3l walks up to inspect the first building.

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Sq. Wolf moves up to cover Sq. J3w3l, trying not to look too hard at the strange green residue of an abducted civilian right next to him,

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but quickly realizes that they’re way too far away to hit with a shotgun, or a grenade.

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7% chance to hit is fairly ridiculous, so he goes into Overwatch instead, in case they venture nearer.

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The aliens do their trademark Mind Merge, and the linked alien takes a shot at Sq. J3w3l, critical hitting for 4 damage!

Cpl. Izlain moves up then, but isn’t in a good position to shoot the originator of the link.

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Whatever, there’s still a free target to riddle with bullets, at a 68% chance to hit.

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His aim stays true. It’s blown away for 4 damage. So much for the Mind Merge.

Sq. J3w3l has 4 points of health left, and is looking for some payback.

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63% chance to hit, 25% chance to critical…

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… takes it out with plenty of damage to spare, even without a critical.

Sq. Bhagpuss meanwhile has been advancing up on the right flank, along the street, and interrupts a pair of aliens leaning over a cocooned civilian.

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They look up, chitter with alarm and scamper off, annoyingly out of range.

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There’s not enough cover for Sq. Bhagpuss to advance and shoot, nor does it seem advisable for him to dash up alone into what lies beyond.

He -is- sporting a rocket launcher, but the range isn’t right just yet. They’re just narrowly out of reach. So he goes into Overwatch.

Then the aliens advance, having Mind Merged, and the front one takes a shot at Sq. J3w3l.

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It misses.

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Now, this is what Sq. Bhagpuss has been waiting for.

It’s the absolute maximum range of the rocket launcher, and it’s a little dubious whether the second alien will be caught in the blast radius… but well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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With a wing and a prayer, the rocket speeds on its way.

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If only Sq. Syl were here to see this…

It’s with some surprise that the squad searches the rest of the area and finds no other aliens.

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Well, that was quick.

Operation Rotting Engine is an unqualified success.

4 aliens killed.

0 XCOM operatives lost.

2 of 2 Meld canisters recovered.

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The after action report: Sq. J3w3l’s wounds will take 8 days to heal.

Cpl. Izlain has been promoted to Sergeant, and has gained a nickname of “Pox.”

(Feel free to post in the comments if you think any soldier needs to be given a better nickname, in the days ahead.)

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And we even unlocked a new medal!

Urban Combat Badge. Bleh. Boring.

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This is a lot less boring. And look, it gives +5 defence when in cover.

The benefits of firsthand experience, I suppose. Always make sure to hide -all- body parts when taking cover.

I’m sure you all know who gets the first of this batch…

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Back at the XCOM base, industry and expansion continues over the course of the coming week.

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Research scientists reach a breakthrough by mapping the aliens’ genome using one of the dead specimens recovered.

The bad news is, Dr Vahlen doesn’t hesitate to inform us, that they’ve hit a limit to what else they can learn from the aliens without a live specimen.

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Catching one will involve getting up close and personal, with a device that can stun it with arcs of electricity. The squad may have to take bigger risks soon.

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But not just yet. Preparations have to be made. A secure area to contain any alien captives is essential, and the Commander dryly points out to Dr Vahlen and Dr Shen that the XCOM project has already allocated nearly all of this month’s budget. All available space is already being put to good use, and excavating new areas takes money. Having enough power to keep the base running takes money. Have they noticed the brownouts currently taking place until the new power generator is finished, for instance? Manufacturing Arc Throwers takes money.

Plans for next month’s budget have already been put into place. A Cybernetics Lab and Genetics Lab are both exceedingly promising new technologies to be taken advantage of, and something has to be done regarding all those Meld canisters stacking up in the storage warehouses.

It will all have to wait until the following month’s budget, assuming XCOM doesn’t stumble across a rich billionaire and receive a lucky largesse.

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Two days later, the new power generator comes online without a hitch.

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The Council Report was fairly positive as well.

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And then the Cybernetics Lab opens, something the Commander was eagerly awaiting…

(The initial plan was to build both a Cybernetics Lab (for making mechanized troopers that use mech-like suits) and a Genetics Lab (for gene mods that give normal soldiers more advantages) and then ask if bloggers and readers had any preferences or distinct dislikes for being a badass mech or getting genetically augmented. That still stands, so feel free to leave any wishes in the comments that I’ll try my best to fulfill, budget and my own game needs coming first, of course.

Turns out that I was so eager to play with this new Enemy Within addition that I started looking at my barracks list and found a spare unnamed soldier from the tutorial that already had been assigned a role. (You can only turn soldiers that have roles into MEC troopers, not rookies.)

Naturally, I couldn’t resist tossing this guy in to try out my new toy.

Back to the story…)

… A brave volunteer chooses to undergo the procedure.

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Which involves amputating all limbs and replacing them with cybernetic implants that can interface with Mechanized Exoskeleton Cybersuits (or MEC suits.)

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When not actively in combat, the soldier makes do with simpler robotic prosthetic limbs, doubtless less flexible and with less range of motion than his or her previously human limbs, but it’s a sacrifice made to be able to don a MEC suit and become something formidable in the fight against the aliens.

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Of course, after that, I had to name my new MEC trooper.

Coming up next, we put the MEC suit through its paces and at least one soldier hears Death knocking on their door in the roughest battle to date.