In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I finally managed to capture a living Sectoid. It’s true that the Arc Thrower is a short-ranged, poorly-designed, unwieldy piece of techno-junk, but when it does manage to knock an alien out, the sense of victory it gets you has little equal. The fact that you get free high-tech weapons from capturing aliens doesn’t hurt either.
A mere four days after the return of Team Ketchum, my day is brightened by a transmission from the Council. It’s a progress evaluation report, it turns out, including an arbitrary number grade! Mommy, mommy, I got an A in alien hunting!
Now, that report up there says ‘Monthly Reward: §455’, but I can immediately tell that’s gross income. Net, I gain the §297 that’s listed after Monthly in the top right corner. Gotta pay them expenses, y’know. The rent on this place can’t be cheap.
I decide to invest this new money right back into the base. First, I construct a Laboratory, because research speed is the tops. It… it is the tops, right? Since I have literally nothing to go on, I’m going to assume XCOM is like other tech-tree games in this regard.
Second, I notice I’m starting to run out of power. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, base building is actually quite an involved part of XCOM. One of the elements at play is making sure you have enough power to operate your base facilities: it doesn’t seem to be possible to run out, but insufficient power will mean you can’t build anything else. I could build a regular Power Generator for §60, yielding 6 power, but as luck would have had it I have easy access to a Steam tile: this allows me to build a Thermo Generator instead, §200 for 20 power. Yes, they’re both equally cost-efficient, but a) the Thermo Generator takes less space, b) building the Thermo Generator will free me from the burden of ‘worrying about power’ for quite a bit, and c) I want to build a Thermo Generator. So there.
Only two days after I start this construction plan, research into the UFO power source unlocks the highly efficient §275-for-30-power Elerium Generator. I take solace in the fact that I’m incapable of building it yet, though: it requires two UFO power sources to build, and I’m pretty sure I only have one.
So… what’s next? Let’s check the mission objectives real quick.
Well, let’s get that done, then. I select the ‘Interrogate Sectoid’ option, and a small cutscene shows the alien inside a secure room, surrounded by… blue heat lamps? As they spring to life, the Sectoid becomes visibly agitated, and a blast door closes on the interrogation room.
Before the ‘interrogation’ can proceed any further, though, warnings go off. A UFO has landed in Germany!
Wait. This base is, conservative Google-Maps-estimate, a little under a thousand miles from Germany. A UFO has just landed right next door.
Mindful of the fact that I need to get more Rookies de-Rookied, I opt to send out Rookies Devlin and Viel. Sergeant Krellen, though not particularly a Rookie, hasn’t had any real combat experience either, so he’s in. Finally, Dima and Jones round out the squad.
We touch down in the ever-scenic Schwarzwald. At least, that’s what I’m assuming it is. Alright, men: time to hustle.
For some reason we’ve been set down in the world’s shallowest brook. It’s filled with rocks and fallen trees, all of which can’t help but feel like Generic Cover Elements a little. I mean, I understand these maps need cover, but it’s usually less obvious in city maps. In here? Not so much.
Because caution is for the weak, I have Krellen Run-n-Gun up to the farthest possible tree trunk. My ‘strategy’ ‘pays off’ as three Sectoids are brought into view. It’s then that I remember Krellen is carrying a shotgun and can’t long-range worth shit. But that’s okay, I’ll just put him in Overwatch: two of the Sectoids have hidden out of view already, and there’s a possibility the third one will want to walk up before doing anything. I bring the rest of the squad over, putting them in various cover places and some of them in Overwatch.
The third Sectoid does not move up, instead comfortably blasting Rookie Viel for four damage. Well, there goes today’s medkit.
The other two Sectoids stay put, and for good reason: as Krellen moves up again, a psycho-buffed Sectoid opens up reaction fire. Luckily, Krellen’s Lightning Reflexes make every first volley of reaction fire miss him automatically; I can already tell this is going to be a good investment, because I am horrible at remembering Alien Overwatch.
Oh, and this forward rush also triggers three new Sectoids, who immediately disappear into the UFO. Great.
Well, no sense in moping. Dima’s rocket and Viel’s bullets take out two Sectoids immediately. The third outside-Sectoid flees to the east, while two of the indoors-Sectoids run outside and pointedly don’t actually shoot anyone. Over the course of two turns, Viel takes them both out.
Also, saliently, Jones has his triggered-by-enemy-fire Overwatch triggered for the first time (in the turn between Viel-kills), and immediately reveals a significant problem with the whole concept: enemies comfortable enough to open fire will likely be in cover at the time. Like so:
But hey, stuff works: four Sectoids go down with a minimum of fuss. Now I only have to deal with the Sectoid In The East, the Sectoid that ran into the UFO, and any and all alien groups I haven’t triggered yet.
For reasons that probably made sense at the time, I decide to have Krellen and Devlin flank around the UFO’s east side, while the rest of the squad deals with the west entrance. They do find the missing Sectoid, only to watch it run into the UFO’s interior… and while I’m pretty reckless at times, I don’t really feel comfortable sending a Assault Sergeant and a Rookie into a UFO without any backup. So back to rejoin the squad they go. It takes several turns of only-movement, it’s boring as hell, and you don’t want to see it. Moving on.
Inside the UFO, three more Sectoids wake up. A few turns are spent trading fire and missing, from both sides. The Sectoids do a lot of that Psycho-Buffout trick, to the point where I just don’t understand it: sure, it gives them extra health, and probably some bonuses as well, but it only lasts one turn and the acting Sectoids loses its turn. Couldn’t they inflict way more damage just by shooting? Plus, on occasion, they hilariously give away each other’s positions:
At one point, Dima’s up. He shoots, he misses, no big deal. Then I notice his turn’s not actually ending like I expected… hey, that’s the first time I see his Bullet Swarm passive ability take effect. Cool. Dima has a whole range of options open before him now: he could Move, or Reload, or Hunker Down, or go to college or start a family or of course I’m making him shoot again. The second shot misses again, but it does annihilate most of the UFO entrance.
Not that the aliens aren’t as bad at this:
Of course, that’s nothing compared to what Viel can pull off. Noticing he’s in-range but his gun is out, I (Future Jarenth’s note: FINALLY) have him switch to his pistol. Everyone who’s not a Heavy has one, switching to and from a pistol does not count as an action, and they have infinite ammo. They do deal less damage, though, but I guess that’s to be expected. Additionally, in the hands of Rookie Josh Viel, they become hilarious glitching machines:
Over the course of several turns, I have Jones flank around the UFO — which, on reflection, is a terrible move, given that there could be infinity aliens over in the dark woods — while the rest of the squad slowly takes out the aliens inside. There’s four Sectoids, now, plus one of those energy-crystal aliens. Remember how we deal with those?
And, well, it turns cleanup after that. Dima is hit twice and critically injured, so I have him Hunker Down behind some rocks, while Krellen, Viel and Jones invade the UFO. In the end, however, it’s actually Devlin who takes out all but one of the Sectoids: from a cover spot just outside the UFO, he pegs each of them, long-distance, right between the eyes.
I mean, seriously: four kills in your first mission is nothing to scoff at. Devlin is awarded Sniper-status accordingly, while Viel’s three kills turn him… Support? I… wow. I want to make a few in-jokes, here, but those won’t age well; if you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
Back in XCOM HQ, two things happen almost simultaneously. First, Mexico sends a request for a satellite, promising two hundred credits in return. I’d love to comply, but as I don’t actually have any satellites, I try to build one… only to find out constructing a satellite takes twenty days. In contrast: building an alien containment lab took like ten days, and crafting a nano-technology protection vest is instant. The request from Mexico times out in exactly twenty days as well, so I’m thinking I probably won’t be able to fulfill this one.
Second, and much more importantly, the Sectoid Interrogation has finished. In a short cutscene, dr. Vahlen explains what her team did (it’s less ‘interrogation’ and more ‘vivisection-mind-reading’, as far as I understand it), and that they found two strong mental images in the Sectoid’s brain: one of another, slightly different Sectoid — presumably one of the turbo-Sectoids from the first mission — and one of the crystalline alien I’ve encountered only just now. Clearly, this alien is a factor in the invaders’ chain of command somehow; my next goal is to capture one of them.
Oh, and finally: interrogating the Sectoid has a more direct benefit as well, netting me a ‘Beam Weapon Research Credit’. What that means is that from now on, all research that’s tagged as being Beam Weapon Research — like, say, the Beam Weapons research option — has its time requirements cut by fifty percent. Sped up to double speed, essentially. I try this out, and find I can now research Beam Weapons in four days. So hey, let’s do that! Maybe I’ll have laser guns ready in the next episode.