In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I met and managed to capture a new species of alien, the Floater, which — and I never get tired of pointing this out — looks like a pair of jet engines stapled to arms and a face. Nabbed a second Sectoid, too, because what if the first one gets lonely? I’m really glad the game abstracts the notion of ‘living alien storage space’, because it’d be pretty crowded in that small container by now otherwise.
Now, the appearance of the Floater does signal one important thing: the aliens have started ramping up their invasion. The Sectoids were only a scouting force, and the Thin Men failed infiltrators, but the Floaters are the first sign of an actual offensive vanguard. This means I’d better step up my game, too; no telling what the aliens have in store for me next.
Before we get to that, however, look at this room first:
Weird, huh? I found it next to the alien containment unit. According to the Facilities view, it’s the Officer school, which I guess makes sense. Do those banners represent the upgrades, maybe? That would make the ‘different’ banners the two upgrades I already unlocked. I like this idea; let’s run with it regardless of objective truth.
Back on track, a few days are spent dicking around the base. I remember to look for lasers, but I can’t afford any of them yet. I also take a look at the Situation Room: panic levels in Asia are climbing quite a bit. I… I’m not entirely sure how to deal with this, outside of the occasional mission there. Have we discussed ways of reducing Panic yet?
(Future Jarenth’s note: saving you the trouble of reading back, no, we haven’t. I know what you’re yelling at the screen right now, but unless you can somehow warp the space-time continuum, I’d suggest saving your breath.)
Soon, I research Heavy Lasers, which I can’t afford either. The next two days are spent cutting up the dead Floater that I caught…
…the two after that, interrogating the living one.
The Floater carcass inspires the boys and girls down in Engineering to create another Interceptor boost: the Dodge module, which integrates Floater cybernetics into our satellite network to allow our Interceptors to dodge the next few attacks. The living Floater continues the trend its Sectoid friend started by granting me a Research Credit: Basic Armor, this time. I decide to make full use of this development by researching Carapace Armor.
Before this can get underway, however, the entire command staff is assembled into the Situation Room. The aliens, it would seem, have stepped up their game in response to mine.
A far cry from their usual invade-and-abduct schema, the aliens’ goal with these attacks is simply to cause as much damage, chaos and death as possible: a message, claims dr. Shen, proclaiming their unstoppable might to the world. These are terror attacks, and these are Terror Missions; veterans of the old X-COM tremble at their mention.
I have absolutely no idea what the fuss is all about. But what I do know is that this can’t go unanswered.
The alien terror strikes are taking place all over the world, but we can only respond to one incident: the biggest incident, the ‘main’ attack, where the bulk of the alien forces is committed. Driving them back here will break the power of their message of fear and rally local defenders the world over. And this terror hotspot is…
Now, I may not know what all the fuss is about with these Terror Missions, but there’s undeniably fuss. As such, I gear up my Alpha Squad. Absolutely no low-level soldiers this time.
On our way over in the Skyranger, Steve highlights the mission parameters. Where Abduction missions are simple kill-’em-all deals, and Council missions are whatever the Council wants them to be — so far, only extraction — Terror missions are about saving civilians. We’re to go in and get as many people out alive as we can: a message of our own, to the aliens, that we can put a stop to anything they plan.
This notion is reinforced by a new UI element in play during this mission: a bar on the top of the screen, mapping the number of civilians on this map. As a wild guess, I’m going to say that the blue number is probably ‘number of civilians left’, green is ‘number of civilians saved’ and red is ‘number of civilians killed’.
I think, in fact, I can see some of those civilians over near the crumbling building. I have Krellen Move to cover behind a close-by car, and find myself surprised when the aliens he triggers this way are goddamn zerglings.
No, not zerglings: Chryssalids. Oh, I’ve heard stories about these creatures. They’re supposedly terrifying murdering machines, fearless and lethal and all-around something-else. The two Chryssalids I encounter don’t skitter into cover when triggered, no: they rush Krellen head-on.
They have twice the health of Floaters, too. It’s going to take some concentrated fire to bring th–oh, Tovik just wasted one in a single shot.
So that’s one of the monsters down already. Krellen and Loween bring the other one down to one health, at which point I enjoy a devious thought: wouldn’t it be great if I could capture this new alien species during its first appearance too? The only downside to this plan is that Krellen, who’s already acted, is carrying the Arc Thrower. But that’s alright: surely one turn in close combat with the terrifying purple scythe-armed bug monsters won’t kill him?
Bad news for you foreshadowing fans: it didn’t. The Chryssalid does deal an impressive five damage, though, so that’s good to know. Equally good to know is that you apparently can’t stun Chryssalids, for whatever arcane reason, rendering this entire sequence a pointless exercise in trying-to-get-Krellen killed. Luckily, Smash and his triple medkit are on the case.
Worse, in the alien turn I basically wasted, two civilians got murdered off-screen. Gotta remember I’m on the clock, here.
Saving civilians is as easy as getting a soldier close enough: every civilian projects a little circle around them, about medkit-range, and getting a soldier into that circle causes them to… verbally admonish the civilian, I guess? Whatever my guys do, it’s enough to get the civvies to leg it to the Skyranger.
Moving further up reveals that two Floaters were responsible for last turn’s killings.
Floaters are no much for Loween’s long-distance shotgun, though. One of them explodes instantly, and the other makes like a leaf and flies the hell away.
While Loween, Dima and Smash sweep the lower buildings, Krellen and Tovik climb up the roof of the shop I started out next to. There’s a surprising amount of civilians hiding on this no-way-to-access-except-climb-six-meters-of-drain-pipe roof, but I guess fear does generate a lot of adrenaline.
Ground Team doesn’t encounter any resistance of note over the next few turns, but one of Roof Team’s turns ends with… well, with what I can only describe as a visual indicator of noise:
“What’s that noise?” asks either Krellen or Tovik, I can’t tell which one because all voice packs in this game are identical. It’s a wasted question anyway, because not three seconds later two Floaters rocket onto the roof.
The first Floater is almost immediately shotgunned into jet engine residue. Over the course of the next few turns, I attempt to capture the second one — gotta justify bringing that Arc Thrower — but it’s a bit of a rough ride: Tovik only manages to bring the Floater down to three health, and Krellen performs the first-ever failed attempt-to-stun right afterwards. I guess I got too used to DeHaan’s crazy success rate to consider that a 70% chance to hit is still about a one in three chance to miss.
Of course, every Arc Thrower has two shots.
And no sooner does that Floater go down than I complete the mission. Six alien kills, no losses, and fifteen out of eighteen civilians saved: Excellent results all across the board. Great job, Alpha Squad!
In fact, that was such a great job, everyone’s getting promoted!
Let’s just bullet-point these upgrades:
- Captain Dima: either Grenadier (can use equipped grenades twice) or Danger Zone (increases area-of-effect on Rockets and Suppression by 2). Given that Dima is no Loween, and doesn’t even use grenades, this one’s rather easy. I didn’t even know Suppression had an area component.
- Captain Tovik: either Executioner (+10 Aim against targets with half health or less) or Opportunist (Overwatch loses its Aim penalty and can critically hit). I pick Executioner, because I figure I might as well start preparing for the inevitable heavy-hitters.
- Lieutenant Krellen: either Flush (easy-to-hit, low-damage shot that forces target to move) or Rapid Fire (low-aim double attack). Both sound good, so I’m going for the first (utility) one. Being able to force enemies out of cover sounds fairly useful.
- Sergeant Loween: We’ve seen this before, actually. It’s either dodging alien Overwatch every turn or ‘increased crit chance when close’, and the former is so much better than the latter it’s really no contest. Loween also earns her nickname: ‘All In’, which I think is now in competition with Dima’s ‘Collateral’ for Best-Fitting Nickname.
Succeeding at stopping the alien terror attacks has major positive repercussions: Panic in China is reduced by three points, and panic all across Asia by one. Panic across the rest of the world stays the same, but I suppose that — after a global campaign of intimidation and terror — that’s easily the best I could ask for.
Finally, with the Carapace Armor completed, I immediately order the good doctor to autopsy this new Chryssalid.
And with that, we’re done for today. I guess I still don’t understand why everyone’s quaking in their little booties at the sound of Terror missions: between the relatively low opposition and the continent-wide Panic reduction bonus, I could really go for another one of these.
(Future Jarenth’s note: alright, before you all go off in the comments, let me just say here that I am well aware how ridiculously lucky I was here. I mean, only two Chryssalids? I let one get a free hit in on Krellen, for Pete’s sake! I had absolutely no right to get as free a ride as I did, here; if you’re hoping to see my eventual comeuppance, I suggest you keep reading.)