In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I successfully repelled an alien Terror Attack on the city of Chongqing, China, more than adequately making up for the fact that I totally left them to their devices at the start of this campaign. I met the oft-dreaded Chryssalids, completely failed to see what the big deal was with them, and just generally all-around saved the day in the most spectacular fashion.
With that bit of nonsense all squared away, it’s time to refocus on our actual progression goals. What was I doing again?
Let’s see what’s on the global agenda today.
Lessee… cut up a dead Chryssalid, build a satellite, probably fail in getting that satellite to Mexico in time… hang on, is that a UFO?
This Medium-sized UFO is menacing the United States, which you’ll remember as the only other place I have satellite coverage on. Luckily, following either Steve’s or dr. Shen’s advice, I transferred one of my Interceptors to our airbase there. It takes off in a rush…
…and after a short battle, takes down the UFO with a minimum of damage. This might have been, in part, because I used the Aim Uplink Module that I made from ground-up Sectoid corpses, which as it turns out makes the Interceptor’s next two shots an automatic hit. It does burn out after one use, but I feel good about this decision regardless.
With the UFO crashing down in… Kansas, if my map-reading skills haven’t atrophied at this point, I suddenly remember that my plot-mandated goal is to capture one of the crystalline Outsider aliens we keep finding in crashed UFOs. Has an opportunity to advance our understanding of the alien hierarchy been delivered straight into our hands?
Just to be sure, I bring Corporal DeHaan, alien-catcher supreme, and his trusty Arc Thrower. Corporal Jones and Sergeant Young are brought for saving lives and ending lives, respectively. Finally, mindful of the fact that I need to get more soldiers into shape, I select Rookies David Frederick and Jane McNutcase for their first-ever combat outing. Make us proud, ladies.
Only an hour after impact, the Skyranger (that thing flies fast) touches down in rural Kansas. Even from our starting point, the crashed UFO is a clear, immediate, imposing sight.
Three turns of cautious advance bring us ever-closer to the UFO. There do not appear to be any aliens outside the craft this time, so I slowly creep up to the forcefield-protected entrance. Odd noises are heard from the inside, unsettling the rookies a little bit.
Finally, the end of the fourth turn reveals the dim outlines of three skittering Sectoids inside the wreckage. Their walking by the entrance triggers a hail of Overwatch fire, and Rookie McNutcase actually manages to bag one before it can respond.
I slowly move in, trading both regular and Overwatch fire with the Sectoids guarding the entrance. Frederick and Jones each take some stray plasma fire for their trouble, but we kill one Sectoid and drive off the other. I actually see DeHaan’s Holo-Targeting be put to good use in this fight: the combination of forcefields and me-inflicted smoke makes for low to-hit chances all around, and the Holo-Targeting system helps alleviate some of those low odds.
Jones heals to full, leaving Frederick with two damage and the team out of medkits — not an ideal situation, but we’ll make do — and I proceed further into the UFO. In the distance, three more Sectoids are spotted, while the most cowardly of the original three is quickly hunted down and killed.
I swing around the left side of the UFO, trying to find those Sectoids-in-the-mist that are now on the loose, and ever-wary of the Outsider hiding somewhere. The former are found, battle-ready but luckily sans Overwatch, in one of the reactor rooms.
I move up and trade fire, but the corridor I’m in is low on cover opportunities. I kill one Sectoid and wound another, but poor visual acuity on my end means I accidentally leave the already-wounded Rookie Frederick completely out in the open. The Sectoids capitalize on my mistake, and Frederick goes down in a hail of plasma fire.
Alright, deep breaths. It’s true what they say: it does get easier. Nevertheless, I’m still disappointed in myself for such a preventable death. Because of the valuable, volatile alien reactor in this room, I can’t send Rookie Frederick off like I did Rookie Tyler, but just straight-up charging the Sectoids proves remarkably effective and cathartic.
Of course, you know what they say about anger and judgement:
An blurry McNutcase ends the third Sectoid, too, earning herself a promotion. It’s almost poetic: two Rookies enter, no Rookies leave.
We consolidate in the reactor room. What more does this UFO have in store for us? I know for a fact there’s still an Outsider here, somewhere: I heard it. And with Frederick’s death and DeHaan’s preventable injuries, I’m more determined than ever to capture it for the cause.
Opening the door into the central hallway reveals the now-familiar floating crystal, just kind of hanging around. It’s not until I move in to engage that it’s activated, and the Outsider takes shape.
Now, I have to be exceptionally careful here. Both the Outsider and the Arc-Thrower-wielding DeHaan are highly vulnerable, and the death of either will put us right back where we started, with nothing to show for our efforts but a dead Rookie and some alien artifacts. This cannot happen. At the same time, I can’t simply put DeHaan into hiding, as he needs to be close to the Outsider to work his magic.
I opt for the waiting game: I retreat back to the reactor room, put everyone in varying degrees of cover, and let the alien advance. I’m a little worried he might try to kill DeHaan, but find — to my relief — that it favours the half-cover Young over the full-cover DeHaan. It misses, too, just to drive the point of my luck home.
Jones moves in, fires with his pistol. Up to two damage, 50% chance to crit… one damage! That’s as much as I’m willing to risk. DeHaan moves up, aims, pulls the trigger on an 80% chance to stun, and…
And that’s the end of the mission. Time to come home, soldiers.
A cutscene plays, immediately. Steve and dr. Vahlen are discussing the strange Outsider shard, unsure of what to make of it: it’s organic, and it resonates, but is it alive at all? This, as it turns out, is dr. Shen’s time to shine: he immediately recognizes the shard as a functional-yet-alien antenna, an item we can use to trace the alien communications back to the source.
Dr. Vahlen goes to work on decrypting the alien signal, while dr. Shen sets out to construct an interface between our satellite network and the alien crystal. Or, well, they will whenever I tell them to: in practical turns, I get the option to research the Outsider Shard, which will set this plan in motion.
Promotions, you say?
Like Devlin before her, Rookie McNutcase’s unerring accuracy marks her as a natural Sniper. Sergeant ‘Romeo’ Jones picks up the triple-medkit skill like Sergeant Smash. Finally, Sergeant DeHaan deviates from Dima again, picking the Shredder Rocket instead of the Suppression option.
Now, as a final note: I know I said I’d roll with game-assigned nicknames unless I had reasons to change them. The game has assigned DeHaan the nickname ‘Arcade’. And… well, I see where you’re coming from, game, and it’s not bad, but I can do you one better. DeHaan has scored four live captures out of four attempts so far; what he needs is a nickname that more accurately reflects his incredibly prowess in nabbing aliens.
And with that, today ends. It’s a terrible shame that Rookie Frederick didn’t make it, but I’m comfortable knowing that, one way or another, his death lead to our current victory. His name is appended to the XCOM Memorial Wall with full honours.