Jarenth Plays XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Episode 10: Hiring Practices

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I finally successfully captured an Outsider alien. Or, well, I managed to retrieve the crystal it’s projected through without breaking it. Dr. Shen thinks we can use this crystal to trace the alien communications back to their source; with the combined might of our impressive Research and Engineering departments, we’ll know where the aliens are hiding before too long.

As a new day dawns on the world, my research team reports in: they’ve finished their autopsy of the Chryssalid alien. The team reports some interesting findings, such as a ‘sleek, black exoskeleton’ — I’m ninety-eight percent certain the specimens we’ve encountered were purple — and references to some sort of zombie-based reproduction system. On a brighter and more sensical note, we’ve learned to use the Chryssalid’s tough outer shell in the construction of CQC armor. I’m not entirely sure how much good it will do outside of Terror missions, but it’s good to have the option.

Seriously, though, they’re not black. At all. I don’t understand what Research is babbling on about here.

Now, I know researching the Outsider Shard is a ‘priority’. It’s a priority that will likely only move the plot forward, though. As such, I opt for some different research first. Specifically, the Experimental Warfare option that has been staring back at me since episode two. I want to know what it does, alright? Besides, it’s not like my capture of one of their crystalline commanders will spur the aliens into a renewed frenzy of abductions or anything.

Alright, I had that coming.

Kano, Nigeria: Very Difficult, §200. St. Petersburg, Russia: Very Difficult, four scientists. Cordoba, Argentina: Difficult, a new Support Lieutenant. I have plenty scientists and Supports, so I’ll go for where the money is today.

I know this mission is Very Difficult, but when has that ever stopped me from bringing some fresh blood? Specifically, Rookie Taylor Sanderson, only my third soldier from the land of the Rising Sun. He’s accompanied by fellow countrywoman Loween, Smash, and Squaddies Devlin and Vecre.

Colour-coded among major primary colours for your convenience.

According to Steve, we’ll be dropped ‘deep in the Nigerian interior’ for this mission. This is, of course, perfectly illustrated by this incredibly generic New York-style pizza place.

I’m not saying there can’t be generic-Italian restaurants in Nigeria. I’m just saying: if you saw this mission briefing, where would *you* assume you were going?

Now, something exceptional, highly out-of-the-ordinary happens during my execution of this mission; something so exceptional that I’m choosing to report on it instead of on the mission as a whole:

It’s rather boring.

I don’t mean to say that nothing happened: there was shooting and aliens and whiz-bang-boom and a whole lot of nearly-avoided drama. It’s just that, in going over the logs and preparing to do the blow-by-blow-style analysis I’ve done before, the phrase ‘This is really nothing new, we’ve seen all of this before‘ kept popping up. I guess even fighting aliens can turn routine after a while.

So instead of a highly detailed description, I’ll be giving you more of a summary. Expect this sort of thing to happen more in the future; I’ll save the detailed analyses for missions that, you know, actually matter.

Mission starts off in the aforementioned Pizza Place / Raw Meat Show, apparently. Two Floaters are discovered hiding in the freezer, for… whatever reasons, so the entire team quickly takes up position to take them out.

I guess they were just… *chilling*.

The taking out takes a little longer than expected, due to some 50/50 shots missing, but at the end, one Floater is dead and the other lies captured at Vecre’s feet. Sanderson takes four damage for his troubles, but that’s what medkits are for.

The fact that plasma burn wounds are commonplace now is probably telling.

Here’s a dramatic action shot of Loa Vecre kicking open a door for absolutely no goddamned reason.

There’s no reason for kicking this door open *and* no reason for me posting this screenshot.

The roof opposite the shop holds two more Floaters, and three Sectoids hide out in a trailer truck parked in between the two buildings. Yes, I activate both of these groups in the same turn; not my best moment, I’ll admit, but it was pretty much inevitable. Luckily, the Sectoids choose to bunch up, and Loween is present, so I’ll give you one guess as to what happens next:

It’s round, it’s bouncy, and it rhymes with ‘afraid’.

Also, Shotguns can be pretty cool.

The stupid poses they inspire, less so, but those to-hit chances are nothing to scoff at.

The second Floater does cause a bit of a hassle, wounding Devlin for six damage and Sanderson for four (again), but hey, medkits. It’s captured shortly after, because I’m apparently starting a goddamn Floater zoo.

At the rate I’m going now, they’ll be an endangered species soon enough.

Finally, the nearby warehouse holds two Sectoids on the roof and one inside. Because of dumb positioning on my part, Vecre takes six damage — these aliens sure are consistent — and I get a close reminder of how bad I am at alien Overwatch…

Fun fact: if a roof has a skylight, and an alien below will spot a soldier above running past, it will actually fire its Overwatch up. This makes total sense, but it took me by surprise regardless.

…before finally Suppressing and then killing the last one. Mission over.

Not without its minor failures, but good job overall.

Rookie Sanderson makes Assault, turning him into my third Japanese Assault soldier. And also my third Assault soldier period, come to think of it. Corporal Devlin follows in the footsteps of Tovik with Snap Shot, because moving is fun, and Lieutenant Loween picks the route opposite Krellen and gains Rapid Fire, allowing two attacks in one turn at the cost of precision. It seems like more her style.

See what I mean by ‘boring’?

Back in the base, I’m finally astute enough to remember that I researched laser guns a little while back. I attempt to construct these, making a quick stop at the Gray Market to flog some broken pieces of alien technology…

It was like this when I got it, I swear.

…before stumbling on an unexpected roadblock down in the item production bay: I don’t have enough Engineers to actually craft laser rifles.

Shown here: laser rifles, taunting me with their nonexistence.

I… how does this work, exactly? Is creating laser weapons just really labour intensive? Are we working on a buddy system, here? Are laser rifles only produced during holiday season? Most importantly, what the hell happened to ‘anything Research can dream up, we can make down here’?

I can’t make any laser pistols or heavy lasers either, which is at least consistent. I’m disappointed regardless. Interceptor lasers are out, as is the new Carapace armor, can’t make that new Floater-corpse-based Dodge module… Christ, we’re behind in the tech department.

In an attempt to brighten my mood, I visit the Facilities department. Production of the satellite I requisitioned a while ago is nearly complete, and on the off chance I won’t be able to flog it to Mexico, I’d like to expand our satellite network functionality so I’ll be able to launch it myself. Additional funding and all that, you know how it goes. Luckily, Engineer deficits shouldn’t be a problem here: we already have one Satellite Uplink in the base, so it stands to reason we must’ve had the manpower and know-how to are you goddamn kidding me?

But… we have one of these in the base right now! How does this make *any* sense?

Goddamnit. Not enough Engineers to craft, not enough Engineers to build. Why didn’t anyone tell me we were critically low on Engineers? Why aren’t I able to just buy Engineers on the Grey Market, in bulk? Who runs the HR department in this mess of a base, anyway?

Oh yeah.

Alright, well. Lesson learned, I guess. This base needs more Engineers. Guess I’m keeping my eyes open for mission rewards. I’ll also get a whole one Engineer from the Council at the end of every month, so I guess I have that to look forward to.

(Future Jarenth’s note: I know what you’re thinking right now. Patience. I’ll get there.)

On a brighter note, a quick visit to the Officer School reveals an interesting detail: with Dima and Tovik’s recent promotions to Captain, I can finally unlock the Squad Size II upgrade. I’m actually able to buy it, too, because I can’t spend my money on anything else.

This is still pretty cool, of course.

The currently-useless satellite is completed, mere seconds after Mexico withdraws its request: into storage you go! Soon after, the Experimental Warfare research program is finished: this grants me access to the Phoenix Cannon, a close-range weapon for the Interceptor — for when missiles aren’t cutting it, I suppose — and the Foundry, a new facility where I can, quote, “develop new combat items or improve current items”. I excavate a new cavern and build it, initially surprised that I even can.

Are you *sure* we don’t need to sacrifice a billion engineers to Krong first, or something like that?

Alright, fine: let’s research the Outsider shard. It only takes three days, and three days it takes: with no current alien activity, the time flies by in a blur.

Cutscene. Tracing the decrypted signal shown by the Outsider shard brings us together to gaze at satellite footage of an ocean floor just off the coast of Greenland. Steve is initially wary of possible mistakes, but thermal imaging quickly reveals that the aliens have built a base of operations beneath the surface.

The surface of the ocean floor, that is.

An alien base. Assaulting and conquering that would likely set back the alien assault on Earth significantly, not to mention provide us with a wealth of alien technology. But how do we get in?

It turns out Shen has the answer: his team can use the Outsider crystal to construct a ‘Skeleton Key’ that should allow one strike team entry. With the fate of the world at stake, there’s no time to delay, and…


Am I being Punk’d?

The month rolls by, and Council funding comes in; funding, and a solitary Engineer. It’s not nearly enough. I research Precision Lasers, which paradoxically gives me both laser-based sniper rifles and laser-based shotguns — I don’t know either — and follow up with a more theoretical study into the alien material Elerium. I buy more Interceptors, wary of possible losses, and outfit one with the new Phoenix Cannon.

And even a triple drat: now India is requesting a satellite of their own. That sounds like a good thing, because I have the one in storage, but apparently what that request means is that they want me to put a satellite in orbit over them. Which I can’t do, because of my enduring Engineer shortage.

“Please make a satellite, put it in orbit over our country, and monitor and deal with every alien threat that passes us by.” — India.

Finally, my foresight is proven right as a new UFO — a Large UFO, larger than any we’ve ever seen, is spotted over the continental United States. Sadly, the new Interceptors I ordered aren’t done yet: all I have in ‘Merica is the one Interceptor I transferred earlier. I send it out, and even construct and use another Aim module, but the massive craft’s superior weaponry proves more than a match for our terrestrial fighters.

Which is fancy talk for ‘my jet got shot down like a punk’.

New fighters I can get, but what I really need is new weapons, armor and modules. And for that…

…I guess the upside is that a mistake of this magnitude you can only make once.

Next episode: This doesn’t mean I can’t make any other mistakes of a similar magnitude, however.


  1. I have no idea how you’re going to survive this LP with mistakes like these. *sigh*

    See, you’re supposed to notice that you need satellites, which makes you want to build satellite uplinks, which makes you realizes OMG I NEED ENGINEERS!!!1! (At which point you build a freaking workshop. Although at some point you’ll need engineers to build another workshop! :P)

    I’m not quite sure what you thought you were doing, honestly. I’m pretty sure the only research you’ve actually used is the arc thrower for your zoo.

    1. See, there’s a reason I’m not building Workshops that I’ll get to in a few episodes. It’s not a good reason, but it’s there.

      1. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s either “because Jarenth is dumb and stubborn and LABORATORIES GUYS” or “Jarenth didn’t make room for any”. :)

  2. I didn’t even realise 15 engineers were required for Skeleton Keys. It’d be nice if they’d given the doctors a line or two of dialogue about this when you pop into to see them: ‘seems a little quiet around engineering, Commander’ or something similar.

  3. Well, that escalated quickly. You’ll be happy about the live alien captures in a short while, though. Actually, I think it would be more productive to just skip the lasers and research Plasma Weapons as soon as you can.

  4. Regarding the Engineer thing.

    Y’see, Engineering is a very rewarding career to go into, but one that is rather short-lived. For eventually rather than paying an engineer they’ve had on staff, a company realizes its cheaper to get a newly graduated engineer who was trained in more recent technology. So you end up with a bunch of unemployed engineers that no company wishes to hire due to out of date training.

    What I’m trying to say is…The X-Com project, like most government projects, is just a boondoggle. And part of the laws that went into its creation was a Support Our Unemployed Engineers Act. So while in truth you only need, maybe, 8 engineers; the laws binding you require you to need a crapton of them. Look on the bright side! You’ll be giving people with families steady employment!

    1. Like I said earlier: this series will get tense, and it will run for quite a bit longer than this. It’s not going to be three episodes of me failing and sucking and then a ‘THE END, I LOST’.

      This does not mean that next episode isn’t going to be me failing and sucking, but… you know.

  5. Nitpicking Abridged! Five minutes of me giving rapid-fire commentary in funny voices:

    – There is exactly one good reason for posting that shot of me kicking in the door: so that I can use it as a wallpaper.

    – And it goes without saying that satellite requests don’t require the satellite to be launched.

    – You need more engineers because they are used up in your projects. The council doesn’t just give you a single new engineer each month, they give you a replacement for your entire discarded staff, plus one.

    – I hope the experience of your fighter being shot down by a transport carrier was a suitably humbling experience.

    1. Glad I could be of assistance.

      The experience of my fighter being shot down by the largest, most well-armed alien craft I’d seen so far was one of resigned expectation more than anything else. Hell, I’m still surprised those other UFOs went down so easily.

      Krong is a fickle deity.

      1. I recently learned that you can scramble a fighter to intercept a hopelessly powerful craft, then abort the mission, thereby saving your fighter and forestalling any panic caused by ignoring the UFO.

        1. You can also send multiple jets in succession and take it down that way.

          If you have the money to support multiple jets.

          For which you need Engineers.

  6. Typo in the alt text on the first image “just now how” should be “not”. But yes, that is fairly impossible, unless the labs have very bad lighting!

    Maybe… black-lights? No, those make black things look purple… Maybe you use black-lights in the field! Perhaps the entire visual spectrum in the tactical view is shifted! What you “see” is a non-human perspective on non-human events! The scientists report is merely a subtle hint that things are not as they appear… Or there was an art change between when the text was written and when the game shipped.

    1. Cheers.

      Actually, maybe dr. Vahlen is completely colourblind. Only black, white and grey, like a dog. Does she ever mention colour, anywhere, ever?

      Also, Vipermagi: You missed a spot.

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