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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a dramatic action shot of Loa Vecre kicking open a door for absolutely no goddamned reason.
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:
Also, Shotguns can be pretty cool.
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.
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…
…before finally Suppressing and then killing the last one. Mission over.
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…
…before stumbling on an unexpected roadblock down in the item production bay: I don’t have enough Engineers to actually craft laser rifles.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.