Jarenth Plays XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Episode 11: When It Rains…

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I discovered that — through no apparent fault of my own — XCOM HQ is critically short on Engineers. I can’t craft any advanced weapons or armor, I can’t host more satellites, and I can’t create the Skeleton Key I need to assault the aliens’ ocean-floor base. Efforts to somehow train the ever-increasing group of Floaters my troops keep bringing home progress poorly, as the creatures seem unable to understand even the simplest Maxwellian theorems. Or anything besides ‘blind, unfocused rage’, really, and a seething hatred for the life and happiness of all human beings.

If XCOM had a Sales department, these guys would be perfect.

The Map Globe taunts me with two yellow-tinted buttons: the Alien Base I can’t assault and the Large UFO I can’t shoot down. The former will probably wait for me indefinitely — I hope — but I’m not so sure about the latter.

It’s a busy UFO, you understand. Places to be, people to kidnap.

Sure enough, after a day or so of scanning it disappears from the radar. And not soon after…

Man, it’s like my capture of one of their leaders has spurred the aliens into a frenzy of abductions.

China: Moderate, 4 Engineers. Yes! Let’s see what the others are, though… Egypt: Difficult, new Assault Sergeant, I can skip that. And France: Very Difficult, 4 Scientists. None of these are as good as China, but…

…damnit. France is at four Panic. Most of Europe is rather panicky, actually. If I ignore the abductions going on in Paris in favour of Beijing, the entire continent of Europe is going to throw a major hissy fit. Asia and Africa, by contrast, are doing rather well, what with the former’s panic going down significantly after my successful counter-terrorism campaign there.

Sigh. I really, really need those Engineers, but I can’t accurately judge what will happen if I let Panic rise out of control. Will countries immediately ditch the Council upon hitting five? I can’t have that on my hands.

Sorry, China. You had the best offer, but Paris basically blackmailed me into going.

(Future Jarenth’s note: yeah, yeah, I know. Believe me, this episode is hard enough to write as it is without having to follow Past Jarenth’s ridiculous train of non-logic.)

This mission is Very Difficult, but my squad size is now a maxed-out six, so I think those cancel each other out quite nicely. Lieutenant Krellen and Captains Dima and Tovik form the experienced half of this team, while Squaddies McNutcase and Viel and newly-recruited Rookie Justin Hall get brought along for some much-needed combat experience.

Yes, I really should have gone with ‘Justine Hall’. I’ll change it later.

It’s only a short flight to Paris. The polar alien base taunts us with its perceived imperviousness, but it’ll learn to sing a different tune. Later.

You’ll get yours, *base*.

It’s raining in Paris. No, really raining. I’m actually taking time out of my busy Let’s Play schedule to impress on you how much sky water the clouds are currently delivering to Paris. We’re talking literal impromptu rivers of rainwater, here.

There’s neat graphical effects for it and everything.

Quel que soit. On with the show.

A careful two-turn advance, dashing from car to car and the occasional bus stop, reveals some Thin Men in the distance. They’re doing… something. I’m sure I don’t want to know what, and I’m sure dr. Vahlen will tell me anyway if I give her the chance.

“So… which parts of humans were edible, again?”

Five of them end up turning up and doing their little dash-to-cover thing. Krellen and Viel take out the two bravest of them, but I can’t get to the others in time to stop them from doing something unexpected.

It turns out Thin Men have the ability to spit poison clouds. At a rather large distance, too. Hall, McNutcase and Dima are all Poisoned in one fell swoop.

THIN MAN uses POISON! It’s super effective!

To make matters worse, the second poison spit somehow reveals three nearby Floaters, which immediately join the fray. And then, just to make everything really interesting, the third Thin Men shoots at Rookie Hall, wounding her for three damage and setting the car she and McNutcase are hiding behind on fire. Which causes McNutcase to panic, which is understandable, and to Hunker Down behind the burning car, which is less understandable.

“This car is on fire, and there are four aliens in clear sight range. Looks like the perfect place to have a panic attack.”

Alright, this is admittedly a little bad. But medkits are a perfect counter-agent for both poison and plasma-inflicted burn wounds. Let me just tab to whoever carries the medkit today, and…

Tab. Tab. Tab tab tab tab tab tab.

Oh shit.

If you spotted this at the first screenshot, congratulations! You’re better at this command thing than I am.

I actually smack myself, right there and then. I forgot to bring medkits? Not even one? To a mission marked Very Difficult, with half a squad of Rookies and Squaddies? I don’t want to say this is the single dumbest thing I’ve done so far, but this is the single dumbest thing I’ve done so far.

Okay, so this is bad. We’ve established that. Luckily, Dima is well within rocket range, and his Danger Zone passive ability vastly increases his rocket’s blast range. With just a bit of luck, I’ll be able to take out most of the alien menace in a single blast. Then, we can run cleanup.

What’s red and black and probably green too and *exploded* all over?

Dima’s rocket misses, somehow. I guess rockets do miss? Instead of hitting the assigned location, it flies on for a few more meters, before finally taking out a single Floater. And a car.

Because that is what I need right now.

Luck turns my way a little after that, with Krellen hitting a 19% shot and Viel fragging a Thin Man and wounding a Floater, but it’s too late for McNutcase: still freaking out behind a burning car, the explosion sets her up for the poison to finish her off.

There’s nothing funny about a hardened world-defense soldier dying from intergalactic poisons our science barely understands. Sorry.

Rookie Hall bravely takes down a flanking Thin Man, but succumbs to poison shortly after. That’s two down in short order, and all because I didn’t pack any medkits. Hell, I would’ve probably given one to Rookie Hall, who could’ve used it to save herself. I’m a little upset at this, I won’t mind telling you.

The rest of the squad pushes forward slowly, killing several aliens despite incredibly low accuracy ratings. Only Tovik seems to be in his element here, and even he’s had a 5% shot once: I’ve honestly not seen Dima rise over 25% on any shot. He missed his rocket, too. Is the rain somehow messing us up? The aliens seem a little off the mark too, but that might be just me projecting things.

One Thin Man left. He fires, he missed, and… hello, what’s this? A new breed of alien emerges from the fog.

I’m sure this is not an awful, awful development at all.

They’re big, they’re green, and dr. Vahlen warns me they look like capable soldiers. On the other hand, I was worried about the Floaters and the Chryssalids too, and look how that turned out. We’ll just have to wait and…

One of them opens fire on an exposed Squaddie Viel, killing him in a single hit.

Full health, single shot. Dead.

Okay, this mission is getting worse by the minute. I consolidate my remaining men around a cargo truck and have them try to shoot the mystery aliens, but it’s to no avail: ridiculously low accuracy means miss after miss after miss.

The aliens seem to be less bothered by this, however. Their shots are unerringly accurate, and it’s only because of providence that Tovik’s reduced to two health instead of to zero.

I retreat everyone behind the truck, now. Tovik’s in poor shape, and any single hit will take him down. Krellen is doing alright, but he’s carrying a short-range shotgun, and the aliens are over ten meters out. I can have him Run-and-Gun in next turn, but that won’t help if the aliens flank us now.

That just leaves Dima capable of acting. I have him Suppress the single alien I can see from his vantage point, which should lock it down and reduce its Aim a little.

It’s a tactically sound decision, and I stand by it.

The alien, predictably, doesn’t care.

Notice how Dima is down to two health, all of a sudden?

I panic.

I don’t mean that to indicate some in-game effect, or anything like that: I, the actual player, panic. I can’t kill these monsters. Everyone’s aim is singularly lousy, I’m out of missiles and grenades and options, and they haven’t even been hurt yet once. Even if I move everyone out of cover, it’s only going to result in them getting killed. I’m going to lose my best soldiers, here, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Isn’t there a way to abort these missions? I know I’ve lost this one, but can I at least bring my guys home safely?

Good news: turns out there is, sort of. Bad news: it only works for people who are near the Skyranger. Which means two or three turns of running through alien-infested lands.

There is no alternative. It’s either make the run of death or *die anyway*.

Well, no time like the present. I select Dima, have him run out of cover, and immediately kick myself as I remember there were two aliens. What did I expect the other one was doing? And why, why, didn’t I send out the relatively full-health Krellen first?

If I was a boss fight, Overwatch would be my glaring weakness. I order Dima to run out of cover, the second hulking alien monster opens fire, and an era ends.

Death is the new green.

The next three turns are a tense game of hide-and-fear-for-my-life, but Krellen and Tovik make it to the Skyranger unharmed. Krellen even manages to wound one of the aliens, as a final farewell gift, but it’s inconsequential. They’ve won; I’ve lost.

Notice how it takes a critical shotgun hit to bring it down to half health.

Mission failed.

At least I managed to get two men out alive.

My bad mood is intensified in the Skyranger. Failing this Abduction mission means I get the negative consequences of every choice. And as expected, France hits five Panic and starts making a fuss. Russia, too.

Please, don’t make any ‘France surrendering’ jokes here. I’ve heard them all before, I assure you.

Luckily, it turns out that hitting five Panic does not mean countries immediately leave the Council. Is… is it just random? Have I been super lucky? Will there be a chance of them leaving the Council at any time, now? For now, the situation is not as bad as I feared, but I’m not telling myself for even one second that this situation is anything but bad.

About this bad, in fact:

First soldier on the field, first to reach a relatively high rank. First nicknamed soldier to die.

Next episode: I get a shot at revenge on the large, green-armoured aliens.


  1. Youch this…this was bad. I had all these jokes I was going to make but by we hit that ending I couldn’t do it.

    … Glad I wasn’t on this mission.

  2. Well damn. This seems like a surprisingly difficult mission compared to anything previous to this. Did the game expect you to have much better weaponry/equipment at this point, or..?

    Also, on a futurejarenth’s note, does the rain really screw up targeting so much, and is there an in-game way to counter that if so?

    P.S. Goddamnit I wish that the rocket would have at least not missed. I mean, a ROCKET. From a character that got the nickname entirely due to the use of ROCKETS. ffs.

    1. I still don’t actually know why my accuracy was this bad. Could be the rain, could be cover, could be the soldiers battle-stressing out.

      I think the game did more or less expect me to have laser weapons and at least carapace armor at this point. Don’t underestimate how debilitating my lack of Engineers is at this point.

    2. The first mission with mutons is usually a massive pain. You really need at least some kind of armor to deal with them, due to the whole one-hitting thing, but.. especially with this lack of engineers…kind of hard to get them by that time.

      1. Doesn’t help that he forgot Medkits. You can survive *a* shot with a Vest and full Health.
        The one Muton he was facing was in Full Cover at a fair range. LMGs have fuck-all accuracy even when you’re two steps from an alien because LMGs blow chunks. That’s one soldier completely useless. Then, the Shotgun. Great when you’re two steps away, not great when there’s a street between you and the alien. So much for that! Doesn’t leave a lot of firepower, and that’s still facing a Full Cover Muton.

        But above all, with the given gear, it’s the RNG screwing him over on that Suppressed shot. That was crap.

        1. In fairness, I can’t even remember why I tried that suppression in the first place. Tovik and Krellen were out of sight at the time. I was really just giving the Muton a free (Aim-reduced) shot at Dima here. Had I hid behind the truck and forced them to come to me…

          1. As pessimistic as I might sound, I think it would’ve been worse. The muton would’ve probably gleefully tossed a grenade and hit at least 2 of them for 5 damage.

    1. Something like:

      Step 1: Point light plasma rifle at puny human.
      Step 2: Fire.
      Step 3: Is puny human dead?
      No: GOTO Step 1.
      Yes: Select new puny human target; GOTO Step 1.

  3. We now return to “From Paris with dog tags, plasma burns and bruised egos”:

    – Like I’ve said in an earlier post: the alien invasion always escalates at the same pace, so you can’t slack off when it comes to researching. This is what happens otherwise.

    – Countries with maxed panic are not always guaranteed to leave at the end of the month (which is where they would leave if they wanted to). The game seems to roll for it, and sometimes you can get lucky.

    – Ah, Mutons. At least they don’t seem to be Blood Calling. Yet.

    – And also featuring the rare “missing rocket”. Unlike in my case, it didn’t hit a squad member in front, however.

    – Standing in the poison spit cloud also decreases your accuracy, in case you didn’t know already.

    1. I didn’t actually know about that poison cloud’s accuracy-effect. That explains certain things.

      I did see the Blood Call, actually. That was the exact moment I panicked. I didn’t actually know what it did at the time, but it was enough to make me scurry for the hills.

    2. The Alien Invasion does not, in fact, have an entirely steady pace. Up until Mutons, yes. Beyond that? Depends on whether you do the Alien Base. It takes them a little bit longer to go beyond Mutons if you don’t face off with the Base Commander soon after that. The Alien Base of course also changes the ship-bound Aliens.

      It’s not just standing in the cloud; it’s the poison in general that nets you -20 aim.

  4. Does Future Jarenth ever realise that the squad member in the left-front is the squad leader, and who that is makes a significant difference, especially in terms of soldiers panicking?

    (In other words, you sent a team out under the command of a Rookie. What did you expect would happen?)

      1. Explained, no. But that soldier will have a star by their name when their turn comes up, and I know the CO’s death at the very least is a huge will penalty.

        1. If your soldiers don’t die, it doesn’t matter who the CO is. :smug:

          Never knew either, though. I noticed the star and figured, but never checked, it was the center (biggest) soldier or based on their ranks. Neither was true; brilliant. It’s a different arbitrary slot :) (and heck, it actually changes with the first squad size upgrade)

        2. Wait, hold on, back up.

          …that soldier will have a star by their name“? In this mission, Dima has the star. You can actually see it in a few screenshots, like this one. Hall’s name was fairly starless.

          It looks more likely that one of the highest-ranking soldiers is assigned command, because that would make actual sense.

    1. In his defense, the rookie in command was also a stand-in for me, and I think we can all agree that I’m a natural-born leader.

    1. Blast. Added now; thanks!

      Let me just scroll through all the episodes to make sure the rest is actually up…

      EDIT: C’est ça.

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