Jarenth Plays XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Episode 15: Johnny Five

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I successfully conquered the Alien Base. Yayifications! Panic across the entire world dropped steeply as a result, my six best soldiers gained valuable combat experience, and I brought home a ton of alien artifacts. Some worthless save for their monetary value, others useful for their applications, and two seemingly plot-critical: the alien communication device known as the Hyperwave Beacon and the corpse of the powerful psionic alien who was using it, the Sectoid Commander.

Raiding and (I assume) destroying their terrestrial base has thrown the aliens in disarray, but I’m not naive enough to believe this is the end of our war. The invaders came from the stars, after all. If we are to beat back their invasion fully, we’ll need to find a way to put a stop to their assaults completely.

When last we left our humble heroes, they were taking a well-deserved nap in the medbay. Well, some of them were. Only Krellen and Smash, actually. The other four — Tovik, Loween, DeHaan and Jones — managed to make it out of the alien super stronghold pretty much unharmed. No vacation time for you, buckos: there’s a world what needs defending.

“What’s a ‘vacation’?” — Every XCOM soldier.

Here’s some random images, taken during de-gearing the crew, that neatly show the effect of weapon choice on armor:

Loween with an Assault Rifle-class weapon.

Loween with a Shotgun-class weapon.

Reeling from their defeat, the aliens actually leave us alone for a couple of days. The Skeleton Suit project is completed, and I make a mental note to craft one later. Next up, before I engage in the plot-critical research projects the game is so eager to have me do: Interrogating this Thin Man.

It doesn’t particularly seem to care.

One research credit into UFO Technology later, I decide to actually start moving the plot forward again. Starting with cutting open that Sectoid Commander. Dr. Vahlen regales me with tales of how this creature’s ‘psionic’ power (her air quotes, not mine) is incredibly dangerous. I’m inclined to agree, and so is Smash, probably, but once dead the Sectoid Commander is just as much a disgusting fluid-filled bag as any other Sectoid.

Not that I’m complaining about how dead it is, mind.

Before we manage to learn anything from it, though, and a mere five days after taking down their ‘command center’, the aliens have recovered enough to conduct another wave of abductions. Yes, abductions again. The targets are a Very Difficult Argentina (§200), a Very Difficult France (new Heavy Lieutenant), and a Very Difficult mission in (of course) Chonquing, China (4 Scientists). The choice is not easy (well, the choice between Argentina and France), but I elect to go with France because their Panic levels are higher. It’s still 3 there versus 1 in Argentina and China both, and a new powerful Heavy could prove useful. With the demise of Dima, DeHaan is really the only rocket-jockey I have left.

Again, keenly aware that XCOM needs more high-level soldiers, I don’t send out a full Alpha Squad this time. I’m fairly confident in our new arms and armor’s ability to keep any of the aliens we’ve encountered so far at bay. That said, I don’t want a repeat of the Paris Incident — we’re going to Lyons today, but still — so caution is advised. I end up giving command to Captain Loween, and sending out Lieutenants Smash, DeHaan and Viel and one Rookie Jaipaku Hatsu.

Wait, that’s five people. What happened to my sixth command spot?

This happened:

Domo arigato.

Something I mentioned back in Episode 13 is that I initiated the S.H.I.V. project in the Foundry. What I somewhat skimmed over is the fact that I actually built one of them. I’m curious to see how it performs, now, so I’m sending it out with the team. I can’t seem to rename or customize it in any way, which is disappointing, but the fact that it’s a robot tank still makes it come out ahead.

One of these is unlike the others.

Underway!

The Skyranger touches down outside an inner city graveyard. It’s a little ominous, but the large walls and monuments mean plenty of cover. So I’ll deal with it.

I’m staying the hell away from those cars, though.

I send the robot out first. You go, little fellow! Be the best XCOM robot you can be.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

This is what it runs into.

I’m glad I sent out the robot.

THUNDER-2 immediately attempts to prove its worth by hitting a 27%-shot for a remarkable six damage. It seems to be unable to take cover, hence the blind shot. Maybe it’ll draw some Muton fire too.

You could say that Muton’s been… *thunderstruck*.

DeHaan and Loween have less luck from up close, but Viel and his Laser Sniper Rifle are determined not to be outdone by a goddamn robot. It’s a little risky leaving him exposed like this, since Viel is a Squadsight sniper (and thus can’t move and fire in the same turn) but the results are so worth it.

Viel: 1. Muton head: EXPLODED.

The second Muton misses THUNDER-2 from short range, completing this pretty great opening turn. I run DeHaan in to (successfully) capture the second Muton, though doing so does leave him exposed to no less than eight Floaters.

This is not something I’m happy to run into.

A combination of robot bullets and plasma fire quickly brings that down to six, however, and a smoke grenade protects DeHaan from the worst of the retaliation. He still nearly dies, of course, because that’s what DeHaan does, but as with every other time the operative word is nearly.

DeHaan is a goddamn crit magnet.

Next turn, the Floaters start dropping like flies. Loween gets one, DeHaan gets one, THUNDER-2 gets one. One attempts to flank Viel, but quickly realizes its mistake when a shiny new Plasma Pistol is pulled. Remember that I studied those in Episode 13 as well? Man, that episode is like the gift that keeps on giving.

“Do you feel lucky? Well, do you? *Alien*?”

And then there were two.

Standing around in high places like that might draw *thunder*.

Hatsu and Jones top up DeHaan, but the aliens have wisened up to my schemes: they go after the target with the most kills, the least cover, and an amount of health that’s not significantly more than that of a human wearing Carapace Armor. Two plasma bolts for four and six damage, and THUNDER-2 sags its lethal machine guns in a shower of sparks and fire.

Bot down, bot down! Send a repair crew!

Can… can I repair it afterwards? I hope so. I know the Foundry mentioned ‘expensive repairs’ as a drawback to the S.H.I.V. project. Deep down, however, I think to know that that’s just the robot’s equivalent of medbay time. And that the robot’s equivalent of death is… well, you know.

I take out the last two Floaters with zero difficulty, and that ends the mission. The Mission Over screen confirms my fears: THUNDER-2 will not be joining us again.

It was a good mission, but not without its costs.

Rookie Hatsu has acquitted herself excellently with medkit and cover, so she’s naturally promoted to Sniper. Captain DeHaan, now officially the highest-ranking Heavy I’ve ever had, can take either Grenadier (can use an equipped grenade twice) or Danger Zone (increases area of effect on Suppression and all rockets by 2 tiles). If Loween had been a heavy, the choice would have been clear; as it is, it’s still pretty obvious, but in the other direction.

Because why would I *ever* give DeHaan a grenade? He’s got aliens to capture.

DeHaan immediately gets to train our new Heavy, fresh from the streets of Lyons:

This lady.

As I feared, however, THUNDER-2 is damaged beyond repair. I consider buying another one, but… well, I can see how these S.H.I.V.s are good. I mean, look at this track record. But the fact of the matter is that with these new plasma weapons and high-tech armors, regular human soldiers are about as powerful as a regular robo-tank. And human soldiers can heal in the field and know when to take cover. And perhaps most importantly: human soldiers gain experience and level up, gaining access to powerful new perks and techniques. It’s a significant trade-off to make.

Will I build another regular S.H.I.V.? Probably not. The Alloy S.H.I.V., built from alien materials, looks a little more alluring, and I assume upgrading the tanks with laser or plasma rifles will increase their power exponentially. But they are expensive. We’ll see if I use them again in the far future, but likely not in the near one.

Plus, building another regular S.H.I.V. would feel like an insult to THUNDER-2’s high-voltage career.

Sleep well, sweet prince.

To further round out the day, I build some of the new Skeleton Suits and complete both the Workshop and the Satellite Uplink. The former gives me more Engineers, as well as some project rebates, while the latter will finally allow me to put up more satellites. It’s high time.

Finally, I complete the Sectoid Commander autopsy. It’s a major hallmark, apparently: studying the creature’s brain has given dr. Vahlen and her team enough insight into how psionic power works that she thinks we can build a facility to test our soldiers for latent psionic potential. If any such soldiers are found, we can teach them to use this new power on the battlefield. Excitedly, I order its construction immediately.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

And just as I think about calling it a day…

…this here jerk shows up.

Well hello there, flying sack of alien alloys. You come around here often?

Next episode: I find out just how much my wild assault has changed the alien command structure.

5 comments

  1. Good lord, my first UFO after the base assault was *brutal*

    First room I breach had no less than 4 mutons and three sectoid commanders, in a room filled with cover while I had next to none outside, which was quickly removed by grenade-happy greenies.

    That strike team was *doomed*

    1. Oh yeah, forgot about mentioning them mind-controlling two of my best (colonel support and major heavy) in their first salvo…

      1. This game’s difficulty can be a little all over the place at times. One of the future episodes is basically me complaining about this for several hundred words.

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