In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I discovered that one of my soldiers — Conor Devlin, One True Scotsman — had his latent psychic potential awakened by his stint in the Psionics Lab. A subsequent raid on the largest landed alien craft I’d seen so far proved that psychic powers are kickass, that Cyberdiscs are eminently beatable, and that it’s entirely possible to survive a mission casualty-free without even a single Support soldier among the ranks. Just stack up on the medkits.
When last we left off, I was just about done wallowing in misery. Now that recent advancements and victories have caused me to regain my swagger, I feel it’s high time we advance the plot a bit. You might remember that the last thing of note I did was have dr. Vahlen research the aliens’ Hyperwave Beacon: studies showed that this device allows the aliens to communicate by way of ‘supra-dimensional waves’, making their messages both nigh-instantaneous and impossible for us to intercept. Luckily, with this beacon in our possession, we can do something about the latter.
The Ghost Armor research track is completed! It’s supposed to be an upgrade of the Skeleton Suit, but using special ‘metamaterials’ that utilize the ‘phasing’ behaviour seen in the Hyperwave Beacon to effectively make the bearer ‘invisible’. No, wait, scratch the air quotes on that last one. Armor that provides invisibility, eh? I could see several ways that could be useful in the field. Let me just head over to Engineering and dear god, that’s expensive.
As a short in-between project, I slice open the Berserker corpse: this nets me a Combat Stims item that soldiers can use in the field to ‘boost several vital statistics’. Could be neat. Next, I notice that the latest UFO raid has resulted in enough weapon fragments and alloys to continue my research into advanced plasma-based weapons: the Plasma Sniper Rifle is next on the list.
Hey, remember how I ordered some new soldiers at the end of the last episode? They just arrived. I’m really hoping for some Supports. C’mon, c’mon…
Score. A quick round of customization — Chris Franklin, Elmo Wever, Glenn Schouten and Evan Schouten, ready for duty — and I can sit back, relaxed, confident that with these new additions to XCOM I can handle anything the aliens throw at me.
Well, this is an interesting change of pace. Aliens are bombing a bridge in Brazil? I’m… I’m not even near-sure why they would, given that restricting human mobility has never been their goal before, but whatever: it sounds like an interesting new mission and it’ll be a good first combat outing for some of my new soldiers.
Also, this mission being in Brazil is a tremendous stroke of luck. Because of my failure to protect that very country back in Episode 18, both Brazil and Argentina are at a full five Panic. I was actually expecting both of them to quit the Council at the end of the month. Should I complete this mission successfully, the resultant Panic reduction will keep at least Brazil content. All the more reason to give it my best!
Now, I’m not falling for that old ‘bring a squad of Rookies, get killed’ trick ever again. I do want to train some new blood, but two out of six is as far as I’m willing to go. New Support Franklin gets tagged in, as is one of the four Heavies from the previous shipment of Squaddies: Asimech Jones, by virtue of random chance. The rest of the squad is rounded out with older hands: Corporal the First, Lieutenant Devlin, and Majors Tovik and Krellen. Bring on that bomb.
On the way over, Steve briefs me on the particulars of this mission type. It goes like this: there’s a bomb somewhere on the map. I have a set number of turns before it goes off, which would likely be Bad. The bomb is supported by auxiliary power sources: deactivating these will increase the countdown on the bomb, giving me more time to find and disable it. Finally, I’m to kill every alien on the map, because they’d just reactivate the bomb otherwise. Sounds simple enough.
I land on a bridge filled with cars. Oh, goodie: cars. Nature’s wheeled nukes. The bomb timer is at three turns, giving me not a whole lot of time to find this thing; luckily, there’s a strange alien object within running distance that I assume is one of the auxiliary power generators.
I have Krellen Dash up to the priming mechanism, as indicated by a set of floating arrows. Nothing happens. Apparently, deactivating the generator is a click-operated action, like opening a door: you can do it at any time without spending a soldier action, as long as the soldier in question has an action left. Okay, that’s fine: it’s not like failing to do this right now is going to screw me over forever. I’m just glad I learned this here, instead of (say) with one soldier in bomb range, one turn before detonation.
The rest of the squad moves up, and I encounter the first type of opposition for the day: Thin Men.
R…really? Thin Men? I mean, I guess their poison packs a nasty bite… and the last time I ran into Thin Men, I also encountered Mutons for the first time ever. But still? Thin Men? I’m pretty sure every member of this squad can kill a Thin Man in a single hit. Hell, the ones that carry Plasma Pistols can use those and not even waste ammo.
Really, though? It’s not even going to be an upgraded version of Thin Men? Sectoids and Mutons’ve had upgraded versions already. Nothing?
The answer is nope, of course: these are just regular Thin Men. Which is actually fine, I suppose: it’s been a while since I’ve been able to revel in one-hit kills.
Two of the Thin Men die in a single turn. Two more Thin Men run in during the aliens’ turn, and they do that whole thing with the spitting poison and shooting plasma and… is one of them suppressing Krellen? I didn’t even know they could do that.
Anyway, what I was saying: they’re generally being nuisances, not threats. I make full use of the time this affords me to turn off some bomb power generators, raising my ‘turns left’ count to over the amount I started with.
Devlin’s new Battle Scanner proves quite useful in revealing the locations of bomb power generators.
Cars explode, as is their wont.
At first, I slowly move up. When it becomes apparent there’s no direct threats nearby, I run up. When it turns out the only threats waiting in the distance are more Thin Men, I double-time it. Seriously, they’re like poison piñatas.
After what is effectively minus one turn, if the tracker is to be believed, I reach the bomb.
And… well, that’s all there is to this mission, really. I could do a whole play-by-play, but the reality of it is that this bomb is guarded only by Thin Men. I run up to it — Major Tovik takes a few plasma bolts for his trouble, but nothing major — and disable it, kill the remaining guards, then kill the Thin Men that drop out of the sky as reinforcements. It’s a thing they do, Thin Men, dropping out of the sky after the fact. It used to be scary, once. Before my soldiers were decked out in what’s essentially portable tank armor, carrying weapons that can punch holes through the side of a cargo freighter with ease.
Thirteen Thin Men show up to guard the bomb, in total. I bring two of them home, because Krellen was carrying an Arc Thrower anyway. Only Major Tovik is hurt to a degree that requires medical attention, and even that is more my fault than anything.
Great mission, Council! A+, Would Accept Again.
The upgrades Corporal Franklin and and Sergeant ‘Wednesday’ the First receive are pretty standard: Sprinter for the Support and Lightning Reflexes for the Assault, the usual. Krellen is the only really interesting upgrade in the lot, because Krellen is now Colonel Krellen: the first soldier in XCOM to reach the highest possible rank. Commensurate to that, of course, are the most powerful upgrades in his class. For Assault, the choice goes between Resilience (immunity to critical hits) or Killer Instinct (activating Run & Gun grants +50% damage on critical hits for the turn). It’s not a hard choice: while I can certainly see the value of Killer Instinct for a crit-build Assault, Krellen is not that. Plus I hate critical hits. Critical hits are what killed DeHaan.
And with that, the mission’s completed. As expected, Panic in Brazil is lowered. By a whole three points, no less. Argentina is still rioting in the streets, but losing one country is preferable to losing two. And who knows? Maybe I’ll have more luck before the month runs out.
As a near-final note for this episode, I receive the results for my third round of psychic testing. Triple nothing, sadly: Squaddies van Hamertijd, Museli and Jurao all report negative.
I load the psionic chambers once more, volunteering my two new non-Support soldiers — the brothers Schouten — and newly promoted Colonel Krellen. Let’s see if any of you have what it takes.
Finally, I finish the Plasma Sniper Rifle research, queue up Heavy Plasma, and buy one of the rifles with the money the Council rewarded me with. Whatever the aliens think of throwing at me next episode, I’ll be ready.