In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I disarmed a bomb. That’s… that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t a particularly difficult, dangerous or interesting mission: just a whole mess of Thin Men to kill. But after a string of highly difficult and sometimes flat-out disastrous missions, I’m not about to complain about the game throwing me a freebie. Plus, since that mission took place in Brazil, that country’s Panic levels have dropped to manageable levels. Looks like one half of South America is going to stay an XCOM Project supporter after all!
So. Where were we?
Oh yeah: weapons research, psi testing and plot advancement. Plus there’s a Council Meeting in nine days. Wow, doesn’t time fly?
Finishing the Heavy Plasma project puts me in something of an interesting position: I can’t pick anything else to research. Not because the research team’s run out of ideas — they have three projects lined up and waiting — but because I can’t afford any of them.
I feel I should be more worried about this than I actually am. But on the other hand, most of what I’m missing is Weapon Fragments, which I can get from pretty much any killed alien. All I need to do is sit tight, let time fly by, and wait for the invaders to make the next move.
Man, wouldn’t it be funny if the aliens somehow decided to pick this exact time to just do nothing at all for a week?
You’ve all heard this stuff before, so let’s speed it up: I can get Scientists in France, money in South Africa, or a new Support Lieutenant in Canada. The Canada mission is also the only one that’s Difficult, versus the Very Difficult the other two missions offer me. Panic-wise, North America is totally fine, but the promise of a good reward for a comparatively easy mission is one I won’t pass up.
Here is Team Canada Team. I feel good about Team Canada Team. I’m taking this somewhat-lower-difficulty opportunity to bring a slightly weaker team: the new Supports I got last episode, Franklin and Wever, are especially in need of some experience.
Team Canada Team lands in the parking lot of a cheap-looking diner. I consider making a joke about the aliens looking for our prized discount bacon grease bombs, then think better of it. This is war, after all. Total focus.
Using the volatile cars and the (hopefully) inert trash cans as cover, I have the team approach the diner. Two shady forms can be seen in the distance: their health totals identify them as a Muton and a Muton Berserker. Given that the latter is at the absolute edge of my vision, that’s just fine by me.
For some reason, dr. Vahlen gives me her whole ‘this is a new type of alien we’ve never seen before‘ speech for the Berserker. Even though I’ve already faced them in combat twice, brought one Berserker corpse home and had her autopsy it just last episode.
It’s also at this point I notice I’ve made a little oversight in Sergeant Jonely’s equipment load-out.
The regular Muton, already injured from reaction fire, quickly falls to Lieutenant Devlin’s psychic might. The Berserker takes a little more time to kill, but I’ve got that monster class’ number now: they automatically charge anyone who hits them with gunfire. I’m able to use this trait to keep the Berserker running around, pulling it just far enough out of reach of anyone to deny it any melee attacks.
This is a good thing. What’s less of a good thing is the Drone that pops into view during the Berserker’s last (useless) turn. The Drone, and the unmistakable background sound that so often goes along with it.
A thrown Battle Scanner seems to prove my fears wrong: there’s nothing next to the Drone. For one moment, I allow myself to hope that it’s just a random Drone.
That hope doesn’t survive the alien turn.
Two more Mutons appear from inside the diner, too. And suddenly, Sergeant the First is caught in a really bad position.
Not to mention that most of my cover is cars.
Major Tovik, current wearer of my one and only Skeleton Suit, quickly absconds to the diner’s roof. I cluster the rest of the squad around a single car, reasoning that it’s probably not going to explode for at least two more turns; I can do a tactical staggered retreat, going from unexploded car to unexploded car as I go.
The Mutons in the diner present much less of a threat than the Cyberdisc, but their highly accurate Plasma rifles shouldn’t be underestimated. Luckily, they’re weak-willed buffoons…
…and highly vulnerable to explosions.
So that just leaves the Cyberdisc and its solitary remaining Drone to deal with. Right?
Oh come on. Where did that one even come from? If this is what passes for a Difficult mission now, I shudder to think what a Very Difficult mission would’ve been like. I’m imagining just back-to-back Cyberdiscs, all over the map, forever.
I’m crudely awoken from my terrible reverie by the sight of an equally terrible reality.
Alright, how to deal with this? The Drone is quickly taken care of; I’m given to understand they repair the discs otherwise, and seeing that happen would just break me heart. And my chances of victory. I then start enacting Plan Tactical Staggered Retreat, which quickly turns into Plan Get The Hell Away From These Alien Robot Monsters.
One of the Cyberdiscs disagrees with Tovik’s plan of hiding up on the roof.
Current situation: one Cyberdisc down on the ground, in close proximity to five members of my team. One other Cyberdisc on the roof, staring down Major Tovik. The latter situation calls for another tactical retreat, which only looks like cowering inside a conveniently located truck to the untrained eye. I attempt to resolve the former situation with gunfire, but all that tactical retreating has left my soldiers unable to properly set up. Also, they’re still clustered up.
And both Cyberdiscs have a grenade ready.
Sergeant the First goes down behind a burning car. I could save her in theory, but it’s no use: the imminent car explosion will kill her regardless of what I do. Damn you, cars!
I start panicking a little. I know I should be able to pull this off, but the car bombs scattered everywhere present such a major risk. I decide to try to kill the ground-level Disc in this turn, and nearly pull it off…
…but at the cost of leaving Corporal Franklin right next to the very same burning car that’s slated to kill Sergeant the First.
Silver lining: Squaddie Wever panics, pulls out his Light Plasma Rifle and shoots the Cyberdisc stone dead. Well, broken, whatever. Double silver lining: Devlin is able to use his Psi Inspiration power to cure Wever’s panic, meaning he just basically got a free turn out of the deal.
Of course, silver linings can’t conceal that I just lost two of my soldiers in one car explosion.
Nevertheless, the death of that one Cyberdisc does take the pressure off a bit. It’s one Disc left, now, in close proximity to Devlin, Wever and Jonely. I expect any of them to strike the final blow any time soon…
…but in the end, it’s actually Tovik who does the honours. Freed from roof-Disc’s malevolent attention, he’s free to stand out of cover, direct line of sight at his erstwhile assassin, and fire straight ahead. Even though Tovik doesn’t have Squad Sight, the robot monster is well within his own sight radius.
It takes two shots to kill the Disc, during which time Wever takes significant injuries. But ‘significant injuries’ is much preferable over ‘death’.
Still, this was a mixed victory at best. Two soldiers down, three soldiers seriously injured. The only operative to make it back completely unscathed is the newly promoted Captain Devlin… who, incidentally, maxed out his psionic potential during that fight.
Psi-Master Devlin can pick either Telekinetic Field, which creates a large defense-boosting area… or Mind Control. Mind Control. I can’t even pretend to have thought about this for longer than a second.
For his regular Sniper promotion, I give him Opportunist, which removes the aim penalty on Overwatch fire.
Speaking of regular promotions:
Now, normally, this is about where I end an episode. But there’s two more things I’d really like to get done before calling it a day. First is the third batch of psi testing, which I have high hopes for. And with good reason:
I can’t say I’m surprised about this outcome, really: psionic potential is linked to Will, and Will gets boosted by increasing in rank. Plus, Krellen. He’s panicked what, twice? I always figured him for the strong, steely-eyed silent type.
I load Jacob Viel, Pink Putty and Asimech Jones into the capsules, and proceed to the second item on my to-do list. The one I wasn’t actually looking forward to, but the one I feel I will have to get over with before concluding.
This month’s Council Meeting.
I normally quite like the monthly allotment of money and praise, but it is different this time. While I managed to recover Brazil from the edge of total collapse by sheer luck, Argentina is still at 5 Panic. And when a country is at 5 Panic at the end of the month, during the Council Meeting…
The Argentinian government has, unfortunately, decided they would be better served by allocating the resources they currently donate to the council to their own national defenses instead. They withdraw from the Council, effective immediately. I guess this is the thanks I get for all those Alien Alloys I sold you guys not two weeks ago?
While this isn’t terribly bad for me — I wasn’t receiving any funding from Argentina anyway — this is probably the most damaging effect the aliens have had on the XCOM Project so far. Not only will I never be able to gain Argentina’s funding and the South American Continent bonus now, but the Doom Counter is now at one out of eight: should seven more countries decide to call it quits, the XCOM Project will officially be disbanded. And that would be tantamount to an alien victory.
It’s up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen.