Jarenth Plays XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Episode 22: Be The Sectoid

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, I traded one low-level Support and one low-level Assault for one high-level Support and the power of mind control. Or at least, that’s how I’m rationalizing it to myself: the alternative — that I got two soldiers killed by some ill-conceived strategy involving hiding behind burning cars — paints me in a much less favourable light. And casting criticism on the Commander, who is me, is tantamount to letting the aliens win. So as far as the history books are concerned, last mission’s trade-off was gruesome, but fully intentional.

Also, and maybe more importantly, Argentina permanently and irrevocably left the Council of Nations. That’s one blip on the Doom Tracker, and one stack of funding and associated continent bonus I’m never ever getting. I can pretty much say goodbye to the ‘have satellite coverage on the whole world’ achievement as well. I haven’t figured out a way to spin this in my favour yet, but rest assured that our top minds are working on it.

Now, stepping outside the narrative for a second: usually, I like to structure these Let’s Play episodes in a highly similar way. Start in the base, little development, mission du jour, aftermath, maybe some more base wrangling. It’s a pattern you’ve probably spotted for yourself in the past twenty-one episodes, and it works pretty well overall.

I usually open with something like this, remember?

It almost looks like it’s not going to be like that this time. Because no sooner do I start scanning…

…than I meet the largest UFO I’ve ever seen.

The nascent crisis is averted, though, when it turns out that this UFO is Big. Capital letter Big, you read that right. And it’s spotted over North America, which I only have two regularly-armed Interceptors on. Or well, only: North America is my second most well-defended continent, right after Europe… and Europe only has one regular Interceptor and one Interceptor armed with a Phoenix Cannon.

I’m starting to think I might be really bad at air superiority.

I launch both Interceptors at the large flying craft sequentially, burning through a Dodge Module (allowing a fighter to auto-dodge the next two shots) and a Tracking Module (giving a fighter more time to shoot at a UFO before it escapes) in the process, but to no avail: the UFO escapes.

Whew! And here you thought this might be getting interesting! Crisis: averted.

So let’s get on with that base bit, shall we? The first interesting thing that happens is that my Alien Flight Computer-assisted Satellite Nexus comes online.

It has two rotating satellite dishes over the Satellite Uplink’s one, signalling that it’s twice as good.

The Satellite Nexus allows me to support no less than four new satellites. Plus, it’s built right next to an existing Satellite Uplink: the resulting adjacency effect means room for one more free satellite. So that’s five new Space Slots, in one swoop, and boy howdy do I need those.

Panic levels are rising again, is what I’m saying.

Since I’m too clever for my own good, though, I’ll refrain from actually launching any satellites until just before the next Council Meeting hits. A lot can happen in four weeks, and I’d like to have some emergency satellites on hand in case another country hits five Panic. I’ve been told in highly uncertain terms that having more satellites around shifts the ratio of alien nonsensery away from Abductions and towards UFOs — reasoning that with more satellites, you can detect the abduction UFOs before they go about their business — but I don’t really have the air power required to take anything out right now.

With little to do immediately, I Scan ahead for a few days. And that’s when the plot kicks itself into gear.

See, last episode I finished building the Hyperwave Array. Remember that thing? It’s a specialized facility designed to hold and utilize the alien Hyperwave Beacon. Like I said, I finished it last episode; I didn’t report on it at the time, however, because… well, because it didn’t do anything. My main objective changed from ‘Build the Hyperwave Array’ to ‘Scan with the Hyperwave Array’, but I couldn’t figure out how to do anything like that. And I had bigger fish to fry at that time. I figured I’d either look into it later, or that this might be one of those problems that sort themselves out over time.

The Hyperwave Array has just sorted itself out over time.

And it’s pretty pissed at my ignoring it for so long.

Cutscene. The Hyperwave Array is spinning rapidly, glowing orange and rumbling! Steve is stressed out! Dr. Vahlen is telling everyone to calm down! Dr. Shen is yelling that this thing is tearing the base apart! Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen are having a little character moment! This is incredibly silly!

“I know it has been difficult for you to trust anyone after your wife died, but trust *me*. A mother knows these things.”

No, but seriously. I’m not fully sure what the reasoning behind this little soap opera moment is, but I am sure the game wouldn’t just destroy my base in a cutscene. So, predictably, dr. Vahlen turns out to be right: the Hyperwave Array calms down, stops rumbling, and turns from menacing orange to happy yellow. And once it does — once it scans the globe for the alien trans-dimensional frequencies — it reveals a prize unlike any we’ve seen before.

A *purple* UFO? Holy shit, I have to own this!

Obviously, my next goal is to take that sucker down. It’s over Europe, too, my Air Superiority Central, so I immediately launch my Phoenix Cannon fighter. It takes off, closes in, and engages the ‘Overseer UFO’ in combat.

It has a little over three seconds to do so before said UFO escapes in a hurry.

In the time it took you to read this caption, that UFO escaped.

Ah. Like so. I launch my second (regular) Interceptor, but that one has even less luck: not only is the UFO gone in a flash, but it also fires a tremendous barrage of plasma bolts. Have I lost fighter jets before? I don’t think I have; I’m usually pretty good at aborting engagement before that happens. Not this time, though. Farewell, nameless pilot: your name will probably not be on the Memorial Wall, because I’ve already forgotten about you.

Alternatively, you probably just ejected out.

As I set out to buy more Interceptors, Dr. Shen makes a radical suggestion: how about instead of throwing more weak-ass planes at the problem, why don’t I try to research a better aircraft? It’s an interesting idea, and one that I shelve for later investigation.

Hey, abductions! Haven’t seen any of those in a while. Four-Panic South Africa, four-Panic United Kingdom, three-Panic Australia. Hmm…

I hate Panic. Let’s go barbecue some shrimps.

Two new additions to the XCOM armory today. First up, I finally remember to craft two suits of Titan Armor. This new armor gives a significant bonus to HP, as well as rendering the wearer highly resistant to fire and toxins. Here’s Krellen demonstrating just how useful this can be:

“Has this ever happened to you? You’re walking down the street, and *BAM*, flamethrowers out of nowhere.”

And second, the Plasma Sniper Rifle. I only have one of those, so I hand it off to Major Tovik, reasoning that Captain Devlin’s psychic powers of the mind give him something of an advantage anyway.

And before you ask, *yes*, I *did* remember to outfit Brandon Jonely this time around.

Crikey, thirteen screenshots in and we haven’t even started the mission yet. Luckily, this is exactly the type of mission that’s easy to summarize: it takes a fairly long time to complete — cautiously! — but it has little dramatic revelations. So, to wit:

Random construction zone at night: Alien hotspot extraordinaire.

Downside: cars. Upside: Lots of heavy cover in the center that’s not cars. Downside: I don’t actually know if these construction machines can explode. But given that Colonel Krellen and Captain DeCamp are both packing Titan Armor now, I’m hoping they’ll be more than a little resistant to this sort of stuff.

A well-thrown Battle Scanner reveals a regular Muton and a Berserker in the distance, but neither of my Snipers are of the Squadsight variety. I’m mostly reporting on this to give everyone a chance to deliver a well-earned ‘I told you so’ in the comments.

And also to demonstrate that yes, my first instinct *was* to shoot a rocket at them.

Line of sight can be weird in this game: I fire Jonely’s Shredder Rocket straight at the two aliens, but in spite of being hit dead-on they don’t react. They just stand there, sheepishly roaring at an unfair universe’s penchant for mysterious rockets out of nowhere. Devlin and Tovik manage to stay out of sight range as well, and it’s not until a direct hit on the Berserker forces it closer that the aliens start acting.

My dreams of capturing this Berserker are dashed when it spots and successfully Intimidates Squaddie Wever. Remember what Wever does when he Panics?

When Wever panics, aliens *die*.

The regular Muton is captured by Krellen, who shows remarkable restraint in not immediately murdering it when it invades his personal space. And by that I mean he missed, but I’m assuming that was intentional. Moving on.

Five steps to the northwest, Captain DeCamp runs into Sectoids.

I don’t even know what joke to make here that isn’t just ‘really, Sectoids?’.

At first, I laugh. Then, I laugh some more: Sectoids, really? I prepare to take them out, when I suddenly have an idea: since these little fellows are so incredibly harmless anyway, why don’t I give Devlin a free shot at Mind Controlling one? The worst that can happen if he misses is that they ineffectually shoot their low-grade Plasma Pistols at me for a turn.

72% chance. Devlin steps out of cover, focuses his mind, directs his power, and…

> Be the Sectoid.

I am now the Sectoid.

Rather, I am now a Sectoid. I don’t really have a name, what with being a copy of standardized stock DNA and being genetically identical to every other Sectoid in existence. But you can call me Dave, if you absolutely have to. Sectoid Dave. Has something of a ring to it.

You know, I used to be all on board with this whole ‘invade the Earth and abduct all the humans’ plan. But now this here human has spoken to my mind directly, and he’s raised some excellent points vis-à-vis our long-term survival prospects. I mean, have you seen how these apes have advanced? They’re using our own plasma weapons against us, now. They’ve even improved on the concept, coming up with applications that we’d never even considered.

I can’t even parse what the deal is with this plasma catapult stick thing, but it just murdered Sectoid Harry over there in a single shot! *Twice over!*

And that armor. It’s like they have space ship hulls strapped to their torsos, and it’s super fucking cool. I don’t even have any armor, and here’s this guy basically being a walking tank!

If I wasn’t on that thing’s side right now, I’d be soiling my non-existent underpants.

So yeah, screw it. I’m switching sides.

Hey, here comes my friend, Floater Bob. Hey, Bob! Listen, do I have something to te-

I am no longer the Sectoid.

Well, that was certainly interesting. Might not have gotten much out of it, but I got one alien distracted by killing another. I call that a win.

The rest of the mission is basically cleanup. There’s some more Mutons, and some Floaters, and some more shots get fired, but at the end of the day there’s ten dead aliens and zero injured XCOM operatives.

Plus, more promotions!

Second one to reach the top tiers, Colonel Tovik — last remaining member of the Original Four — can pick either In The Zone (killing a flanked or out-of-cover target with a sniper rifle doesn’t take an action) or Double Tap (both actions can be used for shooting-related stuff, but has a 1-turn cooldown). While In The Zone can theoretically be better, I don’t really foresee a whole lot of situations where there’ll be lots of enemies out of cover; Terror Missions, maybe? Double Tap, on the other hand, sounds like it’ll be useful everywhere, all day every day.

Oh, and Corporal Wever and Lieutenant Jonely take Sprinter and HEAT Ammo, respectively.

Now, going for the low-Panic option in Australia has had some consequences. Four distinct sets of consequences, in fact: the United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Nigeria all go into Mass Panic mode. I’m not actually upset about this, though: I have enough satellite slots ready and enough satellites incoming before the next Council Mission to put a halt to this before it spirals out of control. You could make a case that it’s my moral obligation to reduce Panic levels now, but a) that’d be inefficient and b) I find the mental image of the British panicking out of control hilarious.

I say, what ho, chap. Looks like those alien buggers are on the verge of exterminating us all. Isn’t that a right bugger? I’ve half a mind to send a stern letter to Parliament about the whole affair.

Wrapping the day up: while this mission has given me a decent supply of Weapon Fragments, it’s still not enough to start researching that new fighter craft Dr. Shen was going on about. It’s actually my new main objective, leading me to believe that it’s supposed to be impossible to take down the Overseer UFO without it. I initially take that as a challenge, but once the UFO reappears over the now-four-Interceptor-strong Europe…

Alright, *technically* three interceptors.

…and manages to escape without so much as being hit once, I decide to sing a different tune.

Because of that stringent Weapon Fragments requirement, there’ll be no other research either. You have no idea how much it hurts me to give this order.

And finally, from the psi-lab:

More jackpot.

Sweet! That’s three psionic soldiers already. Of three different classes, too, come to think of it. I just need a psionic Support and I’ll be unstoppable!

Well, that all went pretty well, wouldn’t you say? I’m certainly pretty optimistic. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything the aliens can throw at me that’ll make me even the least bit upset!

…well played, aliens.

Next episode: I… what? I don’t rightly understand why what happens, happens.


  1. Right, typo-type stuff.

    I assume that in the third paragraph you mean “I like _to_ structure these Let’s Play episodes in a”.

    The sentence “Because no sooner do I start scanning… …than I meet the largest UFO I’ve ever seen.” seems a little weird. Maybe “Because as soon as I start scanning… …I meet largest UFO I’ve ever seen”? Perhaps one of the English-natives can offer a better suggestion.

    And just before that there’s “It almost looks like _it’s_ not going to be like that this time.”.

    Those were the only ones I spotted, and I’ll do my best to be nicer for next episode. :3

      1. Yeah, I think that’s still technically correct. Alternate sentence structures are occasionally correct – just ask Yoda.


    In all seriousness, though, I was kind of wondering why you were still using those old interceptors.

    1. Also, Phoenix Cannons and Missiles. *sob*

      (two episodes so far. Two more until I die, knowing Jarenth)

      1. For some reason I am really godawful at air superiority. The only stages I maintain are ‘regular fighters, doop de doop, I hope the aliens don’t throw anything dangerous at me’ and ‘FIRESTORM + EMP, I AM SKY KING’.

          1. Replaying XCOM now (for my non-Ironman Classic run) I’m a little baffled why I handled things the way I did here. My current roster is still mostly Interceptors (though my first Firestorms are under construction), but all of them are packing Plasma Cannons. They’re so cheap, especially once you get the USA continent bonus. And Laser Cannons are even easier to get. WHY DO I NOT DO THIS HERE

  3. Double Tap is great, but In the Zone is all kinds of awesome. It has no cooldown, and (theoretically) no limit on how many times you can use it in a turn. Also, Crysalids are not the only aliens that don’t use cover. There are also Cyberdiscs, Drones, and Muton Berserkers.

    Is it better, all the time? I don’t really know that. I just know it turned my main sniper into a murder-machine.

    1. Fair enough. I’ve seen situations later on where In The Zone would’ve been useful, but I maintain that Double Tap has a more consistent benefit.

      In The Zone would probably have been great at creating cinematic life-or-death moments, though, where one lone sniper takes out a whole marauding alien force. Should’ve probably thought of that earlier.

      1. I am an ardent follower of Double Tap.
        -ITZ only triggers on actual kills, which means one miss or one unfortunate damage roll flat-out stops your top-rank ability from doing anything.
        -You can only ever fire once at a Berserker, and that’s at the point it’s right in the middle of your squad meaning everyone has a 90-100% chance to hit anyways. Also, if you miss, someone in your squad is coming home with a headache.
        -Got a Cyberdisk that’s using his flight ability? Well there goes any chance of ITZ triggering.
        -It never does anything useful against a sole enemy.

        It kills Drones and Chryssalid quite nicely (assuming you never, ever miss), but so does everything else. *shrug*

        Double Tap works against every enemy, regardless of amount, damage, crits, health or cover. Yes, there’s scenaria where ITZ might be able to squeeze out three shots over DT’s two, but how many times can DT shoot twice and ITZ only once?

        1. I’ve only ever gotten Double-Tap, but a though occurred to me–does the sniper actually have to be the one flanking for it to proc (i.e., I have my SS sniper in the back, run up with an assault to flank, sniper gets ITZ bonus).

          If so, I can see some definite applications with liberal use of mind control…

          Also, in the zone would be a great followup to a cover-destroying rocket.

          Why have I never given this skill a try?

          1. You can’t shoot at Mind Controlled enemies, so you’d have to wait for MC to end, and then the alien would still have to be flanked.

            As for the rocket; that would work, yes. Of course, you’re wasting a rocket to get a second shot from your Sniper Rifle, while Double Tap would do the same without costing it a Heavy’s turn. :P

          2. Yes, the sniper does have to be the one doing the actual flanking.

            I’ve had a run with a team of two snipers, so I changed things up a bit with skill choices (both were Squad Sight Marksmen Opportunists, but other choices varied), and Double Tap was overall far more effective than In The Zone.

            Both were pretty cool, though. One significant difference, I believe, is that Double Tab requires Sniper Rifle shots, while In The Zone can be used with a pistol – which can be useful given Sniper Rifles have a heavy accuracy penalty at close range.

          3. Nope, ITZ is only with Sniper Kills. Can’t just have a Sniper with Gunslinger be useful now, can we :P

          4. I know FOR A FACT that ITZ can be used with a Pistol, but only once a turn (ie, you can get two pistol shots max).

          5. It’s funny how the skill description explicitly mentions it only triggers on kills with the Sniper Rifle… :/ Did they really balls up something so simple?
            (also, if it’s limited to one extra shot for the Pistol that’s still pretty shit; a Sniper Rifle deals tons more damage, so DT still gets you more damage overall and without a ton of effort)

            Interestingly; Double Tap does not mention it’s Rifle-only. I never bothered to try it with a Pistol though, because at that point there’s literally no reason to be in pistol range anyways.

          6. I sometimes get the idea that the various descriptions were written at the start of the project, and then never updated. See also: Chryssalids’ ‘black exoskeleton’, and Ghost Armor’s power being ‘enhanced defenses, but only when in cover’.

  4. You lucky sir, getting the terror mission in Europe. Now, if only you can actually save a few of the civvies, two of those max-panic countries will be under control again…

    Hell, if you at least *survive* it you can bring you max panic list from four down to three…

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