XCOM Project (Abandoned)

This is a recap of the first month of a new XCOM effort with the goal of securing the following Steam achievements: “Ain't No Cavalry Comin'” (have a soldier survive every mission in a full game), “Edison” (in a single game, complete every Research Project), “Hunter/Killer” (in a single game, shoot down one of each alien craft) and “A Continental Fellow” (win the game from each of the 5 starting locations).

Some things right off of the bat: I am playing the game on easy mode without iron man or any of the other extras selected. I completed the game once already on easy mode so the final achievement listed above will not be satisfied this go around, and when I won that first game I should have secured the Research Project achievement as there were no other projects to assign the science team.

At the outset I select Europe as my base location which confers the following Continent Bonus: Expert Knowledge. This allows Laboratories and Workshops to cost 50% less to build and maintain. The first mission is an Alien Abduction in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The map is a nice tactical layout on a roof top with a strange resemblance to the Streets map in Raven Shield. I made quick work of the Sectoids and completed the mission with only one casualty, a Rookie who was wounded and out for eight days.

After the usual first mission cut scenes, I ordered the Xeno-Biology Research Project which takes eight days to complete. Ever the satellite whore, I ordered the Engineering Department to start working on one of those and two Medikits. The game promoted three soldiers to the rank of Squaddie and assigned the following classes: Assault, Support and Sniper.

A quick trip to Mission Control and it the game throws me an abduction event, with the locations being Beijing, Baltimore and Lille. Needing Engineers to build additional facilities I head off to Maryland with a Skyranger full of relative noobs (three Squaddies and one Rookie). This mission would suck for a stupid mistake I made by leaving a soldier next to a vehicle that was brewing up. When it exploded mid-turn, it resulted in my first combat fatality of the series. This was an all Sectoid map, featuring six of the little rat bastards.

The game promoted the lone Rookie on the mission to the rank of Squaddie and assigned her the class of Heavy. I went to the Barracks and hired one additional soldier to replace the corpse at a cost of 10 something or other (I do not know what the currency type is in this game: it is 2015 so it could be based on the Dave & Buster’s token standard for all I know).

At this point the game allows me entry into the Situation Room where I take the one Satellite available and assign it to France in the Europe Theater (my home base of operations). My strategy here is to placate the masses with Alien Abduction responses until I fully cap my continent to take maximum advantage of the Continent Bonus: Expert Knowledge.

I also receive notification that the research project underway, codenamed “Mobius” (Xeno-Biology) has been completed and the game assigns a new persistent (until completed) objective: Capture a Live Alien. This automatically adds a new research project to the list of those available: Arc Thrower (Priority). I skip this however and order the Research Department to begin the Weapons Fragments project (normal, eight days).

I receive notification of my first UFO Contact in which I can scramble Interceptors. This is classified as “UFO-1”, a small unidentified ship over Germany. A Raven class sortie is launched from the Hangar and the aircraft is armed only with the most basic weapon system available, Avalanche Missiles. The Raven splashes the UFO and the Skyranger is sent out with three Squaddies and one Rookie. The mission featured five enemies, four Sectoids and the first appearance of an Outsider entity.

One Squaddie was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and a Rookie was promoted to the rank of Squaddie. With the Corporal promotion, I get the first opportunity to make a decision regarding the Soldiers Abilities Tree, and in this case I choose the Sprinter ability which allows the unit to move three additional tiles (this can mean life or death for these avatars).

I also receive notification that the research project underway, codenamed “Sagaris” (Weapons Fragments) has been completed and the game unlocks a new manufacturing component, a S.C.O.P.E. which conveys a + 10 aim bonus to whomever is carrying one (although it is not visually represented on any weapon). So Dr. Vahlen is not sitting around on her tight ass, I order the Research Department to begin the Alien Materials project (normal, eight days).

At this point I receive my first Council Mission request, a Target Escort scenario. The reward for successful completion is $146 D&B tokens, Panic Reduction and two Scientists. Before launching that mission, I order Engineering to start construction on a Satellite (even though I did not have enough uplink capacity at the time). I also direct them to produce one S.C.O.P.E. which I assign to the Sniper class.

The mission is in Volgograd, Russia in a nighttime setting on what appears to be warehouse docks. It is the first appearance of the dreaded Thin Man, an alien being that can unleash a noxious Spit cloud on the battlefield that can decrease the health of soldiers and non-mechanical aliens alike. One the scientist is onboard the Skyranger, I receive a new objective to clear the area of operations of any remaining ET scum. The final tally was six aliens dead, one lightly wounded Soldier and a rescued scientist.

Post mission the team receives the first Sergeant promotion, this being for Emily “Vixen” King (I don’t fraternize with the avatars until they become NCO’s). Two soldiers are bumped up to the rank of Corporal and a Rookie moves up to the rank of Squaddie.

A Heavy Class soldier is upgraded to Bullet Swarm on their Ability Tree: this allows them to fire their primary weapon as the first action without ending their turn (very important). Sergeant King (Support Class) is upgraded to the Field Medic ability which allows Medikits to be used three times per battle (this can be critical for obvious reasons). The Sniper Class soldier is upgraded to the Squadsight ability, which allows firing at targets in an ally's sight radius.

For anyone reading this that has not played XCOM, these changes at the individual Soldier level are one of the places where the player can directly impact the course of the game. I am following a predefined advancement tree for each class to compliment and maximize each ability available. Once a selection is made, it is permanent.

The Sergeant promotion is a critical point in the game: It opens up the Officer Training School and allows the purchase of Squad Size One (increase to five soldiers per mission) and Wet Work (+ 25% experience gained from kills).

At this point I go to the ant farm and order a Cave Excavation on level one to the right of the Access Lift. The construction time for these excavations takes five days and cost $10 D&B tokens one the first level.

Ever the capitalist, I visit the Situation Room and sell off some unneeded parts to the Gray Market for $50.

I receive notice of another Alien Abduction, this time in Edmonton, Brisbane and Cape Town. I head off to Australia and the potential reward of a new Soldier ranked at Sergeant and classed as Assault (the other abduction sites offered only money and Scientists, not Engineers).

This will be my first mission with the new five pack of Soldiers. I have two Corporals and three Rookies along for the ride, only two who are classed (Sniper and Heavy). This is another nighttime mission, located on a long bridge with nice sightlines for the Sniper as well as plenty of cover. Six aliens up and down with only one of my girls being wounded (out for eight days): the mix was Sectoid and Thin Man.

Post mission everyone receives a promotion: two new Sergeants and three new Squaddies. Sergeant Lillian “Tectonic” Eriksen is upgraded to the Shredder Rocket ability of the Heavy Class (fire a rocket that causes all enemies hit to take + 33% damage from all sources for the next 4 turns). Sergeant Dominga “Emo” Ramirez is upgraded to the Damn Good Ground ability of the Sniper Class (confers + 10 Aim and + 10 Defense against enemies at lower elevation, in addition to the usual elevation bonuses).

The reward for completing the mission, the new Sergeant (Assault Class) is named David “Caper” Brown. I have three selections to make here with the class: Run & Gun (only option at tier one), Aggression (confers + 10% critical chance per enemy in sight (Max + 30%) and Close and Personal (confers + 30% critical chance against adjacent targets).

I receive notification that the research project underway, codenamed “Looking Glass” (Alien Materials) has been completed and the game unlocks a new manufacturing component, a Nano-fiber Vest and makes the Alien Containment facility available for construction. At this point I direct the Research Department to begin the Arc Thrower project (normal, nine days) and the Engineering Department to begin construction of the containment facility (seven days) in the cave I excavated earlier in the ant farm.

And it all comes down to this: the XCOM Project Monthly Report, on which I receive a grade of A, $445 D&B tokens and three additional scientists. Canada, China and South Africa are starting to freak out on their panic levels, however as mentioned earlier in this post they will have to wait until I complete arming Europe with satellites.

Please note the following: this is the first version of this post so I will be coming back to polish up the structure and add some links to a wiki resource for the game in appropriate places.

XCOM April, 2015

This is a recap of month two of my XCOM Project. As indicated in my first post this effort is in easy mode in order to cap some additional achievements on Steam without having to pour hours into each tactical engagement. Unfortunately the side effect of this is that the game is too easy and thus is making me lazy. That results in poor tactical decisions and cheapens the overall experience. 

When you lose soldiers on easy mode, then there is something wrong.

To make matters worse, the sheet of paper where I wrote down the selected advancement path for each soldier class came up missing during this session. So I had to wing it in deciding which progression made the most sense for each individual unit. I could have searched the internet again; however I was in the middle of the game and decided to at least take some ownership of this debacle. I think my cat moved the paper to some far off location where I won’t find it for a few months.

Some beginning of the month housekeeping items to note: the Arc Thrower project has been completed, so I assign the Research Department the Sectoid Autopsy (fast, four days). Over in Engineering, I have them build one Arc Thrower, and also order up five Nano-fiber Vests. I later receive notice that the Alien Containment facility is complete, so I assign construction of a Laboratory (10 days to build).

These were stupid decisions that became almost immediately known: the vests take up an inventory slot on a soldier, so I would be trading off a grenade or Medikit in order to equip one. The Laboratory could have been a Workshop which would have yielded the extra Engineers required to begin construction of a Satellite Uplink so more eyes in the sky could be launched.

At this point I am thinking what I have thought several times in the past when I tried to develop this game into a series of posts for my blog: abandoning the whole thing and starting over in a more respectable (and challenging mode), such as Iron Man on Classic or Impossible difficulty. My previous problems were that I would not make it through the first month before shelving the whole project.

So with that said I am scrapping this series and advancing to getting my shit together for a proper treatment of a more challenging mode.

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