- XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Demo impressions
- Who wants a walk-on role in my XCOM: Enemy Unknown squad?
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 1: Baby Steps
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 2: Winning battles, whither the war?
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 3: Terror and Triumph
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 4: The Turning of the Tide
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 5: Pride Goeth Before a Fall
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 6: SHIVs, Stopgaps and Archangels
- Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 7 (FINAL): Avenger
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown – The Verdict
And we’re back!
After Part 3’s successful terror mission, the rest of April passes without incident. Dr Vahlen and her scientists finish research on beam weapons, which unlocks laser pistols and laser assault rifles for use by my squad!
Unfortunately, I’m too broke to build more than one of each. Not only do they hoover up cash, they also require precious alien alloys – and my stock of alloys is running dangerously low. Farnsworth gets the laser rifle; LeSquide, our sniper, gets the laser pistol (since he can’t move and fire his sniper rifle in the same turn, he’s the one most in need of a decent sidearm).
At the end of the month, the Council gives us our scorecard and funding cheque:
As feared, the XCOM Project has lost its first two countries: Japan and Mexico have raised the white flag to the aliens. Three more, Argentina, India and China, are teetering. But all is not lost – I have no fewer than three satellites in the pipeline, plus the cash to build more (and their supporting infrastructure). This coming month, May, will be do-or-die. If XCOM can make it through the month in one piece, by its end I should have enough satellites to halt the tide of global panic. More than that, I’ll have so many satellites, and so much funding, that I’ll never have to worry about scrimping and saving again. If, if, if.
Let’s see how I go.
A quick note: from now on I’ll be focusing on the highlights of the game rather than blow-by-blow detail. In particular, I won’t run you through every widget and doo-dad on which I spent my money. Suffice it to say that this month, almost every penny I made went straight into satellites and their supporting infrastructure, with a few left over for an alien containment facility so I can start capturing live aliens. After I run through my monthly funding cheque, the rest of the money comes from selling loot and fulfilling a couple of trivial requests from XCOM member nations.
The aliens resume the war a few days into May with a spate of abductions. I need more engineers to expand my satellite infrastructure, so it’s time to head over to the one country offering engineers as a reward, the UK.
Battle 10: Operation Dark Whisper (Alien Abduction, Glasgow, UK) – 4 May 2015
I also need to train up my remaining rookies, so I send two of them into the fray for the first time – Riztro (in black) and Hikaru Usada (hot pink).
The squad lands just outside a corner store (pictured above), which becomes the epicentre of the action. I begin by taking out the aliens on “my” side of the corner store, and when my scouts encounter aliens in the alley on the other side of the building, I’m able to rush Kat up the alley to flank them, while Farnsworth rains down laser fire from the roof. Easy peasy.
Some days later, my satellites pick up another medium UFO – a “large scout” – of the same kind that gave me such a fright back in part 2, but with a difference. Most of my UFO recovery missions take place at crash sites. This UFO has landed intact. That means more aliens alive, but also more loot for XCOM.
Battle 11: Operation Empty Blade (UFO Landing, Canada) – 8 May 2015
I bring my best soldiers, deploy them across the width of the map so that the aliens can’t flank me, and it pays off. Things get momentarily hairy once I reach the UFO, where my advance party comes under fire from entrenched Thin Men:
However, a rocket from Talorc solves that problem. Inside the UFO, there are four aliens waiting (three Thin Men in the engine room and an Outsider on the bridge), not the solitary Outsider I fought last time, but they’re no match for six XCOM veterans.
Reviewing the loot after the battle, my alloy shortage is (at least temporarily) over:
The next battle I choose because panic is sky-high in Asia (and China is about to pull out of XCOM):
Battle 12: Operation Cryptic Druid (Alien Abduction, Guangzhou, China) – 15 May 2015
This battle is mostly notable for taking place on the same warehouse/dockyard map as the demo. Other than that, there’s not much to say. The “Very Difficult” warning turns out to be an exaggeration, as my squad methodically chews through Thin Men and Floaters:
Early on, I get a fright when two Floaters appear on my flank at the same time I’m engaging some Thin Men, but Josho – inside a nearby building – makes short work of them. The mission is a success, and the resulting panic reduction in China pulls that country back from the brink!
Battle 13: Operation Severed Father (Bomb Disposal, Paris, France) – 21 May 2015
XCOM’s next mission, a week later, is a little different. This time, we’re called in to defuse an alien bomb on a Parisian bridge, which will require our soldiers to hurry and find the bomb before it goes off. With speed of the essence, my squad mostly comprises Assault and Support troopers, plus a single rookie (Hikaru Usada) and one Heavy (Talorc) – the slow-moving snipers can stay at home.
Things almost go horribly wrong three times, with the first two near-disasters caused by the interplay of two game mechanics that haven’t been a problem until now. First, when wounded, XCOM soldiers have a chance to panic, and when they panic, they have a chance to fire blindly at a random target – often a friendly! Second, Thin Men – my sole opponents on this mission – can spit clouds of poison. Poison reduces health, and triggers a panic check, every turn it lasts. See where this is going?
Yep, that screenshot shows Usada the rookie firing at one of her own comrades, who turned and fired at someone else… Luckily that chain reaction ended after the second or third soldier panicked, and luckily nobody died, but it happened again later in the mission! The third near-disaster occurs when I disarm the bomb, which triggers Thin Man reinforcements to spawn (just as rescuing the VIP did, back in part 2). I was expecting this – but I didn’t expect the Thin Men to drop in a circle around the squad, almost close enough to reach out and touch! By then my soldiers had pulled themselves together, and nobody missed a shot, but if the dice had not gone my way someone would have come home in a body bag. As is, the squad is left nursing plenty of injuries, although promotions all around are a nice consolation:
During the month, the boffins complete research on a number of projects – heavy lasers (providing a man-portable version that can be carried by Brian and Talorc, and also an aircraft-mounted version), various alien autopsies, and other odds and ends. I would love to say I outfitted my whole squad with lasers and sent them on an alien-hunting rampage, but again, my cashflow – tied up in satellites – didn’t allow that. Butter before guns, if you would. Then, on 24 May, I see this:
That is the biggest, meanest UFO I have encountered to date, and my earlier penny-pinching comes back to bite me. In a hurry, I order up a laser cannon… only to find it’ll take 24 hours to fit it to my interceptor. By then, the UFO will be gone. I grit my teeth. The laser-less interceptor soars into the air anyway. It makes it home… just. The UFO eats Avalanche missiles one after the other without breaking a sweat, all the time punching my interceptor full of holes. In the end, I order my pilot to retreat. The interceptor breaks off just in the nick of time, and the UFO saunters on its way.
Still, by this date, that’s a minor worry – all that money I devoted to satellites pays off. Before the month ends, I launch five satellites one after the other. Three go up over Egypt, Argentina and India, reducing their panic to manageable levels. The remaining two go up over Nigeria and South Africa, granting me the bonus (+30% to monthly funding!) for complete coverage of Africa. The money I earned from the last battle goes into new interceptors, to protect South America, Africa, and Asia.
A day or two later, the Council hands down its verdict:
There are two key takeaways from that screen. One, panic is under control. And two, look at all the money the Council has given me. Even after deducting expenses, that leaves me with well north of §800 in monthly funds (top right corner of the following screenshot), when I’ve never had more than §200/month before:
XCOM’s days of living hand to mouth are over. That’s enough money to carpet the sky in satellites, and pay for their infrastructure too. That’s even enough to pay for a few lasers on the side. That will pay for life for my soldiers, relief for the nations of Earth, and eventual victory.
Dr Vahlen’s team completing research on precision lasers, one day later, is just the icing on the cake:
As I contemplate XCOM’s position – the barracks full of veteran soldiers, the skies starting to bustle with satellites and fighter aircraft, and the coffers flush – this seems an appropriate time to quote Winston Churchill. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning to the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
As at the end of Part 4, XCOM’s roster comprises:
Major Talorc – Heavy
Captain Brian Rubin – Heavy
Captain Josho – Assault
Captain Rebecca W – Assault
Captain Thasero – Support
Captain Farnsworth – Support
Lieutenant LeSquide – Sniper
Lieutenant Kat – Assault
Squaddie Riztro – Sniper
Squaddie Hikaru Usada – Support
Wolfox, Gunner – Rookies
KIA in this instalment: None!
Number of countries remaining in the XCOM Project: 14 (all except Japan and Mexico).