As-I-Play XCOM: Girl Fight (Seven)

by Kristin Bezio

So since I now know about the Valkyries achievement (play a mission with all women), I had to get it. What I learned is that playing with two snipers (Moira and Susan) is annoying, and I really really wish I’d had another Heavy (I have one female Heavy, and she’s great, but I need two of her). So it was difficult, especially since ALL THE ALIENS decided to come out and play at the same time, and made more so by the fact that my women are all Assault (Septic and a newbie whose name I don’t remember) and Sniper, with only one Support (Voodoo) and one Lady Heavy (also don’t remember her name, but it starts with an A). Ugh. I got the achievement, but not having my preferred class-distribution definitely made it rougher.

Cue tangent

In the process of trying to look up names for these posts, I discovered (without a lot of difficulty, which should tell you just how very little I actually knew about this game before going into it) that the mixture of classes, countries, names, nicknames, and genders come out of a HUGE database that the game mixes together pretty much arbitrarily. Some of my characters have really memorable names – my Heavy Axel Weiss (but I can’t remember his nickname) from Germany, for instance, and Support Camille Van Damme, “Voodoo” – and some have memorable nicknames – Septic – and some I just can’t keep straight. I know my Support Hitch is named Jean and is from France, but I can’t remember his last name. David is a Psionic Canadian Heavy, but otherwise I don’t remember his nick- or last name. Susan Armstrong is an American Sniper, but her nickname escapes me, too. Carlos Delgado is the Heavy from Argentina who was the only survivor of the first mission, but I can’t remember his nickname, either.

I also have Dioppe the Sniper who is from Nigeria, another Sniper from Japan, and some other people – a guy from the UK, a guy from Russia, a guy from Ukraine, a Support from Israel, and a smattering of other people whose names and countries of origin I can’t recall, including my Lady Heavy whose name starts with an A… but that’s all I’ve got on her.

I do, however, think that this is kinda cool. I’d hate to see it happen with a game that has a more significant narrative, because that would really mess with conversations about who did what and when (the thought of every character in Mass Effect or Dragon Age having different names for different people would make talking about it a nightmare), but in a game like XCOM where the actual people don’t really matter outside of an individual game, it’s neat to have different combinations. I haven’t been customizing any of them, simply because I don’t have any reason to, but I know that’s something a lot of people like to do.

I do customize my RPG characters – my Shepard (after a disastrous several hours of trying to make her look like me) is customized, my Hawke is customized (and I have both fem/Lady and man/Man versions of each), my Skyrim character is an orc… I normally like customizing my player-characters. I even derive amusement from custom clothing/armor in RPGs.

But I just don’t care about customizing the soldiers in XCOM, I think because I actually feel more attached to them if they come with a name and nationality. It makes them more like real people – people with backstories that I, as their XO, would probably never hear, but which they have nevertheless. The combinations of names and nicknames also seem – even though I know they don’t – to give each soldier a personality.

I imagine Susan Armstrong as no-nonsense and perpetually irritated with everyone who can’t make a shot when their percentage chance is over 50% (mostly because she makes almost everything I ask her to). Voodoo is sassy and likes to go clubbing and play pranks on Septic, mostly because she knows Septic has a secret sense of humor she never shows and is also getting really freaked out by aliens because they keep possessing her (it’s happened on three separate missions now). Axel is… well, his name is Axel Weiss and he’s a German Heavy, so you can probably figure out his “personality.” Jean – Hitch – I imagine as gay, but butch – not quite a “bear” in the stereotypical sense, but more cismale than not. Carlos likes futbol and beer and hanging out with the guys. Dioppe doesn’t talk to anyone else and wants to go home (hence the crying) because he wasn’t really given a choice about joining the military. David is from a family of career military and grew up hunting. Moira likes to hang out with Carlos and Axel. (No, I haven’t really spent much time pondering this – I’m pretty much making it up on the spot based on what I think about them when I remember their names.)

It makes it matter more if and when they die because I’ll never know those stories (I’m not going to anyway, but the illusion is still there). So even though I like the idea of making my soldiers customizable in this game, I don’t actually do it, and I prefer it that way… even if I can’t remember their names or always identify their national flags (yes, I know it says what country they’re from in their little barracks biographies, but I’m not going to look them up every time).

End tangent

My normal load-out is one Sniper (either Moira or Susan, since Dioppe screams and cries every other time), one Assault (not always Septic, although she is fabulous), two Support (combination Voodoo, Hitch, and my new guy from Israel, who is also Psionic), and two Heavy (Axel, David, Carlos, and/or my lady Heavy, who I’m training). I pretty much ignore everyone else. Once I get Lady Heavy and the Israeli New Guy (I’m blanking on his name and I’m not restarting the game to figure it out) trained up, I’ll maybe bring in more rookies. But I just can’t use Dioppe. He cries too much.

Speaking of Moira, German Scientist Lady babbled something during a cutscene about Moira being able to use the glowing purple ball thing that I picked up from one of the crashes a few hours (days, in game time) ago. This means that I want Moira to be as leveled up as I can get her, in both rank and Psionics. So Moira and I are now best buddies.

In the mean time, I’ve done ALL THE RESEARCH, using both the science team and the Foundry, and I’ve found all the Psionics in my barracks. I know I can hire more humans, but I don’t NEED more humans. Maybe I’ll start getting a few new ones to see if I can’t build a fully Psionic squad (I only have five of them, and it seems a pity not to have the full set of six).

I also feel like I should take the robot things out more often. I’ve done it a few times, but they’re just like another Assault, so I don’t really have a particular attachment to them, and they can’t level up skills (unless I’m missing something), so I don’t really feel like they’re all that useful. I guess they can’t “die,” really, although they can get destroyed. I can have one of my Support people repair them (like I can have them hack drones, but I don’t ever get close enough to the drones to do that… I shoot them from afar instead).

So I’m sort of back to the grinding stage – waiting to get Moira and my other Psionics leveled up enough to use the purple ball. I mean, they CAN use it now, but it seems like a good idea to maximize their potential before I hit the big shiny button.

I’ve already gotten panic down to the bottom level in all the countries. Pretty much permanently, as far as I can tell, which makes me a little mad about Argentina, but I’m not going to go back all the way to the beginning (and I lost Argentina really early) just to get them to play along. I have also now mastered the fine art of shooting down UFOs. So… yeah. Kinda boring for the most part, even though the missions themselves are challenging.

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