by Kristin Bezio
So having finally got Moira fully upgraded in Psionics and everything else, I click on the fun purple button (Gallup Chamber) and start a mission which the game warns me I can’t go back from, so my soldiers had better all be healed and all my research done.
Research is maxed, rooms are maxed, Foundry is maxed, and all my soldiers are healthy, I mentally stack my squad: Moira (Irish Sniper, psionic) if the purple ball doesn’t kill her, Susan (American Sniper) if it does; Septic (Iranian Assault, psionic); Angel (Israeli Support); Voodoo (Belgian Support); Aya (Palestinian Lady Heavy, psionic); and David (Canadian Heavy, psionic).
I hit the button. I get a cutscene narrated by the German Scientist Lady who babbles about what I’ve done. Moira walks up to the ball, escorted by two soldiers, American and German (not mine, as I do not have an American dude). She puts her hands on the ball, and a bunch of alien weirdness flashes by (like Shepard’s Prothean flashes in Mass Effect, for those of you who’ve played it), then one of the Ethereal aliens decides that it can speak English: “YOU have succeeded where we have failed.”
Cuz that’s not creepy.
And now I don’t trust Moira as far as I can throw her. Great. I have a kickass sniper with fully upgraded abilities and psionics and I’m convinced that she’s going to murder me in my sleep. She also has a new psionic power entitled “Rift,” which seems rather… apocalyptic.
Let’s do this.
So I launch the Temple Ship mission, and as my team hops off the ship, the creepy alien voice starts talking in Moira’s head. Turns out – yes, kids, my favorite trope ever – she’s the most Special Special to ever Special. Or at least I’ve made her that way. The alien blathers on and on about how fantastic it is that they’ve finally found an “enduring form” (how flattering) that can fight and survive and has fantastic mental powers!
Yes, I know that this particular character isn’t all that special, which is why I’m not more annoyed about the trope. I’m aware that it is, in fact, that the human race, the great accident of evolution, that is the most Special Species to Ever Special. Human exceptionalism for the win.
As a good friend would say, le sigh. I’m not big into stories that talk about exceptional people/animals/species. I’m not really into the whole Chosen One thing, and while this isn’t strictly Chosen One, it is all about how amazingly awesome humans are.
Now okay, yes, humans are pretty awesome. We’re highly evolved, capable of industry and invention, and we’ve managed to conquer our planet and tame its plants and animals, at least mostly. But let’s face it, we’re also pretty stupid. I’m a teacher, and as much as I do actually love my students, they remind me of human ignorance on a almost daily basis (through no fault of their own – and they are working to eliminate that ignorance, which is great). Humanity as a whole, as filtered through the news and on gaming sites especially, is a bunch of hate-filled, violent, raving idiots. If we’re the pinnacle of evolution, then I pity the rest of the universe.
But for the sake of the narrative of XCOM: Enemy Unknown I can live with the Magic Wonderfulness that is Humanity. At least this is (I hope) the last mission, so I don’t have to hear how Special my species is for too long.
So the squad heads into a very Mass Effect-looking ship area (reminds me of the ship at the end of ME2 on which Shepard & Co. first recruit Legion) and the voice proceeds to go through a catalog of enemy types and why they suck. First the little guys, then the mind-control little guy (yay for Mindshield!) who does not possess Aya. Then the Cyberdisks and their irritating best buddies, the Drones. Then the Floaters. Then the purple ones (don’t remember what they’re called, but the ones that make humans into zombies).
The team summarily dispatches them all as the Alien Overlord Voice babbles about how excited it is that it has found the apotheosis of… whatever. I’m starting to get paranoid, so I set up my squad with Overwatch trying to put them in cover relative to Forward, but also relative to Moira.
A little break, then some Thin Men. I like shooting those, despite the fact that the extremely satisfying explosion they make when they die is toxic. It’s also kinda sparkly. My squad kills them.
So here I admit that Aya seems to be suffering from a bug. She’s had an extra little alien-head indicator on her HUD the whole time, with a 0% chance of hitting, that locates an enemy deep inside the ship. I didn’t know if it was a random alien, or if she’d somehow gotten attached to the final boss Ethereal or something, but I used her as a compass. Maybe that’s cheating, but since it’s a pretty straight shot into the ship, I kinda don’t feel bad about it.
As it turns out, she’d latched onto one of the Muton tank critters (the red one that chases whoever shot it last). I found a room full of the green ones and one red one, but I actually got to have Septic use Mind Control on it. That was fun. I hadn’t used that power before.
Next up, Septopods, otherwise known as mini-Imperial Walkers. The Alien Voice is getting creepier. When one of the Septopods hits David (doesn’t kill him, mind you), it talks about how the “New One’s kin fall.” Um. Okay. No, but thanks for trying. Then, when the ’Pods are both dead, it begins to talk about how the New One is worthy of its tests, and how it’s going to usher in a new age and all that sort of blather.
Riiiiiiight. Clearly its plan from the beginning was to “test” an ideal new SuperSpecies using human DNA. It totally meant to do this from the beginning.
A couple more Heavy Mutons, summarily dispatched (I like that phrase today), and moving forward. The squad then discovers a doorway with a narrow hallway, which screams “FINAL BATTLE” like nobody’s business. Yippee (please read with sarcasm).
Here’s something else to know about me. I hate boss fights. Hate them. Boss fights end up being one of two things: 1) stupid and anticlimactic, like BioShock and, I’m told, Fable II; or 2) unbearably irritating because they are idiotically difficult and/or tedious, like Dragon Age: Origins. Given the style of gameplay in XCOM, I’m betting for #2, if only because that’s the one I will hate more.
Three Ethereals? And two Heavy Mutons? Definitely #2. It is at this point that I decide this will likely take me more hours than I have before I turn into a pumpkin. Save game, come back to it later.
Yes, I’m that kind of a mean person. Don’t worry, after you wait a little bit, you can hear me bitch all about the final boss fight, whatever odd or screwed up cutscene is at the end, and then give you my overall impressions of the game. But this post is plenty long enough and it’s time for bed.
I love every word you just wrote. Especially about human stupidity and cruelty. Although let’s remember that it was YOUR (and mine) callousness and stupidity-masking-as-curiosity that ordered Moira to fondle the purple orb, not knowing if she was going to turn into a puddle of goo.
I, too, abhor human exceptionalism. To the point that I didn’t even interpret X-COM as saying humans are exceptional.
NO SPOILERS, JUST SPECULATION AHEAD: I thought the alien overlord was just happy that he found another building block to his little menagerie. In my head, the overlord has collected and tried to refine various races (all the alien races look so dissimilar, they have to have different planetary origins). At one point, he probably gave the same speech to a Thin Man. And sometime in the future, on another planet, he’ll probably give it to another commander, who’ve just murdered his way through an obstacle course of Moiras.