As-I-Play XCOM: Fresh Meat (Part Five)

by Kristin Bezio

As I expected, getting back to the grind of abductions and UFOs is a bit of a let-down after the plot mission, but I’ve set myself a new challenge. Since five of my six regulars are fully promoted, I’ve decided to start training newbs. This is actually really annoying.

At this point in the game, I can’t really “win” with more than about two low-ranking mooks in my squad, so I can only do this very slowly. Said mooks are also really, really, really prone to panicking. At one point during an abduction mission, both of them were having hysterics behind rocks while the rest of the squad proceeded to take out six advanced aliens all at once.

Fortunately, the newbs managed to keep their shit together long enough to get promoted to being squaddies rather than ending up as bloody smears on the ground. So while a bit annoying, it is more interesting than using the same six people all the time, and this way, I’ll be able to get the final of my six up to Corporal while training newbs. A good thing, I guess? Not that I really know what I’ll do with the newbs once I get them trained up…

There have been a few more Council-directed missions, now – go fetch this guy from a helicopter crash, go save some civilians, etc. – that have helped to break up the monotony of pick-a-random-invasion. Somewhat. I have also become Queen of the Satellites (I have one in each country – minus party-pooping Argentina, who left the XCOM Council).

Training newbies has helped somewhat in dealing with the unending swarm of aliens, but every now and then I get really annoyed at them. Like my Nigerian sniper, who can’t hit shit even with a 90% chance of hit, who screams and cries behind rocks a pillars at least once a mission, and on whom I had to give up briefly to assuage my desire to see him exploded (back to my American female, Susan Anderson, who can hit anything from pretty much anywhere). I did also start training a female Heavy (I don’t remember where she’s from, since I’ve only taken her on one mission), in an effort to train up a usable team of all women, just because (more on that in a minute).

I also must be having more fun with this game than I realized, as I lost about 4-5 hours to it last night without it feeling like 4-5 hours. I’m not really having “fun” in the same, active way that I have fun with most BioWare games (or Tomb Raider, or Skyrim, or Dishonored), but more of a “flow” or “zone” kind of way – the way in which you lose time because you’ve entered the gaming groove. So that’s a good sign for XCOM as a game, even if it’s not really enough to make me “want” to play above doing things like watch NDT’s Cosmos on Netflix or telling myself that I can’t play Borderlands 2 (which the husband got me for our anniversary and which will likely be the next AIP game) until I finish XCOM.

One thing I did “discover” to introduce more variety into my XCOM life came in the form of the achievements. I’ve been earning them as I play, naturally, but I actually decided to go take a look at them, which immediately caused me to use the Archangel armor to earn “Angel of Death” by killing something while flying. It wasn’t something that it would have occurred to me to do without the achievement, but once I did it, I discovered how useful flying can actually be in very specific circumstances.

However, I also discovered that XCOM uses a lot of my least favorite kinds of achievements – what I like to call the “achievement whore” achievements. The ones that you can’t possibly get unless you play through the whole game AGAIN, because no one would think of doing them the first time through. There are, of course, achievements for playing the whole game on Impossible, Classic, and Easy (pretty standard), but XCOM also has one for playing the whole game using teams of only-female soldiers. While I kind of like this one in the sense that it encourages players to play with female models (and make them badass), there isn’t an achievement for playing with only-male soldiers, which would be truly egalitarian. There also isn’t a reason you as a player would know to DO that, which means it’s pretty much there for someone who wants to play it again… or as a trick to manipulate achievement-mongers to play through the whole game again.

There are also others that are pretty much just challenges – kill 100 enemies, 500 enemies, an enemy while flying, blow things up, run a mission solo, etc. – and others for building new tech or completing plot-specific missions. You can also get them for earning “Excellent” in all categories on a special mission (which is actually the one I had to go look at, since it wasn’t immediately apparent what I’d done to get it).

In general, I like achievements, and most of these are reasonable, even though it is a very rare game indeed that I will ever try to get ALL of them (mostly because I want to resist being suckered into replaying games as many times as it would generally take). I’m playing this one on Steam as Aktieriel if you want to check out what I’ve gotten thus far (and also to know where I am).

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Comments (2)

Hey, glad to hear you’re still at it! My game was so riddled with bugs that I just ragequit and started playing X-COM Enemy Within instead. Which turns out to be the exact same game, but with a new resource to gather, an additional enemy faction (which brings a new gameplay mode), and two new ways to develop your troops. I have no idea why they rebooted the game instead of doing a proper sequel, but it is a lot better, so I’m not complaining.

I believe that the best way to train noobs is to send them on the council missions, where all enemies are Thin Men (Thin Mans?). If a noob spots a Cyberdisk, they will shit themselves, but Sectoids and Thin Men are probably less scary.

I did get the valkyrie achievement. Reading TLF has twisted my mind to the extent that my FIRST thought was “wait, why isn’t there a male counterpart, why is an all-male team considered “normal” and an all-female is an achievement? Default maleness!”
It could be worse of course, I could be writing on some MRA-blog about how unfair it is that men are supposed to risk their lives without an achievement etc etc. I think I prefer being in the TLF corner.

Evangelizin’ time: X-Com Apocalypse is still the best game. Not only in the series, but of all time. Replaying it AGAIN now, on a harder difficulty, and I discover new mission maps which i’ve never seen before. The missions can take you to multistoried garbage-strewn dystopian slums, organic alien spaceships, utopian “procreation parks” for the elites, police stations, factories, or just condominiums for mid-level executives. And you can shoot out walls, floors and windows (if you have enough firepower) to make your own path through that luxury condo.

Sometimes your team is down to a motley handful of brave souls (and androids), your scentists work around the clock to develop new weapons (all of which make sense and follow a kind of logic), your engineers toil ceaselessly to manufacture that promising new weapon… and then your base gets invaded by mall cops with rocket launchers, from the local tv-station, who are pissed off at you because you crashed a hoverbike into their offices and couldn’t pay the damages.

Towards the end of the game, your team can be 36 soldiers strong. Yes, thirty-six. All individually controllable. All with inventories, backpacks and diverse armor options (you can have different types of armor on head, arms, chest and legs). Oh, you want to dual wield a Toxigun and a Mind bender? Go right ahead! A backpack with 25 grenades? Sure, fill it up! Hover armor, Personal teleportation device, Invisibility cloak and Disruptor shield? Go nuts, if you can build it, you can have it all.

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