As-I-Play XCOM: War of Attrition (Part Four)

by Kristin Bezio

I have now reached that point in the game – which happens to a certain extent in any game, I think, although some more than others – when I start a mission and immediately think “Oh, god, just get me through this.” And then I spend what feels like an hour but is probably more like 20-30 minutes slowly creeping my way through a familiar-looking level of abandoned gas stations, woods, and/or streets full of abandoned cars. Sometimes there are people to rescue (VIPs or civilians), sometimes I’m supposed to go grab something out of a crashed UFO. I don’t really care – they’re all more or less the same to me.

It’s not that I’m bored, exactly, but the missions have now reached a length and difficulty that makes them feel like a slog rather than a challenge or even “fun.” They have more than ten aliens each (the last one had thirteen), and once I’ve killed five or six of them I’m kinda done with the whole scooting about the map finding cover and then shooting at things from it thing.

I think the biggest issue is that other than introducing aliens with more hitpoints and more annoying abilities (the disk is a pain in my ass, and the Krogan-looking thing that runs at whoever damages it is also kind of irritating, but easy enough to manage), there just isn’t anything new happening anymore.

Now maybe more interesting things will start to happen once I go on that Alien Base Assault that I keep putting off (mostly until I can take my ideal squad, but then someone gets abducted or something and somebody ends up shot and I can’t take them with me anymore), but more of the same (just MORE more) is starting to wear thin on my gaming patience.

I’m not to the point where I’m ready to give up (and I won’t, never fear, since I’m writing the series, but these posts will get considerably more nasty if I get to that point and have to keep going), but I’m not really having all that much fun, either.

Pause playthroughResume playthrough***

Okay, well then. So I finally managed to get all my soldierly ducks uninjured and took my crack team (one Sniper, two Heavy, two Support, one Assault) on the Command Base mission. I cheated a little and asked the internet a couple questions. First, whether this was an “endgame” kind of mission, like some of the point-of-no-return missions in Mass Effect, or whether I could really do it whenever. It told me whenever. Great.

It also told me that there would be a nasty alien I would meet for the first time, but it would be alone, so I should take the opportunity to catch it alive. Okay. Give the Argentine Heavy the stun gun. Check.

Go on mission. Do a fairly good job managing all the team (once I finally remembered to actually equip the new weapons and armor I’d built, which I kept forgetting to do, so I restarted it four times without actually playing anything at all because I’m an idiot), get them all into the room with the nasty alien Commander, and THEN learn that the little bastard has the power of mind control and possesses my German Heavy. (Thank goodness I’d already used up his rockets destroying those evil disks, or that would have SUCKED.)

Internet trip number two. Learn that killing him really will kill him (and I have actually developed a little fondness for Axel Weiss, mostly because his name is Axel), but that the mind control will wear off after four turns if I can avoid having him kill the rest of my team. Spend four turns trying to avoid Axel-the-Possessed AND the alien, since I want Delgado (the Argentine Heavy) to catch the little bastard until I can sneak up behind him and zap him.

Mission accomplished. Everybody’s very happy that I caught the alien alive, found the alien videogame machine (that little jibe from the engineer about wasting time playing videogames wasn’t nearly as cute as the development team thought it was), and got everybody back alive. I’m slightly disappointed that nobody got a promotion. (Although five out of my six are Colonels now, so I’m not sure they can be promoted anymore. Time to level up some newbs, I guess.)

Also, the German scientist lady is a total killjoy. She’s right, of course, since the game isn’t over, but total wet blanket.

So the plot mission was actually a bit more exciting and challenging than the endless stream of abductions and crashed UFOs. It was harder, catching the nasty thing at the end without killing it or getting killed provided some additional challenge, and – oh yeah – I got to practice hacking a drone. That was kinda fun. I think I will do more of that.

So it got better, but I’m not anticipating having another plot mission for a little while, so I’m not certain that the tiresome day-to-day of abductions is going to be all that more entertaining now that I’ve done one. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that I want all plot missions, either.

I know. Impossible to please.

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