At some point last month I finally got my digital hands on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Ever since I started my journey into playing more PC games, XCOM was the one that was near the top of my list; I refused to play it on anything else for reasons that barely even made sense to me. XCOM: EU would be my first strategy game, but I’d seen enough of it to determine whether or not I’d like it. Also, playing the demo beforehand was a big help. Long (back)story short: I ended up really liking XCOM: EU.
Now, skip ahead to…about three days before BioShock Infinite releases and we’ve reached the day I decided I need to take some time away from XCOM. Not just because I knew BioShock Infinite would take up all my attention, but also because of a situation that occurred in XCOM. One that I should’ve been prepared for, but ultimately wasn’t.
I‘d been holding off on assaulting my first alien base for a while, because I’m super cautious and like to be prepared for whatever is thrown at me, but at this particular point in my XCOM playthrough, I could no longer stall. One country had already left the organization and another was on the verge of doing the same. It was do or die at this point (well, ‘do or lose another country’ really), and if I managed to complete this alien base mission, the panic levels would drop everywhere and give me some much needed breathing room.
I go into the mission with my best people: two Heavies, two Assaults, one Support and one Sniper. All of whom, save for one of the Heavies, had earned a nickname and were pretty accustomed to taking out aliens. I was really attached to these guys (note: mistake one) and was pretty sure that I’d resort to reloading a save if any of them died; especially my Sniper (nicknamed ‘Ghost’) who was a badass I’d been grooming for a bit. Anyway, as with the previous missions in XCOM, I was slowly moving forward and keeping my squad relatively close together, just in case some enemies showed up. They eventually did, of course, and turned out to be these flying drones I’d never encountered before. Fortunately, I still had some people in my squad who were able to take shots and…
*Cue Game Crash One*
The first time a game crashes, it’s really no big deal. I wasn’t that far into the mission anyway and I now had the added benefit of knowing what to expect in my first encounter.
*Cue Game Crash Two…at the same spot*
Well…shit. That’s mildly annoying, but we can only head back into the game again and do it over. Repetition can sometimes be a good thing, right?
Some time managed to go by without any game crashes and I eventually ran into my first Cyberdisc; and holy god damn crap, look at all the health it has. There may have been two Mutons backing it up, but they’re not all that important compared to the Cyberdisc, which, I found, can deal a huge amount of damage. After some lucky shots, the Cyberdisc and the Mutons go down and I’m back to tip-toeing my way through this massive alien ship. It has now occurred to me that this mission is going on pretty long.
*Cue Game Crash Three*
At this point, I am now frustrated and have started the process of interrogating my computer and XCOM. What does it want from me? Why is it so against me progressing? Is it at all aware of the fact that I have to fight that Cyberdisc again; something I really don’t want to do?
About 45 minutes go by before I finally get over it and jump back in for the fourth time.
Eventually, I make it far enough into the mission where Cyberdiscs are now common. I’m one Heavy short (he suffered a glorious, cutscene enhanced death at the ‘hands’ of a Cyberdisc), and on my last med pack. There is a large door ahead of my squad that might as well be a flashing billboard that reads ‘The end is nigh, human! 20ft Ahead!’ My last remaining Heavy, who has been the leader of this squad since the very beginning of the game, is sent up ahead (note: mistake two) and has the misfortune of discovering two Chryssalids. Chryssalids, for those who don’t know, are like the dogs that run down the mailman, with the sole purpose of ruining his day (and probably his pants).
My Heavy, whose name I have since forgotten (oh, the irony), can do nothing more than take a shot at one of the Chryssalids, which results in an embarrassingly low amount of damage. No one else in my squad can technically ‘see’ the enemy either, meaning they’re unable to attack, so they’re all set to Overwatch. Overwatch being a skill that all soldiers in XCOM have that allows them to take a shot at an enemy when it moves into their line of sight.
One of the Chryssalids goes after my defenseless Heavy and triggers the Overwatch reactions of both, as in two, of my Assault characters. Great. Couldn’t ask for a better thing to happen. All they need to do is connect and this alien is down…
…would you be all that surprised to hear that both shots miss completely? And I mean completely. Like, ‘slap yourself and shout at the screen’ completely; these were the kind of misses that only happens when you absolutely need them to hit, but the Gaming Gods are like ‘Nah, son! I want to see how he reacts to this.’
Are you not entertained?!
It was like watching the last cookie be ripped out of the package and shoved into the mouth of that one friend who wasn’t really paying attention and was just reaching for shit (while you we reaching for it!). This lucky Motha F’in Chryssalid shanks my Heavy character, complete with cinematic cutscene-y goodness; it picks him up and ruins him like Bane breaking Batman’s back. This character made it through the intro of the game; the intro/tutorial level where your whole squad is wiped out, save for one dude. This was that lone survivor! He was the old war vet who had seen some shit and wasn’t fazed by much anymore. He’s gone now. For good. And all because I moved him up too far and my Assaults were probably too exhausted to make a decent shot.
But here’s the best part. Here’s the part that makes this whole situation feel like something out of a movie: My next turn…both Assaults make their shots (criticals at that!) and put down the Chryssalid, while the rest of the squad takes care of the other one who is just chillin’ there with a goofy look on its face. It was like they were mourning with me and finally got their acts together. You know how, in The Avengers, it takes Agent Coulson’s death to make The Avengers actually happen? Same deal.
THEN! As if to rub salt on the wound, the Heavy who just got killed and I’m still in the process of mourning over, comes back as a zombie; because XCOM has those. Guess who had to put him down again? One of the Assaults that could’ve saved him. In fact, it was the Assault who earned the nickname ‘Double Down.’ Feel free to do with that what you will; I already have.
This guy understands
Nothing else really mattered beyond that. It was just me navigating my four remaining soldiers around with this look of extreme disapproval on my face; I just wanted to get to the end and quit for the day. Did I eventually finish the mission? Yeah. Whoopty God-Damn-Get-Me-Out-Of-Here Doo. But that didn’t bring my Heavy (whose name I still can’t remember) back from the dead. Only reloading previous saves and Chryssalids have that power, apparently.
So, you know, take this as an XCOM life lesson: Don’t get too attached to your squad (god help you if you base them on people you like) and don’t send soldiers charging into the middle of unknown territory. Like…ever; don’t ever do that. Not even when you don’t give that much of a crap about your squad. Rookies have feelings too and even the best of soldiers can be killed for stupid reasons.
And don’t even get me started on the hit percentages. God damn, talk about your dumb luck.
Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.
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