I am Mars

Its not often that I feel like the game is starting to favor me, and each time It does, I get gently smashed into bits for my arrogance. Its starting to come back to me, though, and I can only guess the retribution that will be laid upon me. I’ve made it into May. My operatives have new weapons, new armors, and powerful technology. I have a core of experienced soldiers who are gritty, dirty and veterans of a half dozen or more combats.The Avenger is becoming a flying fortress, equipped with the strongest facilities that enable a lively resistance.

As I said before, though, I fear it will not be enough.

As always: Likely spoilers ahead, though I am not far into the story, there are many game play options explored. 

Last we left off, I had started the 5th Ironman/Commander game and was pretty confident. I’d pushed forward through the weapons tree and was well on my way to equipping my soldiers with the right gear to give the aliens the same version of instantaneous murder that they had been gifting to me the entire game.

Since then, I’ve had some few powerful casualties, but the core group of soldiers I’ve retained and leveled, and they are a formidable squad.

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The Corps of the Future

Arms and Equipment

The game starts you off with small arms and light armor – Ballistic Weaponry and Kevlar. These scraps are powerful enough to eliminate the weaker Advent soldiers, and a concentrated effort can kill some of the weaker aliens. When the stronger aliens start appearing, and the weaker ones start to congregate together, creating patrols of 2 or even 3 full-blooded aliens, it gets harder to remove them all before you’re taking casualties of your own and simply trying to mitigate the damage being caused and making it through the mission with the least trauma.

Magnetic Weaponry skews the damage curve back to a position where soldiers are able to trade 1 for one with enemy units. I assume this will end with nastier enemies coming in later months, but for the moment, I’ve made enough progress to relax for a few missions. The weapon tree starts with Modular weapons, allowing upgrades to be looted and used to increase certain weapons potency, then progresses to Magneitc weaponry and Gauss weaponry. You’re also going to want to get the Arc Blade as soon as possible.

Magnetic Rifles: Used by Specialists and Rookies, this is one of the first weapons I’ll start researching towards. With the support Specialists provide, I’ve been leery of ever leaving for a mission without one, and I’ve yet to be truly disappointed in my choice.

Unlocked at the same time as Magnetic Rifles, Shard Guns are the ranged weapon carried by the Ranger class. While it is dangerous to close with the enemy, the Shard guns makes it a little more worth while by getting extremely accurate at close range. Sharpshooters and Grenadiers both seem to have either accuracy caps or negative distance modifiers when to close. The Shard Gun has no such problem, and I regularly get to 100% accuracy, and at least a 50% crit chance, with the guns when their owners aren’t simply killed.

Mag Pistols are also unlocked at this stage, and with a damage range of 3-4, they are just as effective as an Assault Rifle – The basic weapon of the XCOM operation. Combined with the pistol abilities that the Sharpshooters have, its been a godsend more than once as I’ve been able to be extremely versatile with my damage and positioning. Being able to split up 6-8 damage among two targets with an extremely high accuracy is very valuable.

Once these are researched, Gauss Weaponry becomes available, and you get access to the heavy weapons of the game, upgraded sniper rifles and cannons.

The Mag Rifle is a powerful sniper rifle that can kill most enemies in its bracket with a single shot, capping its damage at 8, with an even higher crit damage. Its long range accuracy makes it one of my favorite weapons, as I can sit still and remove enemy after enemy from a safe distance.

The Mag Cannon is my most recent addition, being the upgraded cannon for the Grenadier class. I’ve only been able to fire it a few times, but man, it has been worth it. Flanking shots are doing 10-12 damage, removing almost everything I can encounter from the earth, even taking into account Armor reductions.

Finally, the Arc blade is the second tier of the Rangers sword, and is available through a simple autopsy on the Advent Stun Lancer corpse. Its a simple upgrade that adds a touch of damage to the already deadly sword, improving its efficiency, if not its accuracy. It also has the possibility of stunning opponents or even knocking them out, though I’ve yet to have the latter happen.

I really suggest putting time into these upgrades as soon as is possible. Starting research on Modular weapons, then Magnetic Weapons, and finally Gauss Weapons means that you can engage the more powerful enemies without the permeating dread that comes from knowing that you will need two or even three troopers to eliminate them. Modular weapons do not take a long time, but Magnetic weapons have a steep research time. However, when you get your first scientist, which should be pretty early on, you can assign them to the research and reduce the duration of the project. Thankfully, unlike prior XCOM games, the weapon upgrades are permanent and squad wide once you’ve both researched the project and then build the subsequent engineering project. It was a surprising and pleasant addition to the game.

Battle Tested

while slowly upgrading my weaponry to Magnetic, I’ve been able to overcome some of the more difficult alien troopers, specifically Mutons and Mechs, without too much problem, and have had much greater luck in having my solider survive and get some fantastic abilities, including from the Advanced warfare Center. these abilities, combined with the new weapons and, finally, new armors, are enabling me to feel that maybe, this one time, I’m going to be able to break the enemies back.

Armors in this game seem to be much better than in XCOM:EU. The first set I got was an EXO suit that comes with a FREAKING ROCKET, and I followed it up with a Skeleton suit that has grappling hooks, and finally a squad wide upgrade to Predator armor, with extra HP and an extra utility slot. Thankfully, my continent bonus is instantaneous build and research for armors, I don’t know that I’d be in such a good position if I had to spend time researching armors.

Probably not. Next time, I’ll know how to get to this point again.