On the top of the attributes that makes XCOM the pinnacle of my gaming joy, is its unforgiving, relentless, mercilessness. Those who have been reading a bit will get this as a simple truism about how my gaming career went, but games like Megaman, Dark Souls, and XCOM are exactly where I like the punishment scale to lie – maybe a little rough. I say that as I head into starting my seventh C/I Game in XCOM2, still playing a month after purchase, give or take a few days. I have yet to see the end of the game and it has been glorious!
And I am learning, becoming more deadly and more confident each time. Each game I start and play to the end I absorb a little more, I see more cracks appear in the alien infrastructure. It may not be this day, It may not be this week, but the aliens, their days are numbered.
Warning – Extremely Likely Spoiler Content
One of the hardest lessons I have learned resisting the aliens is when to give up all hope, extract my squad, take the bad mission, and live to fight another day. Judging when to start the abort sequence and when to push forward for that last ditch victory can depend on a significant set of variables, not all of which are equal. Dead Soldiers, mission failure consequences, lost equipment, possible rewards, reserve forces and projected casualty rate over the next couple turns all factor in to how, and when, to extract.
Make that important judgement call to late, and your whole squad dies a terrible death, often for no or little gain. Make the call to early, and you loose a soldier with nothing to show for it and a mission failure that you might have avoided. Deaths are certain in this game, and you’re going to be attached to the people who fall; and their equipment. Sometimes, the upgraded equipment or expensive/unique piece of gear makes the decision for you. Its not easy, but unlike Enemy Unknown, you’re not smashed for exiting a mission on the monthly review. Instead, while it counts against your grade for the month, some allowance is given for being a guerrilla group operating in the shadows.
With Games 2, 3 and 4, I felt that I was fighting an uphill battle against the alien threat. Instead of being, and feeling like, a plucky, determined group of rebels destined to achieve great things while toppling the oppressive and truly terrifying regime of the alien overlords, It felt crushing. I feared the smallest mission, I lost tons of soldiers, and I was unable to even have the game end properly.I was stuck at the bottom. Game 5, though, as I mentioned, I gave up on most aspects of the game that weren’t dedicated to anything other than complete and total warfare. The scientists I had on hand researched weapons and armor as soon as they became available, and the Engineers built and equipped my operatives with the best weapons and armor they could.
Once I started down that path, I gave up all other research and goals. At some point, probably around mid May, I had no Resistance Communications beyond the first three, I had no Shadow Chamber, no Advanced Warfare Center, and little extra power. I had also not cleared the portions of the avenger to allow these facilities to be built. I realized, at the eve of my own military triumph, that I had no way of stopping the game from Initiating the Avatar Project. I’d completed the Advent Blacksite mission, resulting in one of the greatest firefights I’ve ever had in an XCOM game, but the timeline had advanced too far. Archons, Heavy Advent Solders, and massed squads of Vipers and Mutons spelled my quick and untimely demise as I attempted to sabotage an Advent facility to no avail.
What I learned from Game 5 I took swiftly into game 6. In addition to researching as many of the weapons as I possibly could, I also made sure to clear the avenger. It turns out that it is extremely time consuming to salvage alien wreckage. The very first engineer I picked up was assigned to clearing as his very next duty, and I never let up. I picked up two scientists along the way who were able to speed up Tygens research, but for the most part I was concerned with maintaining a speed of excavation and construction that was likely to fast paced to be of real us. Sadly, that was not the case, and even as game six wound down, I was waiting on rooms to be excavated so I could build.
What the larger problem with game 6 was my complete disregard of the games priorities. I didn’t research many of the vial science projects as I pushed forward with my plan: Research Weapons, Excavate and build as fast as possible, and destroy the enemy wherever possible. This strategy worked exceedingly well, with me taking out the Blacksite without much problem and even survived the Avenger being shot down with but a single casualty.
I’d not been able, however, to get enough Advent Facilities on the map. I had instead focused on gathering up continent bonuses and kept the advent sites at arms reach – 2 dots on the Avatar Project timer just is not a sufficient buffer.
I’ve now, through genuinely fun trial and error, built a plan for tackling the alien overlords. This is why I love playing games blind. The thrill and enjoyment of discovery is much more palatable in a video game than that of execution.
1- Research as many weapon and armor projects as I can. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Modular Weapons (weapon Mods)
- Magnetic Weaponry (Mag Pistol, Shard Gun, Mag Rifle)
- Gauss Weaponry (Gauss Rifle, Gauss Cannon)
- Elerium (Plasma Weapons)
- Gauss Weaponry (Gauss Rifle, Gauss Cannon)
- Alien Biotech (leads to Autopsies)
- Stun Lancer (Arc Blade)
- Advent Mech Breakdown (Gremlin Mk II)
- Sectoid (allows Psionics)
- Hybrid Materials
- Plated Armor
- Advent Shield Trooper (allows Experimental Armor)
- Plated Armor
2 – Gather as many engineers as possible to clear as much room as possible to allow for as many expansions as possible to the avengers facilities, including space for:
- 2-3 power relays
- 3 resistance communications
- Advanced Warfare Center
- Guerrilla Training School
- Shadow Chamber
- Proving Grounds
- Psionic Training Center
3 – Expand my resistance network to the facilities, and take them down, as soon as possible. This will enable me to keep the Avatar project in check without sacrificing needed supplies. Perhaps even reach out and try to get Europe and/or South America fairly quickly, as they are 2 region continents to get solid bonus’ right away.
I can’t wait to see how this plan stacks up to my last set of plans, and see if I can overcome the aliens. I know playing the game only on Ironman and only on Commander difficulty is making it unnecessarily hard on myself, but that is part of the glory, right? Pride is a strong motivator.
I will be able to say I beat the game on Commander/Ironman, without a lesser run to guide me first. I cut my teeth the hard way.