We Lost Europe, Sir.

The thing about XCOM that I love so much is that you should expect to lose.
Lose Games.
Lose Soldiers
Lose Countries.

These are consequences to your actions, and they can be drastic and dire at times. Your Resources are scarce and you can only respond to one event at a time. Every mission is a chance to loose your most veteran soldiers or your newest and most promising rookies. The aliens, unlike most other games, are here to end your game. They are here to make you start over from the beginning, and their efforts can easily set you so far behind that its impossible to catch up. But; sometimes, through all the losses, all the pain, and all the struggles, you can claw your way to the top of the game, and see the valley below. And nothing is as sweet as seeing that imminent victory having climbed that mountain.

I’m still Climbing.

I picked Asia, as I always do. It turns out this is not a common choice. With $80 less per month starting the game, which can be a back breaker, most people choose North America. I do like the Asian continent Bonus though: Having a 50% discount on both the Foundry and the Officer Training School is a very big bonus. I drop into the intro mission, ready to kill some aliens, this time, without the Oops!

I make it through the intro mission fairly easily. Its just sectoids, and I’ve fought them time and again in both games.

This time, though, I learned from my other failures with Ironman, and I take it slow. Not slow enough to risk loosing the meld, but slow enough not to get murdered. Assault rifles and pistols are enough to get it done, and we fly home.

After loosing 8 games in a row, I have much less attachment to these soldiers than I have previous games. While some make it through, others die as the missions progress and I feel little of the remorse from prior games. They have not developed personalities to me, and that’s a bit of a disappointment. I do not grow attached. Casualties mount and my memorial grows, but none of them are people, yet.

Meld, the new resource, is tricky. I have a “cheat” though, that helps me focus on getting the precious little nanobots.

When you go into a map, hold down the G key, and you’ll zoom out as far as you can. From here you’ll look for two specific things: Outlines of Ships (crash or landing sites) and spinning Meld containers. As Meld containers have a very iconic, spinning profile, you can easily spot one in many circumstances. Ships have the unique curving lines that are also easily recognizable, making it so that you know how far away and which direction you need to go. Both of these have helped me gather more Meld and make sure I approach ships with warranted caution.

After your first alien encounter, you also have some research to do, but while there are a number of projects, you really only have two options: Weapons or Armor. Either you feel you need to kill aliens faster, or you need to survive their bullets. both are valid paths unless you are using damage roulette, in which case your guns are not guaranteed to kill anything, and armor is significantly better. Both lead to the best early-stage project: tactical rigging. This allows two item slots for all troopers. This allows significantly more safety when it comes to troopers. Explosives have set damage, and make sure that low-HP enemies will die. Early-game accuracy is extremely low, so having these auto-damage weapons at your disposal is a huge boon. Its one of the key ways of leveling rookies/Squadies without getting your whole squad murdered from a failed 30% shot:When the last alien is alive and at low HP, have everyone take a shot at it except the one in grenade range. If they manage to hit and kill it, great! Bonus weapon fragments! If they don’t hit, drop that bastard like a sack of rocks. Having only one grenade means you only get 4 chances at it. More slots means that Support can take medkits, assault get Chitin plating/nan-fiber Vest/Respirator implants, and Heavies and snipers get scopes, all the while having grenades at their disposal. Its supremely handy. Its the first thing I go after.

I go down the weapon path most games, and this is no exception. Sending scientists on the path to beam Weaponry, I set my engineers to building satellites, in order to control inevitable creep that comes from the abduction missions. I try to get a satellite uplink as soon as I can, but it requires a ton of engineers, extra power, and more money. More money is not what one has at the start of the game. Because I have limited resources, and I don’t follow the satellite rush strategies, I use satellites and council missions as my sole methods of Panic Reduction.

The first three months are brutal. The aliens have a vendetta, and they keep killing all my leveled up soldiers, and I need a Soldier at level 4 before I can get the Officer Training School! The aliens seem to have this cruel, prognostic ability to find ranked officers and mercilessly gun them down. Locked out of squad slots 4 and 5, I’ve got to get better weaponry, and have to forgo the ability to protect my soldiers. This made the game extremely lethal on both sides, creating a vicious cycle that only stopped once I saved scummed a mission which I knew the soldier had been promoted, therefore getting the Officer Training School unlocked once I got back to base.

with all my soldiers dying, the research slowly crawling along with beam weapons, meld research, satellites building and the foundry up and running, I have to hire plenty of soldiers to keep up. I discovered, however,that the Not Created Equally option has a hidden cost. the potential for good soldiers exists, but many, many more start with terrible stats. This means that in this game I’ve Spent more money hiring and dismissing troops for dismal stats than I ever have before. Getting the kill is the only way to get XP, and having someone with a 15% chance to hit just isn’t going to cut it when the aliens are breathing down your neck. Yes, you can use the explosives in the hope that they level well through Hidden Potential, but I don’t think its worth it. If you have a 65 or lower Aim stat, you get the boot. I ask for nothing but the worlds finest soldiers! This costs a lot more money, but enables me to have only the finest soldiers. 100+ aim Support and assault troopers are possibly my favorite things.

My Main Squad Deep into Month 3

My Main Squad Deep into Month 3

After three grueling, desperate months, after a mission I save-scummed a hundred times that had my favorite assault trooper blown to pieces behind cover(bonus defense) in Dense (bonus defense) Smoke (bonus defense) on the top of a building (bonus defense) by a freaking lucky (Critical) shot from a Thin Man, Thomas Taylor, Heavy, was promoted to Sergeant. This allowed me to build the officer training school I mentioned earlier and buy the 5th squad member. Around the same time, Beam weapons finished their eternity-long research and were available to build and arm soldiers with. The sun was starting to peak out from behind the giant mothership. I was starting to see the light. The toll was high, however. I’d lost a number of soldiers. Germany, France and the UK had abandoned the project, with Russia in full panic mode. I had yet to genetically modify a soldier, and I didn’t even have a cybernetics lab. The alien capture hadn’t even been initiated, and I was as broke as I could get. Each months funds being spent the day I was paid and selling corpses on the side to fuel my research and foundry binges. I was behind the aliens. They were winning. Thin men, secotids, mechtoids, mutons and seekers all had shown up, with chryssalids in terror missions as well. They had taken Europe, and panic was spreading across the globe. they were even starting to outclass my interceptors in the sky. But I’d hit the point I felt that I was able to fight back. Carapace armor was being researched. Laser Weapons enabled me to fight back. Maybe, just maybe, I could save the world.

councilman
Then, the councilman appears, suddenly.

No announcement that they want to see me. I am just thrust into a debriefing where I am informed that a bunch of no good bastards are trying to steal my alien artifacts. Exalt, they call themselves. And the councilman wants me to put them down with extreme prejudice.

Sounds good to me.

And then, Mexico goes all into a berserk panic. Turns out that Exalt likes to make countries freak out. Now I have to send in a covert oprative, and loose that trooper for 6 dsays!

Just what I needed!