While I was busy with Exalt, the aliens were not letting up. Their assaults escalated quickly as the months when by with Secotids and Thin Men gave way to Heavy Floaters and Mutons, who eventually make room for Sectopods and Elite Mutons. The dangers of each mission grow as each enemy gets harder to kill with more HP, higher defenses, and greater consequences for failing to finish them off.
Outside of Exalt, the game progresses as I expect. I put off capturing a live alien as long as I can to get both the Gene Mod lab and the Cybernetics lab online, and while I lost all of Europe early, I lose only Mexico as the game progresses. Research remains slow and I am convinced that I am going to be overwhelmed at any moment by the ravening hordes of aliens come to conquer Earth. Abductions continue to cause panic across the globe, with Exalt continuing to fan the flames. Once I hit lasers, though, I feel I have reached the point of success. Even though the aliens might push me back here and there, I have the technology to take them down. I’m on the warpath.
I finish the Gene labs first, and start sending my soldiers under the knife as quickly as I can afoard. It takes the soldier out three days per mod, but its worth it. Thankfully, at the same time, I complete my satellite coverage of South America and get the “We Have Ways” perk which makes autopsies instant – relevant because most autopsies give me new gene mods.
I many games, I find I enjoy passive bonuses, and these gene mods are no exception. The ability to natively regenerate heath, get better aim and damage for higher ground, and having super jump are some of the coolest abilities. and not needing new buttons or activities to trigger them? Gorgeous.
The best, however, is Mimetic Skin.
Pulled from the autopsy of the new Seekers, Mimetic Skin allows you to go completely invisible if you end your movement in full cover. The concealment starts when you start your move, so you’ll be completely immune to overwatch shots, and won’t trigger aliens if you move into their view.. This can be a great boon to Assault troopers, who can get close and personal quicker, and to Snipers, who can move to position without getting shot in the head. Once its deactivated though (from shooting while in cover, or moving if aliens can see your position) it won’t reactivate until you’re in a new position. If you manage to get Low Profile, which makes all cover count as full, you can really make some crazy moves.
A close runner up, though, is Second Heart. A simple addition of another heart makes the affected soldier become critically wounded instead of die, removes the permanent Will penalty from becoming critically wounded, and adds two turns to the bleed out timer.
For a vanguard unit like Jaws, Its perfect. She’s been shot in the face so many times I can’t even describe, and now she doesn’t even care.
While I started with the Gene Labs, I was most impressed by the Cybernetics Lab. While my brothers style of play involves a fast-attack plan that involves massive use of Snapfire Snipers, Assault troopers, and combat Support, mine has always been a fire base plan of attack. The MECs fit this plan perfectly. Their guns do massive damage, and all of the upgrades that the MECs gets are useful. I think I have used each upgrade to save my squad one time or another.
Especially the flame thrower.
If the MEC’s weren’t so expensive, both in the valuable Meld and in actual credits, I’d consider a whole squad of them. They are durable, powerful, and versatile. Its everything I want in my troops.
The MEC troopers are their own class, but you choose who to volunteer for the procedures from your current roster of troops. That trooper will then undergo a few days of cybernetic augmentation in order to be fir to the MEC suits. Each soldiers former class brings along a special ability to the MEC class from their former life, and they keep their stats and level, unlocking the MEC tree to the point they had made in their prior class.
With Hidden Potential and Not Created Equally in play, you can, as I do, have two stunningly accurate MEC troopers.
Which is nothing but a boon. Their guns can do some massive damage, and having them be extremely accurate is just fantastic.
With laser weapons, I feel I catch a breather. I work through the storyline of the game a bit, capturing a live Thinman, and then a live outsider. All the while, managing absurd levels of panic, dealing with Terror Sites and Abductions, and until I take out the Exalt HQ I deal with their shenanigans as well.
Then comes one of my favorite parts of the XCOM franchise: The Base Assault Mission. In the prior version, it could be used as a soft pause button. Until you attacked the base and finished the mission, some of the stronger aliens: Muton Elites, Sectopods, and Ethereals, would not show up. That seems fixed in the expansion, because I encountered Muton Elites well before I was ready to.
I used to wait until I was all tricked out with Titan Armor, and Plasma weaponry before assaulting the base, but with Mutons and Sectopods breathing down my neck, I just can’t wait. I have a few Plasma weapons, and I take advantage of the troopers who can use them, and I put Breaker, Grinder, Big Red, Undercover, Jaws and Mountie into the skyranger.
I seem to remember the base assault being harder than this. The biggest problem alien is the beserker, and thats only because the base twists and turns it hard to gain LOS. But then you just have to plan what order to shoot him in to get good LOS.
I waltz through.
Between the power houses that are Grinder and Big Red, the accuracy of Jaws and Undercover, and the volume of fire that Mountie and Grinder can pour out, the mission just wasn’t a problem. This is one of the few problems with the game. This is a set-piece fight that just doesn’t hold through replays. Now that I’ve been through it three times, it holds nothing on me. You know, maybe that’s the point. Maybe the Base Assault is supposed to be done earlier than I’ve done it. Its a great map, with a good setup. You know what, I’m going in as soon as I can in the Ironman run. New resolution!.
The biggest reward, as it is every time, for taking down the alien base is the Hyperwave Beacon,
but I also come home with a huge pile of loot. I’ve got enough alloys, fragments and other pieces to fund research for the rest of the game. Again, this could have been a boon early on – Yet another reason to do this early. I start putting it all to work, starting important research, getting the ball rolling on critical Foundry projects, and building key weapons, armor and facilities for my own base. I am feeling really good about my progress, at this point. Both Alien and Exalt bases are taken care of, and I have all the critical projects ready to move.
But, shortly after the alien base as attacked and destroyed, I get a surprising cut scene
I could not stop cheering.
As each screen ticked by, I knew I was closer and closer to the single coolest part of any XCOM game, and I knew that what happened next would be epic.
I had to defend my base, my home turf, my HOUSE against the aliens.
They were not going to know what hit them.