Friday, October 12, 2012

XCOM rescues civilians in Beijing

(Note: My initial impressions of this game are here.)

April, 2015:  We'd barely started to get a handle on this alien invasion, still trying to research new weapons and armor, when we received word of a terror attack in Beijing.

China was already panicking, as we'd been forced to make hard choices a few weeks before. And we were still trying to get satellite coverage over Asia. Now, the aliens had hit at our weakest link.

From the sounds of it, this was going to be our hardest fight yet. And we weren't just charged with killing aliens. Indeed, our primary mission goal was to rescue civilians. As outgunned as we were, that wasn't going to be easy.

Our squad emerged from the drop-jet into a scene of chaos. We could hear screaming, gunshots, even the roar of close-air support, apparently. But again, this was a rescue mission. We couldn't afford to blow up Beijing, not before we accomplished our task.

Taking the initiative, assault specialist Victor Martinez ran up to the nearest door and opened it, surprising a couple of Floaters terrorizing the civilians inside a large shop. But one of them was quick to react, flying to shelter behind the cowering shopkeeper.

By an incredible stroke of good fortune, that put him in just the right position for Sgt. Gertrude 'Ghost' Wagner, our sniper. Still at the landing site, she took a daring shot at the alien framed by the open door, missing the civilian and her own teammate by inches. One alien down.

The other Floater dithered awhile, unable to find cover, nor a way out of the building. That indecision gave Martinez enough time to lean around the open door and fire his combat shotgun. Two down. Then, bravely, Martinez ran into the building and began to shepherd the civilians to safety.

Across the street, Sgt. Ananda 'Shotsy' Rangarajan had a similar experience. But when he opened the door of a large restaurant, he discovered two aliens previously unknown to us. They looked almost like giant armored spiders, but with spears for legs. But their appearance turned out to be the least frightening thing about them.

One of those Chryssalids (as we later named them) quickly ran out the back door, but the other headed for our sergeant.

It turned out to have no ranged attack, but to be deadly at close range and very, very hard to kill. That one took a shotgun blast at point blank range and a hail of bullets from Lt. Konstantinos Mikos' assault rifle, and still required Lt. Karin Jensen to put a pistol bullet through its head.

We were clearly out of our depth in this battle, but we had to do our best. After all, we were sworn to defend civilians, trading our lives for theirs, if necessary.

Lt. Jensen, who's another of our snipers, tried to get a better vantage point, climbing a drain pipe to the roof of the restaurant. Unfortunately, that put her face to face with the other Chryssalid! Apparently, the alien which had run out the back door had doubled back towards us on the roof.

She had no time to unsling her sniper rifle, or even to draw her pistol - not that either of those would have done her any good. Those creatures are just too tough. But the Chryssalid chose to attack a civilian hiding on the roof first, which gave her time to leap down to the ground again.

Lt. Jensen still has nightmares, though, from seeing the creature viciously stab the civilian with those spear-like legs - and what resulted from that. But there was absolutely nothing she could do.

No one else had an angle on the roof, either. And we hadn't brought any grenades, since our primary mission was to rescue people. But Capt. Jose Luis Soto, who's been in almost every fight with these aliens since the very first (where he was the only survivor), still had his rocket launcher.

He wasn't able to get an angle on the Chryssalid either, or even see it, but he put a rocket neatly onto a structure there which stuck up a bit from the roof. That set the whole building on fire, but it severely damaged the alien. When it leaped to the ground to continue the attack, Lt. Mikos killed it with his assault rifle.

At that point, the dead civilian stood up, shambled over to the edge of the roof, and dropped down into our midst! To say that this was a surprise is an understatement. The man was clearly dead, but still moving. And he was even harder to stop than the Chryssalids had been.

Later, we learned that this was how Chryssalids reproduced. If we hadn't stopped this "zombie," a young Chryssalid would have burst from the body - almost unbelievably quickly - and we'd have had that to contend with, too. (You can see how we could be overrun with such creatures, if they found enough victims.)

But this zombie dropped into the middle of our squad, and it wasn't nearly as fast as the actual aliens. But it took almost all of our people to put it down. Clearly, we need some new weapons. We just have to figure out a way to deal some real damage. We can't trust on luck all the time.

Note that all of this had happened in just a few minutes. We'd barely moved from our insertion point, and we still had little idea of what to expect. So we sent Lt. Jensen back up to that roof again. That was probably the bravest thing I've ever seen anyone do - and not just because the building was on fire, either.

But two more Floaters still surprised us. I don't know where they came from. Of course, they can fly, so we have to learn to expect the unexpected, I guess. But I don't know why Lt. Jensen didn't see them coming, from her vantage point on the roof.

At any rate, suddenly, they were just there, flanking our team to the west. Well, thinking back on it, I suppose they'd been hiding behind the restaurant's garbage dumpsters - maybe even in the garbage dumpsters, I don't know.

But by this point, our people were really on their toes. And Floaters aren't actually hard to kill, not like those Chryssalids and the "zombies" they create. Sgt. Wagner still hadn't moved an inch from her insertion point, so she coolly put a bullet through the brain of one of them. And Lt. Mikos took out the other one, his second kill of the day.

The rest of the battle was uneventful. The other aliens, if there were any, scampered off, and we set about finding and healing - and calming - the city's residents. China was very appreciative. Despite this horrendous attack, panic levels have dropped all across the country. Apparently, this was all they needed, just a reminder that they hadn't been forgotten by the rest of the world.

And we got through our toughest fight yet without a single injury! Life is good! :)

PS. I don't know how to take screenshots in this game. Frankly, it didn't even occur to me to try. But I suppose I should figure that out.

I'm a little frustrated that we've got all these cool things we know how to make, but we can't make any of them, because we don't have enough engineers. (And we can't hire engineers in this game, nor can we build more workshops, because we don't have the power or the money.)

In the original game, you didn't need a set amount of engineers. If you didn't have very many, the work would just go slower. But here, there's an artificial limit on what you can build. Like so much in this game, IMHO, it's a strategy game design which hurts the role-playing aspects of it.

(Also, in the original game, engineers could make these neat gadgets for sale, too. Here, they sit around doing nothing all the time. You can sell alien items, if you want - although you need most of them - but you can't sell your own equipment, even the brand-new stuff you've just learned to make and is better than anything available elsewhere on Earth. That just seems nuts.)

At any rate, I'm still forced to use the original weapons in the game - assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and ordinary pistols - while now they want me to assault an alien base! Without better weapons and armor, that seems like complete suicide to me.

Actually, I think I was too lucky in capturing the right aliens so quickly, so the game is moving on much too rapidly for my level of development. That's my guess, anyway. I really don't know.


Chimeradave said...

That was a really cool story. How does the game work? you were controlling all the soldiers? is it turn based?

WCG said...

Thanks, John.

Yeah, it's turn-based, and you control everything. In general (there are some exceptions), your soldiers can move twice during a turn, or move once and do something else, if they wish (fire a gun, reload their weapon, throw a grenade, etc.).

Of course, there's a limit to how far they can move. It's critical that they end a move behind cover, even if that doesn't always protect them. And one of the most important actions is to ready a reaction shot, so they can shoot if an alien appears in their field of fire during the alien movement turn.

They have a percentage chance of hitting the target, depending on distance, their skill, any cover in the way, whether they're flanking the alien, etc. And damage varies a bit, too, especially given the chance of critical shots.

That's not identical to the original X-COM, but it's close enough to be fun.