Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Omega Company Pt.6: Close Encounters

Jumping straight into spoilers for those that haven't read the previous entries.

XCOM is not meant to be a global army, but only a specialised commando force. The brunt of the conflict is still resting on the shoulders of the various government's armies, but they're really only fighting a delaying action, while XCOM tries to surgically find the magic bullet to disrupting the invaders.

However, in light of the abrupt change in tactics, the Omega Company is being called in to try and help out where the fighting is fiercest. Today, that is Moscow, Russia.

I'm able to field a decent squad to go there:

Brad Mason, All American Hero and Shotgun-wielding Assault
Emily Wallace, Florence Nightingale with a Machine Gun, my Support
Emeka Dambuza, Terror of the Rooftops with his Sniper Rifle
Rookie Watanbe, an up-and-coming hopeful looking to fill Gonzalez's empty boots
And lastly, but by no means least,
Rookie Redshirt.

Spoiler alert, that last entry might not be his real name.

As the squad hits the ground, it's instantly clear that this is no normal mission. Intelligence is reporting 18 civilians in the area, and the Council would like as many of those evacuated as possible. Evacuating a civilian is a relatively simple matter of getting a soldier to any square beside them, at which point the soldier in question will tap them on the back and push them in the direction of our Skyranger to get them out. Of course, the civilians aren't always willing to stay still when there's shots fired anywhere near them, and tend to run for the hills at the sight of aliens too. And as I see the new breed of aliens scuttle into my view, I don't blame them.

These newest aliens have four-legs, and an insect-like exoskeleton. They still have arms, and those seem to end in some pretty vicious claws, but don't appear to be wielding any kind of weapon. That's precious little comfort though, as I see one move fast to sidle up to a civilian on the edge of my sight range. The creature just picks the civilian up, snaps their neck and then drops the body to the floor before...leaning down and...kissing the corpse???? This is no ritualistic honouring of an enemy, that's a full-on saliva exchange. I rapidly backpeddle my troops, retreating and firing on the hostiles and trying to make sure I have enough distance that they can't close to do any more neck-snapping on my soldiers. It's successful, as I manage to kill the nearer one, and severely injure the one that's further away.

Their turn and, as expected, it scuttles towards me but can't close the distance. Out of the corner of my vision, I see another one scuttle behind some containers, and there's the scream of another civilian being killed. There's another sound from outside of my vision...

Slowly, something shambles in... It's...the corpse of the civilian that was killed before?



Both the alien and the zombie go down, but my Overwatching soldiers manage to unanimously miss when that third alien, plus his zombie friend, come into view on their next turn. I start unloading bullets into the alien, but after four soldiers have fired, I'm left with a difficult choice. The alien is left at a sliver of health, and my rookie can make an easy shot from where he is. However, doing so will leave him in easy range of the zombie. On the other hand, retreating also means trying to make a harder shot, risking missing, and almost certainly taking a casualty from that creature's apparently insta-kill ability (not to mention -another- zombie rising the next turn). I take the shot, hoping that the zombie's power lies in its psychological impact rather than its fists.

The zombie takes a swing and does a massive 9 damage. My -highest- health soldiers, with extra armour plating taking up their inventory slot, have 9 health. Shoot it with everything! Farewell Rookie Redshirt, I wish I could be more respectful for your sacrifice, but I never wrote your name down in my notes.

The others of the squad advance to find a simple pack of Floaters terrorizing the populace. They're taken out relatively quickly, and I end up securing the area with 15 of the original 18 civilians still alive. It's not perfect, but it's better than I expected, and the Council is more than happy with the result. It seems that the Europeans are also pleased, as every European country (which includes Russia for some reason) is at an all-time low of 1 panic. The Council gives me my end-of-April report, and is very happy once again. Watanbe gets his promotion to Heavy, meaning I once again have 1 of every class, plus an extra Sniper (Delgado) and Assault (Wahid).

There's a UFO attack over China, and I can't help but be a little pleased. Historically, UFO attacks have been some of my most successful missions, and they always fill up my vaults with goodies for my scientists. I take the four survivors of the Moscow mission, add Delgado, and swoop them in for the kill.

True to form, the mission goes swimmingly as I approach the UFO. Delgado takes a light hit, but Emily Wallace is close to hand and makes sure he's in no real danger. The squad enters the UFO, finds the 'Outsider' energy creature at its core, and settles into a lovely siege position to take advantage of the first mistake it makes.

And then...

The Outsider makes a deadly shot on Brad Mason, taking him down to very nearly dead. Mason panics, and runs into the next room to hide...where he finds 4 Floaters. The Floaters immediately zip into the heart of the room where I am, and the mission is suddenly terrifying. Taking out all the Floaters will require a little bit of luck, and it'll require every one of my non-panicking soldiers to make their shot, leaving no time for Emily to run over and patch Brad up, in case of a follow-up shot the next turn. Moreover, the Floaters are in a terrific flanking position, so any one that is left alive could administer a fatal shot on any soldier it chose.

I weight my options, and decide it's time for Watanbe to really earn his Heavy status. He unslings his rocket launcher, and takes aim...

I have two choices. If I aim the explosion a touch too far to the south, then I'll catch the UFO's Power Core in the blast. Sad as I would be to lose the tech, the more pressing concern is that I have no idea what it might do when it blows up. Dr. Shen, my head of engineering, has already warned me in the past to be careful with firing bullets around these things, so I don't want to think what a rocket might do. However, if I edge the explosion further away from the Power Core, it'll mean catching Brad in the blast.

I take my time to make the decision...and eventually realise that I can't, in good conscience, order a shot on my own man. I'll take the unknown risk of losing more over the guaranteed friendly fire.

The rocket fires off, the Power Core detonates, the two joint explosions take out a good chunk of the wall, and all four Floaters, without hurting even a single one of my squad. Wallace dashes over to crouch beside Brad, and mutters comforting words as she bandages him before giving him a slap and telling him to suck it up to cure his panic. Dambuza, Delgado and Wahid rally to annhilate the Outsider and the barely alive Thin Man in the next room, and the mission is accomplished.

Back at base, there's good news waiting for me. Although I've never had a disastrous mission, I've had a steady stream of casualties over the 2 months of warfare, without receiving any replacements yet. As such, I spent a little bit of credits on calling in a couple of new rookies, to make sure that I always have the warm bodies to field a full squad of 5 even when some soldiers are resting in the infirmary.

On top of that, my Workshop is finally finished. What does a Workshop do? It instantly recruits 5 Engineers.

Suddenly all those blueprints that have been piling up are potential real things that I can manufacture and deploy. I immediately spend a large chunk of my cash on building a new Satellite Uplink, and a Satellite, so that I can get some more coverage over the world. As soon as I get a few more credits in the bank, I can seriously invest in some laser weaponry and upgraded armour. Great, right?

And now, here's a sneak preview for the next entry. This is exactly as it is written in my notes:

New Soldiers
New Workshop
Engineers!!! Satellite Uplink!
...Too late.

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