Friday, 21 June 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Mission 2 - Operation Burning Smoke

We landed in Miami at nearly three in the morning. This should mean that civilians are in bed, blissfully unaware of what is going on in their town. There, thankfully, won't be any chance of civilian casualties. 

Basically, our objectives were: kill all aliens, come home.

Bradford still held my hand for the first half of the mission. He first sent my fellow Scot, Rookie Hunter, into that building.

This method of opening doors may be quieter, and thus preventing the enemy from knowing where we are, but it's nowhere near as fun as kicking doors in. Sadly, this is a time of war, not for play.

Another piece of advice Bradford gave me was to send certain soldiers onto elevated surfaces.

Not only did it help us scout out the area and find two future corpses, but it gave Squaddie Vargas some combat benefits...

This alien made the mistake of firing at Vargas. It made the even bigger mistake of missing. This is how Vargas deals with this level of stupidity...

One alien down.

Rookie Hunter here showed off one of the abilities available to all soldiers, regardless of class - Hunker Down. This is a defensive ability that will turn a "half-shield" of cover into a full shield - with the added bonus of critical hits being completely nulled. It can be very useful if a soldier is near death, it could give them a better chance of coming back alive.

I had almost ordered Hunter to do this, but Roux got the honour of throwing a grenade at the alien - granting him his first kill.

After a few more rounds, our Belgian, Rookie Verhoeven, catches sight of our next target...

Sadly, it's way out of firing range.

Alas, moving closer spooked the aliens into hiding into this building. This easily collapsible building. If only we had a rocket...

The aliens did something weird here, Dr. Vahlen suggested that the two aliens merged their minds or something? I'm still not sure, but it did make the target of the merge more powerful.

Thankfully, it didn't make it any more accurate. Not a single shot from one of these fellas hit any of our soldiers. The latter two images do show off the "Overwatch" ability - anyone that runs into their line of sight will be subjected to a round of fire. Our soldiers can use it too - it is very useful when defending a certain area. It is less accurate than usual, but it can be devastating to our enemies if luck is on our side.

As I mentioned in the last entry, Alejandro Vargas' promotion means he can now carry a rocket launcher. So it's time to perform an experiment - what happens to aliens when a rocket hits them?

Huh, they die. Well, I think that test was very conclusive, but I think we need to run more tests. Maybe, one or two or eighty more?

Easy enough mission, though I don't expect the rest of them to be this easy. Still, I think our squad has earned a few day's break.

Mission Stats

Alejandro Vargas - 3 kills (2 missions, 4 kills)
Victor Roux - 1 kill (1 mission, 1 kill)
Scottie Hunter - 0 kills (1 mission, 0 kills)
Amber Verhoeven - 0 kills

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Part 2 - Headquarters

1/3/2015 - Meeting the Crew

Our lone survivor - Alejandro Vargas - returned to HQ in the early hours of the morning. It wasn't quite the triumphant return he had hoped for, honestly I think he was happy just to be alive. We were caught by surprise, but I vowed that would never happen again.

Naturally, it happened again. But more on that later.

Officer Bradford and Dr. Vahlen were watching back some of the footage, when the German doctor asked a very important question...

That's what was on everyone's mind. XCOM had been founded to tackle this sort of threat, but we really had no clue who we were facing, why they were attacking Earth, how many there were, what did they want, where did they come from etc etc the questions kept piling up.

The old man is Dr. Shen - our chief engineer. His and Dr. Vahlen's work are closely related - Vahlen and her team of scientists will do a lot of researching - into our enemy, their technologies and how we can apply them for our own use. Dr. Shen can then use that research to develop weapons, armour, ships among other things. This will be the only good side of fighting this war - humanity will go through a great deal of technological progress. We'll have the best team of engineers and scientists by the end of the war.

Talk about an understatement. Still, I had faith in them. If we are going to beat the aliens, these two will play a crucial role in doing so.

Officer Bradford formally introduces himself to me and explains his role in XCOM - namely, all the little things that are not important enough for me to deal with, as well as offering advice to me. His first piece of advice was to suggest giving Vargas a promotion. Honestly, surviving the first mission is more than enough reason to get promoted - he is, after all, the only soldier with experience against the aliens.

Once a soldier gets promoted from being a Rookie to a Squaddie, they are given one of five classes to specialise in, depending on what they show potential in. Vargas is a big strong man, and thus is perfect for the Heavy class - machine guns, rocket launchers, need I say more? They are basically walking tanks.

Here I can check out each soldier's stats -

  • HP = Health Points = How much health a soldier has. They run out - they die. 
  • Defense = How much they can withstand attacks.
  • Will = Not too sure how this relates, though Vahlen mentioned something about being less susceptible to alien psi-attacks, as well as less likely to panic. A higher will, in essence, will prevent them becoming like that German recon guy.
  • Aim = Does what it says on the tin - a higher Aim means more accurate shots.
Loadout is where I change a soldier's equipment - his weapon, side-weapon, armour and an added item of equipment (a frag grenade as default).

Customize allows me to change just about everything about a soldier, including his voice and race. I will most likely not be using this often, unless I get some really ugly dude - I want the most beautiful army in the universe!

...that was a joke, for the record.

The higher in rank a soldier gets, they get access to a number of extra abilities. Most ranks will give me a choice of one to give them - in this case, however, only one is available for Heavy Squaddies - the ability to carry a rocket launcher. We can test that out in the next mission.

After I finish promoting Vargas, I am called to the Research Laboratory.

I am introduced to Dr. Vahlen. Don't let her age fool you, she may be young but she's one of the brightest people on this planet. She, like myself, wants to see the human race come out of this war with a plethora of new technologies. She gives me the choice of what to research first...

We don't have enough supplies to got for Xeno-Biology - however, the fragments of the alien's weapons could help us eventually building our own, while the Alien Materials can be used to improve armour. Naturally, I choose the latter. 

Unfortunately our little research meeting was cut short as I am called to Mission Control. It turns out the aliens are on the attack again.

On my first day on the job and I'm already given an incredibly hard choice. With our limited capabilities, we can only respond to one of the two simultaneous attacks. Both are council members, and both are offering separate rewards for protecting them -

The United States will donate four more Scientists for Dr. Vahlen's team if we choose to go to Miami.

China will give us 200 credits - which is actually a good amount - if we choose Hong Kong.

It was difficult, but eventually I made my choice. We flew to Miami right away.

Bradford chose the team, which included our "veteran" Alejandro Vargas...

Also on the team were...

Scottie Hunter - I have a fondness for this fella, probably because we are both Scottish.

Amber Verhoeven of Belgium.

And Victor Roux of France. 

Unlike the last mission, we are far more prepared.

Unlike the last mission, I WILL bring everyone back alive.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

XCOM Solider Stats

Name Country Rank Missions Kills Current Status
Alejandro Vargas Argentina Squaddie 2 5 Active
Scottie Hunter Scotland Rookie 1 0 Active
Victor Roux France Squaddie 1 1 Active
Amber Verhoeven Belgium Rookie 1 0 Active
Nick Crawford USA Rookie 1 0 KIA
Vasily Semyenov Russia Rookie 1 0 KIA
Akemi Hayashi Japan Rookie 1 1 KIA

XCOM Enemy Unknown - Intro + Mission 1

Much has been written about the mysterious, almost-mythical organisation known as XCOM. Completely shrouded in secrecy, the only thing people truly know about it is that it was them who fought against the alien forces during the First Contact War. However, the video diary of the still-anonymous Commander of the operation has become declassified along, and with it an avalanche of information about the now-defunct organisation. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing what we have uncovered.

1/3/2015 - First Contact

We weren't ready.

They came, falling from the heavens in a fiery rage. Hmph, they might have fallen from the heavens, but they were a gift from Hell itself.

It's been the subject of many films, games and books - what would happen when they made contact? Would they come in peace? Or...

...would it be an act of war? 

We didn't have to wait for an answer.

This was the first act in what would be known as the First Contact War. The human race vs the extraterrestrial threat.

Hello, Commander. In light of the recent extraterrestrial incursion, this council of nations has convened to approve the activation of the XCOM project. You have been chosen to lead this initiative: to oversee our first and last line of defense. Your efforts will have considerable influence on this planet's future. We urge you to keep that in mind as you proceed.

Suddenly I was the one directly responsible for the protection of this entire planet. I was chosen to lead XCOM (eXtraterrestrial COMbat Unit) and fend off the aliens. As to why I was chosen...well, we'll get to that. I didn't get a chance to ease into my new job however, by the time I arrived in XCOM headquarters in Germany we already had a team flying out to Berlin.

I didn't even get a chance to introduce myself to this guy (he's Central Officer Bradford, I saw a lot of him during my time at XCOM). As I arrived he was busy listening to a "mayday!" transmission and before long was debriefing the Delta squad as they approached Berlin.

You are being deployed to Germany. At 1900 hours Zulu, several unidentified objects fell to Earth. After ruling out the possibility of a downed satellite, we now believe these objects be extraterrestrial in nature. Shortly after impact, German officials received reports of mass hysteria and freak weather around one of the impact zones. Then things went dark. At 2100 hours, a chopper carrying a German military recon team went down in the area after they reported being fired upon. As you know, Germany is a member of the Council, and they have requested our assistance. Our mission is to assess the situation on the ground, ascertain the current status of the German recon team, and investigate the extraterrestrial objects. Central out.

Bradford took control of the mission, to give me an idea of how missions generally work.

This is the Delta squad Bradford is leading. From left to right: Neil Crawford (USA), Akemi Hayashi (Japan), Vasily Semyenov (Russia) and Alejandro Vargas (Argentina). Four soldiers from four different countries, united to tackle the greatest threat humanity has ever known.

This part of Berlin, the nation's capital, was completely empty, save for a few abandoned cars. 

Bradford was very clear in pointing out that finding cover should be a soldier's first priority on the battlefield. That was something I would need to keep in mind when I get full control of the battle.

Of course, some things offer better defense than others. If you look at Vargas' status, you'll see a half-shield. This means that he is still somewhat exposed, though it's still better than no cover. Where Bradford is moving him, the statue, will offer him full cover - making him incredibly difficult to hit from that direction.

Rookie Semyenov found something moving, so Bradford sent Rookie Hayashi to check it out.

Well...we found one of the recon team. Sadly there was nothing we could do. At that moment however, we were interrupted by an incoming message.

Dr. Vahlen pointed out that the message was coming from inside that building. That would be our next destination.

However, Rookie Vargas spotted an excess of blood on the ground. When he checked it out, none of us could have expected what he was about to find...

Horrific. Dr. Vahlen said that the cause of death was something exploding out of his stomach. I refused to believe it, this wasn't some sci-fi b-movie. A few months later I would have believed anything she said.

Semyenov checked out a strange object just outside the building, but we still had little clue as to what it actually was. Bradford decided to proceed forward to the building.

We found the recon team member responsible for the earlier message just...standing there. As if in a daze - holding a shotgun in one hand and a grenade in the other.

Semyenov moved closer to try and disarm him when he made a discovery...

The alien was somehow controlling the poor man. But at that moment we were caught by surprise...

He shot and killed Semyenov then blew himself up - no doubt the work of the alien's mind-control. Suddenly, more threats came into view...

Crawford, the American, was next to go. The other two soldiers were flanked by the aliens, but Bradford refused to panic.

Alejandro Vargas marked the first extraterrestrial kill of the war. This helped to open up Hayashi to move to a different cover.

It's good to know that exterrestrial life blow up just as well as anything else. However, we were not yet clear...

An alien had snuck up behind Hayashi and fired at her. She didn't have a chance to survive. Vargas was all that was left of the Delta squad...

Thankfully, Hayashi's killer was the last of the alien force in this area. Vargas took care of it rather easily.

The mission was technically a success, but three casualties in a normal scenario is simply unacceptable. However, this wasn't a normal scenario and Bradford did as well as he could. But from now on it's all up to me. All these men and women who have voluntarily signed up to take on an unknown threat - I'm now responsible for the lot of them, as well as the team of scientists and engineers at HQ. Not to mention, the leaders of all the Council nations. I almost literally had the entire world on my shoulders. This wasn't going to be an easy task.

Mission Summary

Nick Crawford (USA) - Killed (1 mission, 0 kills)
Alejandro Vargas (ARG) - 2 kills (1 mission, 2 kills)
Vasily Semyenov (RUS) - Killed (1 mission, 0 kills)
Akemi Hayashi (JAP) - 1 Kill, Killed (1 mission, 1 kill)

OOC: This is the tutorial mission, as such it is scripted. There is nothing you can do to save the three casualties. Not all the updates will be this long - I tried to give as much of a feel of the gameplay as possible (the next mission will give a better look at that...).