Given that XCOM is pretty much nothing more than a fantastic story-generator tagged on to a superlative game, I decided not to ‘review’ the title.
Rather I’m going to play the expansion, Enemy Within, using The Reticule writers as cannonfod… I mean as my heroic squaddies. I’ll detail each mission and their heroic (yet probably pointless) deaths. Apart from commonly known features such as mechs and genetics, I’m going into Enemy Within virtually blind. My tales are sure to be hilarious, even if only to witness tales of the team getting wiped out. I’ll be playing in Classic-Ironman mode and once I run out of writers, I’ll consider the game a ‘wipe’.
The squaddies I’ll roll with are our very own:
Steve Fulton; Nick Wheeler; Edcrab; Andrew Eldridge; Steph Woor; Jordan Harling; Chris Evans and moi, Jon Armer.
The game starts with a series of small cut-scenes and then you’re pretty much dropped into the first mission – you don’t get any customisation options at this point, so I’ll avoid going into the specifics of this mission save to say out of the four who went in, one died and two were critically wounded. After all, this is classic mode.
So, I name my troops. Most of us are just grunts at the moment, except for the survivors of the last mission. Edcrab is lucky enough to be my first sniper; usually a class that racks up multiple kills while staying ‘relatively’ safe at the rear of the action. Steve get rolled as the heavy and Nick as a squaddie (a new class I’m not familiar with). The rest of us don’t even qualify for a specialisation yet.
For the first mission, what I suspect is specifically designed as a Meld tutorial mission (Meld is the new alien material that will allow me to merge my squad with giant mechanical constructs, or give them alien spleens, so it’s pretty valuable stuff). I field Steve, Nick, Edcrab and Steph; what could possibly go wrong?
I’m outside the back of a restaurant and there’s a Meld canister directly in front of me. It’s definitely a tutorial then – no way I’m that lucky. I immediately send Steph over to collect it, the action similar to the bomb-defusals in the vanilla game, where you get next to the item and click to collect. Luckily the process doesn’t involve the loss of an action point, so you can run in, collect and run to safety in one move. You’ll be doing this a lot…I then get some blurb from my mad scientist about important research. Well, I guess if all you do is walk around with a clipboard all day then everything is important research, but hey, who am I to judge.
Soon enough I see the first Sectoids. I quickly fall back into old habits, my squad fans out, selecting good cover with two going on overwatch. The first Sectoid fires, hitting Nick straight in the chops and immediately relieving him of 4 HP. He now has just the one. In the process the wall that Steph was using as cover has also now disappeared, leaving her dangerously exposed. Luckily for her the second Sectoid takes umbridge at a wall and decides to kill that instead.
Now it’s my squad’s turn; Steve steps up to the plate and heroically runs into the room. A quick grenade removes the two sectoids and most of the external wall. This reveals another meld canister with a big ‘2’ over it; that’ll be how long I have to get it then. I run Steph through the building and out into the street behind, a handy roadwork barrier providing cover for her. Unfortunately she also reveals another two Sectoids. I quickly move Nick up in support with Edcrab on a flanking run (I forgot how useless snipers were until they lose their move penalty).
The Sectoids turn comes to nothing and I run Steph to the Meld canister securing the last of the much needed power. She reveals the final two Sectoids, and I now have a dilemma. Steph is stranded and now in real danger of being flanked, certain death on Classic, but I’m not sure if I can get enough support to her in time. I decide to go on the offensive: Steve steps up and luckily, his rocket is in range – scratch two bad guys. That leaves two on the far right. In the spirit of camaraderie Nick runs up to support Steph, slipping into overwatch. Edcrab runs behind and then, being a newcomer to the sniper specialisation, does nothing. Sigh.
The last two Sectoids are more successful, injuring both Steve and Nick, though luckily not killing them. Even this early in the game there’s a real danger from even the puniest of the aliens. Nick removes one with his grenade, and Steph the other. Mission over, all Meld retrieved and no one dead. Result.
I’m treated to some new research opinions, a cutscene detailing meld and its uses, and then a WHOLE load of information screens on the new assets. Mission two, it’s a set of abductions. I choose the mission giving me money (which I intend to pile into satellites) rather than research and we’re off. I chose the same squad as last time, and they hit the ground running, fanning out and getting into defensive positions. The first Meld canister is revealed almost immediately and gives me a sedate 5 moves to get there.
I move through the motorway service station it with practised ease, perhaps slightly hurried by the Meld, but I manage to nab it and kill two Sectoids with no casualties. A yellow line (similar to the blue ones that indicate enemy presence) informs me of the rough direction of the last Meld canister (2 seems to be the level limit) which is good. A flashing 3 though is bad news; I now have half the level to traverse in 3 turns, with 75% of the enemies still to be uncovered.
I pass the petrol pumps, exchanging some fire (and a rocket) with two unlucky Sectoids and then move to the canister. It’s situated in a weird maze of trucks, terribly exposed with only one real approach but a ton of cover for any enemy that happens to roll-up. I only have 1 turn left though, so I get too it. Steph is again the nearest to the action, so she runs to the canister to recover it. This reveals 4 Sectoids. Luckily, she’s still got the second half of her turn left, so can run back to safety behind a truck. Steve moves up, slipping into overwatch with Nick far out on the left (he was covering the flank) leaving Edcrab, who moves up to the front next to some good cover ready to pop some heads next turn. Unfortunately for Ed, he never gets the chance.
The first Sectoid turn sees a shot career from behind some crates straight into Edcrab’s oh so pretty face – instant death and a reminder, if any were needed, that the game is lethal on this difficulty. Steve is understandably aggrieved by his colleague’s death and launches a rocket in return, another two x-rays down. Steph then steps up, deftly lobs a grenade, and wipes out the other two, earning a promotion to assault class as a result. Nick then jogs up just in time for the end of the mission spouting some nonsense about a shoelace…
Another successful mission: more meld, Steph is now an assault and I have two satellites on order. We’ll miss Edcrab, but with zero kills, probably not THAT much…
Part two soon!