XCOM: Diary Of A Wimpy Squad, Finale – 28Ish Days Later

By Alec Meer on October 31st, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Some time later.

Things haven’t gone badly, per se. We lost Keza MacDonald in the alien base, but other than that there have been no fatalities since last we spoke. Indeed, our ranks have been bolstered by sniper Sergeant Craig ‘Alpha’ Pearson, assault Corporal Porp Entine, support Captain Robert ‘Pox’ Yang and sniper Squaddie Jeremy Laird. But there have been wounds. Many, many wounds. As Muton and Floater Elites entered the fray, and the first terrifying encounters with psychic species presented a whole new thread, most of our once-strong team is laid up in hospital. Even our SHIV tank is damaged. Three other soldiers are out of action because they’re being evaluated for psychic aptitude.

And so it is that we meet our darkest hour in what should have been our brightest hour.

This is the team:

As you can see, only three soldiers are fit for duty – the reliable Colonel Alec ‘Zulu’ Meer, accompanied by Captain Yang and Squaddie Laird. The council has summoned us to Japan for an asset recovery mission. Will Meer’s veteran leadership get us through this, even the odds are stacked heavily against us? Let’s find out. First off the Skyranger’s a wet blanket!

We need to play this one differently. With only three pairs of boots on the ground, even one fatality likely spells doom for everyone. I can’t lose Colonel Meer, I just can’t. I feel a strange, unnatural, mysterious affinity with him. Why, if he were to perish I don’t believe the XCOM project could continue.

Three! So, we take it turn by turn – in constant Overwatch, the snipers not moving from the initial cover I sent them into, as they’re not able to move and fire their rifles on the same turn. We wait for the enemy to come to us.

We wait for the enemy to come to us.

We wait for the enemy to come to us.

I said “WE WAIT FOR THE ENEMY TO COME TO US.”

Oh, for the love of God. They’re just not taking the hint. Shuffle forwards, Captain Yang. What can you see?

Sectoids! Sweet, merciful heavens above it’s only Sectoids! All my Christmassses, birthdays, Easters and unexpected Bank Holidays have come at once. They’re all mind-buffing each other like hell, naturally, but I can’t see a commander so hopefully that means my guys won’t get puppeted up the wazoo.

Yang’s got enough air left in his lungs to take out one with plasma rifle, while Meer, lurking behind a cargo container close to the Skyranger, picks off another when it moves across his eyeline while he’s on Overwatch. As a mere Squaddie, Laird is half blind and unable to shoot straight, so he’s no good this turn.

…Which is probably why he immediately takes a hit. A non-fatal hit, as it’s only poxy Sectoids, but it’s enough to rattle me.

It’s enough to rattle Laird too, apparently, as he proceeds to miss an easy shot. So he’s just stood there, useless, flanked by a Sectoid and without a doubt dead meat next turn if I can’t scrub the little grey bugger out now. Yang’s too far out of range to help, which leaves us only Meer.

Meer can’t move and fire his trusty sniper rifle, so he has to do a traumatic switch to his plasma pistol, creep around a lorry to the Sectoid watching Laird and gamble on a low-odds shot.

It hits!
But doesn’t kill. Oh no.

Then something vaguely absurd happens. The clean kill Meer had got from Overwatch last turn? That activated In The Zone, and ability which enables a second shot following a successful, unflanked takedown. And that happened while he was in Overwatch. And that meant the free shot carried over into this turn instead. And that meant:

Boom. One more plasma pistol shot. One less Sectoid. One live Laird.

That’s all the visible enemies taken care of. So we’re back to waiting, watching, waiting, watching, waiting, (over)watching).

Once again, they’re not coming to us. This is 1993 all over again.

Slowly, Meer moves forward to try and get a view of more of this truck stop we’re fighting in. As he darts from lorry to lorry, a hiding sectoid lets loose a reaction shot.

Not like this! Not like this.

Sectoids, let us not forget, are rubbish. Meer is unharmed, and whips out his pistol once again. He’s getting good with that now.

With Meer once again camping like a mofo, Yang becomes point man. He flushes out three more Sectoids in due course, taking out two himself as they refuse to wander into the snipers’ lines of sight.

The third sectoid is damnably hard to hit. Laird moves forwards and takes a speculative pistol shot, but it’s only a flesh wound. (Do those things even have flesh?)

Meanwhile Meer is reluctantly dragged out of his camping spot to try and get a better angle on this latest action.

The Sectoid elects to overwatch rather than shoot or move, which makes things trickier. Someone’s going to have to risk their neck to get close enough to take it out.

Then a car explodes for no obvious, which saves the life out of me.

Thanks, car. Thar.

Laird misses again. Meer still can’t see. But Yang, heroic Yang, manages to finish the Sectoid on a 40% chance. That’s it! We’re out of here!

Except we’re not. There’s still something out there. Get over here, something, I want to kill you. Kill you bad.

A couple more fruitless turns spent overwatching means that once again, our careful plan of extreme caution comes to naught. As the most expendable soldier – sorry Jezza – we send Laird forward for a recce, and he soon turns up three Sectoids hiding inside a supermarket. I bet they’re looking for asparagus soup. I’ve just got a feeling.

Meer’s Squad Sight finally gets ins turn in the sun and takes out one, while Yang’s winning streak comes to an end and he misses an easy shot. Then I accidentally press reload instead of switch weapon for Laird, scream at the skies and wait for the Sectoids to do their worst.

Sectoids are cowards. Sectoids just hide.

Moving yang forward to work out where the little shits have gotten to, the two aliens both fire out Overwatch. Nooo! They both miss, however, because Sectoids are idiots. Ufortunately, they do both hit the wall Yang was going to hide against, so he’s left stood out in the open like a plonker.

So, Yang can now either move to safety or shoot, at 42% odds. Decisions, decisions!

Actually it’s academic, as he’s providing the line of sight both Meer and Laird need to cleanup with their sniper rifles. Of course Meer gets his shot, while Laird finally makes good with 45% odds. And we go home.

So, from a terrible starting hand on this mission, we finished in a blaze of fatality-free glory. Its never going to get better than this.

So that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

__________________

« | »

, .

61 Comments »

  1. Mr.Bats says:

    I’d like to know how a fellow spaniard has such a funny name by our standards.

    Yours truly’s surname is indeed Bats but that’s another story.

  2. Hawkseraph says:

    Why is this the finale? :(

    • El Stevo says:

      From the first installment:

      “Important note: there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance that this diary can be ‘finished’. The nature and length of an XCOM campaign means this would be a fifty million part series that prevented me from writing any other posts for the next decade, were I to go the full distance. So I have a number of pre-determined stopping points in my head. The first of these is if/when I run out RPS writers to name them after; the second is complete, dismal failure of the game (i.e. if too many nations withdraw funding from my useless project); others I will make clear if and when they happen. OK? OK!”

      • LionsPhil says:

        And yet it still feels kind of disappointing.

        I blame the set-up that Meer was going to cop it.

        • Droopy The Dog says:

          And not even a screenie of the memorial so we can reminisce fondly about the ones that did cop it.

          We were all reading to see them get comedically shot, right?

        • Groove says:

          It IS very disapointing, but my campaign (post hyperwave activation and titan armour) would be a real drag to write about as well at this point. I’m on classic but I’m absolutely roflstomping most missions. I’m still loving it, but my two psychics have really turned the table on the aliens.

          • Atrocious says:

            I was roflstomping the campaign too, when I was on Classic. Try Classic Ironman. :)

          • Groove says:

            It’s in the wings ;)

            I’m more interested by suedo-ironman myself. I think if a misclick or a bug cost me an indespensable soldier then I’d probably quit on the spot if I couldn’t reload. And minor bugs that could cause that are still plentiful enough (i.e. simple things like the camera going wonky and needing to be rotated to recognise the tile you’re on).

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      An arbitrary, if heroic, end to an awesome diary. Hopefully the readership has validated the demand for these beauties. Moar please – or Mose, if you will.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Appreciate that it seems abrupt, but continuing would have been diminishing returns from hereon in (unless I’d switched the difficulty to Impossible). Better not to bore people senseless, I think. What game to do next, that’s the question…

  3. DaftPunk says:

    I heard sectoids like cornfleks.

  4. darkChozo says:

    “Thanks, car. Thar.”

    Wonderful.

  5. Keymonk says:

    Pretty fitting that Meer leads the last mission. :D

  6. Wild_Marker says:

    Ah ha ha I had this mission on this map as well. Everyone in plasma and laser gear and the game just throws sectoids at you. It was TERRIFYING. You keep wondering “Where are the actual Aliens? Oh god they’re going to show up at the last moment aren’t they?”.

    But they never show up…

    • JuJuCam says:

      Yeah there’s something screwy with mission generation for council missions – they just don’t scale with tech or time or whatever other metric makes the other missions harder in the late game, so frequently I consider them either a sigh of relief or an annoying waste of my time when they pop up later on.

  7. jonfitt says:

    I got the impression through the game that the enemies don’t exist until you “discover” them at which point they spawn and begin to move. I never had them move into view during their turn when they hadn’t been triggered either in view or just at the periphery.
    Is that not the case?

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      it is the case on normal and easy

      on classic these groups may be on patrol, in which case they can move into LOS on their turn, and a group of aliens in combat can call in patrolling allies to assist them

      on impossible the groups are on patrol and a group already in combat will call in allies

    • DyingTickles says:

      No, they’re there, they just don’t patrol. At least on Normal. I discovered a group of Thin Men at the very edge of my vision, so it didn’t “activate” them. I was able to skirt around them for the rest of the mission and they never activated, although I could watch their little idle animations. Finally I cleared everything else, set everyone up around them on overwatch, and moved somebody in to activate them. I cleared them up with overwatch. It was pretty nice.

    • Ich Will says:

      I’ve certainly had plenty of groups patrol into my view, both on normal and classic

    • vakthoth says:

      Some enemies patrol, most stay where they are until you discover them. Floaters and Heavy Floaters always patrol, doing their teleportish thing to hop around the map. Other enemy types (Mutons, Chryssalids, Cyberdiscs, Sectoids, etc.) either occasionally patrol, or just wait for a fight to break out, and then run towards it. And other enemy types (Ethereals, Sectopods I think) stay stationary until you discover them no matter what.

      It also depends on the type of scenario you’re in. For instance, on council missions (which, FYI Alec, I’m pretty sure never feature any types of aliens other than thin men and sectoids — EDIT: in my third classic playthrough, fourth overall, I just played an asset recovery with mutons in it… which may have happened before, now that I think about it, but yeah, I was wrong), enemies neither patrol nor converge on battles. There’s plenty of patrolling in terror missions and UFO landings/crashes, and very little in abduction missions.

      • mlaskus says:

        Etherals can patrol too, my first encounter with one started with it sneaking up on my squad from behind. That didn’t end well for them, though I did capture it.

      • jalf says:

        And I’ve had a sectopod lumber into view, so seems like they patrol too.

        Of course, often when they “patrol” it really just means walking a few tiles back and forth, but I’m pretty sure *all* aliens on *all* difficulties patrol.

        • vakthoth says:

          Yeah, you guys are right, now that I think about it. I don’t know if either of them proactively patrol, but they do at least converge on fights and noisy door-openings.

    • jonfitt says:

      Interesting. Thanks for the insights, it seems it’s not as straightforward as I thought.
      I was playing on Normal, but there seemed to be no point in overwatching if you weren’t in battle. It seems that might have been down to difficulty setting, or luck.
      I am planning to play through on Classic (not ironman, I save-scum when things go terribly), so I’ll see if that’s different.

  8. Cei says:

    Thanks ants. Thants.

    Arguably the best pop culture reference I’ve read on a gaming site for a long long time.

    • jezcentral says:

      And then he goes and ruins it by saying “Kill you bad.”

      It’s “Kill you filthy”, obv. :)

  9. Tom Walker says:

    So Rab Florence never got a look in? Shame, with all the controversy he’s been involved in of late, Google results that threw up phrases like “Robert Florence kills two with consumate ease” could have got you a lot of traffic.

    • Eschatos says:

      More like “Robert Florence gives his life to take out a Wainwrightopod.”

  10. Prime says:

    We Autobots have Darkest Hours about once a year now. You get used to ‘em.

  11. vakthoth says:

    Aw, the end. Well, thanks for the memories, Alec. These were a lot of fun to read.

    In The Zone sure does behave strangely when it triggers from reaction fire. I have to assume that’ll be fixed by some future patch. I do hope more patches are forthcoming.

  12. dajjal says:

    I never really noticed on my play through but why are Scottish soldiers given their own identity from the UK soldiers?

    • Koozer says:

      Irish soldiers get their own flag too. The Welsh? I think they must’ve got wiped out by the aliens. Poor Welshies.

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        Erm – presumably Irish soldiers get their own flag since like let’s say, France or Germany, we are a sovereign nation and not part of the UK. It *does* seem odd that Scotland would and Wales wouldn’t, though.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          Not really that odd – the game wasn’t made in the UK.

          Or to put it another way: Americans have heard of Scotland, (because of Braveheart etc), but probably not of Wales. That isn’t a criticism – there’s no reason they should know or care.

          • Atrocious says:

            England also doesn’t have it’s own flag in the game. They get the Union Jack while Scotland gets their local flag. It’s a complete mess.

          • Llewyn says:

            On the contrary, this is an example of Firaxis’ remarkable awareness of the British political landscape. The game is after all set in 2015.

          • dajjal says:

            I for one will be voting “no” even though I do like seeing the blue flagged team members…

          • Atrocious says:

            @Llewyn: Looks like it. I actually didn’t know about the upcoming referendum in Scotland. To my defense I can say I don’t live on your island. Nice work from Firaxis to considers this event. Even though it may be a bit early to make presumptions on the outcome.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            On the contrary, this is an example of Firaxis’ remarkable awareness of the British political landscape. The game is after all set in 2015.

            That is also a possibility – though I still lean towards it being a case of “Ooh, flags” rather than anything deliberate.

          • Llewyn says:

            @Atrocious: No, really, I think you were right the first time. It just amused me when I got my own first Scottish soldier that theoretically Firaxis’ confusion over nationalities might actually end up correct.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I reckon the St.George’s cross is too racist these days, and the Welsh flag would end up looking like a red-green blob at that size.

      Although I would very much like to see DLC set entirely in Wales. It could be like Torchwood, but good.

  13. Antsy says:

    Obviously it’s set the year after a successful Yes vote in the 2014 independence referendum :P

    Grr, reply fail.

  14. Primar says:

    Not to take away from the story or anything, but just FYI – you can pull soldiers out of Psi Testing if you need to. For example, in situations like this. :)

    • Atrocious says:

      Exactly. Also, remember to unload the gear of soldiers before you put them into testing. Unlike when they are in hospital, they do not drop it themselves. So when you want that Armor or Plasma Gun for someone else, you’ll have to cancel psi testing to get it.

      • Primar says:

        Nope! You can still access their gear etc via the Barracks screen. It says they’re in Psi Testing, but you can still click on them to modify gear, customize etc.

        • Atrocious says:

          Ok, cool! Then I was just too stupid to check the barracks menu.

          • Primar says:

            Nah, it’s not very clear at all – they’re kinda greyed out and at the bottom of the barracks list, and I assumed that I couldn’t do anything with them. It was only out of mild desperation that I tried clicking on them and found I could still do things with their gear.

            Inventory management is a real pain; I wish some more time had been spent on making the UI generally tighter.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Don’t worry, I missed that too. Good to know, thanks! Although it would be really great if there was a switch in the options or something that removed equipment from testing soldiers, or even from everyone after every mission.

  15. Atrocious says:

    I’d like to tell you all the story of “How one lone Thin Man killed my whole squad”. Unfortunately I am at work and can’t spend time writing the whole thing now.

    It was one of those Council missions where you only get puny Sectoids or Thin Men. It was also on Classic Ironman.

    The short story is: My squad, being all Rookies or Squadies, never got into decent firing positions and never got hit chances over 50%. So I left them on overwatch (Which was probably the mistake I made. Maybe I should have tried shooting anyway.). The Thin Man moved behind a car when he was out of overwatch range and from there he took out 3 of my squad with critical hits, poison and panic, over the course of two rounds. When it was clear that I cannot finish One Thin Man with this squad of failures, I decided to retreat the last man standing. Too bad I hadn’t noticed the Thin Man had switched to overwatch during his round. My last squaddie got a shot to the back of his head and that was the end of him.

    So congratulations Alec for surviving Classic Ironman this long! I had played Classic before and dominated the whole game with heavy abuse of autosaves and reload. Now with Ironman it’s a whole new level and I must admit I haven’t done very well so far.

    • inomisu says:

      Yeah, panic is nasty. I actually had a case where a Thin Man poisoned one of my people, then died in a car explosion. There’s no enemies in sight, but when my guy lost a point from the poison, he panicked, shot one his allies, two others panicked, one of them shot the same ally and killed him.

      Fun was not had by all.

      I could get through Classic Ironman pretty quickly without panic, I think. One case of panic can ruin your whole game.

  16. RegisteredUser says:

    Admit it. They went to a rave party with their plasma glow-sticks, and it was the X that killed the then X-COMatose.

  17. Crazy Horse says:

    gg