Resuming an XCOM 2 [official site] Iron Man diary starring the staff and readers of RPS. Note: this diary went on hiatus for a while, because post-patch XCOM 2 kept crashing on my PC. That problem has resolved itself as suddenly as it arrived, so back into the meatgrinder we go. Full explanation and the story so far here here, and you can download the characters for your own game here.
You're damn right I'm shaken.
We had a good run. Three missions without a casualty, and we even managed to equip ourselves with Predator armour during that time. The situation was perfectly in hand.
Our string of good luck begins with Operation Hammer Walk. Like this yeah?
It's a pretty textbook mission. Accidental team-killer Graham finally redeems himself with a Deadeye hit that takes down a Muton in a single shot. Admittedly, that Muton had been ever so slightly softened up by someone else's grenade, but after getting Pip slain our resident sniper needs all the encouragement he can get. Alice gets set on fire at one point, which means she's unable to deactivate the alien reinforcement signal; fortunately Ian Bytejacker gets there in the nick of time. We have a solid squad now, and we get out of there with just a few injuries.
Operation Lost Smoke sees Adam, our crack Ranger, finally return from his wilderness weeks in hospital, but he's not the whirlwind of death he used to be. It's probably because I've been too tight to upgrade swords yet, so all his ineffectual swiping at Advent goons leaves him without a kill to call his own. I upgrade swords as soon as the mission's over, as well as finally blessing my sharpshooters and grenadiers with vastly-improved boomsticks. With more and more Mutons swaggering about the place, we're going to need them.
Operation Bleeding Witch turns out to be all too appropriate, depending on whether or not you consider Adam to be a witch. He certainly does do a lot of bleeding, though:
Don't worry, folks, he's OK! Our invaluable team medic Alice gets him back on his feet just before the last of his claret leaks into the ground, and while he's booked in for another long hospitalcation, he's able to wreak handy havoc with his new sword in the remainder of this mission. We're deluged by Faceless, the consequence of the aliens activating a Dark Event which squirrelled some of the hideous ambulatory puddings around every nook and cranny of this tortured world. Adam is able to take bladed revenge on the one which had earlier pummelled him into the ground, and he's helped out by our newest recruit The Borderer.
The Borderer looks like she belong to a pumpkin-themed biker gang, and handles herself well enough that she's promoted to Ranger by the mission's end. So at least we have a substitute for Adam now.
Back home, we finally manage to throw up a Proving Ground, but before we can do anything useful like upgrade grenades or build armour with mounted rocket launchers, we're dragged back out to Operation: Earthly Priest, a retaliation mission.
We have decent armour, decent weapons and a tried'n'tested flashbangs'n'mimic beacons emergency strategy. What's the worst that could happen?
You ever have one of those missions where you find yourself muttering "urgh" to yourself every ten seconds? One of those ones where every new event is a new indignity, where the walls close inexorably in on you? Earthly Priest was very much one of those. Every action seemed to send a new pack of monsters and soldiers sprinting our way, every one of our shots seemed to miss, and before long we were surrounded by three Mutons, two Beserkers, three Advent soldiers of assorted flavours and two Faceless.
Graham had two near-death-encounters, first bleeding out after taking a beating from a Faceless and then lapsing into unconsciousness when a Muton loped over to him immediately after Alice had revived him. I wasted precious seconds getting him back on his feet again, and that was the lynchpin moment of our downfall. I ordered Alice to have her Gremlin try to protect our battered sharpshooter, which left her unable to take a shot of her own. If there had been one less enemy on the field, we might have made it. Instead, when the net closed, it claimed first Graham - too wounded to possibly survive any other damage - and Alice, shot from one side by a Muton then mauled on the other by a Beserker.
I think we'll all agree that Graham had it coming, but Alice has been our electric-haired hero. Plus, she was our only dedicated medic. This was a huge loss.
My own avatar on this mission, Alec 'Sad Sack' Meer, immediately freaked out, uncannily replicating real-world situations when my colleagues have been away and I have to somehow manage things by myself. This did at least trigger him into running for cover and hunkering down, which perhaps saved him from the shot which took the life of recently-returned junior Ranger Ian ForShadow.
That's two lieutenants and a sergeant gone - the team has been effectively gutted.
Damn. Half the team gone, one lost to terror, four enemies still standing. Thank God for Ian 'Venom' Risingson and Ian 'Meltdown' Byterustler, who shrugged off grievous wounds long enough for Meer to return to the fray and join them in polishing off the remaining Advent. Improbably, the three of them survived.
Even more miraculously, this devastating mission actually counted as a victory - we just about managed to save enough civilians even though the battlefield was soaked in blood. If Advent had murdered even one more of them then we'd have failed our task in addition to losing three of our finest.
It's a bleak ride home, made bleaker by the discovery that we no longer have enough operational soldiers to stage another mission - and the bank is empty, so there's no way to obtain new rookies. As if rookies could help us now anyway. Alec Meer is indeed shaken.