X-Camaraderie, part one

I don’t really remember Sectoids. Nor Mutons. All I do remember is that, back in the mid-nineties, kid me found X-Com to be brutally punishing. He loved it for it, but never could get a good enough grasp of it’s workings to get far. The memories are hazy at best, so I fired up this year’s remake not knowing what to expect. Overly confident, I chose Classic Ironman as my desired difficulty level. I can do this. I am devil incarnate. I’ve been playing turn-based strategies all my life. What could possibly go wrong?

After some befitting B-movie scenes and a tutorial, I am forced to choose between helping the US and China. My first decision. One of many that will most likely come back to haunt me. The rewards both seem lucrative, so I choose the latter, mindful of its panic level. I’ve heard that’s something to look out for. Like everyone else, I customize my first squad to resemble close friends and family. A heavy that survived the tutorial mission and three rookies. On ground level, we encounter a few Sectoids. Nothing too risky. Rockets and grenades do their thing, and we clear the area before too long. One of the rookies gets promoted to a sniper. Was this supposed to be difficult in some way?

Back at HQ, things are dandy. Researchers are done with some nice armour schematics, so Engineering heats up the furnace and makes four of those. Only then do I realise that them pretty fiber vests replace grenades. How does that make even the slightest bit of sense? The worst part is, as I later found out, when your soldiers are murdered their equipment gets sent back to base. Which means I will never, ever be in a situation where I need four fiber vests. Sigh. Money down the drain. Live and learn, I guess. I dress the heavy up, since he has a rocket launcher to compensate, leaving the rest in the armoury. Grenades have proven more than useful, and I generally like to pack a punch.

I decide to end the session on a somewhat high note. Plenty of time for disappointment later. But then the Council calls for me, with a special mission in store. A rescue mission. Highly rewarding. I’m still getting used to the interface, and I can’t seem to quit the game before embarking on said mission. What the hell, sez I. We can do this. I already have two experienced soldiers under my command. So we strap ourselves in and leave for France.

The area is a rather nice plaza, with flowers all over and a great fountain in the middle. As soon as everyone’s behind decent cover, an enemy appears. A Thin Man. He doesn’t look the least bit threatening, I remember thinking. A headshot should fit the bill. But the sniper misses. Heh. Doesn’t matter. The heavy will handle it. Except he misses too. As do the two rookies. No sweat. Everyone’s behind cover. It’s not like he can do any serious damage through all that concrete. Except he can. The alien gushes out a cloud that poisons one of the rookies, making him panic and shoot his fellow man-sniper. What the bloody hell?! Fucking babies. Alright, so that is also a possibility to be kept in mind. Everyone is still alive. My troops dispatch him during the next turn, and we go merrily on our way.

What follows was so stressful that I forgot to take screenshots. Here's some puppies instead. Source:  http://stevedogarty.tumblr.com/

Until three Sectoids turn up in the most inconvenient places. The heavy’s cover is not much use to him now. This turns out to be the least of my worries when a car suddenly explodes for no apparent reason, killing one of the rookies on the spot. Alright, so that, too, is a possibility. The world seems seriously out for my blood. The heavy rockets one of the aliens out of existence, while the sniper misses his chance. Again. Useless sod. The two remaining Sectoids merge minds and become more resilient. The surviving rookie lobs a grenade their way, almost killing one of them. Almost. The aliens miss their opportunity to harm this time, thank heavens. We’re done with them soon enough, and we find the abductee we’re here for. She’s terrified. I want to grab her by the shoulders, shaking her and yelling “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER WOMAN”, but since even my own troops seem to piss their pants when faced with otherworlders, I decide to cut her some slack.

Now it’s only a matter of getting her back to the dropship. Shouldn’t be too hard. Except it is. A Thin Man materializes behind the heavy’s back, zapping him unto oblivion. Nnrrghhhn. THAT WAS MY ONE GOOD HEAVY DAMMIT! The others are safe though. They trudge along, not once leaving cover, so the Thin Man that is now in overwatch doesn’t harm them. We are almost there. But then another suited-up alien shows up right between us and the extraction point. While we’re busy thinking of ways to murder him without being murdered ourselves, the one from earlier gets a clean shot on the sniper, leaving him dead on the spot. I... I really don’t know what to think anymore. Somebody is completely useless in this equation. It’s either me or these idiots I’ve been tasked with managing. In an unprecedented streak of usefulness, the only surviving squad member deals with both of the Thinnies without much trouble, and the day is saved. A Pyrrhic victory, if I ever saw one.

It will get better. It has to. At least the rookie got promoted...


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