Wednesday 4 August 2021

XCOM 2 Succession Game: Mission 14 (Parts 1 and 2!)

Screenshots have been eaten by connection problems here in the far North, so I'm afraid this one's going to be just the text. If you'd like an audio-visual experience, watch the video :)

Between bouts of jetlag this morning I found enough time to prop my eyes open to be able to play my next turn in our ongoing succession game of XCOM 2, which very conveniently rolled around to my turn just at the beginning of Blaugust as I was flailing around for that sweet sweet blog content. As has become my wont, this blog takes the form of both a video recording of the game or the traditional AAR.

My turn opened on the Geoscape, showing that our XCOM project has now gained the support of the whole of North America, but that ADVENT has bases in China and North Africa and their nefarious Avatar Project is starting to look very dangerous. After training a couple of new rookies into Grenadiers to help fill the whole in the roster that has opened up since Ramblin' Redshirt bit the dust, and expanding our squad size to allow us to take six soldiers on each mission, I began trying to gather the necessary contacts in Asia to discover and eventually attack the enemy base there. 

I didn't quite get through the first part of that process before I was interrupted by the summons to the mission briefing room to complete a Guerilla Ops mission, so it was back to North America for what was labelled as a 'Difficult' task. Reader, they were not kidding. Operation Knife Song was brutal. Since my last turn in the game back in early June I've played through the whole XCOM 2 campaign, so I have a bit more of an idea what I'm doing than I did back then, but that didn't stop me from unwittingly walking my team into a meatgrinder and getting them spat back out.

I opted for a six-man team of two Specialists, two Grenadiers, and one Sniper and Assault, a flexible team that I hope would allow me to deal with any unexpected threats. I quickly found a Muton and Trooper just inside a nearby building, but had left my fireteam too spread out to take them down effectively. Though we were eventually able to take them out without taking any damage, it required far too much effort to clean them up, and left me needing to make up time over the course of the rest of mission.

Next up, in the building that held the target goodies chest, the team uncovered a big pod of mixed Advent troopers, a nearby pod of sectoids and snakemen, as well as a pair of Autoturrets, all in all a significant mass of firepower in a choke point on the map. A couple of poor tactical moves and wasted abilities, triggering both pods of aliens in moves that could and should have been avoided, showed that I'd someone managed to get a little rusty in the couple of months since I last slipped into the skin of the Commander, and put the team in a pretty sticky spot. To make matters worse, ADVENT chose this turn to send in a dropship of reinforcements, leaving our team bad outnumbered and flanked on all sides.

The firefight that ensued saw the team miss a number of critical shots, and a couple more tactical errors left me ending up being forced to decide which of the team members I could afford to have shot in the back. It didn't end up well for Rakuno, who found themselves caught in a deadly crossfire, Naithin, who got himself constricted by a snakeman, or for Geoff Mason, the Squaddie who I have designated as 'UnwiseOwl Jr', whose back was left exposed to the remaining autoturret in a vain attempt to get close enough to the mission target to finish it in the remaining couple of turns. The team ended relying pretty heavily on their newly acquired heavy armour in order to have any chance of survival.

The team all hit their shots in the next turn, but were left with just too much to get done in the time available. Left with the uneviable choice of killing off one of the remaining ADVENT Captains or completing the mission, Bookahs sprints for the case, leaving Naithin to be unceremoniously cut down in his prime.

Rather than leave us with one of our A-team members dead and most of the rest carrying heavy wounds going into an ADVENT base assault an a potential Avenger defence mission, I instead decided to call my mulligan and turn back time to give it another try now that I was forewarned on what was awaiting us on the mission, being pretty sure that with a more careful approach we'd be able to do the whole thing a lot more cleanly. Unfortunately, my autosave settings had been reset to default in my recent reinstallation of the game, meaning that I didn't have a usable save point before the mission has already gone to hell.

This forced me to reload from the beginning, meaning that the mission was reset and I was once again going in blind. So much for that plan. Thus began what I hoped would be the actual mission 14, sending the same fireteam out on Operation Hell Saga.

We quickly found the first pod, consisting of a MEC and an Officer. Though we accidentally alerted them to our presence before we were ready to deal with them, judicious use of a grenade and elevation bonuses made quick work of the MEC and presented an opportunity that was just too good to pass up for Naithin to attempt to skulljack the Officer, completing an additional objective that had already proved disastrous for the team once

Naithin took the shot, collecting a good stash of goodies for his trouble, and the team took aim at the Codex. Dealing with it was relatively straight-forward, since the crossfire was well prepared, allowing Rakuno to lay the initial hit before Junior and Magi stepped in to finish the job, but it did result in a significant proportion of my firepower being behind the action, causing Black Widow to be isolated facing a pod of three Snakemen more or less alone.

From this point a comedy of errors ensued, with a long chain of bad RNG and the reptiles high agility combining to mean that clearing them out took a significant amount of time and involved a number of hits that would send Widow to the infirmary for an extended period. Thankfully her poison resistance (I'm not sure if that's from the armour or a PCS) reduced a lot of damage, and the cleanup was eventually managed without too much drama. 

After taking out the objective, the team faced off against a pod of reinforcements as well as another Snakeman and his Stun Trooper buddies. The reinforcements were taken out pretty easily by a combination of Magi's continuing excellence with the sniper rifle and judicious use of the Bookah's GREMLIN, but another chain of missed opportunities meant that Naithin took a couple of shots before the last pod was finally disposed of, so he'll be joining Widow for an extended stay in the infirmary.

All in all, a successful mission, especially when compared to the nightmare that was the previous attempt, with a lot of goodies picked up and the bonus objective of the disposal of the Codex completed to boot. Magi, surely the MVP as the only member of the unit who consistently remembered how to shoot, got a promotion for their efforts (picking up the incredibly overpowered Kill Zone perk), as did Rakuno (Volatile Mix) and Naithin (Shadowstep). The contribution of Widow, who kept a pod of snakes busy for an extended time, even if she didn't end up seeing too many of them off herself, can't be underestimated either. 

I didn't manage to begin to deal with the looming threat of the Avatar project as I'd hoped, but I'll leave that in the capable hands of Naithin as we begin our third cycle. You'll find the save file here. Good luck, Commander.

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