The XCOM 2 War Diaries #4: Saving Corporal Bluntshooter

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Previously on XCOM 2 War Diaries..

#1 – The Ballad of Kenzo Kelly

#2 – ‘Zulu’ Dawn

#3 – It’s the fall that’s gonna kill ya

After a week away from the good fight (mostly spent battling an even more nefarious foe: the solicitors who are supposed to be helping me and my partner buy a house) I returned to find things in rough shape. So far my brave team has completed the first big plot mission at the Blacksite and taken down a further alien facility. However we have lost several good men and women along the way. A good few of them were rookies though, and I’ve learned not to think as them so much as people – more like fleshy bullet sponges. We only failed one mission outright but were forced to skip another as we were a little shorthanded thanks to my teams tendency to block enemy attacks with their faces.

Team Kenzo is tough. Stupid, but tough.

Also we’re flat broke and low on intel. And elerium. Not to mention alloys. Most of my soldiers are full of holes and despite my best efforts the Doom Clock still stands half full. Things could be better, but so long as we’re still kicking and have an A-Team including the likes of Kenzo Kelly, Zulu Henson, Lightning Ramirez and Two Tap Ryan we’re in with a fighting chance.


As soon as I boot up the game I find I’d set an Important Plot Event underway by building the shadow chamber, which is apparently vital for decrypting stuff. So I point the eggheads in the lab in the direction of the stuff that needs decrypting and head off to do some looting. Then with my newfound wealth I spend it on an extra egghead for said lab as the ones I have are taking their sweet time doing anything useful. The extra eggy hands pay off – soon enough I’m shown a cut scene and given the location some more Blacksites for me to get my guys killed at. I think I need to beef up a little before taking them on. Also it might help if I had the comms capacity to get in touch with the countries housing these Blacksites.

But before I have time to plan anything it’s time for some more guerrilla ops. Of the three options presented neither of the two known Dark Events seem all that onerous so I opt to thwart the hidden event. There’s some vital intel on offer; all I have to do to earn it is survive the appealing titled..

OPERATION: SENSELESS DOOM

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The Archon takes to the skies, which makes it an open and easy target. Clever.

Starring..

Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Guile – Sharpshooter
Elvis Douglas – Specialist
The Wolf – Ranger
Jimmy the Hat – Specialist
Dirty Sergei – Sharpshooter

This is the first session I had since the patch that was supposed to make XCOM 2 run smoother and I can safely say it hasn’t made a damn difference. The screenshots look nice but in motion on my PC it often jitters along despite being set at a graphics level my toaster ought to be able to handle. This is pretty disappointing several weeks post-release to be honest – if I wasn’t having such a good time with XCOM 2 I’d be pretty miffed at 2K.

But to hell with that. This is Sergei’s first outing since his embarrassing showing at the last alien facility, which saw him curl up into a ball and shit himself while a horde of aliens fired at him and had a good giggle. He could use a decent showing to regain a modicum of self-esteem. I move him and Guile to high ground, up on a building on the corner across from the Mission Artifact I’ve been sent to hack. Speaking of hacking Jimmy the Hat does his thing on a nearby scanner and instantly blows our cover. This happens each and every time I try  to scan one of those things. I never learn. I gave him an Exo suit for this mission, which I apparently built a while ago and never got around to using. Clearly I should have been using it sooner – he redeems himself by blowing the cover of a shield-bearer and tees up an easy magnum finish for Dirty Sergei.

A new enemy takes this moment to make its presence known – the Archon, which looks like a rocket powered flying torso of a Greek statue. My two snipers, not used to having anything more taxing to deal with than choosing the best pose for pointing a magnum, suddenly find themselves in the trenches. I send Jimmy the Hat to the rooftop as back up, which turns out to have been a vital move as there’s also Sectoid up there I’d somehow not seen. It puts the mind control on Dirty Sergei but Guile and the Hat put the alien down before he can go all Eastwood on his own comrades.

Meanwhile the Archon swoops down to street level to slap the Wolf around the chops and take her down to her last few health blobs. Kenzo takes out a shield-bearer across the street and puts herself into concealment while the Hat drops back down to join Elvis in a twin specialist assault on the Archon. In response it takes to the sky, teeing up some kind of nasty looking death from above type attack that forces my guys to scatter. Guile takes the opportunity to snipe the thing out of the sky.

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My harddrive is about 40% full of pictures of snipers pointing pistols right now

Kenzo slips in to the store to hack the doodad and we get some Advent troops flying in as reinforcements, along with a Muton and 2 more soldiers who just happened to be hanging about behind the store. I guess they were waiting for someone willing to buy them booze to come along. There’s also a turret on top of the building that’s been blithely ignoring us that takes this moment to remember what it’s job is. I frantically back everyone up into cover while my snipers chip away at their forces.

The Hat fails to hack the turret, which is about standard for him, so we put it down the old-fashioned way. Kenzo dispatches another shield-bearer in casual style. Guile weakens the Muton and the Hat finishes it with a grenade. Everything else is fairly easy work.

Thanks to the flying fiend and the surprise Muton squad we managed to get ambushed twice and leave with 4 wounded soldiers. Which by my standards is a rousing success.

The Dark Event we thwarted turned out to be poisoned ammo, which is a very lucky escape for my oft-hit squad. Back in the base I hire a new recruit and have them train to be a grenadier as Bandanaface is the only one I have still breathing. The Doom Clock jumps up 2 notches so I make contact with the US where an alien facility resides, ready to push it back once more. But before I get a chance to dive into that an opportunity to see an old friend crops up in..

OPERATION: MOON SHIELD

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Ramirez is looking ridiculously badass these days

Starring..

Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Guile – Shapshooter
Lightning Ramirez – Specialist
Snake Eyes Laurent – Ranger
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Dirty Sergei – Sharpshooter

We’ve located the woman I nicknamed Bluntshooter after her performance in her one and only mission back in the first diary entry. She’s in an alien prison, so we decide to launch ourselves a wee jailbreak. She may not have been the best soldier and we’re overloaded with snipers in Team Kenzo but her selfless charge into an enemy overwatch granted the rest of the team, most of whom went on to be vital A-listers, safe passage out of a tough mission. I feel I owe her this.

This is a difficult mission, on a timer, so I’m wary of what to expect. I rush my sniper to high ground, as ever, and send the rest of the guys around the tall building that we begin in front of. At the other side is the prison and between it a nice park area where 3 Advent troops, 2 Snakefiends and 1 Muton are all kicking back, drinking white lightning and doing graffiti and swears. The ruffians. We put a stop to all that with Guile using his Deadeye ability (more power for lower hit chance) to extinguish the Muton in 1 shot. This alerts everyone to our presence and in the ensuing chaos the Advent commander is felled overwatch-style.

This leaves the snakes, which is never a happy state of affairs. They select Laurent for the inevitable tongue drag and binding routine. This doesn’t last long as Guile kills the scaly fiend and frees Laurent to have at the other snake with his sword. The remaining Advent troops are easy pickings for Bandanaface and Dirty Sergei.

It’s a good start but we’re down to 9 turns left and we’ve barely moved forward.

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Bandanaface Taylor showing off his lovely plaid grenade launcher while relieving an Advent grunt of his face

I push everyone to the right of the prison and send Kenzo in to do the honours and free the Bluntshooter. As soon as I do a Big Robot and it’s Advent entourage show up. You always get a turn to prepare for the arrival of reinforcements so I set up an overwatch trap which ends the robot almost as soon as its big metal hooves hit the ground. The 2 Advent troops won’t be much trouble on their own but I’m running low on turns and have to push my lollygagging troops forward as quickly as possible. Kenzo and Laurent go first and take some flack while clearing the area for the slower members of the team to come through. Despite there being other enemies on the map (the shadow chamber allows you to see what you’re up against pre-mission start and there was supposed to be a Codex lurking about somewhere) we manage to get everyone to the evac zone with a couple of turns to spare.

It’s almost too easy. But Bald Gravelvoice still calls my efforts mediocre as soon as I get back to scanning the world map. There’s no pleasing some people.

The eggheads in the lab have a surprise when I get back, having peered into the brain of a codex and seen more Blacksite missions. Rejoice! I almost have time to uncover the secrets of power armour as well before the march of science is rudely interrupted by..

OPERATION: MOON CHALICE

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For all their advancements the aliens don’t seem to be designing their troops for maximum efficiency, preferring silly hats to effective armour. And I applaud them for it.

Starring..

Two Tap Ryan – Sharpshooter
Guile – Sharpshooter
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Lightning Ramirez – Specialist
Jimmy the Hat – Specialist

Shortly after we conquered Moon Shield we’re up against Moon Chalice. It shan’t be long before I’ve got a full Olde Worlde Moon set. This one, however, could pose problems – it’s my first Very Difficult mission. I don’t like the sound of that so I put together the closest thing resembling my A Team available to tackle it.

Unfortunately Zulu is still in a shaken state from the botched alien facility raid and couldn’t hit the proverbial barn door with a comically oversized banjo. Our first engagement is with a different coloured Big Robot (if there’s any other difference between them and their sleek white iRobot counterparts I haven’t noticed) and 2 Advent troops, none of which the usually deadly Hansen feels like hitting. The rest of the team pick up the slack and after cautiously edging forward to a bottleneck between a train and a deserted park we find a more formidable wee regiment – a Codex, an Archon, 2 Snakefiends and an Advent trooper.

I guess this is where the Very Difficult tag came from.

Thankfully there was no turn limit on this mission so I’d been edging forward in formation and had time to get my snipers up onto the train roof. When I launch my assault I still manage to get Zulu ensnared by the first snake we see, master of positioning that I am. The second one pushes forward, using up all its action points before it can do anything. Bandanaface duly removes it’s cover with a grenade, teeing up Jimmy the Hat to finish. Two Tap’s cone of death move puts an end to the snake that holds Zulu captive and also splits the Codex, leaving us with two of the glitchy bastards to deal with. Guile and Ramirez thin their numbers a little by putting the Archon out for pasture. We throw out a mimic beacon to take the flak for a turn – it’s been nerfed a little in this patch, with not every enemy focusing on it at once, but is still a life saving piece of kit.

Zulu dispatches one half of the codex while the Hat gets rid of the Advent soldier. Everyone else reloads or misses. In response the other half of the Codex legs it. I’ve never seen one flee before. It’s a good feeling.

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Looking into the Snakefiends eyes Jimmy the Hat couldn’t help but wonder if in another life they could have been friends…

Chasing the weird half-real glitch-beast leads us right into a trap of 2 more Codexes (Codices?) and another flying bastard. Guile splits one of the new Code-things and I start to lose count of them. One of the halves teleports next to an exploding barrel, which is conveniently where the fleeing Codex went to hide too, so the Hat blows that up and takes both of them down. I’m quickly reminded that I’m here to save this stuff rather than blow it up, but I pull the same trick on another barrel a turn later and I’m not penalised for that either. Whatever it is I’m claiming it’s clearly not all that valuable.

A clever move, I think. But before I can feel too smug one Codex disarms both my snipers with it’s purple cloud attack and sends them scurrying off the train whilst the other Codex and the Archon give my guys a serious kicking. Ramirez, Two Tap and Guile are all badly hurt, and the rest are hardly at peak condition.

Needing to end things fast I have Two Tap use her free fast hands pistol shot to finish one half dead codex before reloading. Zulu uses her sword to nearly kill the Archon and leave the Hat with an easy finish. Guile tosses a grenade to polish off the final Codex and we’re home and dry. But despite the successful ending every one of my guys is wounded, and this is the best team I have. Clearly I need more firepower..

But more firepower isn’t on the menu right now so I opt to bolster the defence instead, giving everyone power armour. Despite my best efforts the Doom Clock os up to 3 notches from midnight so I’ll need to get a decent squad fit and ready to take another alien facility soon. I wait as long as I can to get people fit and ready to take on..

 OPERATION: SEVERED MIST

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Laurent was so excited about this kill he went out and bought a new hat the very next day

Starring..

Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Snake Eyes Laurent – Ranger
Dirty Sergei – Sharpshooter
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Elvis – Specialist

I may have got some good soldiers fit but we’re a bit ranger heavy. This is going to require a lot of close up action, which in a mission which is guaranteed to involve turrets may be a problem.

There is a school or something near where I start so I can do my standard, “bung the sniper on some high ground” opening gambit. From there we set up an overwatch trap which puts the first pod we see – an Archon, shield-bearer and Advent grunt – down almost instantly.

Straight in front of the facility we have a Big Robot, two more grunts and a turret to contend with. The robot takes out Bandanaface’s cover and all 3 of them take turns at missing him while he stands in the open. Advent must really regret sending their troops to the Star Wars Stormtrooper school of terrible aiming. In response I hack the robot and disable it for a couple of turns, giving me time to focus on it’s buddies. Bandanaface blows the cover of both grunts and wounds them, leaving Laurent and Kenzo with easy kills. Then Zulu shows off just how much she’s back in the swing of things by executing the bot in one shot. It wasn’t even able to defend itself. It was actually kinda cruel.

The spot arbitrarily selected for me to place the explosives is guarded by 2 Codexes and an Archon, who I can see but whom can’t see me for some reason. Which gives me time to place everyone ready for an assault and finish off the turret from distance before it can pose any problems. I’ve been told that for Plot Reasons I must skulljack a Codex, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. If I knew the trouble that would cause I may have thought differently..

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Kenzo Kelly, pictured being swallowed by some kind of swirly summery vortex

Laurent heads in to spring the trap. Sergei splits one Codex, with one half teleporting too close to Kenzo and paying for it. Zulu hits the flying dude on overwatch, but not enough to stop him giving Bandanaface a good going over. One Codex does its purple cloud thing unloading the weapons of 4 of my guys, which is a deeply irritating move. Zulu and Elvis still have juice left though so between them and Sergei’s pistol attack we manage to see off the Archon and one Codex. The other is all that remains so I take the opportunity to hit it with a skulljack. Which brings a new enemy into play – the Avatar, aka Purple Hell.

I do not like this guy.

Purple Hell’s thing is mind controlling people, which it does with frustrating regularity. It also has an annoyingly powerful attack. But its most maddening ability involves teleporting away every time it takes a hit, and to heal itself on its own turn without using an action point. Rolled together that’s quite a dickish package.

It immediately puts Kenzo under its control and then leads my remaining squad members in a merry dance around the level. We chase it, chipping away its health and getting repeatedly shot in the face. It’s a bit like surrealist sci-fi take on Benny Hill. I do not enjoy it.

Eventually a deadshot from Sergei and a run and gun shotgun blast from Zulu put it out of its misery. Having learned my lesson from the previous alien facility raid I’m prepared for extraction and have this lovely sight shortly after setting the charges to finish the level:

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Running away never felt so good

I have almost no time to rest upon my return before the next round of guerrilla ops are shoved down my throat. I’ve only got 3 fit soldiers so I toy with the idea of skipping it, but the 4 notches I just removed from the Doom Clock would be mostly replaced if I don’t step in. And having all the proposed Dark Events in play would make life very difficult. So instead I fly the avenger back and forth between the three missions until a couple of days have passed. This stolen time allows a few soldiers to heal, giving me enough live bodies to throw together a team to face..

OPERATION: CRYPTIC CRONE

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And just like that we’re in Bioshock

Starring..

Dirty Sergei – Sharpshooter
Bluntshooter – Bluntshooter
Snake Eyes Laurent – Ranger
The Wolf – Ranger
Paula King – Ranger
Chhoden – Grenadier

It’s far from an A team, and once again it’s 50% ranger. I don’t like the looks of this one bit. And my worried feeling is only compounded by the appearance of an enemy so familiar I’m half expecting to see a Little Sister trailing behind it..

He’s also got an Archon with him, along with a Taserdude. There’s a highway running overhead which definitely counts as, ‘high ground,’ so up my snipers go. This leaves a largely inexperienced team on the ground to deal with this new threat. They acquit themselves reasonably well for a little while but the strength of the opposition proves too great. The Big Daddy and the flying menace combine to do for The Wolf in one tragic turn.

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So long, Jana. We hardly knew ye.

Paula King also takes a beating, forcing her to fall back before things get worse. This leaves my two snipers up top (one of whom being the Bluntshooter in her second ever outing, nearly 20 missions after her first) along with the newbie grenadier and the newly behatted Laurent to deal with this threat. Which they do with aplomb. While snipers rain death upon the enemy forces Snake Eyes Laurent takes out the Big Daddy, only for it to immediately get back up and leak toxic chemicals all over the place. With a little help from King, still taking shots from distance, he puts it down for a second time the very next turn. Meanwhile the Archon gives my new grenadier Chhoden a good pasting but leaves her standing, giving Sergei a chance to weaken it and her the opportunity to get her first kill.

The mission is a protect a computer type thing affair and, much like the last one of these I played, the enemy only remembers it needs to be shooting it on their turn late in the day. I’m glad this glitch has yet to be ironed out – I’d be much less successful if my opponents had a clue what they were doing. But before we can get to the McGuffin reinforcements come in, and Advent are not messing around here. They drop off 2 Big Robots and a Taserdude to slow me down. Given how much punishment those robots take and how weak my forces are I worry that this might be a bridge too far.

Another lucky break – rather than take out my weakened ground troops one of the robots immediately heads up to the highway to face my snipers. Given they’re still in good health I ignore it and use my sniper duo to rain hell on the robot on the ground, putting it down with a little help from Laurent. The robot on the highway takes advantage of my distracted snipers and fires a volley of rockets at them both, while the Taserdude scales a pillar up behind Sergei and gives him a nasty shock. He’s still standing however and so joins forces with Bluntshooter to take down the other robot, while Laurent fires up at the Taserdude and knocks him from his perch.

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Something just got atomised

We uncover yet another robot and a couple of Advent goons attacking the mission gubbin. The robot takes to the roof, which makes it an easy and swiftly dealt with target for my snipers, while my rangers wade into the building in a sword frenzy, flailing wildly at the remaining Advent troops. It’s a bloodbath – one that only ends just before they have the opportunity to take the decisive shot at the Important Mission Item.

Despite suffering my one casualty of the session my B-listers come away with a lot of credit, having dealt with a very tricky roster of enemies and securing the goal. It gives me hope that Team Kenzo may not be as understrength as it seemed.

That hope is tarnished immediately upon my return as I’m instantly thrust into a retaliation mission. Or rather I would be if I didn’t only have one soldier left standing to face it. As deadly as Two Tap Ryan has become I don’t fancy her chances doing a mission solo, so I have to pass. The Antarctic goes dark for a second time. They must really hate me now. On the other hand, who even lives there? How am I getting monthly credits from a bunch of Penguins and Albatrosses?

To be frank: fuck ’em.

Once Bald Gravelvoice is done giving me a stern ticking off for not launching a suicide mission my Advanced Warfare centre comes through – and the perks it bestows on my squad are underwhelming to say the least. I now have a bunch of snipers who know how to cower when not shooting. And they’re always shooting. On the plus side I get a boost to my healing times, which given the propensity of my boys and girls to get themselves in trouble will definitely come in handy.

Also we develop plasma weapons. Unfortunately we’re skint. So no Plasma Weapons for us.

With the comms capacity granted by losing the Antarctic I head over to Chile, where one of the next big plot missions lies waiting. I get my A-listers back to health and tee up my next session to start with a bang. The Shadow Chamber tells me there’s another new enemy at the site and I have a horrible feeling I know what it is.

Shit: it may very well be about to get somewhat Real.

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Whilst many of my guys have been driven to taking up smoking during this war Laurent has instead taken up aggressive hat wearing.

KENZO KELLY’S HEROES WILL RETURN IN OPERATION: SPECTRAL SAGA

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