The XCOM 2 War Diaries #5: Barbaliens at the Gate


Previously on XCOM 2 War Diaries..

#1 – The Ballad of Kenzo Kelly                            #4 Saving Corporal Bluntshooter

#2 – ‘Zulu’ Dawn

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

Things are starting to look up for Kenzo Kelly and her merry band of lazer-sponges. Sure, we’ve just lost another soldier (RIP Jana Wolf), we’re still flat broke by just about any measure and the Doom Clock is still uncomfortably close to to Game Over Time. But on the other hand my A-Listers are starting to look unbeatable and we’re finally packing weaponry a step above Sternly Written Letters. So it’s with a sense of optimism that I send the gang to Chile for an assault on the next big Plot Location..

No messing around this time – we’re headed straight into..


Lightning Ramirez: the best damn grizzled-chain-smoking-hipster-killing-machine in the business


Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Two Tap Ryan – Sharpshooter
Lightning Ramirez – Specialist
Zule Hansen – Ranger
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Guile – Sharpshooter

It’s a simple enough opening – there’s a turret and a few advent grunts lurking around but nothing threatening. My A-team should be able to make mincemeat out of them. And they do, but still manage to leave Ramirez exposed to get flanked and take some damage. You’d think by this stage in the game I’d have learned not to get too cocky.

Learning: really not my thing.

We push forward, with the two snipers climbing atop the roof of a nearby shack. Soon my ground troops have their first exposure to some of XCOM’s nastier foes, the large insectoid creatures known as Chrysalids. They were frightening enough on Enemy Unknown, and now they can burrow out of the ground where they please giving them the chance to launch surprise attacks. The snipers help dispatch the first two almost as soon as they’ve surfaced but the third gets a swipe in at Bandanaface, who evades the attack. My Rangers are now equipped with plasma weapons and put them to good use.

We press on, without a clear idea of what the objective is, creeping forward with soldiers on overwatch at all times in case of a surprise burrowing car-sized insect attack. Another Chrysalid pops up and is only grazed by the overwatch shots of Guile and Two Tap, but again the insect misses it’s attack. It’s down straight afterwards.  Then we reach an interesting looking stargate type formation, and before we know it this is happening:

Stargate! Floatyball! EVERYBODY PANIC!!

Clearly that’s not good. On top of that a whole mess of Chrysalids wander from behind the purple swirlygate thing and make a beeline for Kenzo, the soldier nearest the action. Only one manages to land a blow on her but they deal poison damage, leaving Kenzo taking damage every turn. I have her beat a hasty retreat and throw out a mimic beacon, which the Floatyball vaporises in one shot. Clearly Advent are not playing around anymore.

Two more Chrysalids come at Kenzo but her bladestorm ability ends their charge prematurely. She backs off to safety, leaving them to focus on attacking Bandanaface again. Meanwhile we throw everything at the sinister orb: rockets, grenades and a shot from every gun still loaded. It’s only after it opens up to do a nasty purple-tentacle-explosion-attack that injures half my team that do we do any worthwhile damage, finally finishing it off. We throw out a second mimic beacon to keep the remaining Chrysalids away from my wounded troops – they all take the bait, gathering around to be weakened by a grenade blast. One more turn and we’re done.

Those mandibles should be scary but it looks a bit like the Chrysalid is failing to swallow a pair of carrots

Given the resistance faced I’m very pleased to get away with no casualties. I’m even more pleased to see the Doom Clock drop to 3, the lowest it’s been for a long, long time. On the downside we’re now being hunted by a UFO on the world map, which given how much hassle we’ve caused Advent so far begs the questions, “what took you so long?” and, “just one? Is there a shortage?” For an occupying force they’ve been pretty blasé about our activities so far.

I do a bit of wheeling and dealing in the Black Market, get us some nicer pistols and some Guerrilla Tactics stuff I should have really looked at earlier. And then before you know it it’s Guerrilla Ops time and I have to round up the guys to get involved in..


I like to think Chhoden copied veteran Lightning Ramirez’s hairstyle but still can’t manage to emulate her permanent-cigarette look without choking


Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Elvis – Specialist
Snake Eyes Laurent – Ranger
Chhoden – Grenadier
Two Tap Ryan – Sharpshooter

One thing I know about war: there’s always a comms relay that needs blowing up somewhere. If Sun Tzu were writing The Art of War now the first page would read: “Whenever you’re not sure of your next move just find something that looks like a switchboard and go set fire to it.”

We’re on a tight time schedule on this one so I send Laurent to stealth his way into the building containing said switchboard. Just because it’s never worked before doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Two Tap finds a roof of course. She has the opposite of a fear of heights – ground level makes her feel ill. Our first encounter is a Big Robot and two grunts, but we’ve no time for such a trifling bit of opposition and try to punch our way through the middle. Two Tap’s Cone of Death still feels like cheating it’s so effective, and after a grenade from Chhoden softens it up Zulu finishes the robot. Kenzo then charges to finish the final grunt with her sword, a move that not only misses but invites 2 Codexes and a Big Daddy to the party.

Which is about as bad a miss as you can get really.

Two Tap seethes with hate at anything higher up than herself

A mimic beacon buys some time to sort the mess out. Two Tap splits a Codex and the two halves are quickly dispatched. The Big Daddy doesn’t fall for the mimic beacon however and instead strolls up and punches it’s thrower Chhoden square in the face. The team rallies to defend it’s youngest member, raining hell upon the Big Daddy, but it still stands at the end of the turn. Another mimic beacon is thrown out. Two Tap splits the other codex and Elvis takes out one half with a rocket and Kenzo slashes the other. Everyone gangs up to take down the Big Daddy, which promptly gets back up for it’s second wind. An Archon and another two Codexes show up to give it some back up.

And while all this is happening something miraculous happens – Laurent’s stealthing actually works. The relay is destroyed without him being seen and while everyone is focused on the fight out front. It seems that whole thing about the definition of insanity being repeating the same action and expecting different results is bollocks. Suck it, Einstein!

Back in the fight we remove the resurgent Big Daddy from the equation. Zulu takes a bad hit from a Codex and is forced to go into stealth mode and hide. The Archon does it’s death from above attack while the other Codex goes on overwatch – which is clever as the death from above attack means my guys must move or be killed. However Two Tap has other ideas, shooting the Archon down with the fast hands pistol attack and splitting the Codex with a sniper blast, ending it’s overwatch.

She may technically be firing a shotgun but Zulu does not care for the traditional distance limitation of weapons

Zulu splits the other Codex into halves which are finished by Chhoden and Elvis. The remaining Codex halves are all that remains and are dealt with by Laurent returning from his triumph and Kenzo stepping out of the shadows for the finish.

Back at the base I can’t do anything of use until the Shadow Complex has been upgraded. I can’t afford to make that happen, so in the meantime I autopsy anything that looks remotely dead. Then once I’ve got some funds from a supply drop I decide it’s actually more important to complete the plasma weapon set and clear some debris instead of pushing on with the Shadow Complex stuff. All while playing hide and seek with that pesky UFO..

Then it’s another supply raid. “You can never have too many supplies,” I say to myself as I throw my team squarely at..


The trouble with these plasma weapons is so bright you can’t really tell what’s happening in screenshots


Two Tap Ryan – Sharpshooter
Guile – Sharpshooter
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Lightning Ramirez – Specialist
Kenzo Kelly – Ranger

If XCOM 2 has a serious issues in it’s main campaign it’s that once your soldiers get to a certain level things start to get a little too easy. Or so I’d been told: at this point I’d been careening from disaster to disaster from the off, so I wasn’t sure this was the case or not. But this mission made me think there might be something in it. It throws everything at me – the Codex is still a tough enemy but I seem to fight them by the dozen now. The Big Daddy is just awkward and tough enough to pose problems and seems to be ever present. But as ever I put my sniper up high and she deals out incredible amounts of damage while my ground team run around mopping things up.

Things do look tricky for a moment, with a Codex  in an awkward spot putting Two Tap under pressure and a Big Daddy landing a right hook on Zulu causing her to panic and flee. But with her panicked return blast she kills the beast and the Codex is similarly erased by a simple pistol blast. The tide still appears to turn against me now and again but the moments where I feel like failure looks likely get rarer and rarer.

And then something happens I’ve been dreading since I started this campaign: a Sectopod shows up.

I remember the Sectopod tearing my squad apart on XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Given the upgrades most of the Alien troops have seen in XCOM 2 I was not looking forward to seeing what it could do. But I barely noticed the one I saw here – it was hit in an overwatch trap before I even knew it was there. It didn’t even get it’s proper entrance cut scene. There’s an achievement for killing a Sectopod before it has a turn, but I didn’t get it – I can only assume I killed it so quick it didn’t even count. All I saw of it was it waddling off and exploding like a crap, broken Ed-209.


Once that’s done with there’s a few grunts to deal with and that’s it. Mission over. It’s probably the easiest the game has been so far. Which makes me worry – what is to become of these diaries? Will the closing chapters all be variations of, “reader, I fucked them up”?

I ponder this while flying around hoovering up the little caches of stuff that crop up on the world map, when I realise I’d forgotten about the UFO that’s been hunting us. It catches up with me and I’m forced to take evasive manoeuvres, which apparently involve hovering over India in one spot for 16 hours until it finds us again. It strikes me that this is neither evasive, nor a manoeuvre. I want to fire my pilot.

Oh well, no time to worry about that now. The fiends are hammering at my door. It’s time to make a stand, protect what’s ours, and other things of that nature. Above all it’s time for..


Laurent and his hat mean business.


Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Two Tap Ryan – Sharpshooter
Snake Eyes Laurent – Ranger
Guile – Sharpshooter
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier
Lightning Ramirez – Specialist

The Skyranger has been taken down by an energy blast and is being kept down by some sort of field generated by a big crystal looking thing that happens to stand a few hundred yards from where we landed. Ok, so it doesn’t make a great deal of sense if you think about it, but that’s not important right now – as ever we must explode the thing quickly. There’s no time limit but if the aliens make it to our doorstep it’s all over. They’ll be throwing ceaseless waves at us, but we’ll be able to bring in reinforcements from the ship and even from sickbay should the need arise.

I could have made this easier if I’d stumped up the cash for defensive turrets to deploy in just this scenario, but I was tempted by the shiny plasma weapons instead. I fear that may have been the wrong choice – but I stand by it.

They are so shiny.

I get my first proper look at a Sectopod straight away, and I don’t like what I see. So I have it hacked to stop it doing anything and fire everything I have at my disposal at. It falls, along with one of the two grunts it brought along with it. But before I get too cocky 2 Mutons, an Archon and a Big Daddy pop along to join the fight. In response we wake Dirty Sergei up, demand he put on some trousers and back us up. Also we throw out a Mimic Beacon for the enemy to tussle over.

My guys rise to the task admirably with every enemy taken out in one turn. Two Tap (who found a nearby crypt to stand on) deals out her Death From Above attack, giving her extra shots when felling a foe, which makes her a ridiculously powerful asset. And my Rangers are mowing down the opposition with a casual ease.

An Archon, a Big Daddy and a Shieldbearer are up next. My main offensive option is compromised when the Big Daddy manages to land a shot on the unusually close to the action Two Tap, forcing her to retreat. Guile wounds the Archon, which is finished by Kenzo on overwatch.

Even without Two Tap on the front lines the opposition don’t seem to pose too much of a threat. They are preventing me from getting near the disruptor-thing however, so I decide to send Laurent on another stealth mission round the back. He manages to get close but the prize is guarded by another Shieldbearer and two Big Robots, who spot him as soon as he spots them. He’s left exposed out front and surrounded by hostile forces. It looks like a stealth mission too far for Snake Eyes and his magnificent hat.

Pretty much everything is on fire and my ‘clever’ stealth gambit has failed. Apart from that everything is just dandy.

A lifeline for Laurent comes in the form of Zulu Hansen, owho comes staggering in off her sick bed carrying my other mimic beacon. I figure throwing it out might just buy him some time. But then a third Big Robot and an Advent Officer take the field via dropship, making the line between the bulk of my squad and him that much trickier to cross. The mimic beacon stands long enough to drag the Big Robots away from Lauren and the disruptor and once the beacon is snuffed out the enemy opts not to use it’s turn stopping Laurent. It looks like I might just celebrate another win thanks to AI stupidity. Moments like this make me fear the higher difficulty levels.

On our turn Kenzo Kelly’s heroes show what they’re made of. Kenzo herself leads the line, downing one Big Robot in one shot. Bandanaface follows her lead, repeating the trick on another one. Ramirez goes one better – hacking the third robot so that we take control of it, which gives us some decent firepower in the middle of their ranks. Laurent halves the health on the disruptor to end our turn and the confusion caused by the traitor robot gives us a free pass on theirs, with all remaining advent ignoring us to wail on their own guy. They don’t even manage to take it down before their turn is up. This gives us the opportunity to wipe their forces out in one round, including the 2 Advent Officers and random grunt airdropped between turns.

Which just leaves Laurent to adjust his hat and notch up another unlikely stealth victory.

See? Business.

We’ve still got to get everyone back to base however. As Laurent has traveled so far this takes a while, with more Big Robots, Shieldbearers and Advent Officers being dropped as he goes. None of them last long, many being felled on overwatch as soon as they land. Advent regains control of the robot that helped turn the tide for us and we say thank you with a killing sniper volley. We get everyone back into the base area with resistance still coming and, with my troops having used their turns to run back, starting again to mount up. We beat a hasty retreat having dispatched 26 of their number, suffering only 3 mild woundings.

Zulu protects her huddled team mates while Bandanaface and Kenzo share some awkward sexual tension

It’s a moment I dreaded, the base mission, and despite the statistics I was worried I’d be overrun by the sheer number of Advent forces that showed up to try and finish us off. But once again I’ve somehow survived. I have no time to celebrate however – all that time we spent hovering over India as a sitting/flying duck for no reason have pushed the clock onto the next Guerrilla Ops mission. We’ve barely had chance to throw out a decent high five before we’re faced with..


Dance, Sectopod, dance!


Kenzo Kelly – Ranger
Guile – Sharpshooter
Zulu Hansen – Ranger
Elvis – Specialist
Jimmy the Hat – Specialist
Bandanaface Taylor – Grenadier

We pick a very difficult mission, as the engineer on offer will definitely come in handy for getting more comms up and running before the Doom Clock gets too high. Also we’ll be preventing a minor breakthrough, which will add a further notch onto the clock anyway. It’s the only sensible move.

It’s another Protect the Important Thing mission, and once again we seem to have installed this vital artifact into a local Costcutter. There’s very little time to protect it so we have to act fast. I set up an excellent overwatch trap, if I do say so myself (and I do), for the first trio – one grunt is killed in one shot by Kenzo, which forces an Archon to flee down an open street where Elvis and Jimmy the Hat wait behind lampposts on either side.They don’t quite manage to kill it however so Guile has to use his action points polishing it off. My next move is less smart – I send Zulu in to take down the straggler with her sword, which she does, and in the process she wakes up a nearby Sectopod and it’s accompanying pair of grunts. Elvis sends out his drone to hack the Sectopod and fails, giving it extra attack and defence power. I fear what it might do if I actually let it mount an attack so I have Jimmy the Hat send out his drone to subdue it as well.

He also fails.

So now my first real encounter with a Sectopod and it comes supercharged, bolstered by my own fair hands. Oh, and Kenzo’s sword fury also alerted a nearby Faceless who had been posing as a worried bystander. This turn was perhaps not the greatest bit of battlefield strategy you’ll ever see.

Zulu blows up a nearby wall, because she’s Zulu Hansen and she can do what she damn well wants

As has become my go to tactic with anything big and scary I ignore everything else and throw all I have at it, only pausing to distract it with a mimic beacon. It takes the bait while the grunts push forward and aim to flank my squad. Jimmy the Hat is slapped around the face by the Faceless and responds by crying and running away. Which to be fair is an entirely sensible response to being manhandled by an 8 foot tall mess of melty flesh.

Guile’s quick fire pistol ability allows him to shoot everyone he sees with his beloved magnum, which does some damage on everything (bar the Sectopod) and takes out a grunt. Again, everything is thrown at the colossal machine and still it stands. A second mimic is dispatched, and then a Big Robot and a grunt strut down the avenue to join the party. The Mission Item of Great Importance can only stand around more 3 turns of being shot at before it blows. Things look decidedly rough all of a sudden.

Bandanaface and Jimmy the Hat put down the Faceless, who’s presence was frankly disturbing me greatly. Everyone else – Guile, Kenzo, Elvis and Zulu – all make one more heave at the Sectopod, giving it their very best shot, and manage to put it to bed. For the third encounter I avoid taking a hit from it, which given the damage it was doing to the Mimic Beacons is certainly for the best. We’ve now only 2 turns left unless we can get to the troops shooting at the doodad and distract them. Jimmy the Hat is hit by the grunt and panics again, which doesn’t help matters. We manage to clean up their remaining visible forces whilst Kenzo sets off on a daring raid towards the shop. She alerts a second Faceless on her way, but there’s no time to worry about that.

Despite being in peril Bandanface, stoned off his gizzards, takes a moment to make a pretty bubble to stare at

She gets to the shop with almost no health left on the doohickey and distracts the Shield Bearer and 2 grunts that have been shooting up the Costcutter all this time. One of them marks her, the other one misses her and the shield bearer does the shield thing. The Faceless walks up and takes a swing at her, but she dodges that as well. The woman is unstoppable.

Having distracted the three men in the shop and survived the onslaught the rest is easy. The two specialists kill the Faceless. Guile snipes one grunt while Kenzo and Zulu team up to finish the other. Only the Shieldbearer is left, sadly too stupid to realise that if he turned round and took a shot at the mission-thing it’d be a win for Advent. Instead he shoots at the untouchable Kenzo and takes a revenge shotgun blast to the stomach for his bother.

Fire! Plasma! Critical hits! It’s all go here.

That was a tough mission. It’s good that even in the end game when my guys are hard as nails XCOM 2 can still find ways to challenge. Or perhaps my own haphazard playing style is managing to keep things interesting.

Back at the base I finally have extra comms to work with and so start making contact with the nations between me and the next big goal. However while I’m making busy doing that Advent are keeping themselves entertained by pushing the Doom Clock further onwards. Before I’m done establishing a route to the next plot mission it climbs up to just 2 notches away from Game Over. I have no choice but to break away from my plans and head to Chile to hit another facility and push back the tide. There may be light at the end of the tunnel now but I fear the dark still hides a few surprises yet..




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