Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 7 (FINAL): Avenger

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

 

North America, 1 September 2015. The aliens’ forward base on Earth, the wee hours of the morning. Above the landing bay, a shape appears: XCOM’s Skyranger, followed moments later by a hover SHIV and five of XCOM’s finest operatives. The soldiers rappel down into the base, plasma rifles at the ready. Little do they expect what lies ahead: an anti-climax.

 

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 6: SHIVs, Stopgaps and Archangels

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

The battle of Melbourne, June 2015, dealt a bitter blow to XCOM.  It left us down two countries and five soldiers (four of them amongst our finest veterans), and painfully exposed the inadequacies of XCOM equipment against the aliens’ latest toys. The laser weapons and carapace body armour that had served us so well, just a month or two ago, now look like a joke against Cyberdiscs. The new faces joining the squad are under-levelled marksmen of dubious skill.

 

But XCOM is a game about fighting back against the odds. This update is the story of how my survivors – a lopsided bunch, with too many snipers and too few heavies and support troopers – make do.

 

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 5: Pride Goeth Before a Fall

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

As Part 4 ended, things were going smooth as butter. XCOM’s soldiers were winning battle after battle, and coming home almost invariably in one piece. The strategic layer was under control, thanks to XCOM’s ample satellites and newly ample cash.

 

As June 2015 dawns, it seems fair to ask: what could possibly go wrong?

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 4: The Turning of the Tide

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

And we’re back!

 

After Part 3’s successful terror mission, the rest of April passes without incident. Dr Vahlen and her scientists finish research on beam weapons, which unlocks laser pistols and laser assault rifles for use by my squad!

 

 

Unfortunately, I’m too broke to build more than one of each. Not only do they hoover up cash, they also require precious alien alloys – and my stock of alloys is running dangerously low. Farnsworth gets the laser rifle; LeSquide, our sniper, gets the laser pistol (since he can’t move and fire his sniper rifle in the same turn, he’s the one most in need of a decent sidearm).

 

At the end of the month, the Council gives us our scorecard and funding cheque:

 

 

As feared, the XCOM Project has lost its first two countries: Japan and Mexico have raised the white flag to the aliens. Three more, Argentina, India and China, are teetering. But all is not lost – I have no fewer than three satellites in the pipeline, plus the cash to build more (and their supporting infrastructure). This coming month, May, will be do-or-die. If XCOM can make it through the month in one piece, by its end I should have enough satellites to halt the tide of global panic. More than that, I’ll have so many satellites, and so much funding, that I’ll never have to worry about scrimping and saving again. If, if, if.

 

Let’s see how I go.

 

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 3: Terror and Triumph

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

Welcome to the third part of my Let’s Play (Classic difficulty, Ironman mode) for XCOM: Enemy Unknown!

 

When we previously left off, I had two worries. One, whether I could obtain better arms and armour before the game ramped up in difficulty. Two, a rising tide of global panic. And soon, the game does its best to exacerbate (2) by throwing a devil’s choice at me:

 

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 2: Winning battles, whither the war?

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

Welcome back to my Let’s Play (Classic difficulty, Ironman mode) of XCOM: Enemy Unknown! We finished our last instalment on March 20 (game time), with a successful end to XCOM’s third battle. Following that battle, XCOM earned a new, experienced Heavy named Talorc, and I began construction of the Officer Training School.

 

But before I can train any officers, not one day after the previous mission, it’s time to sortie again:

 

 

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Let’s Play XCOM: Enemy Unknown! Part 1: Baby Steps

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series XCOM: Enemy Unknown, by Peter S

March, 2015. We are not alone in the universe. Humanity is under attack from an alien army equipped with technology beyond anything we have seen. The armed forces of the Earth are powerless. All save one – the mysterious international organisation known as XCOM, sponsored by a Council of sixteen nations. It’s up to XCOM’s soldiers, outnumbered, outgunned, but brave and (one hopes) well led, to stop the aliens in the cities and in the fields. It’s up to XCOM’s scientists to unravel the alien technology the soldiers bring home, and up to XCOM’s engineers to adapt it into something the troops can use. And it’s up to me, the player, to give them all direction. Will I succeed, or will humanity be destined to end up as just another course on the alien buffet menu?

 

Let’s find out.

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Let’s Play FTL: Faster than Light! Part 4 (FINAL): Return of the Kestrel or, the Federation Strikes Back

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series FTL, by Peter S

Captain’s log, starship Kestrel

Stardate 2012.09.22

 

Sector Seven: Zoltan Homeworlds, Continued

 

When we left off, I was debating which piece of equipment to leave behind in order to pick up a shiny new hull-smasher laser. In the end, I ditch my unused anti-ship drone. I have only limited power available for the drone control unit, and I want to focus on the life-saving defensive drone.

 

We make it to the end of Sector Seven without incident.

 

Sector Eight: The Last Stand

 

This is it, the cusp of the final showdown. This is what the sector looks like. The Rebel flagship is the ominous red shape just visible at the far left:

 

 

 

On the way to fight the flagship, we come to the rescue of a beleaguered Federation squadron under attack by the Rebel:

 

Bring it on! For the Federation!

 

This time I remember to turn on the defence drone at the start! The Rebel does little damage as a result, and the grateful Federal survivors hand me some supplies. I back up my save again, and carry on. A second Rebel is just a speed bump, and then it’s onto the flagship.

 

Here we go.

 

 

The fight is long (my Dxtory recording comes to over 30 minutes!) and, to be frank, a bit tedious once I’ve destroyed most of the flagship’s weapons. At this point, I just have to wait for my weapons to do enough damage. However, the tipping point comes once I use my Mantis boarders to whittle down the flagship’s crew, at the same time I use the fire bomb I purchased back in sector 6 to set the flagship’s med bay alight. This prevents the crew from simply running away from the Mantes, healing up in the med bay, and running back to pick off my weakened boarders. Even then, it’s chancy – I lose my second crewmember this game, Mansvik the Mantis – but his sacrifice isn’t in vain. Eventually, most of the flagship’s crew is dead, save for one gunner in the forward compartment. Mopping up is easy after that.

 

The most effective way of taking down the flagship, if you can kill the crew first so they can’t extinguish the fires.

 

At the end of the fight, the battered flagship jumps away. I back up my save yet again, and prepare to give chase.

 

… and die horribly when my cloaking device – the key to my survival! – gets knocked out by an unlucky hit. This is why I backed up the save, because I’m not starting this LP (or playing that half-hour flagship battle) again.

 

Let’s try that one again.

 

 

This time it goes much better. A quick barrage of firebombs, and Sem the surviving Mantis, take care of most of the flagship’s remaining weapons. I dust off my anti-boarder drone, and that takes care of the boarding drones the flagship sends my way. The cloaking device stays intact, and I can survive the worst the flagship throws at me. Soon the battle is over. I back up my save once more, spend the last of my scrap, and head off to fight the third and final phase of the flagship.

 

 

I have to reload twice – this time, the flagship carries Zoltan shields that prevent me from quickly disabling its most dangerous weapon, a triple missile launcher, with my boarders/firebombs. In the time it takes me to lase the shield down, the flagship pulverises me. Cloaking barely helps, as using the cloak against the missiles meant it wouldn’t be available against the flagship’s special attack, and vice-versa. But on my third attempt, I pull it off! Eventually I bring down the flagship’s shields, and soon after, the missile launcher. Once the launcher is out of commission, it’s smooth sailing.

 

 

VICTORY!!!!!!

 

The high score table looks like this. The duplicates are the result of my savescumming (somewhat disappointingly, winning the game doesn’t confer extra points; oh well):

 

 

And that’s it for this playthrough! For players who want to try saving the Federation again, beating the flagship unlocks a new ship type, the Federation Cruiser. (There are nine ships, plus variants, in the game – so there is room for completionism.) But for now, I think I can rest on my laurels and proclaim myself done with FTL. Thank you for following along, and I hope you had as much fun as I did!

Let’s Play FTL: Faster than Light! Part 3: A New Hope

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series FTL, by Peter S

Captain’s log, starship Kestrel

Stardate 2012.09.22

 

Sector Four: Engi Homeworlds, Continued

 

The Kestrel’s exploration of Sector Four continues, with mixed results.

 

The good news: beefing up my weapons, and being willing to fire off a missile at the start of combat, have paid off. The next enemy I encounter goes down in flames.

 

The not quite so good news: the next shop I find is a re-run of the previous one. It has a drone control and crew teleporter for sale, but I don’t have enough scrap to buy anything without selling my spare equipment. This time I grit my teeth, sell a spare missile launcher, and buy the drone control unit. At least I can get some immediate use out of it. Hopefully I’ll find a crew teleporter – and some crew to actually teleport! – later in the game.

 

I make it to the exit with the Rebel hot on my heels, and head into Sector Five.

 

Sector Five: Rebel-Controlled Sector

 

The drone control unit promptly pays off, when I answer a distress beacon:

 

Glad I bought that drone control unit!

 

Sending in the drone leads to a little bit of hull damage, but I earn 42 scrap as a reward. At the next beacon, I take on a quest that requires me to travel to the far top-right corner of the sector:

 

One does not simply shilly-shally to the sector exit!

 

Along the way, I deal with a Rebel scout before it can jump out to warn the fleet of my presence, fight off a boarding party with a big helping hand from my anti-boarder drone (good thing I bought that control unit!), and find a shop with both a crew teleporter and recruitable crew! I hawk an unused repair drone to pay for the teleporter and a Mantis of my own, name of Sem. Remember, Mantes are the hand-to-hand specialists of the game, so this should give me a big edge in boarding actions.

 

I take the time to play around with the Kestrel’s loadout:

 

Building up my arsenal.

 

The weapon on the far right is a healing bomb, which I can deploy (at the cost of 1 missile ammo) to either my own ship or to an enemy ship to heal friendly crew in the vicinity. That means I can send over, say, Sem the Mantis and King the Rockman to slaughter the enemy crew,  teleport in healing bombs as necessary to keep Sem and King alive, and then earn more scrap from capturing the enemy ships alive!

 

Completing the quest lets me offload some drone parts for scrap, and defeating another Rebel gives me enough scrap to return to the shop and hire an Engi crewman named Maradine:

 

Fame and fortune await you, Maradine!

 

On my way to the exit, I run into a Rebel who gives me a taste of my own planned medicine and boards me. Sem, King, and my drone deal with the boarders, then Sem and King head over for some payback.

 

 

The first try does not go as planned, thanks to a certain Captain forgetting to actually charge the healing bomb before sending Sem and King over. I quickly teleport the two almost-dead crewmen back, heal them up in the medbay, then send them back. The enemy ship has no medbay, and the enemy crew has had no chance to heal. The second trip goes much better. The scrap I earn from the intact, lifeless Rebel ship (60+) is about double what I’d have previously earned.

 

I make it to the exit, and onto Sector Six.

 

Sector Six: Rebel-Controlled Sector (another one)

 

The first few Rebel ships I encounter are AI-controlled, and hence pointless to board (as well as dangerous; they have no oxygen!). My luck turns when I run into a Rebel whom I can board. Killing the enemy crew (one of whom, I notice, is named Geryk) lets me liberate a Mantis prisoner named Monsvik, who joins my growing team. This is good – it lets me form a dedicated away team of two Mantes, while King the Rockman can stay back and man the Kestrel’s shields.

 

At the next shop I encounter, I pick up a fire bomb in preparation for a certain battle later in the game. I also sell my venerable heavy laser and pick up a level 1 burst laser  instead – the heavy laser does 2 damage to hulls but only 1 to shields, whereas the burst laser fires twice, dealing 1 damage per shot and granting a second chance to hit. The Artemis missile launcher goes into storage:

 

The new configuration seems to work well, letting me chew through enemy shields while preserving precious missile/bomb ammo. With my newfound love for boarding actions, I upgrade my sensors so I’ll be able to map out the enemy crew. Sector Six ends without incident, as I again just barely beat the Rebel fleet to the exit. I’m getting better at this!

 

Sector Seven: Zoltan Homeworlds

 

We’re almost there. Just this, and then the gauntlet in Sector Eight. Stay on target. Stay on target…

 

Our first encounter is hostile, as a Zoltan ship shoots first and asks questions later. Luckily, its defences are poor. My pre-ignited lasers make short work of its shields and weapons, and injure the crew. Then, since Zoltan are lousy in boarding actions, my Mantes teleport over to finish the job. When the dust settles, I have more scrap than I’ve ever seen in one place. And luckily, there’s a shop right next door:

 

Scrap! Scrap! 267 scrap!

 

I refuel, and buy a level 1 defence – i.e. anti-missile –drone. Seeing another shop right after that,  I head over… and see a level 2 defence drone. Oops. The level 2 requires more power, but is also more useful, meaning I wasted the scrap on the level 1 drone. Oh well. I trade it the level 1 and buy the level 2. I then promptly forget to upgrade my drone control unit, leaving me unable to use my new toy.

 

 

One battle later, it ceases to matter. After killing the enemy boarders, setting  their spaceship on fire, and lasing the surviving crew to death, I’m swimming in scrap again (240 scrap). So much so that when I get the option to pick up a new augment, a “reverse ion field” that gives me a 20% chance to shrug off incoming ion fire, I ditch my scrap recovery arm (+10% to collected scrap). This close to the end, I want maximum survivability.

 

The next fight chews me up badly – the enemy is strongly shielded and armed to the teeth, with a missile launcher and assorted lasers. My defence drone II would have protected me– had I remembered about it. Eventually I do turn it on, resulting in a much easier fight… only for the enemy to flee before I can administer the coup de grace. No reward.

 

Crushing the next enemy, and harvesting plenty of scrap from a random distress beacon, provide some solace. One jump away from the exit to the final sector, I get into another tough scrap, but walk away with a new piece of loot: a level 2 hull smasher laser, a more powerful, less energy-efficient cousin to my starting burst laser. I’ll have to drop something to pick up the hull smasher laser, but what?

 

Too many goodies, too little room.

 

On that note, as I mull which piece of kit would be most useful against the final boss, it’s time for me to wrap up this instalment of the LP. And to hedge my bets, I finish by backing up my saved game (aka save-scumming). This goes against the intent of the designers – FTL only allows you a single, automatically overwritten save slot – but this close to the final boss,  I’d like the ability to retry different tactics, and different loadouts, without starting again from scratch.

 

I’ll see you at the final battle.

Let’s Play FTL: Faster than Light! Part 2: Things Get Real

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series FTL, by Peter S

Captain’s log, starship Kestrel

Stardate 2012.09.22

 

Sector Two: Pirate Space, Continued

 

When we left off, the Kestrel was in good form: decently armed and shielded, with enough fuel and supplies and scrap to last a while. I decide to make the most of it by looking for trouble. It’s time to head into the nebula.

 

After steeling myself that way, the rest of Sector Two ends up as an anti-climax. I fight off two separate boarding parties in the nebula  by the simple expedient of rushing my crew into the med-bay, where they heal faster than the boarders can hurt them. The only hostile ship I meet lacks the firepower to pierce my upgraded shield, resulting in a decidedly one-sided fight. Buying a scrap recovery arm (which gives me +10% to all future scrap income!) rounds off my time in the sector. With the Rebel hot on my heels, I briefly debate looking around a little more, but eventually decide to play it safe. Off to Sector Three we go!

 

Sector Three: Engi-Controlled Sector

 

The aptly named Engi are a race of sentient machines, lousy in hand-to-hand combat but great with repairs. They’re also friendly to the Federation, which makes Engi space that much more pleasant to traverse.

 

Right off the bat, I hit the jackpot. An Engi ship, thinking I’m a pirate, hastily offers up its cargo of scrap. I demur, telling them I’m friendly:

 

Do I look that scary?

 

But the Engi go ahead and offer me the scrap anyway, to help me on my long voyage.

 

Altruism is so rare among FTL’s NPCs, it sticks in the mind when it does occur.

 

Thanks, Engi! And it’s a good thing, too – I’m perilously low on fuel. The red-highlighted “2” in the top-left means I only have enough fuel for two more jumps! One jump away there’s a shop… and there, I find a cloaking device for sale. I want that cloaking device, but buying it would consume most of my scrap, leaving precious little for fuel.

 

I roll the dice and buy the cloaking device anyway. And a couple of jumps later, my gamble pays off when I first hoover up some more scrap, then – just as I was about to run out of fuel – find another shop. The whole crew probably heard my sigh of relief!

 

The rest of the sector proceeds smoothly enough, with the Kestrel able to easily defeat foe after foe. It goes so smoothly, in fact, that I get a bit cocky and end up taking too much time to explore. When I finally make it to the exit, the Rebel is waiting for me. And for the first time during this playthrough, I run from a fight. The Artemis missile launcher comes into play just long enough to disable the Rebel’s weapons, and then once the jump drive is charged, it’s off to Sector Four.

 

Sector Four: Engi Homeworlds

 

On my first three runs, I spent scrap as fast as it came in to upgrade the Kestrel. This time I’ve been saving up, and now it pays off. Right off the bat, I find a shop, and this time I hit the jackpot. Specifically, the shop sells a weapon pre-igniter, which will allow me to begin a battle with fully charged weapons, and an ion blaster, which will allow me to efficiently disable enemy systems. Combined with my burst laser, I should be able to start a fight by taking down the enemy shields with my pre-ignited arsenal, then ripping apart the enemy’s weapons. After that, all I should have to do is mop up. Should.

 

 

Then the next few enemies I meet teach me about the dangers of assumption:

 

 

Specifically, “starting a fight by taking down the enemy shields with my pre-ignited arsenal” only works if I actually have the firepower to take down the enemy shields. But as of Sector Four, the enemy ships are all now sporting 2 points of shields – on a par with my own. With a burst laser 2, a heavy laser, and an ion blaster, I could punch through level 2 shields if I fired every weapon at once, and hit. But at first, I lack the power to actually fire all these weapons, and I can’t count on guaranteed hits! The bottom line: the enemies have more time to hurt me, often with newer and scarier weapons, before I can silence them.

 

By the time I make it to the next shop, several jumps later, the Kestrel looks like this:

 

Oww, that hurt…

 

Not only am I almost out of fuel again, but the “Hull” bar in the top-left is now yellow, less than half-full. If that reaches zero, it’s curtains for the Kestrel. That I owe to a Rebel with a missile launcher, which ignores my precious 2-point shields! It took my own last-ditch missile – not the starting Artemis, but a hulking breach launcher I picked up along the way – to save the day.

 

With the Kestrel in for some much needed refuelling and repair, this is a good time to ponder battle tactics. I have a whopping 25 missiles – perhaps I should actually use them, say as part of my pre-ignited opening salvo? Buying a couple of new missiles is cheaper, and safer, than fixing a hull that’s been turned into Swiss cheese.

 

The shop, welcome as it is, also poses its own frustrations. Specifically, I have 112 scrap available. My priorities are repairs (38 scrap) and fuel (I want to buy the station’s whole stock, which will cost 18 scrap), totalling 56 scrap. The shop also stocks a drone control (80 scrap), which would be nice but isn’t essential, and a crew teleporter (75 scrap), which I lack the manpower to use right now, but will be essential later on. I would love to buy the drone control, the teleporter, or both, but – I – don’t – have – the – scrap! I do have some spare equipment – a couple of different missile launchers, a presently unusable anti-boarder drone – I could sell, but I don’t know if I’ll need them in the future.

 

Without enough scrap to buy what I want, this is the definition of “tantalising”.

 

With a rueful sigh, I pay for the fuel and repairs. Since I don’t want to sell anything, that leaves me with 56 scrap, enough to upgrade my ship’s reactors in lieu of buying anything else at the shop. Maybe that “first strike” tactic will work if I can throw an even bigger first volley…

 

With the Kestrel ready to head into the unknown again, this is also probably a good time to wrap up this instalment of the LP. After the relative ease of the first few sectors, things are getting hairy for Han, Leia and King. Will they survive their journey?! Tune in to the next part of the LP to find out!