Yes, yes I know. It’s been over a month since Part 8 and I apologise to the four of you that were on tenterhooks with regard to the diary’s continuation. I’ve been on holiday, changed jobs and played an awful lot of Starcraft II and Blood Bowl in the interim, and poor old X-Com has been on the back burner the whole time. But I have been playing it, and I have still been documenting J-Server’s continued efforts not to completely muck up the defence of planet Earth.
I’m over three months into the diary. Personally, I didn’t think I’d get this far. I was certain, given my laziness and predilections for things other than a 13-year old strategy game, that I’d let the thing die on the vine or that the actions of my X-Com Agents within the game would bring the organisation to ruin long before I lost interest in playing. This hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m steadily rekindling my passion for this game and getting more and more invested in what becomes of X-Com this time around. Several people have gotten in touch via email (and you can too) to say they’ve enjoyed reading the diary and it’s encouraged them to check out the game, which is quite nice. If you’re enjoying it too, please spread the word. I’ll love you forever*.
Expect updates to come a little bit quicker in the future, at least through the month of September before my trip to Citizen Game HQ this October. Speaking of which, I’ve got some plans for the diary with regard to the re-relaunch of Citizen Game. Stay tuned.
And now, onward to Part 9…
When last we left our “heroes” they’d just been surprised by the most horrific weapon in the alien arsenal they’ve yet seen.
That is; a speedy, blue, two-legged creature that can explode catastrophically at will. It is, essentially, a very ugly suicide bomber. And a bastard.
Luckily the first agents to be on the receiving of this creature’s unique assault survived relatively unscathed, managing to shoot and detonate the little git before it could cover the final few feet and explode all up in their grills. If it had made it to its destination I’ve no doubt the resulting detonation would have murdered the entire squad.
As it was, my ground team survived with a few minor injuries, but I’m starting to get very concerned about the casualty rate. I don’t necessarily mean the body count, you understand. There’s one school of thought when it comes to commanding your forces in X-Com which basically says you’re doing it wrong if you don’t lose a couple of dozen Agents to enemy fire. There’s a spirit to playing X-Com that’s almost Dwarf Fortess-esque in its grim humour. That is, losing can be fun. It can suck getting people killed, but man, commanding the clusterfuck can be very entertaining.
That wasn’t how I felt about the base attack, if I’m honest with you. It felt very… unfair. I don’t think it was because the arsenal Osiron were packing was way in advance of mine, but rather how they employed it. The Osiron troops basically charged in with no heed for their own safety. They had superior numbers and nothing to lose. They acted like suicide bombers, as opposed to how you’d normally expect human ground troops to fight. I was keen to get stuck in with the shooty shooty, no doubt, but when deploying and moving my Agents I was always trying to keep them in cover and stagger their fire to minimize the risk of them getting killed. I had to play that way, because if I got everyone murdered it was game (and diary) over. Osiron had no such concerns, and acted like it, and that pissed me off a bit.
Anyway, casualties. They’re piling up. Every mission another Agent or two takes a minor wound which results in them being packed off to the medical bay when we return to base. This causes me four problems. One, it overloads my medical facilities and slows down the rate of recuperation of all injured Agents. This brings me to problem two, with that effect meaning it takes those Agents that are seriously injured that much longer to get back to one hundred percent. Problem three, all those injured Agents lying in hospital beds aren’t in the training facilities improving their skills. And problem four, I can’t risk deploying any Agent on mission who isn’t up to full strength given how lethal the Alien arsenal is rapidly becoming. Agents on full health rarely survive direct hits now. Putting an injured Agent in the field is just asking to get him killed.
Man, this game is hard.
What able bodied Agents I do have are sent back out into the field just as they return from their last mission. I can only assume I’ve got a medic running about frantically forcing stimulants down all their throats, because no one seems to need any sleep. Regular readers of the diary may well be familiar with the above screenshot featuring that most common of combat locales, the warehouse. I’ve forgotten who it belongs to but I do know it’s next door to the building where our last mission took place, which probably reflects poorly on the clean up job my Agents did before wrapping up their previous sojourn.
You’ll see from the picture that I’ve a grand total of eight Agents uninjured in the entire organisation. They’re mostly rookies brought in to plug the holes in X-Com’s line up, but Sergeant Admiral (the Agent whose very name is a rank actually unattainable to all within X-Com) is my senior Agent right now and he’s got the experience to back them up. Mind you, given how things are going as long as he walks out of there alive I could care less about the rest. I hate losing experienced Agents.
Warehouses, as I’ve previously lamented, are a tactical nightmare. There’s no room to lay down nice, wide fields of fire to keep potentially explosive two-legged alien motherfuckers from sneaking up on you, for example. Ground missions in X-Com also have the potential to be astoundingly creepy. The Aliens make sounds as they move about the building, growing louder as they approach your Agents. Squelches, the odd moan, other noises best left unidentified. You always hear the buggers before you see them, and in a place like this you won’t see them until they’re right on top of you. All of which means those noises have a chance to get incredibly loud and unnerving. You’ll chuck grenades around blind corners convinced something is lurking there, only to have a monster burst out of the lift behind your squad.
Blocked lines of sight plus tight corners equals nasty surprise, which Admiral’s squad find out very early.
Most of the Aliens came pouring out of this grav lift during the mission. Lots of little worms backed up by laser-toting blue Aliens. I was just about to order them up the lift, as it happens, so you can imagine the shock when the door opened and the squad was rushed. Agent Xzalander took a critical hit to the face from a worm barely taller than his shin, which makes his wound the most embarrassing injury of the week. Quick application of a medkit meant he survived but with a hefty chunk taken from his health, which is yet another body I’ll be packing off to sick bay when we get home.
Admiral’s squad spend most of the mission with their guns blazing scoring plenty of kills and some minor property damage, as is now our custom. Another injury to the second squad causes some frustration (they’d been flanking in support and ran smack into one of those pink, spitting aliens) but I’m just relieved when I see the mission complete screen and can call it a day. Aliens dead, X-Com alive. Result.
Then it’s back to base for tea and biscuits. And hopefully a bit of a rest. I’ve got some changes to make and projects to check up on.
Stay tuned for Part 10…
*Not a guarantee.