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Oct-28-17, 04:37 PM (EST)
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"XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG)"
 
   LAST EDITED ON Oct-29-17 AT 02:33 PM (EDT)
 
(Also arguably a bit spoily for the early parts of the War of the Chosen storyline.)

Well, partially against my better judgment, I went ahead and got War of the Chosen, because in the various gameplay videos I've seen, the quality-of-life enhancements and general updatedness of the game seemed more and more worth putting up with still more cheaty NPCs and the goddamn zombie thing to get ahold of. I'm a few hours into my restarted campaign now, and on the whole I'd say it has been worth it, although there have been some pretty ragey moments. I am in particular not down with Blackarachnia the Chosen Assassin and her habit of basically just doing whatever the fuck she wants regardless of the game's rules; much like the "rulers", she puts me in mind of nothing so clearly as a godmoding Dungeon Master who is tired of his players' characters being so good at combat.

However, this isn't about the ragey moments. This is about the moments when it's been worth it.

First, a brief introduction to the dramatis personae of this particular campaign's version of the game's serial reality. I started with a pared-down version of the character pool I've developed over the last couple of years, omitting (for purposes of not crowding the roster too much) the guys from The Mighty Jingles's original-flavor series (including Jingles himself), the re-created Jaeger crew from my own Enemy Within campaign, and sundry others, but including my NXE gang and a few others.

As such, our Operation Gatecrasher (diversion phase) team consisted of:

- D.J. Croft, UK (retroactively not "Langley-Croft" for reasons that will be obvious shortly), first Earl Croft, presumably also last Earl Croft since the British monarchy/aristocracy complex no longer exists;

- Marina Kirishatova, RU, who may or may not have been in supermax in Russia before the invasion, despite the fact that her prepackaged bio shows she wasn't born yet when that happened;

- Shinji Ikari, JP, who still looks terrifying with his father's beard and who is still bizarrely cheerful despite everything that is going on around him; and

- Dr. Gordon Freeman, US, who is not bizarrely cheerful and indeed seems to be pretty royally pissed off by everything, because I have the Freeman's Mind voice pack installed. His wholehearted "Jeeeesus Christ!" when the ADVENT Officer missed him was the highlight of the introductory mission.

Sadly I messed up the "photobooth" tool at the conclusion of that mission, so we have only this shitty poster of the Gatecrasher-2 team.

Marina and Freeman got completely cut off, the stock slogan is lame, either Freeman or DJ seem to be having some molecular phase problems. But at least they're in front of an ADVENT Burger. Dr. Tygan seems to like that for some reason.

Anyway, moving right along. One of our first scanning jobs once we were free to move about the countryside with the Avenger turned up a group of rookies, and—by the grace of RNGsus—they were...

... Hat Films. Seriously, I did not arrange that; I don't know of any way I could have. The game picked three rookies out of the pool who hadn't already been either put on my initial crew or chosen for the "recruitables" list in the Armory, and it happened to be those three. There, as my very religious former personal trainer would probably put it, is your sign.

In the interest of not having just the one squad who are good at anything, I lined up the Hat boys for the next mission, which was one of the newfangled assassination jobs in the sewers.

They and their new friend, Rei Ayanami, seem pleased with the results.

(No, Rei is not a Skirmisher in this reality. She just wears that Shield Bearer helmet because, and I quote, "I kind of like it in here. It's private." She became a Specialist after this mission, eventually earned the inevitable nickname "Zer0", and has evolved into one of my go-to combat hackers, the other being Freeman.)

Various and sundry jobs later, the team had its first couple of bonds in place. I mentioned that I retroactively deleted the "Langley-" from DJ's name in this case. That's because he and Asuka, who was not on the first mission but was in the soldier pool on the Avenger when we got there, have a bond compatibility of 1.5 out of 10. (Which is not entirely out of character. :) Instead, DJ, who became a Grenadier this time around, ended up bonding with Ranger Marina:

... while Asuka, also a Ranger, became close personal pals with...

... Genki Sudo out of WORLD ORDER.

Sure! I can see that.

(I'm sad I couldn't find a business suit cosmetic mod for Genki's armor. He looks so out of place in the junk suit. Maybe it won't seem so weird when I finally unlock Warden armor.)

Meanwhile, Gordon found his soulmate in the form of a fellow beard enthusiast.

Despite the incredible grimness of the setting, we've managed to have some wacky adventures, me and my mismatched metafictional crew, because we live in a universe that is ruled by the mercurial whims of the RNG, and the RNG is sometimes very whimsical indeed. For instance, there was the first retaliation mission...

... in which, quite frankly, the Resistance rifle guys probably could have handled ADVENT without our help, despite the macho posing Smith's doing there. Then again, he's probably earned a little posing, since if you don't count the aforementioned Resistance guys, he was the mission MVP. The only alien who really gave the local guards any trouble was the Faceless, and it was no longer much of a problem after Ranger Smith went over and carved its facelessness off. Also, honorable mention to Otto Keller from my original X-COM play, second from left, who I'm going to give all the enhanced Mobility I can find in order to better replicate his ancient self.

You may notice Outrider from the Reapers there; by then we had done the incredibly long and rather tedious mission that brings her and Worf Mox the Skirmisher into the fold, and then ushers Mox immediately back out of it in a blatant Cutscene Win for the cheatiest of the cheaty NPCs. Sigh.

Mind you, getting him back was amusing. Asuka and Genki found out where he was off-camera (a mechanic that continues to entertain me, because it reminds me of that joke in Invader Zim where the episode opens on the aftermath of a titanic battle that is never referenced again), and then I sent the beard team and Elena in to get him back.

Now, one of the recurring themes in my video gaming career to date is that I am shit at "stealth" gameplay. In games where you can either sneak it or shoot your way through, I will pick shooting 99.9% of the time, because I know I'm going to bungle the stealth part and end up shooting my way out anyway. Missions in otherwise shooty games that are designed to force you to do stealth, as the only way through, are usually dead ends for me unless there's a way to cheat past them (I'm looking at you, that one mission in the original Deus Ex).

However, for Operation Ice Shadow (the Mox rescue), I decided to play along and try to keep it on the downlow as long as I possibly could.

... and that turned out to be the entire mission. ADVENT had no idea the team was there until a Skyranger randomly swooped down to collect them.

Further entertainments followed, including the "skulljack an Officer" mission, which ended with the building where it happened burning down because of liberal use of high explosives in the subsequent termination of the resulting Codex.

And of course who can forget the "pick up the crates before ADVENT gets them, oh did we mention this city is long-abandoned and full of zombies despite the inexplicable sprinkling of brand-new crates?" mission, where, because that wasn't annoying enough, the Assassin showed up?

She's immune to overwatch in this playthrough, which makes her even more annoying than she already was. However, in this instance she did choose a very obvious piece of cover after popping up and shanking Mox, which made it pretty easy for Outrider and DJ (who by then had earned his callsign, "Longinus") to blow her the hell up. Which meant that whatever Bradford wanted to call the mission, we all knew what it was really called.

(For the record, the town in question was "Ruins of Kansas City", though which Kansas City was not specified and, in this context, is probably immaterial.)

Oh yeah, I also decided that we needed a proper medic, so I picked one of the randos on the roster who hadn't come out of the configured pool and started training her up for the role. Turner's first mission was a "hack the ADVENT container" job, which is ironic because that's a thing for the other kind of Specialist, but she got it done, helped out by the fact that—like his original vanilla-game incarnation—Shinji seems to be better at pistoling the bad guys to death than he is at rifling them.

Meanwhile, Hat Films were getting all the really glamorous jobs.

And then we got a Templar! His name is Victor. He's a bit intense and always wears a hockey mask, and on his first job for us (a retaliation mission), Starscream the Chosen Hunter showed up.

That poster tagline was the game's own work. I just added the qualification. Because I had to. Thank you, RNGsus.

You'll notice that Elena and Mox are on that mission together. They are pretty much always on missions together. That's because, I shit you not, this happened.

I guess it's true what they say: you get shot at alongside somebody often enough, you develop common interests. That's not bad for a couple of semi-NPCs who spent their first cutscene together seriously contemplating mutual murderation. Truly they are an inspiration to us all.

I think the bond mechanic is my favorite of the newfangled things in War of the Chosen, partly because it's a fun RP thing, but mostly because it's handy as shit. Remember the retaliation mission where the Hunter showed up? I had this great plan where Dr. Doom was going to shank him to finish off the mission, and then Vic rolled low damage and didn't quite kill him, which was very awkward since everyone else was out of moves except Ross, who had moved as far as he could without ending his turn and still couldn't see the sonofabitch.

But hey, you know how you can give your buddy your leftover action?

ROSS
I say Gordon, old chum, would you mind terribly taking this asshole out?

GORDON
Love to, pal, but I've only got a 24% chance to hit him from here. Although, hmm, I've got a shot of Combat Protocol left, I guess I could get Skippy to do it.

Yes, that's right, the Chosen Hunter's first brush with XCOM ended with him being executed by Dr. Freeman's flying taser.

That was deeply satisfying? But it wasn't the most satisfying Buddy Cop Moment I've had courtesy of the bond system so far.

No, that was DJ and Marina in the Conservatory with the Wrench "so listen, I know skulljacking an Officer really didn't go the way I told you to expect, but I really need you to shank a Codex now, I promise nothing super bad will happen this time OK - lots of love R. Tygan" mission. Because you know what happens when you skulljack a Codex, right?

Yeah, an Avatar shows up. And not the fun "four elements, pet polar bear" type, either. The kind with Eraserhead hair, lots of psi powers, and the ghost of an Ethereal lurking just behind it. (That's a cool visual effect, by the way, I don't remember it from my vanilla playthrough, but I suppose it was probably always there.)

In this case, it teleported in just as Zer0 was finished shanking the Codex (drawing the most adorably understated "... oh." from Rei, since I have her using a very taciturn voice pack labeled "Japanese Cynical Girl"), took stock of its situation, and immediately mind-controlled Marina.

I don't know if they've made mind-controlled squaddies able to use melee in War of the Chosen (IIRC they can't in the vanilla game), but even if they still can't, she's got a very heavily modified {rail|shot}gun that does a shit-ton of damage at short-to-medium range, and she had most of the team flanked, because I'd been so clever and spread them out to avoid the Codex's "ha ha your guns no work" trick for once. Sigh. (No good deed goes unpunished in XCOM 2, despite Merc's insistence that Firaxis is friend to all scrublords. :)

OK, don't panic, everyone. She can't move until their turn now, anyway. Zer0's done, Outrider's done, Mox is done and he's been completely useless this mission anyway. DJ. What've you got left?

Well, DJ could shoot the Avatar, but it's got so much health he won't kill it in one barrage unless he gets a critical hit. Ditto grenading it. He's also flanked thanks to where it popped up. There's decent cover over there, but he'd have to run and he'd end up right next to the mind-controlled Ranger.

... Who is his bestest buddy in the whole wide world.

So here's a thing about stage-2 bonds: the two soldiers who are in it remove negative psychological status effects (panic, disorientation) from each other if they're on adjacent tiles. I wasn't sure if mind control counted for that? But what the hell, it's a great opportunity to find out. Oh hey, it does! Well, that's handy.

Now, it was fairly late at night by this point, and I don't precisely remember what-all happened next. I have the sneaking suspicion that my memory is telescoping it all into a neater package than the game mechanics really allow for, though. I honestly cannot say for sure whether the status-effect thing mentioned above happens instantly upon the two characters coming into proximity, or if it's applied at the end of the turn, or whether a character recovering from mind control can act immediately or loses that turn.

I think it went down the way I'm about to describe, though, because I don't remember having to deal with any further attacks from the Avatar, which it surely would have made if another turn or two had gone by:

So. DJ just ran across the room and piled into cover next to Marina, which broke the Avatar's mind control over her. Now DJ's done too, because he had to run, but Marina's back, and she has the same problem as DJ. She could shoot the Avatar, but her gun isn't great at ranges that long, and she, too, wouldn't kill it. DJ's mag cannon has better odds of that. He'd have to get a crit, but he's got a better chance of hitting it in the first place at that range, and killing it instantly is less important now that there isn't a mind-controlled Ranger flanking everybody on the team.

OK, well, then—DJ, thanks for getting me out of that, have a third action on me. Please blast the Avatar in his/her/its face.

The Avatar was duly blasted in his/her/its face. Its reaction to that was to teleport to the back of the room, behind everybody... but then it didn't do anything. Why isn't it doing anything? Everyone's had a go now. Hell, DJ's had two. It should be hitting us with a Void Rift or something and seriously fucking up our day. Why is it not getting its turn?

Oh, right, Marina still has her second action. And that wounded Avatar just teleported to within walking distance of her. Excuse me. Avatar? My arc blade and I would like a word with you about that whole mind control thing. And I have a 10% bonus chance to hit you because DJ just shot you. Hold still. This might hurt a little.

Yeah. Her nickname is now "Murder Inc".

(As noted, the above may have taken another round or so of maneuvering to play out, although if it did, I can't for the life of me remember what the hell the Avatar did other than get shot, teleport to an awkward position, and then get its junk chopped off by an angry Russian. The point, either way, is that we only got away with it as cleanly as we did because of the various bond bonuses DJ and Marina had.)

After all that, the other Codex and its two MEC associates were kind of an anticlimax—particularly when Rei hacked one of the MECs and the Codex wasted its turn trying to kill it rather than, you know, her. These Codexes, man, they're marvels of psionic-holographic technology, but they ain't too bright.

(They look like they're rehearsing to be the worst Village People cover band ever, don't they?)

So anyway, yeah, that's all been very exciting and amusing, and I'm sold on most of the changes to the game that aren't the actual Chosen themselves or the zombies. I haven't met Megatron the Chosen Warlock yet, I assume he's going to be very, very annoying, since a) he's a Chosen and b) he's a psion, which I'm guessing means he'll play kind of like an Avatar who also cheats like a Chosen. I need to level up Dr. Doom some more. Actually, I need to level the whole gang up, I have the "hunt down and terminate" missions available for the other two Chosen, but I can't do them because no one's high-ranking enough.

Oh yeah, also, I've discovered that you can have the introductory missions from the two XCOM 2½ DLCs, there are checkboxes for them in the campaign-start screens. Bonus, if you don't actually get around to doing the introductory "rulers" mission, the rulers don't appear. Which is nice. By the time I get around to kicking that off, I'll have decent equipment and decently-ranked-up soldiers to deal with that crap, and maybe the person who wrote the "Rulers Take Normal Turns" mod will have updated it to work with War of the Chosen. That's just about the only thing that would make me willing to pull that trigger.

(Can one of those things randomly decide to crash the same mission that one of the Chosen has randomly decided to crash? Because that would be one hundred percent bullshark shit.)

--G.
-><-
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.


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XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) [View All] Gryphonadmin Oct-28-17 TOP
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Mercutio Oct-29-17 1
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) drakensis Oct-29-17 3
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) StClair Oct-29-17 2
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Verbena Oct-29-17 4
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-29-17 5
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-29-17 6
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) StClair Oct-29-17 7
          RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-29-17 8
              RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) ebony14 Oct-30-17 10
                  RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) MoonEyes Oct-30-17 11
                  RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Peter Eng Oct-30-17 12
                      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Mercutio Oct-30-17 15
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-29-17 9
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Sofaspud Oct-30-17 13
   quick update Gryphonadmin Oct-30-17 14
      RE: quick update Gryphonadmin Nov-01-17 21
          RE: quick update Gryphonadmin Nov-02-17 26
              RE: quick update Gryphonadmin Nov-03-17 29
              RE: quick update Gryphonadmin Nov-04-17 30
                  RE: quick update Star Ranger4 Nov-04-17 31
                  RE: quick update Gryphonadmin Nov-05-17 32
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Peter Eng Oct-31-17 16
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-31-17 17
          RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) ebony14 Oct-31-17 18
              RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Peter Eng Oct-31-17 19
                  RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Oct-31-17 20
                      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Mercutio Nov-01-17 22
                          RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Nov-01-17 23
                              RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Mercutio Nov-01-17 25
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Peter Eng Nov-01-17 24
   RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) MoonEyes Nov-02-17 27
      RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Nov-03-17 28
          RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) MoonEyes Nov-12-17 38
              RE: XCOM 2¾ (CAUTION: LONG) Gryphonadmin Nov-17-17 39
   just for the record Gryphonadmin Nov-06-17 33
      RE: just for the record Gryphonadmin Nov-08-17 37
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      RE: Ha! Verbena Nov-07-17 35
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