X-COM 2 WAR DIARY 8: NEST OF VIPERS (AN INTERLUDE)

PEACE THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER

As the decorators set about re-purposing the recently vacated spare room on the Avenger (a task that will take 14 days), I turn my attention to the loot dropped on the last mission – a stock.

As Corporal Kim has proven himself a steady hand under combat, I fit it to his assault rifle. Now whenever he shoots he will always do damage, even if he misses (and to a lesser degree).

I do the rounds, checking each department on the base. Engineering is quiet as I’ve not added any further facilities to their repertoire. Research are still working on the communications upgrade that will allow me to branch out to other resistance outposts around the globe but there’s only a day left on the countdown timer so I head to the world map and speed up time.

My expectation of an attack or otherwise untoward alien intervention fails to materialise. Instead, the communications project is completed and I make contact with the East Asia outpost. Well, I say that. The map icon is apparently an approximate location so the Avenger has to scan the site for five days because video games.

Before I reroute the carrier to the appropriate location though, I have to take care of some housekeeping first.

Returning to Research, I task Tygen with an autopsy on one of the many sectoids in the morgue. Like researching any piece of dropped or plundered tech, analysis of the aliens themselves not only reveals detailed information about my enemy but also unlocks further research projects. A quick look around the barracks also confirms my suspicion that we’re still a little light with a number of soldiers in the infirmary, so I purchase another one from the HQ outpost: a lesser bearded Francisco Rodriguez, no less.

The viper. She’s a naughty monkey to be sure.

LITTLE HAND ON THE CLOCK SAYS IT’S TIME TO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

With base upkeep taken care of, I move the carrier to the East Asia outpost and commence scanning. I’m three days deep when the aliens strike. Because they have no regard for my schedule, the cads.

Of the three incidents presented, Operation Faceless Spear seems the most relevant: a UFO has touched down in Germany and there are additional funds on offer, as well as an extra soldier, if I can clear it.

With my star sniper, Lebedeva, still out of play, I keep Funky Squad in the…er… squad and give him her modified sniper to increase his aim. Kim and Farisani are worth keeping in as well as damage dealer and demolition respectively but that leaves me with a space that I choose to fill with a Paco. I’m in a tight spot for skilled troops at the moment so I include him in the hope that he will rank up this mission and swap out his grenade for a med-kit because X-Com life lessons.

Now, normally I’d recount the salient points of the mission, what the setting was, who did what to who, but, to be honest, my ragtag band of trigger-happy loons absolutely aced this mission. The UFO was recovered, relatively unscathed (I had to make a new door or two), all of the enemies were defeated and none of my team were harmed in the slightest. Not a scratch.

I’ve sold you, dear reader, on an odyssey of misery, the ultimate showdown between man and scheming machine, and yet I continue to cakewalk it. I have never been so uneasy playing a game before.

Regardless, the only event of note (other than my strategic brilliance, of course) was the introduction of a new enemy: the viper.

Those of you familiar with the first console outing for X-Com, Enemy Unknown, will remember the sinister Thin Men, a race of identical tall, skinny humanoids who took their style cues from Mr Bronson (that’s the Grange Hill character not the actor, Charles Bronson). They were initially annoying foes early in the campaign who were quickly relegated to cannon fodder as your troops gained access to better kit. Well, it seems that the sectoids were not the only ones who received a face lift.

The vipers are, as you might imagine from their title, snake hybrids and they are the true form of the Thin Men – I guess now that the human race has been subjugated they don’t feel the need for British teen drama cosplay. A coiled muscular snake body terminating in a humanoid torso and arms, their physical appearance is capped off with a very reptilian head framed by an oversized cobra hood. And a plasma rifle. Because video games.

Apart from being super creepy in general (those of you that don’t find slithering snake-people creepy should be added to a national register), the Vipers have several talents that make them formidable opponents and a real boon to the AI’s arsenal: they are fast (there’s a higher percentage modifier for player attacks to miss or ‘graze’, they have poisonous projectile spit (there must have been a sale on creepy stuff), they have an infeasibly long tongue they can use to grab soldiers and crush them over a number of rounds using the coils of their body and, if discovered by accident, they get an automatic binding attack.

The Sky Ranger: like a Brotherhood of Steel helmet with rockets on. Ahem.

HIS MASTER’S VOICE

Like the new sectoids, these enemies initially feel overpowered – especially when you haven’t encountered them before. As I had prior knowledge of their abilities however, I was able to make them a priority and take them out at range. Job done.

Disappointingly, Paco didn’t get promoted but it’s early days yet and the new soldier in the barracks is his flatmate, Thomas Vass, so it’s turning into a family-ish war.

The squad takes the Sky Ranger taxi back to the Avenger but it’s barely landed before a video message from the not at all sinister AF Council leader ‘invites’ me to go on an urgent mission. While there’s no threat of countries pulling their funding if I refuse to take the mission, I can’t help but feel that the doomsday clock will either advance or throw up some interesting (read as ‘thoroughly unfair’)mission modifiers if I decline.

So it is that I bundle the same winning squad back into the sky ranger and set off to sunny Mexico on a mission to intercept some vital intel.

What’s the worst that could happen?

NEXT TIME: A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE…?

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