Operations Storm Hole & Falling Gears
XCOM 2 Blogger Succession Game - Penultimate Mission!
This post is an After Action Report (AAR). If you’d prefer to watch the video than read the play-by-play, you can do so above, but be aware that the vid has quite a few cutscenes in it, so it both contains spoilers for plot elements of XCOM 2, and is very long.
Many soldiers have fallen along the way, but the final battle of the succession game of XCOM 2 that we began back in April 2021 is finally nigh.
I knew that we must have been getting close, because we were reaching the end of the tech tree1 and we have a good complement of military demi-gods in our barracks, but I was still caught by surprise by the bevy of cutscenes that heralded the final sequence of missions when I stumbled across them in the course of what I thought was a normal turn.
I’d started the turn like usual, spending everyone’s hard-earned cash on a bunch of useless upgrades, and when the trigger came for the penultimate mission, I damned the consequences and leapt right in, equipping and deploying what I considered to be our best threesome of soldiers before I remembered that injuring them here would mean that we’d be forced to go into the final mission without them.
And injure them I did.
Thus began Operation Storm Hole (25:00-44:00)
It started poorly, with Naithin, our only cloaked soldier, taking a wrong turn while exploring the rooftops and leaving the others to face the first pod by themselves. Rakuno soon got a face full of laser baton from a Stun Trooper who had one health point remaining after Magi took out its legs with an overwatch shot, but exacted revenge on the Trooper and his Captain in quick order regardless.
Magi then triggered the next pod and Naithin took out the Archon with prejudice. The Viper soon followed it, but not before it had sprayed the ground with a liberal helping of acid. Magi then sprinted heedlessly headlong into a close range ambush by a Muton and Andromedon who had been hiding in the shadow of the nearby ADVENT transport, and on the way to rescue her by deploying the emergency mimic beacon, Naithin stepped in the Viper’s acid and managed to infect Rakuno with it as well. Good teamwork all around, squad.
That pod also eventually died in short order to the overwhelming firepower of XCOM, but not before a rather comical sequence of Naithin and the Andromedon both flailing wildly and missing their melee attacks. The fireteam then moved on to the final sequence of the battle and crushed the last three Archons with extreme prejudice and no small number of critical hits, clearing the way for Rakuno to complete the final hack and trigger the ending cutscene.
It was a dramatic victory, but it left Naithin and Rakuno in no fit state to contest the final battle, which takes place immediately after this one and doesn’t leave any opportunity for a visit to the medbay. As such, I called my permitted once-a-mission mulligan, rewound time back to the start of my turn, and played through the start of the round again so that I could send the B-team on this mission instead.
Thus began Operation Falling Gears (59:00-78:00)
The B-team consisting of Col. Sofia “Black Widow” Vasilyeva (Medic), Lt. Svetlana “Hound Dog” Sidorova (Assault), and Lt. Klaus “Mailman” Weiss "aka “UnwiseOwl III” dropped onto a differently configured but familiar-feeling rooftop shortly later. Initial progress was fast, with no alien pods sighted for the first three turns, which gave me a bit nasty feeling that everything was about to happen all at once.
That feeling turned out to be depressingly accurate, with Black Widow triggering two pods while Hound Dog was stuck in an advanced position. It might not have been too bad if either Hound Dog had an automatic melee attack or Mailman had the Killing Zone ability, but unfortunately as they’re only Lieutenants they were forced to stand aside while the combined Mech/Andromedon/Sectoid/Shieldbearer pod first destroyed Widow’s cover and then her health bar. If not for advanced armour, there’s no way that she’d still be with us.
Unfortunately, the big explosions in her vicinity caused the game to bug out and lock her in place, forcing me to use my most experienced soldier as a stationary turret for the rest of the mission. Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but it wouldn’t be an XCOM game without a potentially game-breaking bug every now and then. Weiss and Widow combined to kill off the Mech, then Hound got a much-needed crit to take out the Shieldbearer, bringing the enemy forces down to two. Those two were not very effective, however, with the Andromedon missing what must have been a very high-percentage shot to kill Widow, who was being forced to wait out of cover for her seemingly inevitable doom, and the Sectoid opting for a psionic wave instead of a plasma blast, which panicked the medic but resulted in giving her a free attack, which she used to dispatch her attacker. The RNG and the rocket launcher were really doing some work for the side of humanity in this turn.
Leaving Widow to clean up the Andromedon, Hound Dog pressed on, triggering the next pod, but the Mailman delivered a clean headshot to take out the Viper, and Hound’s overwatch shot dealt some serious damage to the Archon, which chose to retreat somewhere into the fog rather than charge into the fray. With the Widow licking her wounds on the bridge, the Mailman and the Hound Dog moved on and took out a defensive turret, but the remaining Archon and the last mob never showed their face, allowing Mailman to waltz up to the terminal, post his virus to the psionic network and end the mission right there. It hurt me a little to leave enemies alive on the map, but with nothing to gain from killing them off I opted to cut the video just that little bit shorter for your sake, dear long-suffering viewer.
I know it’s a little premature given that the final fight is yet to happen, but since this will be my last post it seems like the appropriate place to share my experiences of this blogger succession game in general.
Like the Civilisation VI game we played together, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading other people’s perspectives on our shared story and the different play styles and priorities that it exposed me to compared to how I'd play the game by myself, and while it’s been disappointing that so many of our players fell by the wayside, and having to re-learn how the game worked every time between turns that were often months apart2 was a bit rubbish, I’m glad we did it together and would definitely be up for another one. Even another XCOM 2 one, honestly, but if we were to do it I’d like to try out a more demanding difficulty level.
A huge vote of thanks goes out to Naithin for organising the project, which has been a good impetus to blog in quiet months and a welcome change of pace in busy ones, and I’ll look forward with bated breath to the next one.
I also look forward to sitting down and playing the War of the Chosen expansion that’s been sitting in my Steam Library unplayed for a couple of years, now that I no longer have to worry about it potentially corrupting any shared save files.
And then, Long War 2 beckons.
With the notable exception of any Psy tech at all
Often my fault, I know!