By Kristin Bezio
Well, it’s happened. I finally got enough people killed in a fashion that was clearly the product of my own laziness and lack of attention (rather than genuine lack of skill) while eating dinner that I gave up about two hours of gameplay and went back to a previous save.
As the game progresses, there are more aliens, they have better firepower and accuracy, and it’s a lot easier to mistake something for cover when it isn’t. The aliens also start being much better at flanking your units. Here’s the thing about me – I don’t mind when I’m genuinely beaten by another player or a game. I get really annoyed when I’ve just misclicked or am playing half-assedly because I’m also jumping up and down from the computer to help make and then eat dinner and I send one of my units (Axel) to the middle of a field instead of behind a tree stump or rock. Said unit – needless to say – promptly bites it.
So I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not playing Ironman (autosaves so I can’t have any do-overs), although part of me wished that I were so I’d have been playing more carefully. Se la vie.
So I went back a bit in gameplay and actually bothered to pay attention the second time through, but I did learn something. Even if I choose the exact same missions (abductions – I went to Mexico), the actual map to which it sends me seems to be randomly generated, because although both were in forests, they were not the same maps and the downed UFO was in a different place and had a different configuration (same enemy types, though). So that was an interesting tidbit learned from my failure to properly manage Axel the German Tank.
It has also opened the proverbial floodgates. Now that I’ve done the reload-a-save thing once, that means that I’ve “wrecked” the trend, and I’m going to save at every critical point in a mission so that I can consistently keep everyone alive (or at least the useful people). This has the somewhat contradictory consequence of making me slightly more lazy at first, and then more careful so that I only have to play through part of the combat mission twice, instead of three or four times, which irritates me. (Despite my tendency to replay games, I don’t actually like replaying combat, just story, and this game doesn’t have much of a story.)
Otherwise, I’m starting to get a little annoyed by the science and engineering teams. They’re irritating to talk to (so I’m clicking through) and I don’t like that I can’t set up a queue – I have to pick things in order. On the up side, if I abandon research and come back to it later, I don’t lose the progress I’ve already spent on it, so that’s good.
The other thing that I don’t like about research/engineering is that it isn’t terribly transparent what different components or research projects will do. Some of them are stated outright – to launch a satellite I need both the satellite (engineering project) and a satellite uplink (building project) – where others (autopsies especially) are less obvious. I’d like a nice tree to show me which trajectories I want to follow – as well as figure out of I now have some projects that are obsolete. For instance, I’m pretty sure I have weapons and armor that are obsolete, since I’ve built newer ones, but I’m not actually clear if I have armors with different capacities, or if one really is just an upgrade of the other (in which case I’d really like to be able to replace the old with the new and not have the old still hanging about, but whatever). I understand that the new stuff is more expensive, and it’s better to be able to buy the old than not buy anything at all, but it’s still not the clearest upgrade system.
The other event of note that took place recently is that the creepy Illusive-Man-esque XCOM board decided to reprimand me for the first time. In all prior meetings they were happily pleased with me. This time they appreciated my efforts, but hoped I would do better. I’m pretty sure that’s scripted to happen (maybe not), but they were mad that Argentina pulled out of the XCOM project after having hysterics (too high of a panic level). Others who have played tell me that this is what happens if a nation is at full panic at the end of a “month” when the Council has their little chat with me. My response to Argentina’s departure was “Whatever. Their loss.”
Which comes down to one of the things I’ve reiterated throughout this experience. I just don’t care that much about what’s happening in the game. It is a challenge, it is allowing me to pass the hours in an engaged fashion, and I don’t dislike the game, but I’m not really sure “like” is the right word for my relationship to it, either. I don’t look forward to playing XCOM – I don’t dread it, I don’t want to get it over with, but my general thought process is “What am I going to do now? Watch a show? Nah, those are all reruns. Maybe I’ll play some XCOM.” When I play games I really like, I don’t think about it – I want to play them the minute I have the time. I feel about XCOM the way I feel about Bejeweled – it’s a good way to kill the time and keep myself engaged, but (aside from this blog) I don’t really have the drive to do that over anything else.