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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Xcom 2 Too!

As I mentioned on Friday, I was going to spend most of my weekend gaming time playing XCOM 2. The truth is I spend ALL of my gaming time this past weekend with XCOM 2. How can such a devilishly difficult game on multiple levels be so addictive? Even with the few graphical glitches I've encountered, I can't seem to not play it.

Well, at least until Obsidian started giving gold away for playing Armored Warfare each night this week. And of course the latest World of Warships patch landed today, the one with the captain skills revamp for which I've been waiting. Gah, what's a gamer to do!?

But hey, I wanted this post to be about XCOM 2, so that's what I'm going to stick to. Mostly. Probably. Hehe. So, I managed 15 hours from Friday night through about 4 PM on Sunday. I had some things what needed done Saturday and I had a dinner to cook on Sunday. So I did five hours each day. How anyone could do 30 hours in a weekend as happened release weekend is beyond me. Seriously, if you did I implore you to get a life haha.

I found five hours was just about the most I could deal with in a sitting, because it's a solid straight five hours. No snacks. No breaks. Just mission after mission interspersed with research and building things.

So what have I learned in those 14 hours? First, grenades are your friend at lower levels. They are a guaranteed three points of damage and can hit multiple opponents if you manage to catch them group together. Grenades also do extra damage if your enemy is not on ground floor and you use them inside a building. Grenades demolish walls and any floors under alien feet causing them to take fall damage. My highest achievement on Steam, as in the achievement I've gained with the lowest percentage of XCOM 2 players also gaining, is the Have a Nice Trip achievement.

If you can also set a fire with that grenade and the aliens fall into it that's a grand slam!

I've also learned the RNG god is not as bad as many people have overstated. Yes, your soldiers will miss shots. So will the aliens. But a smart player won't take a bad shot unless there is no reason not to, as in it won't hurt the squad or endanger the mission. It's a free action in other words, which are precious rare in XCOM 2 so highly unlikely. Instead of taking that 33% success shot because the alien is behind full cover, use a grenade to reduce the cover to rubble and do a little damage. Hehe, there's that all powerful grenade play again. I told you they were your friend. Anyway, once the cover is removed your 33% shot will become an 85% shot, or something much better at least. Maximize your hit percent by good positioning and cover removal. Like I said, play smart. You don't have to give orders to your team in the order the game gives you.

Next, the tactics I learned as a real soldier translate well into XCOM 2's tactical simulation. Practically every mission is a movement to contact. Practically every mission involves some level of urban warfare. The game calls one action overwatch, but that doesn't explain its tactical use. The tactical term is bounding overwatch. (At least that's what it was called 20 years ago. Terminology has changed. I think it's called Search and Attack now, but the principles are the same.) That's how you move a fire team in a movement to contact scenario. Until you get into a building you have to clear room by room. Then it's two person teams. Once opens the door and the other stands ready to shoot anything that moves on the other side. But don't put that person in front of the door. That's dumb. Place them at a window (preferable) or to the other side of the door (okay in a pinch.) Rangers are great for this. Move them into overwatch at a window. Have someone else open the door. When the aliens inside react, the ranger gets and overwatch shot with her scatter gun. If aliens are left standing, she's then in a position to move in with her blade and finish them off. Anyway, that's just an example. But it's the general idea of how you should be thinking about squad movement. FM 3-21.8 can be a great help in that.

Let's see, what else have I learned. Well, I don't think I'm going to win this first game. I've not lost any soldiers and have accomplished every mission with at least an Excellent rating, but I think I've been too slow to build up my resistance connections and will not be able to research and build the equipment I'm going to need to take down endgame black sites. No, I'm not going to start over. I'm going to play to the bitter end and learn how to do better next time. And I'm certain there will be a next time. You see, XCOM 2 is like two games in one. There is the tactical simulation game of defeating aliens on missions by blowing their heads off. But there is also a strategy game where you have to out resource Advent finish all your research before they finish all their research - then blow their heads off. That strategic game is a tough one. As you work towards your goal while trying to thwart theirs, they are doing the exact same thing. It's a race, and right now the AI knows how to manipulate it better than I do. Isn't that the way of all new games though? It doesn't upset me... much.

On a more personal note, I've also learned that XCOM 2 is great for diets. You'll never even realize you're hungry when you're gleefully splattering aliens across the landscape. And every success is like a drug. To get the same effect you have to have a bigger success next time. At least the game scales well to that paradigm. If I were younger and could sit in a chair for longer than five hours straight I'd be worried about starving to death.

All this said, I won't get a chance to play XCOM 2 until this weekend. I need to win five matches in Armored Warfare each night through Saturday to earn free gold, and I have to try the new World of Warships patch. My next three days are booked. I'll catch you all up on my XCOM 2 exploits next week. Until then, be safe and happy alien hunting!

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