XCOM 2: Slings, Arrows, and Fortunes
For the sake of posterity, I’m copying an old Reddit post of mine (submitted in ), formatting intact:
(I was inspired to write this down after seeing a very similar post here. I’ll put a link to it at the end to avoid spoilers.)
It turns out I’m back to gaming after a seven-year-long hiatus. I had good memories of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was one of the last few games I played and completed, and when I saw it in my Steam library it reminded me that XCOM 2 existed, so I thought I’d give that a shot. I started it on Friday. It completely sucked me in, once I’d learned the hard way that letting your whole squad be wiped out doesn’t let you restart the mission and started religiously using savegames.* (Thanks, Internet!)
By and by, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the Viper King at the end of an ambush-filled mission that I thought was difficult enough already. It took several attempts to avoid a complete wipe. I felt some relief when he escaped through a portal with half his health gone. It took me two more encounters across different missions to take him out, and let me tell you, you might brag about how it’s so easy to kill him in one encounter with DoT and yadda yadda, but you don’t know the satisfaction I felt when my inexperienced soldiers finally downed the beast. Since I was new to the game, I assumed the story and voiceover meant I would meet two more Viper Kings and be able to handle them more easily now that I had dealt with the first one.
Ah, what an innocent babe I was.
Let us come to the next day. I’d made considerable progress. I was feeling proud of my squad. I’d let the Avatar counter build up, however, so I rushed to scrape together the supplies and intel to make contact with the right region and launched my first attack on an alien facility with only two blocks remaining to be filled. Sadly, I couldn’t take my first-tier squad with me, since half of it was out of commission and I had no time to wait for to be restored to full strength. I jumped in with a motley crew of two green reserve soldiers, one veteran Sharpshooter (Dallas), and an experienced-but-unreliable fourth, bolstered by my trusty SPARK, Vector.
The mission was simple: eliminate all hostiles, break into the facility, plant the X4, and run. I dispatched the first group of grunts with ease. I cautiously moved my soldiers forward, ready to take down the Codices and Sectoids that would inevitably be waiting for me. By this time, I had a good idea of how to deal with them quickly and efficiently, and I felt ready for anything the mission threw at me. Well… well, except the Berzerker Queen that had just shown up on my screen.
What was this, this, this thing? Three rows of health bars with armour deflecting my blows, giant strides that caught it up to my forces in the span of one move, AOE attacks that instantly left my team stunned, unconscious, or outright dead, and melee attacks that cut through my SPARK like a hot knife through butter! How was I supposed to survive an encounter with it, let alone win?
As you can imagine, that was a night of repetition, plain and simple. I tried spreading out my team in various positions, carefully avoiding triggering the Queen until I was—or thought I was—ready. I prayed to the RNG gods to let her attacks miss me. I threw all my items and abilities at her. I practically memorized Central’s voiceover at its discovery. But it was all for naught. Over and over, this ‘crack team’ was brought low by one monstrous green and purple abomination. Three hours later, I gave up for the day, disheartened, dispirited, and frustrated. Perhaps this was the end of the line. I didn’t see what I could do to improve my odds.
The day after that, with a fresh perspective but without much hope for change inside the mission itself, I loaded a savegame at the Geoscape. This time, I waited a few days for my A team to heal up. After all, what was the worst that could happen? They might add another block to the project, but at least I would stand a chance of removing it.
With my finest in play once again, I carefully reviewed loadouts and weapon upgrades. This had to work. There were no other choices. I had no time, no resources, and no one else to rely on. I started the mission.
The completely different locale threw me off, but I pressed on with grim determination. I surprised a similar trio of grunts to last time. I prepared to make quick work of them. I moved Vector forward. Only, it turned out the Berzerker Queen was once again waiting in the shadows.
I heaved a sigh of frustration as she began running forward. I mentally ran through a short list of ways to keep Vector alive to fight back. As Central once again exclaimed in horror and shock at what we saw before us, I ruminated with irritation on how I would have to reload my save from the beginning of the mission and move more carefully… more caref― what? Why had she stopped? Why did my Sharpshooter sound so proud about missing his Overwatch shot on the Queen? Why was… why was she falling? Wait, what did that little box say? Wasn’t it just ‘Missed!’? Was— hold on, what the heck does ‘Executed!’ mean? Did I just one-shot the Berzerker Queen?
The answer, as you may have guessed, is a resounding, chest-thumping YES!.
See, I’d forgotten about one little change I made before starting the mission: I put an Advanced Repeater (10% chance of instakill) on Dallas’s rifle.
Naturally, I immediately saved—once I had finished laughing and whooping—and resolved not to restart that mission from that point on, no matter how badly it hurt my squad. Which, of course, was not much more than a few scrapes and broken bones from a clever Codex. I finished with pride in my chest, joy in my heart, and gratitude to the RNG gods who had this day smiled upon me. (I owe you one, guys.)
In case you’re wondering, I’m very far past that point now, having discovered that the Berzerker Queen was a mite compared to the devastating—pardon the pun—abilities of the Archon King. It took me three encounters to kill him, during the second of which I gave up and just smuggled a VIP out by carefully avoiding him, and during the third of which I had just upgraded half my squad to plasma weapons. That was satisfying, but hardly on the same level as the other two.
The post I mentioned was u/RealIceKareem having much the same reaction that I did.
* I have no shame about save scumming. I made peace with how bad I am at video games as a whole a long time ago.