Wednesday, 26 December 2012

X-COM: UFO Defence

Here begins my attempt to beat the classic UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994). It's a task I think I've only completed by cheating, so this time I'm going to be giving it a more honest attempt! For those interested, there's a variety of interesting things you can change with a hex-editor, with instructions only a quick web-search away (I may post about it later). I've started the game on the easiest difficulty, because strategy games aren't my forte.

Spielburg base, Turkey. In the far future of 1999!

I've decided to start my first base in Turkey, as it gives me good coverage of a large number of countries, and named it after the Quest for Glory starting town, Spielburg (all soldiers will be named after characters from that game). Obviously the next base will be for North America, as the USA is the biggest backer of the X-COM project (many people also consider it the best place to start, but I'm playing on easy, so it shouldn't be a problem).

The new rooms take many days to complete
My first action is to select a research project, which is Motion Scanner. The actual equipment is not overly useful, except in certain circumstances, but it provides you with something for your engineers to produce at a good profit (until better options are researched). After that, I re-equip the aircraft to remove any equipment that is sub-optimal. Cannons are replaced by stingray missiles for my attack fighters, and for my soldiers I equip them all with a rifle, grenade and spare magazine.

Named after Quest for Glory characters
At this point, all the soldiers are expendable, so I order in a bunch more, along with scientists and a few engineers. Selling all the equipment that I don't want gives me enough money to build a few new rooms, but those will take many days to complete. The ones I chose were a new General Stores, Alien containment and Living Quarters. These should provide me with the appropriate space to expand both my military force and my research and engineering.

Equipment check, One rifle, one grenade, one spare magazine
The difference between this game and the new reboot are abundantly clear at this point. The new game puts you straight into the action, opening with a tactical battle introduction and giving you plenty of action from day one. By contrast, the classic version allows you much greater freedom with base affairs, but it can be several days before you have a UFO contact or ground mission. Such is the way things went with me.

The UFO in the distance, in the dark
My first contact was a very small UFO, which I know from previous games to carry a single Sectoid. The Sectoids are the games starting race, based on the "grey" aliens popularized by things like the X-Files. In the early game, they provide little challenge, only being a pest due to their much better firepower. Later game Sectoids are a tougher challenge though, but I'll get to that in due course.

The Battlescape map, showing my soldiers in yellow
This first UFO was destroyed by an Avalanche missile, but it wasn't long before I got a medium scout UFO to attack. This one crashed in North Africa, and I sent my Skyranger and troops on their way to recover all that they could. Thanks to the procedurally generated content in this game, you never quite know what a ground mission is going to entail. There are certain similarities to each mission of course, but hunting aliens is always a tense business.
Breaching the alien ship: and meeting a Sectoid
I forgot to take screenshots of that battle though, so the ones on this posting are from the next mission, a large scout on a farm. This particular scout ship was undamaged despite being shot down, which would yield a lot of precious resources, not least Alien Alloys and Elerium-115. These two things are what you're really looking for on any downed UFO, as they will provide the basis of building advanced weapons and aircraft.

Despite two soldiers dead, this is actually a good outcome

Two soldiers died on this mission, but it was for the greater good. The equipment gained will be very helpful, once I get the time to research it all! The biggest bonus from the mission was a captured Sectoid Engineer, a lucky shot must have only knocked him unconscious. As well as researching different races, the captured live aliens can tell you much about their plans and aircraft. It will take a lot of them to fill up the gaps in our knowledge, and it is cruicial we capture one of their commanders at some stage.

I hate terror missions!

As I finish this posting, I find myself in further danger. A terror mission, the most hated of missions is on my radar! I feel woefully under-prepared for this, but I will have to load up my Skyranger with as many soldiers as I can manage and hope that I can survive this challenge. Terror missions can cause you major problems if they are failed, and bring little reward when completed successfully.

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