Diary of an XCOM Soldier

The following is an account of my squad's activities during my first 6 hours or so of gameplay of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. A remake of the classic PC strategy game, XCOM asks you to command an elite international task force defending Earth against a mounting extraterrestrial invasion. Pretty much everything I've written here is exactly how it happened in my game (though slightly embellished). I've included a few very minor spoilers, though there's nothing here that should surprise anyone who is familiar with the XCOM series.

1 March 2015 — Operation First Vanguard — Los Angeles, USA

First mission with the new squad, though I'm still in shock from my final one with Delta. Wilson, Lebedev, Matusumoto, and I had been training together for months. They were all better soldiers than me, but somehow I was the only one to survive.

Now I'm with a bunch of rookies. Two American women—a chatty one named Payne and a bull-faced brute named Smith—as well as a Russian medic named Golubev. They didn't stop talking the whole flight about how many "greys" they were going to kill. Well, this was my chance to get some payback for what happened in Germany, and I wasn't going to let a bunch of gossiping rookies get in the way.

The mission went pretty much like clockwork. Smith didn't keep her head down and caught a pretty nasty wound for it, but other than that we took out the hostiles without too much trouble. Before we knew it, the last two aliens were holed up in a small warehouse. Knowing first-hand what these things are capable of, I took the whole place down with my rocket launcher. Problem solved.

5 March 2015 — Operation Secret Gaze — Osaka, Japan

Feeling good about the success of our last mission, command sent us to extract a high-value asset trapped in Osaka. With Smith still laid up, they added a Mexican named Garza to our squad. She's a stone-cold bitch, but an unbelievable shot with a sniper rifle.

We contacted the VIP without too much trouble, but on the way back to the ship we encountered some new type of alien—the "Thin Man". At first they look sort of human, but once they move, you can tell they're anything but. Seeing those freaky bastards with their dead lizard eyes must have rattled me, because I got flanked and took some heavy fire. We got out of there alive, but now I've got 8 days in the med bay to think about my mistake.

15 March 2015 — Operation Patient Justice — Undisclosed Location, USA

One of our interceptors finally took down a UFO! They sent us in to the crash site to clean up and secure some of the alien tech. Just when I was getting used to "Sectoids" and "Thin Men", we ran into a new kind of alien, some kind of being made of crystal and energy. Well, Garza showed us that energy or not, a headshot kills it just as dead as anything else. Actually, maybe deader, since there wasn't much left of the thing afterwards.

I guess I've been doing a good job leading the squad, because after the mission the Commander promoted me to Sergeant. The guys have started calling me "Nova"... I assume because of my explosive personality, or maybe just my temper.

21 March 2015 — Operation Crystal Giant — Bangalore, India

We got sent out to check out reports of an alien bomb in the Bangalore subway. This time the brass said they want us to snag one of the aliens alive. They gave us something the lab cooked up to stun them called an "Arc Thrower", but it only works at close range.

Well, we tried getting close enough to use the damn thing, but it wasn't easy since we were also trying to disable enough power sources to keep the alien bomb from nuking the place. We ended up having to shoot to kill, and got ourselves pretty shot up in the process.

Command was not happy about our failure to bring back a live specimen for interrogation. They made it very clear it was a top priority for our next mission.

28 March 2015 — Operation Empty Hammer — Port Said, Egypt

Another report of alien abductions... this time in a cemetery, of all places. The squad was still beat up from the last mission, so we took a rookie with us, a huge Brazilian dude named Guzman.

I thought I had things under control, but then Golubev (we've been calling him "Doc") got separated from us and ended up trapped in a room with three hostiles closing in. Knowing he was probably done for, he rushed one and zapped it with the Arc Thrower. Then, just before the others got to him, Garza dropped one with an amazing headshot, while Guzman took out the other through a window.

We've started calling Garza "Demon", because if she so much as looks at something, it's dead.

4 April 2015 — Operation Lone Savior — Undisclosed Location, USA

Fucking brass. We brought back a live grey for them, so what did they want next? For us to do the same with one of those goddamn "energy beings".

Well, this was supposed to be a routine crash recovery mission, but it all went to hell. We had the energy being locked down, but when Payne rushed in to take it out, it had its plasma rifle ready. Seeing Payne hit the ground with half her head melted off, I said a big "fuck you" to command and shoved a rocket up that thing's ass, or wherever it is you shove things in a being made of goddamn crystals and energy.

8 April 2015 — Operation Cold Mist — Sapporo, Japan

Another alien abduction. I think the squad is still pretty shook up about Payne. We've got two new recruits, VanDyke and Konig, but no one has paid much attention to them, including me.

We ran into some new aliens again—crazy rocket-powered things we called "Floaters". They move so fast, they even got to Garza in the rear guard. She was bleeding out, and there was no way I could get to her, but I wasn't going to lose another soldier. So, I rushed in like a maniac and mowed down the last two. I took heavy fire, but it was worth it... we got her out of there just in time.

19 April 2015 — Operation Cold Gaze — Melbourne, Austrailia

We must have pissed off the bugs, because they launched an all-out terror attack on Melbourne. We were too late for the initial strike, but we dropped in to try to rescue some of the remaining civilians.

We encountered another new alien, some sort of giant four-legged metal bug that turns people into zombies. No shit... actual zombies. Well, they were in for a surprise, because after a childhood full of video games, I'm pretty damn good at killing zombies. Not only did we take out all of the remaining hostiles, we also managed to save all but 3 of the 18 survivors in the drop zone.

20 April 2015 — Operation Banished Spark — Alexandria, Egypt

Who makes up the stupid code names for these operations?

We were still riding high after kicking ass in Melbourne yesterday, when command sent us in to counter yet another alien abduction. I think we'd be a lot better off if we could get these fuckers before they touch down.

I think VanDyke had something to prove after sitting the bench during yesterday's mission, because she went out there guns blazing. In fact, she got a little too out-of-control, because once she started taking some heavy fire, she started to lose it.

The squad was able to keep it together though, and we brought everyone back alive. I even got promoted to Major. I'm really starting to believe that we can win this thing, and send these bug-eyed monsters back to wherever they came from.

6 May 2015 — Operation Broken Bell — Bangalore, India

Things were quiet for a while, but then they sent us in to deal with another alien abduction. It seemed like a routine mission, so I brought along VanDyke and a rookie named Gusev. But instead of Sectoids or Thin Men, we ran into a totally new kind of alien—these giant, hulking green monsters that you could unload an entire clip on, and they still wouldn't go down.

It was a massacre. We thought we had them pinned down, but then one of the brutes threw some sort of alien grenade. It killed Doc instantly, and messed up VanDyke real bad. Guzev totally lost it and ran off in the opposite direction of the ship, shooting wildly and screaming.

I didn't want to leave Guzev behind, but with VanDyke and Garza both in rough shape and those green monsters closing in, I had to abort the mission. A small, dark part of me hoped that Guzev was already dead, so that we weren't really abandoning him... but then I swear I heard him yelling as we took off.

Maybe this war is going to be a lot worse I thought.

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by Apocralyptic

The following is an account of my squad's activities during my first 6 hours or so of gameplay of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. A remake of the classic PC strategy game, XCOM asks you to command an elite international task force defending Earth against a mounting extraterrestrial invasion. Pretty much everything I've written here is exactly how it happened in my game (though slightly embellished). I've included a few very minor spoilers, though there's nothing here that should surprise anyone who is familiar with the XCOM series.

1 March 2015 — Operation First Vanguard — Los Angeles, USA

First mission with the new squad, though I'm still in shock from my final one with Delta. Wilson, Lebedev, Matusumoto, and I had been training together for months. They were all better soldiers than me, but somehow I was the only one to survive.

Now I'm with a bunch of rookies. Two American women—a chatty one named Payne and a bull-faced brute named Smith—as well as a Russian medic named Golubev. They didn't stop talking the whole flight about how many "greys" they were going to kill. Well, this was my chance to get some payback for what happened in Germany, and I wasn't going to let a bunch of gossiping rookies get in the way.

The mission went pretty much like clockwork. Smith didn't keep her head down and caught a pretty nasty wound for it, but other than that we took out the hostiles without too much trouble. Before we knew it, the last two aliens were holed up in a small warehouse. Knowing first-hand what these things are capable of, I took the whole place down with my rocket launcher. Problem solved.

5 March 2015 — Operation Secret Gaze — Osaka, Japan

Feeling good about the success of our last mission, command sent us to extract a high-value asset trapped in Osaka. With Smith still laid up, they added a Mexican named Garza to our squad. She's a stone-cold bitch, but an unbelievable shot with a sniper rifle.

We contacted the VIP without too much trouble, but on the way back to the ship we encountered some new type of alien—the "Thin Man". At first they look sort of human, but once they move, you can tell they're anything but. Seeing those freaky bastards with their dead lizard eyes must have rattled me, because I got flanked and took some heavy fire. We got out of there alive, but now I've got 8 days in the med bay to think about my mistake.

15 March 2015 — Operation Patient Justice — Undisclosed Location, USA

One of our interceptors finally took down a UFO! They sent us in to the crash site to clean up and secure some of the alien tech. Just when I was getting used to "Sectoids" and "Thin Men", we ran into a new kind of alien, some kind of being made of crystal and energy. Well, Garza showed us that energy or not, a headshot kills it just as dead as anything else. Actually, maybe deader, since there wasn't much left of the thing afterwards.

I guess I've been doing a good job leading the squad, because after the mission the Commander promoted me to Sergeant. The guys have started calling me "Nova"... I assume because of my explosive personality, or maybe just my temper.

21 March 2015 — Operation Crystal Giant — Bangalore, India

We got sent out to check out reports of an alien bomb in the Bangalore subway. This time the brass said they want us to snag one of the aliens alive. They gave us something the lab cooked up to stun them called an "Arc Thrower", but it only works at close range.

Well, we tried getting close enough to use the damn thing, but it wasn't easy since we were also trying to disable enough power sources to keep the alien bomb from nuking the place. We ended up having to shoot to kill, and got ourselves pretty shot up in the process.

Command was not happy about our failure to bring back a live specimen for interrogation. They made it very clear it was a top priority for our next mission.

28 March 2015 — Operation Empty Hammer — Port Said, Egypt

Another report of alien abductions... this time in a cemetery, of all places. The squad was still beat up from the last mission, so we took a rookie with us, a huge Brazilian dude named Guzman.

I thought I had things under control, but then Golubev (we've been calling him "Doc") got separated from us and ended up trapped in a room with three hostiles closing in. Knowing he was probably done for, he rushed one and zapped it with the Arc Thrower. Then, just before the others got to him, Garza dropped one with an amazing headshot, while Guzman took out the other through a window.

We've started calling Garza "Demon", because if she so much as looks at something, it's dead.

4 April 2015 — Operation Lone Savior — Undisclosed Location, USA

Fucking brass. We brought back a live grey for them, so what did they want next? For us to do the same with one of those goddamn "energy beings".

Well, this was supposed to be a routine crash recovery mission, but it all went to hell. We had the energy being locked down, but when Payne rushed in to take it out, it had its plasma rifle ready. Seeing Payne hit the ground with half her head melted off, I said a big "fuck you" to command and shoved a rocket up that thing's ass, or wherever it is you shove things in a being made of goddamn crystals and energy.

8 April 2015 — Operation Cold Mist — Sapporo, Japan

Another alien abduction. I think the squad is still pretty shook up about Payne. We've got two new recruits, VanDyke and Konig, but no one has paid much attention to them, including me.

We ran into some new aliens again—crazy rocket-powered things we called "Floaters". They move so fast, they even got to Garza in the rear guard. She was bleeding out, and there was no way I could get to her, but I wasn't going to lose another soldier. So, I rushed in like a maniac and mowed down the last two. I took heavy fire, but it was worth it... we got her out of there just in time.

19 April 2015 — Operation Cold Gaze — Melbourne, Austrailia

We must have pissed off the bugs, because they launched an all-out terror attack on Melbourne. We were too late for the initial strike, but we dropped in to try to rescue some of the remaining civilians.

We encountered another new alien, some sort of giant four-legged metal bug that turns people into zombies. No shit... actual zombies. Well, they were in for a surprise, because after a childhood full of video games, I'm pretty damn good at killing zombies. Not only did we take out all of the remaining hostiles, we also managed to save all but 3 of the 18 survivors in the drop zone.

20 April 2015 — Operation Banished Spark — Alexandria, Egypt

Who makes up the stupid code names for these operations?

We were still riding high after kicking ass in Melbourne yesterday, when command sent us in to counter yet another alien abduction. I think we'd be a lot better off if we could get these fuckers before they touch down.

I think VanDyke had something to prove after sitting the bench during yesterday's mission, because she went out there guns blazing. In fact, she got a little too out-of-control, because once she started taking some heavy fire, she started to lose it.

The squad was able to keep it together though, and we brought everyone back alive. I even got promoted to Major. I'm really starting to believe that we can win this thing, and send these bug-eyed monsters back to wherever they came from.

6 May 2015 — Operation Broken Bell — Bangalore, India

Things were quiet for a while, but then they sent us in to deal with another alien abduction. It seemed like a routine mission, so I brought along VanDyke and a rookie named Gusev. But instead of Sectoids or Thin Men, we ran into a totally new kind of alien—these giant, hulking green monsters that you could unload an entire clip on, and they still wouldn't go down.

It was a massacre. We thought we had them pinned down, but then one of the brutes threw some sort of alien grenade. It killed Doc instantly, and messed up VanDyke real bad. Guzev totally lost it and ran off in the opposite direction of the ship, shooting wildly and screaming.

I didn't want to leave Guzev behind, but with VanDyke and Garza both in rough shape and those green monsters closing in, I had to abort the mission. A small, dark part of me hoped that Guzev was already dead, so that we weren't really abandoning him... but then I swear I heard him yelling as we took off.

Maybe this war is going to be a lot worse I thought.

Posted by KimChi4U

Fun read.

I don't think I'd be able to pull off a diary of a soldier with my crew. The diary of Captain Traffic Cone just wouldn't have the same impact, I think.

Posted by Apocralyptic

@KimChi4U: Thanks! One thing I always loved about the original XCOM was how much of the story arose organically from the gameplay, with these little randomly-generated, pixellated little soldiers developing real personalities in my mind. So far, Firaxis has seemed to capture that same feeling I had for the original. I was surprised how little I "made up" to write this... most of it seemed to come right out of the gameplay.

Posted by RollingZeppelin

6 May 2015 — Operation Broken Bell — Bangalore, India

Things were quiet for a while, but then they sent us in to deal with another alien abduction. It seemed like a routine mission, so I brought along VanDyke and a rookie named Gusev. But instead of Sectoids or Thin Men, we ran into a totally new kind of alien—these giant, hulking green monsters that you could unload an entire clip on, and they still wouldn't go down.

It was a massacre. We thought we had them pinned down, but then one of the brutes threw some sort of alien grenade. It killed Doc instantly, and messed up VanDyke real bad. Guzev totally lost it and ran off in the opposite direction of the ship, shooting wildly and screaming.

I didn't want to leave Guzev behind, but with VanDyke and Garza both in rough shape and those green monsters closing in, I had to abort the mission. A small, dark part of me hoped that Guzev was already dead, so that we weren't really abandoning him... but then I swear I heard him yelling as we took off.

Maybe this war is going to be a lot worse I thought.

This happened to me on my last mission too! One of my rookies died which caused a second rookie and Jason Segel to freak out. There were still 3 mutons left and a bunch of floaters and I wasn't about to take them on with only Lieutenant Phillip J. Fry and Captain Doctor John Zoidberg! So I high-tailed it out of there, I had to abandon Jason Segel noooooooo! Now I have 4 countries with a level 4 panic rating and a bunch at level three for losing that one. I knew I shouldn't have tried a very difficult rated mission without the full strength of my soldiers.

Posted by Apocralyptic

@RollingZeppelin: Great squad names :) I hope Captain Turanga Leela is kicking ass.

After the missions I wrote about, I ended up in some serious trouble with international panic levels. Here's what worked for me:

Taking out an alien base is awesome for lowering panic levels a ton everywhere, but you need to capture one of those energy beings alive to find one.
Edited by RollingZeppelin

@Apocralyptic: Cool! Thanks for the advice. I've found an alien base but haven't raided it yet, it seems really daunting! Unfortunately Sargent Turanga Leela bit the dust in an earlier mission, but my top men were able to clone her (i.e. kidnap another woman and perform plastic surgery). And Tarunga Leela Mk II is doing quite well now. The biggest death that has hit me so far is when Sargent Bender B. Rodriguez was murdered point blank by a hiding muton on overwatch. I think I stared at his lifeless body for a good minute, that was devastating. I blew up half of the downed UFO with rockets in blind rage-fueled revenge! I think I will wait on reviving him and plant his neural networks in a SHIV when I get one. That way he can actually be a robot. Does anyone know if you can name your SHIV?

Posted by KoolAid

I'd love to write a dairy entry on my assault on an alien base.

If only someone made it back alive...

Posted by Apocralyptic

@RollingZeppelin: @KoolAid: I didn't find the alien base to be particularly tough (playing on normal), but it was mainly because (1) there were no mutons, and (2) I had finally researched a few plasma weapons. I even brought back the alien commander alive. (Though I think it was mostly because of a glitch; he took over one of my soldiers, but then they both just sat there for the next three turns without doing anything.)

I've been using pretty much the same strategy as I did in the original XCOM of skipping the R&D for the human tech (e.g. laser rifles) and racing to get the plasma weapons ASAP, especially since you can get them from enemies.

Posted by Commisar123

I'm very much making my own story in this game too, though my casualty rates are much higher than yours. My highest ranking soldier, Captain Bonnie Wilson, got nicknamed Emo and I like to think it's because she's got survivors guilt from making it through so many missions when so many others died.

Posted by KoolAid

@Apocralyptic:

I aced most of the mission and beat the enemy commander... But then I had to double back to take out some Chryssalids. I made the mistake of thinking if I hit them hard they would scatter.

This was a mistake.

It all fell apart.

It was all my fault.

Posted by Apocralyptic

@Commisar123: I'm actually surprised more of my squad didn't die given some of the decisions I made. I think one thing that helped was that I ended up researching the nanofiber vest item pretty early, and after that point no one carried anything else as their item unless they had an Arc Thrower. (And those were the only soldiers I lost early on.)

I think I spent too much on research and buying equipment early on though, because right now I'm really struggling with getting enough money, power, and engineers to get more satellites up.

Posted by ElCapitan

My XCOM Soldier Diary would be like two or three missions long, tops. Only ever had one guy survive > 3.

Posted by Forderz

@ElCapitan: Man you must be getting fucked without officer training, if you can't get a sergeant up, let alone a major.

Posted by ElCapitan

Yeah, I think my highest was a Corporal, so I could up to 5-man squad, but I couldn't get much higher than that without getting iced. Classic Ironman is tough, but I don't want to play any other way!