The Lost Diaries of ‘Big Banks’

2016-02-20_00006For fun and public humiliation, I decided to try X-Com 2 on Commander difficulty, in Ironman mode. For those not in the know, that means the game is harder, and you can never reload. Every mistake is permanant. Along the way I’ll customise and populate my team with friends and requests. (Yes I know RPS are already doing this, but I’m having fun dammit.) Lets go!

It’s go time. The resistance starts today.

For our first mission, it’s just me and three other rookies. It seems that the war has been kind to my physique, and I’m now in the peak of fitness. Still going bald though.

We’re making a statement: blowing up an Advent statue. Big and public. Rattle some cages.

After a masterful ambush, we wipe out the first squad of soldiers without them getting off a single shot. I keep myself on the rooftops, providing covering fire, and keeping myself safe.

Fuck. Every shot is terrifying. We’re still green, and every shot has a significant chance of missing. Our armour is only a small step up from jeans and a t-shirt, so there’s a very real chance that each shot could leave us near death, or kill us outright.

I come under heavy fire – perhaps they sense my fear for my digital avatar. Miss. Miss. And miss. Jesus, I’m already sweating. We return fire and blow half their squad away. But I know I can’t rest easy. There are thousands of them, these nameless, faceless foes. But only one of me.

A bold move leaves my soldier exposed, but lets her wipe out the last enemy around. A quick dash to plant the explosives, and Operation Gatekeeper is a flawless success.

Oh god. What have I started?

*

Deep breaths.

We’re up and running. Already we’re scouting out resources, but more importantly we need personnel. We have no scientists, and no engineers. Without them, we’ll fall even further behind the aliens technology than we already are.

An opportunity rises – destroy an alien beacon that’s broadcasting a message, and the person at risk (beside all of us, as an entire race) will join us. I kit out my squad, now customised to people I know. They don’t get nicknames yet. Hopefully they’ll survive long enough to earn them.

I wonder if I should really be in command. Already I’ve shown profound selfishness in my own survival. Maybe this will change now I’m down there with my digital friends. Laurence, Caroline, Nate and Ciaran. I pray we will survive.

*

Before we fly in, we earn our first promotions. I become a sniper, which is fitting. Nate is now a specialist – our drone-flying handyman. Ciaran is a ranger, armed with a shotgun and machete. This game seems to know what’s what, since in my only real-life meeting with Ciaran, in the game we played he proved to be a shamelessly corrupt militant leader, turning the poorest African nation into a third world powerhouse of belligerent might.

But perhaps most worryingly, Caroline becomes our grenadier: wielding not only a grenade launcher, but also a bloody great minigun. This too is eerily fitting, though really really really doesn’t bode well.

*

Operation Magic Tears. I might have to have a word with Central about his operation naming skills.

FUCK. Goddammit Ciaran! A reckless first move scares a civilian and blows our cover, utterly ruining our opening moves. Why the hell did I put this guy on our squad?

Contact. And with a Sectoid too – wow, those fuckers have grown in the last 20 years. Ciaran redeems himself, running headlong in and blowing away the Sectoid in a single shot.

Perhaps unsurpisingly, myself and Caroline aren’t too accurate with our newly equipped giant effing guns and we both miss, leaving a lone soldier to badly wound Ciaran. He’s still breathing, it’s okay. Wow. Ciaran is none the worse for being filled with bullets, and swiftly chops the soldier in half. This guy is a fucking psycho.

Holy hell, all my friends are psychopaths. Caroline seems to have a deep vein of belligerence, and the sight of her mowing down enemies with that huge dick-extension of a minigun is more than a little terrifying. Still, that’s two squads down. Let’s go hunting for the others.

Ahahahahahahaha, shooting someone in the head through three solid walls is more than a little satisfying. Well done me.

Some more suicidal belligerence from Caroline and Ciaran proves to be the key to victory – as Caroline blows a room, a sectoid and the beacon apart with a single grenade, and Ciaran runs in swinging his machete with unhealthy glee and cleans up. Fist bumps all round, the engineer is on board.

In the aftermath of Operation Magic Tears (seriously Central, magic tears?) Ciaran earns a promotion, and a lengthy bedstay. Beneath the bravado and bullets, he’s been shaken. I don’t blame him. Nate too earns a promotion, and becomes our resident field-medic, programming his Gremlin drone to heal us on the go.

*

Operation Steel Storm (having a word seems to have worked). Ciaran is still out of action, so we’re jetting in with a rookie, Yoshido. This is a target of opportunity as we fly in for a personel smash-and-grab, hoping to get ourselves another scientist on board.

Without Ciaran, our sneaking is substantially more successful. A handy building give me the high ground to fire off an opening shot that nearly kills a sectoid, all we need is Yoshido to follow it up and it’s the perfect opener.

Goddammit Yoshido. Learn to aim your gun. It’s okay, Caroline grenades the shit out of them. She’s worryingly free with that thing.

Nate needs to work on his hacking. A bad hack puts us in hot water, alerting every squad on the map to our location. Don’t worry though, I’ve got it covered. Staying out of harms way with a ridiculously big rifle and picking off strays is apparently my natural talent.

Jesus christ. No one should ever give Caroline a minigun, she is distressingly good with it, especially at picking off those who try and make a break from cover. She is the overwatch queen to my cowardly sniping king.

Nate redeems himself with an excellent drone hack on a van door, which also gives us some money. I’m not entirely sure how he works that, but I’m okay with it!

Yoshido fucks up again, inadvertently spotting a Sectoid that promptly blindsides us and panicks me. Shit. Not only am I panicking and shooting my pistol like a moron, but in my state I’m also running away from the evac point. I’m blaming Yoshido.

A lapse in concentration (possibly linked to me tabbing out to write this) leads to Caroline catching bullets as she runs to cover. She’s not dead, but she’s not looking good. A quick Gremlin heal puts her back on her feet, just in time for that Sectoid to start raising the dead.

Wait…WHAT?! Run run run run run run run run. We get the VIP out, and Caroline too. Me, Nate and Yoshido are stuck for another round.

Yoshido is down. The first real casualty. It’s going bad.

Oh fuck you. I am a fucking aggro-magnet, and that Sectoid just wants to panick the shit out of me. I run out and catch a blast to the side like a fucking idiot, and Nate gets puched by a dead guy. Fuck you Yoshido and your bloody eyesight.

Nate is gone. Surrounded by five enemies, he made a break for it. No luck. Yoshido won’t be getting a toast – the stupid fuck – but Nate is a loss I really feel.

Oh. And we lose his medkit too. When I get out of the hospital I may well wipe Yoshido off the wall of honour.

We leave victorious, but with two dead, two wounded, and I am shaken.

*

With half the squad out of commission, then next mission goes bad, fast. Caroline is the only non-rookie around, and the enemy knows it. A critical stun leaves her bleeding out, with no way to save her. The rest of the squad falls to pieces.

I don’t know if I have the strength to keep playing. I don’t want to watch my friends die.

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