X-Com Diary – First Contact

By: Tom Hatfield

Published: August 19, 2010 Posted in: Game Reports, Starting X-Com
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This is the second ‘guide heavy’ part of this X-Com diary. Last week I taught you how to use the world map and set up my base, this time I’m going to teach you how to take the fight to the alien scum. Though I’ll be explaining some of the more complex aspects of the game later, hopefully once you’ve read these two entries you should know everything you need to play X-Com yourself. When I left you last week we’d just spotted a UFO and were preparing to intercept it, but how do we do that? Well you might have noticed when you were tooling around the base view that we start with three aircraft in our base, two Interceptors and a Skyranger.

Interceptors – Are fighter aircraft, they engage airborne UFOs in combat. You can select their loadout from the craft section of the base screen. Both of our Interceptors start with a cannon and a set of stingray missiles, which are more than adequate for shooting down small and very small UFOs. When larger types turn up you’ll need to upgrade one of them to twin avalanche missiles, which have more range and power. Remember which is which though, because that kind of firepower will flat out destroy small craft, meaning you cannot earn any money from salvage (more on that later).

Skyrangers – Are troop transports. Each can carry fourteen soldiers (or, as I prefer, ten soldiers and one tank) and landing at a UFO site with one will take you to the battlescape (more on that later). Each main base should have one active transport, more than one really isn’t worth it. You can load the Skyranger in the same way as the Interceptors, but instead you load men and equipment for them to use. Please don’t forget to do this, because if you’ve been firing and hiring like we did earlier you might well show up to battle with five guys and two rifles.

NB: Researching Alien Alloys, Elerium, UFO Power Sources and UFO navigation will eventually allow you to construct new, better craft. However early on weapons and armour are more important, and you’ll eventually research these topics for other reasons anyway.

The UFO we spotted was in the air, so we’ll order out an interceptor to take care of it. How do we do that? Click on Intercept at the top right on the geoscape, then choose an interceptor, then click on the UFO, all very simple (for a change).

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Intercepting a UFO takes you to this screen. The little pictures correspond to how aggressively you wish to attack the UFO, closing to short range will enable short range weapons like cannons to bear and make it harder to escape, but also make you take more damage. Most early UFOs have short weapons range, so it’s highly advisable to sit back and fling missiles at them from out of range.

After doing so, we damage the UFO and force it to crash land. Some X-Com veterans like to shadow UFOs and get them when they’ve landed normally instead of shooting them down. A ‘live’ UFO yields more resources, but will also be defended by more aliens. Personally I try and keep the fights as easy as possible, I really hate to lose people.

Once the UFO is down you can order out the Skyranger using exactly the same system as the Interceptor, only instead of a fight screen you’ll be asked if you want to start the mission (if the UFO has already landed, skip Interceptor and go straight to here). Bear in mind the time, aliens can see in the dark and you can’t, whenever possible fight in the daytime.

That’s it, time to kill some aliens!

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Well not quite. First you go to the equipment screen. If you’re playing vanilla X-Com, expect to see this a lot, because there’s no way to save equipment loadouts. I’m told X-Com Util will do this for me. Which is nice.

This is the also the first time you’ll get to see what your agents look like, as I named all mine without knowing this, some of the GD writers are now female, some of them are black, all of them have terrible 90′s hair.

Here’s how I like to load my men up:

Scouts - Pistol, Smoke Grenade, Flare (if at night). Later on they will get laser pistols and motion sensors.

Soldiers – Rifle, Grenade. Later on they will get laser rifles, and maybe some medkits.

Snipers – Rifle, Ammo. Later on a Laser Rifle.

Heavy – Rocket Launcher, Rockets, Pistol. This is why they needed to be strong, the pistol is kept on the belt as a backup.

NB: Holding a weapon in your other hand if you have a two handed weapon will make you less accurate, don’t do it.

Right, now we’ll actually start.

Tom Hatfield