The Let's Play Archive

X-Com: Enemy Within

by Jade Star

Part 6: Operation Soaring Thorn

Operation Soaring Thorn

After four missions in 9 days we catch a little break. Two and half weeks go by with out further incidents, giving me time to research weapon fragments and build a scope. Also researched was Xeno Biology, but that has no practical impact for right now and will be saved for the next base management post. Given the extended down time both White and Sprahl have healed up and are ready for the next mission. This gives us a strong balanced four man squad to work with.


There isn't really any new ground to talk about during the mission. Sectoids don't offer many new tricks once you see a mind merge. Guava and I do banter over our differing approaches to the situations presented, with Guava's more aggressive preferences versus my more defensive play style. The more in depth discussion comes after the mission.

Field Medic versus Smoke and Mirrors

This isn't even a choice. Maybe, maybe someone out of there can get more usage out of smoke grenades than out of medkits, but I have yet to meet that person. Tripling the number of Medkits a single support can bring is a huge, huge, benefit. It absolutely kills the dilemma of only having one medkit and having to choose between healing a wounded soldier, or hanging on to your one and only medkit in case someone gets critically wounded. The smoke grenades are never a particularly bad option, but at the expense of massively expanding your medkit capacity it just falls far too short.

Field Medic
+ Three times the medkits. Just huge. The benefits range from just having more HP you can heal back mid-mission, to having ample supplies to heal wounds and still have a reserve kit in case of a soldier getting critically wounded and bleeding out.
+ Saves inventory space in case you are spreading multiple medkits over the squad to carry more kits total.
- Useless if you never take damage.

Smoke and Mirrors
+ Two more smoke grenades can offer protection to your squad. They can make impromptu cover, or help multiple soldiers in low cover.
+ Added synergy with later promotion level, in which both skill choices only effect smoke grenades. More smoke grenades, the more benefit from this future choice.
- Never particularly useless, but dependent on having your support with nothing better to do than lob smoke two or three times a map.

Bullet Storm versus Holo-Targeting

Not even a close choice. Holo-Targeting sounds a lot stronger than it is, and seems to be a go to still for beginner players. The idea of giving yourself a +10 aim boost every round sounds great, but when you weigh out how situational that bonus will be useful Holo Targeting starts to fall apart. Bullet Storm on the other side of things allows for so much more. Shoot twice and do twice the damage. Shoot and reload. Shoot and grenade, shoot and use psi skills, shoot and then move. So many possibilities!

Bullet Swarm
+ Shoot twice in a turn. That ought to be enough.
+ Heavies suffer from low ammo capacity at the start of the game and bullet swarm can help with this. Regularly a Heavy will fire three times over three turns and spend the fourth reloading. 3 attacks in 4 turns. A Bullet Swarm Heavy will fire twice the first turn, once the second turn and then reload. 3 attacks in 2 turns. Bullet Swarm greatly enhances the damage dealing capabilities of an early game Heavy.
+ Adds a lot of flexibility to what you can do on your turn with a heavy. Shoot/Grenade, Shoot/Grenade, Shoot/Psi, etc.
+ To get the most out of Bullet Swarm your heavy must be stationary, this works well with preparing your heavy to in place and stationary if you choose to fire a rocket.
- Not useful if you have to move first, then shoot.

+ Adds +10 aim to anything your heavy shoots at or suppresses, making it easier for following soldiers to hit the same target.
- Doesn't help if the Heavy shoots at something and kills it. Meaning most early game enemies if they score a hit.
- Doesn't help if you don't remember or are unable to use your heavy before the rest of your soldiers.
- Works with Suppression, but why are you shooting at something you've suppressed? Suppression is what you do at the end of your turn to deny the enemy a good shot on you during the aliens turn. Holo-Targeting wears off before you get to shoot again at the start of your next turn.
- Synergies with Danger Zone and Suppression, but as I just said, why are you suppressing at the start of your turn?

The conclusion that there are just way too many limitations on when Holo-Targeting will provide a benefit. On the other side of it Bullet Swarm can prove to be useful almost every time you take a turn with your heavy. A perhaps flawed way of doing the numbers could be that to imagine a Holo-Targeting heavy gives his squad +50% chance to hit, spread over 5 attacks. A Bullet Swarm heavy can just make another attack at 50% or greater odds. At the end of it Bullet Swarm is just more useful and allows for many more options and possibilities where Holo-Targeting actually restricts how you must operate in order to receive a benefit from the skill.

Snapshot versus Squad Sight

Not even a choice. Some people have tried to make a case for Snapshot, but this is one of the few times I am out right going to say that is a wrong choice. Squad Sight is so powerful that EW even nerfed Squad Sight and buffed Snapshot, and it still isn't even a close call.

+ Allows you to move and shoot with a sniper rifle.
- At a -10 aim penalty.
+ Potentially allows for a more mobile sniper.
- Means your sniper has to be with in sight of the enemy. Meaning they can see your sniper and shoot back at them.
+ Works well with Battle Scanner.

Squad Sight
+ Allows you to shoot at any enemy any squad member can see.
+ Lets you keep your sniper safe and in the back field.
+ Works well with future skill choices, such as Damn Good Ground. Plant your sniper in an elevated location, get the bonuses from it, and don't move.
+ Works great with flying armor. Forget about things obstructing your line of sight, shoot over everything.
+ The overwatch 'feature' works great with Squad Sight.
- Reliant on clear, long lines of sight.
- No critical hits through Squad Sight, unless using the HeadShot skill.

The ability to plant your sniper somewhere that can cover a battlefield and let them shoot at any given target is amazing. Regular soldiers are limited by their sight range. A soldier might need help on one side of the map but help is on the other side too far away to shoot the threat. But a squad sight sniper can sit back and make that shot all day. They can effectively cover every ones back. Use Squad Sight snipers as a back up plan, the last action of your turn so that you know if you move a soldier up and they miss a shot then you have a sniper backing them up as plan B. With Snapshot all you have is another soldier with high aim, but that takes penalties if he wants to move and shoot on a turn like everyone else does not have the ability to shoot and cover the entire reveled battlefield like a Squad Sight sniper does.