The Let's Play Archive

X-Com: Enemy Within

by Jade Star

Part 8: Operation Final Grave

Operation Final Grave

Five days after the monthly report we get the next mission. The only thing that has changed since then and now is the development of Nano-Fiber vests. They provide a soldier with +2 armor and take up an inventory slot. Given that I am using Kevlar armor which is only +1 I have to ask why can't we replace the Kevlar with this Nano-Fiber stuff, thus not using up our precious accessory inventory slot.


First off, do not follow me at @SAJadeStar as Guava says. That twitter account was made solely to tweet at Jake Solomon. And maybe submit a #hashtagwars idea to @midnight. Do follow @Guavamoment and bug the ever living shit out of him. Now then, on to more important things.

Portent, Don't Try This At Home

There are a few missions where the enemy placement is the same every time. Portent/Final Grave is one of them. It usually comes up early in the second month and if you've been taking injuries or fatalities then it can be very very difficult with out some moderately ranked up soldiers. It features 12 Thin Men and 1 Sectoid, all of which come pre-placed and be planned for once you've run the mission a few times and learn and remember where the enemies will be and where they will air drop in from. Because of this my play style for this map is wildly different than normal and is not to ever serve as an example for how to play through any mission other than this one. Only, and ONLY, because I know the enemy count and where they are do I do things like dash all four soldiers forward into the map, leave people out of cover, or split my team up in bizarrely spread out formations. Do not do any of these things on any other map.

For comparisons sake, I think the hardest mission to date before Portent was something like 6 sectoids and 4 thin men. This mission has 12 thin men and 1 sectoid. That's a massive bump up in early game difficulty. This is only slightly mitigated by the thin men usually coming one at a time and a couple of pairs. That still doesn't do a lot to make the map easier when one good hit from a thin mans light plasma rifle will kill a 6 HP soldier, and you're unlikely to have carapace at this point. Also factor in the 12 chances to get a poison cloud spit at you which will drain your meager HP pools from each soldier and you start to get an idea of why this map can be brutal. One slip up and there is a good chance someone dies.

The best way to handle this map is to know where and when to expect the Tin Men and be ready for them. Never let them survive a turn longer than you have to. During my run I only got shot at once the entire mission and that was due to my own error of moving Tony White a bit too far up, and having forgotten about that one thin man. That's the best way to handle this. They can't kill you if you never let them take a turn.

As said in the video and even in the thread prior to this mission is the key fact that the Thin Men Paratrooper Brigade will wait until the VIP you are escorting reaches certain points. With this knowledge the best thing to do is to get in good positions with lots of over watch and then move the VIP up a little at a time. If something drops in kill it with out moving the VIP. Once the threat is dealt with move your soldiers up, reload ammo and get overwatch coverage and then move the VIP a little more. Repeat until you make it to the sky ranger.

Skill choice discussion time:

Tactical Sense vs Aggression

This is a straight out offense versus defense skill pick. +5 Defense fro every enemy you see (up to +20 defense) or +10 critical chance per enemy you see (up to +30%). My thoughts are that defense keeps people alive. No Assault that is dead have ever landed a critical hit. I'm willing to admit this isn't an entirely one sided choice, +5 defense isn't a lot, but every bit helps, and when you see 4 aliens then Tactical Sense provides as much defense as low cover does. If Aggression was +10 or even +5 Aim instead of critical chance then I think it would have been a much harder choice between the two.

Tactical Sense
+ Useful every time you get shot at.

+ Useful every time you shoot at something.

There isn't a whole lot to this skill choice. It's one of the very few plain and balanced options. For me it comes down to the fact I value 5 defense more than 10 critical chance. Players with more aggressive styles than me (Guava) may well want to choose Aggression to ensure the critical hit needed to kill a tougher enemy. My style is more defensive and I will favor the defense every time.

Gunslinger vs Damn Good Ground

This one could be another hot debate. Both offer useful bonuses, but to entirely different aspects of the sniper. Gunslinger lets you better operate a sniper in close quarters, and as I have said I think Gunslinger would be more preferable to Snapshot in close quarters. Gunslinger adds that little bit of extra flexibility to any sniper should they be forced out of a more comfortable position. Damn Good Ground bolsters what snipers do best and are meant to do, get to high ground and kill everything. The added defense bonus to the skill is nice, but largely irreverent. The added aim though is of course the prize for any sniper. Another +10 aim is always, always a welcomed addition to any soldier.

+ Make pistols less of a last resort and brings their damage up to respectable levels.
- Only affects pistols.
- Depending on play style and previous skill choice, snipers seeing enemies in pistol range may be exceedingly rare. Or are likely in events where the added damage isn't necessary to control the situation.

Damn Good Ground
+ Boosts a snipers ability to do what they should be doing normally.
+ Provides defensive bonus for snipers whom usually have less HP or lighter armor than the other soldiers.
- Requires suitable elevated position to be effective.
+ Getting to elevated ground becomes easier with development of skeleton armor.
+ Elevation restraint becomes completely irreverent after the production of flying armor.

I think the critical distinction when picking between these skills is the following question; 'Do you want a sniper that excels beyond all others at sniping, or do you want a sniper that isn't as good at sniping but is more flexible?' That is really the whole sum of the choice to me. Personally I will always want my snipers being the best they can be at sniping. The added flexibility of slightly more damage with a pistol does not have nearly the same value to me. That is my argument for the choice here, but some people will prefer the flexibility and that is a decision that comes down to play style.

Shredder Rocket vs Suppression

This is another choice of offense versus defense. The rocket is of course a straight forward means of attack with the add bonus of debuffing any surviving enemy to take more damage over the next four rounds. Suppression imposes a -30 aim penalty on a target, and if they attempt to move then the suppressor gets a free reaction shot on the target. Both of these skills are good, and importantly both of these skills have skills farther down the tree that will modify or influence the ability you choose at sergeant.

Shredder Rocket
+ Another rocket per map. Only 4 damage but enough to kill Sectoids, Floaters, and Thin Men.
+ Causes the enemy to take increased damage if they survive. This is very handy against later game enemies that can have 20+ HP.
+ Becomes more powerful with later skill choices like Danger Zone.
- Usual rocket restrictions. Move or Fire.
- One use per map.

+ Severely hinders one enemy unit, causing a -30 Aim penalty and grants an overwatch shot if the enemy tries to move first.
+ The AI doesn't always react well to suppression. Sometimes they will not move and do nothing if suppressed.
+ Is one way a heavy can be used to play defense. Suppression is a good way to keep an enemy from shooting one of your soldiers on the alien turn.
+ Becomes more powerful with later skills like Danger Zone and Mayhem. (And technically Holo-Targeting, but don't ever pick Holo-Targeting)
+ Can destroy the targets cover.
- Uses two units of ammo. Heavies only start with three, so this can be bothersome until the Ammo Conservation foundry upgrade.

Either of these are good choices. Again it's an offense versus defense choice and you will see me lean toward defense. Suppression keeps people alive, Shredder Rockets kill stuff. I can always kills stuff with regular gunfire, but you can never have enough insurance methods to keep your soldiers alive in my opinion.

Revive vs Rifle Suppression

A close call between two defensive abilities that protect your soldiers in very different ways. Revive will allow you to bring a soldier back into the fight after being critically wounded at 33% of their health. Suppression works the same way as the heavy's suppression, -30 to the targets aim and grants an overwatch shot if they move.

+ Brings a soldier back into the fight, so that you don't have to continue the mission short a man.
+ Massive safety net.
- Usage requires things to have gone really wrong.
- Soldiers being critically wounded versus being outright killed not a guarantee.
- Bringing a soldier back at 33% health is too low for safety. Would strongly recommend use of second medkit to keep soldier in fight, otherwise would have left them stabilized rather than revived.
- Pretty much requires Field Medic for above reasoning.

Rifle Suppression
+ Severely hinders one enemy unit, causing a -30 Aim penalty and grants an overwatch shot if the enemy tries to move first.
+ The AI doesn't always react well to suppression. Sometimes they will not move and do nothing if suppressed.
+ Can be a alternative to a Smoke Grenade.
- Uses two units of ammo.

Guava asked 'Why suppress something when you can shoot it and kill it?' when we came to this choice in the videos. That is an unfair question because there isn't a reason in that case. But that is making a lot of assumptions about the whole of every encounter your support will ever have in the future. Guava's question is assuming two things, first that you will hit the target, and second that if you do hit the target that you would deal enough damage to kill the target. Neither of these things are always going to be guaranteed. As an example, a full health muton will not die to a single hit from rifles or laser rifles. Imagine if I only have my support left at the end of the turn and I could shoot at the muton and wound it. I am guaranteed not to kill it and that leaves it free to do what ever it wants to do next turn unhindered. In this case the answer to 'Why suppress what you can shoot at?' is to prevent the enemy from hurting you during the next turn. A suppressed muton will be far less likely to shoot me, and will almost be guaranteed not to try to move forward and grenade me. I just wanted to clarify that bit about what Guava said as I didn't have the time for a full answer in the video.

Both of these choices are good. One is more regularly useable and a more reliable way to prevent your soldiers from being wounded. The other is the ultimate safety net in case the (almost) worst happens. Typically I will use two supports, or at least I always did before EW, and one would pick revive and one would pick rifle suppression. If you are only ever going to have one support at a time, then it becomes a tough choice. If you are more concerned with soldiers getting killed then I would recommend Revive. If you are perhaps more experienced or rarely face a situation with a downed soldier then pick Suppression.

Council Medal of Honor

We have a new medal! This is for uh... I presume the new EW story line missions. Let's rename it!

Also pick it's power. The one hand will give +1 Aim and Will for every mission completed with no soldier deaths. This medal will end up +10 Aim and Will quickly in my hands, so value its bonuses accordingly.
The other option is +10 Aim and +10 Crit chance if the soldier is not within 7 tiles of an allied unit.

My vote would be on the Aim and Willpower version. The other one is situational, and the two best examples I can think of using it would be Squadsight snipers, who could use the aim but don't get to crit through squadsight so it's a waste. The other would be assaults, run and gunning ahead of the team and they could put 10 aim and crit chance to use. The thing about that is that there are also lots of times when assaults are sticking together with the group and wouldn't get the benefit of it during those times. Since the difference in bonuses comes down to 10 Will vs 10 Crit chance with a situational condition I think the choice is pretty obvious. I also value 10 Will more than 10 Crit chance.

New nicknames

Tiny and Nittien both need new and better nicknames. Throw in your suggestions and let's see what sticks.

(also thanks for bolding all votes on medals and nicknames with out me telling you previously, it really helps me out)