The Let's Play Archive

X-Com: Enemy Within

by Jade Star

Part 13: Operation Falling Thorn

Operation Falling Thorn


Operation Sling Shot!

This is the first mission of the first DLC pack Operation Sling Shot, the first DLC released for XCOM. It is a three mission arc with some really great set pieces, nice maps, and the third mission has a high degree of difficulty, mostly do to a long map with high enemy count. The first map introduces us to Zhang, a Chinese triad whom somehow came into possession of an important aline artifact. How he got his hands on it or what it even is, is never explained.

Like Portent, the enemies encountered on this mission are scripted and can be planned for. Most of them are air dropped in based upon movement, while a couple are static spawns you will reveal like normal. The drop points on this map will differ depending on where you move, which is a change from Portent. There are paths that use high ground to the left and right of the main cemetery. Running through there will cause Thin Men to drop in different places. The main difficult of the mission is the same as Portent though, a fairly large number of Thin Men being air dropped on your troops with the potential to land in a flanking position combined with weapons powerful enough to one shot most of your troops.

New Enemy Type!

Mutons are back, and in a big way. They're bigger and meaner than ever. They start off with 10 HP and a natural +10 defense, making them tough to kill. Mutons sport Plasma Rifles, the bigger and more deadly brother to the Light Plasma Rifles we see Floaters and Thin Men carrying. If we're cautious of the LPRs killing a soldier in one hit, we can be sure a Muton will kill them in one hit for certain. Mutons also carry aliens grenades, dealing 5 damage to anything hit by it. The AI is usually very good on classic about grenading a player when multiple soldiers can be hit at a time. Lastly Mutons have a couple of abilities to use as well. Blood Call will buff all near by Mutons for a couple of turns, but is largely a forgettable skill. Mutons also have a reactive skill called Intimidate. When shoot at and hit, a Muton will let out a war cry in an attempt to intimidate the soldier that shot it. This forces a very low threshold willpower check, and is also largely a forgettable skill, but every now and then a low skilled solder or rookie might just panic because of it and throw a wrench into any of your plans.

Rapid Fire vs. Flush

Rapid fire is the clear winner. This is the most one sided choice in the game. Flush is so terrible that it hasn't even fooled people into thinking it might be good like Snap Shot has. Rapid Fire allows for two shots in one action, at a -15% aim penalty. The penalty to each shot isn't enough to discourage constant and continual use of Rapid Fire. Math proving that in the link below. All Flush does is force an enemy out of cover and take a short move into some other cover. They don't stand out in the open like you might hope. Its use is almost nonexistent, and what little value it has is so totally overshadowed by Rapid Fire that no one should ever consider flush for a moment.

Rapid Fire
+ Big addition to the killing power of any assault.
+ Use it every turn.
+ Seriously, almost zero situations to not ever use it.

+ Forces a enemy out of a particular piece of cover.
- They then move to a different piece of cover.
- Doesn't deal full damage.

Rapid Fire. Always. End of discussion. But if you want some facts behind it, this blog post details the mathematics behind Rapid Fire and why you should be using it almost every single shot you get.

Executioner vs. Opportunist

Executioner is one of those skills that sounds nifty, but is just so overshadowed by the other choice to pick that no one should ever think of it. +10 Aim to half health units sounds great but when you count how specific it is, how many times are you going to be shooting at a less than half HP enemy with your sniper, that its perceived use falls away. Early game enemies go from full to dead in one good hit. While late game enemies offer some window of opportunity for it, it requires set up to see any use. Opportunist on the other hand is useful every single turn you don't actively shoot at an alien. It removes the aim penalty to over watch shots and allows over watch shots to score critical hits. It used to be better when you could crit through Squadsight, but it still offers way more value than Executioner.

+ Slight boost to securing kills on wounded targets.
- Requires enemy to be under half HP.
- Requires set up and/or remembering to leave wounded targets for the sniper.

+ Big boost to effectiveness of sniper overwatch shots.
+ Even more valuable skill with the snipers overwatch 'feature'.
- No use if not on overwatch.

The answer is always Opportunist. It just does way more for the team than Executioner. +10 aim is nice, and I love my aim on snipers, but it's far to situational to bypass Opportunist and its effective +20 (or +40 on a dashing enemy) bonus. For me, any round a sniper isn't shooting at something then its on overwatch, and that means I get a lot of usage out of Opportunist.

HEAT Ammo vs. Rapid Reaction

HEAT Ammo gives a straight +50% damage to mechanized enemies, while Rapid Reaction allows a second overwatch shot for the heavy if the first shot is a hit. With heavies that is a big if. Heavies are the least accurate guys around to being with, plus the penalties to reaction fire on top of that means you usually wont get a lot out of Rapid Reaction. On the other side, mechanized enemies become more common later in the game and they have a lot of HP so anything to wear them down faster is a great help.

+ Extra damage is always good, especially on high HP targets that are also very dangerous.
+ Affects rockets as well.
- Only good versus mechanized units.

Rapid Reaction
+ Extra free shot on overwatch
- Only activates if overwatch shot was a hit.
- Heavies aren't your most accurate troops, added reaction fire penalties make activation chance of Rapid Reaction dubious.
- Even if first shot is a hit then Rapid Reaction is still only useful if the target doesn't die from the hit. Or if a second alien offers an opportunity for a second shot.

It just isn't a close call at all. HEAT Ammo is a 100% thing versus a fair good number of enemy units, and those units are usually the more dangerous ones with tons of HP. Rapid Reaction relies on heavies being useful on overwatch, and while nice in theory and it is in no way an equal value for HEAT Ammo. Rapid Reaction is sort of a poor mans version of Sentinel (Support skill), only it's worse because it is reliant on the first shot being a hit and heavies have the lowest base accuracy of the classes.