The Let's Play Archive

X-Com: Enemy Within

by Jade Star

Part 17: Operation Spectral Giant

Operation Spectral Giant

The start of a new month brings the promise of a lot of new tech, a lot of new toys, and increased power in dealing with the aliens across the board. This all of course takes a bit of time to get running and the game throws me a mission just inside the first week of the month.


I'm not going to go into a big discussion about this mission in this post because it's a very special mission and I don't want anyone reading any spoilers until they watch the video. This mission is a piece of stand alone new content for Enemy Within and I think it's a great mission. I think it would have been amazing if there were more unique touches like this. Replace the generic council missions with a random bag of totally unique ideas like this mission.

Lot of skill choices to talk about this video though, so lets get to them.

Close Combat Specialist vs Bring 'Em On

Close Combat Specialist, herefor typed as CCS, grants a free reaction shot to any enemy target that moves within 4 tiles of the assault. Bring 'Em On adds 1 point of damage for every enemy the squad can see to any critical hit by the assault. The choice here is between two events that will only happen on occasion, a critical hit, or an enemy moving too close to an assault. One of them is more likely to happen, but receives the smaller benefit.

Close Combat Specialist
+ Free reaction shot. More shots on target is always good.
+ A great defense mechanism to melee enemies.
- Only activates at a very short range. Somewhat sparse usage of the skill.

Bring 'Em On
+ Adds damage to any critical hit scored.
+/- Requires a crit, depending on the circumstances and previous skill choices this could be a low occurrence or fairly high occurring thing.
- Damage bonus is minimal. Can be as low as 1 damage. Not significant enough for me to rely on it or expect it to impact planning.

CCS is less likely to activate compared to Bring 'Em On, but when it does it is much more likely to make an impact. It's also a 100% activate chance that can be planned around. If you're expecting melee enemies you can place the assault up front and plan accordingly, gaining a free attack to soften up or outright skill an alien trying to get into melee with you. The use of this skill versus Chrysallids for example is vast. Bring 'Em On in comparison seems like a minor occasional damage boost. When it would provide +5 damage, it sounds really nice. When it's only going to offer +1 or +2 it seems forgettable. It also requires critical hits, which mean this skill is heavily reliant on other synergy skills like Aggression or later Killer Instinct. Or second wave option Absolutely Critical. Over all I would have to say the utility and value of CCS far exceeds that of Bring 'Em On and I would pick CCS on every assault every time.

Grenadier vs Danger Zone

Both choices are designed to enhance equipment the Heavy carries into combat. With the least aim it's not hard to find yourself putting grenades on your heavy instead of things like scopes and using them more as a fire support unit than a shooter themselves. Grenades can be effective too, striking multiple targets, blowing up cover, and never missing. Grenades are pretty great and Grenadier lets you carry two per slot, and the damage dealing types will deal additional damage. Danger Zone on the other hand makes the abilities of the Heavy hit a wider zone. Rockets will make bigger explosions and suppression will effect a small area instead of just a single target. Suppressing three aliens at once is pretty cool.

+ Increased item carry capacity.
+ Allows frag grenades to one shot Floaters and Thin Men.
+ More usage out of the new special types of grenades.

Danger Zone
+ Bigger rocket explosions means more kills per rocket.
+ Suppression can affect multiple aliens next to each other.
+ It's called Danger Zone.
- Still a 10% chance that rocket with an improved blast radius goes somewhere other than you aimed it.

Neither of these choices are bad. Both upgrade something your heavy is already likely to be doing. If they carry grenades, well now it carries more. If you like rockets a lot, well now your rockets are even bigger. There isn't even really a down side to either skill choice. It just comes down to which you think you will get the most mileage out of. Nine out of ten times though, I find that is going to be Danger Zone. The buff to rockets mean they can hit an absolutely enormous blast range and I find that to be much more valuable than having a spare grenade on hand. The damage buff is nice, but by the time you pick this skill you shouldn't be worrying over grenading Thin Men or Floaters. The usefulness of Grenadier might be better for someone who fancies the new EW grenades, like ghost grenades for example.

Dense Smoke vs Combat Drugs

Either way you pick, this promotion is about buffing smoke grenades. It also means that this level is kind of an unimportant choice if you picked Smoke & Mirrors. And who would do that? Still, Dense Smoke makes the smoke grenade cover a wider area and doubles the cover bonus from the smoke. It is nice, turning the smallish utility of the smoke grenade into a huge cloud of free high cover for your troops. Combat Drugs tries to add an offensive component to the smoke grenade with additional critical chance. It just seems really strange and out of place to me. The purpose of smoke is to cover your guys up and not get hit, adding willpower and critical chance to the smoke just doesn't seem to add any value to it.

Dense Smoke
+ Covers more soldiers and protects them better.

Combat Drugs
+ Protection and Willpower boost.

To me, the only answer is Dense Smoke. Smoke Grenades are there to protect your guys so they don't get shot. Only one of these options helps the smoke grenade do that. Throwing Willpower and critical chance on the smoke is nice, I guess, but it doesn't help the smoke grenade do it's job any better. Some people have used the Willpower bonus to help with psioincs, which I suppose is a legitimate tactic but that seems like going really, really far out of the way for a minor boost to Willpower mid-mission. The choice is Dense Smoke, every time.

MEC Skill choices!

I didn't write anything up after we chopped Tiny up, so I'll give the run down on his skill choices so far.

Advanced Fire Control vs Automated Threat Assessment

Both of these buff overwatch. One aims for offense and the other for defense. It's an interesting choice, and normally I'd lean defensively, but with it effecting overwatch I feel differently. Overwatch is for shooting thing. That's why you go on overwatch. Advanced Fire Control let's you shoot things on overwatch better, Automated Threat Assessment doesn't. ATA provides defense, which is nice, but if you were that worried about being shot after ending your turn you would be better off moving somewhere safer rather than ending your turn standing where you are and overwatching.

Advanced Fire Control
+ Ignores normal penalties for overwatch shots.
+ More lethal over watch means less things to shoot at you.

Automated Threat Assessment
+ 15 defense while on overwatch. Adds survivability.
- Ineffective if not shot at while on overwatch. If alien shoots someone else, if alien dies to overwatch shot hitting them first, etc.

It seems like a tough decision at first, but the more you think it through the less appealing Automated Threat Assessment becomes. Overwatch is for shooting things before they can shoot you. Taking away the aim penalties for overwatch really helps with that. Putting a little defense on your MEC that can not take cover is a nice thing, but if you're really concerned with your MEC being shot you had an action to move it somewhere safer rather than overwatch with it. Either skill would be nice, but the usage and value of Automated Threat Assessment falls short of the value in Advanced Fire Control. I'd rather my overwatch be better at killing things, its intended purpose, than to be a mixed bag of two different effects.

Vital Point Targeting vs Damage Control

Another offense vs defense choice to make. Vital Point Targeting adds 2 damage to any shot made against an alien you have autopsied. Damage Control reduces further incoming damage by two points for two turns after being hit by an attack. Both of these seem situational, but in reality you will always, sooner or later, have the autopsies done. That makes Vital Point Targeting more of a straight +2 damage boost instead of being a sometimes boost.

Vital Point Targeting
+ Straight forward +2 damage boost for the Mec.
- Relies on autopsies. Is such a minor requirement for the bonus.

Damage Control
+ Added survivability to the MEC
- Requires not only getting hit once, but getting hit again after that, within two turns to see any effect from the skill.

I don't favor Damage Control at all honestly. It requires a MEC to be taking a beating and being shot multiple times in a small time frame. If that is happening I think more things have gone wrong with the situation than a skill choice is going to overcome. However, on the off chance someone puts together an Assault MEC then maybe Damage Control plus the Assault MEC innate bonus might work well together to make a MEC that shrugs off significant amounts of damage. I have never tried this and probably never will, but I think that would be the only time I would consider Damage Control. The straight across the board added damage of Vital Point Targeting makes MECs absolute killers. They carry high damage weapons to begin with and adding two more points mean they will outright kill or seriously wound anything they hit, even late game when they are fully upgraded.

Jetboot Module vs One For All

A choice of mobility. Jetboot Module will let your MEC have unlimited jump height for one turn, and One For All will take away all mobility to turn your MEC into high cover for your other soldiers to use. Bother are interesting choices but One For All has some flaws.

Jetboot Module
+ Increased mobility.
+ Combines well with speed boost from Kinetic Strike.
+ Pretty much the only way to get a MEC on to roofs or other high ground locations.
- Not active every turn. Has a cooldown time.

One For All
+ Provides cover for soldiers.
- MEC can still be shot.
- Can not use arm mounted weapons while in cover mode.

The winner here is the Jetboot Module. One of the best things about MECs is their mobility. Because they can't take cover they need to be able to position themselves well to stay alive and deal damage. Being able to jump them onto buildings and other high elevation areas just gives them such an advantage. One For All falls short, it seems like a good idea in principle, but I think limiting the MEC from using its main weapon or flame thrower while in cover mode killed the deal for me. I'd like the idea of being able to set up a piece of high cover where ever I like on occasion, as there are times where all the cover has been exploded or is low cover you don't like, but because the MEC is then still a target with HP and no sort of damage mitigation while being a piece of cover and can't sue its main weapon even seems far too limiting to be worth passing up on the Jetboot.