Part 3: Operation Zen's Testicles
Operation Zen's Testicles
The first mission with a real squad! They might all be squaddies but at least we have every soldier with a class on the field and not a batch of rookies. Time to actually start feeling out the differences in our soldier types on this mission. I think I'll hold off on in depth class analysis until we rank up our troops a little farther so that the differences become more pronounced and important. All in all this mission does a good job of showing some of the unexpected things that can happen and how to roll with them when things don't go your way. So let's talk about some of those things instead!
Enemies retreat! That was a surprise here, that first sectoid saw three ADVENT soldiers get gunned down in short order and just bugged out. If you kill all but a single alien sometimes that enemy will flee, running off into the shroud to find another alien pod to attach itself too. Thankfully this doesn't immediately activate the new pod, it only groups the survivor with them, so you will have to activate the new expanded pod separately. I'm not going to say for certain, but anecdotal observation would suggest a pod that receives a fleeing member will begin to patrol more aggressively in your direction. It is usually a mixed blessing to have an enemy retreat from combat like this, typically if they stood and fought one lone alien wouldn't be able to do much and would be gunned down the following turn and now it is instead adding its strength to a new encounter you will have to face at full force plus the extra alien. Sometimes this can buy you time in a close fire fight and give you a turn or two to reload and apply medkits. It comes down to the individual situation most of the time and how you can best spend the momentary respite.
Sectoids! Let's talk about what was the weakest enemy in the previous game. Twenty years of screwing around with their DNA and mixing in human DNA has lead to a larger more humanoid alien. The redesign is pretty powerful, sectoids are no longer mouthless skittering grey aliens that gave the feeling of an alien insect more than a person. Now they talk upright, have more facial features, viscous looking teeth, and are just all around much larger than before. Nearly twice as tall I'd say, though I'd need good art or comparative pictures to be sure. They are designed to look much more threatening now rather than 'tiny little gray that will probe you'. They're here as alien backbone to the ADVENT troopers. Well, if they really accomplish that feeling to the game player is debatable, but the art design of them really turns up the threat level of them.
Sectoids can and can not be dangerous, it's situational and that is where I believe the difference in opinions between myself and Guava lie. Let's look at the three things you are likely to see a sectoid do. First off they have a Psi Reanimate, which a new twist on things. They will resurrect any fallen human/ADVENT soldier as a zombie. The zombies aren't very threatening, but they will shuffle around and punch your troops. I assume. I have yet to actually see a Psi Zombie accomplish anything. The AI will usually prioritize this action over the sectoids other two options as long as there is a viable body laying around for it to reanimate. Psi Reanimate is what Guava refers to as 'The Dumb Thing' that sectoids can do, and with fair reasoning. The zombies themselves are pretty weak and likely to go down in 1 hit with a crit because they don't take cover and don't have the natural crit mitigation bonuses that normal melee units have. Creating a Psi Zombie can be thought of the sectoid doing nothing on its turn as long as you kill the sectoid on the next turn because when the sectoid dies so does the zombie, sort of like mind merge in the first game. The second thing a sectoid can do is attempt to psionicly attack a soldier. Their ability is called Mind Spin and it can inflict various degrees of bad effects on you soldiers from disorienting them, to stunning them, to outright mind control. This is the ability I feel is the most threatening, though Guava disagrees. Mind control is super bad, and even more brutal early on in the game where breaking the control will be harder than later on. Lastly sectoids have a plasma pistol much as they did in the first game. The big catch here is that they have significantly higher aim than they previously had and are a credible threat to actually shooting your men. This is what Guava feels is their most dangerous action and it is possible for a full damage sectoid plasma shot to kill a 4HP rookie.
Back to why I said they are dangerous situationaly; Alone they are not much to fear. A squad of 4 rookies can handle a lone sectoid pretty much no matter what. I feel that sectoids become more dangerous when they have other enemies around to screen them or stack the numbers a little. As I said by themselves no one is going to worry over a psi zombie or a mind spin. Get in a fire fight that is 5v5 or something like that and they can be a bigger problem. You may have to spend significant effort to kill a sectoid hiding in the back in full cover to kill it and a psi zombie while having less actions left over to deal with the rest of a situation. Perhaps it can't be said sectoids are dangerous in their own right, but they are a definite support hazard to watch out for. With a mind spin your 5v5 fire fight may be looking like 5v4 for the next turn, or 6v4 and then you're in a lot more danger than you were just a moment ago. It's situational and can depend on how easily and safely you can dedication a number of actions to dealing with a sectoid once it's start up its psi powers.