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The Early Challenge


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#1 Aiki-Knight

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 01:09 AM

Yes, it never gets old, and the thrill of the early game still gets my heart racing every time. I don't know how many times I've finished the game on hard and superhuman levels without cheating. And those who know me know that I vow to keep every agent alive, and I rarely lose agents as a result. Indeed, I've never lost a base except in the very first game, nor lost more than a handful of agents through an entire game, if that. But the first weeks still terrify me. What is your greatest concern in the first weeks?

For me, it's ammunition. I start out with an 8-agent squad, then proceed to a 12-agent squad as resources and equipment come online in the first week. I sell off everything I'm not really using, and stock up on small-arms ammunition. But that submachine-fun ammunition runs out quickly, and I'm always loading out agents with pistols and ammo to supplement dwindling ammo. Sniper rifles and autocannons usually do okay, but I use these less frequently, and allocate them at the team and squad levels. Usually, each 4-agent fire team goes out with 1 sniper and 1 machine gunner; the other two have submachine guns. My Recon trooper carries just a pistol or plasms pistol, so that he/she can shoot and motion-sense as required.

Of course, having enough ships is tough, too, and I must very carefully strike exposed troop transporters, or hold back and clean up on the ground. As painful as it is, it's sometimes prudent to use my agents' superior tactics to clean up problems when a handful of hoverbikes can't really hurt those Transporters closely guarded by Fast Attack Ships. This remains largely a good strategy until the aliens deploy entropy missiles, at which time all bets are off, and I dread ground missions until I can deploy shields. Ahhhhh, shields. This time, I'm determined to get them ASAP. At all costs! But will I?

And will I indeed get through Week 2 with enough ammo, and without resorting to stun raids? What about you, 12 years after this game was released? What's your greatest problem in the early game?

#2 NKF

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 02:02 AM

The start of the game is often the best part. I suppose, for me, there are these problems to tackle:

- Money
- Ammo
- Vehicles
- Combat staff

Perhaps the first two more so than the last two. Most other concerns are rather superfluous or can wait for later. Research even - you haven't got anything interesting yet, so there's no rush and you can easily make do with the starting team to get the all important large bio lab in a flash.

At the start, money is always a problem, but not one that's too hard to combat if you remember that you don't have to over-expand from day 1, you can get by with cheaper alternatives (bolters!), and there's the car parts scalping business you can fall back on once per week (until prices make it unprofitable), which lets you save pennies to go towards your first Hawk in a couple of weeks time. I think my biggest budgeting problem is due to wanting to save up for that blasted Hawk, which I need but can also make do without. ;)

Next to money, ammo shortages is often a concern as you haven't had a chance to stockpile anything yet and there's only a limited supply available. A few ways I combat this is to go on less missions (i.e. shoot them down before they can beam down their troops, cutting down the infestation sites). Letting a few aliens escape from the battle isn't a problem either - they often do it while I'm not watching anyway. Or, as I've come to rely on recent plays: stun grapples. They are recharging weapons, and they pack a whallop (in the other direction). I'd steal a power sword or two as well to step in for the (recharging) lethal damage, but stun grapples can be bought right away. Plus they work on anything not wearing a shield as long as you reduce the target's hitpoints down to 180 or so. Most of the humanoid targets don't have that much health, and shields take a while to show up. Great combo there! Additionally: shooting an unconscious target at point blank range means less misses, thus you save ammo. :D

I'd have mentioned mind benders too, but training hybrids until their attacks are worthwhile is an investment that pays off in the long term. Not in the short term required at the start.

There are the standard raids and stun raids you can fall back on in really hard times, but I don't find myself using them as much these days except the initial power sword runs.

Vehicles, now vehicles aren't really too much of a problem depending on how aggressive you are at shooting down UFOs. Early on I like to shoot down UFOs I haven't captured yet and any targets of opportunity I can get without causing too much damage to my ships or the city. Otherwise I let most of them go and mainly deal with the threats in ground battles. This means you don't have to have too large a fleet of ships early on.

Issues with combat staff availability depends on how well I'm playing at the time. If I've been playing for a bit, experience kicks in and I lose less soldiers so it's less of a problem. If I haven't played in a long time and have just restated, the low number of troops for hire is not funny. Luckily the hire pool randomizes itself every day. Since there aren't that many missions to go on in a single day (not counting the ones I initiate myself), it's sufficient to get by most of the time.

I think I have too much of a take-it-easy approach at the start. :D

- NKF

Edited by NKF, 26 May 2009 - 02:09 AM.

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#3 zaimoni

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:52 PM

Actually, I make a point of using nothing higher than bolters the first week (using score management to prevent shields from appearing on the UFOs mid-week): Save The Elerium. It is definitely possible to overcommit; if I have more than 3 hovercars and 6 hoverbikes it makes sense to reserve the rest rather than have everything flying at once.

I haven't run the calculations to see if the vehicle autocannons are effective against UFO probes and scouts. If so, trading resale value for lower property damage becomes interesting.

#4 Aiki-Knight

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 01:19 PM

It's week three. I'm down to my Valkyrie troop ship, and four hoverbikes. Fast Attack Ships now make interceptions largely impossible. I've got $55,000. 18 agents, the top 9 of whom are seriously wounded. I'm low on everything right down to stun grenades. Several organizations have serious infiltration, and MegaPol is the worst of them. Yeah. This is the early game. And it's not good.

I just had my team of 12 attend one of the hydro-farms, and the aliens just came in force and brought it on: arthros working tightly together, closely supported by spitters, multiworms, poppers and of course brainsuckers. Another whole squad of skeletoids, now sportin' devastators and using them well, got close and nasty, supported by spitters. It was a war. It was crazy. Everyone was getting shot at. Everyone was shooting. Almost everyone was somewhat injured. Smoke and gas covered more than half the map. The high-rise glass growing buildings were shattered, and two of them collapsed. It was the craziest throw-down I've seen since my Aliens:250 insanity.

The aliens came ready to rock, and they brought it. Often, the aliens are kinda stupid, but this unit must have been alien special forces, because they flanked us (or tried - I'm never successfully flanked). They used skeletoids like well-trained jump troopers, who moved together, and ambushed a team of four, and just as spitters came out of the woodwork to storm them, too. Four of my finest agents were now surrounded at point-blank range on three sides against 4 skels with devastators and 2 spitters who were doing some serious up-close shooting. In one more second, they'd have been surrounded. I had them run out of the box, drop grenades behind them, and re-group.

But by this time, things were FAR worse for another squad. Someone, I'll never know who, managed to drop at least one boomeroid on them from the sky, and 2 were critically injured, the other two hurt and unable to stem the massive storming tide of arthropods and their supporters streaming out of a lift. The previously mentioned skeletoid stormtroopers were right behind them. This squad was in deep, deep, deep do-do. All injured, they had to run from explosions and smoke happening all around them. So the other squad had to just do it: storm back against the skeletoids, get into positions to fire, and duke it out. The other squad was already locked in a full-on firefight with the same army of arthropods, poppers, spitters, multiworms, and brainsuckers that had caused the second squad to have to bolt. This third squad was laying it down on full-auto, and throwing every stun and frag grenade they had at the problem. And it wasn't working.

The very first squad, however, got the better of the skeletoid storm force, killing two spitters and two skels. The other two skels wisely headed for high ground, but this was a trick: they then dropped and attacked the second squad which was busy running for a better position. This squad, all seriously injured, traded fire with their hunters, but then had to be evac'd before these skels, armed with devastators, could kill them. The other alien force, turning its attention to this problem, began succumbing to the massive amounts of stun gas squad three had thrown, and I had S3 throw remaining explosives on them to kill their unconscious forms. Finally, the remaining two squads, all somewhat injured, could concentrate on cornering the last two skeletoids in a garden tower.

Cue the auto-cannon gunners with explosive ammo. I just had the gunner blast the daylights out of EVERYTHING in the building, while other agents threw some gas and frag grenades. And finally, the two skeletoids died. Thank GOD.

I always manage to make my game work, but really, this is pretty desperate. I'm trying save some money to get better ships, open a second base, all the stuff that has to happen for XCOM to be able to grow into its role. But as it is, I'll be lucky to get through the week!

#5 andrewl

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 06:18 PM

Why resort to stun raids when you can raid the Cult so many times?

Money and vehicle combat are always the problem at the start for me. Those fast attack ships are pretty powerful when they come out. Honestly, small disruption shields don't scare me as armor doesn't affect them. Those shields probably only add 15% to the number of shots required to take down a fast attack ship.

I play turn-based using tactics honed in the first two games and I go for toxin B early so the tactical combat isn't that big a problem for me.

#6 mooses_an

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 11:16 PM

Just money, I made some big operations on the base facilities to allow building advanced workshop, biolab and qlab... During the first week, the CEO of X-Com was seen collecting loose coins from the streets... I think he's back there again... Aliens miserably failed their attack coordination with their Fast Attack ships and Transport ships. Only one half dead Transport ship managed to escape from my Valkyrie and 2 Hovercars... which made me think, did I accidently select the easiest skill, but no I didn't. Next time they came with shields, which again failed against my "fleet".

Now I have to sleep. I didn't even notice I played it until morning... :yarr:

Edited by mooses_an, 15 August 2009 - 11:20 PM.