This article contains some very mild spoilers for the story of XCOM 2
We all know how a session of XCOM 2 can be going really well until all of sudden it isn’t. I had my fair share of horrible outcomes while reviewing the game, and my fellow editor Charlie can attest to the unpredictability of the frail minds of his soldiers. But while his tale involved one of his troopers panicking so much they shat the bed and threw a grenade right into a team-mate’s face, mine revolves around something far worse: one of my guys gunning down a fellow squad member. No panicking, he just turned around, aimed his rifle and proceeded to help his friend with what he must have perceived as a lead deficiency.
But, hear me out, because I swear it was an accident.
The perpetrator was a guy named Lawton. Yes, that Lawton, who had previously screwed the pooch not once, not twice but thrice in my last In Memorium for XCOM Enemy Unknown. And while I could bang on about how I should have seen this coming given his past ineptitude, this time I have to admit it’s only partially his fault. Don’t get me wrong, he pulled the trigger, he murdered his friend and he will probably have to live with the ensuing night terrors for the rest of his life, but I too at least share a little bit of the blame.
Let me set the scene for you: my team and I had just spent the past 20 minutes getting our butts handed to us. All we wanted to do was capture some supplies from a sabotaged Advent train, and no less than three Codices, four Advent soldiers and a single Sectopod, a bipedal tank thing that seems to make its own rules, decided that that would not be an easy task. My squad of six certainly took a pounding, with most of my squad having less than half their health left and I’d even lost one of my best guys.
But you know what? We defeated them all. Through sheer luck and some excellent positioning (if I do say so myself), we took out every single one of them.
But the mission wasn’t over, meaning there were more enemies to be found. And lo and behold, in dropped an Avatar, one of the elite experimental soldiers Advent has spent the entire game developing. They have a metric butt-ton of health, armour, a weird ethereal sidekick and look like a Dragonball Z fan dropped some pills in an 80s retro nightclub.
Avatars also have another ability, one they share with their much-easier-to-kill brethren the Sectoids: they can control minds. And while I was manoeuvring my troops around the map trying to get a decent hit on this guy, he was constantly moving around and somehow staying out of my effective range, he decided to hop on into the mind of one of my snipers who I had neglected to equip with a mind shield.
This particular sniper, codenamed “Snowy”, had very little health left but also had some amazing upgrades that would cause my squad a lot of pain on the next turn when the Avatar could use him. And given Snowy was one of my guys, he was positioned right near the rest of my team, meaning suddenly they were all in his line of sight. I had only one option: get closer to the Avatar (as killing it would remove the spell) while putting as much distance and cover between my squad members and Snowy as possible. Placing anyone in “Overwatch” (where they take an automatic shot when an enemy within range moves) was not a good idea here, since I didn’t want anyone to kill Snowy.
And so I moved them as far as I could. There was no countdown in play here, so I made everyone use their entire two actions worth of distance away from Snowy and into cover. Lawton was the only one who couldn’t move as far as the others and still be in cover thanks to the terrain, but I hoped Lady Luck would be on my side and Snowy would miss his shot.
But as my turn ended I realised my terrible blunder.
You see, I’d outfitted Lawton with two abilities, which have been very useful in the past but in this instance were the absolute worst. The first to present itself was “Ever Vigilant”, which means that if I use up all of Lawton’s actions by moving he gets automatically put into Overwatch. He was now on standby to shoot Snowy if he so much as tried to leave his current position. That’s OK, I thought, because Snowy probably isn’t going to move, he’ll just shoot and that won’t trigger Lawton’s Overwatch.
I let out a tense sigh of relief. But then I remembered the second ability Lawton had called “Covering Fire”. Covering Fire upgrades a Specialist’s Overwatch ability to activate on any enemy action, not just movement. Again, really handy in any other moment, just not this one.
And so I could barely watch as Snowy attempted to take the shot I predicted he would, and Lawton, in slow motion, stood up, took aim and blasted him away like it was nothing.
RIP Snowy, along with Lawton’s career in my squad. Seriously, I’ve got to fire that guy.