XCOM: Sentinels of Earth, Part 1

"Why'd we only bring four of us?" asks Aziz. "We don't have an Officer Training School, dummy," says Hadiya. "Oh, right, I knew that."

The Super Sentinels deploy outside the diner.

For this game diary, I’ll be playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Impossible difficulty with Iron Man mode enabled — so if I make a mistake, that’s it, no do-overs. Wish the Sentinels luck!

Top Brass weren’t so sure about putting together such an ethnically diverse squad, but alien invasions have a way of bringing people together. After some initial distrust and petty squabbling, our heroes picked up a few harsh but fair life lessons and engaged in a few alcohol-lubricated fraternizing and bar scuffles, and have now earned the trust and affection necessary to watch each others’ backs. They call themselves the Sentinels, largely because they dislike being called XCOMmers.

Central is the weirdo from the office who always wears the same green turtleneck and uses words like "vigilant" and "tireless."

En route, the Sentinels are briefed by Central.

The Sentinels are Hadiya Mabuza (Nigeria), Patrice Girard (France, male, make fun of his name and he’ll beat you), Christine Smith (USA), and Ali Aziz (Saudi Arabia). They’ve been summoned from their plush dormitories a mile beneath the surface of Johannesburg to investigate a reported alien sighting near a diner in Cape Town. Marveling at their luck that a UFO sighting should be such a short flight from home, they hop into their awesome armored dropship and thunder across the early morning sky. They’re in high spirits. After all, the XCOM Initiative is a joke, a multinational coalition founded in order to investigate the ramblings of ufologists and intoxicated farmers.

High spirits, that is, until they land and see a whole mess of bodies covered in green goo. Oh, and nearby there’s something metallic that could only be adequately described if the words “alien” and “pod” were included.

“Well, I guess we’ll be working for our living today,” says Hadiya, except in South African.

THE FIRST MINUTE

The squad spreads out, Patrice going left into the diner parking lot while Hadiya peeks around the corner of the building and Ali stays a ways back to cover the others. Central orders Christine to move up and take cover behind the alien pod, which she thinks is a horrible idea considering the fact that they aren’t wearing hazmat suits and whatever covered the civilians in goo was possibly distributed via aerosol, but Central is persistent so she does it anyway.

As soon as Christine has moved up to the pod, she sees three squatting grey figures. They are intently examining the tiles of the sidewalk as though the seams and cracks in the cement are some sort of written language in desperate need of decoding.

Dr. Vahlen is another office weirdo. Her "thing" is that she was born in the wrong time period. And the right period, according to her, was Germany, 1925.

Dr. Vahlen starts rambling about something while the Sentinels try to concentrate.

Christine thinks to herself that she’s probably the first human being to see an alien, discounting all the goo-swaddled civilians that probably saw them first. Unfortunately, she spends so much time looking at the aliens that they notice her face peering around their pod. Turns out that aliens don’t like being stared at.

If the humans had researched the Alien Language Translator, they would have heard, "Hey!"

“Eeeee!” say the aliens.

The instant the creatures notice Christine, they scuttle off, leaving the Sentinels waiting around for orders.

THE SECOND MINUTE

“Let’s go get ’em!” shouts Patrice. Patrice is the gung-ho member of the group.

“What if they’re peaceful?” Hadiya asks. “Shouldn’t we attempt communication?”

“They covered our people in goo!” retorts Patrice. His grin is infuriatingly smug.

Ultimately, the course of action isn’t determined by the boots on the ground, but by Control. And Control wants Patrice to channel that can-do attitude into flanking around the left side of the diner. “Can do!” shouts Patrice into his headset, making everyone wince. He runs off around the building, peeking out from behind a car to see three more aliens.

“Girard,” says Control (because although the Sentinels refer to one another by their first names, Control insists on “professionalism”), “let’s give these alien bastards a taste of earthling diplomacy!”

“Uh, I’m not so sure that’s such a good idea,” says Hadiya, but Patrice is already happily following his orders.

Analysts believe that Patrice's loud vocalizing was completely not effective at affecting alien morale.

“Take that, alien scum!” Patrice shouts.

Patrice manages to shoot through two windows and land three rounds right into the center of the first alien’s torso. Then Patrice’s can-do melts away when he sees that not only has the alien not gone down, but now it’s staring back at him with an expression that is truly universal, one that says, “Oh, it’s on.”

Patrice calls for help, and although Hadiya thinks he’s a dork, she kicks down the back door to the diner and charges in.

Or she's a hobbit.

Hadiya kicks down the world’s largest diner door.

Hunkering down by a rotating dish dispenser thing, which is just as alien to her as the pod outside (being a strict vegetarian, she lacks all experience when it comes to greasy spoon diners), she begins shooting at the same cluster of aliens that Patrice is firing at, but her aim isn’t as impressive as her squadmate’s. Still, her fire provides a distraction for Ali to sprint into the room, vault the counter, and set up a good defensible spot.

Outside, Christine has been left to guard the alley. She obeys the order, of course, but elects to move away from the alien pod, which is still spraying a fine green mist, and take cover behind a large metal dumpster. It’s a good thing she didn’t follow her squad, because as soon as Ali disappears into the diner behind Hadiya, two of the greys sprint out into the alley from wherever they had scuttled off to.

During the moments when no aliens are visible, she wonders if she could get away with shooting the civilian in green goo. "No," says Control, and she realizes that she was talking aloud again.

Christine defends the alley.

Christine fires at the first one and knocks it to the ground. It appears dead. She feels pretty good about that.

Inside the diner, Hadiya and Ali become the first human beings (they assume) to be fired at by alien plasma weapons. Unfortunately, this distinction, while cool, proves fatal for Hadiya.

The one consolation is that the dish dispenser, which had so confounded her in her last moments, is also vaporized.

Hadiya Mabuza, KIA.

THE THIRD MINUTE

Even though Patrice is feeling a bit deflated that his champion shot to an alien’s center mass wasn’t fatal, he’s not done playing hero. So he breaks left, taking cover behind a stone planter with a very respectable bush growing in it. It’s the perfect position for flanking the squad of three aliens that just killed his squad leader.

Patrice makes loud motorcycle noises to himself while he runs. He finds it motivates him.

Patrice flanks left.

Since bullets haven’t worked for him, Patrice decides that a grenade ought to do the trick.

Unaccountably, his mother was a tremendous fan of American college football.

He remembers the advice of his mother: “Like a football, son.”

He aims the grenade to land right between the two aliens closest him, but it falls just a bit short.

As the grenade goes off, Dr. Vahlen from the office starts complaining about how explosives might ruin the alien tissue samples, to which Ali replies, “They killed Hadiya! We’ll do whatever we want to them!”

The Marvelous Inverse Grenade: powerful enough to shatter a building, but so few shrapnel fragments that it cannot harm someone a few meters away.

Now two aliens are down. Well, this one is up, but he’ll soon be down.

Aliendom is introduced to humanity’s absurdly powerful grenades, which not only hurls one of them into the air, but also crumbles much of the diner’s front. Unfortunately, the other two creatures are completely unfazed and unimpressed by this display of might, and instead perform a strange ritual that leaves the entire squad perplexed, except for Christine who is still watching the alley. Which means two people are perplexed.

And by "something," I mean they psychically boost one another to increase combat performance.

The aliens do something.

Strange blue tendrils writhe in the air, bridging from one alien forehead to another.

“Sweet Buddha,” mutters Patrice. “I think… I think they’re pollinating each other!” Disgusted, horrified, and perturbed, Patrice raises his rifle and tries to shoot the theoretically-mating creatures, but his disgust, horror, and perturbation have left his hands shaky. His bullets travel wide of the mark.

Unfortunately, whatever process the aliens have just engaged in has left them calmed and satisfied, and their plasma bolts are depressingly accurate.

His last horrified thought as the plasma burns into his armor is that he fears they'll pollinate him too. Unfortunately SPOILER they might.

Patrice Girard, KIA.

THE FOURTH MINUTE

Ali is still holed up behind the diner counter, firing sporadically at the aliens whenever they venture a peek into the room. He misses every shot, and suspects that the aliens are toying with him.

Outside, Christine has had a mild altercation with an alien, whose plasma blaster has melted the dumpster she was hiding behind, and has eaten a hole into the wall of the diner.

She did manage to wound the alien, at least.

Christine without cover.

So she makes a tactically-sound decision.

She wasn't about to displace to the alien pod. It's *still* spewing green mist.

Christine displaces.

Tragically, as Christine stumbles away from the battlefield, Ali is caught from two angles. Two aliens fire at him from the diner entrance, and two more enter through the hole behind him. Ali manages to survive one blast of plasma before the second one brings him down.

Meh, he just kind of sat back there.

Ali Aziz, KIA.

THE FIFTH MINUTE

When Christine hears that Ali is dead and she’s the last Sentinel on the field, she starts to panic. Getting a grip, she takes cover behind a garbage can on the left side of the building. Her in-suit computer tells her that she has a 70% chance of hitting the alien that is standing not ten meters away. She takes careful aim and

Particularly embarrassing, since as an American, she's been shooting since she was four years old.

Well.

misses.

Christine knows what’s coming, so she starts mulling on some last words that maybe Control would get back to her family. She’s thinking that maybe she should tell her father that she just didn’t want to learn fiddle, but she doesn’t blame him for encouraging her, not anymore. She just wants to come home, and see him and his new wife.

There are other Sentinels, but they don't much feel like fighting aliens after this little performance.

Christine Smith, KIA.

But she takes too long thinking of something, and the alien blaster takes her off her feet.

The failure of the Sentinels is so complete that the XCOM Initiative is terminated, and within the year the aliens have enslaved basically everybody. Pretty darn embarrassing is what it is.

Posted on October 11, 2012, in Game Diary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Ha, I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this one, had it preloaded for a little while and when the region lock finally come off this morning, I got myself up extra early to have a poke around before work only to discover my net connection was borked….so still waiting :-/

  2. I saw you on earlier today so I’m glad you got it fixed. I’ve been enjoying the game a lot. Though for my first play through I couldn’t bear to lose my awesome troops so I’m just on normal difficulty without iron man mode on. Next play through will be on hard with iron man mode on. I’m pretty scared for it 🙂

    • Yeah got it up and running again, I’m jumping in on Classic difficulty with Iron Man mode on, too used to playing Iron Man type things, Dwarf Fortress and nethack, to ignore it if it’s there 🙂

      And the attempt is appreciated Innocent 😉

  3. Fun article. When can we expect part 2? 😛

  4. Randomly reading through old stuff and saw that you’re apparently prescient, given that the upcoming XCOM 2 is exactly what you described.

    So we’ll get some stories from you in it, right?

  5. Can’t figure out if I can directly reply on the mobile site. Anyways: fair enough. A shame, since I discovered SB through your fantastic Metro series; yet acceptable, since your transition to board games led me to one of my new favorite hobbies.

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