Oh man, Xcom stories here we go.

OK, so I’ve been so busy playing that I haven’t got time to swamp the box with tales, but I 100% agree with Shingro that Xcom is actually very strong on story simply by deliberately (and I believe very self consciuosly) creating an environment like FTL where the stories you tell yourself about what’s happening in the game take on tremendous significance.

I could go on all day with my own experience in this, but here are a few highlights:

Playing through on Classic difficulty, I’ve been up against the cash crunch wall pretty much constantly. I never, EVER seem to have enough dough on hand to equip Xcom with anything except Crazy Harry’s house of cheap ass armor. Skeleton suits? Laser cannons? Keep dreaming. It’s taking everything I can muster just to keep the terror track low, and since the UK was out of the fight from the second month (The game just would NOT give me any options to save it) there is no cash infusion coming beyond the USA and Russia. My net operating budget PER MONTH is somewhere around 100 credits, after taxes.

… that is, of course, until the Chinese ponied up out of nowhere 2 days ago with a crazy proposal. Give us 7 plasma rifles and we will give you 1900 credits. You have 25 days.

Now, my entire stash of rifles even after scrupulously and analy (heh) tasering every last greenblooded son of a bitch I could for the entire game was still something like 2. Blaaah. But the payout. THE PAYOUT! THis windfall had the possibility to fund Xcom and keep us in ice cream sandwiches and foosball tables for 3 YEARS. 5 rifles in 25 days? I had to make it happen. HAD TO. Only… if only the aliens would oblige.

Of course, the one time I needed them to attack, they wouldn’t. I guess it was Alien Labor Day or something, because the globe just spun there chilling out with a no news is good news attitude. I watched the tracker tick down. I couldn’t afford the 60 credits it cost me to fabricate a SINGLE plasma cannon, not to mention the cost of alien alloys and whatnot. I needed those bastards to show their face. FINALLY, with something like 10 days to go, boom, UFO in the air. It’s a big one – destroyer class – but thank god I’ve been squeezing that stone and eating Kraft Dinner enough to choke out decent enough weapons and upgrades for my interceptors. We managed to bring it down after a tense, bloody fight. XCOM scramble, everybody has arc throwers. Come back with snake men, sectoids and mutons ALIVE or don’t come back.

What followed was just a horrible goddamn slog of a mission. Easy kill shots passed up over and over in favor of horrible, injury causing close combat manouvers. Aliens punching me in the face, load, reload, reload. Get those plasma rifles. FINALLy when the mission was over, we had 3 more but it wasn’t enough.

In the end I had to sell pretty much everything we owned that wasn’t already rented out or nailed down to make it happen. Alien power sources, entertainment, bodies. Stuff I had cued up in the research hopper, up on Ebay. All of it up on the grey market in the name of plasma rifle fabrication. We were able to beg, borrow or steal JUST enough to make the deadline – 7 plasmas with two days to spare. I pictured my sad, grumpy soldiers handing over the only good weapons they’d managed to dig up one at a time to the Chinese. We even got a little news ticker in the situation room after the deal. CHINESE POLICE DEPLOY POWERFUL NEW WEAPONS. Yeah, enjoy those guns you Maoists dinks.

All was forgiven though when the invoice came in. Christmas and birthday both at same time! SHIV research, check. New planes, check. Excavation and satellite purchases, check check. PSI-labs, Officer training, Foundry research. Like the biggest homeland security bailout in the history of bailouts. I was thinking as we walked out of the dropship holding our regular ass rifles but surrounded by amazing tech, rovers, fast reloading clips and augmented pistols with satellites in the sky overhead that plasma rifles were a renewable resource.

I’ve got a million of these stories, kids. Next up: Col Ivan who went from a totally vanilla and unremarkable squadmember to terrifying psychic commando and immediate battlefront lynchpin once his hidden psychic talents were unleashed on the alien scum.