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Terror missions

I'm a big fan of the first X-COM, but the idea of the "terror missions" has always bugged me.

Why would the aliens land ground forces to shoot up a city, when it'd be easier to just drop a nuke or asteroid on the site? Same results (tons of humans killed, proving X-COM's impotence to stop the invasion), and this way X-COM wouldn't get the chance to look like heroes blowing the aliens away or loot all that ultra tech.

Admittedly, in the case of the fricking Chrysallids, I can understand - seed those bastards anywhere on Earth and they'd overrun entire cities and nations in short order if you don't kill them all. But most of the other aliens are just dudes with guns. Why wouldn't they take it easy on themselves and push the button?

    • Until X-Com arrives on the scene, they have free run of the place. It could be that they consider it more terrifying to land and slaughter everyone by hand, allowing some to naturally escape and tell the story. Or perhaps they are just sadists?
    • I thought the whole point behind the terror missions was to prove X-COM couldn't defend civilian populations against alien attack in the first place. You know, show the nations in question that they can attack with impunity, and show the countries that if X-COM can't stop a single squad of aliens from killing a small population, how would they expect to fare against much larger invasions, etc.
    • They may be considered "terror missions" by X-COM, but who knows the aliens' motivations? Maybe this is their way of testing out their latest critters and technology - they know a "terror mission" will provoke an X-COM response, and thus they'll get to see how they measure up. Also, small-scale 'terror' strikes will inspire fear in Earth's nations, without pushing them over into supporting X-COM through sheer desperation as nuclear strikes might.
    • The Terror Missions are also used for abduction and organ harvesting, either for experimentation or food since the aliens think we taste good. There are cases with abducted humans and various organs in the alien bases, whether these are like larders or trophy cases remains unknown. It's also theorized by the in-game scientists that the aliens in Terror From The Deep use human brains for the Biodrones (which supposedly focus the tormented feelings and thoughts of their brains into sonic attacks... at least according to the autopsy and biopsy reports...), and that the Deep Ones are mutated/modified humans.
    • I personally got the impression in the game that the aliens' numbers and industrial ability are just too limited to allow them to do anything other than small-scale terror raids and such. So, instead of unleashing a full-scale invasion, they're limited to covert operations and psychological warfare instead of carpet-bombing with nukes.
    • Having heavily armed aliens running rampant in populated areas probably has a better psychological effect than just bombing, and they get to show off their newest and most powerful weapons. Also, the aliens don't seem to display much capacity for widespread destruction- perhaps they never got around to inventing large-scale explosives when you have plasma and mind control?
      • The Blaster Launcher/Pulse Wave Torpedo defies you, sir!
        • I'm thinking more 'two million nukes' levels than 'cruise missile' levels.
          • Actually, some hard to access files indicate X-Com does use nukes. Craft mounted blaster bombs make nukes cry, as it turns out.
    • Also, IIRC the Game Over screen shows humanity being put to work as slaves. If that's what they wanted, it would rule out glassing the Earth from orbit.
      • If they wanted to do that, they would have done it and there wouldn't be a game.
      • That was what they were trying to do. Their methodology was more subversion and manipulation than outright war.
  • I got the impression that the Terror Missions were deliberate traps by the aliens for X-COM. They land and start shooting up civilians, forcing an X-COM response. X-COM arrives and runs headlong into the best the aliens have in the form of their terror units, in tight urban terrain, with civilians all around them that limits X-COM's ability to employ heavy weapons. The aliens are forcing X-COM to send in troops and potentially wipe them out or send them scurrying away in defeat. Either way ends with X-COM suffering casualties and bad PR if the aliens are able to force a victory.
    • ...A round of applause, everyone?
    • Classic Xanatos Gambit. X-COM responds, suffers high casualties and maybe loses standing, along with valuable troops and gear. X-COM doesn't respond, and they suffer even more.
    • Evidence in favour of this: alien craft vanishing upon insertion. On these missions aliens expect a fight, and only risk some expendable (cloned or reproducing like rabbits) minions and mass produced personal equipment.
  • Way I see it, it's much like modern terrorist attacks. Small group of soldier get in, kill lots of unarmed civilians and get the hell out of there before X-Com enters. Result? Few surviving civilians spread rumors. Rumors = better than propaganda. Also, reason why they do Terror Missions instead of full-scale invasion... Perhaps they want Earth to surrender, since humans could easily nuke the whole planet into radioactive dustball.
  • There is also the fact that, well. Having aliens appear and terrorize people spreads fear and terror. Glassing a city from orbit does nothing but piss humanity off. Theres no fear, there's no terror in it. It just convinces people that they have to fight even more if they're willing to do this horrific action. But yeah, the guy up there with the theory on the terror missions being traps is pretty good too.

Otherwise: Why can't any developer seem to make a half-decent, non bug-riddled or gimmicky official or otherwise new X-COM style game? It can't be hard; copy the original game, fix the bugs and maybe add better documentation and something resembling a plot. The turn-based nature isn't the problem; look at the success of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Valkyria Chronicles, Advance Wars, etc. Heck, give the game a JRPG coat of paint and it'd probably be a hit in Japan. (really, you could reskin the game as magic, cops and robbers, counter-strike or whatever and keep nearly all the game mechanics)

  • In XCOM TFTD, we find out that Elerium doesn't work underwater, fair enough. But why can't we use any of our Elerium based tech in terror missions, on land? I mean, would you rather fight in a bulky diving suit with a harpoon gun, or a suit of powered armour that can fly, carrying what is essentially a guided "you die" missile launcher?
    • You aren't given any Elerium powered equipment because there's no Elerium. It's gone, kaput, used up. That's why X-com has an underwater base in the first place, looking for shot-down ufos that didn't get the engines wet. Why they can't use the rocket launchers and autocannon is another question.
      • Or for that matter, laser weapons. And why do we have to research motion trackers twice? And why do we have to research medkits twice? Fffggg...
        • That's actually justifiable, if you look at it. They have to be adapted for amphibious operation, including all the way down to the deep sea.
        • Also, a laser beam would either flashboil the ocean infront of the emitter or scatter harmlessly. However, it does seem stupid to not allow laser usage on surface terror missions and base defence missions. Also, a medkit for the sea would have to not only heal the guy, but patch up the suit somewhat. Plus work in salty water.

  • Why does your map start blank when entering a mission? Surely your landing craft doesn't fly blind, and surely it isn't that hard to get a map of the major cities in terror missions.
    • One of the more common theories is that the aliens use some kind of jamming equipment to screw up X-Com's sensors as they come in to prevent them from having a good view of the immediate area. And while obtaining a map of the city wouldn't be difficult, getting up-to-date information on exact terrain features would be difficult prior to the development of something like Google Maps.
      • There are spy satellites, but perhaps the aliens destroyed them?


Okay, there is clearly an alien invasion going on. Aliens are clearly not friendly. Why the hell does X-Com need to GET FUNDING, instead, I don't know, GETTING SUPPORT? I mean, how hard is it to relay alien sighting to X-Com instead of X-Com building their own systems every continent? This is especially troublesome in early game. You star with one base. Basically, your first task is to decide who gets protection and who doesn't, since you have money only for one base. Now half of the world dares to bitch you because you can't protect them. Imagine if US army would need to get its funding from each state separately...

  • No, your first task is to develop laser cannons as fast as possible, then build a dedicated fab facility to churn them out in trainload lots and sell them. In short order, you'll have more money than you can possibly spend--literally.
    • And who, exactly, is buying all the captured weapons and equipment and alien corpses you collect on your missions? I always figured it was Disney Corp.
      • I imagine the mob and several governments would be interested in the Psi equipment.
  • Because the aliens are infiltrating the governments of the world. If X-COM starts relying on the nations of the world to give them information, and that information gets compromised by alien infiltrators, it can do a lot of damage. Part of the reason X-COM is a virtually separate entity that operates on its own is to insulate it from alien infiltration. And the alien sightings are getting regularly relayed to X-COM (see the whole UFO activity chart) its just that X-COM is the only one actively looking for the aliens, while the rest of the globe is dealing with, well, other humans.
    • Many parts of the world don't have the kind of advanced, widely distributed defense systems that would make them effective at tracking the aliens. If the world's best radar systems can [i]barely[/i] detect alien craft... well, how many countries are there that simply don't have radar of that quality, and thus can't relay sighting information to you in a timely fashion?
  • Furthermore, one could assume that some governments outright resent the fact that their safety is in the hands of a body outside their control and are using their funds to try to run their own anti-UFO campaigns using their own armed forces. In brief, it's politics, and politicians don't like relying on things they can't control that well. See also "X-Com was a token effort..." on the WMG page.
    • It's not just that. Imagine if tomorrow a bunch of governments got together and announced to the rest of the world's governments that there was an alien menace and how about setting up this international body with basing rights everywhere and above top secret classification. Nobody has shot down a UFO yet, so whatever evidence exists has to be either easily fabricated (Pictures) or highly open to interpretation (weird radar signatures; damage from alien attacks). If the people proposing this didn't just get laughed out of the room, would countries like China or Iran really accede to what amounts to a major foreign presence on their soil? Or any country at all, for that matter, except for the bases of proven, long-term, reliable allies? The fact that X-Com gets founded at all is miraculous. Of course, once the evidence starts piling up and you can show other governments alien corpses with alien technology, the complaint becomes completely valid.
    • With regards to the last point, it could be that the world's governments are hedging their bets until a clear victor emerges. If X-COM loses the war, the politicians will scramble over each other to be the first to negotiate with the aliens, arguing that they didn't support X-COM, they wanted the aliens to win all along. If X-COM wins, the same politicians will announce that they have always been on X-COM's side. Politicians are like that. They sense the wind. "Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia."


  • Ok, you arm crafts with weapons to take off and shoot down UFO. Why the hell does laser weaponry have the second worst range of all (21 km), barely more than double the canon range (10 km)? And is less accurate than plasma? I mean, we are talking about projectiles traveling at 299 792 458 m/s. I can understand why missiles are more accurate (they lock on the UFO and track it, while laser must hit directly and the UFO must be attempting to dodge attacks, and it is hard to hit a moving target), but plasma?
    • Whilst accuracy is another matter, one of the possible reasons for range is beam coherency. A laser beam that isn't perfectly coherent may very quickly become little more than a glorified headlight. Since this is for the purposes of penetrating hulls, most of which are made of alien alloys, even dropping a little bit below minimum levels could render the weapon ineffective.
      • Atmosphere plays havoc with light beams - even a laser: its full of dust and water droplets, which block refract reflect and otherwise play havoc with the photons.
      • At high energy densities, the atmosphere close to the laser turns into plasma through an effect called blooming. Perhaps the weapon needs many weaker lasers focused at the right point to get around that while still doing some damage, and the focus optics aren't accurate enough at long distances.


  • So uh... Why do in game over alien transport Earth to their dimension? Did they just need new planet or what?
    • Their own planet was dying. So yeah, they needed a new planet. Earth just happened to be good choice. Well, compared to their world.
      • This troper is disinclined to believe that animation. I've always thought that the aliens in that game were an entity similar to the Combine, with the Micronoids being the only real constant in a highly diverse set of universes and species. The design of the city suggests that it's an outpost for an empire rather than a struggling city barely eking out an existence.
      • This is confirmed by the game - the aliens cannot survive on Earth, their life cycle aside, they are largely sterile, short lived, and have a predisposition to degenerating in the atmosphere. They are also host to a species of sentient mind-controlling super virus which is the driving force behind their invasion plan and what will actually live on earth when they're done.
  • And how the heck you capture Overspawn? Apparently, its possible in the normal game...
    • There is currently no known way to capture it. It has UFOpedia entry for alive and pic, but capturing it is considered impossible. This troper thinks it was dummied out, since it is considered as "vehicle" by the game, not as alien. Also, in my knowledge, no-one has captured it alive without hacking the game.
    • It could also be just part of what they did with the programming. In order to have a 'autopsy', they have to have a 'live capture' as well. And in case of a glitch occurring and somehow someone gets the live capture, it simply gives them the text and continues on, no need to crash the game because 'live capture not found'.
      • This makes a lot of sense, especially considering there was such an oversight in UFO Defense, it was possible for corrupted save data to create a research topic for the Zombie alien type, which caused the game to crash when completed as Zombies were never meant to be capturable, and thus never had a research result programmed in.
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