Follow TV Tropes


Fridge / XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Go To

Fridge Brilliance

  • While it has been removed, the Will penalty for Mind Controlled aliens dying might make sense for the nastier ones. These things are bigger and tougher than any human, and if something so much stronger (or looks like it is, at least) than a human can't stand up to what the enemy is dishing out, then the soldiers may start to wonder what chance they have against the invaders, especially the inexperienced Rookies.
    • Also, players may hesitate to open fire on their mind-controlled troops, but the aliens will gun down their own the minute they turn. Brutality on that level and a We Have Reserves attitude from even the front-rank troops is very intimidating.
  • Grey Market is a real life term for items sold legally but not though expected or approved channels. However, given that you're selling alien tech on it in this game, it could also be a pun on The Greys.
  • The News Ticker in the Situation Room occasionally claims that the total human casualties across the entire globe number in the mere thousands, which wouldn't make much of a dent in a decently-sized city, much less the entire world. On the other hand, it would make sense for official news reports (likely with prodding from the governments on the Council of Nations) to deliberately under-report the number of casualties, keeping panic from rising amongst the civilian populace.lp
    • Not to mention that it seems like the aliens are abducting more than they are just slaughtering in most missions.
  • The aliens seem to make some fairly crucial mistakes, such as leaving the ever-useful Meld out where you can find it, risking their technology being captured, leaving the Ethereal Device (which provides a psychic link to the Ethereal Hive Mind for sufficiently strong psychics) out where it can be snatched, etc. Doesn't seem very smart, does it? Of course, the Ethereals wanted humanity to get these things, to see what XCOM would do with them. One can only imagine how much the Ethereals themselves were cackling whenever humans captured a minion of theirs or stole another piece of their technology. It is literally not until the very end of the game, when the Uber Ethereal is killed, that the aliens' plan actually goes awry.
    • This realization will explain a lot of obvious strategic mistakes made by the aliens in a brilliant case of Gameplay and Story Integration. Why don't the alien ever send one of their Battleships to intercept and shoot down your unescorted Skyranger on route to missions? Why launch Terror missions instead of just bombarding the cities from orbit? After discovering the location of XCOM's headquarters in Enemy Within, why don't they just keep launching attacks until it's eventually overwhelmed (or just drop a equivalent of a bunker buster on it)? Why do the Ethereals feel obliged to follow the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, even though this makes no sense strategically (XCOM is clearly the biggest, if not only, military threat they face, so they really should have deployed their elite units right away to overwhelm the alliance in its early stages, not keep them squirreled away on the Temple Ship)? Because they were just testing humanity's resolve and worth!
  • Advertisement:
  • Besides gameplay reasons, low-tier enemies such as Sectoids and Thin-men are innacurate and not much of a threat, this could be explained by the way they use their weapons, which is very incorrect (one-handing,bad posture) Outsiders have a combat discipline identical to human soldiers, wich makes them more dangerous even though they use the same equipment as the others.
  • It might seem like Gameplay and Story Segregation that you can send the same soldier as an undercover agent against EXALT when conducting covert ops over and over again, since really should eventually figure out that the new guy/gal looks exactly the same as that traitor that exposed their other cells a few months ago. However, remember that for all covert ops missions, your operative's cover is always blown at the last second, requiring you to send in a fully armed squad of soldiers to finish the job. So perhaps EXALT is not suffering from Genre Blindness as much as it first appear.
    • Alternatively, the EXALT cells are really just cells: they operate completely independent of each other, and their "high command" (who or whatever that is) doesn't see fit to actually tell them the details about what happens to other cells. In addition, XCOM is pretty deadly to EXALT operatives: the policy of "Kill 'em all" might make it hard for EXALT to identify XCOM's operatives when all of EXALT's potential eye-witnesses are dead.
  • At first, it seemed a bit odd that the bonus for Africa was a funding boost when they're nowhere near the top of the GDP. Then you see the gas station signs. When gas is between nine and ten dollars a gallon, they may well be both leading world GDP and influential enough to get others to fund XCOM more.
    • Either that or their governments don't need to be as transparent with the budget as, say, the US government, which would need to justify where they are putting so much money in the middle of an unprecedented crisis. In contrast, any of the African states could use most of their budget in XCOM and no one would find out.
    • Also, consider that Africa's continental bonus is titled "All In". It's possible that in order for a country to apply for Council membership, it will have to contribute to the war effort in some unique way. A country like Nigeria is unlikely to have the same level of industrial capacity or technological expertise as countries in North America or Europe might. Therefore, their contribution could either be to allow the Council unlimited access to their country's natural resources or outright invest a significant amount of their GDP just to ensure that their country will be under XCOM's protection. After all, if the aliens managed to conquer Earth, it's not like having a massive national debt or an broken economy is going to matter anymore.
      • This. The implication of "All In" seems to me that where the US, China, Russia et al could still afford to have some contingency plans for if XCOM failed, the nations of Africa have decided that their best and possibly only shot of survival is the XCOM project. Africa literally is going all in on Earth's survival because they don't have any other options.
  • Originally, there was a good excuse for the aliens not to directly assault XCOM HQ, but that changes in Enemy Within. How can their agenda be compatible with such an all out attack? Why, the entire invasion is a Secret Test of Character. If, after taking down the aliens' base, XCOM is unable to defend their own from the same trick, humanity will be another failure in the Ethereals' eyes.
    • Another possible reason for the attack is a scouting mission to see if XCOM are developing correctly. This is about the first point in the game where it is possible to research the gift, and the aliens want to see if you are doing that.
  • The Skyranger is good at delivering soldiers to a location and not much else. Unlike troop helicopters like the Blackhawk or Hind, it has no weapons and no way to support your soldiers with air cover, sometimes making you wish XCOM would just buy a regular helicopter... but then a mission to the Tank Depot mission changes all that. Both a regular helicopter and a tank are objects there, and it takes about one stray burst of plasma to set either to explode. Considering how scarily effective plasma weapons are on these conventional, armored vehicles, and the Skyranger ultimately isn't much more advanced, it makes sense not to equip Skyrangers for air support. It'd be a giant sitting duck that even a Sectoid can't miss, and since it's your soldiers' only lifeline if the mission goes south, it's best not to risk it in combat.
    • Not to mention XCOM is supposed to limit collateral damage (not much point in saving the planet if it's a crater by the end of the war), and considering the enemy forces you face on most missions, a tank or a helicopter's mounted weaponry would be overkill. The highly mobile infantry make a better match for the urban or forest combat you face in most missions, especially when there's a possibility of civilians being around. Plus a tank shell wouldn't do much good to a downed UFO's salvage prospects, and it'd be hard to land one of those things on a Battleship. However, when the R&D section comes up with the SHIV, a very mobile and lightweight drone that's heavily armed and armored, they manage to split the difference.
  • A small thing, but the MEC Trooper's "Vital Point Targeting" passive ability (does 2 extra damage if enemy has been autopsied) always works against EXALT units. Human bodies have already been autopsied many, many times throughout history, and the vital points of our bodies are pretty well known to us.
  • The aliens have immensely powerful robotics technology, as seen in the Seekers and Mechtoids, and are perfectly capable of making intelligent AI, as seen in the drones and Sectopods, and yet the aliens seem to much prefer cyborgs to actual robots, to the point that the Cyberdisks, despite being almost entirely mechanical, seem to have semi-organic parts inside. Not to mention the Floaters and the Heavy Floaters. At first this seems almost a waste of resources, at least until Enemy Within- with MELD, XCOM is capable of building a machine as powerful as a MEC suit before they are able to build a remote SHIV drone anywhere near as capable. MELD itself makes cyborgs and altered organics vastly superior to pure robotics, even without involving the Gift.
  • Part of the reason why logistics are easier here than in the original game is because your NPC advisers handle most of it off-screen for you.
  • MEC Troopers are rather calm when injured. Their cybersuits likely lack pain receptors. In addition to the needless complexity of adding them, their cybersuits are both durable and repairable enough that they wouldn't be served by them anyway.
  • Why does Zhang throw his pistol away after he one-shots that sectoid in his intro cutscene? That kill earned him a promotion to squaddie heavy, and heavies can't equip pistols at all (though that still doesn't explain why he voluntarily disarms himself for the escort mission that follows but whatever).
    • Maybe it was his last bullet. He might have actually had to shoot a bunch of other people trying to get to his meeting with XCOM.
    • Either that, or it was a gesture of trust... and a challenge. "I showed you how capable I am, but from this point onward, I'm in your care. You want this alien thing in my suitcase, you damn better get me through this in one piece."
  • Speaking of Zhang, as a Council Mission VIP, he has an extra hit point than all other VI Ps. As a Heavy class trooper, he has an extra Hit Point compared to other Heavies. Guess he always was a tough guy.
  • On the other hand, Annette Durand has one less hit point than other soldiers. As she's a hastily trained civilian got in because of her psionics, she hasn't gone through the physical part of boot camp^and thus is more fragile than soldiers who actually went through proper boot camp.
  • Earlier I was reading the Take That Post where it talks about The Bureau. But wouldn't it make sense that Carter has low Will? After all, wasn't he under mind control for the majority of the Bureau?
  • It's mentioned on the main page that the Outsiders are the only enemies to not show up for the Temple Ship mission. Considering that we find out that they're less crew and more hardware, it's less likely that they'd be there.
    • Another possibility is that the aliens can't generate them anymore, after losing the Hyperwave Beacon to XCOM.
  • EXALT Elites are visibly disfigured by their gene mods, and even Vahlen decries their degree of modification as unethical. But the descriptions of the gene mods themselves indicates nothing obviously more radical than the ones XCOM uses (in fact, the Elite Sniper's Depth Perception is also available to XCOM). This makes sense in light of the provided explanation for why EXALT doesn't use plasma weapons or advanced armor: they avoid engaging the aliens directly wherever possible, which means little opportunity to acquire alien technology for reverse-engineering or use - including Meld. Without this resource, and combined with the possibility that their biotech capabilities are less advanced than XCOM's (much as their computer tech is described as being), EXALT has to rely on terrestrial genetic modification methods that are cruder, more invasive, and have more side effects.
    • Actually, it's stated by Dr. Vahlen that EXALT needs meld for genetic modifications, especially for their Elite units. However, another Fridge moment makes up for it: when submitting an XCOM soldier for genetic modification, they'll need to be benched for at least three days (more if multiple gene mods are added) to be prepped for surgery. It's possible that, preferring to rush out enhanced operatives instead of wait for proper surgery, the EXALTs just jump straight into the surgery without any of the "prep" given by Dr. Vahlen for XCOM personnel. This results in being able to ensure EXALT operatives get gene mods quickly (and presumably cheaply), but this results in mutations because their bodies weren't properly prepared for the gene mods.
      • When you think about it, Vahlen's very poor opinion of the EXALT-style gene mods makes perfect sense. Look at the MEC Troopers. One of the core design's compromises is based around the troopers' post-conflict quality of life (as opposed to hardwiring them into the suit permanently), which is the closest the extremely invasive surgery can come to being reversible. All of the XCOM-designed Genemods can be easily removed, replaced, or swapped out with zero negative effects on the subject. EXALT's leaders most likely don't care about their pawns, and an inability to reintegrate with society if they have crisis of faith would be a good thing in their point of view. And if a few of their agents die due to complications? Plenty more where they came from, and in any hypothetical scenario where they "win", the disfigured agents can be "dissapeared".
  • The Roadway/Highway Construction map has the Encoder placed in the worksite, looking like an inconspicuous laptop, whilst the Transmitter is placed within a bus that appears to have had all the seats stripped out. It's an unusual setup - why place the transmitter in a bus? But then it all fits together- your covert operative has been Hidden in Plain Sight, driving a fake bus around the city whilst gathering intelligence to evade detection/capture! When they notice EXALT is closing in on them, they send a distress signal to HQ, and it's sheer coincidence that the EXALT ambush catches the bus so close to the Encoder by the time the Skyranger arrives.
  • The SHIV's Sentinel Drone upgrade's flavor text mentions that it works by integrating an alien drone into the SHIV's chassis. If the SHIV takes a critical hit, it loses the Sentinel Drone perk for the rest of the mission, because the drone inside of the SHIV is destroyed.
  • The alien's plan seems weird, considering that they apparently expect you to turn around and submit to them once your team breaches the bridge of the Temple Ship. It becomes less weird when you realize that they don't need the Volunteer alive. They don't need any humans alive. All they need is a sample of the Volunteer's genetic code, and they can clone a human soldier who is massively psionically gifted and ostensibly one of the finest soldiers humanity can muster. The aliens have already proven that they can clone entire armies - the Sectoids are all genetically identical, implying that they're cloned.
  • It's been noted that using the Communication Jammers on EXALT missions will result in the EXAL Ts being forced to reload. This can be easily chalked up to Gameplay and Story Segregation (presumably, Firaxis wasn't willing or able to make a separate animation for EXALT operatives desperately banging on their earpieces to get them working again), but consider it from the EXALT perspective - the Walkie-Talkie Static they have on their turn is most likely getting orders from the leader of the EXALT Cell in that region, if not EXALT HQ itself, and said leaders would likely instruct their soldiers to ONLY shoot on their explicit command. If communications between the EXALT operatives and their commander went down, they likely wouldn't risk "firing without permission" of said commander, and so decide the best course of action is to refill their current weapon clip while their coms get unscrambled... just to be safe.
  • It's well known that "captured" EXALT troops commit suicide with poison syringes than allow capture... except for the EXALT VIP in the first Progeny mission. It's of course possible his poison syringe was destroyed by an injury he sustained in the fighting, but think in terms of the timeline: Portent takes place in April, while EXALT only makes itself known to XCOM in May, a month after the events of Portent. It's possible that EXALT didn't mandate suicide syringes for its soldiers before, but after realizing one of their operatives WAS captured alive by XCOM, they made it perfectly clear to their operatives that none of them will allow themselves to be captured again.
  • It just dawned on me. South America's bonus is "We Have Ways" and grants instant autopsies and interrogation when you have it. Now, what is a trope commonly associated with South America?
    • South America is also a continent with a history of fairly recent paranoid dictatorships, military juntas, and drug cartels, providing a large group of people with excellent experience with interrogation and autopsy, none of whom are going to ask many questions.

Fridge Horror

  • Keep in mind that as devastating at the war against the aliens had been, it was made very clear by both Dr. Shen and the Uber Ethereal that the aliens were actually holding back against XCOM the entire time, since the Ethereals' ultimate goal was to uplift and prepare humanity for 'what lies ahead' instead of outright conquest or colonization. Just think about this for a second: The Ethereals waged a destructive and bloody war that almost brought humanity to our knees and when the Temple Ship was destroyed, it almost resulted in a planetary Class 5 apocalypse, and it wasn't even on purpose! Can you imagine just how unbelievably powerful the aliens could have been, and how much of a Curb-Stomp Battle it would have been for XCOM if the aliens actually just intended to enslave and exterminate humanity like the did in the original game instead of merely trying to uplift us this time around?
    • If it was extermination, humanity would have lasted only the amount of time it took to get a Temple Ship close enough to self-destruct. And if it was enslavement, all they had to do was churn out Sectopods and Elite Mutons (their manufacturing/cloning capacity is obviously enormous) until every country was overwhelmed. XCOM wouldn't have even been able to slow them down.
      • XCOM 2 answers this question:XCOM was steamrolled and Earth governments had capitulated by 2015.
    • Even worse, the aliens seem to be unable to deal with 'what lies ahead' themselves. Given how much power they clearly dangerous is this thing?
    • And with the Uber Ethereal and the Volunteer, the most powerful psionics known to mankind, seemingly deadnote , how are we going to stop them now?
  • At the end of the game, you've defeated a mighty enemy and saved humanity...but look what you've unleashed in the process. Monstrously powerful weapons technology is now littered across the world thanks to you shooting down UFOs and killing aliens on every continent; you've also most likely sold this technology to unscrupulous companies and governments through the Grey Market. Now terrorist groups and despotic regimes worldwide can wreak havoc with powered armor and plasma weapons; with the world in chaos following the alien invasion, who's going to stop them?
    • Also, you've twisted the nature of your own soldiers. An army of psionics with mind-control abilities is suddenly out of a job – with nothing else to do, they'll likely turn against the rest of humanity. Enemy Within makes it even worse by letting you mutate your soldiers at the genetic level or cruelly amputate their limbs to make MEC troopers – what chance do they have of a normal life now?note 
    • Considering that XCOM seems to have the best and brightest engineers and scientists in their ranks, other groups may not be able to reverse-engineer the alien weaponry before being stopped. As for who's going to stop them? XCOM. A multi-national force not tied to any one country, they're the ideal unit to police and protect this new tech. Humans who manifest psionic potential can be recruited and trained by XCOM. Loose alien tech and plasma or laser weaponry can be collected or destroyed by their teams. Plus, these other groups do need plenty of elerium, the alien alloys, fragments of alien weapons, and hefty amounts of cash just to make a single weapon or suit of armor, and that's assuming they have the blueprints! Make no mistake, there's going to be a new arms race, but there's already a clear frontrunner trying to slow everyone else down.
      • In fact in XCOM: Chimera Squad you find out this is what happens officially in cannon. 5 years after XCOM 2 the XCOM: Enemy Unknown agency has become a multi-species agency, taking in both former enemies and anyone willing to work for the greater good. Also among its goals are 1) find and recover lost tech (alien and other), any tech that can not be used or deemed to dangerous is to be dealt with (contained/destroyed). 2) Find psi sensitive individuals and train them to use their abilities responsibly, and 3) to maintain the peace and encourage co-operation between all the species.
  • In Enemy Within, even after successfully completing all the covert ops missions and wiping out their HQ, EXALT is not really defeated in any meaningful way. Sure, you managed to capture their central command and burn it to the ground, ensuring that EXALT will no longer be a military threat against XCOM for the duration of the war against the aliens. However, the overall organization is not defeated. When you raid the HQ, all the defenders were just rank and file soldiers, their leaders were most likely able to escape the moment the Skyranger landed. Also, how about the genetics labs that enabled them to augment their own soldiers or the psionic labs that they used to figure out Annette's unique abilities? Not to mention that they still have thousands of loyal members living amongst the general civilian population, working jobs in offices at the bank, PR agency, or whatever, just waiting for their leadership to regroup and for the call to come...Don't forget that one of the Council's member nations was harboring EXALT's HQ within one of their major cities the entire time! And considering how some of the recovered artifacts revealed that the organization has a history that stretches back for centuries, it's totally possible that all you have accomplished was destroying an insignificantly small part of a world-spanning conspiracy with members in every government, every board of directors, and every gas station.
    • They weren't alerted until XCOM operatives started firing so they must've evacuated to lower floors where the labs and other facilities were.
  • You're very likely to at one point or another sell chrysalid corpses... and there's no guarantee that the reproductive systems stop with death. You could be giving various militaries around the world access to a self-replicating terror weapon that isn't technically banned by the Geneva convention.
  • South America's continental bonus, "We Have Ways", renders all interrogations and autopsies instantaneous. This raises a number of questions, and none of the possible answers are very reassuring. For instance: just what the hell is South America doing differently from the other regions that makes aliens talk so quickly? And with the addition of Gene Mods in Enemy Within, is XCOM enlisting organ traffickers to help them in harvesting and implanting second hearts in their soldiers?
  • Vahlen herself is a monster. She just happens to be a monster on your side.
    • XCOM 2 has the Alien Rulers DLC, which shows exactly what happens when the Commander/you aren't around to keep her in check. It isn't pretty.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: