When XCOM: Chimera Squad was first announced, I was excited to delve back into the XCOM universe. However, with this title, Firaxis Games decided to stray off the beaten path and change some of the mechanics the franchise has become so well known for. Do these changes make for a better game, or should they have left the winning formula alone?
XCOM: Chimera Squad takes place five years after the events of XCOM 2. Humans have won the war against the alien invaders and have reclaimed Earth. But with this victory comes new challenges. This has caused an uneasy peace between all the different species who try and co-exist together in City 31.
Naturally, co-existence doesn’t come easily and, as the titular Chimera Squad, you and your team are tasked with taking on rogue organisations and dealing with the chaos associated with life in the big city.
City 31 stands as the shining example of how different species can co-exist. Your job is to keep it that way. Should you fail, the city and its ideals fall with you and your team.
Although the game plays very similar to what you would expect, it does depart from the core franchise’s formula in a few drastic ways.
First off, the most obvious change is that you no longer recruit various soldiers which you can customise from the ground up. Gone are the days where you could name your soldier after your best friend and send them into battle. XCOM: Chimera Squad, as the name suggests, instead gives you a team of pre-defined characters each with their own abilities, skills and personalities. This does, however, make for a more focused experience as over the course of the game you do become somewhat more attached to these unique individuals than you would expect. That said, you can still customise your squad’s abilities and load-outs to an extent, but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as it is was in XCOM 2.
Combat is where the meat of XCOM: Chimera Squad lies, and even this brings with it a few new changes.
At the start of each encounter, players will enter the Breach Phase. In this phase, players will be able to select a breaching point for their team members. Each point has its own pros and cons, with some only accessible by specific squad members due to their unique abilities or physiology. For instance, Torque, the snake-like member of your team, can pass through vents unlike the other squad members giving her unique access points. It’s probably my favourite new addition to the game and adds another new layer of tactical thinking to the game’s formula.
Once your team has finished the Breach Phase, regular combat begins. As with XCOM 2 combat is still a turn-based affair, but once again Firaxis mixed things up by now adding a move order to the proceedings. The move order determines when which character can take their actions. Many of your squad’s abilities allow you to manipulate this turn order and even eliminate enemies before they can manage their turn. It’s a nice little addition to combat and one that does take some getting use to, especially for those who played the previous games.
Something else XCOM fans will no-doubt need to get used too is that, due to having a fixed roster of characters to choose from for your squad, once a team member dies, it is game over. You do get the opportunity to stabilise them before they keel over, which will leave them out of action for a while.
Unfortunately, mission variety is sorely lacking, which is a shame. Don’t get me wrong, the game does have it’s stand out moments and combat is tactical and fun, but things can start to feel just a little stale over time.
XCOM: Chimera Squad also has its fair share of annoying bugs, which, in its current state, makes saving as much as possible a must.
This title may not have been what XCOM fans were hoping for. Having said this, it’s a still a fun experience and does, at its core, feel like a smaller more condensed XCOM game. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the game serves as a way for Firaxis to test a few new ideas before releasing XCOM 3, which is a smart way of not alienating core fans.
If you love turn-based tactical combat then you should give XCOM: Chimera Squad a try, as long as you keep in mind that it takes quite a few liberties with the formula.
XCOM: Chimera Squad
XCOM: Chimera Squad might not be what XCOM fans were expecting, but is still a tactical and fun entry in the series, albeit a more condensed one.
- The new Breach Mode
- Tactical combat
- Bugs, bugs and bugs
- Limited customisation
Sound and Music