Many players have grown to love Firaxis Games’ XCOM franchise over the years. Now, a spinoff, XCOM: Chimera Squad, takes center stage. Featuring refined small-squad tactics and the new Breach Mode, this unique take on long-standing turn-based strategy mechanics might just be worth your while. Here’s our official review.
XCOM: Chimera Squad – The story so far
It’s been five years since the end of XCOM 2 and the fall of Advent. Humans, aliens, and hybrids have learned to co-exist. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In the futuristic City 31, trouble is brewing with the arrival of three hostile factions: The Progeny, Sacred Coil, and Gray Phoenix. These fractured groups aim to put an end to a tenuous peace, and this is where your story begins in XCOM: Chimera Squad.
Your ragtag group of soldiers is City 31’s best hope. At first, you’re introduced to a handful of troopers such as the shotgun-wielding Godmother, the psi-powered sectoid Verge, and the fairly naive Cherub. Later on, you’ll get to meet more recruits such as the powerhouse Zephyr and the hot-headed Axiom.
Your teammates in XCOM: Chimera Squad all fulfill specific roles. Since Godmother focuses on blasting people with shotguns, she’s someone who often leads the assault. As for the perky Terminal, she functions as your medic. The stoic Blueblood, meanwhile, is a sharpshooter with his pistols. You’ll grow to like the banter and the functions that your soldiers have in your squad.
These characters also aren’t typical cannon fodder that you can ignore during missions. You’re going to have to keep them alive lest they get wounded or killed (leading to failure).
In XCOM: Chimera Squad, you can only have four soldiers with you on any given mission. At first, it feels restrictive to player freedom and tactical planning. However, this is offset by the extremely fun and creative Breach Mode.
Missions will have one to three encounters, essentially rooms that you need to clear. Breach Mode happens at the start of each encounter and players need to decide which passageways characters will enter the area from. Certain locations may provide some benefits or some downsides. For instance, bashing the door open might lead to more enemies taking a potshot at your forces, but Cherub’s shield just might prevent all damage. Meanwhile, the viper Torque can sneak through vents to surprise enemies and Terminal’s drone can hack locked doorways.
In previous XCOM games, you checked the possibilities by advancing across the map one turn at a time. In XCOM: Chimera Squad, the possibilities are created from the get-go via Breach Mode, followed by the newly-introduced “turn order” system (units alternate turns as opposed to everyone on the same team acting within the same round). As such, you need to plan each encounter carefully. Nevertheless, these game mechanics are a breath of fresh air and will still feel accessible to series newcomers.
City 31 in flames
It’s not just the missions themselves that you have to contend with in XCOM: Chimera Squad; it’s also the chaos that has engulfed City 31. As you investigate the three hostile factions, you’ll be presented with various mission types on a virtual map. Tackle the rewarding ones, but those you ignore will lead to unrest in a given district. The build-up of unrest will eventually lead to city-wide anarchy. If anarchy reaches 14 points, then you can think of it as something akin to XCOM 2‘s Avatar Project — it’s game over.
Thus, you’ll end up gathering intel to create new field teams that can help quell the chaos. At the same time, you’ll likely try to find epic items or check the Scavenger Market (it’s got rarer goods compared to what your HQ is selling). Oh, and you can also conduct spec ops, assembly research, and training projects to buff your roster.
Since XCOM: Chimera Squad is just a spinoff, it’s hard to expect a fully fleshed-out story. Mind you, there is one, but it’s relatively flawed and bland. It’s one of the few shortcomings of the game along with how these new characters are presented. For one thing, the alien and hybrid-type characters don’t sound like what they should — Axiom sounds like a regular dude who just got back from the gym and Torque (who’s a viper/snake lady) isn’t even hissing. I understand that this is to have a more lighthearted and quirky approach, but it can also be a little disappointing especially when you want to be immersed in the XCOM universe.
Similarly, you only pick one additional character a time as you progress through the story. You won’t be able to meet them all in one playthrough, and you’d have to start from scratch if you want to try the others that you missed. Firaxis made the game more accessible with bite-sized encounters, but not having access to all characters in one playthrough seems like a disconnect.
XCOM: Chimera Squad – The final verdict
In spite of the aforementioned flaws, XCOM: Chimera Squad will manage to excite and entertain you for many hours. The new mechanics are refreshing, and the use of specific characters with unique functions makes for engaging tactical gameplay.
Without a doubt, XCOM: Chimera Squad is a worthy spinoff to a long-running franchise, something that veterans and newcomers will enjoy. It’s even discounted until the end of the month which should make it an affordable purchase for turn-based strategy fans out there.