2K Games continue their revered XCOM series with a new entry aimed at introducing new players.
XCOM: Chimera Squad is a Windows PC-only continuation of 2K’s XCOM sci-fi turn-based strategy game series. The game is set after the events of XCOM 2’s expansion pack, War of the Chosen.
Whilst the XCOM games have heritage that goes back to the Microprose games of the ‘90s, Chimera Squad picks up the story from the rebooted 2K franchise that started with 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
The XCOM series details the conflict between the human race and alien invaders. Players control and assault team of XCOM operatives. XCOM (which stands for Extra-terrestrial Combat Unit) is an elite organisation charge with defending Earth researching alien technology and using it against the invaders.
In the franchise’s story, Earth surrenders to the aliens, with XCOM 2 dealing with the formation of a resistance movement. By that end of that game, the aliens have been all but defeated. XCOM: Chimera Squad is set five years after the alien’s defeat.
The titular Chimera Squad is an outfit charged with keeping the peace in City 31. The city has aliens and humans living together in peace, until a hidden enemy kills the mayor in a terrorist attack.
The main story is told via mission whereby your active squad is sent out to complete an objective such as rescues a VIP, secure an item or just liberate an area from the enemy. As with previous games, this is a tactical turn-based element, with players controlling the movement and actions of the team members. Each team member has their own individual abilities that can be used to defeat the enemies.
Chimera Squad is not just open to human members. Players get to control ex-ADVENT human/alien hybrids as well as aliens squad members. A bit of diversity makes things a bit more interesting.
Unlike in previous games, Chimera Squad does not feature a continuous stream of cannon fodder squad members. You won’t be experiencing the heartbreak of watching your favourite squad members, that you’ve been nurturing for multiple missions bleed out in front of you.
Chimera Squad is more of a character-driven game than previous entries. Characters can still be incapacitated during battles, but if they are not healed, and die, the mission fails and must be restarted.
Each mission starts with a breach sequence, whereby players can position their squad members’ entry positions and plan the assault. This gives your team a free shot at the enemy in the room, but also potentially puts them in hurts way with return fire.
I found the turn-based conflict a bit more dynamic than previous XCOM games. Traditionally, in XCOM games, the player takes a turn controlling all their squad members and then the AI takes a turn. This encourages you to maximise the damage per round at the expense of defensive strategy. Chimera Squad randomises the turn order of each unit in play. You can’t guarantee that a team mate will be in position in time to cover the squad member that you’ve just sent on a daring assault. There is, however, a “team-up” action that can be triggered once a round that allows players to select a team member to action next.
As with previous games, players must research technology to aid them in the field. The in-depth management side plays a big part of the game. As unrest gathers, the APC needs to be sent out to districts to keep the piece. Each activity, be it research, training or keeping the city under control will remove a squad member from the pool.
XCOM: Chimera Squad takes the essence of the XCOM series and serves it up in a lighter manner, but still as enjoyable as previous entries. It’s not really XCOM 3, nor is it an XCOM 2 expansion. It serves as a great jumping in point for new players and interesting continuation of XCOM’s story for series veterans.