XCOM: Chimera Squad Review
Firaxis Games return with the tried-and-tested XCOM formula woven between some exciting new ideas and a creative artistic direction. XCOM: Chimera Squad offers a fresh take on the squad-based tactics genre with a selection of brand new mechanics supporting the backbone that has given XCOM the throne of the genre for so many years.
XCOM: Chimera Squad Review
While it wears the brand name of the franchise, XCOM: Chimera Squad is a slight step away from what fans have come to expect from the series. It maintains many of the roots of its predecessor, but it also explores new ways to immerse players via faster-paced combat, a brand new Breach mechanic, and a narrative that is driven more by characters that events.
XCOM 2 and other games in the franchise have always followed a serious undertone. Humans have been pushed to the brink of extinction by an invading enemy force. This overpowering and critical creation of narrative puts a lot at stake, but it often overshadows the individual characters of the games themselves. This is potentially XCOM: Chimera Squad’s biggest break from franchise roots, replacing the end of the world scenario with something on a much smaller scale, instead allowing the characters and personalities to shine through.
XCOM: Chimera Squad takes place after the events of the previous game, the forces of Advent remain only in pockets around the world as the Chimera Squad are called in to support a sprawling metropolis called City 31. Encompassing the lives and needs of Humans, Aliens, and Hybrids alike, this fragile balance is bought into question after Mayor Nightingale is assassinated.
31PD, the local police force, is overwhelmed by an increase in violent activity from the cities three major factions, bringing in to question mysterious interference from an outside source. Much of its story sees Chimera Squad investigating each of these factions, all while trying to uncover the truth behind their involvement in recent events.
The Chimera Squad, headed up by Godmother, is a collection of unlikely heroes with varying backgrounds. Much like the city they protect, the squad features members from all species and races surviving the war. These characters lead the forefront of the narrative in Chimera Squad, injecting a welcome dose of personality, character, and charm to a universe otherwise devoid of big characters and personalities.
While a welcome change for many, others may feel a little betrayed by some of the changes. One of XCOM’s greatest assets is its ability to create stories between the characters in your squad, often characters randomly generated with little more personality than a cool haircut and colorful bandanna. It’s the events, the epic encounters, that final shot that saves an ally from certain death; these are the events that give XCOM players the chance to create their own stories and history, but much of that is lost with Chimera Squad’s character-centric campaign.
Chimera Squad’s biggest downfalls are not a fault of the game itself; more so a fault of fate. Using XCOM’s popular foundations offers many benefits to the game, but it’s not without drawbacks. Characters shooting through walls and floors, shots that are near impossible rated a 100% hit, point blank shots from inches away missing entirely. Many of XCOM’s biggest issues are presented for all to see, which may become a little exhausting for long-time fans.
The metagame of XCOM has long been one of the genres greatest assets, and Chimera Squad wears that ribbon proudly, albeit in a more bite-sized fashion. Instead of organizing a global response to an alien threat, players are instead charged with managing several districts within City 31. It offers the same variety of gameplay and the increasingly difficult challenge of managing unrest and riots as its predecessor but more manageable and less stressful. This difference in depth may not appeal to all, but I for one felt it was a refreshing approach.
Chimera Squad introduces a number of new combat-centric ideas alongside the games different approach to narrative design. Named weapons, a greater variety of gear, a huge choice of abilities to combine and experiment with and one that got the most pre-launch attention: the Breach. Selecting different Breach points is a rewarding venture, with different angles of entry providing different buffs and challenges. While it still suffers from much of XCOM’s nonsensical problems, it’s a mechanic I really hope they will run with in future games.
XCOM: Chimera Squad is a brave adventure into new territory. Featuring a more interesting narrative design, some much-needed changes to combat, and a cast of interesting characters, all of these things would lead to a brilliant game if it weren’t for the myriad of bugs, crashes, and usual XCOM tiring randomness. It’s an absolute must-buy for fans of the genre, especially at its current price, but a bit more time in development wouldn’t have hurt.