XCOM: Chimera Squad

August 4, 2020

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…while not perfect, it is a fascinating insight into what we might expect from the inevitable XCOM 3.
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XCOM: Chimera Squad

Anthony O'Connor
Year: 2020
Rating: MA
Director: Firaxis Games
Distributor: 2K Games
Format:
Released: Out Now
Running Time: 20-25 hour campaign
Worth: $15.00

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…while not perfect, it is a fascinating insight into what we might expect from the inevitable XCOM 3.

What happens to society after an alien occupation is thwarted by humanity? Are all of the aliens dead? If not, where do they go? Internment camps? Poor neighbourhoods? Can they ever be trusted to join human society and what of their technology? These are the heady, sci-fi questions at the centre of XCOM: Chimera Squad, a standalone XCOM entry that follows on from XCOM 2 and War of the Chosen, and while not perfect, it is a fascinating insight into what we might expect from the inevitable XCOM 3.

Chimera Squad takes place in City 31, a model city where humans and aliens live side by side. Of course, old tensions and resentments simmer beneath the surface and when the Mayor is killed in a terrorist attack it’s up to Chimera Squad – a group comprising alien and human members – to get to the bottom of what’s happening before it’s too late.

The first thing to notice about Chimera Squad is the vastly different tone to XCOM 2. That fantastic game is, it has to be said, a tension filled nightmare that at times seems to delight in flicking a rubber band at your ballbag while cackling like a cartoon witch. The ticking clock, the ramped-up difficulty (even on lower settings) and the permanent deaths of your squad members all make XCOM 2 feel like a 30-hour anxiety attack. Chimera Squad, on the other hand, is much more forgiving, action-focused and has no perma-death. This makes it a much more approachable concern for newbies, although the stakes never feel quite as high and therefore the victories are never as dizzy.

Turn-based tactics remain the gameplay style, but a breaching mechanic, squad members with cool alien powers and easier-to-attain weaponry offer a more streamlined experience. This will likely not delight XCOM purists, but it does mean you get to appreciate the excellent world-building between missions, with genuinely clever ideas showcased in this brave new integrated world.

Ultimately XCOM: Chimera Squad is a bold, engaging experiment that delves into what might happen after the smoke clears from a defeated alien occupation. Some may be a little put off by the brighter tone and streamlined gameplay, but the charms here are many and using the same powers that so definitively kicked your arse in XCOM 2 is a hoot. An imperfect game, to be sure, but one that also offers an engaging and tantalising epilogue and perhaps a preview of things to come in future entries.

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