XCOM: Chimera Squad is the latest entry in the long-running XCOM series from Firaxis Games and 2K. Set after the events of XCOM 2, the story primarily deals with the aftermath of the world in the wake of the routed alien presence and the coexistence of species that were not too long ago bitter enemies.
For those who aren’t familiar with XCOM, it is an isometric turn-based strategy game. Your antagonists are hostile aliens borne from the concepts of popular culture’s descriptions of alien conspiracies. You build a squad over time, improving their gear and their training, all the while trying to stay ahead of the alien’s own reinforcements and improvements. Fans of the series will recognize the interface and controls instantly, but what has changed will keep the gameplay not only fresh but surprising.
Where Chimera Squad differs from previous installments is the mission approach and scale. Instead of a planet-wide threat that you’re having to face, the game limits you to a single city. Missions are less about sweeping entire map areas to scout out the last few enemies that may be hiding. Instead, they wind up as raids you’d expect from police dramas. You’ll select points of entry for squad order, which is appropriately enough during the “breach” phase.
Unique equipment and abilities can drastically alter not only where you enter but how. This can dramatically change the course of the entire mission. But it also brings the most striking departure of this entry from its predecessors: the characters you control.
Chimera Squad is just that: a squad with individual members who not only have their own unique appearances but personalities as well. Now you have more than just humans at your disposal, too. Aliens you once fought against are now key members of your squad, with all of their unique abilities now at your command.
Because of their individual nature, none of the characters can be permanently killed. However, if they grow too wounded, you’ll have to see to their injuries (called scars). Otherwise, the game hampers or weakens them in future missions. This also allows for banter among squadmates that gives you insight into their personality and history.
The counterpoint to this is the enemy diversity is rather lacking at the start. While your squad is easily identified, the opponents you face are remarkably similar. Some familiar enemies from past games will begin to emerge as you progress. Ultimately, a wide range of characters is now at your disposal. It is a shift from past games that helps to showcase the individuality of your squad.
X-Com: Chimera Squad is a departure from the past norm at a much smaller scale. But that same scale offers a better narrative and tighter focus on the relationship between the squadmates while offering fresh additions to the gameplay alongside the familiarity you would come to expect.