After a surprise announcement and quick release, XCOM: Chimera Squad brings us more XCOM – this time with a slightly different approach set against the backdrop of a post-XCOM 2 world.
In that world, the invading aliens have been defeated, but the win came at a high price. Countries as we know them today no longer exist, and humanity has to be defined differently as well. We now have alien-human hybrids, and also find ourselves in a society in which the remaining aliens have to co-exist with us.
As part of those challenges, there is now a Chimera Squad, a crew that includes some of these hybrids and aliens to form a team of ‘superheroes’ that’s reminiscent of something like Guardians of the Galaxy. You’re in charge of this crew, and that means you now have access to abilities you previously only had to defend yourself from.
The entire campaign of Chimera Squad takes place inside City 31, highlighting that this is a game with a smaller scope than XCOM 2. To match this, it’s being released at a very friendly price point – something close to the price of a decent DLC release but delivered as a standalone experience. Sure, it helps if you’ve played XCOM 2, but this should make things easier if you perhaps played it on a console and want to switch to the PC instead.
The actual gameplay has been simplified as well, with a more focused campaign and a lack of base management. Completing a mission means surviving with all of your team members intact as well, which is a change from the dilemmas you used to face when losing a valued (and upgraded) member of the team in XCOM 2. Missions are generally shorter in Chimera Squad though, so replaying a mission isn’t as daunting a prospect as it was in XCOM 2.
Besides being shorter, missions also play out differently, because you know which enemy trooper is going to move first and how the order of movement on their end plays out after that. This adds a bit of a tactical puzzle element into the mix that makes the game more accessible, though XCOM veterans might prefer the old system over this one.
Being able to use alien capabilities for yourself is certainly a breath of fresh air though, and even though the events are heavily tied into the XCOM 2 universe it makes Chimera Squad feel like a relatively new experience. It all looks similar and feels like you’re picking up where the previous game left off, but it’s different enough to warrant a standalone release. In a way, it also feels like a sign of where the franchise might head after this, perhaps with an XCOM 3 that is set in a future where this society has evolved into something where it’s hard to know who you can trust – especially against the backdrop of a new and emerging threat. For now, however, I’m very happy with Chimera Squad – it’s easily the best XCOM release since XCOM 2, by which I mean that it’s more interesting than the DLC packs have been.