by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Peace at last
Humans and Aliens are again at peace. After restoring the balance to Earth, humans and their previous alien conquerors are living side by side in co-habitation. City31 is the poster-city for this harmonious living. XCOM: Chimera Squad, a group of agents - who would have been enemies in the past - is put together to make sure that the co-existence continues. Unfortunately, the mayor of the city is targeted by a faction within the city that are not happy with the armistice, and it is up to the Chimera Squad to work out who is behind the guerilla activities within the city.
There is a fair bit going on at any one time in City 31ís XCOM headquarters. Squad members need to be trained, equipped with the latest gear and then sent out on missions to reduce the insurgency within the city. A city map highlights any of the nine districts that have issues that need resolving. You can choose to tackle any mission, but at times the game takes choosing the next mission out of your hands, with the level of anarchy within a district needing to be quelled. Not doing so essentially ends the game. Other missions will enable resource gathering, with Intel, Elerium and Credits being the games currencies.
Missions can be completed in multiple ways and will depend on which squad members are selected for the mission. Chimera Squad agents each have their own special skills that often pair together well with other team members. Although you begin with just four squad members, eleven heroes can be recruited as you progress through the game. Like many other games that introduce squad members gradually, I was loathed to swap out the characters that I had built up a familiarity around. After building up their skills and equipping them all in a way that suited my tactics (or refining my tactics based on the skillset of those that I had started with) it was often a tough call to swap them out for a new, somewhat raw, recruit. But the ability to train the new recruits, use them in other roles, or have them as backup should one of my go-to team go down certainly has its advantages. And the new recruits do have skills that, although they can seem similar to others, have nuances that make them valuable to the team.
Each mission (and indeed each section of a mission) begins with a Breach scenario. The Breach scenario allows you to position squad members around the location to be entered. Entry points come with their own bonuses or penalties. Do you want two of your squad to enter through the safety of the side window, but be out-positioned once inside, or do you have all four members enter through the main door and have extra movement on their first turn? Decisions made during the Breach phase will have consequences in the battle phase.
The combat phase of this instalment of XCOM are somewhat diluted in size when compared to previous entries in the series, but this allows for quicker, less drawn-out missions. Combat areas are reasonably confined, with the locations made up of a series of squares much like a chessboard representing the combat area. Players and enemies take turns moving their units around the landscape, often hiding behind any available cover before taking off the vital shot or special ability that will take out an enemy. Planning ahead is advantageous, and much like a game of chess, having your squad in the right position can lead to a decisive victory.
Know your enemy
As well as the range of squad members and their various abilities, enemies too come in a range of shapes and sizes. Androids, who are generally fairly easy to take down, can pack a punch with their self-destruct ability. The Purifier Ė an enemy unit with a flamethrower weapon - can deal some area of effect damage and prevent movement through the burning area, Turrets, although stationary, can be deadly at close range, and other enemy types all require various strategies to overcome.
As progress is made to bring City31 under control, the story evolves, as does the banter between the agents of the Chimera Squad. The fully voiced dialogue gives each of the squad members a personality that is as varied as their unique talents. This works well with the visuals during the story phases and provide XCOM: Chimera Squad a Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Indeed, I could see each mission being an episode in the vein of the Justice League animated series. For the most part, the combat area layout is quite clear, with a colour coding indicating the paths which are available to the squad members and any objects than be a hazard.
This is XCOM
When XCOM: Chimera Squad was announced somewhat out of the blue, and then with a budget price I was hesitant. But XCOM: Chimera Squad is a fully fleshed out game that brings loads of replayability thanks to the multitude of missions and variables within each, as well as squad combinations. Sure, the combat phases are less expansive than one would expect from an XCOM title, but the shorter missions still require some tactical nose if you want your squad to come through relatively unscathed. With nice cartoon style visuals, great voice acting and the ability to play as some cool alien characters, XCOM: Chimera Squad is a worthy entrant into the XCOM franchise.
Short, confined combat phases
Steep learning curve for newcomers