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Review

Written by Rachel Mangan | Edited by John Gerritzen

Ever wish XCOM 2 had a love child with Dungeons & Dragons? No? Well XCOM: Chimera Squad is here, anyway!

Squad Goals

In a long-awaited sequel to the turn-based strategy franchise, XCOM, Firaxis Games presents XCOM: Chimera Squad, which continues the same story as its predecessors. Instead of another world-scale attack from alien kind, the continuing plot has you fighting alongside your galaxy-born brethren to protect the species-integrated City 31, where two-legged and slithering sentient beings alike live in harmony. Or at least they would like to. That’s where Chimera Squad comes in.

The Same, But Different

The scale of the game is the first thing you’ll notice if coming straight off a fresh XCOM 2 Ironman playthrough. You’re not saving countries. You’re saving city blocks. Instead of fighting your way across a grand landscape through the terrifying fog of war, hearing overpowered mechs creak in the distance, you’re going to be kicking down doors in warehouses, fighting from room to room with the new ‘Breach’ phase of the game, picking an entry point and method to start the encounter off. While not an issue in itself, breaking into buildings SWAT team style can feel claustrophobic compared to the maps of the former games, though the intimate danger of navigating a close-quarters chess match does offer a fresh challenge to the franchise.

The next major mechanic difference XCOM vets will notice is turn orders. Instead of navigating all your soldiers in one turn, then handing the reins over to all the enemy units, you have an order of operations much more similar to D&D’s initiative, where you’re taking turns with every soldier’s action. This basically omits the satisfying synchronized combat of the former games, but again, offers new strategies as you have to plot your course of action around whatever hiccups this terrorist goon wants to throw at you between your units’ actions. 

It’s Not a Team; It’s a Family

Speaking of units, the days of training rookies and balancing team composition with differently ranked soldiers is long gone. Now you’re given a cast of characters who can’t die, lest the rest of the story be denied their witty quips, each one with a unique set of skills that will make your breaking and entering exploits vary each time. I’m personally not a fan of the 80’s action movie, totally believable ‘nicknames’ similar to what your kid brother probably wishes his paintball squad called him, but that’s a matter of taste. As is the soap opera level of drama given with their line deliveries and artificial chemistry. If you can get past the constant snark and competitive charisma of the characters, or ideally even enjoy it, you will find an intensely expanded source of XCOM lore hiding in every corner of this game. From news cast audio to details in the background art, you’ll have all your obsessive curiosities about the XCOM universe, such as whether or not a Muton looks good in a dress, given satisfaction.

Framerates as Quirky as the Main Cast

That is, of course, if you can get the game to run smoothly. If the other XCOM games work well on your gaming laptop, don’t get too confident; Chimera Squad may still operate like it’s having a stroke unless the settings are cranked to their lowest possible option or you meddle with your computer settings. If you luck out and have a war machine of a computer to use, you’re going to experience satisfying interface sound effects, slick and pleasing UI, well drawn character art, and impacting combat visuals. Is the game itself flawless? No. You’ll have a few Overwatch commands that seem to go ignored, and other combat interactions that bug out, potentially ruining an encounter and sending one of your overly personable squad members down for the count. But outside those occasional hang ups, you may not have a classic XCOM experience, but you will have a turn-based strategy game with complex combat approaches, deep lore, and motivating story. Who doesn’t want to weed out anti-alien gangs while fighting alongside a giant snake?

7

The Verdict: Great

XCOM: Chimera Squad may not be what a veteran of the franchise expects, but it’s a beautiful game that will give any strategist a satisfying experience. If the constant attempts at humor from the main characters don’t defeat you before the enemy does, that is.

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