XCOM: Chimera Squad review: Tactical discount

Xcom: Chimera Squad is more than just a spin-off, it's a complete reimagining of the XCOM formula. Are these changes any good or is Chimera Squad a discount nightmare for the series? Our review.

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It’s been four years since XCOM 2 took the world by storm, giving players more of the great turn-based tactical gameplay that has dominated the series since the original in released in 1994. In that last installment, Firaxis changed things up, offering a bigger and better experience than available before. With XCOM: Chimera Squad, the developers are looking to change things up yet again – but this time in a more drastic way.

By title XCOM: Chimera Squad seems like another perfectly welcome entry in the series. But once you dive into it, and start really experiencing the nuts and bolts, you’re going to realize quite quickly that this isn’t the usual XCOM that you know and love. That isn’t a bad thing, though, and XCOM: Chimera Squad offers a new approach to the series in a completely standalone experience that might just leave you wanting more.

The path less traveled

This isn't the first time that 2K has tried to break off from the basic formula in an XCOM game. In fact, it’s pretty hard to forget about 2013’s The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, the weird third-person shooter that left much of the XCOM community divided. While it might not have hit the nail on the head as well as Enemy Unknown or even XCOM 2 in 2016, XCOM: Chimera Squad doesn’t look to make quite as many drastic changes to the formula.

You’re still working with the basic ideas of XCOM. Players take turns making moves, attacking enemies, and all of that. Unlike normal XCOM, though, Chimera Squad utilizes a timeline system similar to RPG games that rely heavily on AP Points. It's a system reminiscent of RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin, Tyranny, and Pillars of Eternity. Instead of moving all of your allies at once, you’ll need to take turns, moving them in turn with the spot that they appear on the timeline. It’s a very different way to approach the XCOM formula – and one that requires you to think outside the box – but it still manages to scratch that XCOM itch.

On the other hand, though, this might seem like a completely different type of game to some players. If you’re not a fan of timetables and the like, then you’ll probably find yourself struggling to enjoy the combat in Chimera Squad. If you don’t mind trying things out from a new perspective, though, you’ll find that Chimera Squad is still very much an XCOM game, even if it looks a bit different from the outside.

Exploring new frontiers

Make no mistake, while XCOM: Chimera Squad looks and pretty much plays like an XCOM game in most capacities, it’s a completely different type of experience. The player-built armies of past games are gone, replaced by static characters in a developer-set pool of recruits. You can’t customize them like you would in previous games, and the biggest consequence of your failure – the loss of your best soldiers – is no longer a threat here.

Unlike previous XCOM titles, which saw the permadeath of soldiers when they die in combat, Chimera Squad instead focuses on a bleedout system. When a character is downed, they enter a stage of “bleeding out”. If the player is unable to make it to that character, and the soldier perishes, the mission will have to reset at a checkpoint. You cannot lose characters anymore – this was probably the biggest change that we noticed during our time with the game, and easily one of the most jarring.

Of course, you’ll also find that the hub area is a bit different. Where previous games made you upgrade and build facilities, you’ll now find that they unlock over time. Each system still works very similarly to how it did in past instances of the game, so players shouldn’t feel too lost as they get used to things.

Tactical goodness on a budget

If you’re looking for a good XCOM experience that won’t break the bank, then XCOM: Chimera Squad hits all the right notes. The story is a completely standalone experience, and while it is set after the events of XCOM 2, it doesn’t actually follow as a direct sequel. The game introduces several new mechanics, all of which work out really well in the XCOM formula.

A particularly favorite addition of mine was the breach system. At the start of each mission area, players set up their characters in different areas. These areas can often offer bonuses, debuffs, or new avenues to attack. It gives the game a very unique tactical feeling, as setting up your characters in the right spot can make all the difference -- especially on higher difficulties.

Players will need to harness the powers of both human and alien soldiers as they work to police City31, and try to build back up the civilization that was lost between XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2. While the revolution is over, the fight for peace is just getting started.

XCOM: Chimera Squad does a great job introducing players to alien and human characters alike. Each of which has a distinct personality and feel to them, bringing their own special abilities along for the ride. Being able to force your way into the enemy’s mind and have them attack their allies with Verge's Berserk move was a welcome addition to the power at my fingertips, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t mind seeing more XCOM experiences in the same vein as Chimera Squad.

Whether you’re picking it up at full-price, or grabbing it during the special launch sale, XCOM: Chimera Squad is a fantastic gem, and an excellent spin-off for one of gaming's most celebrated strategy franchises.


This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. XCOM: Chimera Squad will be available on PC on April 24, 2020.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

Review for
XCOM: Chimera Squad
8
Pros
  • Fun standalone story that introduces new characters to the series
  • Great timeline-based combat that feels at home in the XCOM formula
  • Captures the XCOM feel while offering a new experience
Cons
  • Changes might be too jarring for some XCOM fans
  • Lack of permadeath for characters takes away the series' biggest consequence
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 23, 2020 6:01 AM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, XCOM: Chimera Squad review: Tactical discount

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 6:19 AM

      "a fantastic gem, and an excellent spin-off" Welp, I guess I'm buying an x-com game today.

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 8:48 AM

        Yeah, I honestly wasn't expecting to like it as well as I did, but I really enjoyed my time with it.

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 6:28 AM

      Oh wow. I wasn't expecting a review for this one. Awesome.

      How was stability/performance? Did the game seem buggy at all?

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 6:34 AM

        It's Firaxis.

        Probably at worst, Ghandi shows up to nuke you. :)
        (I'd expect a handful, non-gamebreaking on release, not enough to pull me from purchase as long as the gameplay is solid)

        • reply
          April 23, 2020 6:35 AM

          Yeah it's just that the XCOM 2 performed poorly on humble machines and (at release) was prone to crash.

          • reply
            April 23, 2020 6:49 AM

            Gotcha. This looks super-lightweight in terms of gameplay, but proof will be in pudding. Still working through morning coffee and newsfeed so I'll watch to see if anyone else points this out.

          • reply
            April 23, 2020 6:54 AM

            Summary of reviews so far looks like its a solid 80-85% game https://www.vg247.com/2020/04/23/xcom-chimera-squad-reviews-scores/

            IGN's at a 7 and points out some things they call UI bugs near the end (haven't played so can't be 100% sure of "bugs" or "features") https://www.ign.com/articles/xcom-chimera-squad-review

            A scan of the other reviews doesn't reveal anything game breaking. Best summary I can make would be that it is an XCom game, it feels experimental with many parts good, some parts disappointing, but at the current low $10, if you bitch about Firaxis playing around with the formula and refusing to buy on that, you're being snobbish :)

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 8:46 AM

        No big performance issues that I noticed in 25+ hours of gameplay so far. Couple annoying things with like clicking and moving people places I didn't mean to, but not really the game's fault.

        I'm sure there are some bugs, but doubt there are any game-breaking ones

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 10:11 AM

        IGN review said kind of buggy but still playing

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 9:39 AM

      Can't wait for unlock tonight

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 9:40 AM

        And if I'm away from my PC when it unlocks is there a way to remotely start the steam download?

        • reply
          April 23, 2020 11:33 AM

          Ok apparently I can just log in from a mobile device and start a download on a home PC, neato

          • reply
            April 23, 2020 11:58 AM

            Make sure it's the right PC. Steam app is stuck on my laptop instead of my desktop. Haven't figured out how to change it yet.

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 9:56 AM

      Are the missions/maps randomly generated?

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 7:17 PM

        Hmm lead designer in a stream said not as procedural as XCOM 2

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 10:02 AM

      The breach system definitely intrigued me. I like that idea of being able to set up everything before starting the noise.

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 10:05 AM

      How exciting to have a new XCOM game tomorrow

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
      reply
      April 23, 2020 10:23 AM

      https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/04/23/xcom-chimera-squad-review/
      Skimming this, they are overall positive, but complain about less freedom in choices: 'streamlined'. And recommend playing on higher difficulty.

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 11:23 AM

        streamlined and easier than previous games... sounds perfect for me! lol

        • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
          reply
          April 23, 2020 11:54 AM

          Exactly! I chose to play The Bureau before either of the main titles because it seemed less intimidating, and enjoyed it. This looks the same way!

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 1:48 PM

        Some YouTuber also said normal was too easy maybe I'll start one level up

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 10:50 AM

      Shirif...?

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 10:59 AM

      SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 11:15 AM

      I'm surprised its basically a full size xcom game.

      • G D mercury mega
        reply
        April 23, 2020 11:59 AM

        Is already 50% off on Steam

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 12:05 PM

      Is this XCOM or similar to that The Bureau crap? That was a unpleasant surprise.

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 12:07 PM

        no, its more like the historical missions in Xcom 2

        • reply
          April 23, 2020 12:22 PM

          i did all of those, they were fun

        • reply
          April 23, 2020 1:17 PM

          Seems a little bigger than those TLP missions

      • reply
        April 23, 2020 12:23 PM

        This is based on the tactical goodness of XCOM 2, but it is meant to be an experimental game to see where they can take XCOM (hence its low cost).

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 5:39 PM

      Oh fuck yes

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 6:05 PM

      Anyone pre-loading yet?

      • G D mercury mega
        reply
        April 23, 2020 6:06 PM

        I think it's in 3 hours.

        • reply
          April 23, 2020 6:09 PM

          Yup release is 4/24 so 12am ET/9pm PT unlock.

          • reply
            April 23, 2020 6:10 PM

            Yeah but like... you can't pre-load in advance?

            Lame!

            • reply
              April 23, 2020 6:16 PM

              Its at most 18gb (per sys requirements) which is, at least to me, not in the range I'd need to pre-load. 25gb or more, yes please.

              • reply
                April 23, 2020 6:50 PM

                Gigabit master race United

              • reply
                April 23, 2020 7:18 PM

                I need to get better internet

              • reply
                April 23, 2020 8:41 PM

                Hmm, probably at least a 15 GB download. Should be able to manage that in 5-6 minutes.

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 9:21 PM

      It seems to be downloading. 18 minutes to go.

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 9:44 PM

      It's live?

    • reply
      April 23, 2020 9:47 PM

      I don't understand these things in the settings.

      https://i.imgur.com/dZ1QP7f.jpg

    • reply
      April 24, 2020 10:19 PM

      I don't understand really good. But, I like that post

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