X-COM Chimera Squad is the latest installment of the long-lived popular series. It takes players back into the fight five years after the events of X-COM 2. However, instead of fighting aliens bent on taking over the Earth, you lead a squad of humans, aliens, and hybrids as you take on underground elements in City 31.
Back in 1994, I installed a demo of a new game from a 3.5 inch floppy disk that was included with a video game magazine. Named X-COM: UFO Defense, this turn-based strategy game featured tactical combat as humans fought to save the Earth from an alien invasion. I loved the game, which I subsequently purchased, and spent hours upon hours playing it as well as its first sequel and many others that have been released in the series. While most other video games of the time were platformers, shooters, or fighting games that required carefully timed button presses to complete combos, jumps, and other actions, X-COM: UFO Defense let players think and plan strategy to defeat extraterrestrial invaders. This was right up my alley and, since the initial release and its sequel, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, sold over 1 million copies, I was not the only one who played the game.
X-COM Chimera Squad has a similar interface to X-COM 2. However it takes the series in a new direction. Unlike in past games where you were responsible for defending an entire planet, X-COM Chimera Squad is focused on a single city, City 31, where humans and aliens live alongside one another. However, just as in any city, there are criminal elements seeking to cause trouble. As the commander of Chimera Squad, the player leads an elite unit which has been called in to do the jobs the regular police force can’t handle. The game is only for single players. There are no multiplayer features. X-COM Chimera Squad is out now and available on Steam for $19.99. However, there is an introductory price of only $9.99 if you purchase it by May 1, 2020.
X-COM Chimera Squad features both a strategic planning element as well as tactical combat. The strategic level of the game takes place at the headquarters of Chimera Squad. Here you can train, outfit, and assign your team of agents and then send them on missions. Since the scale is smaller than previous X-COM games, X-COM Chimera Squad’s strategic level is a bit different as well. You do not build up your headquarters; instead everything is already built and ready to go.
The City Map is where you observe the status of unrest throughout the nine districts and select missions. Assembly is where you create new designs for weapons and equipment, similar to doing research in earlier versions of the series. You can also assign one of your agents to Spec Ops missions where they can get resources for your team. One agent at a time can undergo Training as well. Here agents improve attributes such as hit points or movement. You can also remove Scars from agents which are detrimental effects which can be caused when an agent is seriously wounded during a mission. At the Armory, outfit your agents with weapons and equipment as well as choose new skills and abilities for them when they are promoted to their next rank. Supply is where you spend credits to purchase new weapons and equipment for your team.
The game features three types of resources. Credits are the currency you need to purchase items. Intel is used to hire field teams and to purchase special items from the Scavenger market. Finally, Elerium is spent at the Assembly to create new types of equipment. Each mission you complete can provide one or more of these resources. In addition, you can earn resources as a result of your field teams deployed to the districts.
City 31 has three main underground factions. At the start, you decide which faction you want to investigate. All of the missions and events are then focused on that one faction. Your squad investigates and completes situations and missions against that faction until you have enough information for a final takedown of that faction. Once one faction has been dealt with, you then begin working on the next faction. Time is divided into days. You can complete one situation or mission each day. Both situations and missions result in some type of reward, but there is no tactical combat for a situation. Often there is more than one choice and per day, whichever districts you neglect will have their unrest rise. For each district that ends a day at maximum unrest, the level of anarchy in the city rises. If it gets too high, you lose the game.
Your team is made up of agents. You start out with four standard agents: Godmother, the ranger with a shotgun; Cherub, a warden armed with a pistol and shield; Terminal the medic who carries a sub-machinegun; and Verge, the psionic envoy who fights with his mind as well as an assault rifle. There are seven other operatives in the game as well. As you play, you will have the opportunity to recruit four more for your team to get to a total of 8. Agents are never killed. If they would die during tactical combat, you have to play that mission over again. Each agent is unique and offers special abilities as they level up with promotions.
When you select a mission from the City Map, your team goes into action and begins tactical combat. You can only take four agents with you per mission. Each mission is divided up into encounters, with most missions having two or three encounters. These missions are more like SWAT team assaults rather than battles and the areas of the map are rather small. You begin each encounter with a breach. Depending on the location, there could be one to three breach locations. Some may require a breaching charge or a key card. You decide the order in which your agents rush into the location. That is the same order they will follow during the combat. As you are deciding how to breach, the breach spots provide information on the results of the breach. Some spots, like the main door, are often targeted by the enemy and they will fire on you as you rush in. Other spots will allow you to surprise the enemy and even give bonuses to your agents.
After setting up a breach to your satisfaction, you start the tactical combat. As each agent moves in, they get to take a shot or other basic action. If it is not a surprise, the enemy may get to fire back at you. Finally, your agents seek cover. The turn order for the combat is located along the right side of the screen. Usually an agent takes a turn, then an enemy, and this continues back and forth until every unit has taken a turn for the round. This lets you plan out how you want to proceed. For example, do you try to defeat an enemy that goes later in the round or one that goes right after your agent? Some agents even have a special ability to change the position of another agent in the order.
In addition to killing enemies, agents can choose an action called Subdue. This is a melee attack in which the agent attempts to knock the target unconscious and arrest them. Once you purchase tranq rounds for your weapons, you can shoot to knock enemies unconscious rather than move in for a melee attack. The benefit of capturing enemies is gaining Intel. For each enemy you capture, you gain a 20% chance of getting 20 Intel at the end of the mission. Therefore, if you capture 5 enemies, you have a 100% chance of getting the 20 Intel.
During combat, your agents may take damage. If they lose all their health points, they go down and begin to bleed out. If another agent does not stabilize them within a certain number of turns, the mission ends and you have to attempt either that encounter or the entire mission over again. Using cover helps your agents avoid taking as much damage as if they are out in the open. If you get an Android to add to your team, this mechanical agent can take the place of one of your agents who lost all their health points in a previous encounter. However, the Android does not deploy until the next breach phase.
As mentioned earlier, each agent has unique attacks and/or abilities they can use during combat. This is where you can really let your agents specialize in the way they operate. While everyone has basic shooting or melee attacks, using these unique abilities can give you an advantage over your enemies. Some of these abilities are only unlocked as your agents are promoted to higher ranks. For example, Godmother’s ventilate attack allows her to blast away through cover to hit an enemy at the cost of several rounds of ammunition for her shotgun. Torque, the Viper on your team, can use tongue pull to grab an enemy or other agent and pull them towards her. She can even wrap her serpentine body around any enemy and bind them, preventing them from taking an action.
There are various objectives for each encounter within a mission. Some may just require you to clear out all enemies. Others require you to rescue a hostage and then evacuate. It is important to pay attention to the objectives. Usually for the evacuation objectives, enemy reinforcements begin arriving every turn after a while, so get the job done and then get out.
X-COM Chimera Squad in my opinion is what might result if X-COM were mixed with Rainbow Six. The interface and tactical combat are like the former but the breaching and assaults are like the latter. The game might also be considered X-COM lite. That being said, I really enjoyed playing the game. Some of the X-COM series, especially X-COM 2 and its additional content, can be very daunting. X-COM Chimera Squad does not feel that way. The strategic level is engaging, but not overly complex. Since the city is divided into nine districts, you only really need to keep track of those districts. The use of field teams helps not only to gain resources, but also keeps unrest under control. As you recruit more agents, you can have those not going on missions either training, doing Spec Ops assignments, or working in the Assembly to shorten the amount of time to gain new items. The interface is good about letting you know when a task is completed and when agents have nothing to do.
I like the fact that you have a specific unique agents. Each even has their own biography. This allows you to get to know each agent better and really learn how to use their abilities. As they gain scars from injuries during missions, be sure to send them to training to remove those scars which can reduce movement, health points, or have other negative consequences during a mission. The fact that you can only have eight of the eleven agents during one playthrough provides replayability to the game. Along those same lines, with three different factions, changing the order in which you take them on also changes the game.
The way the tactical combat is broken up into encounters helps make this part of the game more manageable. The maps are rather confined, often indoors. Along with the visible turn order, you can really plan out an entire turn or two and prioritize those enemies that go earlier in the turn. As I got to know the agents better, I made sure I put them in a certain order during the breach so they would then follow that same order during combat. Since some agents have great supporting abilities, it is better to keep them back to help the other agents instead of using their turn to shoot and attack. Learning all those interactions can be a lot of fun and encourages experimentation. Plus if it does not work, you can always restart the encounter and try something different.
X-COM Chimera Squad is engaging and entertaining. Veterans of X-COM will enjoy a new take on the game as well as the ability to play as many of the aliens who were the enemies in previous releases. X-COM Chimera Squad also is a great entry-level offering for those new to the series. The atmosphere of the game is also a bit lighter and the banter in the cut scenes can almost be playful at times. While X-COM Chimera Squad diverges in some ways from the previous games in the series, I liked the differences that breathe some new life into the franchise. Plus the fact that the regular price is only $19.99, you can’t go wrong with this game. You will definitely get your money’s worth and have a lot of fun in the process.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
The thoughts expressed in this article are my own and not that of the publisher or the editors of GeekDad.com.