XCOM: Chimera Squad is the best surprise of 2020

You know what’s a welcome surprise during one of humanity’s most challenging ordeals? A new XCOM game.

2K just make an announcement and it drops just days later. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for more.

It also happens to be pretty damn great. Serving as something of a sequel to XCOM 2, it plays in much the same way as the games’ it’s spun off from but there’s some massive changes.

The most obvious change is the game’s ‘Breach Mode’. Before each mission and throughout, you will enter each area through different entrances, split up into numerous ‘encounters’.

That might be a window, through shutter doors, or a small doorway, but each entrance offers you a chance to get the jump on your enemies.

Sometimes, the entrance might leave you vulnerable to the counterattack. Other times, you can cleave a force in half before they’ve even had a chance to clutch the trigger.

You can even assign your units to multiple entry points which can really split apart an enemy force, making it difficult for them to find cover anywhere.

It’s a fantastic feature that really breaks up the action in between missions, but it’s surprisingly not the biggest adjustment in Chimera Squad. For the first time in XCOM, the entire combat timeline has been shuffled.

It now means you’ll have your turn mixed in with the enemy and the turn order is determined by agent ability.

These two aspects combined really freshen up the gameplay in a really dynamic way, while still remaining true to what makes an XCOM game.

Chimera Squad are a group of special units sent to City 31 to help present peace in face of chaos and rebellion. They’re the best of the best and work together as a formidable, untouchable unit.

These elite agents also have special abilities normal XCOM units don’t possess, but they can also use a synergy which frees up an agent to move in the combat timeline.

This all adds a new element to the tactical warfare XCOM is renowned for, yet the essence of the game very much remains the same.

Another major difference is the art style. Chimera Squad makes use of a striking comic book aesthetic through its cut scenes, using still imagery to move the story with light flashing across the characters and buildings.

It’s a lovely, well-suited touch that blends well with the fast-paced futuristic style that oozes out of the game.

Chimera Squad’s hub area is also incredibly subtle but sophisticated, presenting you with a holographic map of City 31 filled with critical and side missions. It lacks of the depth of a mainline game, but there’s enough going on to keep you invested in between missions.

Interestingly, City 31 is split up into sectors and over time they’ll each be filled with civil unrest if neglected or have open missions there for an extended time.

You can, of course, only take one mission on at a time, but can assign field teams to areas when you’re not present. You also have some neat abilities at your disposal that can only be used at certain periods.

For instance, you can dramatically reduce the unrest in a sector if it’s getting difficult, or even freeze the timescales of it temporarily.

It kind of has a Civilisation vibe to it where you have to keep individual cities happy otherwise run the risk of revolt. Which is a funny thing because Sid Meier himself apparently was a big proponent of the changes in Chimera Squad.

The hub area also lets individual agents go off on spec ops missions, train to hone their abilities, and as with past XCOM games gather supplies and level up units at the armor while adjusting their loadouts.

There’s just enough in Chimera Squad to be different from its predecessors, providing a fresh enough take to really immerse you back in its rich, lore driven world. Units actually feel like well-rounded characters with their own narrative and back story driving their missions forward.

Chimera Squad is a PC only game for right now, though I can’t imagine it’ll be much longer before console owners can get in on the action.  I don’t know what this means in regards an XCOM 3, but there’s a lot of content to unpack here, with a good 20-30 hours worth of missions to work your way through. And at a bargain price, it can also work as a great entry point for the franchise if you’ve always been curious.

The smaller mission structure suits drop in and drop out play, it remains tactical but approachable, and best of all it still captures the best of XCOM while providing something fresh and different.

XCOM Chimera Squad is the best surprise of 2020 in more ways than one.

XCOM Chimera Squad is now available on PC 

Code provided by 2K

About the author

Sally Willington

Sally is relatively new to gaming since a newfound addiction to Nintendo Switch. Now they just can't stop playing, anything and everything. Sally especially loves a good RPG and thinks that Yuna may just be one of her favourite characters ever.
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