Before the XCOM review: Chimera Squad we were really curious about more of the new game's Firaxis, announced as a surprise and sold for half price until launch. Now that we have tried it we are always curious, but to see what awaits us in XCOM 3, of which this seems to be almost the background. But let's go in order.
XCOM: Chimera Squad takes place a few years after the events told in XCOM 2. The world has now been pacified, the Advent have been stopped and the alien races, free from the yoke of their masters, can try to collaborate and coexist with humans.
Unfortunately, there is someone for whom this coexistence is not going well at all and who would like to create a new order by restoring the old conflicts, one terrorist act after another. For this, special teams have been created, with agents of all kinds, who are responsible for maintaining order through targeted actions and investigations of the highest level. One of these, the Chimera Squad, is made up of members fresh from training, but who must immediately deal with the problems of the megalopolis City 31, whose factions are in turmoil.
XCOM: Chimera Squad is divided into two macrosections: one set in the base of operation from which all operations are coordinated and the other on field. We will talk about the second later, now let's focus on the first. The base of the Chimera Squad seems to be a simplified version of that of the XCOM: apart from that it is not mobile, it is from here that we can select the operatives to send on mission, promote them, assign them to research to unlock new equipment, make them perform missions special to find resources, have them trained to upgrade them or to heal serious injuries and so on. The base is always the place where we will have access to information on individual team members who, unlike what happened in XCOM, are not anonymous soldiers, but characters real, all with their own character and eager to chat to let us know their point of view.
Theoretically in this way the player should develop a more empathic relationship with them, which is also true, were it not for some problems that we will discuss later.
In general, team management in Chimera Squad is much simpler than in XCOM 2. Each character has slots to which the various items of the game can be assigned.equipment (weapon grafts, armor upgrades and consumables) and, as you level up, he gains extra skills to use on the battlefield, related to his species of belonging. For example, agent Muton, called Axiom, becomes more and more a kind of Bud Spencer who solves missions with his fists, while the human doctor acquires increasingly sophisticated support skills. Unlike in XCOM 1 and 2, units cannot die in Chimera Squad. They can be seriously injured and incapacitated, but once in the field there are two possibilities: either the mission succeeds, and then everyone is brought back to the base immediately recovering the energy (as mentioned, only some wounds remain giving malus, but they can be treated ), or the mission fails for everyone.
The most important function of the base, however, is the city map: it is from here that we can select the missions; to start investigations, i.e. operations in which a single organized faction is faced, formed by chained events that expand for different game turns; and manage public order by sending operational teams to the various neighborhoods.
Normally on the city map there are several missions to select, of different colors depending on their urgency and linked to the different districts of City 31. Each day, that is, each turn, you can only face one. Carrying out a mission means not only obtaining the relative rewards, but also decreasing the turmoil in the neighborhood to which it is linked. The missions left cause an increase in discontent which can lead to real riots. So, as was the case for the management of relations with nations in XCOM, here too it is necessary to choose from time to time which mission to carry out not only on the basis of one's own advantage, but observing the general framework. A city in revolt is more difficult to manage and the factions that want to subvert the established order reap undoubted benefits.
Once on the pitch, the gameplay of XCOM: Chimera Squad shows on the one hand its full continuity with XCOM 2, on the other the desire to diversify with the mechanics of the break-ins and with a game structure very different from that of the main chapters. While the XCOM missions take place on single maps more or less large, in which all enemies and objectives appear, in Chimera Squad they are divided into smaller sections, interspersed with break-ins.
Basically, before accessing each section, the units must be placed at the points of access to the area (doors, windows, walls to be blown up, ducts and more), each of which has advantages and disadvantages. For example, entering through a window can increase mobility for a turn, while creating an opening in a wall with explosives can allow us to take enemies by surprise, but it can block one of the team members for a turn.
After positioning the team, the real break-in can be started, with our men who, once inside the new area, can shoot at an enemy, seek cover or use a specific skill for the break-ins. After the response of the opponents, the break-in is over and our men go in search of the closest covers, starting the actual tactical phase, which has a very similar functioning to that of XCOM 2, albeit with some differences: the members of our team and the enemies move to shifts according to the most classic evaluation of the initiative (therefore not one faction at a time).
Each turn a character has points to spend on two actions: move, defend, shoot with the weapon in hand or use a skill. The system is the well-tried one of practically all the exponents of the genre, such as the recent Phoenix Point, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden or the upcoming Gears Tactics, including covers. Even the interface remembers without major mysteries that of Firaxis XCOM, capable as it is of giving the player complete control of the battlefield from the very beginning, despite the apparent thinness.
Speaking of the missions, it should be specified that the objectives may vary but, whether they are the recovery of stolen information, the safety of some hostages or the simple cleaning of the area from all the enemies, they will always take place on very small maps, with the fire conflicts that will be direct and immediately present, as well as self-contained (apart from in some cases where reinforcements are expected to arrive, which complicate the situation a little). THE enemies are the ones we have known in the other XCOMs, including abilities: mechs, Chryssalid, Advent rebel troops, androids, turrets, andromedons and so on.
Their behavior is also similar, despite some ingenuity in artificial intelligence, which is especially noticeable by selecting the lowest difficulty levels. As in XCOM 2, the variety is great and increases even more when you consider the bosses: units with special powers that usually have a name and that really give a hard time. Generally speaking, the gameplay of XCOM: Chimera Squad is much more agile than that of regular XCOMs and seems designed for a more relaxed enjoyment. Some missions are longer, but generally they finish almost all in ten / fifteen minutes, so much so that it led us to think that it would be a perfect title to play on a tablet. Despite this, it works really well, apart from some limitations (it is almost always fought in very small areas and the part of approaching the enemies, here immediate, is missing a little).
Narration and graphics
La narrative direction it is the aspect of XCOM: Chimera Squad that is less convincing. Do you want because the more dry and brutal style of the other XCOMs just did not mind, or because it is evident from the first minutes of the game a certain adolescent drift in the dialogues, reminiscent of the Marvel movies, and or because of the character drawings, which smell right down to the too much of a low-cost American serial cartoon, we didn't manage to get too passionate about the relationships between the members of the Chimera team and their personal stories.
At the umpteenth joke from Avengers we began to want to be able to skip the narrative interludes (having to write the review we avoided doing it), after all useless to understand the thin story that is the background to the action. In reality, the description of the scenario works, with the exposure of the different factions in battle and that of the dynamics of City 31 that they have a sense of their own, but then inevitable comes the misplaced joke to remind us that in Firaxis they are masters of the strategy, but they still have a long way to go to become storytellers. That is: they are better at indirectly narrating, creating gods game systems balanced and multifaceted, which directly, where they are lost in styles and easy solutions. Of course for a game like XCOM: Chimera Squad the narrative side, understood in its sense of story, is secondary, but for this reason we don't understand why we felt the need to give it all this importance in terms of resources.
From a technical point of view, the game not only makes its own, but evolves what is seen in XCOM, with more detailed models and scenarios, richer animations and more convincing special effects. Do not expect who knows what, because we are not talking about a revolutionary change, but only a step forward compared to what has already been done. Let's say that it seemed more like an appetizer than anything else, waiting for the main courses, which will be served with XCOM 3. On the other hand, who would ever buy an XCOM for graphics?
CommentDigital Delivery Steam Price 19,99 € Resources4Gaming.com
Firaxis doesn't disappoint this time either. It is clear that we are facing a lesser project than the two previous XCOMs, but Chimera Squad works, despite its limitations. Our impression is that it is a bridge game for XCOM 3, that is, it serves above all to explain the new balance of the game universe after the second chapter, focusing the player's gaze on a more circumscribed and detailed scenario than the campaigns of the previous episodes. . However it must be said that, for the price it costs, it offers enough content, a good variety, interesting mechanics, in particular that of the break-ins, and it is also replayable several times. It is therefore a good variation on the theme that will appeal to fans of the main series and to those looking for a light strategy, but which can give satisfactions.
- A light but successful variation on the theme
- The break-in mechanics works
- Solid, despite some limitations
- Artificial intelligence not always flawless
- The new narrative direction does not fully convince