This was a game that I didn’t know even existed until A few months ago. If you’d like to cast your minds back to my XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review you’ll know that I found it to be an excellent play with a difficulty curve that resembles a brick wall if you don’t know what your doing. XCOM 2 I also enjoyed despite the fact that it was nearly a copy-paste of the original, warts and all. So lets see if lightning can strike not just twice but three times.
XCOM Chimera Squad takes place 5 years after the end of XCOM 2, where ADVENT (the alien-led government of Earth) has been overthrown and left earth. Taking place in the fictional city of City 31 (after writing that I asked myself if I could come up with a better city name, it took me 6 seconds to come up with the name “Cohort”) where humans, aliens and hybrids live together. You play as XCOM’s new Chimera Squad, a multi-species peace keeping special task force tasked with keeping the peace of City 31 and bringing down organised crime within the region.
I’ve heard it mentioned that the game feels like an XCOM Saturday morning children’s TV show and I have to say that it’s a very apt description, the game feels very safe like it’s trying too hard to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Instead of being able to recruit randomly generated recruits whenever you can afford them, the game has a handful of personalised characters air lifted from whatever B-list kids TV shows they could get their hands on. This means that there’s no permadeath, so if a squad member is downed in battle they get a attribute penalty until they spend a couple of days in training to put themselves to rights. The battle sequences too feel a lot like “Baby’s First XCOM”, they are split into several smaller battles with breach sequences between them, allowing you the opportunity to take out a few enemies before the battle begins in earnest. Both of these changes flatten the difficulty curb with a bulldozer. Although saying that, I had to change my normal XCOM approach in this game because the developers have done away with both the sniper and the demo classes. Given all the above I found myself getting quite bored, quite quickly.
It wouldn’t be much of an XCOM game without our base and in true XCOM style we have our base but in true Chimera Squad style that has also been simplified. All rooms are available from the word “GO”, all you have to do is assign people to rooms in order to utilise them. This was a problem at the start of the game, since I only had 1 team member spare I would have to halt my R&D when a squad member needed healing. Deployment is similar to the previous XCOMs but instead of countries you deploy in city districts, each district having it’s own unrest meter. If a district fills it’s unrest meter, the city anarchy meter will start filling, when that meter is full the game is lost.
Another thing that really annoyed me were the alien members of the team, they felt far too human, some of them felt more human than some of the human characters. There wasn’t any kind of a culture clash within the team. Again going back to the kids tv show analogy, they felt like the arbitrary alien sidekick who’s only reason for existing is because it scored well with the 7 to 11 year old demographic. The whole nicey-nicey feel good frictionless vibe within the squad feels artificial and staged which rubs me up the wrong way.
Overall the game feels like someone had the great idea of a SWAT-esque XCOM game (XCOPs if you will) but then marketing got their hands on it and thought it would sell better if they diluted the game to appeal to the 7-11 age range; However, In doing this they have removed the appeal of the core demographic of the series since there isn’t really any kids TV shows that appeal to adult gamers, with the exception of Ducktales.