It’s like a bunch of different things mashed together. Man, I wish there was a word for that.
It’s only fitting that this will be a weird article: Part game review, part observation, and – what the hell, I’ll even put a limerick right at the end too.
First though, here’s a quick primer for those who haven’t experienced the X-COM universe.
The X-COM Universe: A quick Primer
X-COM (which is short for eXtra-terrestrial COMbat because ‘video games’) is a series about mankind defending themselves from an alien invasion (similar to Sparke Films’ Occupation film series). With only two exceptions, every single game in the series has been an isometric 3D strategy game, and most of them have been turn-based.
Simply put: It’s like Chess, but it takes place in a city and has aliens and awesome weapons and freaky-deaky special attacks/moves and all that lovely stuff.
Chimera Squad, the latest (and possibly last) game in the series was released earlier this year (2020).
While X-COM isn’t the largest series in the world (compare it to, say, Call of Duty or Mario – franchises which even non-gamers have heard of), it’s still got a decent following. I came across the games last year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I played through the recent remakes, X-COM and the predictably-titled X-COM 2, and I found them a great deal of fun – if a little frustrating at times.
Chimera Squad was the first game in the series that I was looking forward to (as in ‘hadn’t actually been released yet‘), and I didn’t have to wait long – it was only a few weeks between my completion of X-COM 2 and the release of X-COM Chimera Squad.
X-COM Chimera Squad: The case against
X-COM’s Chimera Squad committed the exact same sin as Saints Row’s Gat Out Of Hell (and also Agents of Mayhem, if you count that): They took a franchise that was primarily about creating and customizing your character, and instead gave you pre-made characters with a few basic skin swaps.
Further, the game itself was literally a simplified version of X-COM 2: The player no longer gets to make a whole bunch of choices when it comes to the battle.
Let’s take a scenario where you have to rescue and extract a scientist.
This is how this works in X-COM 2:
– Choose your soldiers (which you have probably created or customised)
– Begin at the back of the battle
– Slowly make your way towards the scientist
– Use the whole map to create and implement a winning strategy
– Extract the scientist
This is how it works in Chimera Squad:
– Choose from a list of pre-made characters (this matters because you’re locked into certain playstyles)
– Begin right before the actual battle (in Breach mode)
– You’re already near the scientist, so you just have to extract them
Notice anything different?
That’s right: The map doesn’t really get a look in. Why this matters might not be immediately obvious. On the one hand, it’s great because it shortens the amount of time that each mission takes. On the other hand, it’s much less fun because there are only a few ways you can complete a mission now.
For instance, in X-COM 2, I had two characters that could grapple up to nearby rooves, which would allow them to have a greater hit percentage chance.
In Chimera Squad, the maps are so small that you don’t even have that option – and when you do, the area is usually already occupied by the enemy.
I also still balk at not being able to create my own characters, but that’s just something I need to get over. Hey – at least we can pick which skills the pre-made characters get when they level up, that’s something.
But it’s not all bad…
X-COM Chimera Squad: The case for
The storyline, for instance, is decent. It’s a lot like the story for Occupation Rainfall – some of the aliens have joined mankind’s fight for freedom.
That’s where the name of the game comes from: A Chimera is a beast from Ancient Greek mythology which is comprised from the parts of many animals (such as a snake, a goat and eagle, a lion, and so on).
Aptly, the Chimera Squad is the first Special Operations Force made up of human and alien recruits.
One thing that impressed me about Chimera Squad was the writing. Sure, the story is your typical ‘uncover the hidden societies’ fare, but the dialogue is great – and quite often randomized, as well (giving the game more replayability).
All of the characters have a distinct personality, and some of them even bitchroast at each other due to their shared history. But are they good enough to carry a whole game?
I think so.
I don’t think they’d be able to carry the epic X-COM or X-COM 2 – but Chimera Squad isn’t trying to be either of those games. No, it’s trying to be something completely different.
Sometimes I don’t want to worry about creating characters (‘It’s 3 Am already? I’ve only made half the squad so far!’) or creating extravagant strategies – sometimes I just want to kill enemies in a combat-focused game which only has a minimal amount of ‘making decisions about building up your headquarters’.
And Chimera Squad is just the game for it.
There once was a bloke named Liam,
who tried to break into a museum,
But all the alien guards,
shot him into small shards –
he might have been better off fleein’.
Hey, I never said it would be a good limerick.