As much as one can love video games, hardly anyone can ignore or deny the rather massive presence of toxic communities which mainly surround certain genres and certain productions. Despite this awareness, it is clear that some of the fans of the XCOM universe took us by surprise. XCOM: Enemy Unknown re-launched a series that seemed destined to be forgotten and did so in style until an XCOM 2 raised the bar.
To say that Firaxis Games has won the public’s trust is nothing short of an understatement, so why react on various forums with marked negativity to new advertising? Beyond toxicity and negativity, it must however be admitted that the modus operandi behind the announcement of XCOM: Chimera Squad and its functionality could activate at least some alarm tones.
2K Games and Firaxis suddenly announce the title on April 14 with a launch just ten days later (April 24), with a budget price of € 19.99 and a 50% discount until May 1 bringing the cost tattered figure of € 9.99. Where is the trap? The catch is that Chimera Squad is almost a passing chapter for XCOM 3 and is obviously a more contained game, perhaps in a number of ways limited, but mostly different.
A diversity that, combined with the lack of some classic features and the fact that development was entrusted to a team not led by lead developer Jake Solomon, made us think of the worst. A justified pessimism or the classic example of “different is beautiful”?
XCOM: Chimera Squad takes place 5 years after the end of XCOM 2 and is halfway between the spin-off and the sequel claiming an absolutely stand-alone character. It is not strictly necessary to have played the other chapters as well because the developers and publishers consider this project as a possible opportunity to bring together new players, attracted by a decidedly attractive price and obviously more marked accessibility. But let’s go in order.
The protagonist of the Chimera Squad adventure is essentially a special XCOM team that brings together humans, hybrids and aliens trying to create a chosen team of specialists. “We aliens, we just want to kill them,” thundered part of the community, but the choice is interesting in terms of gameplay and narratively justified by an Earth and in particular by a City 31 which tries to iron out the differences and create a peaceful coexistence for all people.
Despite herself, the team is immediately grappled with the rubble of an attack that threatens to send any inclusion attempt up in smoke. Director Kelly then decided to leave the soldiers there to try to maintain order in the city 31 while finding the culprit of the attack thanks to real investigations of the criminal factions active in the area. A long journey of raiding, field missions and collecting clues to successfully cut off the heads of the most dangerous gangs and uncover the truth.
Lead project designer Mark Nauta described a significantly more character-driven title with the option to choose from 11 agents characterized by well-defined personalities, backgrounds, motivations, and abilities. In some ways, eleven classes replace this work of absolute randomness and customization typical of agency operators. Another difference that has made and can move many purists who loved to cuddle their favorite agents, then mourn their death following a bad decision.
The decision to push us to save all Agents, even if they are put out of action, stems from this unprecedented focus on soldiers who are absolutely not empty boxes but bring more curtains and narrative screens to life. complex than the series standard. Nothing to tear your hair out or earn praise for the storytelling, but to uncover special relationships between the viper Torque and the communications officer Whisper, or to have as a team what is in fact a clone of an enemy leader gives very nice flashes of narrative depth.
A more central story also thanks to the interludes created through fixed screens in a vaguely comic style, which breaks the routine of the combat and management phases. These remain the two central souls of intellectual property, but in this case there has also been a work of revision, modification and reduction. The management side, above all, is actually more accessible even for a beginner since the makeshift Chimera Squad base has fewer sections to interact with and is not really expandable with new structures.
Imagine some sort of large hangar capable of guaranteeing basic functions such as research to unlock new tools, technologies and equipment; the supply area where you can buy the new products you have just discovered; the Training area to improve our agents; the armory to modify team equipment and promote agents to unlock new skills; and finally Special Operations, specific missions which occupy an operator for a total of days and which guarantee resources or bonuses of all kinds. All linked to three resources that can be obtained and spent in different ways: Elerium, Information and Credits.
While there are goodies such as unique epic weapons and rare trinkets courtesy of the Black Market, the research, weapons, and customizations are arguably less in-depth than a classic chapter, a sign that beyond the partially recycled asset and various types of diversity, this project is actually smaller and more limited. That said, the crucial section is undoubtedly the city map, the real strategic pivot of our decisions and the section on which the success or failure of our adventure depends.
The map is divided into 9 areas which can be the scene of main or secondary missions which, if ignored, increase the lifting bar. Each day we can basically embark on a single mission and therefore riot management becomes crucial as ignoring some of the city’s 31 problems is fundamentally inevitable.
When a specific area reaches Rivolte level 5, it becomes a red area which increases the city’s World Anarchy value by one point. Anarchy can reach a maximum of 14 and is the real discriminator that can lead to losing control of the city. Tactical squads also come to our aid in emergency management: the type of detachments achievable in each area by spending information and which not only have the capacity to guarantee weekly resources but which gradually unlocks important skills to calm the waters. when the level of Revolts or Anarchy starts to get really disturbing.
Many interconnected pieces describe a managerial / strategic phase made up of fewer elements but should not be underestimated in any way in view of the battles on the ground. Turn-based battles which, as usual for this Chimera Squad, host two huge, controversial innovations in the classic structure of movement, skills and weapons. At a basic level, in fact, we continue to have, in a decidedly simplistic way, a move action and an attack action / ability to perform by analyzing shock cards from above. However, the approach phase that precedes the current battle is already changing dramatically from the past.
Bye bye slow or purely stealthy approaches, welcome. Each field mission is characterized by different encounters with a certain amount and a certain type of enemy and each encounter opens with a more or less spectacular and surprise break-in. Walls to explode, roofs to descend, ventilation ducts to be exploited are some examples of burst points that can be used thanks to specific objects and capable of guaranteeing bonuses and penalties that must be weighed from time to time.
Going through the back door of a building with a swipe card equipped allows us to take enemies by surprise and have a better aim, but at the same time the last unit to enter could end up with the weapon stuck. for a turn. These are important choices for opening up the clashes as well as possible by exploiting skills and items and trying to better deal with enemies who, depending on our choices, may be more or less ready to respond strongly to our attack. But the raid phase is just the first big news in the fight.
The classic structure in which we the players manage all of our characters and later the AI did the same has been replaced with a timeline that alternates Team Chimera members and enemies in a kind of chess game. which opens new scenarios also thanks to skills that aim to manipulate the order of confrontation in all respects. It’s an interesting thematic variation that inevitably affects our choices on the battlefield in combat.
However, it should be noted that beyond the question of diversity, the struggle is also more limited than in the second chapter. The urban environment virtually eliminates all natural maps and results in more intense clashes in smaller maps that negate the presence of sniper rifles in favor of pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, and shotguns. A lack which, combined with other choices, which one could define as savings, highlights the nature of such an experimental production and with interesting but always secondary ideas.
Surviving very few minor issues, we tried a solid game with lots of good Italian voices and able to entertain for around twenty hours without considering the extra difficulty levels, classic hardcore modes, and mod support that we saw in the launcher. Elements that enrich a story with interesting ideas and focus on issues such as inclusion, diversity and identity. Flaws aside, it’s really hard not to recommend XCOM: Chimera Squad to fans old and new, especially at an incredibly low price like 10 €.
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