Quick Chimera Squad Thoughts

David Stark / Zarkonnen
1 May 2020, 12:37 p.m.

I just finished playing through Chimera Squad, the spontaneously appeared XCOM spinoff, on Normal/Iron Man. It's... an OK game. The writing is uneven: some of the banter is cringeworthy and your opponents are a bit uninspired. But I love the food ads on the radio.

They're also clearly trying out some new things, which is easier in a spinoff:

Instead of being one wide open map, each CS mission is a series of smaller setpieces. This eliminates one of the core frustrations of the previous games. Previously, each map contained multiple groups of enemies that would get activated when you got close to them. This meant that you really wanted to activate them one after the other. But the game also really really wanted you to flank your enemies - but flank a bit too far and you'd activate a new enemy group and get outflanked in turn. In CS, all enemies in a level are already aware of you, which makes for a better-controlled experience.

Mind you, your enemies are clearly still blind and deaf, because they don't notice a giant firefight going on next door, allowing you to finish off one room and then "breach" into the next one.

The bigger change is that instead of sides taking turns, there's now a queue of units taking turns, which means that your moves and the enemy moves interleave more. I have mixed feelings about this. It makes the fights more dynamic and opens up design space for manipulating when units make moves, but fights tend to degenerate into "try to kill the enemy that's about to take its turn". This, combined with pretty generous HP bars and high aim probabilities, means that the fights are more of a slugfest than the tense positioning-based gameplay of the previous games.

Relatedly, as noted on Twitter, for each game I play, I have the impulse to make a specific game based on it. For XCOM it's "XCOM but fighting the occult", for some reason. Like XCOM x Ghostbusters. Two things occurred to me that would make this neat, game design wise:

  • Hauntings often are specific to a room, so it's way less weird that enemies only activate when you enter a room.
  • If your people get killed, they can stay on the squad as a ghost!