Surprise, surprise. In a move that nobody saw coming, 2K Games has dropped the announcement of a new XCOM game, which will be making its way to Windows PC on 24 April 2020 – about a week from now.
Titled XCOM: Chimera Squad, the standalone PC exclusive is set five years after the events of XCOM 2: War of the Chosen in a novel world called City 31. There, both humans and alien forces fill the rank of special operators, who have been brought together to enforce peace after the fall of Advent. The name of the group? Yup, you guessed it: Chimera Squad.
A brief synopsis of the upcoming game reads, “Deploy your custom team of human and alien agents to defend Earth’s fragile, newfound peace. Lead Chimera Squad through a new experience that innovates on XCOM’s turn-based legacy, utilising strategy, teamwork, and new breach-and-clear gameplay to complete your mission objectives.”
Despite it following the chronological order of the XCOM timeline, Chimera Squad isn’t quite the full sequel to XCOM 2. The familiar charm of turn-based strategy is still present, but developer Firaxis has introduced a lot more fresh mechanics into the mix, such as the Breach Mode and Interleaved Turns elements.
Activated at the start of an assault, Breach Mode is a new setup phase that allows players to position solo agents or small groups, and engage from different directions. Because the Chimera Squad consists of 11 operatives with unique abilities each, this would encourage more tactical flexibility and creative planning.
The latter, meanwhile, pits allies against enemies in alternating turns dictated by a rotation order on the right-hand side of the screen. It’s a deviation from the standard XCOM approach, where players are given a handful of moves before the enemy, but the automated initiative approach should prove familiar to Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts. In the case of a dire tactical emergency, the once-per-round Team Up action can be used to push one character to the frontline.
Other notable features of the upcoming title include:
- A press-your-luck mechanic
- Multiple sequential encounters for individual missions
- A mission restart following character deaths
- The replacement of early-death soldiers with limited-ability androids for later encounters.
- Fewer character customisation options, but players will be able to upgrade their agents’ skills and help them recover from critical injuries.
- The building of new weapons and tools, including bipedal androids that can be substituted for unconscious agents.
Outside of combat, individuals can look forward to “manag[ing] the operations of a high-tech [headquarters], where [they] must prioritize competing tasks, investigations, and agent assignments in the face of a ticking clock: the constantly rising unrest in the city’s various districts, driving City 31 closer and closer to total anarchy” – or so the official news release states.
XCOM: Chimera Squad is set to retail on Steam for US$9.99, which is half its base price. Implementing more new than the old is most certainly a bold leap of faith on the part of Firaxis, and it’d be interesting to see how gameplay will match up to the previous installments. Change, after all, isn’t always a bad thing, and those who consider themselves more of a traditionalist can wait out little longer, and enjoy XCOM 2 Collection when it heads over to the Switch on 29 May.