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New XCOM game coming April 24 with a twist on turn-based gameplay

XCOM: Chimera Squad will be a stand-alone release for PC

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

There’s another chapter in the story of XCOM, Firaxis Games’ reboot of the venerable turn-based strategy franchise. It’s called XCOM: Chimera Squad, and it’s coming very soon: The stand-alone game is due out for Windows PC on April 24.

The game focuses on a group of 11 named characters, brought together in a new location called City 31 to form the special operations team called Chimera Squad. Events take place five years after XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. All characters are combat veterans pulled from the ranks of human and alien forces alike. They include sectoids capable of mind control and mutons with overwhelming strength and agility. Together, this hybrid group of special operators is tasked with enforcing an uneasy peace after the fall of Advent.

“Deploy your custom team of human and alien agents to defend Earth’s fragile, newfound peace,” 2K said Tuesday in a news release. “Lead Chimera Squad through a new experience that innovates on XCOM’s turn-based legacy, utilizing strategy, teamwork, and new breach-and-clear gameplay to complete your mission objectives.”

XCOM: Chimera Squad will launch on Steam with a $9.99 price point, a 50% discount from the base $19.99 price. The announcement was also accompanied by a narrative and a gameplay trailer, both of which are available on the XCOM YouTube channel.

Video of XCOM: Chimera Squad shows a dramatically different pace of gameplay. The turn order itself is changing, with XCOM and enemy forces using a Dungeons & Dragons-style initiative order. Firaxis calls this new system Interleaved Turns, and players will have limited ability to alter the turn order from round to round.

Adding to the challenge, Chimera Squad will include a press-your-luck mechanic. Individual missions will each have multiple sequential encounters. Soldiers downed early on will be replaced by androids with limited capabilities for later encounters. Character death during a mission will require a restart.

A screenshot shows off a cartoon character art style and the Interleaved Turn initiative order to one side. Image: Firaxis Games/2K

To compensate, players will have more tactical flexibility prior to each combat encounter. Firaxis says the new setup phase, called Breach Mode, will allow players to take individual agents or small groups and enter a battle space from different directions. Breach Mode brings to mind the kind of tactical planning common to early Rainbow Six titles.

The game will also include a new strategy layer completely unlike previous Firaxis titles.

“Outside of combat,” said publisher 2K in a news release, “[player’s will] manage the operations of a high-tech [headquarters], where you 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.”

The trailer shows a situation room with a city map, and colored areas for each controlling faction.

The world map of Chimera Squad shows a city map with colored areas of control. Missions are spread out all over the city. Image: Firaxis Games/2K

Overall, it looks like a daring change of pace for Firaxis. I’m mostly curious how much gameplay is on offer for the modest price point. Fans certainly won’t have to wait that long to find out how it plays.

Also on the horizon is XCOM 2: War of the Chosen for Nintendo Switch, which is coming in May. The game will include the base game, XCOM 2, and multiple packs of downloadable content.

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