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XCOM: Chimera Squad combat tips

Use our tips, the Timeline, and Breach Mode to fight smarter

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XCOM: Chimera Squad combat guide and tips Image: Firaxis Games/2K Games via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Combat in XCOM: Chimera Squad is about more than just putting bullets in bad guys. In this guide, we’ll help you understand how to fight better with tips about using the Timeline (turn order) to choose who to shoot, how Breach Mode effects it, and our favorite weapon upgrade.

Things to consider in combat before the actual enemies

Not every enemy in XCOM: Chimera Squad is visible or obvious. This is how we’ve come to think about the game, and it’s helped us a lot:

  • Your first enemy is District Unrest (and, by extention, City Anarchy). High District Unrest affects Missions because higher Unrest means more difficult Missions and enemies.
  • Your next enemy is the Timeline. We’ll give the Timeline its own section below.
  • Next, you have to consider your chance to hit (and your chance to be hit). The distance to a target and how much cover they have change the likelihood a shot will land. And that means you can’t solely focus on taking out the next enemy in the Timeline. You also have to make sure you’re taking shots that are likely to deal damage.
  • Another enemy is ammo. Without special Loadout equipment (our favorite is below), it will take you a full turn to reload.
  • Finally, your enemies are your enemy. Obviously. We’re saying the enemies themselves are least important, though, because if you’re careful, they don’t get a chance to be dangerous (because you shot them).

Understand the Timeline

When you enter combat after Breach Mode (below), your Agents and all enemies in an area will get arranged into a turn order (think of it like initiative in Dungeons & Dragons). These turns fall along a Timeline that appears in the top right corner of your screen.

On the Timeline, the unit — either your Agent or an enemy — acting now is at the top, and the rest of the units in the area are sorted in order heading down.

Focus on the next enemy in the Timeline

The Timeline is important because the most effective way we’ve found to fight is to fight the Timeline, not the enemies themselves. Managing the Timeline is, to put it simply, preventing enemies from shooting you.

XCOM: Chimera Squad Timeline turn order
Sometimes you’ll be outnumbered. Always keep your focus on the next enemy (or enemies) to act — they’re more dangerous.
Image: Firaxis Games/2K Games via Polygon

Your first goal should be to keep enemies from taking a turn (by shooting them) before you or your teammates. To do that, focus your attacks on the next enemy to act. You can click on them in the Timeline to pan the camera over to them, or you can find them with the numbers (that indicate turn order) next to their names.

Figure out where they are, and if you can get a shot on them. If they’re too far away from you, or you just don’t have a shot, move down to the next enemy on the list.

As your Agents improve and gain new Abilities, you’ll start to have more options for managing the Timeline. Terminal, for example, has the Pin Down ability that doesn’t deal damage, but delays an enemy’s turn and moves them down the Timeline. That gives your teammates more chances to shoot them before they get to act.

Moving an enemy down the turn order is just as important as killing them.

Breach Mode is your first step in managing the Timeline

Every Encounter (the subsections of Missions) starts with Breach Mode. This is where you assign your Agents in the order they burst through the door. There’s enough going on here that we’ve given Breach Mode its own guide.

  • Breach order determines turn order — where your Agents end up on the Timeline. The first one through the door is the first to act on the Timeline, and so on.
  • Breach Points — different doors or windows — might have different effects applied to the Agents that use them. You’ll see these effects when you’re reviewing the Breach Points.
  • Breach Mode lets you weaken or kill enemies before combat even starts. You can focus every Agent on the same strong or dangerous target to remove them from combat before they get a shot off, or you can land hits on multiple targets to make them easier to kill during turn-based combat. Both ways have their benefits, so it depends on the Encounter which choice is better.

Speaking of which …

It’s OK to restart Encounters and Missions (and even days)

There’s no undo during combat in XCOM: Chimera Squad. Luckily, the game gives you the option to restart an Encounter (from the most recent Breach) or Mission (from the first Breach).

Sometimes, you’ll commit to a tactic that just doesn’t work out. Sometimes, you’ll put the wrong character in the wrong turn order. Restarting means you can undo those mistakes. Don’t hesitate to restart and try a different approach.

Auto-Loaders are the best weapon upgrade

We said above that ammo is one of the unseen enemies you’ll be dealing with. You can give yourself a major advantage here by equipping everyone with an Auto-Loader from Supply.

An Auto-Loader gives you one free reload per Mission. That means you can move, reload, and shoot all in the same turn. It’s an invaluable addition to your arsenal.

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