XCOM: Chimera Squad Interview

Back in April, Firaxis Games released XCOM: Chimera Squad - a tighter, more story-focused XCOM spin-off. The game featured some noticeable departures from the previous installments in Firaxis’ take on the XCOM formula, namely a new initiative system, a squad of pre-made characters, and a brand-new Breach system.

In order to learn more about these new features, Gamasutra had a chat with the lead designer of Chimera Squad Mark Nauta. Here’s a couple of sample questions and you take things from there:

Can you walk us through the move to interleaved turns? What inspired you to go in that direction, and what specific challenges did you face?

When you’re a game designer, you’re always thinking: “What would happen if I changed this thing?”

With a strategy game, even a small change can have big ripples through the system and because this is a standalone game, we have a bit more flexibility in how people view and play it. We wanted to try out new ideas in the XCOM formula. Interleaved turns give you a lot of new and adaptive tactical options.

You can make on-the-fly strategic decisions based on who is coming up next in the timeline. Should you ignore weaker enemies that are coming up soon in the timeline and focus fire on a dangerous enemy who won’t act until later? Will you use your Team Up ability to move an agent away from a exploding vehicle now, or save it for later? The timeline shows *when* enemies will act, but not *what* they will do, forcing you to think on your feet when a grenade lands next to your healer or a chryssalid takes a bite out of your Psion.

These new decisions, paired with having combat broken up into Encounters separated by Breach Modes, means combat is a lot tighter and focused.

Interleaved turns, plus the increased access to (and Intel incentive to use) non-lethal takedown options, make Chimera Squad the first XCOM game I know of in which players can roleplay "Good (X)Cops" -- completing missions without letting the enemy get a shot off, and subduing them all non-lethally. Was this intentional, and regardless, is it a theme/direction you want to continue to explore in future games?

I do think it’s important to acknowledge that Chimera Squad aren’t police – they’re a special forces unit called in by the actual police of City 31 to handle the threats posed by each of the factions in the game. With XCOM: Chimera Squad, we weren’t setting out to design a game where non-lethal play was the priority, but we did want to include those options when available as it made sense narratively and in the game’s tactical combat.

Narratively, you’re investigating each of the factions so you’d want to capture some enemies to draw intel from. For gameplay, we wanted to create a risk-reward situation where you could get a higher chance of gaining intel but would risk doing generally less damage or having to force your units to enter very close range to your enemies.