Steam Link Spotlight is a feature where we look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry was In Other Waters. Read about how it's a great mobile experience over here.
This week, we're going to do something a little different. To commemorate the Steam Link's recent update to support mouse and keyboard functionalty, we wanted to test out a game that could take advantage of this and still play great over a stream to a mobile device. This brings us to XCOM: Chimera Squad, the latest title in Firaxis's celebrated strategy franchise.
XCOM: Chimera Squad is the third entry in this series, and it is set in a world that looks completely different than the one in the first game. You take control of Chimera Squad, a team of human and alien operatives who work together to protect City 31--a metropolis built on inter-species harmony--from extremists that want to see this experiment in coexistence fail.
Much like other XCOM titles, Chimera Squad is a game balances the turn-based tactical skirmishes of your squad with a strategic layer that has you managing everything from the gear you bring into missions to how and when to quell unrest in certain city districts. At no point do either of these modes of play feel particularly fast-paced, but they are systemically dense and can require a lot of finesse to get just right. This is why we thought it would make a great test candidate for Steam Link's mouse and keyboard support.
Using Steam Link with no peripherals, Chimera Squad is totally playable, though it is by no means easy to control. I found the best way to play to be using the "Touchpad" control mode, as some of the menu buttons were so small that it was hard to hit them reliably using direct touch mode that has worked well for previous Steam Link Spotlight picks. Using Touchpad mode means you have to drag your finger around to steer your mouse cursor and tap to left click or tap with two fingers to right click. With these simple commands though, you can totally do 95% of everything you might want to do in Chimera Squad with no issue whatsoever. It just might take you a second or two longer than you might want.
If you connect a mouse and keyboard though, things suddenly feel incredible. Obviously XCOM: Chimera Squad was originally designed to be played using these input devices, but it's still surprising how well the Steam Link app handles them and treats them as natural extensions of your iOS device. As you can see in the video comparison above, I'm able to do considerably more in a shorter period of time with Chimera Squad using peripherals, though I am also able to play the game just fine using touch.
While I would love to see another XCOM title come to mobile, it seems unlikely. Luckily, the Steam Link app allows you to experience more of the franchise on a smaller screen. If you opt to do this though, I highly recommend doing so using a mouse and keyboard. The touch input here is fine given the pace of the game, but feels woefully slow and clunky compared to playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Luckily, you can do that now on iOS, and it feels like magic.