Now I will admit, while XCOM is a lot better in major areas, and that many would see Phoenix Point as just another turn-based squad game, seeing what Phoenix Point has to offer, I could say it isn’t really much a clone but more of a title on its own. And yes, XCOM would still be better if you will take compare them on sheer face value. But looking at the budget and the time frame both game started with, XCOM has more budget and they have a base game to work on. Phoenix Point had to work on a more tight budget and no previous game to have a base template to copy off of. Phoenix Point in all its worth has much much more to offer in terms of gameplay that I can say and just saying it is an XCOM clone is a huge disservice to all of us.
Unlike XCOM, Phoenix Point has you fight at an overwhelming odds against your foe who isn’t here for colonizing or subjugation. Rather, they came here to Earth for annihilation and extinction of humanity. There is no other option but to fight. Your enemies isn’t some highly advanced alien race that fight with sheer technology, but rather a biological threat akin to that of cordyceps which is a mutation of a virus gone wild. And unlike XCOM where you fight in a shadows type of organization, Phoenix Point has you play as a faction that is disgraced and forced to hide in the shadows and be reduced to a memory. Come 2030s, the Pandora Virus has been introduced and mutated not only the humans but it also made crabs more aggressive. With this, the apocalypse has began. And while the world is falling apart, 4 prominent factions arise, Phoenix Point, Disciples of Anu, Synedrion, and New Jericho.
Phoenix Point being your one and only playable faction. Disciples of Anu is the one who is a cult-like faction that seemingly worships and embrace the changes brought by the Pandora Virus. A faction who is the most mysterious than the rest, Synedrion, is the faction that is the most advanced in terms of technology. And while this might be good. They rely on every bureaucratic red tape possible. Lastly, is the New Jericho, a faction that is not one to mess with. Being the most militarized faction on the ground, they are the type to fire first, fire again second. Then ask if it is enough…then fire for the third time. Bearing the heaviest guns on the field. That being said, you can either ally, betray or steal from them. Thus, anything they have can be yours if you play your cards right.
Throughout your gameplay, every now and then, you will have the opportunity to open up the story on the world around you and flesh out what is happening between factions. You can also secure additional missions for the said factions that could improve your relation with them and in turn decrease your relationship with the others.
Just like other turn-based tactics game, Phoenix Point follows the usual trope of movement and action point management throughout your squad. What makes Phoenix Point stand out in my opinion is the will power that serves as both your morale and your mana in which you can use it for your abilities as well as a morale like mechanics that when drained, your soldiers could not function normally. Conserving morale is highly needed if you don’t want your squad panicking and going around in circles.
You can also go into First-Person view which you can selectively target enemy parts in which I will go into details shortly. Shooting enemies isn’t also reliant to the RNG mechanics that other tactics game have on them. Rather it has two circles which is where your shots would likely land. While this might look like another glorified RNG to that let me remind you about this meme from XCOM. So regardless of your RNG chances, if your target is within the range of the targeting circles RNG won’t have an effect on the hit chances on your target.
Another key feature of the combat is that limb damage also fleshes out the variety of combat where once a limb has sustained sufficient damage, your enemy can be rendered disabled. This in turn gives two possible outcomes one for your enemies and one for your party. The enemies lose abilities, will power, and max health. On the other hand, if your squad member’s arm is disabled, some weapons won’t be usable. The damage also extends to your weapon which is incurred when being attacked or when you’re using the weapons to bash nearby enemies. This does not apply to melee weapons though. Your squad can also utilize several items like grenades and medkit to either heal up or deal damage that your weapons can’t reach.
Another form of combat you can encounter is an aerial dogfight that is I personally believe could provide a bit of divide since it is both decent and at times just additional fluff to the game. To delve deeper, your ship is initially unarmed yet throughout the story you will acquire the armed version of your dropship. Now, the combat is predominantly done real time. But since every module, has a set of cooldown you need to decide whether or not you want to disable the module or go for the kill. Modules by the way, are items that you can insert into different parts of your unit to provide enhancements like night vision.
When you aren’t on the world exploring or fighting, your base is where you would spend most of your time. Mind you, while this is a safe haven you can still be targeted and be under sieged by enemies which is mostly the pandoran mutants. When this happens, you have to be on the defense to repel them and secure your base. Otherwise, you can abandon your base and move to a more secure location. During your downtime, you can perform research that unlocks either more gear, resources, or additional information around the world. You can also choose to manufacture arms and equipment that can be used by your squads.
Personally, the world building done in this game is quite unique. The way I see this is that it is a mixed of both a Lovecraftian design of your enemies that you can particularly notice in its crab people, and the clickers from The Last of Us. The cannon fodder warriors that you can see is reminiscent of clickers due to the way they move and the nature of their mutation. The Lovecraftian aspects of the world is done through how they are introduced. Game wise, it still offers a decent render of every asset on the screen and this also shows when limbs are damaged enough that you can see the indication that this dude is done for.
With a game mechanics that is highly similar to XCOM, many might say that this is a poor man’s XCOM. Personally I can tolerate the game play similarity along with the story bits that Phoenix Point offers but I cannot guarantee others might be so forgiving. This is due to the fact that the only distinct difference with it is the aiming in that is isn’t reliant on RNG alone. To add to the woe of Phoenix Point, the map design while beautiful, are often recycled and repeats every now and then. With this in mind, one of my personal issue is that the way the story is told. That is, when exploring the world, you don’t know whether or not the next battle leads to the next plot point. However, if this would be your first foray to the genre I highly recommend this game.
Phoenix Point – Review
Here’s the bright side, it’s still better than the average. It’s as playable as you can make it, and some may probably enjoy it more.