Phoenix Point – PC Review

Phoenix Point – PC Review
AlexKnight2005
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Genre: Strategy, RPG, Turn Based
Developer: Snapshot Games
Publisher: Snapshot Games
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Edited by Thorstag

Phoenix Point, developed by Snapshot Games, is a turn-based strategy game that puts the players into a fight against mutating aliens from the ocean. This game inserts the player into the role of the leader of the Phoenix Project. A group of humans dedicated to the research and development of technologies to combat the pandoravirus and embodying the protectors against global annihilation. The game development is lead by a British game designer named Julian Gollop. He is the same designer that is known as “the man who founded the X-COM series.” Phoenix Point is intended to be the spiritual successor of the first X-COM game back on Windows 95. Just like its predecessor, Phoenix Point uses the same strategic and tactical instances, such as base building, supply management as well as troop management, and mission prioritization. 

  At the beginning of the game, just like the original Win 95 game, you choose where on earth you will place your first base to develop. As you use your scanners from your airship that you control on a global map, the player uncovers sites that the player can inspect with the troops that are within the player’s ship as well as surviving cities from the alien invasion. After finding a few of the cities the player quickly learns that there are three competing factions within the world with their unique outlook on the current status of the world and how best to go forward into the future to preserve humanity, there is the Disciples of Anu that believe humanity needs to evolve into their next stage of evolution with the help of the pandoravirus, next you have New Jericho a more militaristic faction that is led by Tobias West that intends on wiping out the virus by sheer force, and lastly there is Synedrion that is the most advanced technological faction that seeks to better humanity through co-existence with the virus, viewing it as more of Earths changing environment. 

 Far as the mechanics of the game, it plays like what you would expect from a modern tactical squad RPG that closely resembles the remake of the XCOM game. Each soldier has four action blocks for each of their turn that can be spent on movement, use of items, firing their weaponry, using their special abilities, or going into “overwatch” mode. Every one of your soldiers also has a weight limit as well only holding so much until your character suffers a movement penalty that can be caused by heavy armor or simply holding too much equipment that overburdens him/her. The one mechanic that stands out to me is how a player can go into a “free aim” mode where the soldier can manually aim the gun that is carried so the player can specifically target a body part and disabling certain actions of the enemy. Unfortunately, this mechanic of damaging body parts is also used against your squad as well as your squad takes damage once an appendage goes red on the soldier it can disable or debuff that soldier. This leads me into the abilities and the other aiming mechanics of the game where line of sight comes into play. At times enemies might have a line of sight of one of your squad, BUT that soldier that got shot at has no line of sight of the enemy. There are quite a few instances that confused me about this mechanic, not only that when your soldier goes into overwatch mode, you have to aim their line of sight in a cone of vision in which is not the problem, the only thing that was agitating on the mechanic is if your soldier that was on overwatch sees an enemy and they go past another one of your squad the soldier WILL shoot your ally, yes friendly fire is apart of the game as well. Frustratingly enough, some enemies will attach themselves to your soldier’s faces and control them until you shoot it off of their faces. I can understand the need for friendly fire in a game like this but taking away the control of deciding to risk hitting another of your squad where it is automated, and the mechanic only works half of the time can be very frustrating to any player especially when the odds are already stacked against you with the enemy in the beginning. The other upsetting thing about the game, later on, is the growing abundance of creatures that can take control of your squad and if you have enough of them that your facing, no matter how advanced or skilled your troops are or even if you strategized perfectly to where you always have the advantage you can end up being wiped out by having half of your squad getting mind-controlled and the mission failing, an ability of such strength and flexibility becoming common with the enemy needs to be a very uncommon ability so that wipes will not happen constantly.

   Moving onto the RPG mechanics, ever soldier within your ranks has individual skills that are unique to themselves that sets them apart from the rest, and they also have the base skills of their class. These skills can be bought by using the soldier’s skill points, or they can be used to upgrade one of the three base stats though players also have a general pooled skill points that can be used on any soldier as well that can be earned by every successful mission the player does. As far as equipment goes, the player has an equipment slot for their head, body, and their legs. Each can be mixed and matched by either your standard heavy, medium, or light armors that protect the soldier from damage, each having their advantages and disadvantages. As the player researches different armor pieces (or even steals the technology from different factions), I felt that these pieces of armor didn’t feel like it was an upgrade to what I obtained previously. However, as for the weaponry that you get through technology advancement, the damage increase can be seen but feels balanced to the more fearsome creatures.

  Speaking of the creatures, they are not the only enemy that Phoenix Point will be fighting if the player sides with one of the factions. A different faction will view the player negatively to the point where the faction will be actively trying to destroy the Phoenix Project. The more I played the game, the more I realized that over half of the time, I was defending myself against the very humans I was protecting in an apocalyptic setting. While the politics within the game can be understandable when faced with total extermination, one could expect after a threat is too great for one faction to bear should come to the awareness that perhaps ideals should be set aside for basic survival. This cannot be done within the game, and you will always have an enemy against you and the other faction that you have sided with.

  The only other complaint that I would like to be worked on is the load times overall; the load times going into battle seems to be longer, and I can only speculate it is due to the RNG of the levels. Speaking of RNG, the game advertises the enemy evolves and mutates with their own AI that gives the enemy different attack abilities and weapons depending on if the player can successfully defeat the aliens or are defeated by them. As you continue to play the game, the AI corresponds to what equipment and tactics the players use and develop their own to counter them. I have found this AI to be pure RNG as with my playthrough, I use the same tactics and same equipment for each mission, and the tactics and weaponry did not change noticeably, but that could be due to loading the game back upon my squad’s death. As for the sounds of the game go, there isn’t anything notable that makes it stand out for the sound effects, although the ambiance fits with the map and the combat that happens, after a while, it gets old and bland.

  Overall I had high expectations for Phoenix Point due to having the original designer of the first X-COM: UFO defense working on the game, but then I was quickly reminded of the many frustrations of the first game, and what improvements that it needed though giving respect where it is due if the first one didn’t exist we wouldn’t have this type of game style at all, I was disappointed with the game as a whole.

Pros:

  • Good customization of your squads.
  • Deep strategy 
  • An ever-evolving enemy AI that can keep the game fresh

Cons:

  • Game mechanics in need of polishing
  • Balancing issues
  • Long load times
  • Upgrades to armor seem to be worthless

Alexknight2005 gives Phoenix Point a Drastik Measure of 5.5 out of 10 (55)

The most evident thing I feel that is holding this game back is the improvement of some of the mechanics of the game such as the overwatch function that always prompts to hit your ally if the enemy passes by them or even improving how it works. If a player feels like they have to fight the mechanics of the game rather then fighting the enemies in front of them, more than likely, it will turn 90% of your player base off. Phoenix Point can be purchased at the Epic Games Store at the time of this review for $39.99. Until this game has been polished and worked on in many areas, I would avoid this game, but when it does, perhaps it would be worth picking up on a sale.