Phoenix Point

X-COM has mu­tated into some­thing new

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - Phil Savage

It’s a merg­ing of ideas both old and new, to create some­thing dis­tinct

It’s a sui­cide mis­sion, but not in the way I was hop­ing. I’m in con­trol of four New Jeri­cho sol­diers who have been in­fected with an alien virus. They’re head­ing into bat­tle one last time, on a mis­sion to dis­patch the mu­tants now oc­cu­py­ing a New Jeri­cho base. Our job is to se­cure the lo­ca­tion and res­cue any sur­vivors. It’s not go­ing well. PhoenixPoint is the next game from X-COM:UFODe­fense cre­ator Ju­lian Gol­lop. It’s a re­turn to X-COM’s brand of turn-based tac­tics and high-level strat­egy. But this is an evolution of the genre, in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments in­tro­duced by Fi­raxis’s re­cent XCOM se­ries (the one with­out the hy­phen). It’s a merg­ing of ideas both old and new, to create some­thing dis­tinct, with its own quirks and com­plex­i­ties.

Take char­ac­ter move­ment. Visu­ally, it’s sim­i­lar to the re­cent XCOM games, with a blue area for where your sol­dier can move and take an ac­tion, and a larger, or­ange out­line show­ing the zone you can re­lo­cate to at the cost of an ac­tion. But un­der­neath this dis­play is a sys­tem rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal X-COM’s time units that of­fers more flex­i­bil­ity in your ap­proach.

You can move in­cre­men­tally, for in­stance. Where XCOM gives you one move or­der and one ac­tion per turn, PhoenixPoint lets you move one tile at a time, and still take an ac­tion. Also, your move­ment zones are dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on which weapon you have equipped. Switch­ing to a hand­gun will give you a larger move­ment ra­dius than a heav­ier as­sault ri­fle. It’s a sys­tem that bridges the broad tac­ti­cal in­ter­ac­tions of the older X-COM with the less fid­dly in­ter­ac­tion and UI en­hance­ments of the new XCOM.

What re­mains con­sis­tent—across X-COM, XCOM and PhoenixPoint— is the dif­fi­culty. Things start badly for me when mu­tated hu­man-crab hy­brids march up to my party, us­ing mas­sive shield claws to pro­tect them­selves from dam­age. PhoenixPoint fea­tures lo­ca­tional dam­age and ar­mor, but my team is on a bridge, un­able to ef­fec­tively flank. When I fi­nally dis­patch the crab­men, an as­sault trooper is dead, and my sniper is in­jured.

Rocket Man

At least I have a se­cret weapon in the form of my heavy as­sault trooper. He’s wear­ing a rocket booster that grants him im­proved move­ment, and lets him jump to high cover. I perch him on a tower, look­ing down on the mu­tants. I’m a ge­nius.

Un­for­tu­nately, the mu­tants have some tricks of their own. And send­ing in a gi­nor­mous spi­der-crab lady with a lu­di­crous health pool is a bet­ter trick than any­thing I can pro­duce. Th­ese boss mu­tants are in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters, and they can fol­low you through­out your cam­paign. This one walks straight into the tower my heavy is camped in, de­mol­ish­ing it. He dies.

In ad­di­tion to the bat­tles, PhoenixPoint will also fea­ture an X-COM style Geoscape strat­egy layer. This is where you’ll make high-level de­ci­sions for the Phoenix Project, as you at­tempt to over­come the mu­tant threat. You’ll use the Geoscape to hunt alien build­ings and gather re­sources, but also seek out other fac­tions. New Jeri­cho, which I’m playing as in this demo, is one such fac­tion—a mil­i­taris­tic com­peti­tor to the Phoenix Project.

Each fac­tion has its own classes. Many of New Jeri­cho’s traits, for in­stance, are fo­cused on mil­i­tary tech. If you re­cruit a sol­dier for one of th­ese fac­tions, you can in­clude that class into your own group.

My mis­sion ends with my fi­nal trooper run­ning from the boss into an am­bush. It’s over, but, based on my doomed ses­sion, I’m ea­ger to see more. PhoenixPoint is filled with ideas that of­fer a con­sid­ered al­ter­na­tive to the re­cent XCOM games.

Snipers can tar­get and dis­able spe­cific body parts.

The Geoscape is where you plan fu­ture mis­sions.

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