Phoenix Point – First Impressions
In 2022 Earth was ravaged by a mystery virus that turns anyone who comes into contact with it for too long into horrific monsters. The PandoraVirus was trapped in ice for thousands of years and eventually exposed to the earths atmosphere thanks to global warming. Let’s face it, we all knew melting ice caps and rising sea levels would spell disaster for humanity, but none of us quite imagined it would be this bad. The year is now 2047 and humanity has been pushed close to extinction by the uncontrollable spread of the virus. As the leader of a cell of Phoenix Project, your task is to help save the human race in any way you see fit and help discover what really happened to everyone else that was supposed to be helping you.
From the outset Phoenix Point is set up on two fronts. The first being the battlefield, where you meet the monstrous enemies head on and collect resources. If you’ve played games in the turn-based, strategy genre before you will feel at home here, everything works as expected. From past experience with this genre there is one aspect I wish would be changed though, and that’s core map objectives. There are various different tasks set out for you across the game but in the end they mostly all condense to the same thing, kill everything on the map.
The second is the Geoscape, a map of the visible world. You can use this to travel and expand your visible borderlines, fight back against overrun loactions and make some story decisions. It also shows your available collected resources and allows you to use these in different ways. Base building, research, creating weapons, armour and vehicles and diplomatic relations with other factions you meet in the world. There is a lot of room here for tactical decisions and maintaining a close watch over all of these aspects is key to your success on the battlefront and expanding your capabilities as a unit.
Phoenix Point runs very well on my system. No lag, stutters or major problems with bugs although there is the classic scenery clipping that fans of the recent XCOM games will have come to know and… love? This means sometimes cover doesn’t work quite as you expected, but in my 20 hours play time this only happend a few times and wasn’t enough of a problem to casue serious demerit.
Everything you would expect from a game in this genre is here and while none of it felt especially innovative, I did feel comfortable tweaking and using all of the different options. Jullian Gollop, the designer of the original XCOM game UFO: Enemy Unknown (known as XCOM in America) is at the helm of Phoenix Point and if you’ve ever played the original you will see the similarities here, albeit this is a much updated interpritation of his vision.
There have been a few quality releases in the turn-based, tactical genre in recent years. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, XCOM 2, Invisible Inc, the Shadowrun series and I would even argue to say Divinity Original Sin can loosely be compared. And in the midst of all these games Phoenix Point struggles to make a space for itself. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, other than it doesn’t do enough to make itself unique or provide as much character. It’s simply more of the same, and while a lot of people will be happy with that, some will also be disappointed.
I myself enjoy this genre and will be playing Phoenix Point to completion, fingers crossed that maybe there is just a smidge more to come.