Phoenix Point Quick Impressions

XCOM of attrition.

I rather enjoy the tactical/strategy squad genre.  I played the heck out of the original XCOM (even wrote my own mouse driver for it).  I’ve played every iteration since.  JAG was decent enough.  Syndicate is a top 20 all time game.  There are a half dozen in that vein every year that seem to pop up.  Sattelite Reign was a recent one.  Hard West.  Phoenix Point is a bit different, in that it’s designed by the same guy that made the first XCOM.  And hooo boy does that show throughout.  Couple thoughts after a few missions.

  • Squads?  Check
  • Alien bay guys?  Check
  • Research & manufacturing?  Check
  • Geoscape? Check
  • Factions?  Check
  • Action points in tactical mode? Check
  • Classes?  Check

The foundational parts are all there, it’s a relatively familiar system.  What Phoenix Point (PP) does differently is apply the concept of time management to equation.  One effective strategy in XCOM is to take a more defensive approach to combat, primarily due to the rather low hit points, and extremely long periods of recovery after damage.  Losing a top-end Sniper for a couple weeks due to really bad luck rolls was super painful.

PP instead puts the clock front and center for a lot of actions.  You need to collect material to build things, and you get more material if you finish a mission quickly.  You are presented with multiple attack choices at the same time, but never really enough soldiers to complete them all on time.   There will be times when you simply run out of ammo.

PP also adds a fair chunk of hit points to every enemy, so that it takes 3-4 attacks to take out even the lowly grunts.  Rather than throw a half dozen enemies at you, there are less of them, but they last longer.  The net effect is that each map is the same time duration, but there’s always something going on, and usually more than 1 active target.

Free Aiming

Everyone has missed a point blank shot in XCOM.  It’s absolutely infuriating when it happens, and often at a key point in battle.  Hip shots still exist in PP, but it also adds a Free Aim mode, which is a much more realistic combat mechanic.


Dead to sights

In most cases, you can bring up your sights and find 2 concentric circles to assist with aiming.  There’s a 100% chance of it hitting the outer circle and 50% chance of the inner one.  As you get closer or farther from the target (or swap guns) the circles change in size.    Picking a part of the enemy has differing effects.  Maybe it disables an attack, maybe it restricts movement.  For some shielded enemies, maybe you can get by the shield and hit an exposed part.  Or perhaps you just want to take out the wall of the building to get a better shot next time… that works too.

This customized shooting makes a tremendous difference in combat.  XCOM sometimes felt like Excel with graphics, just a pretty pain on top of a number crunching machine.  PP says enough with that, and puts a lot of control in the player’s hand.  Yet with that control comes a suprising amount of challenge.  If you aren’t attacking the right enemies, what seems like a sure win can easily turn into a loss.

It will take some time to come to terms with PP.  There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s going to take some time to get through it all.  From what I’ve seen so far, it should be a fun ride.

2 thoughts on “Phoenix Point Quick Impressions

  1. Be curious what you end up thinking about it after some more time.

    I’ve not invested huge amounts of time with it — but my initial impressions are… Not bad? Just coming so fresh from XCOM 2, it’s hard to overlook the little things that PP doesn’t do well that XCOM 2 does. PP is a ‘rougher’ experience all around. Not necessarily a death knell, but still.


    • I think “rougher” is accurate. I find it generally more complex, in that the various mechanics add about double the complexity of XCOM2, yet the game doesn’t provide a clear link between them all.

      Perhaps reframe that statement. The “training wheels” portion of XCOM2 is long, and the fact that it’s a polished sequel makes it a smooth experience. PP is close to that model, but different enough to be jarring.


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