Becoming somewhat of a regular contributor now, Dave Corn is back with another guest game review. This time Dave takes a look at Phoenix Point developed and published by Snapshot Games. A spiritual successor to the awesome turn-based XCOM franchise of games, with Snapshot Games being headed up by Julian Gollop, the creator of the original XCOM titles. Personally speaking, as a big fan of X-COM, I’m looking forward to what Dave has to say about this one.
Since starting to write reviews with my friends on our Facebook group (Lockdown Gaming), the games I have written about so far have all been relatively easy to play and review. Fairly straightforward titles and certainly non-intimidating… with Phoenix Point, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Originally released back in 2019 for PC, this year saw the game released on console. From the developer behind the XCOM series, Snapshot Games, Phoenix Point sticks to their trademark and much-loved mix of strategy, tactics and an almost Fallout style attack method in attacking individual limbs, but more on that later.
First up, the plot. The year is 2047 and Earth is in the middle of a devastating alien virus, a virus that scientists accidentally released from a long-frozen state. Called the Pandora virus, when it comes into contact with human or animal life, they mutate into murderous creatures that eventually completely overwhelm the planet. This is where the player comes in. You start the game as a member of Phoenix Project, a secretive organisation that is called upon to try and save humanity from the threat of annihilation.
There are four different branched groups that you can play as during the course of the game. Revealing too much detail on these would verge on spoilers to the plot, so I’ll not divulge too much here. Each faction offers its own story elements as well as certain perks and abilities, which helps keeps the game from becoming too repetitive. The gameplay is very much in keeping with the developer’s previous work on XCOM and as such, is pretty complex (in fact Phoenix Point takes this to a whole new level in places). It’s also worth noting that the combat does feature an interesting real-time element, one I touched on earlier where you can select certain bodies parts of your enemies in a similar way to Fallout. This really does keep the combat fresh and interesting, instead of the previous point and click of a lot of games in this genre before it.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect in this game, one that distinguishes it from other similar titles in the genre, is the mutation system, this is where this game really shines. Along with an impressive A.I. that noticeably learns from your decisions against it, the virus mutates its targets around it to adapt to you as a threat. This means that procedurally generated enemies are made in direct response to your play style, in between turn-based moves, the enemy adapts and comes back tougher than before, always learning for your playstyle.
What does this mean in reality? Frustration but also a shock and awe in what the game is going to throw at you next, it keeps surprising you and depending on the location of level, the mutation uses the surroundings to change itself too. For example: you are fighting a mutated African militia and winning, so the virus mutates lions with humans to makes its forces stronger.
Usually, this really wouldn’t be my kind of game at all. Taking a lot of time and effort to sink into it to see any kind of progression. But having a fair bit of time on my hands recently, I honestly found myself really enjoying Phoenix Point, to the point that I have even ordered a copy of XCOM 2 (good choice, it’s awesome – Steve). Graphically, Phoenix Point really looks great (surprising to me as the turn-based genre always made these games basically living board games to me) and it most certainly shines on PS4.
For fans of the developer’s previous titles, you should have no fear jumping into this. However, if you’re new to the genre, then I’d definitely suggest you try one of the cheaper XCOM titles first to see if you like the style as it is a genre that definitely won’t be for everyone. In conclusion and probably the most obvious statement ever, Phoenix Point is a great game, but only for the right audience.