I was at the PC Gamer Weekender last week, and my highlight had to be lead Phoenix Point developer (and X-COM: UFO Defense co-creator) Julian Gollop commentating as I played the game on the show floor. He appeared behind me part way through the demo – just as I moved a unit one tile too far, and managed to alert six angry crabmen to my presence at once. He told me I was doomed, but 20 minutes later that last crabmen had fallen and I emerged victorious.
If that all sounds very XCOM, that’s because it absolutely is. Phoenix Point swaps out aliens for horrifying sea-life based pollution monsters and throws around some interesting new ideas, but it’s very similar to XCOM at its core. It’s about sending small teams of soldiers to fight that threat using turn-based tactics, while orchestrating the broader fight on a board-game like strategic layer. That similarity is no bad thing: as you’ll see in the footage below of Gollop playing his game, Phoenix Point is shaping up rather nicely.
I wasn’t just contending with those crabmen, you see. There’s a horrible, towering spider-like monstrosity that appears part way through and starts carving up soldiers. It can almost one-hit kill any unit, destroy any cover or buildings that it walks through, and is more heavily armoured than a 5 foot thick wall of steel. It took the brave sacrifice of my heavy soldier to bring the beast down – literally.
One of Phoenix Point’s best features revolves around disabling individual body parts. I managed to take out each of that spider monster’s legs through a combination of rockets and gunfire, with the latter being aimed using a system that mirrors VATS from the Fallout games. I could have tried to take out its pincers or head instead, each of which would have conferred a different effect. I can see a large part of the game being about learning which body parts to target first: a monster might tear through your squad the first time you meet it, but once you’ve encountered that enemy type a few times you’ll have a better idea of how to deal with it.
It’s got so much XCOM in its blood that the differences that are there really threw me. I’m in the habit of sometimes moving a soldier one tile to end their turn, but in this you can move incrementally – so I’d do that and just stare blankly at the screen while nothing happened. I do prefer this movement system though. It’s closer to how the original X-Com worked, and means you can safely explore with a soldier then send them scuttling to cover if you need to.
Look out for my more detailed thoughts later this week.
Phoenix Point is due out in December.