Watch Julian Gollop play his XCOM-like Phoenix Point


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.


  1. HeavyStorm says:

    I’m surprised – the game is not “like” xcom, which I expected, it’s more like a xcom mod! Did I miss something, is he working for Firaxis now?

    I expected to have a game that felt more like the oldies (UFO and Terror From The Deep), since developed those games…

    • Gothnak says:

      I agree and find it a little sad.

      Xcom is very big budget and has a certain style and feel. It looks like this game is replicating almost every aspect of that and trying to do a few things differently.

      I’d rather Mr Gollop had looked at Xcom from the ground up and worked out what it was doing well and badly and decided to innovate in a few more areas and maybe make it look a LOT less exactly like the other game.

      This doesn’t mean the game will be bad, it just means everyone who buys it has to have room for two XComs in their library instead of 2 different games.

      • khamul says:

        Solomon has done an extraordinary job with XCOM, and there’s no question that the tactical part of those games has been extremely successful.

        So wouldn’t it be *more* of a shame if Gollop had walked right past the 23 years of innovation since the first X-COM game? One of the hallmarks of talent is that the people with it are *not* afraid to learn from others.

        As you watch the video, you’ll see that there’s a lot of systems that are very different to the way the XCOM games play out – overwatch and special moves consuming willpower, melee units with shields, move after firing… XCOM is not just about a blue move area, it’s a whole load of complex interacting systems.

        If you’ve never seen a car before, you’ll sit down in a Ferrari or in a Ford Pickup, and say they’re both basically the same thing. And in a sense, you’d be right. But the differences in what they’re built around and optimised for are big enough to matter quite a bit to most people.

        Pheonix Point *might* end up a bit of an XCOM clone – but I think it’s way to early to be claiming that at this point.

        • Ur-Quan says:

          Solomons take on the action system did a great job at streamlining things, but I really had high hopes that this game would go for a radically different, more complex and deeper system and so the huge similiarities in this video kinda dissapointed me.

        • Gothnak says:

          I think for me, an example of what i mean is the Heroquest boardgame. Great in the 80’s, but time moves on. Then someone makes Descent, an update on Heroquest. Now if the original Heroquest designer came back and made almost a carbon copy of Descent, i’d be disappointed. If he came back and designed Gloomhaven (Still a multiple turn based dungeon explorer) then i’d be impressed.

          I Found Alpha Centauri to be too similar to Civ as well.

          By all means make this a squad based alien killing game, but make it play differently, innovate in turn systems, highlighting damage potential, cover, it all just reeks of recent Xcom, and it didn’t need to.

          • khamul says:

            I agree with what both you and UrQuan are saying… but I think it’s a bit early to judge.

            Solomon streamlined things for a reason – and, in doing so, he’s built a visual language for how you interact with a turn-based tactics game that a LOT of people now understand. Why re-invent it if it works? All you’ll do is turn away potential custom and make life harder for people.

            The meat of the game is not the blue move area, or the icons in a bar at the bottom showing what your unit can do, or the hit %age… what matters is the patterns of decisions of risk and advantage that the game will ask you to trade off as you play.

            I share your concerns, but… well, core mechanics are much harder to infer than UI layout, and also, Gollop got there first, right? XCOM is inherited from Gollop, so seeing intersections is to be expected. And it’s still early days – systems like cover and move tend to evolve as the focus of the core gameplay crystalises.

            So I see where you’re coming from, but I think it would be fair to wait until Pheonix Point is a bit closer to release before making any judgements.

    • Alien says:

      Yes, I am also waiting for something with the complexity of the old X-Com games, especially TFTD.

      The old X-Com games felt like “simulations” (battlescape and geoscape), while the new Firaxis XCOM feels like a simple boardgame – I don’t like it at all…

      The strategic layer of Phoenix Point seems to head the right direction. I am not sure with the tactical layer… hopefully they will implement more “simulation” elements, like free aim, ballistics etc.

  2. Kefren says:

    This has my interest, though I am old school – I have completed UFO Enemy Unknown and Terror From The Deep many times, and still play them, but I gave up on the modern XCOM reboot (hated it) and couldn’t get into Xenonauts either. I’m sure both are good games, but really I just want the games I know and love but tarted up bit – I’d buy that at any price.

  3. Horg says:

    I’m somewhat disappointed to see he designed the game around a squad of four. That’s one of my biggest gripes with the new XCOMs, as the fewer actions you have per turn really amplify the effects of a little bad aim RNG or a death. Unfortunately Firaxis seem to design around a template and tweak the details with each iteration, so I have no expectation of them making larger squads and alien pods the default state, as Long War did for XCOM:EW. I had hoped Mr. Gollop would see that element of the design as a mistake, considering his work on the original XCOMs. Apart from that, the action cam needs some serious work, it’s very hard to follow the flow of the alien turn. Not much worse than the new XCOMs in that respect, the action cam is always disabled. Animations also felt a little too fast, although they might have been accelerated for demo purposes.

    Other than that, there’s a lot to like so far. I approve of the infestation aesthetic and the nightmarish, inhuman alien design. The UI looks familiar and user friendly. Little touches like not losing your blue move until all the movement points have been expended are something FIraxis could learn from, also the shot indicator beam is so much more user friendly than XCOM 2s LoS pip next to the alien health bar. The tactical level looks practically equal to XCOM 2, if Gollop has managed to make a superior strategic level (the part i’m most anticipating) then he could have a massive hit on his hands.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Phoenix Point squads are going to be huge though – they’ll probably go up to 10+ soldiers. And Vehicles.

      It’s also got proper ballistics, doesn’t run on a two action system, has fluid movement, ammo and inventory, a proper strategic layer…

      How you see the Xcom remake in that I don’t know other than it being 3d.

      It also doesn’t have a pod system thank god and no free turns for the aliens.

      • Ur-Quan says:

        None of all that stuff you are talking about has actually been shown of in the video.

        • DatonKallandor says:

          The discrete movement points, willpower system and proper ballistics were visible in the video.

          But yes they shouldn’t have shown the game in this early state. They weren’t even playing the player faction so even the visuals of the soldiers and abilities shown aren’t representative of what the player will have.

          • Horg says:

            As Ur-Quan noted, I am basing my impression of this demo video, i’ve not been following the development at all. If larger squads are included then that’s great news.

          • subedii says:

            They’ve been touting larger squad sizes and vehicles pretty much from the start.

            More importantly, Gollop had a lot of praise for what Jake Solomon did with XCOM’s design of the TBS combat. What he had more issue with was that new XCOM hewed away from “simulation” and more towards “boardgame”, especially in the metagame (things like forced choice between 3 missions every time, and lack of interaction between factions, a whole bunch of other limitations in how scenarios can play out because they’re designed to force choices, not so much to simulate different factions and behaviours).

            It’s in that section (metagame) where he’s said he wants to make the biggest changes. In that respect, from what the devs have been saying it sounds like it’s going to be hewing a lot closer to X-Com: Apocalypse than Enemy Unknown.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I like this comment. This suggests that PP will be exactly what I hoped the new XCOM would be.

        Do you know whether there are actually unit classes? I was hoping they would avoid that, and just have ‘people’. You know, like in real life.

        • zdesert says:

          according to the development updates there will be classes. each of the three factions will apperantly have 3 associated classes and the main player faction will have 4 classes. they have mentioned that they are playing with the possibility of multi-classing in some way but havent really explained that much.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      It’s for a demo at a games show. Of course they’ll do it with small squads and limited abilities and early game enemies. They want the crowds to get a quick feel for the game and move on so someone else can have a go.

    • spleendamage says:

      May 2017 there was an interview posted on RPG Codex and Gollop commented on several of these things, I think all of what he said was encouraging to fans (like me) of the old X-Com games.

      His response to squad sizes in particular gives insight into his thought process regarding limits games may impose.

      “Squad sizes will range from 4 to 16 roughly, but the larger battles will be base defence missions (which don’t happen too often). The player will be encouraged to keep squad sizes smaller due to experience point bonuses for smaller squads. The main limitations for squad size will be the availability of healthy soldiers and transport capacity. There won’t be other arbitrary restrictions.”

      link to

  4. JonasKyratzes says:

    Hey folks, you can also watch a longer video of our community manager Kevin playing the game and going into more detail: link to

    And keep in mind this is just one tactical mission, in early pre-alpha! Yes, it’s more streamlined than the original X-Com (or my beloved X-Com Apocalypse), but the full game is definitely not just going to be an XCOM clone. There’s a lot of mechanical differences, plus a totally different strategic layer.

    • Horg says:

      ”a totally different strategic layer”

      This. Show more of this.

      • JonasKyratzes says:

        We will, but that bit’s still under construction!

        I think that aspect of the game will make a big difference, though: a proper geoscape, factions that act on their own, many choices to make, diplomacy, random/narrative events… it has some 4X-type elements that really take it in a unique direction. And which will hopefully also give it a lot of replayability.

    • The Great Wayne says:

      @Matt could you include that link Jonas gave as a post-scriptum to your article please ?

      It’s got plenty of additional info and does a good job of showing some key differences with xcom imho, which aren’t really clear in the PCG one.

      Plus, while it’s a marketing video, it’s no more so than the PCG one, so I think this could complement the article without being complacent, but YMMV.

    • upupup says:

      That’s a very informational video. Anyone who wants more details should watch it.

  5. Laurentius says:

    Hmm, I feel a bit of disappointment. Cramped spaces, few soldiers, reliance on cover feels way too “xcomy” then I would like. Where is my TFTD skirmish line?

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      The full game can do much bigger levels, and you can (currently) bring up to 16 soldiers into the field. It’s just that we needed something compact for the demo, which could be played in a reasonable amount of time for the PC Gamer show – and some assets simply don’t exist at this point in the production, or are not in a state where we want to be showing them. Such is game development.

      • Ur-Quan says:

        Unfortunately that choice made the game look a lot more like a straight up copy of the Xcom remake.

        Seriously if someone told me this was an Xcom mod I wouldn’t even doubt him.

        You should definitely try to show more of the differences in future gameplay demos.

        • JonasKyratzes says:

          I’m sure you’ll see loads of significant differences as we make progress and release more videos. For now, if you’re curious, the video by our community manager that I linked further up goes into far more detail about how the game is mechanically different.

      • Laurentius says:

        I mean I’m still digging it. TBS stratgy from Julian Gollop even if it looks a bit xcomy but with real strategy layer? I’ll be there at the realease, for sure.

  6. chuckieegg says:

    I could have tried to take out its pincers or head instead, each of which would have conferred a different effect.

    Shooting things in the head does tend to have a different effect than most other parts of the body, yes.

    • VCepesh says:

      Except in Phoenix Point it does not necessarily kill them.

    • Werthead says:

      * David Attenborough voice *

      “And here we meet the humble crabman, of which some variants keep their brains in their arses, for defence and aesthetics.”

  7. upupup says:

    I dunno. I like the parts where the game is doing its own thing and I don’t like the parts where it’s trying to be nuXcom. Both nuXcom games I disliked for overly simplifying the gameplay and for going for a cinematic, heroic tone, to the point of letting you practically build goofy superhero teams and having villains that taunt you and swear revenge. The more they stay away from that, the more I’ll like it.

  8. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    Looks good. Some thoughts…

    1. The main change is to use something more similar to the TU system. The implementation seems to be based on using the movement radius to display TUs, that might be more elegant than the ‘progress bar’ used in the early XCOM prototypes. The sorta concern is that different items will allow you to move different distances and that bit of complication might cause a bit of both. I assume they took out the complication in the original where turning your character costs TUs?

    2. The willpower management seems interesting as an alternative to cooldowns. Most soldiers therefore function a bit like a WOTC Templar, do normal kills to charge up to super-abilities. Making overwatch cost WP is an interesting decision – it’d cut down on creeping overwatch, sure, but it feels a bit underpowered, perhaps? I assume the nuXCOM overwatch aim penalty is removed? Then again I guess you’ll be replacing overwatch with more powerful abilities later.

    3. Chance to Kill is a very helpful UI feature and I generally like all the little UI changes from nuXCOM. Automatic weapons seem to proc multiple shots and roll tohit on each shot, thus they will be more reliable than single shot weapons?

    4. Animations are quite quick. This might feel a bit lesser than nuXCOM though. I dunno if this is a design decision or a cost decision.

    5. Enemy rules seem changed from nuXCOM. There’s no scramble move now, but on the other hand enemies are allowed to attack from reveal during their turn. In other words we are back to UFO rules. Combine that with costly overwatch, and that will hurt. My concern is that there seems to be an obvious solution to this – have a scout spend half their moves running forwards, then half their moves each turn running back. Do that and you can probably limit engagements effectively to one enemy at a time (Julian was obviously in too much of a hurry in that video). Will there be anything to punish that tactic?

    6. Do enemies have facing, then? It doesn’t seem like your soldiers do. That’s an interesting asymmetry. Or does facing only apply to large monsters and shield deployment?

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      People have talked about this game looking too much like nuXCOM and honestly, I had the opposite concern, that the Gollop team might be working too hard at being Not Firaxis and design around not doing what Firaxis did, as opposed to making a good game in its own right and acknowledging some of the (IMO) improvements Solomon made. I’m somewhat reassured.

  9. Laurentius says:

    I watched both videos and it looks to me that free aim is not here, now that is really something why XCOM felt really as a too streamlined tacticla game. Hmm… I really hoped Phoenix Point won’t compromise on that.

    • upupup says:

      In the second video he confirms that free aim will be implemented, as well as inventories.

  10. Banks says:

    I feel that they are aiming in the wrong direction.

  11. Alien says:

    BTW: Is there a release date? 2019 or 2020? I looks extremely ambitious…

    • Werthead says:

      Q4 2018. I’m not sure if that’s calendar year (so October-December this year) or financial (so January-March 2019). But certainly soon-ish.

  12. Captain Narol says:

    I’m a proud backer of this gem in crafting and I like a lot what we see of it already !

    Gollop takes what’s good at the tactical level in the XCOM of Salomon and plug it in a better strategic simulation of dark world with its own dynamics, I just can’t wait to play the final product.

  13. Caiman says:

    Looks great. Yes, Firaxis really nailed the movement UI in nu-XCOM and Snapshot are wise not to change it just for the sake of being different. It’s pretty clear that it works more like the original TU system but with much more information communicated to the player.

    I can always understand the reluctance of devs to show off their game when it’s still fairly early. Everyone wants to see it, but too many are intolerant of it looking incomplete. This is a crowdfunded game with public backer updates, they’ve been showing it off regularly to keep interest high. The new geoscape strategic layer looks awesome (go look at the Fig updates) and so far this game comes across as UFO: Enemy Unknown crossed with X-Com Apocalypse.

  14. aircool says:

    Crab people, Crab people. Taste like Crab…

  15. Chromatose says:

    Honestly, for all the talk of how Phoenix Point will differ from XCom in the grand strategy layer, I would be pretty bloody happy with Xcom But With Crabs.

  16. fearandloathing says:

    I was very keen on the game, but after the success of Xcom2 in re-inventing itself, especially with DLCs (which I’m yet to play), I fear PP may slip into irrelevance at the time it’s released. Still, its strategical part, as far as we know, is miles ahead of xcom2’s, and that’s what interests me most. Sad to see that they couldn’t make the tactical game feel different though. I certainly agree that there is no need to differentiate from Xcom2 just for the sake of it, but maybe a more different art style would help. Animations especially are annoyingly similar.