XCOM-ish spy game Phantom Doctrine due in August

I don’t know if it’s cheerier or far more grim for an XCOM-ish turn-based tactical game to be set against the very real backdrop of the planet-ashing Cold War rather than a humanity-mulching alien invasion, but I look forward to finding out in Phantom Doctrine. Developers CreativeForge Games, who you might remember from their ‘XCOM/Jagged Alliance but demonic cowboys’ game Hard West, today announced plans to launch Phantom Doctrine on August 14th – just over a month from now. It’s an interesting-looking one, supposedly with scope to complete missions with spy stealth as well as Rambo III megamurder. Here, a new trailer introduces the premise.

And yes, that big conspiracy corkboard is actually part of the game’s UI:


Our former Adam (RPS in peace) enjoyed the Phantom Doctrine preview build he played last year, trying to wave away some of the obvious XCOM comparisons, and it sounds sound.

“That’s one of those unexpected elements. There are essentially three possible start-points for agents on a mission. They can be part of your squad, preparing to infiltrate, they can be planted within the objective by assigning them to go undercover on the world map, or they can be at the perimeter of the map working as spotters or snipers. Those latter agents can’t enter the actual tactical grid – they’re off-screen, assigned to one edge of the map and equipped with either a scope or a rifle. With the scope, they can track enemy positions, and with a rifle they can pick off anyone foolish enough to stand near a window or in the open.

“And the undercover agents can do just about anything you might imagine. You could have them kill all of their ‘colleagues’ silently and efficiently, giving your other agents a clear path to their target (whether that’s documents to steal, systems to sabotage, or a person to kill or kidnap), or they could simply act as eyes and ears on the inside. It might even be possible to have them complete objectives while pretending to be a good employee, without drawing attention to themselves.”

Hard West didn’t quite come together but I’m hopeful for this one.

Phantom Doctrine is slated to launch on August 14th via Steam and GOG at £30.


  1. juan_h says:

    While I’m always interested in a good turn-based tactical-’em-up, my experience with Hard West has left me a little wary. On the one hand, I really liked some of Hard West’s systems, at least once I understood them. On the other hand, Hard West was pretty bad at actually explaining its own systems in-game. The manual was better, but even that was incomplete. I didn’t really understand what was going on until I got the chance to talk about the game with other people. Other points of concern include Hard West’s oddly structured campaign, lackluster narrative, and recurring saved-game, UI, and crash-to-desktop bugs.

    • Hoot says:

      Some developers come right out of the gate with a smash hit, like BioWare did with Baldur’s Gate (no, Shattered Steel doesn’t count) but other studios have a promising but shaky start and build into truly amazing games, like CDPR with The Witcher trilogy.

      I’m excited for Phantom Doctrine, I love me some John Le Carre cold war fiction and although the tone of this is likely to be more…game-y…I’m still very much looking forward to it.

      Also, more X-COM clones is never a bad thing :)

      • N'Al says:

        So to make your point you choose an example that DOESN’T prove your point, handwave the part away that doesn’t fit, so that it proves your point? How… odd.

        Why not find a developer that actually fits the profile you’re looking for?

        • dongsweep says:

          You seem rather harsh on someone who is merely stating a developer is capable of growing from game to game and that he hopes this one will, too.

          I would love to see this developer succeed and learn from their past mistakes. I’ll be keeping my eye on this game to see how it is received, my interest is piqued.

        • AlienEyes says:

          You don’t need to be so harsh when all you want to say is that you disagree that the first Witcher game wasn’t exactly the best RPG ever. It’s debatable whether the first Witcher game was good or not (I don’t really have an opinion about it), but I see everyone would agree it had… suboptimal gameplay mechanics, to say the least, and I believe that was the point here. Once the Witcher games got good mechanics it became a hit. Once a game made by the creators of Hard West will have enjoyable and clear mechanics it could be a hit (there’s also some work on story-telling needed).

          Some bad first game examples:

          Impressions Games’ (Zeus, Pharaoh, Caesar…) first game was a very meh football management game.

          Square’s (Final Fantasy etc) first game was a game almost nobody heard of even when it was released called Death Trap – just successful enough to allow the studio to make a sequel.

          Paradox Interactive’s first game was a game nobody out of Sweden even got the chance to play.

          I gave example of (relatively) niche genres on purpose because I also think that it has to be taken into account of Hard West. That’s why I also think The Witcher is a bad example. It’s harder to be successful with strategy games because there’s generally one big game for each subgenre and all the other ones can’t be anything else than cool little indie games just successful enough to allow the devs to make another game.

          • N'Al says:

            I don’t think I was being harsh, but YMMV. All I did was display genuine puzzlement at his choice of a developer that ‘came right out of the gate with a smash hit’, when said developer demonstrably did no such thing.

          • lordcooper says:

            Uh, that was one of their examples of a developer doing the exact opposite. You might need to work on your reading comprehension a bit mate.

          • N'Al says:

            “Some developers come right out of the gate with a smash hit, like BioWare did with Baldur’s Gate (no, Shattered Steel doesn’t count)”

            Thank you.

        • Hoot says:

          Because I was in a rush and they were the first examples to come to mind as well as Shattered Steel being a completely different genre that the studio never attempted again, whereas it DID become known to be one of the best RPG studios around. What I said was easily enough to give any reader the gist of my thoughts on the matter, and how it manages to garner a snarky response from anyone I do not know.

          I’m sorry you took it so personally that it pissed you off. Unless you’re just normally a rude person anyway. If you are, then in that case, fuck off :)

          • N'Al says:

            The only person here that is rude is you. I was puzzled by your comment, you’re the one who started with the personal attacks.

          • Hoot says:

            I haven’t attacked you, friend, I’ve just provided my hypothetical response based on the kind of person you are :).

            If you meant nothing by it or I took it the wrong way (sometimes something comes across as snarky in text that wouldn’t be snarky at all verbally) then that’s my bad. It just read like you were looking to start an argument by opening with a passive-aggressive statement that wasn’t actually needed.

  2. timsmith says:

    I’m really quite excited for this. I really enjoyed Hard West despite its flaws, which were many. It was a game chock full of interesting mechanics and design decisions, but for every one there seemed to be some way in which they simultaneously worked and didn’t. I spent so much of my playtime with it thinking this game is crying out for a sequel that addresses the flaws and finds a way to make its good ideas shine. I realise this isn’t that, but I’m happy that the developers are having another go at turn based tactics, and seemingly another unconventional one too.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I’m on the same boat. I had a similarly complicated relationship with Hard West. Overall I liked it, though I stalled because of the constant character changes.

      I am interested in the Phantom Doctrine (everything I’ve heard so far sounds like my cup of tea) but need to read a review or two before I jump in. Given that I’m going to become a dad around the same time it comes out I’m guessing I’ll have to wait a bit to play.

      • shde2e says:

        Likewise, i’m eager to see the game in action, and loving the ideas, but tempering my expectations in case of a flawed execution.

        Also, congratulations on the little one! May you have great fortitude and many good naps for the trials ahead!

  3. bacon seeker says:

    Looks tasty. Hard West was good (if not great) so hopefully they’ll reach the next level on this one. I look forward to the review.

  4. pookie191 says:

    Cold war.. Hopefully the game ends with the Berlin wall coming down and the Scorpions playing Winds of change :)

    Good times

    • airmikee99 says:

      One of the greatest political songs of all time.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      With our luck, it’ll be a terrible nucore cover like Wolfstein suffered.

    • Farnsworth says:

      No clue if the Wall or the Scorpions are in the game, but the music sounds very nice. Apparently it is from the same person who made the soundtrack for The Witcher 3. (Source: Devs mentioning this in a stream of the game on Twitch.)

  5. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    I had the chance to play this at PAX East, very excited for it. The atmosphere is top notch, and the combat feels more tactical than XCOM. Hard West was also pretty good.

  6. Mortomes says:

    I’m with the “I really liked Hard West, but…” crowd, so pretty excited about this.

  7. Farnsworth says:

    As another person who kind-of liked Hard West, but wasn’t really blown away by it I have to amdit that I am nonetheless lookng forward to this one. I hope we’ll see some more information here soon.

  8. lordcooper says:

    link to twitch.tv

    There’s some gameplay footage up here.

  9. DanMan says:

    Unfortunately, Hard West to this day is still riddled with bugs and even crashes at times. So I’m very hesitant to trust them with my money again.

  10. April March says:

    Guess I’m the only one here for whom Hard West never crashed, bugged out or exploded. I’ve only played the first two chapters so far, though. I’m… interested in the devs’ new game.

  11. Shigawire says:

    This game is looking very promising. The spy game of collating and connecting fragmented information is something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time since Sid Meier’s Covert Action did it back in 1990. Though that game never gave you a digital cork board… you usually had to use either a real cork board, or a piece of paper and pencil.

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