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Phoenix Point guide - 20 tips for new players and XCOM veterans alike

Because the in-game tutorial leaves you with more questions than answers

Phoenix Point has arrived at last! From Julian Gollop, creator of the original X-COM, comes a new turn-based tactics game which tasks players with reviving the defunct Phoenix Project to save humanity after the emergence of a deadly alien virus that mutates human and animal alike to wipe out all of humankind.

Gripping stuff, and also very challenging - which should come as no surprise to veterans of the XCOM series. But never fear! I've been playing the game for a grand old while now, and I've put together the below Phoenix Point guide, filled with my 20 top tips covering every aspect of this ambitious strategy title, from combat to diplomacy and much, much more!

Phoenix Point guide contents:

Phoenix Point guide - tips and tricks

Phoenix Point guide - 20 tips and tricks

Phoenix Point is a tough old game that takes a great many cues from its spiritual predecessor, X-Com (and, by extension, the revived XCOM series of recent years), but then goes several steps further in a great many ways. If you're a veteran of XCOM, you'll find many familiar touchstones but also a surprising number of innovations which may sweep the rug out from under your feet at first.

The below tips are designed to prepare new Phoenix Point players for these central tenets of the game. I've split the tips into groups of five, each of which covers a different major aspect of Phoenix Point: combat, the Geoscape, diplomacy, and general strategy. So let's get started!

Phoenix Point guide - Combat tips

Phoenix Point tips for Combat

Combat is, predictably, an enormously important part of Phoenix Point, and there's a lot of complexity and layering of systems going on with every single encounter. But stick to the below five tips, and you won't go too far wrong.

1) Vehicles are extremely powerful and versatile resources

  • I'd urge you to build a Scarab vehicle as quickly as possible once you have access to the Geoscape, because although it takes up a lot of space in your aircraft, it more than makes up for it with powerful long-range weaponry and far more durability than any soldier. The other fantastic thing about vehicles such as the Scarab is that you can order your soldiers to enter the vehicle, protecting them from harm. Be sure to check out our Phoenix Point vehicles & aircraft guide for more info!

2) Use the high ground!

  • If you've played the tutorial missions of Phoenix Point, you'll know that you can use the mouse wheel to scroll between different floor levels - and it's very important to do so, because high ground is extremely important. Whenever I start a mission, I always look for the nearest highest ground, and send my soldier with the highest perception up to the top in order to spot enemies as quickly as possible. Information on enemy whereabouts is what decides the outcome of a battle, and high ground is your greatest ally in this regard.

3) Understand how damage and injuries work

  • Each unit has an overall health value, but they're also made up of different body parts, each of which have their own independent health value. You can view the status of a unit's body parts in the human(oid) icon next to them; orange means a body part is damaged, while red means a body part is disabled. The thing to know is this: using a medkit in battle will recover overall hitpoints, but won't do anything about damaged or disabled body parts. And on the flipside of this, the moment you finish a mission, all body parts of all your units will be instantly healed, but your overall hitpoints will be unchanged unless you rest at a base with a Medical Bay.

4) Even a regular enemy can ruin your day if underestimated

  • The lowliest, most meagre Triton or Arthron, if left to their own devices, can often kill one of your soldiers outright. And soldiers are an extremely valuable resource in Phoenix Point, so you'll need to exercise caution even with the weakest of enemies. Treat all regular units in Phoenix Point, both friendly and enemy, as a glass cannon. Not too difficult to kill, but more than capable of killing others.

5) Learn the intricacies of free-aiming and the overwatch system

  • If your unit has enough action points, you can set them to overwatch in a cone in front of them, and during the enemy turn they'll automatically fire at the first enemy they see passing through that cone. You can hold CTRL and use the mouse wheel to adjust the width of this cone, and there's nothing stopping you from widening the cone to 180 degrees and overwatching half the map with a single unit - though of course, this may mean you end up firing at the wrong enemy if there is more than one of them about.
  • While aiming a shot in Phoenix Point, two circles will appear, one inside the other. 100% of your shots are guaranteed to fall inside the outer circle, while 50% of your shots can be expected to fall inside the inner circle. You can use free-aim to target exactly where you want to target, to maximise your chances of hitting an enemy, or to pinpoint a specific body part that you want to disable. Read all about the intricacies of this system in our Phoenix Point Free Aim & Part Damage guide.

Phoenix Point guide - Geoscape tips

Phoenix Point tips for the Geoscape

The next handful of tips concerns the Geoscape, which is the global view you're presented with between tactical missions. This is where the bulk of the work gets done in Phoenix Point, and it's important to know what's what.

6) Control the pace of the game how you want

  • Use the tools on the right side of your screen to adjust game speed how you want - or to pause the game so you have a chance to think. At default speed, one hour passes every second. At the slowest speed, 5 minutes pass every second. At the highest speed, 5 hours pass every second.

7) Use Trade and Missions to balance your resources

  • On my first campaign, I found that my main bottleneck was Materials (the orange resource at the top of your screen). It became clear that it's very important to balance your three main resources (Tech, Materials, and Food) if you want to continue expanding and building the strength of the Phoenix Project. Missions and events will give you various resources to help you with this, but after researching the Haven Trade Protocols technology you'll also be able to trade resources with different faction havens, which can really help to reduce bottlenecks.

8) Medical Bays and Training Facilities are absolutely essential

  • I always build at least one Medical Bay and one Training Facility in each of my Phoenix Bases. It's so important to have a nearby base that you can return your units to in order for them to heal up and get back into the fight all the sooner. And Training Facilities ensure that even if a unit is just sitting idly in one of your bases, they'll be earning experience and levelling up - making them enormously more useful when the time comes to use them in battle. Check out our Phoenix Point bases guide for more tips and tricks on base management.

9) Be efficient with your Area Scans

  • Area Scans are how you explore your surroundings and find new points of interest across the Geoscape. You can only have as many Area Scans running at once as you have Satellite Uplinks in your bases. Each scan radiates outwards slowly from its starting point - you can see every patch of land you've scanned by clicking on the radar icon at the bottom of your screen. Try to be as efficient as possible with your area scans - always have at least one scan running, and try to make sure the scans overlap as little as possible.

10) Always be doing something

  • This is true of many strategy games, and it's certainly true of Phoenix Point: try to always be doing something. Always be researching something, always be manufacturing something, always be building something in your bases. If you don't have the resources, then make more of an effort to explore new points of interest to gather resources and trade with havens so that you build up a good enough economy to sustain your "always be doing something" rule. This is the golden rule of the Geoscape in Phoenix Point.

Phoenix Point guide - Diplomacy tips

Phoenix Point tips for Diplomacy

Your relations and interactions with the three primary factions and many independent Havens of Phoenix Point can have a marked impact on your ability to combat the Pandoravirus threat. So much so that we've dedicated a whole Phoenix Point Factions & Diplomacy guide to talking about it in detail - but for now, have a read of the below five tips regarding diplomacy in Phoenix Point.

11) Learn the unique features of each faction and what they can offer you

  • It's not only in ideologies and policies that the three primary factions of humanity differ. Each one also has many unique technologies and assets to offer the Phoenix Project, from unique weapons and vehicles and aircraft to entirely new specialist soldier classes that you won't be able to find anywhere else. New Jericho, Synedrion, and the Disciples of Anu all have something different to offer you. The best place to learn about all this is our guide, so give that above link a click!

12) It's okay to be a dick to factions

  • Diplomacy doesn't always mean diplomacy. At many of the faction havens you come across, you'll have the opportunity to send a squad on a Raid mission in order to steal something from that haven and that faction. This could be a certain technology, or resources such as materials and food - or even an aircraft. These raids are often very challenging as the havens can be well-guarded - but succeed, and the rewards can be well worth it - particularly if you get a whole aircraft out of it!

13) Allying yourself with a single faction can be worth the effort

  • You can view your relations with the factions (and their relations with each other) from the Diplomacy tab of the Geoscape. At various positive thresholds (25, 50, 75) your relationship with a faction will reach the next phase, and each phase brings new benefits, from revealing every one of that faction's havens to revealing new unique technologies to research.

14) You won't be able to respond to every call for help

  • As time goes on, the Pandoravirus will spread, things will become more dangerous for everyone, and the mid-game will begin. One important thing to realise about the mid-game: you're almost certainly not going to be able to respond to every single plea for aid from every faction - or even from one faction. There's just too much to do, and that's just the way it is. So don't be stressed out by that call for help at that haven which is whole continents away from your nearest response team. It's just the way of things, don't sweat it.

15) War is inevitable

  • You may think that a humanity-ending alien plague would be a great impetus for humanity to unite and face the threat of extinction together - but in Phoenix Point (quite realistically, I'd say), things aren't that simple. Factions will almost certainly declare war on one another over the course of your campaign, and you can play as large or as little a part as you'd like in these wars. Just don't forget that the Pandorans are the ultimate enemy here.

Phoenix Point guide

Phoenix Point general tips and strategies

Finally, let's finish with my top tips in terms of general strategies to adopt and maintain throughout the Phoenix Point campaign.

16) Get your first vehicle and second aircraft up and running ASAP

  • As I've mentioned earlier, vehicles are extremely important and powerful tools, and you'll want to get your first vehicle up almost as soon as possible so you can start to deal with the more challenging missions. The other priority is to either manufacture or steal a new aircraft as quickly as you can, because this will double your agency in the world - you'll be able to do twice as much as before, respond to threats sooner, complete more missions in a shorter space of time.

17) You're in a race against time - don't neglect the main story missions!

  • I've found it's important not to lose track of the main story missions in Phoenix Point. If you're too intent on performing scans on every inch of the globe and exploring every single point of interest, then you may find that you're too far behind the curve by the time you go back to the main missions, and the Pandorans have become too powerful. Always keep in mind your primary objectives and work towards fulfilling them in a timely manner.

18) Multi-classing your soldiers makes them much more versatile

  • At level 4, you'll have the option to multi-class a soldier, which will give them access to weapon proficiencies and abilities they otherwise wouldn't have. Each class has certain staple abilities (Dash and Return Fire for Assault, Extreme Focus and Quick Aim for Snipers, etc), and combining them can lead to some extremely powerful and versatile units.
  • I'll also use this moment to say: don't underestimate pistols. Multi-classing just to give your unit proficiency with pistols is extremely useful, because you'll be able to equip a second weapon the only requires one hand (in case one of your arms is disabled) - and what's more, single-shot weapons such as pistols are ideal against those bastard Mindfraggers that cling to your soldiers' heads and take control of them until they're destroyed.

19) Explore as much as possible and prioritise finding other Phoenix bases

  • As I've mentioned, using Area Scans efficiently and explore as much as you can while you work towards fulfilling your primary story objectives, because you'll be rewarded with new resources, new havens, new allies, and much more. Most importantly, you may find new Phoenix Bases which you can bring back online, dramatically extending the reach and power of the Phoenix Project.

20) Don't neglect research, or you'll find yourself too far behind the curve

  • Going back to the "always be doing something" rule: try to always be researching something. If you reach a situation where you've got nothing to research, or all of the technologies on offer are locked until you fulfil certain criteria (such as capturing live Pandorans - see our guide on How to capture enemies in Phoenix Point for more details!), then you're in a bad spot. If you don't stay on top of research and don't take advantage of what the factions can offer you, then you'll find yourself unable to do anything against the Pandorans' mightiest warriors.

Phoenix Point guide - tips and tricks

Phoenix Point guide series

Hopefully the above 20 tips give you a strong enough foundation to get started on the long road of rescuing humanity - but that's not all we've got on Phoenix Point, not by any means! We're hard at work creating an entire series of top-tier guides on every aspect of this new turn-based tactics game, so be sure to check out the links below for more tips and strategies to get you started!

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Phoenix Point

Xbox One, PC

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About the Author
Ollie Toms avatar

Ollie Toms

Guides Editor

Ollie is sheriff of Guidestown at RPS, and since joining the team in 2018, he's written over 1,000 guides for the site. He loves playing dangerously competitive games and factory sims, injuring himself playing badminton, and burying his face in the warm fur of his two cats.