Phoenix Point Review – Improves Upon the X-COM Formula

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Phoenix Point
Snapshot Games

When I giddily sat down for my first game of Phoenix Point, I immediately noticed the game’s tutorial. Each step of the tutorial missions is well thought out and teach you progressively more complex game mechanics that I soaked up like a dry sponge. It gave me a great first impression as to how exactly Phoenix Point was different from its predecessors, the X-COM series.

A few of the differences stood out right away, such as the ability to position your squad members behind walls, lean out and fire at enemies, and then pivot right back into full cover. I also noticed that I had the ability to target specific body parts on my foes, which opens up a whole new bunch of tactical possibilities. But it wasn’t until jumping into my first proper game that I realized how much more in-depth the whole enchilada was.

Phoenix Point is set in the near future and humanity has been decimated. The cause? Permafrost within the Antarctic region has been melting away and has subsequently uncovered a global pandemic called the Pandoravirus. As the super-virus spreads across the globe, it transformed billions of people into horrific, aquatic-like monstrosities that look like a cross between creatures from the Resident Evil series and those from the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

You take command of a paramilitary organization known as Phoenix Point that hopes to stand up against these dastardly forces, but it won’t be easy. Not only are you terribly outmanned, but your mutated foes also wield weapons that are vastly superior to yours—in other words, the stage is set for quite an uphill battle.

Anyone who has played an X-COM title before will probably recognize this narrative set-up and it’s no wonder since Phoenix Point is a product of the mind of Brit, Julian Gollop. Gollop masterminded the original X-COM game (under MicroProse), titled: UFO: Enemy Unknown, back in 1994. The game was a hit and marked the birth of an entire franchise of alien invasion-themed titles.

Similar to most X-COM games, Phoenix Point is played from two distinct perspectives. The first one is a strategic layer called the Geoscape, which is an expansive representation of planet Earth with different indicators for various points of interest. The second layer is the tactical one after you engage some baddies and your soldiers slug it out with them from an on-the-ground perspective.

You start each game from a central headquarters from which you’ll send out aircraft to perform reconnaissance patrols. You’ll also train your soldiers, research technologies, and build up your HQ’s infrastructure. However, there are several things that stand out which make Phoenix Point a much more intriguing experience (at least in my opinion) than the X-COM titles.

One of these is the fact that the mutated monsters you are up against can absorb and replicate the DNA of other creatures, similar to the horrific entities in The Thing movies. They will adapt to your soldier’s tactics and further evolve to become a bigger threat to your soldiers. This, in turn, forces you to constantly adapt your strategies in order to try to stay one step ahead of your foes.

Another thing that is unique is that in Phoenix Point, it’s not just you vs. the mutants in a vacuum. You also have several other factions which are vying for supremacy, including a highly organized group of transhumanists as well as a bunch of commie-like authoritarians who believe that everyone should be equal, except them of course.

Once you encounter these other organizations, it’s up to you as to how you want to approach them. Making too many enemies isn’t advisable, however, since you could be passing up the chance to make valuable allies which can help you in different ways, such as becoming potential trading partners.

Like Firaxis did in 2012 with their reboot of Gollop’s original 1994 title, Gollop, in turn, has taken the X-COM formula and added additional touches that improve upon the more recent X-COM titles. And with a several DLC already planned for the future, Phoenix Point looks to be a massively fun, science fiction gaming experience that is sure to keep folks entertained for years to come.

 

SCORE: 85%

Phoenix Point has some pretty good looking graphics that make its science fiction gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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