Phoenix Point (PC)
An alien virus has been unleashed upon our world and left humanity on the brink of extinction. An organization called Project Phoenix rises from the ashes to fight against the threat and protect what is left of life on our planet.
Mutating Alien Menace: Face down an ever-changing alien threat that adapts to your tactics and offers no respite even as your team becomes more powerful and technologically advanced.
Uncover the Secrets of the Pandoravirus: Phoenix Point features a complex narrative, with multiple endings that the player can only uncover via multiple playthroughs. Discover a secret history, as you learn about the origins of the mutants, the Pandoravirus, and Phoenix Point itself through exploration, diplomacy, and research.
Manage Diplomatic Relations: The Phoenix Project is not the only organization trying to reclaim the Earth. The militaristic New Jericho, the mystical Disciples of Anu, and the technophiles of Synedrion all offer unique rewards for co-operation and threats for opposition. It is up to you to decide how, or even if, to deal with them.
Take Aim on the Battlefield: In addition to equipping and commanding units, Phoenix Point lets you take direct control of your soldier's shots in combat, with a unique free-aiming system. Target enemy weakspots, weapons, or valuables, or just go for center mass.
Next-Gen Tech with Classic Pedigree: Phoenix Point was designed by Julian Gollop, the creator of the X-COM series in the 1990s. Keeping the core ethos of X-COM while updating the visuals, technology, and systems to modern standards has made Phoenix Point best-in-class.
OS: Win 10, 8 and 7 SP1+ (64 bit)
Processer: Intel Core i3 / AMD Phenom II X3
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 / AMD Radeon R9 270
Direct X: Version 11
Sound: DirectSound Compatible
OS: Win 10, 8 and 7 SP1+ (64 bit)
Processor: Intel Core i5 3GHz / AMD FX series 3.2GHz
Memory: 16 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon R9 390X
Direct X: Version 11
Sound: DirectSound Compatible
December 3rd, 2019
Pheonix Point comes to us from the creator of the X-COM series, Julian Gollop of Snapshot Games. Development began in 2016, and the game was eventually crowdfunded and made just over $700,000 with a goal of $500,000 in 2017. The game was ultimately delayed into late 2019 because the interest from fans has increased, and so they chose to make a bigger video game. However, the story doesn’t end there.
Pheonix Point is one of the games tied to the controversy that surrounds the Epic Games Store as the company began buying up projects for timed exclusivity on their new digital storefront. Pheonix Point had been initially headed to Steam and GOG. When the deal was made, backers were offered one year of free DLC or a full refund. Now, here we are with this spiritual successor, tactically fighting against an alien threat once more.
Spiritual Content: There are multiple factions within the world of Pheonix Point. One of them is called “The Disciples of Anu.” They are a cultist religion that believes the mist from the virus that affected humanity is punishment for our human nature. They believe in an alien god that they refer to as “the Dead God.” Players are not required to align themselves with this faction.
Violence: Humans and alien creatures face off against one another in tactical combat involving various guns, artillery, and melee weapons. Blood is present when a creature’s limb is blown off of its body as it spills out.
Language: I do not recall any, but this is a massive procedurally generated game with lots of dialogue and text, so I may have missed some.
Drugs/Alcohol: Due to the game’s generated nature, there are possibly mentions or missions related to drug or alcohol use or acquisitions, but I did not encounter any.
The setting of Pheonix Point is that a virus called the Pandoravirus is discovered in 2047 permafrost began to melt in the Arctic regions. Project Pheonix is an organization that exists to protect the world from dangerous threats and is notorious for retreating into the shadows and rising again when duty calls. That virus gives us crab and insect-like enemies that came from the ocean instead of the big-eyed aliens from space that drive UFOs.
As stated above, Phoenix Point comes from the creator of the X-COM series. The gameplay directly apes its predecessor, but with a few additives. The alien threat comes from a biological source rather than outer space. What does not change is that you are a paramilitary organization that travels around the world to protect Earth—one turn-based battle at a time. How close it feels to that well-known franchise is a good thing, but it also makes Phoenix Point feel like a generic knock-off.
X-COM directly inspires the tactical gameplay with a few new twists. The option to target body parts a new addition to the formula and reminds me of the VATS system from the Fallout games. Targeting limbs is essential to defeating bosses enemies, but I enjoyed using it to get a good shot on enemies with shields or disabling those with guns. Though it is still percentage and stat-based, this feature gives players more agency in their actions while opening up the opportunity for more critical hits.
I discovered that the enemy creatures might be procedurally generated to some degree. During one mission, I fought against ranged aliens with guns, and in another, I faced a group that carried shields. The list of features boasts that their mutation is adaptive to the player, but I can’t confirm that it is what’s happening. However, I have had to change my strategy a few times as the enemy type changed—so that feature might be working as the developers intended.
Another feature that is new to the formula is vehicles. Taking these out on a mission with you occupies a few character slots on your ship, but they are well worth the exchange. The first vehicle I got was able to fire some heavy artillery missiles and turn the tide in my favor very quickly. I was able to find a few different uses for it as I had it circling perimeters and act as a blockade to protect the few units that I had. The use of vehicles is something I’d love to see implemented in a future X-COM game.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of Phoenix Point is also familiar as one travels the globe to take missions and recruit units. Gathering resources, researching, and building up a base also plays a part in growing and developing the Phoenix Project. There are three factions we can fight against or side with, and they will be actively doing things just like we the players are—such as attacking one another and claiming territory. The interaction with them makes the world feel alive, even if not much of it is left. If you decide to make friends with one of them, you can recruit their members too. I currently have a guy on my squad from the Disciples of Anu and has armor made from one of the enemy creatures and carries a hammer to deal significant melee damage.
Most of the maps in Phoenix Point are randomly generated outside of the story missions. One of my favorite yet most intense scenarios was when I had to clear out an area full of fireworms. These little guys were dangerous as they would explode upon reaching the nearest threat. One of my favorite mission types, in particular, was scavenging for resources and protecting them from being destroyed by enemies. The game does have a story, but there weren’t any specific moments that stuck out to me as traveling to unexplored areas was my favorite thing to do in the game.
I’ve already spent much of my time in Pheonix Point watching my soldiers die and recruiting new ones. That seems to be the nature of these kinds of games, and its fun to see how strong they can get before their inevitable fate. As your soldiers level up, you can raise their stats and teach them new abilities. You will lose them when you finally get to know them, but that loop will continue as you get more soldiers to join the Phoenix Project.
I called Phoenix Point generic, and that’s because of its presentation. There is a lot to like about the game, but we would hardly be able to tell the difference between this and X-Com if this did not change the type of alien threat. The visuals lack a noticeable polish, though graphics don’t need to be triple-A quality for a game like this. I wish someone could walk by my computer and see something more unique. Even if I was to recommend it, the response I’d get is likely to be, “I’ll just go and play more X-COM 2.”
Phoenix Point was able to hook me for multiple hours once I got through the tutorials, and I hope it can do the same for anyone that is holding out for an X-COM 3. The setting stands out from its predecessor enough for me, but I don’t think it will work for anyone else. It’s hard to recommend a game like this with a slightly steep price of $40 while the franchise that inspired it is still out there.
Review copy generously provided by Sandbox Strategies
+ Tactical gameplay
+ Limb targeting
- Graphically unimpressive
- Lacks identity