8 Best And Worst Things About Phoenix Point | Phoenix Point Review (PC)

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Hello and welcome to Rock Paper Shotgun where
I’ve spent the last five days squatting behind benches and shooting at crabs. It’s the kind of behaviour that got me banned
from my local aquarium, but in Phoenix Point, it’s encouraged. In this turn-based strategy game the sea is
taking revenge for years of mistreatment: the melting icecaps release a dormant virus
which turns all those happy, singing crabs into this f**king nightmare. Fish fingers are now attached to fish fists
and they are going to put us in our plaice. Yes, that is a fish gag. Considering the last game I played was drab
COD – that’s an abbreviation of Call of Duty, not a fish gag – an army of squids with
machine guns was enough to put Phoenix Point on my radar. But it’s also notable for being headed up
Julian Gollop, the co-creator of X-COM. With Firaxis having revolutionised X-COM by
removing the hyphen – and some other features – Phoenix Point feels like Gollop’s chance
to show how he would have dragged X-COM into the 21st century. And as it turns out: he would have done it
a lot like Firaxis, too. But rather than focus on the similarities
– which should be pretty clear from watching it in motion – I want to highlight what makes
Phoenix Point tick: the formula tweaks that work brilliantly, and a few areas where it
maybe struggles. It’s important to note, I’m not approaching
this from the perspective of a hardcore XCOM veteran – the only Ironman campaign I’ve
ever completed was this terrible Nintendo DS game. Whether it will hold up to months of replays
is hard to predict, but I’m hoping these impressions will capture the general shape
of the game. Before I do that, a quick thanks to Displate
for sponsoring the channel – Displate make lovely metal posters and we’ve collected
our favourites in our store – the link is in the description. If you do buy one, we get a bit of that money
– which I will be using to pay my fines to the local aquarium. Of course, if you’d rather support us by
giving the video a like and subscribe, that would also really make my day. Let’s kick off by thanking those who crowdfunded
the game, specifically those who got the money pot to the stretch goal to include these drivable
vehicles. Because this is a brilliantly stupid toy. Just look at this brute, knocking down benches,
walls and small forests. It’s like a drunk godzilla, giving not one
f**k about how little of the world it leaves standing. If you do manage to reclaim the earth for
humanity, how are you going to explain the devastation this giant metal bastard has left
in its wake. I especially love the way it totally guts
any civilian rescue missions – you just feed your target into its metal belly, and then
click on the extraction point. Is this a cheese tactic? If it is, it’s a good cheese. It’s a Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference
Baking Camembert. The only sad thing is that the Pandoran lairs,
where the real nasty stuff happens, are so full of rocks, it means I have to leave my
favourite squad member in the parking lot. Good night sweet prince. Besides driving a monster truck over squid
men, if there’s one thing that defines Phoenix Point against XCOM, it’s flexibility. Not the sexiest sales pitch – and now you
know why I started with the truck – but something that changes the rhythm of a strategy game. Where modern XCOM has two rigid action phases
– one to move your legs and one to move your trigger finger – Phoenix Point lets you get
granular and move on a step-by-step basis. Everything you do eats into these four action
points, but not all at once. You can use half a bar to step few tiles out,
then spend three whole points to shoot, and then use that fraction of an action point
to step back behind cover. One of the more useful things about this is
that if you spot an enemy during a sprint, you’ll stop, letting you swap those jogging
points for some extreme violence points. Convenient, as jogging makes me want to do
extreme violence. These micro adjustments are vital for Phoenix
Point’s other cool trick: the option for manual first person aiming. Select normal fire and you’ll aim at a fishman
as you would an alien in XCOM. There’s no percentage chance here, though,
instead it uses a reticule to show the likeliness of a hit. Everything will land in the big circle, with
a 50% chance of hitting that smaller bullseye. But manual aiming lets you finesse that shot
or gamble on a more unlikely target – if you can see a fishman’s elbow poking out behind
cover, you might be able to get a bullet right into his funny bone. In this light the ability to take baby steps
makes so much sense – you’re looking for those sneaky angles, maybe to find the tiny
window of gooey flesh hidden behind the exterior shell. This stuff matters because it’s very easy
to fall into habits in strategy games, the tried and tested best practice. And while I’m sure people will sniff these
out, the fuzziness around the edges of Phoenix Point’s ideas, means it’s not so cut and
dry – you’ll find opportunities that surprise you, even after 30 hours with the thing. To me that feels strategically rich. And if that sounds a bit vague, let me talk
about more specifics. The first-person aiming, for example, isn’t
just about landing riskier shots, but landing smarter shots, too. A bit like Fallout’s VATS, manual aiming
lets you target specific body parts – in turn letting you disable attacks used by those
body parts. The second I see one of these sirens – mind-controlling
motherf**kers who can easily wipe your team out – I’m pumping every sniper bullet I
have into their stupid heads. Likewise, emptying lead into fish torsos to
shut down the Pain Chameleon power that sees them vanish and then skitter off. I’m also a big fan of shooting rifles in
half, forcing burly human warriors to look a bit sheepish with their tiny handguns instead. Don’t chuckle too hard as they can do the
same to you. A lot of the magic of X-COM, both Gollop’s
original and the modern version, lies in tension – the notion that you are always on the back
foot. For me, this system, of neutralizing your
least favourite attacks, plays into the siege mentality brilliantly. In one amazing battle in a forest tomb I found
half my squad glued in place from a goo cannon, and swarms of sirens and frenzied minions
descending on them. It’s here, with your back against the wall,
that you have to make every shot count, and the option to place that lead exactly where
you want it, gives this a level of drama – and stress – that a broader shooting system simply
can’t. Confession time: I eventually shit this battle
up the wall, but for the few minutes I thought I could neutralize the threat, this was about
as thrilling as turn-based games get. An even better trick with aiming is using
it in tandem with destructible environments to carve your own way through the levels. Now, to be honest, some of the destructible
stuff can look ropey – buildings appear to be built from large chunks of polystyrene
that collapse unconvincingly and then just vanish out of existence in embarrassment. But! I’ve always wanted a strategy game where
you have the freedom to properly alter the world – not just breaking away cover, but
blasting open new doorways if the main entrance is under overwatch, or firing a grenade into
reinforced glass and then having all my gunmen pour their lead through the hole. One of my favourite Phoenix Point moments
was blasting this perfectly waist high window only to realise that I had accidentally build
a tiny facehugger doorway straight to my head. I will say, that for all the fun of destruction,
it does feel rougher around the edges than other systems – I’ve seen the AI take a
couple of clever opportunities with it, but they are generally not very creative when
it comes to making new doors or opening up lines of sight. The fact that switching to first person aiming
will latch onto the nearest enemy is also a bit of a pain as you have to slowly swivel
your aim at whatever it is you want to shoot. It gives you the impression that the demolition
man routine is kinda playing the game wrong, that you shouldn’t be aiming guns at walls,
which is a shame, as it’s one of the best things about the game. Let’s zoom out a bit. Outside of turn-based battles you’ll spend
most of your time staring at this screen, and possibly weeping because you can’t keep
on top of everything at once. The Geoscape shows the global battle you’re
waging against Pandoran forces. This is probably the biggest departure from
modern XCOM, in that it throws a lot more at you than simple base management. Although XCOM did have a prettier base than
these boring pictures, so I can understand why it wanted to spend so much time there. At heart of Geoscape is a search for answers
about the aquatic threat and potential technology to deal with it. It has the feel of a scavenger hunt: you fly
to mystery locations and pray they offer you answers instead of an angry crab ambush. In order to push through the story you’ll
need access to the entire world, so much of the game is spent trying to grow your network
of Phoenix Bases. With more bases come more facilities to speed
up research, more satellites to scan the globe for new exploration sites and more room for
soldiers and vehicles. Having multiple squads in helicopters allows
you to police multiple continents at once or bundle several squads to the same battle
for an even bigger squad. For the most part, I love the buzz of Geoscape
– the satisfaction of slowly spreading your influence or discovering small story event
that paint a better picture of the world you’re trying to save. It finds a chewy tension as you debate whether
to send a fatigued squad on the long trip back to a base or to push on to the next question
mark. When a soldier is out of stamina he enters
battle with fewer action points, so it’s a risk to march onwards. It feels like you’re having to make a lot
more decisions, and on many more fronts, than you ever did in XCOM – but it’s not so knotty
that it veers into 4X strategy territory. For that you’ll want to try Planetfall Age
of Wonders – there should be a link to our review in the top right of the screen. Just as the Geoscape gives the action scale
and density without slipping into baffling complexity, so the faction system offers just
the right level of snappy diplomacy. I mentioned that you police continents and
that’s because so much can go wrong – the spread of Pandoran mist sees nests and lairs
spawning near to human havens, which can lead to attacks you’ll need to fend off if you
want to keep those havens alive – doing so keeps them as trading partners and recruitment
locations. But then you also have conflict between three
rival factions. There’s the ‘lets murder them all’ generals
of New Jericho, the Disciples of Anu, who just ‘want to be friends with the fish’
and Synedrion, who are the scientific masterminds behind fancy weapons and presumably cleaning
chemicals, based on how spotless their bases are. Look at this: you could eat your dinner off
that. The more you help a faction, by performing
special story missions, or sabotaging enemy havens, the more support they offer – from
special unit types to pre-researched items. Sabotage missions make a nice change of pace
from simply eliminating Pandoran forces, although I did feel pangs of guilt as I applied my
advanced military tech to wiping out silly little farms. Knowing how much bloody effort it takes to
get anything built in Phoenix Point, you do feel like a total sod if you take this route. But then my new psychotic mates in New Jericho
did teach me how to build armour piercing sniper rifles, so it’s swings and roundabouts. But still, it’s cool to see the game pondering
not just how to save the world, but what kind of world it should be. Certainly I see myself taking the trip a few
more times to see how differently things can play out with other factions. Alas, there’s some self sabotage, too. The big black mark against Phoenix Point is
that it is technically rough and prone to some bonkers bugs. I’ve had a on-running problem where the
mouse cursor becomes untethered from the action, forcing me to enter the option screen to reset
it. Several times the end turn button has broken,
leaving my poor little virtual soldiers in eternal limbo. A few times it has refused to save – at first
I thought I’d hit a save file limit, but exiting the game seemed to sort that one out. The fact that the game has Epic exclusivity
was a nasty upset earlier in the year, but I honestly think waiting to play it on Steam
might be the better option, given the slightly wonky state of things here. Also, while I’m having a moan – it’s not
a bug but the game boasts some absolutely horrible interior locations which are so visually
cluttered that it’s very difficult to read lines of sight and plan accordingly. It would be less of a problem if a couple
of the worst offenders didn’t keep cropping up in the procedurally generated levels. Of course, if anyone from Snapshot is watching,
I’d rather they fixed the demented mouse cursor thing first. These problems are a shame as I’ve had a
great time with Phoenix Point – a game I expected to be a slightly budget clone – I mean, you’re
putting crowdfunding against the financial might of 2K – but the game has real character. Whether you’re on the ground or hovering
above the globe I think Phoenix Point treads a fine line between clarity and chaos. It’s definitely not as clean cut as modern
XCOM, a game whose masterstroke was to take this incredibly complicated genre and simplify
it into something sleek and console friendly. Phoenix Point nails some weird stuff onto
that skeleton – the free aim, the Geoscape, granular movement – and it loses those smooth
edges in the process, but I enjoyed playing with those wrinkles, and having something
fresh to chew over. I often think these games are never as good
as the first time you play them, when you don’t know what horrible trick every monster
can pull, and every tactic you devise feels like a genuine revelation. In this sense, Phoenix Point has plenty of
surprises and lessons to teach. And unlike XCOM, where things tend to start
hard and see you gradually ascend to alien-smashing godhood, Phoenix Point manages to keep the
pressure on throughout: the further your network extends, the more fires you’re trying to
put out, counterbalancing the leaps that you’re making in research. It’s compelling stuff – in fact I’m going
to finish this video edit and jump straight back in. I mean it’s not like I can visit the local
aquarium. We started with fish and ended with bugs. Thank for for watching this Phoenix Point
review all the way to the end. If you did enjoy this review, please give
it a like and subscribe to the channel – we do loads of videos like this. And you should watch them. If you really loved this video, you can support
the channel through our Displate store – please do use the link to check out our personal
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but you’ll be supporting the environment – for every Displate sold, ten trees are planted. And if you have any Phoenix Point questions
why not pop them below. Even better, share your own reviews of the
game – I’m keen to hear from anyone who backed the game. Thanks so much for watching Rock Paper Shotgun,
and hopefully see you again soon. Bye for now.

 

46 Responses

  1. Zachary Smith

    December 5, 2019 8:09 am

    The enemies are boring, the player controlled soldiers are boring, the setting is meh… the abilities are boring. The game has no soul, no emotion. Just fodder. Everything is boring. Oh and the LOS system sucks.

    Reply
  2. Davis Mulvey

    December 5, 2019 12:19 pm

    I did really want to buy this game but the epic thing made my choice of not. Hopefully I will remember the game in a year when steam gets it.

    Reply
  3. zidey

    December 5, 2019 12:42 pm

    You don't have to swivel you aim in first person aim. Just click on the enemy icon above your skills and actions.

    Reply
  4. Charalampos Koundourakis

    December 5, 2019 3:25 pm

    The description of the XCOM action points was incorrect. They aren't just for Shooting and Movement

    Reply
  5. Pavlo Tverdokhlib

    December 5, 2019 3:43 pm

    Just like that other Epic-first game, Outer Worlds, I'll check it out on GamePass. Then I'll most likely buy it on GOG once it's out properly.

    The original UFO was possibly the first game I ever completed. I'm stoked to see Gollop return to the genre, and this sounds very interesting.

    Reply
  6. Randall Porter

    December 5, 2019 7:04 pm

    Glad you mentioned one of the worst aspects of the game… it's exclusivity. I'll wait for availability on Steam.

    Reply
  7. Marko Erakovic

    December 5, 2019 8:24 pm

    This is fucking still early access… No way is this game polished and balanced at all. Explosive weaponry is the only one that matters for first. Anu faction is soo weeeeaaak it isnt funny. The viral damage is horrible mechanic in a game where you absolutely need to kill enemies as fast as possible, and acid is also there in the mix. Acid is bullshit, it strips 10 armor points per turn but a lot of enemies have massive amounts of armour, and you would be better off using explosive weapon to deal damage and weaken it, because while you wait for acid to do its job the enemy will kill you. And Anu viral assault rifles are the most inaccurate and weakest in the game with very little rounds shot per volley, and they only give 3 virus stacks per bullet that damages… Im sorry what? Sentinels have 900+ life you know enemies respawn indefinetely there? Its so slow and weak compared to other faction its a clear sign the game is not balanced at all. And progression is unreasonable, way way to fast by any standards, and you are forced to trudge through mires of same defend have mission over and over again. Oh and mind control is pathetic, it has minimum range? It horrible enough to be soo weak with weaponry but you got to enter enemies asses to even get some upper hand. And armour/weapon degradation only exists to fuck with players 95% of the time. I uninstalled the game after a peculiar thing happened. The map started and i was positioning my forces, i couldnt really spread out as from beginning i was cornered, so i played it safe. Know what happened then? An enemy that game spawned 2m from my starting deployment on a 2nd story that i couldnt even see just moved one square and shot a grenade launcher on my guys… BALANCED!!!!

    Reply
  8. avedis keofteian

    December 5, 2019 10:26 pm

    although it has some major improvements on combat mechanism, yet it desperately fails to grab my attention when it comes to sounds,icons, base ,gears ,soldiers graphics .. u just cant get that feeling which u get when u play xcom

    Reply
  9. FKDaybreak

    December 5, 2019 10:35 pm

    whoever wrote the script for this video is on another level of comedy that you just don't see that much these days

    Reply
  10. Werd Lert

    December 5, 2019 11:50 pm

    I would love a game with 4X level of complecity of the global map, but that plays more like X-Com, i.e. not building cities / civilisations and dominating the world but being a faction with a specific goal embroiled in a certain story.

    Reply
  11. Favmir

    December 6, 2019 12:46 am

    Looks very promising. I especially like how they renovate the old dusty percentage system into more intuitive aiming system, which will make the missed shots feel more 'fair'. These guys really gave a lot of thought into improving the old fomula and it shows.

    Reply
  12. Janne Aalto

    December 6, 2019 1:36 am

    I love my troops and my world and I REALLY love annihilating any threats to them, so my immersion into these kinds of games gives me more enjoyment on further playthroughs since I can be more efficient about it.

    Reply
  13. Dante King

    December 6, 2019 7:41 am

    Thats dispearing objects are sort of iriteiting. Even so fck cant hit the floor propeltly. I feel bad coz of them. And that with all time out in game? I understand clean is well, cleaner even better but LET THE MESS LET IT BE!

    Reply
  14. Novalight

    December 6, 2019 10:30 am

    Heh. "There's no % based chance, instead it's likeliness to hit". I know what you're trying to say, but, 'tis the same.

    Reply
  15. Chua Koktung

    December 6, 2019 11:46 am

    Informative review, guess I'm gonna wait till it is on steam then. Or at least a few months down the route after they did some bug fix.

    Reply
  16. cain vike

    December 6, 2019 11:23 pm

    i dont experience any of those bugs. and it runs perfectly.. unlike xcom that has a issue with memory leaks and that sort… im still early into the game but its a great game 🙂

    Reply
  17. Thongger

    December 7, 2019 12:38 am

    The Los issues aside , the manual aiming is nice because it definately makes the soldiers feel less useless. I really don’t like how you can’t swap soldiers while one is moving to speed up gameplay (in XCOM while a guy is running to a point you could swap to another dude). Also it’s annoying how your guys automatically open doors when they stand next to them

    Reply
  18. Marco Fara

    December 7, 2019 12:07 pm

    Xcom tutta la vita e Phoenix Point è solo una brutta copia!!!! Xcom all your life !!!! Phoenix Point is just a bad copy !!!!

    Reply
  19. Joachim Winckler

    December 7, 2019 12:56 pm

    No one seems to remember UFO: Aftershock and UFO: Aftermath. Both were quite similar to this and earlyer than the new XCOM-installment.

    Reply
  20. Nemamiah

    December 7, 2019 2:35 pm

    You talk about how you always wanted a strategy game that allowed you to creatively alter the landscape as if Silent Storm and Perimeter never existed.

    Reply
  21. DonHewgodooko

    December 7, 2019 11:11 pm

    Don't shoot crabs at aquariums kids. It's not big or clever

    This looks like it puts everything into the game that I felt was missing from X-Com. Might have to give it a shot

    Reply
  22. Gaming Forever

    December 8, 2019 2:22 am

    i see…
    you are same as us player's when we see a siren….
    when you see a siren at anytime shoot him first cause they fking destroy you with their mind control and 30 willpower

    Reply
  23. Coffee Potato

    December 8, 2019 4:39 am

    I was really hoping this one would have turned around more since the backer builds that made me get a refund a bit back. It's got a lot of neat ideas, but hopefully they'll have it figured out by the time the real release rolls around. Until then, You mentioned several mechanics early on that Xenonauts, and by extension, the utterly amazing X-Division Mod did years ago. Things like super satisfying, crushy vehicles, and in the mod's case, extreme flexibility with your movements. For anyone curious, the Xenonauts 2 folks have been taking some pointers for finding a middle ground between XDiv and the original XCOM feel, which was ultimately what got me super hyped for that one over this. Just saying, for anyone that missed it that feels bummed right now, give X-Division a try, it's amazing.

    Reply
  24. ColonelCrisp

    December 8, 2019 12:22 pm

    “. . . squatting behind benches and shooting at crabs. It’s the kind of behavior that got me banned from my local aquarium.”
    Hol up.

    Reply
  25. Mathieu Adrovert

    December 8, 2019 12:51 pm

    there's a weird thing when it comes to some super clean textures against really low quality one that tickles me, sometimes i'll think the game is beautifull, sometimes it feels like the old strategy games, i don't get why i used to think the old video i've watched about the game looked way better, was it downgraded during the development or anything like that ? : (

    Reply
  26. FatalFist

    December 8, 2019 3:31 pm

    Maybe it’s how you hacked up the video but I do have to ask, how bad is the RNG? Is it just as bad as XCOM2?

    Reply
  27. Alexander Johannsen

    December 8, 2019 5:40 pm

    i played a sabotage mission and when i first time ended my turn, sniper shots came from a WALL and killed one of my guys. i restart because that was bs. i thought it was a glitch and did the same as before. once again sniper shots came from the wall. i restart again and this time i take my heavy and shoot the wall to pieces, and a sniper appeared in the same place the wall had been. so yeah i dont think snipers standing inside of walls is meant to be a thing, but yeah that sniper had a pretty bad day after i found his hidding spot.

    Reply
  28. kalega311

    December 8, 2019 6:45 pm

    Is there save-scumming allowed (i.e. rolls aren't predetermined)?

    Either way, thanks for this video. I've been fluctuating between super hyped and just on the fence. But it seems this game is a huge time sink, in order to get the most out of it. And that just doesn't fit my gaming lifestyle right now. I still may get it just to support Snapshot.

    Reply

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