independent

Wednesday 22 January 2020

An interesting twist on the tired X-COM formula

Game review: Phoenix Point, PC/Xbox One/PS4, 6/10

While Phoenix Point and XCOM share a great deal of similarities, the barest scratch beneath reveals a game of far deeper complexity by comparison to its far more popular counterpart
While Phoenix Point and XCOM share a great deal of similarities, the barest scratch beneath reveals a game of far deeper complexity by comparison to its far more popular counterpart

Chris Hayes

The X-COM formula is one that has been so thoroughly perfected by the XCOM series of games that it's rare to hear about any serious challengers for the crown.

If ever there were a potential contender for the top spot in the squad-based tactics genre, that contender is Phoenix Point, a game conceived by the original creator of the X-COM formula - Julian Gollop.

Though on the surface it would appear that Phoenix Point and XCOM share a great deal of similarities, the barest scratch beneath reveals a game of far deeper complexity by comparison to its far more popular counterpart.

Complexity, however, does not necessarily mean a deeper and more thoughtful experience.

While Phoenix Point innovates in many ways, the level of busy work and needless depth only serves to deliver a game that fails to capitalise on much of its potential.

One such illustration of this needless depth is in the supposedly realistic modelling of bullet trajectory and impacts.

While it is a nice distraction from the numbers-based damage indicators of your traditional XCOM games, it can be a serious detrement to your enjoyment of the game when your shots are stopped by either your own cover or by any of the other litany of objects that may get in your way and foil your attack.

Phoenix Point's classes are as diverse as much of the rest of the game, with seven different soldier classes to choose from.

Where class selection gets particularly interesting is when a soldier hits level four, they can unlock skills from a different class.

While this exposes Phoenix Point's dodgy balance issues, it can also produce moments of pure madness and satisfaction. Phoenix Point's missions are appropriately diverse, though there are a number of them that tend to crop up a bit too frequently.

Also, the procedurally generated maps often make a mission laughably easy, with the main objective being within sniper range on the first turn.

That being said, while the procedurally generated maps are almost never memorable, they are well-crafted enough to remain playable, at the very least.

There are certain aspects of this game that feel over-egged, while others feel like their potential were not explored enough. An interesting twist on the tired X-COM formula, but nothing that will dethrone the heavyweights of the genre.

Wexford People

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