If I had reviewed this game after my first 5 hours I probably would be a little more positive than I am right now on this game. As it stands, Phoenix Point is a decent Xcom clone with a whole lot of frustrations.
A mysterious virus is wiping humanity out and transforming them into monsters. No one knows where it came from and your job, like those before you, is to find out why and put a stop to the new alien threat. The story is actually pretty good and is backed by some solid voice acting too. I enjoyed finding out what happened to the world and how everything got to be the way it is. It’s not the best story, but I really enjoyed learning more about the world and some of the crazy ideas that the new factions that emerged from chaos had.
For example, one of the three factions is run by a bunch of religious nut jobs that believe that the only way for humanity to move forward is by becoming one with the new alien species that the virus created and as you gain trust with them they’ll eventually reveal more information to you. Then you have another faction that’s the complete opposite and believe that humanity shouldn’t change at all and all you need is a good plan and determination and you’ll win in the end. Every faction is flawed in some way and I wish that they were more interesting than what they are because it would’ve added some great story moments to the game. What’s here isn’t bad though and could serve as a good stepping stone for future games.
Phoenix Point is like Xcom. It’s a turn-based tactical shooter that doesn’t have the polish that Firaxis’s Xcom 1 and 2 have. That doesn’t make it a bad game though. When it works it plays really well, but the little things like the camera work and angles while firing, or getting fired upon, is never where it should be when it’s near-perfect in Xcom.
This game is also really buggy and has major performance issues. There are times when my flamethrower wouldn’t burn anything, enemies would disappear on the map and I would be forced to restart the stage because they wouldn’t show back up. There’s more but I’ll get into that in the graphics section. Phoenix Point plays fine. It’s a B grade Xcom and I have no problem with that whatsoever. There are things that bug me though. The enemies don’t play by the same rules as I do. They can move insanely far and have insanely good accuracy on every difficulty. Even on easy, they shot me from across the stage, with a pistol, and even got a headshot which led to my guy’s head turning red. From a freaking pistol…
It’s infuriating because I could be doing so well and then everything would go to shit because this game throws a LOT of enemies at you and all of them are buffed up more than I think they should be. I tested this on every difficulty and I didn’t’ notice a change between hard mode and easy mode. I’m not sure if this is a bug or intended. It’s really easy to lose this game and it can be incredibly hard to win. One thing this game does well is the factions. There are three different factions in the game with vastly different beliefs. One faction believes that humans should integrate with the aliens while another faction totally opposes that ideology and will hate you if you choose to go that route.
It’s all very interesting on paper, but the reality is it feels half baked. You can be on friendly terms with every faction and it’s not even hard to do. You can choose the neutral option in every conversation to avoid taking sides and that’ll keep your reputation from falling with the other two factions. I also had plenty of opportunities to increase my relationship level with them by doing their diplomacy missions. These missions… are very disappointing. There’s nothing diplomatic about it. It all boils down to you killing a bunch of NPCs in different locations in order to make the faction you’re working for trust you more.
Building trust is important because that’s one of two ways you can unlock new technologies in your base so you can unlock new gear to use in battle. Or you can just steal everything which is basically putting the game in easy mode. You can easily get the best gear in the game if you steal it. Playing friendly is more challenging because it could take a while for you to complete those diplomacy missions. Why? Because the game regularly gave me missions on a different continent. I was forced to steal in order to win and I still ended up losing in the end because I had waited too long to be aggressive. I was trying to build relationships and be nice to everyone and I paid for it in the end.
Phoenix Point is similar to Xcom in a lot of ways and very different too. And I have mixed feelings on all of the different things it tried to do. I do not like how I have to unlock technologies and I don’t see myself playing this game as much as I did Enemy Unknown and Xcom 2.
One thing I almost forgot to mention when I was going over the combat is the aiming mechanic. You can manually aim down the sights. This allows you to cripple certain body parts. Are you tired of that sniper hitting all of your frontlines while you try and advance on the enemy? Then shoot them in the arm and they’ll lose the ability to aim two-handed weapons. They’ll be forced to use their pistol. Or… you can just aim for the weapon and break it. The enemy can’t beat you if they can’t shoot you right?
Phoenix Point has good voice acting when it needs it. The soldiers I commanded into battle had horrible ascents and gave me some good laugh out loud moments, but when I met a new settlement I was greeted with some really solid voice acting and it’s backed by a good soundtrack too. It’s nothing incredible, like Xcom, but it helped set the tone for the game and I really enjoyed listening to it. The guns lacked oomph for me and that’s a shame. I like for my guns to feel powerful and here they just sound… generic. I would have liked to see more attention to detail here. Especially since this game is $40 and isn’t much cheaper than your standard triple-A game. What’s here is good though. It’s nothing that would make you go, “wow! I need to own that game’s soundtrack.”
I was pleasantly surprised at how good the voice acting was. I was surprised it even had voice acting. I did zero research on this game before playing it and the fact that it’s got fully voiced factions with good voice acting was a major plus for me.
As usual, I’m not just judging how a game looks in this category. My graphics option is also a performance grade and that’s why this is in the bad section instead of the good one. This game plays like shit 70% of the time. It’s all random too. One minute I’m running the game flawlessly and the next 20 minutes I’m barely getting 20 fps. It’s all over the place and it was infuriating.
Phoenix Point is a good looking game, but nothing ever wowed me. The graphics are fine. The graphical options are okay as well. I wish I could tweak things more than I could, but I wish I could do that in every game I play on PC. The character models are a mixed bag. Some look good and some look bad. There’s not a lot of diversity in the enemy units. I quickly saw every type of enemy there was within the first few hours of play. What’s there is good though. I really like the designs of the enemies and some of them are massive. It’s just not very many of them.
Phoenix Point is both really good, aggravating, and really bad at the same time. It's a mixed bag right now. This game should not have been released this year in my opinion. It needed more time to bake and it needs some patching to the gameplay too. Nothing here really stood out to me over Xcom. It doesn't do anything that isn't done better in one of the Xcom games. That doesn't mean that this game is bad though. It's not. It's a perfectly serviceable game that will probably satisfy that Xcom itch you've been having. If you got this as part of Game Pass then it's totally worth it. I would recommend waiting for a deep sale before buying it though because right now... it just isn't worth it.