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Game Info:

Phoenix Point
Developed By: Snapshot Games
Published By: Snapshot Games
Released: May 1, 2018
Available On: Windows
Genre: Strategy
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: 1 offline, no online
Price: $50.00

Snapshot Games just recently released its Pre-Alpha Development Build for Phoenix Point. Phoenix Point is a turn-based strategy (TBS) game from the creator of the original X-Com back from 1994. In this game, you lead an organization that is fighting against monstrosities born from a virus that was released from a melting ice cap. This virus began to spread and quickly consumed most of the world. In this early build, you play as one of the three factions that you will encounter in the full game. All of your four soldiers have been infected by the virus, also called the mist, and have been sent on a suicide mission to recover a lost facility.

At this point in the build, there are two scenarios you can play. There is the preset mission which is mostly the same as the press build they have been showing off for a bit now and then there is the randomly generated level that is mostly the same as the preset with the objectives and enemies present, but it is not set up so that it is balanced like the other mission. These missions are so you can test the currently available features which is really nice since there are some really different things that are trying with this game and that is what I’m mostly going to spend the rest of the article talking about.

So far, probably the most unique feature would be the way they handle what each unit can do during their turn. In Phoenix Point, there are no TUs (time units) nor the two action system that recent TBS games have implemented to replace TUs. Instead, you have what I believe I’ve heard referred to as the action wheel. This “wheel” is a bar you have under the list of actions that a unit can do. Each action, including moving, reduces that bar down. When that bar is empty, that unit’s turn is done unless there is still some free cost actions they can perform. This bar takes some getting used to, but once I got more familiar with it I have really grown to like it. Most actions that can be performed remove set chunks of it. For instance, firing a rifle uses half of it. Throwing a grenade or using a medkit use half. Firing a heavy weapon like the sniper or machine gun costs ¾ of the bar. Using a pistol or messing around in your inventory costs ¼. Moving is fairly cheap. I believe one space is roughly 5% of the bar. To help you know if you can still use a weapon after moving, the game displays some different areas. If you move to a spot inside of the blue area, you can still fire the equipped weapon once that spot is moved to. The orange area shows a spot that can be moved to, you just can’t use the equipped weapon once you get there, but you may still be able to swap to a different weapon and then use it. This whole system I found to be really good in most cases and I look forward to seeing how it will play out once a couple more things get added into the game.

Phoenix Point
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fun gameplay with a lot of new and interesting mechanics, a randomly generated map, nice art and music.
Weak Points: The build is very early so it is fairly buggy, the use of will in some bits feels a bit much, the game starts you off woefully underequipped, the random generation of the map can be very unfair.
Moral Warnings: Lots of violence, Lovecraftian creature design.

The next thing that the game has that is very unique is its firing system. In Phoenix Point, every shot uses a realistic ballistics simulation. This basically means that each shot fired actually matters. Shots are handled by playing an animation and then damage occurring. In this game, it matters if each shot hits and where it hits. Bullets must actually be able to hit their intended target. That also means that cover actual works off a system of whether it is big enough to block a shot from hitting you or not. It is no longer a wise idea to try and hide a big guy behind a puny coffee table since most of his body will still be poking up above it. To also allow for more freedom, the player also gets to actually aim each shot. When you go to shoot, you actually get to aim in a sort of first-person perspective. You get to pick which part of the body you want to shoot at. This allows you to target certain parts of the enemy that you might want to disable such as their gun arm to prevent them from shooting or their legs to limit their ability to move. All body parts can be disabled in this game including your own. Depending upon the body part damaged, your soldier is affected in a different way. If a leg is damaged, their movement ability is greatly hindered. If it is a hand or an arm, they can no longer use weapons or equipment that requires both hands. If you are really unlucky, you can even have your weapon shot and destroyed. This can be really annoying, but it shouldn’t be as bad in the full game when you can equip your squad since you’ll be able to carry more than the bare minimum. Also, the later builds shouldn’t be as bad with gear as the current one since they stated that they wanted to limit your gear to encourage looting to kind of force players to test the new inventory system.

Another thing this game is doing differently is tying abilities to a will system. In the demo, you have three different types of player units: soldier, sniper, and heavy. (These are what I’m calling them, but I have no idea what they are officially called.) Each unit has different gear and maximum amount of will points. Everything besides the most basic abilities like shooting or reloading, require the player to use will points. This is a very different way to do a lot of these abilities. Some of the abilities allow for some basic things such as healing or going into overwatch while some abilities allow for some really special things such as using your jumpjets to move long distances or to give yourself some extra points in your action wheel. Some of these abilities seem to be tied to the soldier and what class they are while others are tied directly to the equipment they have. Once you run out of will points, your soldier is supposed to be able to panic, but I have never had this occur to me. I’ve heard that they even want to do some more things in the future with things such as a soldier with no will is more likely to get infected which should be interesting, but as of right now it just mainly seems to mean you just can’t use any of your special abilities. Will points can also be lost by taking a lot of damage. If you lost a body part your maximum will decreases. Will can either be restored by spending all your actions on regaining a bit of it, by ending a turn in some special buildings, or by doing objectives. While I’m not a total fan of some of the abilities being locked behind will points, such as healing, it does seem like a good way to limit the use of the really powerful abilities and is certainly more interesting than just putting it on a cooldown.

Phoenix Point
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 2/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 5.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The enemy designs are something I did really enjoy. So far, the early build just had in it Crabmen enemies and the Queen boss enemy. The Crabmen are either crabs mutated by the virus to become more human like or humans mutated into some more crab-like beings. There are a nice couple of different versions of them in the build to mess around with. There are four types in total now each with some slightly different body parts. It seems that in this game, instead of equipping the enemies with different types of gear, they will instead get different body parts. If one of them is supposed to have more armor, it will have a big carapace on its back and it will now have its head tucked more in. It this is a melee enemy, it will have a crab claw. This looks like it will be a fun way to make each enemy different. The Queen is also an interesting enemy. The Queen is a massive mix-up of crab and spider with the upper bits of a person sticking off the front of it. This enemy is well armored and has a lot of health. What makes this interesting is it also has a lot of body parts to shoot. This is where attacking the different body parts really shines since the Queen is healthy enough to survive a few targeted shots so you can really mess around with disabling different things. Right now, the only attack is from the two claws so once you take those out there really isn’t much threat left, but there are supposed to be some more abilities she’ll be able to use later so you can really take advantage of disabling the different parts. Each of these two creatures feel very Lovecraftian in their design and I really like that, but this direction might not be for everybody since it can be gross and creepy.

What art I saw in the build was good and it was more polished than I expected from a game this early in development. I’d also argue that in this game, the art matters a little bit more than it does in a lot of other TBS games since you can actually zoom in with the different weapons and look around. The sound so far is also good. I like the background music a lot and I am looking forward to seeing what else they make for the game. The guns all sound interesting and the enemies all sound very alien for their little murmurings and death screams. The stability is lacking, but that is to be expected of such an early build.

Since there is so little in the actual game it is pretty hard to judge this game morally. There is some violence with killing the enemies, but there isn’t anything too gory or violent. When you disable a body part, it just seems to darken. The Queen does lose a bit of her claws but it is not in a gory manner. Everything else I can’t really comment on since I know nothing of the lore or story for the game.

Overall, I’d say this is a very solid early build for Phoenix Point. I am happy to have backed the game and I greatly look forward to later builds of it coming out and adding more features into it. The game is doing a lot to differentiate itself from the other TBS games out on the market, but I could see some changes alienating some potential buyers. I’d love to say go and try the early build for yourself, but it is locked behind one of the slightly higher preorders so it isn’t really possible to try it out before you buy it. In my opinion though, the game seems to be heading in a really good direction and I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy the ride as it comes along.

- Paul Barnard (Betuor)

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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