Phoenix Point Preview: X-COM Creator Goes Back To The Roots

Phoenix Point Preview: X-COM Creator Goes Back To The Roots

Phoenix Point is a new strategy game from the creator of the original X-COM series and was announced just this week on the Fig crowdfunding platform. Developed by Snapshot Games, a studio established by X-COM creator Julian Gollop and founder of Gaming Insiders David Kaye, the studio has been holed up in a location in Bulgaria with their team, developing this new entry in the tactical strategy genre that X-COM created. Phoenix Point looks to return the gameplay back to its tactical roots while adding its own unique wrinkles like ever evolving enemies, and soldier units that must contend with physical and psychological fallout. It’s only a few days into the game’s crowdfunding campaign and already it’s nearing it’s initial goal of 500,000 USD.

Genre: Tactical Strategy
Developed by: Snapshot Games
Published by: : Snapshot Games
Release date: Q4 2018
Platforms: PC

Phoenix Point Features

  • A new strategy game from the creator of the original X-COM series
  • Turn based, squad based battles on procedural, destructible environments
  • Deep soldier development and customization with a large variety of weapons and equipment
  • A constantly mutating alien thread that changes procedurally in response to your tactics

Story & Setting

In Phoenix Point, the events of the game are set in the near future. In 2022, an unusual virus is discovered in melting permafrost that sets the scientific community abuzz. Only 1% of the massive genome’s genes match anything in our existing databases. Without warning, the seas transform in alien ways and the mutagens begin to infect the planet’s landmasses in an airborne mist.

By 2057, the human population has been decimated. What remains of the survivors are scattered through the world in isolated refuges. Humanity has divided itself into factions who now control most of the havens and resources, and these factions are radically opposed to each other.

The Phoenix Project is a global organization who was designed to be initiated when the world needed it. As the player, you will be in charge of one cell within the organization and will be assembling a team of scientists, engineers and soldiers. Sound familiar? When your cell goes active, you realize you’re in the dark and must find out and make contact with other cells.


The virus known as the Pandoravirus can mutate life forms, and it incorporates DNA from multiple species and clones them quickly. The alien threat you will be facing will be constantly mutating and evolving in response to how you engage it. The game accomplishes this with a procedural generation system for the aliens which will result in a number of unexpected challenges when battling the scourge. The bosses themselves are going to be larger than life beasts. They will have several abilities for attacking, defending, generating mist and spawning larvae. Taking them down will require tactical targeting of their body parts to progressively disable them.

Just like in X-COM you will be undertaking missions in which you will deploy a squad of 4 (or more) soldiers. These units can be sometimes accompanied by aerial or ground based drones. The battles unfold over turn-based moves, with familiar tactical options like overwatch and return fire available. Your soldiers have a willpower and endurance stat, and earned will points are spent on new special abilities and more physical or mental exertion on the battlefield. They gain experience through battles and by training in special facilities, again very similar to X-COM. Each soldier class has an extensive skill tree that you can progress them through. This progression is accomplished by research and by interacting with other factions via trade, alliances and outright conflict. It’s all a bit of the management sub-game we’ve grown accustomed to, where you return from battle and get down to the process of research and upgrading your units, all to better prepare you for the next mission.

Soldiers in Phoenix Point can be customized extensively, with their gear, clothing, cosmetics, hair and more all tweakable, allowing you to create some distinct characters you may grow attached to. See our XCOM 2 streams to see the heartbreak one goes through when you lose units designed after your friends. Over time these units will gain new skills and abilities and will become formidable warriors. But there is an important caveat! Over time, they will also suffer from the rigors of battle, and insanity, addiction to enhancement drugs and permanent injuries. In order to restore their well being you will have to research new tech to help them overcome this. This is an interesting wrinkle to the genre and gaming in general, which tends to approach war lightly, in the sense that you kill and maim with little to no lingering physical or psychological effects. In Phoenix Point, as in real war, being in the trenches takes its toll.

Your soldiers will be equipped with a large variety of weapons and gear based on a mix of old, new and alien technologies. Furthermore, the different factions of humanity each have their own unique technology that you can obtain by either trade or conflict. As you gather these varied pieces of tech, you will be able to combine them and develop entirely new innovations to help you soldiers and your cause.

You will be battling across a multitude of different locations across the planet. There will be the havens of humanity and their facilities, scavenging spots like derelict military bases and factories. The game will generate layouts based on the facilities located in these havens, bases and alien encampments. Everything in the environment is destructible in the thick of battle, so no cover is truly safe for long. You will be able to gain an overview of what’s going on in the world by using the geoscape. It’s your central hub for operations, development and your missions. At the beginning you will be engaging in a lot of exploration, in order to make contact with havens, find sites for scavenge and locate Phoenix Project facilities. You will also use the geoscape to monitor the spread of the infectious mist coming from the ocean which will indicate increased alien activity.

The missions and objectives are numerous and various. Many will be triggered by your dealings with the different factions. Their havens will often need help fending off the alien advance, or will require assistance mediating a conflict with another faction. Some of the mission types listed are kidnaps, rescues, assassinations (!), sabotage, infiltration, takeovers and base defense. Along the way you will also be discovering what happened to your fellow Phoenix Organization mates, and you will have to do some remote exploration and clue finding. And of course, there are going to be plenty of opportunities to take the battle to the aliens themselves on their own turf and against their massive land walkers.

As for the factions in Phoenix Point, humanity has splintered as they are want to do, in a variety of separate schools of thought, dominated by some dynamic cult of personality leaders. Each one of the factions is in possession of secrets that can help turn back the alien threat. The Disciples of Anu worship an alien god and are ruled by an enigmatic high priest. Their communion ritual involves subjugating followers to alien mutation. New Jericho is a militaristic order led by a veteran mercenary and former billionaire. They believe they can build a force to challenge the alien domination of the land. Synedrion is a radical ecological group who believe that they can create a new and better civilization from the ruins of the old. They have the most advanced technology, but they guard it vigilantly. Your interactions with these different groups will form a large core of how the game plays out and it seems like a welcome narrative expansion that is sometimes missing from X-COM.

There is a lot in Phoenix Point that is very similar to the X-COM series and understandably so given the creator’s roots. That’s also not necessarily a bad thing as the formula is a singular experience that stands on its own as a sub-genre within the tactical strategy category of gaming. Even if it didn’t deviate at all from the X-COM formula, it would still be an outstanding game. If it builds upon what X-COM is with less tedious missions, deeper lore, less bugs, and more tactical options and a clearer UI it has a chance to be a special experience.

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Editor at Fextralife. I look for the substantial in gaming and I try to connect video games to the emotions and stories they elicit. I love all things culture and history and have an odd fondness for the planet Jupiter. I think my dogs are pretty awesome too.

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