Jaws just got ripped.
The Swarm is a book by German author Frank Schätzing. It was first published in Germany and Austria in 2004 and follows the story of many scientists investigating strange ocean events. Eventually, they find these events are linked to the ‘Yrr,’ who wish to eradicate humanity for damaging their ocean ecosystem.
Phoenix Point takes that idea of the ocean fighting back, a common human fear. However, instead of tiny single-celled swarms, the enemy is 6ft 20 inch killing for fun beasts of nightmares. Gone are the comical B-Movie aliens of XCOM days, this is an adult horror you need to face.
This XCOM on steroids comes from the mind of Jullian Gollop with Mythos who first invented XCOM back in the nineties and are now in the unique position of building upon a design based on his own work. But rather than knocking the ideas down, Phoenix Point builds upon them and creates depth to push your turn-based strategy experience even deeper.
Now naturally combat is the first buffed, and it comes with a ‘line-of-sight’ system to boot. Players can now see where you should be putting your squad thanks to the game showing you not only who you would have sight on in your location, but who you would be flanking also. I also learned in the worst way possible that bullet trajectory is now an ever-present factor. So that waist-high wall is no longer just for the cover, it could also soak the round you intended for the Lovecraftian horror behind it.
Now I relate this experience to XCOM not only from its creators but from the punishing features that this game adds to increase the experience of being against insurmountable odds. Every character is subject to a VATS system of limb damage. This is great for you, blow the arm off of crab-person over there and he’ll stop spamming grenades. However, every character is susceptible so make sure you don’t get your own limbs blasted into rat food. Characters also have willpower, a set of markers which allow them to perform skills such as climbing, jetpacking and Overwatch (yes, that’s still here.) But when things go wrong, this can cascade down badly. Losing members of the squad, injury and scary ass enemies can all lower this down.
So it’s safe to say my playthrough of the beta build went very, very badly. I went in rather blind and got consistently trashed because of it. Enemies got heads blown off and kept going, tanky enemies chewed up my troops and spat them out and my squads were nothing more than pesky dinner. But it felt good to play, everything feels tactical, responsive, and pretty brutal.
The biggest change against XCOM is the overworld. From here you’ll have the standard XCOM command of preparing troops and taking missions. However, you will be juggling three separate factions, all with different goals from the new world. This bit is not fully fleshed out in my demo build, however, quotes from Mythos liken it to Civ, which would not be a change I really dislike.
Phoenix Point does still have a lot of evolving to do though. The enemies will be able to evolve themselves in the final game, adapting to the tactics you used and manipulating their growth to allow them to live without heads if necessary. Factions can eventually attack you and cause you grief as well, given enough time and you screwing them over enough.
The relationship to mutation works well when describing Phoenix Point. It is at its heart XCOM. However, it has mutated and evolved beyond that, adding new and interesting mechanics and tactics as well as far more punishment for failure. But I am pretty damn excited, XCOM has gone pretty much uncontested in the field of late, and if anyone can create a healthy competition it would definitely by Mythos.
I can’t wait to sink 60 hours into getting beaten the hell out of again. Phoenix Point makes it fun.
You can get into Pheonix Point Now, by heading here