Like the mythological Phoenix, this review is rising from the ashes so to speak. Originally delivered by a different kind of bird at SoQ, who is no longer with us, it’s time for us to take a look at the fresh new Behemoth Edition of Phoenix Point.
Genre: Tactical, Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Snapshot Games Inc.
Publisher: Snapshot Games Inc.
Release date: 1 October, 2021
Back in the day, I loved Real Time Strategy games that involved base building. Then without warning, one of the series I liked most switched from a base builder to a turn-based strategy game and I wasn’t too certain how I felt about that. Sure, I enjoyed turn-based RPGs but this was something different. At that point I decided to try a few other turn-based strategy games and discovered the XCOM series. Since then I have enjoyed many turn-based strategy games, although I still miss the base building RTS games. Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition is a compilation of all the DLC released for Phoenix Point so far. While I attempted to play every bit of DLC I could, there is only so much time one can spend playing the game before the review is due.
Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition is nostalgic for me even though I had never played it before. I remembered playing games similar to this several years ago. It was frustrating, it was annoying, and it was fun. For those not familiar with turn-based strategy games, the basic concept is that you have a limited amount of points to spend each turn per character in play. Once you exhaust all your points for a particular character, that character can no longer be controlled for that turn. You can exhaust points by moving or by taking an action such as using a weapon, med pack, or collecting items, etc. Once you have finished spending all the points you want to spend on that turn, you will end your turn and allow the other factions to do their thing. Once it is your turn again, your points are refreshed, and you can choose what to do next. Some actions are free, such as if you have a counter-attack feat on a character. That character will shoot back if attacked otherwise they will just be a stationary target. You can try to take cover by standing behind barriers and other things around the map. This will help protect your character usually, although technically an enemy may be able to reposition itself in such a way it can hit you easily even behind cover. Besides just using bullets, there are a variety of other status effects that can be applied. For example, a badly wounded unit taking more damage over time may start bleeding. You can also be poisoned or corrupted, leading to painful consequences if not cured although a little corruption never hurt anyone, in fact it boosts your damage a little bit. You can also damage your enemy’s weapons and limbs, crippling or disabling them, but unfortunately for you, your enemies can do the same to you. You can recover from the injuries though by visiting the medical facilities in one of your bases, assuming you have any!
The Geoscape is your world map. Here you will find areas to explore, Phoenix Bases to reactivate and build up and havens of other factions that you can interact with. Everything happens on the Geoscape. When you are not moving, typically time is paused although you can speed up time if you want. As you move around the map time will pass. As time progresses any research you have going on will process. Any buildings you are constructing or manufacturing will also be completed over time. If you have your soldiers and ship parked at a base, any applicable functions of the base will apply to them, such as the med bay. The other factions and enemies are also active when time is moving, so you can’t just sit at your base forever.
As you explore the Geoscape, you will encounter missions to complete, choices to make and other settlements. The Pandorans, the baddies of the game, will attack havens and spread their mist around. If you swoop in to save them, the havens will be grateful and like you better, eventually becoming an ally and sharing technology with you. If diplomacy and heroics are not your thing, you can also raid the havens and steal their technology and resources and generally be jerks to them. They won’t take too kindly to that though. You can actually have multiple teams available at any given time, so that while one team is recouping at base another can be out rebuilding the Phoenix Program and bolstering relations and technology or holding the enemies at bay.
Let’s talk a little more about your base. Your base is where you will do research, manufacture things and give your soldiers a bit of R&R. You have the ability to build new modules in your base to make it more effective for whatever you want that base to do. Perhaps you would like extra research infrastructure in order to expedite your discoveries. Building better gear for your soldiers as well as new vehicles may be a smart move or engaging in diplomacy or various other useful peacekeeping tactics could be a wise choice. As you explore the Geoscape you will encounter other Phoenix bases that are in disrepair that you can bring back to operational status. It’s important as you go along to have these bases because you will need a place to heal your troops, and having to travel a long distance to do so will waste a lot of precious time.
Part of the diplomacy in this game is completing missions. Sometimes the missions are triggered through your exploration and research, other times through the diplomacy screen. Typically in the diplomacy screen you will be asked to attack one of the other factions, which will greatly bolster your standing with the one faction at the expense of the other faction. You can of course do stuff to rebuild your lost standing, but typically it is a good idea not to anger people you want as your friends in general. Sometimes the missions will have a deadline, meaning if you ignore it, you will fail it. For example if a base is under attack, if you sit back and wait for your team to be fully healed before mounting a rescue attempt, you may be too late, however if you go badly injured, your team may become late. This is where having multiple teams is handy. If you do end up losing a character on mission, they will be gone, so it is a good idea to tactically retreat anyone in danger of being killed and letting them recover at your base.
Speaking of your team, there is a lot of customization options here as well. You can spend points to upgrade your character with different stats and abilities. You will also be able to dual class your characters if you are so inclined. Weapon proficiency dictates what weapons a character can use effectively although they can use almost anything. Some abilities are more useful than others, such as retaliation when being attacked is quite handy. I had one unit who was in Overwatch mode (more or less ready to shoot at anything that enters its field of vision) fire at an enemy who entered its vision, killing it before it had a chance to strike, then was attacked by another enemy who missed (thanks to cover) and she turned and blasted that one too and if I recall correctly she did it again with another enemy that turn. Then it was her turn to fight and she went on her merry way killing Pandorans as she went.
The gameplay itself when on a mission is actually a bit mixed in my opinion. The action is fun, and the strategy is a good element, especially at higher difficulty settings, however, the pacing can be a bit hit or miss. For example, sometimes on the enemy move, the game will just seem to hang. Nothing is happening, you can’t see any enemy movements, it simply tells you it is not your turn. You are then forced to sit there, waiting it out which can take quite a bit of time relatively speaking. Sometimes an enemy will move a few steps, sit and think for a while then move a bit more and do it again, eventually either passing its turn or attacking you. Sometimes if it has multiple attacks available to it, it will do its first attack, wait a bit, then do its second attack. I timed the time between turns on one of the maps that seemed particularly painful and it was nearly two minutes before I got to do anything, and it did this every turn it got. I’ll admit my computer is not the fasted, but it seems a bit unreasonable to be expected to sit staring at a motionless screen while an obscured enemy at a far off part of the map who doesn’t even have an indicator decides what to do. Sometimes obscured neutral and enemy units will show up as a red blip, but other times there is nothing and you just sit idle. One thing that would be nice is if there are no enemy units left on the map, to forgo the turn limit and just let you move freely, without having to maximize your turn movement, pressing the end turn button, waiting 5-10 seconds or so, then getting to do it again. Repeatedly doing this until you managed to drag your straggling team members to the evacuation point on the opposite end of the map can be a bit annoying (sometimes the mission just ends if you kill everything or complete your objective, but not always!).
Each of the DLC for the game adds a little something new to the formula but for the most part, it is just more bits of content to enjoy. Festering Skies added the most as it contained a whole new campaign with new cutscenes too! The Behemoth Edition is technically only available on current and last gen consoles, the Steam and Epic players will need to get the Year One Edition and pick up the DLC separately at this time. The base game has a lot of content on its own though, so even without the added DLC it still is a bit of a behemoth of a game.
For the type of game it is, the graphics are suitable. There is a lot of recycled content. Other than the layout being a bit different, a lot of maps look the same as other maps. There are a few different tilesets available, such as when you attack a Pandoran area it is much more corrupted looking than if you are in a Synedrion area which looks more clinical and technological. Sometimes I visit a new area and feel like I have been there before. The art style for the characters is quite detailed when in cutscenes, and a little less detailed in the field. It’s a balanced mix of good looks and good functionality.
The characters will speak, especially in cutscenes. Some of the characters, such as 24 of the Pure have quite an eclectic way of speaking I found quite enjoyable… QUITE ENJOYABLE. The music and general sound effects did help with the enjoyment of the action of the game. Hearing a jetpack blast off or the flutter of wings can give you shivers and leave you with the impression you are actually there.
Controls and User Interface
Everything is very straightforward. The movement distances are quite clearly marked showing you the difference between maximum movement and how far you can move and still perform a combat action. The ability to free aim or automatically shoot was quite nice as you can selectively target areas of your enemy to disable if you are so inclined, such as eliminating its ability to stealth or regenerate. Even the weapons are clearly labeled if you can use them proficiently or not. The select points where you choose between options is a fun little bit that allows your decisions to have a bit of an impact, the results of which you see after you decided. The controls themselves are easy to use and the overlay helps you easily figure out what you need to press to do whatever it is you are trying to do.
So, should you pick up Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition? If you are a fan of the old XCOM games, or turn-based strategy games in general, this is definitely one I can recommend. It’s even easy enough to learn if you have never played a game of this genre before. The story is an interesting one, but difficult to relate to though, it’s about a worldwide pandemic, the Pandora Virus, spreading around the world corrupting creatures that then spread mist containing the virus. I mean, what are the odds of a pandemic shutting down the entire world and turning groups of people into chaotic factions… oh right… moving on! This game was actually originally released in December 2019, however, in December 2020 the Year One edition was released and reviewed by Save or Quit’s Dead Parrot, and now the Behemoth Edition has come out. Given the fact the DLC content is integrated into the game the way it is, it’s a good idea to pick up the Behemoth edition if you can, otherwise the Year One edition for sure. While I played this game on Steam, I have read that the console editions are having some issues, since I didn’t experience those issues firsthand, they will not impact my review. This is a game that I will Save.