Julian Gollop's latest game, Phoenix Point, is finally here. If you've been wanting to scratch that classic XCOM itch—a series birthed by Gollop himself—then Phoenix Point might be the game for you. If it's your first foray into the strategy and turn-based genre, or if you haven't played an XCOM-like game before, it can be difficult to get a grasp of all the mechanics.
You're tasked with essentially saving humanity from destruction, and the odds are against you. Ever-changing mutants walk the Earth, while three factions with radically different ideals butt heads, and you're caught right in the middle of it. Fret not, because we are here to provide some valuable tips that will get the Phoenix Project on the right track.
Phoenix Point Beginner Tips - Geoscape
The gameplay of Phoenix Point is essentially split into two different genres. Combat is turn-based strategy, as you might expect from games like XCOM. Meanwhile, the Geoscape takes a more grand-strategy approach, requiring players to to explore, research, build bases, equip your troops, and more. It all sounds quite overwhelming, so it can be difficult to understand where to begin. Players start with a single base in Phoenix Point, as well as a squad of soldiers that can be transported via aircraft.
You should make it your priority to explore the world of Phoenix Point, otherwise you have no way of progressing. There are dozens upon dozens of points of interest. These points of interest, represented at first with a question mark, have potential to be scavenging sites for precious materials, random events, and havens. Let's break it down.
Scavenging sites, or supply missions, allow you to land on a site and gather resources. These supply missions will always have enemies, and early on, they aren't very dangerous. These missions will enable you to get an abundance of resources to create new weapons, feed your soldiers, and more. You have a choice of going on these missions or not, but there doesn't appear to be any repercussions of refusing to do them. Moreover, they seem to remain available for a long time, if not indefinitely, until you actually do scavenge the site. These are necessary earlier in Phoenix Point, but their need seems to dwindle later.
While exploring, there's always the possibility that a random event will occur. A random event typically comes along with some flavor text and a choice. You might encounter an abandoned store, and you have the choice to go in our not. For me, going in yielded extra resources. Other times, simply landing can result in an ambush, where you and your squad will have to fend off waves of enemies for a few turns. Some random encounters might also involve factions. Depending on your choice in one of these encounters, you will gain or lose favor for one of three factions, or you can choose to stay out of it completely and remain neutral.
Speaking of factions, I recommend choosing one—and only one—as soon as possible. One of the biggest perks of a faction is that once you reach a certain threshold with your reputation, you gain all of said faction's research. Factions are found within havens, which allow you to trade (or raid) to gain resources. Additionally, most havens are strongholds of one of three factions. You'll find a lot throughout the game's world, but early on when your reputation is low, they are valuable. You can trade one resource in exchange for another, which will help you manufacture new technology.
Indeed, like XCOM you will manufacture most of the equipment your soldiers use. Starting out, it's rarely necessary to make new armor, so I would advise against using resources for that. Manufacture a few weapons, especially if you gain the ability to create new ones, and always make sure you have a hefty stockpile of grenades and medkits. Most importantly, I would make it a priority to gain enough resources to create vehicles as soon as possible.
The Manticore is a troop transport vehicle that flies around. This is how you'll explore and drop troops onto the battlefield. Creating one of these takes a lot of resources and in-game time, but it exponentially increases your ability to take part in missions, explore for extra materials, and more. Conversely, the PX Scarab is a ground vehicle that can be placed on the battlefield along with your troops. It takes up three out of six spots on your Manticore, but on the battlefield, it has powerful rockets, is highly mobile, and troops can go inside of it for refuge. Both vehicles are incredible tools for your success.
Lastly, be sure to research everything you can as soon as possible. You can perform autopsies on enemy corpses, reverse engineer technology from other factions, and more. Throw them all into the research queue as soon as you are able. The research queue stacks up and it will take days to research everything, but letting items sit in the "Available" research box is pointless.
Phoenix Point Beginner Tips - Combat
Combat is a lot like XCOM, and it's not hard to see why. You'll notice many UI elements to be similar, and as one can expect, combat plays out the same way. At least, in principle. Phoenix Point comprises turn-based combat, as you command a squad of troops on the battlefield. Troops have different weapons and abilities, which, again, probably sounds very familiar. One of the biggest innovations Phoenix Point brings to the table is the ability to manually aim for your soldiers.
Soldiers can initiate an attack with their gun, and you have a choice between your soldier automatically aiming or you aiming for them. Each enemy in Phoenix Point has body parts with separate health bars, which upon damaging said parts, can disable certain enemy functions. For example, many mutants carry machine guns attached to their arms. By manually aiming, you can take the gun out before they have a chance to shoot your soldiers. I haven't found any instance where manually aiming wasn't better than doing so automatically. Do the extra work and target an enemy's head or arm; automatically shooting won't give you that choice.
Furthermore, bullets in Phoenix Point are all individual projectiles, so one bullet from your blast might hit an enemy and another might destroy a nearby wall. Combining this with the manual aim option can be quite beneficial. I've found that, if an enemy hides behind cover, you can aim at said cover and destroy it. This allows for an opening for your soldiers to shoot an exposed enemy. Because of the way physics work, some buildings and other types of cover in Phoenix Point are stronger than others. Another useful way to take advantage of this system is by shooting explosive barrels with manual aim, which is beneficial if an enemy takes cover near one. Some enemies in Phoenix Point hide behind their carapace shields. Automatically aiming will likely result in wasted bullets, but by manually doing so you will likely be able to target a weaker area on the enemy's body peeking from behind the shield.
A harsh lesson I learned early on is that reloading isn't as "free" as, say, XCOM 2. When you reload, the remaining ammo in your clip is gone forever. Ammo is a resource that you have to manufacture in Phoenix Point, so every bullet is precious. Make every shot count, and if you can't make a shot, it's probably not worth taking it. The same principle applies to grenades, but unlike ammo, grenades take more time to manufacture. Let nothing go to waste!
If all else fails, you can always restart your mission. While save-scumming is a thing in Phoenix Point, the developers provided an easier, less morally dubious option if defeat looks like a possibility. If you bring up the main menu during battle, there's a button to restart. That will simply restart the battle you were on so you can reassess your strategy and try again.