Phoenix Point Beginners Guide: The Geoscape and Combat
Just because you've put some time into XCOM doesn't mean that playing Phoenix Point will be second nature. Though the two turn-based tactical strategy games share some common DNA, there are plenty of small differences that can ramp up the difficulty and make or break your attempt to save the world.
From understanding The Geoscape and area scans to taking full advantage of factions and vehicles, there are a few things to know before starting Phoenix Point. This is what you need to know to fight off the mutated forces of the Pandoravirus.
The Geoscape (The World Map)
The Geoscape is your world map. As you explore, you will find dozens of points of interest. It is also where you control the big-picture pieces of your campaign between missions.
When you start Phoenix Point, the Geoscape can be overwhelming. There is a lot of tactical info to keep track of. It isn't all as intuitive as you might like. Here are some good tips for getting started in the Geoscape.
1. Use Area Scans Constantly
Area Scans are how you find missions, resources, and progress through the Phoenix Point story. You can run as many Area Scans as you have Satellite Uplinks. However, do not overlap scans.
Scans radiate outward in a circle. It is a waste of resources if scans overlap too much. The same can be said if they cover ground you have already removed from the fog of war. Since area scans are your primary way of finding new missions and resources, it is a good idea to keep at least one area scan active at all times.
2. Prioritize Medical Bays
You want a Medical Bay in every base. In Phoenix Point, your soldiers are extremely valuable. As time ticks down, you want to quickly deploy your best and most specialized troops at will. If your soldiers leave a battle with injuries, they'll need to rest in a Medical Bay to recover.
Training Facilities are also useful for your troops and soldiers. They ensure that even your idle soldiers improve and level up. Soldiers in Training Facilities gain passive XP. However, Medical Bays are key to a successful run. They heal your units after missions, meaning you don't have to recruit more soldiers as often.
3. Research is Critical
Research is critical to ensure you're keeping up as new enemies are introduced. Prioritize armor, weapons, and equipment. Otherwise, your soldiers will be in trouble during missions.
When possible, avoid gaps in research. Always research something. Look ahead to make sure you don't need a specific resource for research. If so, be sure to get it as quickly as possible.
Some research will require you capture live aliens. Capturing enemies means you need to paralyze them and bring them back to your base. While doing so requires an investments and new strategies, the research captured enemies provide is often invaluable.
4. Find an Ally
There are three factions in Phoenix Point: Disciples of Anu, New Jericho, and Synedrion. Each faction is petty and strongly dislikes the others. It is impossible to appease them all. Find a faction that plays well with your style and do your best to ally with them.
Each faction has a unique unit class, or more than one, if you side with the Disciples of Anu. You unlock these unit classes as long as you are allied with a faction.
The factions and their unique unit classes are:
- New Jericho Faction
- Technician. The technician is an expert mechanic and can heal both regular units and vehicles. They can also deploy turrets.
- Synedrion Faction
- Infiltrator. A stealth expert equipped with a variety of silent weapons and a drone that can scout the battlefield.
- Disciples of Anu Faction
- Berserker and Priest. The berserker class is designed to get up close and personal, dealing massive melee damage and absorbing hits. The priest can take control of enemy units and also utilizes slow burn kill methods.
The rewards for allying with a faction heavily outweigh the negative effect received from the other factions. Remember that Phoenix Point is about keeping all of your plates spinning. If you spread yourself too thin, everything will come crashing down.
5. Keep an Eye Open for Independent Havens
Independent Havens are special areas on the map that act as smaller factions. When you encounter an Independent Haven, you will be given a one-shot mission that rewards you with a large amount of resources and helps win that Haven to your side.
6. Open up Your Trade Abilities
Once you've researched the Haven Trade Protocols technology, you will be able to trade resources in the different Havens you find. Once you have the technology researched, icons will appear by each Haven that indicate what resources they have available in trade.
Trading with Havens is a great way to get resources you might not have access to yet. It's also a great way to get resources you might be low on.
7. Adjust Your Time Settings — You're on the Clock
You can adjust how quickly time passes on the right-hand side of the screen. It's especially important to slow time early on as you are learning how the systems work in Phoenix Point. Make sure you are constantly moving forward with something, too.
Collect resources, explore the map, and improve your soldiers and teams. Phoenix Point has a clock. As the mist spreads, enemies get stronger. Take too long, and you will have to start back at the beginning with a little more urgency!
Phoenix Point Combat Tips
Just like the Geoscape, combat against the various alien types in Phoenix Point is different enough from XCOM that you'll get your bell rung if you aren't careful. Here are a few ways to keep your forces alive.
1. Take Your Time
Unlike the Geoscape, where you need constantly move, you will generally want to take your time as you move through missions. Your soldiers are very valuable and, if you aren't careful, very fragile.
Utilize overwatch, find strong cover points, and use long range weaponry to draw enemies into traps.
You actually have impressive control with overwatch in Phoenix Point. Unlike in XCOM, you can set up the size of the cone your soldier uses to keep an eye on the battlefield. Such control lets your soldier fire at the first enemy that moves through it.
2. Understand Free Aiming
One of Phoenix Point's most interesting combat systems is free aim/free aiming. Knowing how it works will greatly improve your combat effectiveness.
When you aim at enemies, you see two different circles down your sights. About half of your shots will spread throughout the inner circle. All of your bullets will hit somewhere within the outer circle.
This is especially important when you're dealing with cover or targeting specific body parts. If you are trying to take out an enemy's leg to keep them from getting up close and personal, make sure you've got a weapon with smaller circles. Use free aim to pinpoint the leg to improve your chance of hitting it.
3. Enemies Adapt
The enemies in Phoenix Point adapt to your techniques. If you are constantly picking them off from afar, you can expect enemies to use lots of cover and long range weaponry in response.
It is always a good idea to bring well-rounded soldiers into a fight, in case you find that the AI has figured out your strategies.
4. Vehicles are Powerful but Expensive
Vehicles take a lot of time to build and cost a lot of resources, but they can be extremely powerful if deployed in the right missions.
To build vehicles, go to your manufacturing section, then the vehicles tab. Once a vehicle is built, you will be able to place the vehicle on your team when deploying to different areas.
Vehicles can absorb a lot of damage and deal a lot of damage. Soldiers can pop inside to avoid taking any more hits. Getting a vehicle running early can provide a lot of durability to your early squad.
Like any strategy game worth its salt, Phoenix Point doesn't make strategy easy. It takes some trial and error to find the techniques that work best for you. However, follow the outline above, and you might have a chance at surviving your first playthrough long enough to start building your own strategy.
Phoenix Point is currently for sale on PC through the Epic Games Store. The strategy game's status on Game Pass for PC and Steam is currently up in the air. Snapshot Games, the publisher of Phoenix Point, says it does not currently have a timeframe for when the game will release either Game Pass or Steam.
It does not appear the game will release on PS4 as of this writing, though it will launch on console via Xbox One in Q1 2020.
For more on Phoenix Point, be sure to head over to our review of the game, where we said, "If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Phoenix Point just wrote a love letter to XCOM, for better and for worse."