A comprehensive guide for playing Phoenix Point (or an attempt at one)

Thanks to that not-Pandora virus everyone is talking about that is in process of changing our world as we know it, I have been working on this guide for the past few weeks. It’s not finished yet, but I have decided to go ahead and post it so that it can become a communal project. If you have anything to correct, or to add, just post your comments and I will edit this post quoting them, until this is finally the comprehensive guide it is intended to be.

Pending chapters:

  • Hints and tips on handling specific mission and enemy types
  • Explosives, melee, special weapons

As I tried to post it, it turns out I exceeded the character limit per post by around 100%, so I’m breaking this into three parts.

Last updated on

2020/5/22 added Melee A comprehensive guide for playing Phoenix Point (or an attempt at one)

2020/5/5; corrected for changes from Derleth patch, replace “alpha-strike” for “First Turn Strike”

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There are many ways to play Phoenix Point, though this doesn’t emerge until past the early game. If you understand the fundamental mechanics, you can approach it in a number of ways. Some play it as a fantasy tactics game, relying on skills as powerful spells fueled by the mana of willpower. Others play it as something akin to a tactical puzzle game. Of course, many play PP (or at least try to play it) like a classic tactical turn-based game.

There is one thing that must be said right away: the game continues to suffer from poor balance and uneven difficulty. It’s improving, but whichever way you play it, you may find yourself at times absurdly over, or underpowered.

Having said that, and to be honest, in my experience all tactical situations that seem impossible to deal with, can be successfully navigated in multiple ways and using different play styles, provided one understands the rules of the game. It’s not so much that the game is impossibly difficult (that it most certainly is not), but rather that the difficulty is uneven, and that often players encounter challenges for which they are not yet prepared.

The purpose of this guide is to help the reader understand the mechanics of the game as they currently are, without interjecting any opinions as to their merits or demerits. Hopefully it will also serve to inform the ongoing discussions about balancing, changes and features requests.

I. THE STRATEGIC LAYER - WHAT TO DO IN THE GEOSCAPE

The strategic layer in PP is currently fairly simple, with one overriding imperative: always be doing something, because time is the main resource in the game.

So, when it comes to

Bases

At first the most critical buildings are training facilities (TFs). You want one base with as many of these as possible. Each TF provides experience points to each soldier at the base (at a rate of 2XPs per hour). Experience points unlock levels, which give 20 Skill Points (SPs) and access to skills (more on that in Character Progression). You want to have a base where you put in rookies to train them to make new squads/draw replacements for casualties. This is generally referred to as “stables”.

You may also want to consider food production plants, as food (or “apples” as they are commonly referred to) are the only resource you can steadily generate and use the excess to barter for other resources.

Don’t bother with research facilities, or manufacturing plants, or living quarters, at least for now. Never ever even think about building elevators, generators, or stores. At some point you might want to build a second satellite uplink (to do two area scans - see Exploration - simultaneously) if you don’t find a base with one already.

Over the course of the game you will find many abandoned PP bases with some facilities that only need some repairing (see exploration).

Later on you might want to build at those bases labs, factories, medical facilities, living quarters and other facilities that will become available after research.

Research

Just start with the only available option. Always be researching something. When it comes to reverse engineering items, be aware that:

  1. The process destroys the item you are reverse engineering.

  2. You will obtain the tech anyway once you reach 50% with the faction (see diplomacy for more).

One important idea to bear in mind is that tech progression in PP is mostly horizontal: most of the stuff you will research will be different, not necessarily better. One of the most effective weapons throughout the game is the hellcannon (HC), which is one of the starting weapons.

However, there is some verticality - some items are actually just better (for example, there is a 2.0 medkit) - and also the new different items open up new tactics. For example, the grenade launcher, or the shotgun, while not replacing any of the starting weapons, are not less useful because of it.

Manufacturing

You can build vehicles, armor and equipment. Some equipment, like ammo and medkits can be made instantly. Everything else takes time. At first there is little reason to manufacture any equipment - on rookie and veteran difficulty levels recruits will come with their own armor and weapons.

As to vehicles, you can build a Scarab, which in the early game is very powerful - it has a lot of armor and shoots devastating rockets. However, it occupies half the slots in the Manticore, meaning you can only bring 3 soldiers on a mission. The main problem with that is that soldiers gain 10SPs per mission, so you want to bring as many of them as possible and the Scarab and other vehicles take too much space. Still, it is not a bad investment in the early game and there are ways to use it successfully later on.

Sooner rather than later you will want to build a second Manticore, to field two teams simultaneously. Why build and not steal? See diplomacy below.

Diplomacy

There are three factions that have an attitude rating with the Phoenix Project and with each other. You can achieve a 100% (allied status starts at 75%) with the three factions even as the three of them are at war with each other.

You increase (or decrease) the rating by completing mini text quests on the geoscape during exploration, depending on your response to certain prompted choices, defending havens from attack (see Pandoran bases for more info) and stealing/raiding/sabotaging at the havens.

When you reach a certain threshold, the faction gives you a special mission, and you can’t increase your rating beyond that until you complete it.

This means that you should complete all special missions ASAP.

Once you reach 25% (supportive), the faction reveals to you the location of all of its havens. At 50% you become aligned, and the faction gives you for free (i.e. instantly researchable) all the technology it has researched so far. At 75% you are allied and you can research faction technology that the faction itself hasn’t researched yet.

You can also trade at the havens and get new recruits, after researching the corresponding technologies.

So the problem with raiding (to obtain resources produced at the haven), sabotaging (to obtain favor with the other factions), or stealing (to get faction research, or a flying craft) from havens is that it dramatically decreases your rating with the haven (preventing you from trading with it) and with the faction.

You should particularly be aware of how warring with a faction complicates obtaining its technologies. To steal technology you have to assault a research district, where you win by activating 3 specific tiles. It is entirely possible to do this in one turn without firing a single shot, these missions being all but broken.

However, what you get is the next technology in the research tree of the faction. So for the first raid you will get the weapons tech, for the second the armor tech, and so on and so forth. Even if you have already reverse engineered all the factions weapons and armors, and want to get some specific research (like something that provides a major boost to the output of some of your facilities) you will still go in the same order, getting research that you don’t need.

You can do these tedious missions one after another to harvest experience and SPs until you get all the tech researched by the faction up to now, or reach the aligned status with the faction (50% rating) and get everything for free at once, and keep getting new research as the faction obtains it.

You can go the entire game without attacking other factions and become allied with all of them, regardless of the relations between the factions.

Conclusion: unless someone is able to make the opposite case, warring with factions is entirely inadvisable.

Someone does make the oppposite case (and thank you for that, @David):

Exploration

You use “area scans” to gradually reveal locations in a circular area on the world map. You can do as many area scans simultaneously as you have satellite uplinks. Each area scan costs some resources.

The locations appear as question marks. You have to travel to them with a flying craft carrying at least one soldier to explore them. Exploration can yield the following results:

  • It can be a faction haven (which is a good reason to reach supportive status with all the factions even if you are planning on fighting them later on, because then they will reveal the location of all their havens, see diplomacy above), or an independent haven that gives a side quest.

  • It can be a short text adventure that yields resources, diplomacy rating changes, damage to the craft/soldiers, new recruits, nothing at all, etc.

  • It can be a scavenging mission (you can choose to do it later)

  • It can be an old PP base that gets reactivated. It will come with some facilities, some of them damaged.

  • It can be an ambush (you can’t choose to do it later, nor prepare your troops adjusting their equipment, spending excess skill points, etc.) The ambush missions work as a deterrent, to prevent exploring the whole map using a craft with only one untrained and unarmed soldier.

In addition, sometimes other locations will appear on the map, which are:

  • story missions that drive the main narrative about the Phoenix Project.

  • special missions from factions to achieve higher diplomacy rating (see diplomacy).

  • side quests, given by independent havens.

  • Pandoran bases (nests, lairs or citadels), which only appear after a successful haven defense (and much later after a research).

The War against the Pandorans

You will see red blobs of mist in several parts of the world. They grow. Missions that take place in areas covered by mist are harder. One of the first items you research is the ODI, commonly known as the “red bar”. It increases. If it reaches 100%, you lose.

To slow down the progress of the red bar you have to destroy Pandoran bases - nests, lairs and citadels. It goes thusly:

Every once in a while, a Haven, usually inside, or close to an area covered in mist, will get attacked by the Pandorans. The attack will have some numeric value, and so will the defense. If the defense is higher than the attack, the attack will fail even if the player doesn’t come to the rescue. If the attack is higher than the defense, the attack will succeed unless the player sends a squad and wins the haven defense mission. A successful haven defense mission will reveal the location of a nearby Pandoran base. The player can then send a squad to destroy it. If the player procrastinates, the base will evolve to the next stage (a nest will become a lair, a lair will become a citadel) and will continue attacking nearby havens and PP bases.

Interestingly enough, currently there is ample consensus that citadels are the easiest missions, in any event much easier than lairs. Thus there is a school of thought suggesting to wait until lairs evolve into citadels, instead of attacking lairs.

However, in the Derleth patch the Lairs were redone and are now much easier and fun.

II. THE TACTICAL LAYER - WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE BATTLES

The biggest difference in gameplay between PP and similar games is that PP is quick.

  1. By the end of the first turn of each mission you should usually know where most of the enemies are, perhaps kill a couple of them. You can also do a “First Turn Strike” (FTS), i.e. put out of action (kill, or cripple) most of the enemies on the first turn (see First Turn Strike).

  2. Maintaining an enemy engaged for more than one turn is usually a bad idea. Once you are shooting at the enemy and the enemy is shooting at you, one of you is going to die very soon. You must either kill, disable or disengage. The most common mistake is putting your soldier behind what looks like a solid cover, taking a couple of shots at an enemy within range, and ending the turn while your soldier remains within the range of an uncrippled enemy.

  3. Missions are usually over in a few turns (with First Turn Striking, sometimes in 1 or 2. But even without FTS it usually doesn’t take more than 5 turns). However, in the rare longer missions, that can last 10 or more turns, it’s important to understand that strategic decisions are made each turn. For example, Lairs (a type of Pandoran base) take place on larger maps, with infinite enemy spawning and architecture that creates choke points. On these missions you may be tempted to take a wait and see approach, because enemies take a while to reach your troops, but of course you shouldn’t. Bottom line: don’t waste turns in PP. Overwhelm or disengage. Stalemate = you lose.

Now, on to some basic concepts/mechanics in Phoenix Point:

Action Points (APs)

In PP all characters have, under normal circumstances, 4 action points each turn. They can be used to move, shoot, or use abilities or skills. Different weapons, abilities and skills have different AP costs. For example, it costs 3 APs to shoot a sniper rifle (SR) but only 1 AP to shoot a pistol. There is no prescribed order in which actions have to be taken (that is, you can move and shoot, or shoot and move, and shoot or move again afterwards, if you have the APs) and discrete movement is allowed (that is, you can spend part of your AP to move, then use the remainder to move some more, or even take a shot, or use a skill, and then spent the remainder of the AP to move).

Certain skills give the ability to refund spent APs, and certain abilities can be used to reduce the number of APs available to enemies.

Will Points (WPs)

All characters start with some WPs that are used to power skills and abilities. They also decrease when a teammate (or an ally) dies, certain body parts are disabled (normally head), or due to receiving a viral, or a psychic attack.

They can be recovered by giving up one whole turn (recover), killing enemies, opening crates found on the battlefield, one of the PP operatives reaching specially designated locations on the map, or through certain skills of other squaddies.

Shooting in PP

In PP the trajectory of each projectile (bullet, pellet, etc.) is individually calculated independently of other projectiles fired from the same weapon. If it hits something, be it the targeted enemy, another enemy, a friendly, or a piece of scenery it will do (or fail to do, depending on armor/strength of the scenery material) the damage per projectile of the weapon. For example, the basic assault rifle (AR) fires 6 projectiles that do 30 damage each (shown as 6 x 30). If the 6 projectiles hit an unarmored target, it will receive 180 points of damage that will be subtracted from its HPs.

To understand fully what happens we need to look at several different elements like accuracy, body parts, and armor, but for now the most important is to realize that there are real (though not very realistic - firearms buffs beware!) ballistics and there is no RNG (random) element in the damage calculation of direct fire weapons (explosives and melee work somewhat differently).

This means that with enough accuracy a shot can be guaranteed to kill, or cripple an enemy, without any random chance that it will miss, or that it will hit but not do enough damage. What’s more, the game will tell you when a shot is certain to kill a target (that’s the flashing red skull & crossbones next to the enemy’s HP bar).

Accuracy

Each weapon has an inherent accuracy depending on its effective range, defined as the range at which the weapon is likely to hit a human-sized target 50% of the time. The range is calculated in tiles. So, a weapon with an effective range of 20, will hit a human at a distance of 20 tiles 50% of the time.

Still not clear, right? Where are the hit chances expressed as a percentage?

There aren’t any. Usually you manually aim the weapon using the free aiming mode (though you have the option to shoot at the center mass of the target more often than not it will be a suboptimal shot). In the freeaming mode you use an aiming reticle, which is a small circle inside a big circle. The small circle is one quarter of the size of the big circle. Each projectile fired from the weapon will hit somewhere inside the big circle and there is a 50% chance that a projectile will land inside the small circle.

This means that

[pending image]

The aiming reticle is static. It doesn’t change when you move it around or zoom in/out. That means that as your soldier approaches the target the chances to hit it increase, as she/he moves away, they decrease. The increase/decrease in accuracy is linear, for each tile distance the accuracy (i.e. the percentage of the target covered by the aiming reticle) changes by the same x% for every weapon, regardless of type.

In addition to the inherent accuracy of the weapon, the soldier who wields it can buff it through skills/perks, armor, or augmentations (mutations or bionics). Firing the weapon using certain skills also reduces its accuracy. Increasing or reducing accuracy means that the aiming reticle gets smaller, or bigger by the % of the increase or decrease.

For example, a soldier with Marksman (LVL5 Sniper passive skill, increases accuracy with proficient weapon +30% provided there are no enemies within 10 tiles) will see the accuracy increased by 30% (provided there are no enemies within 10 tiles), which means that the aiming reticle will be reduced in size by 30%. Conversely, a soldier firing a weapon using Rage Burst (LVL7 Heavy skill, fire 5 times with a proficient weapon at a single target with 50% accuracy penalty for the number of APs required for regular shot + 5 WP) will have accuracy decreased by 50%, which means the aiming reticle will grow 50% in size.

Another way of looking at it is that each weapon comes with an aiming reticle of a certain size. For example, a sniper rifle has a smaller reticle, a heavy weapon a much bigger reticle, and an assault rifle is somewhere between the two, and then that the size of the reticle will vary depending on the perks, skills, armor, and augmentations of the soldier.

The big takeaways from this are that the closer you are to a target the more likely you are to hit it and that a heavy weapon can be as accurate as a sniper rifle with the right accuracy modifiers derived from skills, perks, armor, and augmentations.

Useful tip:

Explanation: A comprehensive guide for playing Phoenix Point (or an attempt at one)

Another thing to bear in mind regarding the freeaim vs the auto-target (snapshot) mode:

Damage

All characters in PP have hit points (HPs) depending on their Strength attribute (10 HPs for each point of Strength). When a character’s HP reaches 0, he/she/it dies. In addition, all characters have different body parts, and each body part has a certain number of HPs and may be protected by a certain amount of armor. The damage done to a body part also reduces the total number of HPs of the character. Once the HPs of the body part is reduced to 0, the character is crippled in some way, suffering some negative effects, and starts bleeding (losing 10 HPs per turn per each disabled part - or more for some Pandorans [thx @Yokes], until healed).

Two important things to bear in mind:

  • the total HPs are not distributed among the different body parts - the body part HPs don’t scale with Strength, so it’s as easy to cripple a character with high Strength as it is to cripple a character with low Strength.

  • even once a body part is disabled, its HPs reduced to 0, further damage to that body part will continue to reduce the total number of HPs of the character.

Each direct fire weapon projectile does a fixed amount of damage minus the armor covering the body part diminished by the penetration strength of the projectile and, depending on the weapon, may shred a fixed amount of that armor, the shredding being applied after the damage is calculated.

Some examples:

An assault rifle does 30 damage, has 0 penetration strength, shreds 1 armor per projectile and fires 6 projectiles per shot. Bob shoots at Tom and 3 projectiles hit the target: two in the torso, and one in the head. The body armor Tom is wearing has 20 armor, and the helmet 18. Tom received 30 - (20) + 30 - (20 - 1) = 21 damage to the torso and lost 2 points of armor for that body part, and 30 - (18)=12 damage to the head, losing 1 point of armor for that body part.

Alice then shoots Tom with the Piranha armor piercing assault rifle that does 40 damage per projectile, has 10 armor penetration strength and shoots 5 projectiles. 3 of them hit Tom in on one of the legs that have 30 armor. Tom received 3(40 - (30 - 10)) = 60 damage to the leg, but he did not lose any armor points [Thx @MadSkunky]

Finally, Clive shoots Tom with a sniper rifle that does 110 damage per projectile, has no armor penetration and doesn’t shred armor. It hits Tom on the left arm, that has 20 armor, doing 110-20 = 90 damage, which are subtracted from the total HPs remaining. The arm has 60 HPs, so it is disabled. Disabling an arm also reduces a human character’s max HPs by 10 (which means that this health cannot be recovered by healing during the mission*). Tom is now bleeding and can’t use any two-handed weapons, but he did not lose any armor points.

*Sometimes disabling a body part can result in a reduction of the total HP pool:

Disabling body parts is also useful when paralysing enemies:

The damage per projectile can be increased through various skills and perks (according to my calculations, up to +350% per projectile) so that armor becomes less relevant (e.g. an assault rifle with a 100% buff to damage will do 60 points of damage per projectile, easily overcoming all but the hardiest of armors).

So, what does all this mean?

1) To do damage most of the time you need to do something about the armor

Weapons with armor penetration (like the Piranha) or high damage per projectile (like the sniper rifle) can overcome the armor, but they don’t remove it. Weapons that shred armor (cannon, heavy machine gun) have poor inherent accuracy, but they destroy armor making the target vulnerable to high damage dealing weapons with low damage per projectile (assault rifles and shotguns).

Explosives are also very effective at shredding armor. (See Explosives [pending])

With sufficient buffs to damage output, assault rifles and shotguns can overcome armor by brute force.

Melee weapons do enough damage to overcome armor. (See Melee [pending])

There are also skills that allow to easily shred armor, and then there are special weapons (fire, poison, acid and paralysis) … (See Special Weapons [pending])

In conclusion, there is a lot of freedom in how to deal with opponents’ armor in PP, especially once you start using accuracy and damage buffs. (Remember: a cannon, which shreds armor like it was paper, can be made extremely accurate with the right armor/perks/augmentations, and even without accuracy buffs, accuracy is all about the distance to the target, so running up to a target and shooting them at close range with a cannon, or an HMG is always a sure way to get rid of that pesky armor, if not kill the target outright).

However, deal with the armor you must.

Shooting with assault rifles, or shotguns at an armored target is pointless unless you can get close enough to accurately target some exposed body part, or your soldier has some serious damage buffs.

2) Sometimes crippling an enemy is as good as killing it. Enemies need both hands to shoot two-handed weapons. Enemies nasty abilities often need specific body parts to work. Disabling heads makes enemies lose a lot of WPs (more on that later), which can be used to break the enemy’s morale

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last updated 2020/5/8: various corrections, corrected for changes from Derleth patch [in progress]

Part 2

Characters attributes, stats, skills, gear and augmentations.

Below are the stats, the things that make each character different:

  • Health Points (HPs), when this goes to 0 the character dies (derived from the Strength attribute, 1 pt in Strength = 10 HPs)

  • Armor, average of armor on all the body parts (for humans derived from armor/augmentations)

  • Accuracy, expressed as a % bonus/penalty, adjusts the size of the aiming reticle (derives from armor, skills/perks, and augmentations)

  • Perception, in tiles, determines the range at which the character will detect enemies in daylight (for humans starts at 35, bonuses and penalties derive from armor, skills/perks, and augmentations); at night reduced by 50%

  • Stealth, a %, reduces the range at which a character can be detected by enemies, i.e. their Perception (for humans Stealth starts at 0%, bonuses and penalties derive from armor, skills/perks, and augmentations)

  • Movement, in tiles, determines how many times a soldier can move in one turn (divided by four, gives movement per AP) (derives from the Speed attribute, 1 pt in Speed = 1 tile; note that the Speed attribute can be modifed by armor, skills/perks, and augmentations )

  • Willpower points (WPs), fuel the use of skills, cost of mind-controlling the unit to the enemy, if below 0 the character panics (loses 1 turn) (derives from Willpower attribute, 1 pt in Willpower = 1 WP; note that some skills and mutations can increase WPs)

  • Carrying capacity, in weight units, determines how much a character can carry without suffering a penalty to the movement (derived from the Strength attribute, 1 pt in Strength = 1 additional weight unit carrying capacity; note that there is a skill - Resourceful - that can add +2 to the Strength attribute and increase the carrying capacity by 25%, but the +2 Strength from the skill doesn’t actually add additional capacity when in battle, even though it shows so on the Geoscape*)

  • Skills & Personal traits or perks: Human characters belong to one of seven different classes of soldiers, each class having seven levels each corresponding to a skill, including a 4th level skill that enables dual classing. Finally, each PP operative can also unlock 3 random personal traits (often called third-row skills, because of their location on the character sheet). Among these the traits providing buffs to damage with certain types of weapons are particularly important.

*Explanation from devs about Resourceful*

So characters have 3 primary attributes (Strength, Willpower, and Speed) and 3 armor/augmentation slots (head, torso, and legs) which all together determine their derived stats, and human soldiers acquire experience points that unlock levels (and the skills associated to them) and receive Skill Points that can be used to purchase additional attribute points or skills.

For now, the big takeaway is that the stats that make a character distinct are derived from a number of things - some of them dependent on experience level (access to skills & perks), some of them on attributes and some of them on armor/augmentations.

Particularly, note that accuracy, stealth, and perception are mostly dependent on armor/augmentations. You can acquire some skills/perks that increase accuracy, but all except one of them (sniper’s marksman) are only available at random, as third-row skills.

Also, note that as skills/perks and stats cost SPs (which are given for completing missions (10 SPs going to each soldier that took part in the mission, and a variable amount going to a common pool), gaining levels (20 SPs per level) and some geoscape events), there is an opportunity cost when spending SPs.

Phoenix Point soldies also have a Stamina stat, ranging from 1-40, indicating how tired the Character is, with 40 being perfectly rested. Characters lose 2 pts of Stamina for every mission turn, up to a maximum of 10 per mission. Once they deplete their Stamina pool they become tired, and then exhausted. A tired soldier will have 3 APs to spend each turn, and an exhausted one on only 2. [can anybody confirm when soldiers become tired and exhausted?]

Character progression tips

  1. There are many possible builds and arguably no wrong way to go about it. Be imaginative, try different things.

  2. You may want to pay attention to the unlockable personal traits (aka third row skills). One approach is to consider these as the foundations defining the build. For example, a heavy class recruit with the melee perk (profiency with melee weapons and shotguns and +20% damage) might make a particularly good… you guessed it, melee fighter. A sniper with the same perk can be a shotgun CQC specialist (and if dual classed to assault, a ‘Terminator build’ - see First Turn Strike).

  3. Don’t underestimate skills that are not flashy. For example, Ready for Action (assault LVL5 passive skill, allows reloading and inventory management for 0 AP) doesn’t seem like much, but combined with a heavy’s biggest booms (heavy LVL5, for 5 WP cost of using any explosive weapons reduced by 1 AP and their range by 50% until the end of the turn) and the Quarterback trait (+50% to grenade range and +2 to speed) a squaddie can be made into a devastating grenadier.

  4. Attributes are just as important as skills, don’t neglect them. For some builds/roles you don’t need that many skills (for example, melee fighters), but SPs invested in attributes can pay off nicely.

  • Strength determines the total HPs of the character, at the rate of 10 HPs for every point in strength. A squadie with 30 strength, 300 HP can withstand a lot of punishment. The damage dealt with the bash attack also scales with strength (weight of weapon * strength). I recommend that all you soldiers have enough strength to do 50 damage with a single bash attack. Why? Because that will allow them to one hit kill for 1AP worms, and attached mindfraggers. Some builds can also benefit from increased carrying capacity.

  • Willpower is important primarily for characters who will be using a lot of skills, which is usually those in support roles (techies, priests), but a minimum pool of 12 WP is advisable for any build. Bear in mind that WPs also act as defense against mindcontrol attempts.

  • Speed is the easiest attribute to recommend because of the importance mobility has in the game (given that accuracy is solely determined by range, being able to close the distance to a target is equivalent to having perfect accuracy) and because absurdly extreme mobility is currently possible (a character with high speed, dash and the right buffs can all but teleport anywhere on the map).*

*see the maths here About reducing mobility.

  1. You will be getting a lot of SPs - 10 for every mission, 20 for gaining a level, plus every mission and some text quests in the geoscape give SPs to the common pool. Currently there is no limit to how many SPs a soldier can gain, so you can have maxed out squaddies, though it will take a lot of missions.

  2. Armor and other gear, as well as augmentations, have a huge impact on a character stats. Perception, stealth and accuracy are mostly determined by the armor/augmentations. Some armors/gear/augmentations also enable the use of abilities that may define the role of the soldier in the battlefield.

Putting together the basics

PP has a rather easy start, with enemies generally wearing less armor and dealing less damage than PP soldiers. It’s not until more heavily armored opponents start to appear that difficulties tend to arise.

1) Aiming

Maps are small. You will often start with some of the enemies already detected and within LOS. Target them with different weapons (you will have assault rifles, a pistol, a sniper rifle and a heavy cannon). Play around with the aiming reticle. Convince yourself that zooming doesn’t alter the size of the reticle. Look at what happens to the health bar of the targeted enemy as you move the aiming reticle around it. You will see that part of the red bar will be filling with white > wedges. The part of the red bar where wedges appear and the size of the > wedges will change as you move the aiming reticle. The white represents the chances that the shot will do a certain amount of damage (the game runs a Monte Carlo simulation on the current shot and the projected damage is an average of the results We have to talk about the Scylla in the room).

The more white you see, the higher the probability that the shot will deplete the health bar up to the point where white wedges start appearing. A flashing red skull & crossbones next to the HP bar indicates that the shot is certain to kill the target. You will see a similar HP bar next to a targeted body part and a card detailing what will happen if the body part is disabled.

So, the first thing you should notice is that most weapons are out of range of the enemies that you can see at the start of the mission. Remember, if the inside circle of the aiming reticle is not covering fully the target, you have less than 50% chance of hitting it, and the empty spaces that the target might have count (for example, Arthrons are thin, often wearing a large armored carapace; even when you have them completely covered by the aiming reticle there is a high chance that the shot will miss, or hit the armored carapace, when it would otherwise hit a human). Usually, you don’t want to take that shot.

It’s crucial to understand that using the aiming reticle is not like aiming using crosshairs, iron sights, or optics in an FPS, in that in an FPS you expect the shot to land at the center of the crosshairs with some possible deviation away from the center. By contrast, in PP all shots will land somewhere in the big circle, with a 50% chance of landing in the small circle, the highest chance of landing on the border of the inside circle (thx @Yokes for the tip and explanation) and lower chance of landing on the bullseye (thx @UV), or more precisely:

In other words, don’t think “I’m aiming at the right arm because it’s smack in the middle of my aiming reticle”, rather think “what is occupying the largest part of my aiming reticle, what proportion of it is inside the small circle and what is the border of the inner circle touching?” That’s what you have the best (mathematical) chances of hitting, and if you are a headshots aficionado aiming with an assault rifle, it’s probably empty space.

Another thing you should notice is that targets are constantly chaning their position, so their exposure changes. This is because all the characters are performing the ‘idle’ animations all the time and hitting the freeaim button at the right moment can enable you to take a better shot.

2) Detection

You might (should, in fact) ask yourself, why can I see some of the enemies and can they see my soldiers? Detection is determined by the perception stat of the observer and the stealth stat of the observed. The perception stat is expressed in tiles and the stealth stat as a percentage (which can also be negative, meaning the observed is easier to detect), the stealth reducing the perception range vis a vis the observed.

So, if Bob has a perception of 35, he will detect all enemies with =<0% stealth within his LOS within 35 tiles. He will also detect enemies further away if they have a negative stealth stat (which is usually derived from wearing heavy armor). For example, Bob will detect enemies 49 tiles away within LOS whose stealth is - 40%. Similarly, Bob will be detected by enemies depending on his stealth stat and the perception stat of his enemies. Bob will also alert enemies to his presence by shooting a non-silenced weapon.

Talking about, enemies’ stats now is a good time to look at them. Just left click on an enemy and then left click on info, and you will see everything there is to know about it, almost as if it was one of your troops.

image

Tritons with the double perception ability are very dangerous for your scouts. I met with this one after around 10 missions playing on Legendary, you shouldn’t see Tritons with so many HPs, armor and wielding sniper rifles until much later in the game if you are playing rookie or veteran.

You can even calculate the range at which he will detect Bob - just check the perception stat, adjust it with Bob’s stealth, and count the tiles… Not that I suggest doing it before making every move…

But do take look at the weapons and skills of the enemy, and especially at its WPs. If you manage to bring its WPs below 0 (characters lose WPs when using special abilities, or when their teammates get killed), the unit will panic, and be unable to do anything for one turn.

You can also just hover the mouse over the enemy to get a quick info tooltip, showing key information about the character [image pending]

The mechanics in PP might be complex and somewhat obscure, but they are transparent.

The big takeaway as to detection is that 1) you want a soldier with high stealth and high perception to do the scouting, and 2) you don’t want to take low chance shots that reveal your position to the enemy without doing much (if any) harm to them.

In the first missions this doesn’t matter all that much. For starters, you don’t have access to armor/skills that radically enhance stealth or perception. Also, enemies are easy to handle.

I advise against acquiring bad habits though, such as using your jetpack heavy as a scout. It’s true that the jetpack allows to cover more distance than any of your starting soldiers can run, that the best LOS is from higher ground and that the heavy armor is strong enough to withstand a lot of punishment. However, the heavy armor helmet has a penalty to perception, and the heavy body armor has a huge penalty to stealth. Good scouts, they are not - but you might want to use them as baits. As I said, in the very early game it doesn’t matter, but past that your heavy scout/bait will be drawing a lot of deadly attention.

3) Cover and positioning

Because of real ballistics, in PP cover only works if it’s actually in the way of the projectiles and doesn’t get destroyed by them. If some part, even if very small, of a character is exposed (e.g. because the attack comes at an angle) and the attacker is close enough to accurately target it, the cover will not do any good.

There are two kinds of cover in PP, high and low. The difference between them is that, in addition to the character behind low cover being partially exposed by definition, a character in low cover will kneel (so that he/she/it is partially exposed, - normally head and shoulders in case of humans) and will fire without changing position, while a character in high cover (whether real or nominal) will step to the side to fire, being completely exposed in the process.

The reason why it matters is that if an enemy is on Overwatch covering that corner, stepping to the side to take a shot (whether at that enemy or another) can mean entering a world of pain. Similarly, if the enemy is an Arthron (crab) with a machine gun, or a human with the Return Fire skill (assault LVL3 passive skill, shoot back at enemy that attacks the character provided the enemy is within LOS and half the perception range of the character), the return fire from the enemy will activate (if the enemy is still capable of shooting) before the soldier returns to cover.

However, shooting from low cover doesn’t activate overwatch and partially protects from return fire. The disadvantage is that any return fire will probably hit the soldier in the head, which usually has less armor than the rest of the body. Still, the head makes for a smaller target and it’s more likely that the return fire will miss the partially covered soldier.

So one way to think of it is that low cover is better for attacking (from it) and high cover is better for defending.

However, in practice

  • an enemy won’t go on a overwatch if there is a PP soldier in low cover within range - it will shoot at the soldier instead; and

  • if you are shooting at an enemy with the return fire skill better just make sure it can’t shoot you back (because after your shot it’s gonna be dead, crippled, or you are more than half its perception range away, or undetected - for infiltrators)

I have been referring here to “high” cover as opposed to “full” cover. That is because high cover is not necesarily full, or solid cover. The shield icon might show a position being protected by high cover, indicating that the soldier will step to the side to fire at an enemy, but the cover might be of poor quality, e.g. not large enough to actually cover the whole body, or be of very weak material (glass, trees). Or it might be an explosive barrel.

Useful tips:

Note that heavy weapons, because they are held at waist length, cannot be shot behind low cover at high angles (thx @MichaelIgnotus).

Takeaways: don’t assume that a nice shield icon means good, full cover, and most importantly, don’t overestimate the importance of cover. Which brings us to the next point - positioning.

Coming from Firaxis XComs and its clones, one has the “must be in cover” syndrome. Staying out in the open means flanked (so very high chance to hit and score a critical), means death. Just find anything and get behind it. A flower pot, a rubbish bin… This largely dictates positioning priorities in these games: stay in cover, try to flank, avoid being flanked.

In PP there are no critical hits so getting shot in the foot while in full cover and getting shot in the foot in the open is exactly the same thing. When it comes to positioning, what matters most in PP is line of sight (LOS) and distance. If you are far enough and the enemy doesn’t have long range weapons (sniper rifles, Synedrion assault rifles), you are good even if out in the open. If the enemy has sniper rifles and LOS on you, any cover offers limited protection.

My advice: examine the map to find positions from which you have good LOS on the enemies and from which the enemies have bad LOS on you. Your best bet are multistory buildings with windows. Take cover behind walls next to windows allowing you to shoot at the enemies below while they can’t shoot at you. Bear in mind that this does not mean that your soldiers are now perfectly safe. Enemies have explosives, both long and short range, and psychic attack abilities (notably mindcontrol), none of which require LOS.

Also, on many missions you can’t just wait for the enemies to attack you, because they have to destroy some mcguffin (like crates, civilians, equipment) or because there is an infinite number of them and you need to destroy some mcguffin (notably in the Pandoran bases) (see Mission Types [pending]).

4) Engaging enemies

As I said somewhere way above, in PP, if you can shoot at an enemy and the enemy can shoot back at you, one of you is going to be dead very soon.

This is why players tend to gravitate at first towards sniper rifles and the grenade launcher (which can be manufactured after completing Arthron autopsy) as their weapons of choice, because they allow to effectively engage the enemy at distances where most enemies can’t shoot back. It’s not a bad choice when you are learning how to play PP, but it is suboptimal in most cases and sometimes it just does not work.

This is because the damage per AP of sniper rifles is low. That is, for each AP spent, you do more damage per AP with an AR (30 * 6 / 2 = 90) than with an SR (110/3 = < 37). The advantage of SRs is, of course, that they have high damage per projectile (thus they can deal damage no matter how much armor there is) and that they are effective at very long range. However, once you strip the armor and/or get close enough to the target, the ARs and the shotguns outperform the SRs by a very wide margin.

At first and especially on easier difficulty levels, most enemies have little to no armor, thus making the ARs very effective. (The Foresaken and the Pure - the latter only if you have the DLC - are the exception to this, and to deal with them you need SR, hellcannon/deceptor and grenades, but if you can manage to strip enough armor of them, the ARs are very effective).

If you can’t kill them outright, cripple them so they can’t attack you:

  • For humans and Tritons wielding two handed weapons, disable one of the arms. If they have single hand weapons, disable both arms. Note that humans might have grenades (you can check by clicking on their info), which can be used with one arm. Tritons have a variety of mutations that can make them dangerous/annoying (see Humans opponents [pending] and Tritons [pending] for more)

  • For crabs with machineguns, pincers and/or grenade launchers disable the arms with the weapons. The grenade launcher has a shorter range, but it’s potentially very dangerous because of the double damage explosion bug, so you might want to disable that first. Note that some of them also have the spitter head mutation that shoots poison at short range (see Arthrons [pending] for more).

  • For Sirens, disable their heads (see Sirens for more).

If you can’t cripple them, use Warcry (LVL3 Heavy skill, for 3WP reduces APs to 2 for one turn of all enemies within 10 tiles). As the skill doesn’t cost any APs, you can use the heavy armor jetpack (Heavy Armor Torso ability, for 3AP and 2WP “jump” up to 20 tiles) to get near a bunch of enemies and activate. Maybe also bash one of them with your heavy weapon.

Another approach is to break the enemies’ morale. Enemies lose WPs every time one of their mates is killed. If a character’s WPs goes below 0, they will panic, losing the next turn.

This should be enough as a start.

So, to recap:

  • On the first turn, try to figure out where most of the enemies are without being detected.

  • Take advantageous positions with good cover and LOS (multistory buildings are best).

  • If you engage enemies within their weapon range, try to leave them dead, or disabled by the end of you turn. Don’t let them retaliate.

  • Break their morale by killing enough of their mates, then finish them off.

6 Likes

Part 3

Known exploits

Alpha striking, what is it and how to do it

I define an “alpha strike” as an overwhelming attack delivered on the first turn (before the opposing force can make any preparations) that prevents the opponent from mounting a response, usually by disabling (killing, or crippling in a way that negates any retaliatory capacity) many, if not most enemies.

Alpha striking is the single most effective, reliable and quickest way of dealing with any situation that Phoenix Point throws at you.

To alpha strike you need to have the right team. By mid-late game you will have at least one alpha strike capable team, simply because some of your soldiers will have gained so many SPs that they will be close to maxing out their stats and skills.

There are many different builds that enable alpha striking, but the common theme is that you want squaddies that can deal a lot of damage per AP, and you want a way of recouping spent APs.

The last part is the most constraining, as there are only two ways of gaining back APs, and that’s Rally the Troops (LVL 6 assault skill, cost 4 WP and 2 AP, gives back 1 AP to each squaddie, limited to one use per turn) and Rapid Clearance (LVL 7 assault skill, cost 5 WP, gain back 2 AP for each kill until the end of the turn). So you will want soldiers with Rapid Clearance doing the killing, and also some support soldiers with Rally the Troops.

The mathematics of Rally the Troops are such that the more troops you bring to a mission and the more of them have the skill, the more APs you can recover. It is quite easy to double the amount of starting APs in this manner. However, as your killers will have Rapid Clearance, Rally the Troops is more of a safety net in case you have trouble closing the Rapid Clearance loops.

As to how to achieve the highest damage per AP, your imagination is the limit. What’s important is to remember that you don’t want just high damage potential, you also have to deliver it to the enemy. That means you want high accuracy and/or extreme mobility.

The best candidates for alpha strike killers are recruits with third-row proficiency damage buffs, and if they also come with Reckless (+30% damage, - 10% accuracy) and Cautious (+20% accuracy, - 10% damage) it’s a nice bonus (note that for alpha strike killers Cautious should only be picked up if you also have Reckless, as you don’t want a net reduction in damage). Something like a recruit with Strongman (+30% damage heavy weapons, -10 perception [who cares about this penalty to perception, really?]), Reckless and Cautious is ideal. They have to be assault, or dual classed to assault, to get the Rapid Clearance skill.

Here are four basic examples of alpha strike killers:

  1. Assault/sniper with strongman skill. Give him a Deceptor (NJ Heavy Machine Gun) and plenty of ammo, NJ pistol, synedrion sniper helmet, Anu torso and leg armor (or the speed legs mutation). As to stats, you want high speed (ideally 25) and high willpower (15+). For skills you want Dash, Quick Aim, Ready for Action and Rapid Clearance. He can one-shot kill crabs, tritons and basic sirens at 5 tiles distance. The way to use him is to use Dash to get close to a bunch of enemies, cast Rapid Clearance and Quick Aim, kill one enemy, cast Quick Aim again, kill another, etc. Once the group is dealt with, move to the next one, with Dash if necessary. With Ready for Action and plenty of ammo you will never lose a beat.

  2. Heavy/assault with Reckless. Give him a grenade launcher and a rocket mount (Fury, Thor…). Give him the Biggest Booms, Inspire, Rapid Clearance and Ready for Action. Synedrion sniper helmet, NJ heavy torso, Synedrion sniper leggings. Plenty of willpower. Not only can he close Rapid Clearance loops, but also soften up targets to help other alpha strike killers close theirs.

  3. Infiltrator/assault. The LVL7 infiltrator’s Sneak Attack damage x2 buff is a great way of increasing damage per AP to the levels necessary for alpha striking. For the x2 buff to apply, however, you need to be hidden and using a silent weapon (currently melee, echo head bionic, or crossbows). The only way of staying hidden while doing a melee attack is by using the vanish skill (4WP, that both completely hides the soldier for the remainder of the turn making him undetectable, and allows him/her to move 5 tiles in any direction). If you have the DLC, there is no reason for not putting the echo head on all your infiltrators. Unless you have ethical, or aesthetical qualms about chopping somebody’s head off and replacing it with something that looks conspicuously like Princess Leia’s helmet in Return of the Jedi.

A good setup is an infiltrator with assault rifles proficiency, that adds 20% damage and accuracy. As always, Reckless and Cautious are a nice bonus. Give him/her Sneak Attack (LVL7, passive), Dash, Ready for Action, Rapid Clearance, top speed and a lot of willpower, and the Synedrion assault rifle. He/she can reliably one shoot kill most regular crabs and tritons at more than 10 tiles distance, and is a great finisher - killer of targets that have been softened up by other squaddies.

  1. Heavy/assault with bionic melee torso. Only available with the DLC, this is currently the easiest and most reliable alpha strike killer. Take a heavy or assault recruit with third-row melee proficiency (+20% damage), and Reckless if available. Dual-class him/her into heavy, or assault as applicable. Give him/her Dash, Rapid Clearance and Brawler. Give him/her top speed and plenty of willpower. For armor, prioritize speed; accuracy is not important. Just give him/her the bionic torso that allows to do a melee attack for 1 AP. And Marduk’s Fist. Now just run to an enemy (Dash if necessary), cast Rapid Clearance and hit it. Next!

These are just some of the possibilities but, really, your imagination is the limit. And we didn’t even get into berserker meta builds, or priests aka walking psychic nuclear bombs…

You also have to think about your support team. Here you want as many Rally the Troops as possible and a priest with the frenzy head mutation, to give all your troops the teleportation ability… Eh, speed buff. Let’s call it a speed buff. Also bring along someone with Mark for Death (LVL7 sniper skill, until the rest of the turn the target will receive +50% damage, costs 4WP).

There are some more tricks to make alpha striking even more efficient. For example, sometimes you can safely kill enemies at no AP cost, using pistols and PWDs with Quick Aim, and gain 2 APs through Rapid Clearance.

Eventually, you will get so good at this that you will be alpha striking even without wanting to (and you will be trying to avoid alpha strike killer builds because it turns the game into a cleaning simulator, where all you do is sweep maps of enemies in the first turn and mop up on the second).

If you are a person of little faith, bring along an LVL7 Technician to cast electric reinforcement twice every turn and then recover. It’s basically a perpetual motion device that grants invulnerability to the whole squad as long as it’s switched on. If there is any reason to not have it switched on always, I don’t know it.* See Double electric reinforcement below.

*Unless there are other games that you play without using godmode because you operate under the misguided and outdated notion that repeatedly clicking on things until they die is not the pinnacle of video game entertainment.

Double electric reinforcement

Electric reinforcement is a LVL7 Technician skill that adds 20 armor to every body part of every squaddie at the cost of 6WP. It can be cast twice by the same Technician on the same turn, adding 40 armor to every body part of every squaddie, making them all but invulnerable for one turn. If the Technician does not spend any APs during the turn (and there is no reason why he/she should), he/she can cast Recover (for 4AP recover half of the starting WPs; so with 20WP, get back 10WPs).

With 20 Willpower it would take the Technician 5 turns to run out of enough WPs to cast electric reinforcement twice per turn, but with the mcguffins spread around most maps that give WPs and the WPs granted to every squaddie with Inspire (LVL6 Heavy passive skill, grants 1WP to every squaddie for each kill by the soldier) that is very unlikely to happen. Not to mention that few missions in PP last that long.

AI’s obsession with healthcare

The AI is anxious to heal its critters. No matter how small the damage, if there is a medkit available nearby, the AI will forget everything and use it to cure that 1HP scratch. This behavior is easily exploitable. For example, if a Siren is controlling one of your soldiers and that soldier has a medkit in the quick slot inventory, any scratch to the siren will prompt your mind controlled soldier to rush to her to administer first aid.

Human opponents also often carry medkits, and will heal themselves, or their mates if they get a splinter. This can essentially be used to buy yourself a whole turn, as applying the medkit consumes 2 APs, and often they will want to/have to move before using it.

Detecting hidden unit using the mouse cursor or Warcry (LVL3 Heavy Skill) or Mindcrash (LVL7 Priest Skill)

You can’t move on to a tile occupied by an enemy. Even when you can’t see the enemy, the game will prevent you from moving there. So if you know there is a hidden Triton in the vicinity (because you shot at it and it activated the Pain Chameleon skill to hide), just try to move and see what tile you can’t move to. The easiest way is by using dash, as you will see dots on every tile around except one conspicuous tile where you can’t move.

A similar technique can be used in Lairs to find the Spawnery. Look in the top right and left corners of the map for a walled hole. If the mouse cursor indicates you can’t move there, that’s where the Spawnery is.

Finally, you can also spot enemies within 10 tiles of a Heavy or of a Priest by using Warcry or Mindcrash. When you are going to activate this skill, the target icons above the actions bar will show all the enemies that will be affected. By clicking on the icons it will even center on them.

[IF YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHERS, DO TELL!]

Appendix 1: Hints and tips on dealing with specific enemy types

The trouble with Chirons.

Most players have problems dealing with Chirons that lob explosive or acid projectiles over long distances.

image

As all Pandorans, Chirons come with different mutations/HPs/armor, but the common features of all of them are:

  • the range of their projectiles is 40 tiles and it costs 3AP to launch them.

  • they launch 3 projectiles per shot unless they have the “stability” mutation that, if activated (costing 1 AP), allows them to shoot 5 projectiles with greater accuracy.

  • they are the only Pandorans that can fire at enemies without seeing them, that is, at enemies that have been detected in any way.

  • their heads have 0 armor.

image

Here you can see the blast radius of a Chiron’s attack (this was a much less dangerous Goo Chiron, but as their blast radius is the same and the goo stays on the ground it makes for a good visualization tool). As you can see, the AoE is somewhere between 9 x 9 and 12 x 12 tiles

The first problem with Chirons is that they often spawn at the edges of the map, outside of LOS, making it harder to spot them.

The second problem is that they can fire at faraway targets without LOS.

The third is that their attacks can be devastating against lightly armored targets, not least because of a bug that sometimes increases the damage done by explosives by 100%.

So, not surprisingly, there is ample consensus that the only good (explosive or acid) Chiron is dead-on-the-first-turn-before-it-can-shoot-Chiron. There is no doubt that this is the single most reliable way of dealing with these creatures, or with anything else that the game throws at you, for that matter. (See Alpha-striking in the Exploits section for more).

Just as reliable though apparently less popular for dealing with Chirons is the double casting of electric reinforcement, which can also be used to deal with everything else that the game throws at you. (See Electric Reinforcement (aka godmode), also in the Exploits section).

There are, however, ways of dealing with Chirons that don’t involve relying on exploits. They are riskier, but also more satisfying… When they work, that is. When they don’t, it’s fountains of blood, and pools of tears (of rage) (quits).

  1. Scout ahead while avoiding being detected. You want a soldier with high perception, high stealth, and high mobility to spot the enemies. Ideally an infiltrator, but other classes can also do. Just don’t use a heavy with a jetpack, because that’s not scouting but baiting.

If the soldier is detected by any enemy (see detection) (either because he enters the enemy’s perception range adjusted by the soldier’s stealth or because he fires a non-silenced weapon, i.e. all weapons except crossbows and any weapon fired by a soldier with the echo bionic head or a Triton with that mutation), he can be targeted by a Chiron. Keep him some distance away from the others… just in case.

The point of this method is to use the first turn to get into a good position without provoking the Chiron into action, so that on your next turn you can easily disable it.

The big risk is that even if you manage to stay undetected during your turn, you might be detected by the Pandorans on their turn, as they start to move. It’s always best to end your turn inside some building - it won’t always offer 100% protection, but it will help. And don’t bunch up at the entrance if possible…

  1. Once you are in position, you can disable the Chiron in a variety of ways, besides killing it or disabling its abdomen. The Chiron needs 3 APs to shoot, so applying warcry (Heavy class LVL 3 skill, cost 3WP: reduces APs of all enemies within 10 tiles to 2AP) is enough to put it out of action for one turn. Applying >25% paralysis also works. So does panic - for this it helps to disable the head first, which is very easy as it never has any armor and a maximum of 100HPs. And if you can panic it, perhaps you can also mind control it, which is awesome for just so many different reasons…

  2. If you can’t avoid detection, can’t disable the Chiron and can’t stay out of its range, you can still do a few things to minimize the damage. Heavy armor is quite effective at stopping most of the damage from explosives, so if you have someone clad in heavy armor you can use them as bait.

Note that you want them to be covered in heavy armor from head to toes; e.g. the Anu skirt + Synedrion headwear + NJ jetpacking fashion enthusiasts will get seriously hurt, because highest damage done by the explosion to a limb will be subtracted from the total HPs, in addition to the penalties to total HPs from disabled limbs.

Of course, if you have an infiltrator that can cast a dummy in a convenient spot that’s an even better bait.

You can also find safety inside some buildings, especially on the ground floor of a multistory building.

Finally, a neat, though dangerous trick, is to place a soldier on an elevated tile, ideally a column, or a bridge, or a construction crane. It is very likely that the projectiles will harmlessly fly-by.

What to do if despite everything you still get hit and some of your soldiers are put out of action, crippled or dead? Evacuate ASAP the wounded, especially those hit by acid, and consider aborting the mission if you don’t feel confident about your chances. Ain’t no shame in it - some battles you win, and some you lose. There are plenty of havens and apple crates in the world, and you can always return to lairs when they become a turkey shot, aka Citadel, the most dangerous and terrible of all Pandoran bases… not.

Sirens

Sirens are cool and scary, but they are not that hard to deal with. As all Pandorans they come with different heads and arms that give them different abilities, and different amounts of armor and HPs, but the main danger with Sirens is that they will attempt to Mind Control (MC) your squaddies.


A ‘basic’ Siren

Siren Mind Control works similarly to the LVL2 Priest class Mind Control skill (immediately take control of an enemy within 10 tiles and within LOS for 1AP and WPs=WPs of the targeted enemy character; maintaining control on subsequent turns has WP cost depending on victim, 2 for humans; multiple enemies can be controlled at the same time), with 2 major exceptions:

  1. the Siren doesn’t require LOS to her victim; and

  2. the Siren cannot activate the MC victim until the next Pandoran turn.

Some things to consider when dealing with the scaly centipede mermaid:

  • Disabling a Siren’s head sets her WPs to 0 and prevents her from recovering them.

  • Killing a Siren releases her victim(s) from MC, but they will not be able to act until the next player’s turn.

  • While a soldier is under MC, it’s on the Pandoran team for all intents and purposes, meaning that it will lose WPs when a Pandoran dies and if it is on fire, poisoned, or covered in acid it will receive the corresponding damage at the start of the Pandoran turn (and if released from MC during the Pandoran turn, then again at the start of the player’s turn, which I understand to be a bug).

  • The Siren is a support unit, she is the Priest in the Pandoran party. She looks scary with the scales and the claws, but that’s mostly just for show. She will cast Frenzy (ability, buffs speed of friendlies within 20 tiles by 50% and makes them invulnerable to panic, for 4WP) or Psychic Scream (ability, reduces WPs of enemies within *10 tiles by x), depending on her head mutation, and MC if she can.

  • The Siren is a control on the players who drain their WPs and rush ahead. All Sirens have 30 WPs to start with. Though that is more than any of your soldiers can have (the maximum, with a third row skill and a head mutation is 25 WPs), the more WPs a Siren has to spend to initiate MC, the easier it is to break it. Remember, she loses WPs as the Pandas in her team perish. It’s not the same situation to have 2 soldiers separed from the rest of the team with close to 0 WPs (because, of course, they carelessly dashed there) under MC, as having to deal with a Siren that has under 10 WPs left after casting MC.

The key to dealing with Sirens is, of course, disabling the head. Once her head is gone, a Siren will still have some short range attack capabilities, but with her WP set at 0 any death in the Panda team will panic her. Though disabling the head will not immediately release her victim(s) from MC, it doesn’t usually matter, as even if you kill her and the MC ends, you will not be able to use your formerly MC soldier(s) until your next turn. It does matter when your soldier(s) is/are under the effects of some damage over time effect (fire, poison, acid, virus), as then it will tick twice. The only difficulty of disabling a Siren’s head is that it has not less than 20 armor. Use sniper rifles (it will need 2 shots, usually), or shred the armor with a grenade first. Close range shotguns blasts can also work. Pistols too, because they have relatively high damage per projectile. However, if you have a heavy weapon (Hellcannon, or Deceptor) just go for the kill - shred the amor off the torso, or the tail and finish her off with an AR. Melee weapons and bash with high strength/buffs are another option.

Now, when dealing with Sirens in a difficult situation (multiple Sirens, many enemies, whatever… ) my advice is to consider the situation as a whole, and not focus too much on the Siren(s). Nobody likes their soldiers to be under MC, but 1) sometimes attacking the Siren is not the best way to prevent it, and 2) other times, it’s OK to let the Siren take control of your troops; remember, it will be a whole turn before she can use them.

Though the variations of a ‘difficult’ situations are infinite, some things to consider are:

  • Are the other enemies frenzied? (A likely scenario when there is a Siren with the Frenzy head mutation). If so, remember that you can’t make them panic. Maybe it’s a good idea to focus on killing them, and thus indirectly dealing with the Siren by depleting her WPs. Killing an Arthron reduces enemies WPs by 2, a Triton by 3, a Siren, or a Chiron by 5, a Scylla by 10.

  • How are the enemies on WPs, is there more than one Siren and what are your chances of killing them (not just disabling their heads, but putting them down for good)? Killing a Siren makes each critter on her team lose 5WPs, and sometimes they are easy to bring down (depending on their HPs and your capabilities). Don’t forget that if you can shred her armor she will be very vulnerable to a shotgun, or an AR.

  • If some of your soldiers are already under MC and you are worried about what they will be doing on the next turn if you don’t disable the Siren(s) now, consider whether you can make them panic: remember, they are on team Panda now, so any Pandoran deaths will lower their morale (also, there is this exploit that has to do with AI’s obsession with healthcare…)

  • An almost universal solution to large crowds is Warcry (LVL3 Heavy skill). And for small crowds and energetic individuals as well, because enemies with only 2APs will often waste them.

Variations:

Head:

  • Frenzy

Frenzy

  • Psychic scream

Psychic Scream

Arms:

  • Slasher [pending]

  • Injector

Injector Arm

Torso:

8 Likes

Nice wall of text, actually I’m reading the first post and have found one little mistake:

These are old values before the last patch, actually the Piranha has 40 damage, 10 piercing, (1 shred, not sure) and 4 projectiles.

Next found:

IMHO:
The 10 damage are not adding to the overall damage dealt. The enemy only can’t recover this 10 damage if he heals.
The only case to deal more damage than the projectile damage - armor is if the body parts reduces the max HP more than it self has HP (IMHO very seldom, the spawnery has it on the shell i think).

I read on and will edit here if I found more :slight_smile:

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Kudos for this - a labour of love, methinks :smirk:
I’ve only read Part 1 so far, but here are a couple of suggestions:

I think you need to add a section on Free Aiming in the firing section. I’m sure you’ve included it elsewhere, but if I’m a new player, the firing section is where I would expect to find out about it - and let’s face it, Free Aiming is even more important than all those buffs etc you’ve been talking about.

You should also point out that gaps in body parts can = misses. So if you target a Crabbie’s GL arm, for instance, it is entirely possible for the bullet to pass through the gaps in the tendons and miss completely, especially if it’s a one-shot weapon. Atmo, you give the impression that as long as the target’s body is fully within the targeting reticle, you are guaranteed to hit, and we have all experienced moments when that is not the case.

But all in all, a really well written and usefully informative post.

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Just checked it on one of my own soldiers and you are absolutely right.

Thanks for the comments, I will be amending the post later.

Also thanks @MichaelIgnotus

After part 1

Is it even possible to build hangar? :slight_smile:

Veteran to keep it consistent

Actually 25%.

bleeding can mean more than 10 HP lost per turn. Some alien body parts bleed more. :slight_smile:

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:sweat_smile: That’s embarassing. Thanks, you are right of course.

Please do tell if you see anything else.

After part 2

Don’t forget about:

  • armor (shown value is an average from armors on all body parts) and on soldiers is influenced by worn armor.
  • stamina determining pool of AP (starting value is 40 and is derived from length of combats and some global or local events)

For perception include that it is based on unit type (for soldiers base is 35) and modified by what you have mentioned.

For stealth include info that it reduces perception of an enemy and in most cases starts at 0%.

/Speed derived also from armor and some skills?

derived also from some skills and mutations

Maybe before you mention SP in this part use again full name Skill Points

stats … are derived from … stats. Maybe attributes?

That is more complicated than that. :slight_smile: Now I wonder if I should spoil fun of discovering it for the players… Oh well. I suppose not many of them will look in this topic so: Biggest chance to hit is around the border of inner circle. So with your example of overall accuracy against Sarki is quite all right, but with accuracy to hit head I would say that upper screen gives more chances for it (like 35%) - but yes it has more chance to end as missed shot (like 50%). Lower screen has like 20% to hit head but for a complete miss there is like 25% chance.

left click :slight_smile:

High and low cover? I would avoid using word “full”.

And what @MadSkunky said.

Suggestions from @MichaelIgnotus are also good.

Part 3 is not for me, as I have never focused too much on exploits. So most probably I shouldn’t comment on that part to not mess with areas already explored more by others.

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Cover:
I’m with Yokes - don’t use ‘full’, it’s misleading. Use something like ‘high’ and ‘low’.

Also, you are missing a crucial piece of advice in your cover section:

One of the big mistakes of XCOM-style players is thinking that you have to shelter at the corner of a building to be able to shoot from it, and that this gives you full cover. Neither is true. But Squaddies can make use of properly full cover in this game, in a way that they can’t in any other game of this type. Simply stand one step back from the corner of the rock or building you are sheltering behind, so that nothing can see you! If it can’t see you, the only thing it can fire at you is indirect explosives, and if you hug the wall tightly enough and far enough back that will probably overshoot.

Because of the AP system in this game, sheltering one step back behind a wall doesn’t stop you shooting from it. You simply step up to the corner, take your shot, then step back again! You will be fully exposed (as explained earlier) when you take your shot, but other than that, you are completely covered as long as nothing has LoS on you.

Another little trick once you have stepped back is to pull out your shotgun, or other short-range damage-dealer and train it in Overwatch on the corner you have just vacated - now anything coming round that corner is gonna be in for a very nasty surprise!

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You should warn people of the limitations on firing from multi-storey buildings (unless this has been fixed in the last patch?).

I remember one guy going apoplectic on this forum when he discovered that he couldn’t used his HMG from a rooftop.

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After reading the whole bit thing:
This is really a great guide and I have to thank @VOLAND for his very nice an detailed work. It could be a great help not only for all beginners but also for almost any player. :+1:

I vote for sticking this guide on top of this subforum. @UnstableVoltage, @Valygar?

Infiltrators don’t need a silent weapon to Sneak Attack - unless the Synedrion Sniper Rifle is silent and I didn’t know it (or things were changed in the last patch).

My Sniper/Infiltrator was able to consistently deal 240+ damage every turn from the back of the map without ever breaking his Stealth cloak.

With Echo Head? Then yes and with any weapon.
Without this it only works if you out of LOS of ANY enemy. I don’t know if enemies perception is a key, maybe(?).

@UnstableVoltage Kevin: if they haven’t read it already, you should put this under the noses of every dev involved with Skills on the PP team: A comprehensive guide for playing Phoenix Point (or an attempt at one) - Part 3

If this doesn’t convince them that they need to do something about limiting Skill exploitations, nothing will.

Frankly, as the game currently stands, the only way of not winning most missions on the first turn once you’ve made your alpha-builds is by applying the 1 skill/turn limitations that the likes of myself, @VOLAND and @conductiv apply to ourselves to keep the game interesting.

Nope: just stay as far back as possible and kill the nearest thing that can see you. He had no mutations, and I limit all my Infs to 75% Stealth.

Though as I say, it may have changed since the last patch. I’m taking a break from the game for a while until they fix it.

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Or limiting the squadsize like me. :wink:
Trust me, alpha striking with only 3-4 squaddies is nearly impossible even if you use all the OP builds.

Good to know, I will try it with my next infiltrators.
I almost thought that you get revealed regardless of killing the foe or not.

See my edit to the previous post. It may have been changed in the last patch.

I will test it, in my actually playthrough I’m close to get my fist Infiltrator. In my recent games I almost always used the echo head, so I’m not that sure how it will work without. I only did some raw tests with old saves directly after the release of the Leviathan patch.

Edit @MichaelIgnotus :
Or did you mean the Leviathan patch? Then yes, because before this big patch all weapons were silent, or rather, the function to reveal after shooting was just not implemented. This comes with the Leviathan patch.