First impressions: a "flawed gem"

Playing on Vet, a few months in (though after several restarts).

It took me a while to get into this, as it’s misleadingly been marketed as an XCOM-like game, and it has a lot of the visual tropes, particularly in the UI. But it’s really nothing like XCOM at all. The ballistic model and LOS make it a thing of its own that you have to actually get some practice in, as if it were a totally new type of game. (Numerous people have remarked on the difference, but it’s mainly in how cover and overwatch behave completely differently from XCOM.) It’s not XCOM, and it’s not even X-Com (though maybe it’s a little bit more like the original in some ways than Firaxis’ reboot), but what it is is very good in its own right - both at the strategic and tactical level.

I see a lot of complaints about the game, and I understand there’s some bad blood for various reasons, but if anyone’s looking in, I’d say just ignore all that and jump in. It’s a good game, with addictive gameplay, and you’d be missing out on an enjoyable experience if you pass it up.

It does seem to have balance issues still, but on the other hand the team do seem to be dedicated to working on it and making it as good as it can be. They certainly don’t seem to be giving up on it. And in terms of core gameplay, the fundamentals are all basically there, and the experience is largely bug free now.

All that said, it’s also a bit of a sad experience because it’s a major case of “close, but no cigar.” It’s very nearly a classic, but a few things hold it back. Sad to say, I think the main problem is the art design. It’s very competent and skilled, and one has to respect it as a huge achievement (designing all the looks of all the things). There’s nothing wrong with it on a technical level, but unfortunately it’s also rather bland and generic-looking. The monsters are generic s-f monsters; Jericho is generic space marines; Synedrion is generic s-f; Anu is generic mutants. The premise of the game needed a real spark of genius in the art area, and the game just doesn’t have it, so no matter how good the gameplay is, it’s never going to feel like an iconic game, because the art style is baked into the game at every level. (The music’s a little bit better, but again not quite as good as it should be.)

But regardless of that, it’s still a fun game to play, and I have no doubt that the team will keep working on it till it’s more or less finished, feature complete, and well balanced.

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I agree 90% with your review.

But I love the art design, and the enemy design. The game lacks a bit on the Graphic depth, but I think it is not the major issue of the game and certainly not a design but a money issue.

The game lacks in map variety and flavour. It would benefit inmensely from having more biomas, terrain types, ruins, weather effects, better light and shadow effects, real night visual settings. But also more details such as corpses, villages, alien structures or visual storytelling objects. That is what brings the visuals back, and prevent the game to embrace its lovecraftian horror roots.

Sound dessign is also ok but not brilliant and certainly not varied or immersive enough. Which contributes to PP not feeling as reaching its potentian in the design and atmosphere.

Still, the real problems the game has are not in its art, but in its balance, progression, pace, accesibility and frustration.

And despite it all, I still think PP is is the best turn based game since “Incubation, Battle island phase IV” (probably the most unfairly forgotten TBS ever made and one of the bests). And to me PP is certainly much better than the XCOM remakes in everything but campy fun.

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As I said, it’s not that the art design is bad, exactly, it’s that it’s very similar to most modern games, which is what I mean by “generic.” Competent but uninspired, you’ve seen it all a dozen times before in other games.

I call it “spikey shoulderpad art” :slight_smile: It’s art that’s passable and looks “cool” in a way, but it doesn’t get you (me) in your soul, doesn’t send a thrill up your spine.

But what this game really needed was non-generic art design, something that would stand out from the crowd of modern games, something that would feel harrowing and scary to see as you play through (the sound design working in tandem too - a glimpse of the sound design working well is the squelching noises as the monsters move. The game needed that sort of thing, but dialed up to 11, with visuals to match.

I think maybe part of the difficulty is that what was really required for psychological effect was for each monster to be a unique horror from a nightmare (somewhat similar to the way the aliens are clearly delineated in XCOM - the thin men, the lids, etc., each being uniquely terrifying in its own way when you first meet them, and seeming OP, and you wondering “how the hell am I going to beat THAT, it’s so UNFAIR!”); but the problem is they also needed “modular” monsters for the modular system.

I guess they could have melded the two ideas better if they’d had enough time and resources, but it was not to be.

One of the things that for me seriously detracts from the horror of the setting is the lack of fog of war. That’s why nests are some of my favourite missions. We have mist sentinels and mist-spawning tritons, and some missions (like haven defence) have patches of mist, but it’s just that…patchy and non-committal. Being able to see the layout of the map at the start is…strangely disorienting. You can rationalise it by saying you fly over it on approach so know where the buildings are, etc. but still…it takes something away from the experience, at least for me.

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