Ok, so I’ve just ended my third attempt at a complete playthrough and sadly, in all three tries, humanity did not survive. For reference I did not participate in any of the backer builds - so brand new.
I have been binge playing ever since the release and the experience has been quite something indeed. I have found the game to have a pretty steep learning curve and there is not much margin for error so mistakes made early on can snowball quickly into a doomed campaign that results in an extremely long but inevitable defeat. Of course in the beginning you don’t know what you don’t know and there’s much to learn here.
My very first playthrough I managed to piss off New Jericho from the start by acknowledging a statement made by Synedrion and so never made it to even initiating any contact with them whatsoever which was pretty odd. I’m sure I just didn’t understand how to scan for their havens correctly but that does bring me to my first major issue with the game - Diplomacy.
It seems that Total War is inevitable. Each faction over time makes public announcements that piss off the other two and they all go back and forth until they are fighting each other to the death - which is a bit odd considering that they’re all being simultaneously attacked by a seaborn menace with apparently infinite troops - sort of like the rising tide of communism in a literal sense My point in this ramble is that I feel there’s a missed opportunity for Phoenix Point to intervene in clever ways to keep the sides from attacking each other. For instance - if you encourage Synedrion to plant trees to keep humanity on top of the echo system - why doesn’t that appease New Jericho? I would much rather see the choice to try get everyone to get along and for those players that like total war and chaos - give them the chance to sow discord as well. I think this would make the Phoenix Point organization much more relevant and be true to the story as I understand they operated under the United Nations flag.
So - diplomacy I feel overall is a miss. What about the tactical side of the game?
Some missions proved to be very exciting but unfortunately there’s an inevitable slide into monotony. Memorable missions include my first encounter with a Scylla. My heavy had literally just learned the “Rage Burst” skill a few hours before the Haven defense and while the rest of my team took a beating and were the bait for my trap I managed to get into a flanking position with the Heavy from a rooftop and opened up with the cannon in a rage burst of glory! This was the only thing that saved my team… it was really exciting at the time but the problem is I quickly realized that if you don’t have a team with “Rage Burst” you’re in some serious trouble with the tougher Pandorans. Another mission had my team literally retreating to the top of a building to bandage themselves up and repel hordes of Pandorans climbing up after them - much fun!
So to be fair - when the game works it really can be fun! The downside though is that the missions that were exciting soon became outnumbered by the hair-pulling/frustrating/tedious missions.
Nests - such a pain! It was hard to figure out how to navigate with an APC and so much depends on luck as to how far you have to drive etc to find the targets. I didn’t even attempt those on foot because of all the respawning enemies. Lairs are very painful with Sirens waiting behind each wall to mind control several team members at once. Ironically, the larger Pandoran bases like Citadels are so much easier with a good team - all you need is several members that have “Rage Burst” with heavy/sniper and you can kill the Scylla in one round after initiating contact. These missions quickly became tedious and forgone conclusions. The same thing applies to ambushes - I got so tired of these I’d load my team of three into an APC and just drive it from building to building for 3 turns, minimizing incoming fire and then driving off to escape. Resource gathering missions are so little reward for the risk to soldiers and time and effort - I skipped these and just grew food to trade with Havens. Base defense - honestly these are really like Ten-Pin bowling. Pandorans line up neatly in the choke-point presented by the access lift and I’d pound them into dust with heavy and sniper “Rage Bursts” - the heavy cannon literally mowed several rows down with one burst. These became forgone conclusions and tedious again.
The geoscape overall can really hinder you with sheer luck of the draw. If you start in one country and a faction has a special mission in another country you can spend a really, really, realllllly long time trying to get there and chances are you won’t because you’re having to deal with Pandoran bases pinning you down where you can’t travel too far from your alpha base lest you get overrun.
Luck plays a little too much part overall I feel. Some games, starting Pandorans would be ones of the gentler/kinder variety - maybe a pincer and some potty mouths. Some games they’d start with a heavy machine gun and launcher combo… how do you prepare for that kind of difference? My poor team on the third campaign had a very nasty surprise when trying to recover Syme’s Journal and I lost two out of five due to the crazy difference in fire power and being out-numbered too.
Pardon the rambles but hopefully I’ve conveyed something meaningful. The game has so much potential but I feel at this stage it’s not worth a fourth attempt until some patching and rethinking. I hope Snapshot is able to fix the bugs and also re-engineer tactical missions to avoid the tedium (way too many unavoidable tactical missions).
P.S > A jetpack bug killed my level 6 trooper! I landed him on the edge of a 2nd level structure in a lair (right on the edge) and he took a ton of damage and died!