A lot of games I played and loved at the time I can’t say I do today though. For example, World of Warcraft (I’d actually be one to argue, seemingly against popular opinion, that that game has only gotten better with time and that WoW Classic is garbagio.) There is a reason I’m NOT playing original xcom anymore after all… but it did have its good bits that nothing seems to replace. Mostly what I loved about Xcom as I’ve said before was that soldiers WERE disposable, the dark atmosphere, the bloody bodies/organs in tubes and on tables, the music and the sound effects. There was also a lot I didn’t like too, but enough to love anyways. WoW I mostly just remember the memories with friends, and a lot of painful grinding that I never enjoyed.
What I don’t understand is why people would/could enjoy a game that only gets easier as you progress? (provided you’re not falling behind. Battletech is a glaring example of this.) I want to use WoW as an example to make a simple point about the design and flow of difficulty.
In WoW, at level 1, you have about 1 or 2 abilities. You’ll cast them maybe twice before killing an enemy, and the enemy probably won’t even touch you before dying. Does that sound similar to Phoenix Point? Because it is. Off to a good start I think…
At level 10 (of… 60? 150? I don’t know now), you have maybe 4-5 abilities. Your strategy that was demolishing enemies at lvl1 no longer works. If you’re not adapting with your new skills, then enemies will begin to hit you but probably won’t kill you still (because that game is designed to be easy). Does this sound similar to Phoenix Point (or any tactics game really, as you pointed out)? I don’t think so… usually, the same tactics continue to work despite gaining more tools and abilities… it just takes longer… that’s more similar to WoW Classic where instead of a variety of tools, you got about 4 useless abilities and two upgrades to the only one that mattered and enemies just took longer to kill all of a sudden.
Now-WoW (last time I checked, max lvl was 110) just continues to progress like I was laying out there though. More abilities that can be used in combination to create powerful effects, and enemies that equally grow in power (later on begin healing themselves and stuff before you can kill them unless you interrupt the heal… if you fail, you still kill them but it takes about 5-10 seconds longer…). The battles go from “stand here and cast twice” to “stand here, cast this rotation, root the enemy, fall back, cast another rotation, interrupt” (especially if you’re challenging yourself to do more than 1 enemy at a time, then things get even more interesting and fun as you play with AoE rotations).
Phoenix Point however it’s “load 3 naked soldiers into a vehicle” drive-by murder everything at day 5… at day 14… at day 28… at 35. What are all these extra tools I’m finding? A waste of resources of course! End of game? Okay, pump that 500SP you haven’t spent (because it’s been wholly unnecessary) into a soldier to make him a murder-machine and equip him with some of your finest tools and end the game. (I just did this within the latest patch. Well… haven’t ended the game yet still but I’m just about to) Vehicles aren’t this only games problem though. There’s a bit too many to count, and it’s very reminiscent of WoW-Classic’s idea of balance. Which I guess there’s obviously an audience for… though comparatively speaking I don’t know which is more popular, WoW-Classic or Now-WoW. I just have never understood how anyone could consider Classic to be good design though.
Could compare to classic Xcom even. Heading out the first few missions with no armor and basic weaponry… Sectoids? Splat… Floaters? Not really tough but they do get an odd advantage, but lasers and alloy armor are evening things out. Okay definitely need some Plasma for those Chrysalids and Snakemen. RUN FROM THE CYBERDISC BEFORE KILLING IT! (admittedly PP has this in the form of an UMBRA now, and people COMPLAINED because… of the non-disposable soldiers? …from my point of view). I never complained about a Cyberdisc killing my squad (nor the Umbra… but I do complain about losing soldiers I pumped hundreds of SP into all of a sudden), I just immediately realized to not put any more soldiers near it when killing it and in fact realized I could USE that to my advantage by killing it when it was near a bunch of aliens! (or amuse myself and kill a bunch of civilians … something that doesn’t exist in PP beyond some worms that may or may not explode near their allies… not that it matters though)
Funny thing though was that I never thought to save-scum that game when I was younger. It didn’t occur to me that I could cheat, because I never liked cheating. I beat the game on normal after a few dozen tries, and I remember mostly being confused about what was needed to progress the game (capturing certain aliens didn’t occur to me the first few times). Admittedly I only beat it on Superhuman difficult BY save scumming later on in life. I do want to go back and give it another shot maybe and see how difficult either mode really is in comparison to everything I’ve grown used to over the years… but what I remember fondly (in regards to my main criticism here) is opening the base management screen, going to buy and hiring a number of soldiers right there to the base, immediately equipping them with good armor and weapons and not even noticing a difference really. It wasn’t even until after playing the game a few times did I realize that soldiers got stronger when they leveled up and that certain actions could increase their stats. I rarely relied on reaction fire, and I lost a lot of soldiers. If I were to lose too many soldiers in Phoenix Point, it’s an entirely different game and it slogs forward if not outright ending the game. Every loss in Phoenix Point is a HUGE setback, because of how resources are gained (compounding negative effects in regards to losing soldiers here). Every loss in original Xcom could be covered by selling loot and corpses or just waiting for the next paycheck.
I fear that game may be too easy to me now too, but I need to do it again to be sure. I’d assume my main criticisms of that game would remain the same and are mostly what prevent me from wanting to play it again. Equipment diversity was lame and straightforward. No sniper rifles or shotguns, and everyone might as well be equipped with Flying Armor (on this note, you start the game with Flying Armor in Phoenix Point ), Alien Grenade and Heavy Plasma because why not? (Okay, a few devices for mind control and the Blaster bomb was way too overpowered) The flare was intermittently useful (but fun to use and actually did make a difference imo) where smoke was broken, and incendiary generally useless and also bugged. I remember original Xcom just getting harder as the game progressed, and less fun as well but for significantly different reasons. I used HWP’s the same way I use vehicles in this game (mostly to draw enemy fire away from my units that can get more powerful in time). Worst/best part of Xcom was the turn-1 deaths as you step out of the aircraft. Both funny and irritating. There’s quite a bit I’d change about that game too (and I did, I created sniper rifles at one point) but it’s decades old and I’m comfortable putting it down…
This game doesn’t offer much though, actually. Boom Blast can do everything for you in every mission all throughout the game, especially if you upgrade to the LoA GL. Vehicles trivialize everything but base defenses, which are already trivial to begin with. The biggest and baddest enemy can be disabled by two simple mechanics, one which is gained at lvl2, and never does anything interesting other than tinking your vehicle or insta-gibbing a soldier. This is the hardest difficulty? Feels like Carebear mode to me.
Did you know it’s possible to defeat a Scylla with a group of almost naked soldiers, no vehicle, with little-no spent SP? (admittedly I had two with spent SP of 5) that was one hell of a fun mission. The Scylla was actually frightening and I feared I was going to lose, but didn’t… if I don’t lose with a nearly naked squad, why does anything in the game even exist? It’s better when it doesn’t clearly.
They took cover behind a vehicle right away… Scylla destroyed that and they all spread out. Lost one, War Cry did most of the work. I’ll agree to War Cry being a huge help and necessary but only on the condition that no one has any equipment or other skills. We’re offered too many tools that can be acquired way too quickly and easily that essentially trivialize the entire game NOT HALFWAY THROUGH
but before you even start the game. Scrap the Access Lift, build a Scarab. Scout for 4 days until you finish it, win game essentially. It’s unnecessary to do combat in those first 4 days, so we can just call that the starting point. You won the game before you even started… and this is LEGEND
? C’mon now…
Edit: Oh and before anyone tries to point out that WoW and PP are different genres, I disagree. They’re both RPGs clearly. One is an MMO-RPG and the other is a Tactics-RPG but the feel of the game is similar enough. Do things, win, gain lvls and power, repeat. Only notable differences (for me) really beyond what you’re clicking on generally is that WoW gets more difficult over the course of the game and Phoenix Point doesn’t really.
Edit 2: Today instead of playing Phoenix Point I’d decided to give Original Xcom a shot again to just tease out what I remember vs. reality and frankly it’s exactly as I remember it. Two things to begin, the UI is so bad, especially the loadout screen and it runs so poorly on modern PCs… like Farcry on my old PC when it was first released bad. Other than suffering those things (and a few other issues like lack of descriptions and info + Skyranger’s inventory not being present in a surprise base defense), the game is far more interesting in combat I still think, and I was playing on Superhuman difficulty. First 3 missions I lost 3 soldiers, big woop, and going up against Heavy Plasma right away . Was capturing aliens on the 2nd downed craft with stun rods. Had my main base (named Phoenix Point, hehe) attacked at the beginning of the 2nd month, and lost 9/16 soldiers… also not a big deal. I love the way that game’s Promotion System works vs. this game’s RPG system. Hilariously bad accuracy all around, and Snapshots reign supreme … but one thing I didn’t know/remember… Reaction fire is amazing! Works multiple times on a turn compared to this game’s Overwatch which only fires once. Base defenses don’t suck because there’s 3 hangars to begin with and an Access Point (that you CAN’T destroy) that enemies enter from. 4 different locations and 3 different angles of attack… far superior of a game.