Phantom Doctrine

A friend of mine just forwarded me this:

The game is called Phantom Doctrine and it positions itself as a “spy vs spy tactical combat game”. In other words, Xcom with ruskies instead of aliens. =) Seems quite promising, if you ask me.

What do you guys think?

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Watched a few let’s play in the background, will probably give it a go. My only worry is that I only watched the tactical gameplay and I don’t know how the strategic layer looks.

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Following it on twitter mostly, same devs as Hard West, so in theory the game could be good, what they “promise” for the game seems cool, but I will wait for reviews, I’m not yet sure how much replay value will be in the strategic-level (if the tactical layer is fun, I may still purchase it though, turn-based x-com-like game etc.).

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First impressions

I haven’t played it much yet but the tactical layer has some interesting features.

Much like Hard West’s Luck, Doctrine’s “awareness” stat works as a resource that powers your skill AND reduces incoming damage, forcing you to manage it carefully. gunfire out of cover and without awareness is very lethal.

Overwatch requires you to define a point of focus. If it’s close enough (roughly within a room), you get 360 degrees covered, but if you overwatch futher, then you cover a cone shaped area.

You can “breach” into rooms, sending 2 soldiers (maybe more) guns blazing into the room and getting multiple shots against unprepared enemies. Haven’t fully explored the potential of this.

Stealth gameplay is present at the core, allowing you to disguise your guys, perform silent takedown, hide bodies or use suppressed fire. Promising.

I don’t know if the strategic layer is very good or gimmicky. You seem to be able to send agents on missions across the world, the spy game feels out of a novel and the plot feels very convoluted (perhaps too much, not sure yet). Filtering through stolent documents to find keywords and pin clues on the investigation board, link them with pins and string feels very satisfying at first. Not sure how thrilling it will be after 50 times though.

One thing to bear in mind though, Ironman’s autosave feature seems fucked, and I had a crash on the strategic layer, forcing me to replay my last tactical mission entirely. Maybe just bad luck, but certainly annoying.

Considering it was easy to get the game at a discount under 30 bucks, I’m happy so far.


It’s closer to Invisible Inc. not XCOM.

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I don’t think the comparison is fair. Thematically, may be. But mechanically, Invisible Inc. was in many ways closer to a puzzle game rather than a tactical game. Not to mention there was no strategic layer to speak of.

By the way, ACG released a nice Phantom Doctrine first impression video recently. Check it out, guys:

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And the XCOM comparison is fair?
Right…well that is like your opinion.

Invisible Inc. :

  1. Camera Consoles? Check.
  2. Laser Detector Console? Check.
  3. Guards Patrol? Check.
  4. Seeing Guards Patrol Routes\Dynamic Patrol Routines? Check.
  5. Alarm System = Reinforcements? Check.
  6. Deterministic Combat System? Check.
  7. Closing\Opening doors to play with the LOS to your advantage? Check.
  8. Silent Take Downs? Check.
  9. Stealth and Espionage Theme? Check.
  10. Cleanup Crews Cost Money For Messy Missions? Check.
    You can’t send them to reduce “Heat” on your agents, but it is a flat penalty if you kill too many people.
  11. Getting your agents captured and being able to rescue them? Check.

There are more similarities that you can count if you played both games.
Now compare it to XCOM:

  1. Turn Based Strategy Game? Check.
  2. Base Management? Check.
  3. Combat is RNG based.

Give me good points to compare how “similar” it is to XCOM? Or maybe you mean OG XCOM?

Whatever it is, it isn’t as close to XCOM as it is to Invis.Inc.
Well that is like, my opinion. Though i back it up with experience in all of these games, thoroughly playing through them and learning the mechanics and how to distinguish between them.
Not just yelling “If you like XCOM, you will like this” Steam reviews.

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Beside, Tetris all video game industry is made by capitalists, so once again, would love to see a game (after ganja farmer for DOS) wjere do you shoot e.g. invading US/NATO troops (that do most of warfare in modern history).

Beside that point of “keeping the old enemies” (glad Yugoslav wars were short, so there were few titles with Serbs as bad guys) its always good to have more games that use turn based XCom influenced mechanics and add new complexity over it. Even quite straightforward clone Sabre Team AGA was much appriciated back in 90s.

Haven’t played the PD yet but it seems you can choose to play as CIA or KGB with each having it’s own campaign so PD devs got both sides of the Cold War are covered.

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There were similar situations with many genres. Some games like C&C allowed the “other side”, but I always wondered why e.g. having WWII games with no option to play as Axis. Even masterminds behind were bad, the people on field were soldiers, too.

To get some relation to PP, if multiplayer was implemented, I would expect to play as “alien side”.

I bought and started to play. The more I play it the more I like. There are some neat things I think Phoenix Point could adopt that stand out.

  1. You can “research” order support units that are not visible on map but provide usage based support
    For Phoenix Point it could use similar.
    a. Spotter (upgrades can be glass/optics, drones, satellite etc)
    b. Smoke artillery
    c. Air Strikes?

The base management was ok. It feels a little empty since you can’t pan/zoom inspect etc. But you do research upgrades to your existing rooms.

I really like the agent/recon strategy layer so far. Probably a lot of potential synergies that could be deployed.

Could use better audio feedback, and a *pedia that can help with information.

Loved the stealth play

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Yeah, PD has a lot of interesting design decisions. I saw a good amount of LPs and reviews of it and so far the most intriguing thing they have is a no-RNG shooting. Having guns being effectively 100% accurate and using PD’s mana equivalent to redice damage is very unusual way of handling combat, leading to tense battles. It also gives player control over not only agents’ chance-to-kill(you get more damage if you invest more mana into the headshot), which is comparable to snap/aimed shot mechanic in XCom, but also a lot of control over damage evasion. If you save agane’s mana till the end of the turn, it will be used to reduce incoming damage(I think you can even evade a shot completely inh some situations). So now there’s a tactical shoice to be made: use mana for actions during your turn to actively incapacitate your enemy or save the mana to avoid incoming damage during enemy’s turn.

While more mainstream games usually avoid focusing on the “other sides” of the conflicts(I imagine out of fear of causing a controversy), there still is a good number of games which are not shying away from giving some time in the lime light to factions which are often identified as “bad guys”.

Company of Heroes games for instance, have pretty much all the major participants of WWII available to players. On top of that, many wargames like Hearts of Iron allow you to play pretty much any country during WWII period.

When it comes to FPSs, Red Orchestra immediately comes to mind. Original games has Axis vs Allies theme with both sides freely playable while its successor, Rising Storm gives players a taste of Vietnam war, similarly providing access to both sides of the conflict. As for the more modern warfare, Insurgency portraits an unspecified Middle Eastern conflict with local militants pitted against the US army.

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Hearts of Iron pops to my mind, and Paradox games in general, that let you play any faction in historical games that span from 769 AD to 1947. You get to play a few rulers that would be considered tyrants in history book if you want.

Back to Doctrine, that I’ve been playing a bit over the weekend.

Still like it, but the game suffers from a few flaws that can real hurt one’s enjoyment.

On the tactical combat layer, we have an unpleasant combo :

LoS issues :

  • LoS uses a sidestep mechanic like FiraXcom, but while FiraXcom sidestep only applies for units in covers, Doctrine’s units project a 3*3 hitbox at all times.
  • Shooting angles through windows and doors are calculated as if walls had no thickness, meaning you can shoot almost parrallel through a wall and still go through a window to hit something
  • These two things create unrealistic and hard to judge lines of sight, but there is no way to preview if you will have LoS on a target without actually moving somewhere. Since the game uses a 2 moves per turn system you don’t really want to waste a move doing so.

Combined with omniscient AI not bound by the same rules as the player :

  • It always knows where your entire team is. In a game where maps are cramped with small rooms and corridors, it can be frustrating to the extreme and bloody obvious after a few turns!
  • It doesn’t seem to be bound by range rules, as it can use weapons to shoot you across the maps but when your units try to use them you get told you’re out of range
  • It doesn’t seem to suffer from the same restrictions regarding use of movement/action points as it can do a double move and use LMGs in full auto while your troops can only do so after a simple move

On a few scripted missions where firefights are intense, it can be infuriating, but one the bright side, many of these issues can be patched, some may even have been since I experienced them. Devs have also acknowledged LoS issues and are working on it.

While the infiltration mode is not as infuriating, it feels rushed and simplistic. It only relies on not crossing the enemies’ LoS unless disguised, your units will happily jump through windows and glass walls without anybody batting an eye. You can litterally leave a restricted area by jumping through a window in front of a police guard and he won’t react. After all, he never saw you in the restricted area, he only saw you smashing a window to leave it :smiley:

On the other hands, your agents are careful not to run and attract attention when there are any witnesses, which is only a cosmetic thing since everything is turn based, but it leaves me with the feeling that time pressure led to cut content as there was room for all these mechanisms that are conspicuously absent.

The strategic layer feels ok, with the exception of agents able to teleport on tactical mission, which is odd considering carefully manging flight time and map coverage with your teams is a key element. Once again, this feels like a late design “choice” made to fix something.

However, bear in mind that despite all these flawsl I still find the game quite enjoyable and it will be even more so after a few patches!


Thank you for the information, @Vathar! A lot of useful facts about the current state of PD.

Yeah, I had the same concerns as well. In a game where every attack is very likely to be lethal or being detected to be detrimental to mission success, having such fiddly LoS mechanics is unacceptable. Let’s hope this will be patched up.

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There is a “LoS-patch” on the beta-branch on steam, maybe someone who owns the game there can try what the devs think is a step in the right direction for the issue. (Backing up your saves was advised for that afaik.)

I think I’ll wait until a sale to buy the game, I have “enough” others to play right now ^^