Phoenix point: some helpful hints for xcom players

Welcome to Phoenix Point (PP). If you’ve just joined thru Steam, odds are that you are a fan of Firaxis XCOM and are trying this out because it’s billed as ‘The spiritual successor to XCOM’ by the man who invented the genre. While that’s true, there are some significant differences in the way that PP plays compared to XCOM which can (and do) trap the unwary. Which is what this guide is all about.

This is not a comprehensive guide. If you want that, I highly recommend you go to the excellent Phoenix Point Wiki Guide which will tell you everything that you need to know in great detail. This guide is more a list of the key mistakes that will trip you up if you try to play this game the same way that you approach XCOM.

And on that note…


The learning curve for new players on PP is steep, and if you start your first game on Legendary you have no room for errors (which you ARE going to make). So I strongly recommend that you try your first game on Veteran.

This will start out fairly easy, but as Pandoran Evolution kicks in and the game develops, you will find the mid-game a serious challenge until your squad gains the high-level skills that can make the endgame a bit of a cakewalk – if you’ve figured out how to use them properly, that is.

If your macho pride simply can’t cope with the idea of being a mere Veteran, then try starting on Heroic, but don’t say I didn’t warn you :wink:


PP uses an Action Point (AP) system, where nominally each Squaddie has 4 APs to play with.
In fact, it’s much more granular than that. For instance, in PP, you can expend 1.25 APs on Moving, fire your weapon for 2APs, then continue to spend your remaining 0.75 of an AP Moving some more.

When your Squaddies start getting skills that give them back APs in various ways, they can add these to their Actions, enabling them to Move/Fire, Move/Fire, Move almost ad infinitum if you time it right.

But the important thing to remember is that Firing your weapon doesn’t end your turn, and that opens up a whole host of tactical possibilities that simply weren’t available to you in XCOM.

And talking of tactics…


A BIG mistake that XCOM players make is assuming that if they are hiding behind a wall or a tree, they are almost fully protected. That is simply not the case. It’s a tiny distinction that really catches out XCOM players the first time they come to this game.

Atmo, the game uses the same Cover Icons as XCOM (which is only fair since Julian Gollop coined them for the original X-com). However, a full Shield Icon simply means that the cover obstacle is higher than your head, NOT that it will give you 90% Cover.

Because of the way PP’s ballistic system works, Cover in PP is simply an obstacle along the trajectory of the bullet. If the bullet’s trajectory doesn’t cross that obstacle, the Cover gives you no protection at all.

In practical terms, this means that Low Cover (Half Shield) will protect your legs and lower torso, but leaves your head, chest and arms completely exposed. High Cover (Full Shield) can block everything up to your full height, but only if the shooter is within the front 30 degree arc of the cover! This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule (see Mad Skunky’s note below), but anything flanking you by more than around 30 degrees can see round your cover and can shoot at you freely. In addition, since there is no Hunker Down facility currently in PP, any part of your body that is sticking out from behind that cover is fair game.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that once you’ve got a handle on how cover works in this game, you can make it work to your advantage.

For instance, if you’re standing one tile back from the corner of a building, nothing can see you and you are in completely Full Cover. When it’s your turn, you can use the AP system to simply step up to the corner of the building, take a shot, then step back into Full Cover again.

Also, because Cover obstacles block bullet trajectories, you don’t have to completely hug a Cover obstacle to get cover from it. All you have to do is make sure that it is positioned between you and the Shooter and that you are close enough to the obstacle for it to block the shot.

Which brings me on to…


A common complaint from new players is that PP’s LoS aids often don’t give them a clear shot.
This is because the aid is triggered by sightlines, not firing lanes. The aid will trigger even if only the little toe of the target is sticking out from the undergrowth, because as far as it’s concerned, you can see that little toe, therefore you can see the target.

But just because you can see the target doesn’t mean you can see enough of it to shoot at (unless you’re a badass Marksman who can shoot off a little toe from 10 miles away).

@jrhebert also posted this advice in another strand: The other clue is that body parts don’t highlight in free aim if the target is actually concealed by a scenery hitbox. If you move the target around in free aim, you can determine the actual size of the interfering hitbox.

My advice? Be cautious. Don’t rush out in the open to blast the target unless you are absolutely certain that you are going to see enough of it to get a clear shot.

And that brings me on to…

  1. WHEN IS A 100% SHOT NOT A 100% SHOT?

One key difference between PP and XCOM is its firing mechanics. PP uses a ballistic system, where it calculates the trajectory of each bullet from a burst, which randomly traces a straight line through a circle in the target area. The size of that circle is based on how accurate the gun & shooter are.

This means that if you press ‘Free Aim’ on the firing menu of the Tactical Display, you can pull up that circle, known as the Targeting Reticle, and target specific locations (Head, Torso, Arms & Legs) of the target. There is a 100% chance that every bullet in the burst will pass within the outer circle of the Targeting Reticle and a 50% chance that each individual shot will fall somewhere in the inner circle.


This is a ballistic system, and as the bullet is passing through the air, the animation of the target keeps moving ever so slightly, to mimic the fact that you are shooting at a moving target. So it is possible that even if the reticle is completely covering the target when you pull the trigger, the shot’s trajectory will pass through the outer edge of the circle at a point where the animation has moved to create a gap. When you are shooting at a target with lots of dangly bits, or which is holding a weapon, it is equally possible that the shot will pass through the gaps between those dangly bits or under its armpits.

So even if it looks like you have a 100% chance to hit, you will miss on occasion. It’s not as bad as the old 99% chances missing 9 times out of every 10 in XCOM, but it is just as frustrating.

It is also worth noting that the algorithm that does this tends to cluster most shots around the outer edge of the inner circle, so if you place the centre of the Targeting Reticle on a target’s head, with the inner ring surrounding its head like a halo, you actually have less chance of hitting the head than if you aim at its chest with a portion of the inner ring intersecting its head. Don’t ask me why – it’s just the way the system works.

And talking of how things work…


Unlike XCOM, where your Overwatching Squaddie will fire at the first thing that moves in its line of sight, PP has an OW Cone which you can direct to fire at only the area that concerns you, ignoring anything outside that cone - but it has its foibles which can drive some people mad.

It’s all to do with those pesky shooting animations again. When OW triggers, the shooter goes into an animation that shows them taking aim and firing. If you’re not careful, in the split second between the animation triggering and the shot going off, the target can move behind an obstacle and the shot hits the obstacle rather than the target. Also, OW is triggered by LoS & Perception, so if your Squaddie spots something moving behind an obstacle, the old ‘LoS isn’t Line of Shot’ rule can kick in and you shoot the obstacle rather than the target behind it.

There are a couple of simple ways to minimise the risk of this happening. If you’re trying to stop a Nasty from getting to you, the simplest thing to do is adjust the length of the cone so that it stops in front of any big obstacles along the route. That way, OW will only trigger once the Nasty has gone round that pesky obstacle, rather than sheltering behind it.

Sometimes, however, you will want to take a long-range shot against something like an approaching Siren, but you don’t want to waste your OW on the lesser Crabbies around her. In that case, you can narrow the cone (on my laptop I pinch-in the trackpad, I think you use the mousewheel on a PC), creating a long, thin avenue about the width of the target which will only trigger if that specific target moves. Of course, you can’t prevent another Nasty from crossing in front of the target and triggering the OW shot, but if you’re lucky the ballistic rules can work to your advantage here, with shots from the burst of an auto-weapon missing the triggerer and continuing along their trajectory to your target – though tbh that is extremely rare.

And be aware…


MG-toting Arthrons and Human Assaults have the Return Fire ability, which means that they will fire back at you if you shoot at them within approx. half their Perception Range. Frankly, this is nowhere near as powerful as it used to be before it was nerfed (stupidly in my opinion, but don’t get me started), but it is something you should be aware of, especially when the Arthron Gunners start evolving truly badass weapons.

Because of this, my advice to new players is to delay attempting the first New Jericho Mission: ‘The Dreamers Awaken’ until you have some experience of how the game works, since the RF’ing enemy can pose a bit of a challenge to inexperienced players.

And because of this, there is one other thing you should know:


It’s a very annoying foible of PP that when firing from behind High Cover, a Squaddie will take a step out into the open, fire, then wait until any RF’ing enemy who’s survived takes a pot-shot back at them. So shooting from High Cover is fairly useless if you are expecting it to give you some shelter. Shooting from Low Cover is generally ok, in that it will give you the kind of coverage that Low Cover always gives you, but shooting from High Cover is essentially the same as shooting from no cover at all where Return Fire is concerned.

And finally…


DLC 3: The Legacy of the Ancients is hard, especially for inexperienced players. There is a temptation to launch straight into it the minute you trigger its first mission. My advice is: don’t.
Wait until you’re Aligned on 50 Dip with a couple of the Factions, and your A-Team is at Lvl7 and fully kitted-up before you even start attempting it.

LoTA’s Ancient Sites are the hardest and most deadly missions in the game, and the risk:reward ratio is such a punishing drain on resources (and manpower) that until you have a good, strong infrastructure and a way of replacing losses quickly, it’s a sure-fire way of dying a death of a thousand cuts. So I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole until the late game.

Also, the LoTA storyline only makes sense if you trigger it after you’ve discovered what Symes’ Grandfather uncovered, so for both narrative and practical reasons, I would urge you to wait.


Since most research gains in PP are incremental and weapons advancement is more dependent on Diplomacy than Research, there is a temptation for new players to use their scarce resources on things other than Labs.

Then you get to the Endgame and discover that the Research hoops you have to jump through are tediously endless if you haven’t invested in enough Labs earlier. So do bear in mind that you will need a good Research infrastructure to get through the endgame without constantly twiddling your thumbs, and invest accordingly.

That’s it. I hope this helps you to enjoy this game without making some of the classic mistakes I have seen so many XCOM players make.

I unashamedly love this game – it has effectively retired XCOM in its current iterations for me. But I can understand how frustrating it can be for seasoned XCOM players when they first encounter it, because so many of the things you take for granted in XCOM simply don’t work the same way here – and if you’re not careful, those differences can get you killed.


Nice wall of text, really very nice :+1:

One little suggestion:

This sounds as the 30° would be an fixed angle, but that isn’t the case. It hardly depends on the cover in front of the soldier, i.e. trees provides the lowest angles, rocks have wider and solid walls have almost the largest angles to provide protection.
Also it reads as the protection is somewhat ON or OFF, what is also not the case. Instead it starts from almost 100% (in the above mentioned angles) and goes approximately linear down to 0% dependant to the angle the shooter has to your soldier. So there are steps in between with partially covered body parts where you have a fair chance to not get hit, again dependant on the angle of the shooter.

In addition to that:

If you wish you can also include the screenshots that I made for another thread to show the behaviour when a soldier is behind a ‘high cover’ rock (there are also some useful hints in the whole thread, but unfortunately also a lot of offending and arguing):
A sincere apology for my last thread



Was it your intention to include this link?
Phoenix Point Wiki Guide


Yes, that’s the one. I wasn’t sure whether it was public knowledge yet.
Thanks @Ementrude

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It’s genius to have done that (because i like this game more and more * i come from Xcom 1 and 2 * and i want it continues to be upgraded and developped!), so, for here, snaphot forum, it’s great, but you should post the same thing on the steam forum of phoenix point, too! :wink:


Thanks, but I think the post would be too long for the Steam forum boxes, wouldn’t it?
I might be able to post a link to this there

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You can make special pages at steam and share that. People use that fr tutorials… I don’t know how.

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Hmm… Do you mean the Guides? I’ll look into that, thanks.

Just a heads up, the Mentaculus is still a work in progress.

Hopefully, I will finish it before the Steam release :wink:

Can I borrow you three screenshots from the ‘acrimonious thread’ for the Mentaculus (with due credit, of course :slightly_smiling_face:)? I want to stick somewhere here

BTW, while I’m here… Have you by any chance figured out the formula for how Encumbrance reduces movement, and how paralyze damage reduces APs? :wink:

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Yea, that’s why I haven’t posted a link in the body of the text yet.
Let me know when I can.

And why is it called the ‘Mentaculus’ btw?

Yea, you can take them of course! Definitely! :slight_smile:
Then maybe they live for longer (I personally don’t have the originals because of a complete reset of my notebook). :slight_smile:

Not for sure, because I almost don’t go over encumbrance.
Paralysing reducing AP also the same, I’m not sure, but I think it is is somewhat linear, so 1/4 paralysed reduces 1 AP, 1/2 reduces 2 AP and so on.

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They are somewhat linear, but try as I might I can’t get the exact formula. What I see with paralyze damage is that max strength - 1 = 0 AP, but max strength - 2 (at least in some case) = 1 AP, even when 4 * strength-paralysis/strength < 0.5.

In the case of paralysis it’s somewhat important, because, e.g. with Chirons you want to paralyze them until they have 2APs, but suppose you can’t apply paralysis that equals 1/2 it’s strength, but a little less. How much less can it be and still be enough?

yeah, that explanation is one of the things missing atmo :slight_smile:

for now you have to accept the mystery :wink:

Fair enough, but brilliant stuff anyway and I think most players are grateful for what there is. I assume that you like perfection. As far as I had noticed, it appears to be a complete reference guide about Phoenix Point. I had also noticed recently that Google is referencing it if you search for certain questions about Phoenix Point. I was pleasantly surprised to see the site come up. So well done and keep going.

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Looks nice :+1:

You make a big nice thing there, very, really very impressive and I can only thank you for all the hours you spend to work on this gem to the Phoenix Point community.

Really nice. Just a thought that crossed my mind recently to add to the explanation of high and low cover as a standing and crouch stance is with wooden fences. They activate the stance, but there’s also a big gap still in the cover to be hit through. It demonstrates that it isn’t really cover, but activates the stance. It’s just a thought. Keep up the fantastic work.

face palm now you tell me…
sighs got a couple of days into this game of real playing time, I don’t get it, I can play Legendary Ironman XCOM ya I am insane, well aware and your right not many of those tactics work here.
Whole new game all together, the feeling is like XCOM, but so not the same game.
Thanks bud

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Welcome to all the new Steam players we hope will be joining us shortly.
I hope this guide helps you to enjoy the game.