Play or wait? Concerned about difficulty

I pre-ordered Phoenix Point as I was both disappointed by XCOM 2 and excited about a new UFO-style game by Julian Gollop. Since Phoenix Point’s release, I have been reading a lot about difficulty spikes and balance issues. How serious are those? Should I play now or wait for patches and expansions? What put me off XCOM 2 was the, in my view, excessive difficulty. I really enjoyed both X-COM and XCOM 1 a lot, but I could never get myself to finish a full XCOM 2 campaign. Is Phoenix Point more balanced, difficulty-wise, in its present state? Would appreciate any comments on this.

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Hi amphisbaena,
I say just go ahead and play on lower difficulty levels. Make sure to level up your soldiers fast with scavenging missions, ignoring most of the other stuff. The closer you get to level 7 soldiers the more the difficulty drops. Which IMO is the biggest problem right now.

It’s hard to tell. Depends mostly on your own experience. I like the game despite the problems I’ve faced (notwithstanding I’m starting to get a bit tired of it) but there are many gamers turned off by it’s current state (or some other issues). It could ruin your expectations, you know. But if you wait a few patches/updates more it would be only better, I guess.

I keep waiting for this “difficulty spike” but I haven’t seen it. Maybe I’m just a bad player and so the game never drops the hammer.

A lot of the issues with the game are that people are worrying about the game they want to be playing rather than playing the game they are.

My advice is don’t start the first game on Legendary then complain it’s too hard or skip the tutorial then complain the game doesn’t explain anything, and most important stop comparing the game to other xcoms. Let it be its own thing rather than constantly repeating “But in Xcom…” and you’ll certainly have a better time.

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I’d say hold off. Right now doing well on missions (taking no casualties, minor damage to any soldiers and fully completing objectives) punishes you with the difficulty spike. I’ve restarted more times than i can count due to the difficulty. Even going in on normal or easy going into a scavenging mission and saving all crates without a single reload can ramp up the difficulty. Gets worse if you reload a mission several times, as the Pandarens ramp up the difficulty in your next battle or two. I’ve had the 1st diplomatic mission for New Jericho (one of the 3 factions) start off with 3 sirens (mind controlling melee beasts who also sap your soldiers will, making them weaker to mind control…) a pair of Chirons (the Pandarens long range artillery that either spawn minor explosive units, do major explosive damage or create a goo to lock down large areas) then 6 or so of the basic guys with those. Of course in another game i had a single siren and just the basic guys, that time it was a cake walk like it should be. This isn’t a late game mission.

If i compared the difficulty of this to Xcom 2 i’d say a lot of this is like going into an early mission and finding yourself up against one of the rulers or chosen with a level 2-3 squad there. While it’s fun when the difficulty isn’t just overly spiked it can also get a bit tedious when you find 4 sirens, 1 Scylla (one of the biggest aliens about, though more of a bullet sponge) and 12 or so basic guys on the map in turn one, like my most recent haven defense. While it’s doable, that was an exausting battle for both me and my troops… and in the end the game froze up when i had knocked the biggest chunk of the enemies off the map and had the rest in panic. I’m not looking forward to replaying this battle later, but i do need to save this haven as it is one of my nearby recruitment centers… and losing those further ramps up the difficulty.

As mentioned the game follows a strange difficulty algorithm that penalizes you for doing well in missions until the point where you hit a brick wall.

With that said there is a meta game that once you discovered it (or read about it if you prefer) makes the game trivial.

Up to now in the game I am playing it has been standard progression. The mission I have just been on I would say was impossible to win. I had sirens, a worm crab, a glue crab plus a assorted army of bullet sponges. The mission before this one was fairly easy.
I’ve become another victim of this difficulty spike.

answer: WAIT

I think I will wait for patches and expansions then. I really hope that Phoenix Point will live up to its potential; I am still excited about it.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to similar games to play in the meantime? I am thinking about returning to XCOM, but I have played it so much already that it has begun to feel slightly stale. I really dislike XCOM 2, and I never got into Battletech either. I wonder whether Phantom Doctrine might be worth a try. Any other suggestions?

Phantom Doctrine was fairly decent… though at some point i put it down after it came out and forgot all about it. You might look at Rebel Cops on steam… it’s a turn based game where you can set up your squad with gear and unlock skills as they progress. Also being able to arrest guys rather than just murder everyone was a nice change.

There is also the UFO series- Aftermath, Afterlife and Aftershock. They are fairly decent xcom like games with lots of skills and gear to play with. I forget which one came first, second and third, but the second of the series is what i always saw referred to as the best, though i preferred the third. They are more of real time unit with tactical pause… Kind of a mix of grid based combat with real time going on, though lots of auto pause options to slow the pace.

There is also UFO Extraterrestrials, though it’s from a different company, it’s more or less the same as the other UFO series or Xcoms. I actually found this game while trying to find info on the upcoming sequel to this game, then completely forgot about that sequel after buying this.

You might also like Forged of Blood on steam, if you can picture a smaller scale world to conquer using more medieval mixed with fantasy stuff (bit of magic here and there and some fantasy races) with real time global map and turn based battles. I really enjoyed my time with this game, and strongly suggest going with high magic starting options if you do give it a go.

IMO current version with and without patches is unfriendly for weak PCs and there is no problem for Top PC.

Just play and try out. If it is to hard you can wait. For me the game is a Lot of fun. There are some Bugs and also some difficult Spikes but nothing you cant handle with

Phantom Doctrine stealth gameplay is at best average, and doesn’t sustain campaign length (story is amazing, I mean missions). Phantom Doctrine combats gameplay is plain great, but it’s very artificial to make a full campaign with mainly combats. No magic skills :stuck_out_tongue: pure shooting, no RNG but it works great and it doesn’t feel like a chess game.

Other suggestions shooters based, I include more indie games:

  • Battletech, a bit different as it’s big robots, very unique rules coming from the IP, but great combats and great roster building.
  • Ultimate Space Commando, very indie but great, caution can be rough, no “magic” skills here.
  • Templar Battleforce, excellent, a little bit influenced by Space Hulk on story point of view, but great combats on its own.
  • Pathways, very very special, focusing of short quick paced combats, and more on the lite side. But still and excellent depth and a lot of fun.
  • Warhammer Mechanicus, rather special, very good fun.
  • Steam Marines, just a lite Roguelite, but with party and very interesting combats with Space Hulk influences.
  • Vigilantes, but I think the campaign management doesn’t work very well, and a tip, don’t check long campaign option. Still combats shooting is pretty good, and no “magic” skills.
  • Jagged Alliance 1, yes the first not the 2. Obviously the origins of JA2, but very good on its own, and more fluid gameplay.
  • Xenaunots, deliberate strong influences of original xcom, interesting combats even if as a whole I failed play a campaign, need try again, but felt it worth a highlight.
  • Wasteland 2, a RPG, but great combats, at least if you don’t abuse of static long range shooting. One of the few shooter combats exploiting really heights and 3D (Silent Storm, XCOM1&2, PP, I don’t see much more, well JA2 a bit but with iso it’s a bit basic heights gameplay, original xcoms are more evolved on that aspect, but it’s limited from what I saw).

On the non shooting side, a quick list, no comment, combats point of view: The Storm Guard Darkness is Coming, Fell Seal Arbiter’s Mark, Super Dungeon Tactics, Might & Magic X, Massive Chalice, Blackguards 1&2, Battle Chasers Nightwar, Divinity Original Sin 1&2, Darkest Dungeon, Shadowrun Dragonfall.

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One of my Favorite games is X-com 3 Apokalypse. Played the whole campaign. Lots of fun…

My quick opinion too, I will add many UI weirdness and bugs or glitches, but worth go over it.

If it is too hard (and it can be even at Easy), try manipulate the auto scaling, start by favoring a lot explorations, spread your combats.

Perhaps I should try this one, I started many times original xcom and never achieved stick in for long. Is it playable with OpenXcom? Probably not.

EDIT:
I’ll add that it’s perhaps the time to play PP right now, because later it could become a different PP. The current gameplay is lacking of many tuning, but on another side, it can be a lot of fun anyway, and it is open to a lot of experimentation. The tuning and polishing could change deeply some of those aspects, I have seen that already.

If you don’t mind being a beta tester, play. If you do mind, wait. The game is already great fun, BUT not everyone one will enjoy the idea of playing full price for something not yet ready.

Wait until the first DLC is available.

@Zzzz already mentioned a lot of good games and I would add these:
Xenonauts 2 Early Access
Mutant Year Zero
Commandos 2 HD Remaster, Release 24.01.2020

Phantom Doctrine is abandoned and there won’t be any patches anymore but I enjoyed it.

As someone who really likes this game, I’d say wait, based on what you’ve said.

I love XCOM 2, but after the early stages I find it too easy so I switched to LW2. That said, I could never survive the early stages of XCOM on anything but Normal Difficulty. So I would start on Normal and ramp up the Difficulty a level every time I triggered a Story Mission.

I find PP really hard but really rewarding. I haven’t encountered the kind of difficulty spike that others have complained of, I think in part because I take my losses when they come and I don’t Restart or Save Scum. But you have to be prepared for losses, and you have to be able to judge when a Mission is simply too much for you and bug your team out.

There are all kinds of unbalanced Skill combos that can turn the game into a fairly easy cheesefest if you use them right now, but to my mind that’s like using the Laser Guy cheat in Age of Empires - what’s the point?

So my advice is wait until it comes out on Steam. By then, us Beta Testers will have fed back to the devs and with luck the game will be what it was always meant to be. Just don’t ever expect it to be easy :wink:

Would suggest to wait for at least one patch addressing the dynamic difficulty scaling or balance overall

If you play a couple of flawless missions, the game drops the hammer on you as mentioned above which forces save-scumming, avoidance of these missions, feeding in casualties to the algorithm or a step-by-step grind getting through these missions that might spoil your experience with the overall campaign.

The last patch already addressed some balancing issues, so the next one might contain some as well and do away with the wall

Tricky question, personally, I would wait. I shelved PP when I started my third play through due to balance issues and exploits needed to complete the game.

I can’t wait to play it properly though