As the title says, after hours and hours of playing Phoenix Point in the end it just made me really want to play Xcom 2’s Long War 2 mod, and not more Phoenix Point. Now this isn’t a diss thread or a complaint thread, but I think that this observation is worth a look for the sake of Phoenix Point’s future- which is a game I’d like to see succeed eventually.
Notice that I’m not saying PP made me want to play Firaxis’s Xcom, it specifically made me want to play the Long War 2 mod because I find unmodded Xcom 2 or WOTC to be so vanilla and basic that I’d rather just play LW2. The question is, why?
Starting on the geoscape layer, one thing that I really like about PP is that it forces you to spread soldiers out amongst different bases so you can respond to events all over the world. Unfortunately other than keeping havens alive for trading and recruiting resources, I didn’t really feel a need to respond to invasions unless I wanted a resource payout. I am however a big fan of exploring the world one site at a time, and the random event system is something I love in this and other games that use the same mechanic- even if the rewards, or penalties, were more often than not underwhelming or repetitive. Although that’s indicative of a deeper flaw in the game I feel, I mean other than soldiers what can you really receive that’s worth your time and you can’t get any other way? More on this flaw later.
In LW2, exploration is basically non-existent and you respond to threats immediately. PP is more dynamic in this aspect. However where you take missions matters in LW2, as it encourages Advent to send forces there and increases the number and types of enemies you encounter if you continuously fight in the same region. You can manipulate Advent to take pressure off regions you’re trying to liberate, or you can concentrate their forces and go for convoy intercepts and region liberations that destroy Advent forces and drops their global power. In PP I never really got the sense that it mattered where I fought, though I guess destroying nests reduces the likelihood of Haven invasions?
Equipment and resource management is probably my favorite part of any strategy game, and here PP drops the ball in seriously headscratching ways. There is a single tier for all weapons and armor, with ‘sidegrades’ available from factions. When I first saw the character equipment screen I got excited, thinking yes! I’ve been dying for Xcom with random equipment drops I can throw on or just a variety of different types of weapons within the same tier to try out. While PP does offer variety within weapon tiers, it very unfortunately limits those tiers to just one. This is either because the game was rushed to market for unseen (to us) circumstances, or hints at a deeper flaw within the game’s development. In the latter case, I sadly don’t think we’ll ever see a fix for this, and don’t think we should expect one to be honest because instituting upgradeable equipment tiers will require a major rework of basically every system in the game. With a lack of things to invest my resources into due to no upgrade paths, I found myself sitting on resources more often than not- and missions to get more resources or to defend Havens became chores rather than fun play experiences. This is very, very bad.
LW2 far exceeds Xcom2 in this arena. It makes resource management critical, and literally every resource you get from supplies to crystals to alloys and even corpses is very important. With 5 weapon upgrades to invest in, and the game forcing you to have a very large pool of soldiers to be effective, the game always feels like it’s keeping you on edge as you struggle to field more and more capable squads. Getting a supply raid or a troop column intercept mission is ALWAYS exciting, and getting sectoid corpses when you desperately need them for tier 2 psionic focuses is always a victory. Unfortunately weapons are limited and have no variety- the assault rifle always does the same job at every tier, with some minimum modifications per weapon tiers that don’t make it worth it to hang on to older versions over the raw damage of newer versions. PP does a much better job at variety here.
However, seeing your squad’s grenadier finally put out some plasma grenades, or busting out a full squad of exo suits and having them stomp the bad guys makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. On the same note, being forced to defend an outpost or run a high-priority mission with un-upgraded equipment because you can’t afford it, or maybe because you could only afford to equip one or two squads who are already in the field, gives you a sense of tension that keeps you on your toes the entire mission. I never got either of these feelings in PP.
Classes is another disappointing arena for PP. Yes, you can customize the classes by having them pick up another class, but the three base class plus (realistically) 2 more classes from a faction makes me feel like I’m constantly playing the same squad over and over again. Then there’s the fact that within the classes there’s zero room for customization- each class does the exact same thing in the exact same way. Although, I really liked being able to invest experience points to boost things like speed, willpower, and hitpoints/carry weight. This was a great decision.
LW2 offers a great deal of classes and variety within those classes, and very much succeeds in this point. Each class has at least two viable builds, some even have three. This definitely doesn’t make me feel like I’m always playing the same squad over and over again.
Overall I realize it’s unfair to compare LW2 to PP because one has the benefit of the core game having been out for a long time, which is why I wasn’t trying to say one is better than the other, but just highlight the reasons why playing PP made me want to play LW2- with PP improvements like free aim- instead. These reasons hopefully point out areas for improvement within PP, though some changes like equipment tiers would require such a rework of the game that I’m not sure they are possible.
In the end, I just feel like I’m doing the same thing with the same squad over and over again in PP, and most of the things I do don’t really matter. Getting more resources is pointless when you really don’t have anything to spend them on, and when every soldier of the same class does the exact same thing in the exact same way, the game becomes a monotonous grind to the last mission. At this point I could finish the game if I really wanted to, but I honestly don’t find myself wanting to. Instead, I find myself wanting to go back to Long War 2 and hoping they’ve released LW2 for WOTC already.