(Expanded from the writeup of my Legend campaign here.)
The economy in the Cthullu patch for Phoenix Point really doesn’t work very well, and it’s dragging the game down.
The basic problem is that as the game progresses, costs go up, but income doesn’t. A Firebird rifle costs 7 tech/120 resources: a Gungnir rifle costs 68 tech/135 resources. The first Phoenix Base activation costs something like 100 resources; the tenth costs more like 1000. But your sources of income don’t go up to match – your first exploration site gives you about as many resources as every other, and your first Haven Defence gives you as many resources as your 20th.
This means you have to do more and more missions to afford the same amounts of stuff. This slows down any feeling of progression and makes the game feel very grindy as you’re doing the same missions over and over for 1/3 or 1/4 of the relative reward.
At the moment, the strategic game is mostly about economics. To win the game, you have to do two things:
a) Do research.
b) Keep the human population alive while you do research.
To do all this efficiently you have to build lots of Research Labs (expensive), get a second and preferably a third squad of soldiers (also expensive), equip your soldiers with good gear (even more expensive) and expand to lots of Phoenix Bases and put Satellite Uplinks in all of them (REALLY REALLY EXPENSIVE).
So you need lots and lots of money. Where are you going to get it from?
- Mission Rewards
- Food Production
Income sources 1, 2, and 3 don’t really scale. There are a few high-end missions and milestones that give you large rewards, but they’re all one-offs and you don’t have much control over when you’ll get them. In theory you’re supposed to get ‘Overgrown Scavenging Sites’ in the late game with high rewards, but I played a full campaign without ever seeing one and by the late game you’ve generally cleared out all the exploration sites on the map anyway.
Number 4, raiding, kind of scales in that with more soldiers you can do more raids. Trouble is, now you’re doing missions to get the resources to do missions. This adds to the grindyness problem in that you’re basically spamming the same mission over and over again.
Number 5, trading, is probably the most effective way to earn money in the mid-late game, but it’s REALLY REALLY BORING. You just have 1-3 aircraft with a single soldier each circling the globe trading with every haven one after another. The UI is utterly unhelpful as it doesn’t tell you which havens you’ve visited and doesn’t give you any way to automate any sort of trade route, so you have to mentally keep track of the route of each of your trading aircraft and go click-click-click as you do the same trade deal over and over again. I can’t tell if this is working as intended, but it isn’t very fun.
So that just leaves the only real passive income in the game, Food Production Facilities. To build one takes 200 resources and 40 tech. So the equivalent of around 400 resources. The facility provides 8 food per day and takes 3 days to build. Food trades for resources at about 1:1 not counting the profit margin, so assuming you’re turning the food into whatever else you need it takes 53 days for the facility to break even. Before 53 days, the facility is a net loss; after 53 days, it shows a profit.
I finished the final mission of my Legend campaign on around February 22. The campaign started on January 1st. That’s 53 days.
Did I mention that you can’t build them until you get access to Anu tech? So probably a good month into the game?
With the current numbers, Food Production Facilities are a trap. They are literally worse than useless – they pretend to be a way to produce food when they actually cost you more resources than they give back.
There’s a reason that most strategy games give you some sort of automatic income source that starts small but that you can build up to large amounts by the late game (e.g. the monthly funding that each country gives you in XCOM). Without it, things slow down to a crawl as you have to do 2-3 income generating missions to afford a set of high-end gear.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the income missions gave you scaling rewards (e.g. late-game scavenging missions that gave 20-30 resource packs with rare high-tech weapons mixed in the crates, but which had lots of high-end enemies guarding them). Trouble is, they don’t – each Haven Defence gives you the same amount of money, each Scavenging Mission gives you the same amount of resource packs, etc.
Another option would be for the factions to give you a daily income based on your relationship score with them, maybe slanted towards their specialty (tech for Synedrion, resources for NJ, food for Anu). As it is you get the odd gift at milestones, and one giant lump sum at 100%, but nothing the rest of the time.