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Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition Review (PS4)

Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition Review: Gollop Returns on Glorious Form

 

Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition Review PS4

As you would expect from a turn-based strategy game with Julian Gollop’s name attached to it, Phoenix Point is tough as nails, but also provides plenty of thrills and even manages to innovate upon the tried and tested formula he established years ago. Having released initially on PC back in 2019, console players now have the chance to jump into Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition (which I’ll just refer to as “Phoenix Point”), with the added benefit of balance tweaks and all the additional content added since the initial PC release.

 

Phenomenal Worldbuilding

 

Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition Review

Set against the backdrop of post-apocalyptic earth, the world as we know it has been reduced to ruins by the “Pandoravirus,” an illness that genetically alters and mutates living beings. Phoenix Point’s world is immediately intriguing. The world-building is phenomenal, and to be honest, far in advance of other examples of the genre.

As intriguing as it is to dig deeper into the Pandoravirus and unravel the mystery behind it, it’s the factions that really bring the narrative flavor to Phoenix Point and elevate the world-building. New Jericho, Synedrion, and the Disciples of Anu all control pockets of humanity dotted around the globe, referred to here as “havens.” New Jericho wants to militarize the remainder of humanity, as they see it as the only way to push back against the mutated forces that have humanity on the brink of extinction. Synderion, on the other hand, think humans and the alien threat can both thrive using technology to keep both species separate.

The most interesting faction by far, however, is the Disciples of Anu. This cult-like organization thinks human evolution has stagnated and almost views the Pandoravirus as a blessing that can aid in furthering human evolution. The dynamics between the three factions and their conflicting ideals not only bring the world to life but also have dramatic implications on how your time with Phoenix Point plays out.

Factions profoundly impact both the narrative and the gameplay. The Phoenix Point organization who the player finds themselves in control of, can choose to align themselves with any of the groups. As players explore the Geoscape, they’ll meet these groups, either via finding their havens through exploring nodes on the map or via choose your own adventure style sections that you’ll encounter at various intervals.

 

Diplomatic Disasters

 

Phoenix Point

Depending on how you interact with these havens, and the conversation choices you make, your reputation with each faction will increase or decrease accordingly. Increase your favor with a faction, and you’ll receive benefits such as instantly revealing their havens whilst traveling the Geoscape.

This, in turn, gives you access to resource trading opportunities with these bases and the chance to recruit their personnel for your own Phoenix Point army. Raise that reputation even further, and you will gain access to the applicable faction’s research trees, your main source of new tech in Phoenix Point, along with the opportunity to use their bespoke character classes and vehicle blueprints.

Reputation can also be earned or lost by choosing to defend or ignore requests to support the various faction havens during an alien assault, and what you will soon learn, is that none of these guys like each other very much. In my experience, it’s pretty much impossible to please all three groups due to how much they despise each other.

In my first campaign, I decided to side with New Jericho for access to their bespoke technician class. I aided them in battles, adopted their militaristic tone during conversations, and generally avoided doing anything that would gain me favor with their two rivals.

The problem with this was, siding so firmly with one faction, meant relations between Phoenix Point, Synderion, and the Disciples of Anu plummeted. This brought about further problems, as I really wanted to outfit my army with a fleet of the Synderion specific Helios craft, which are perfect vehicles for zipping around the Geoscape in defense of various havens. Given how bad relations were, I had no access to the Synderion research tree. This left me with no option but to begin a crusade of raiding Synderion bases and stealing their aircraft, in turn decimating our relations even further.

In another playthrough, I decided to align with the Disciples of Anu to gain access to their powerful mind-controlling Priest class. Doing so meant ignoring the needs and pleas for help from elsewhere, leaving me short of resources and tech that I’d have received as a reward for assisting the other factions. This shortage in resources resulted in a struggle to outfit any new recruits with weapons and armor, and I was left questioning whether I had made the right alliances.

It’s a system of amazing depth and consequence. You’ll constantly be faced with agonizing decisions, each of which will have a ripple effect. It turns Phoenix Point into a game that isn’t just tactical in terms of its combat, but also one which has you strategizing off the battlefield as well as on. The choices you make and the factions you align with will largely dictate your experience in battle. Ultimately, the ending you get upon completing the campaign – assuming the human race hasn’t become extinct before you reach that point!

 

Innovations On The Battlefield

 

Phoenix Point

As much of a revelation as Phonenix Point’s faction system is, it would all be worthless if the tactical turn-based combat wasn’t up to scratch. I’m happy to report that whilst familiar, it isn’t short of innovation.

Perhaps the biggest innovation comes in the way in which firing weapons is handled. Ditching dice rolls, Phoenix Point provides the player with much more control over whether shots connect with an enemy. Landing bullets is almost entirely based on whether you can see your target through a unit’s crosshair. When firing, you can then opt to aim down sights, and upon doing so, you’ll be presented with two circles, one inside the other. 100% of your bullets are guaranteed to land inside the outer circle, with 50% of them guaranteed to land inside the inner circle.

It’s hugely refreshing when compared to the percentage-based dice rolls genre veterans will be used to. It also means you don’t have to be in cover to prevent yourself from getting hit. If you’re blocking line of sight, your opponents’ crosshairs are obscured, simple as that. This again opens the door to tactical maneuvers and strategies that just aren’t possible in competing titles.

Action points are also handled differently. Taking XCOM as a point of comparison, no matter how far you move, an entire action point will be used even if you only move a fraction of your unit’s potential movement distance. In Phoenix Point, if you only move a few tiles, you’ll only use a portion of an action point relative to the distance moved. What initially seems like a fairly small change, completely overhauls how you view the battlefield.

Do you want to move a few tiles, take a shot, and then dash back into cover? You can do that now, whereas, in something like XCOM, you generally must prioritize cover and then take your shot. It opens the door to entirely new plays, as action points aren’t consumed in the restrictive and linear fashion as seen in other genre mainstays.

I’m also happy to report that the balance issues which were widely reported seem to be a thing of the past. Is Phoenix Point tough? Absolutely. However, when I hit a wall, it was always due to something I could address through switching tactics, rather than cheap or overpowered AI.

 

Minor Gripes

 

Phoenix Point

 

Unfortunately, class diversity isn’t as exciting as the innovations Phoenix Point makes elsewhere. Classes largely fall into archetypes you will already be familiar with if you have dabbled with the genre, with assault, heavy, and sniper classes making up the bulk of your early game squads.

Variety is added via the alliances you forge as you gain access to bespoke faction classes (honestly, drop a full squad of leveled-up priests into a map to observe the pure carnage you can cause!), so this problem is less apparent in the mid-to late-game. Upon reaching level four with a class, you also gain the option to assign a secondary class, so those slightly generic classes can also be turned into something more unique should you so choose.

I also found the enemy variety to be slightly lacking, though again as you progress through the story and reach the tough as nails boss encounters, this becomes less of an issue. Also, mitigating the lack of variety in the general grunts is the dynamic difficulty system at play. Enemies will adapt to your playstyle between missions, which resulted in more than a few “oh crap” moments. I challenge you not to panic when you drop in and realize that enemies who you took out from range a few missions ago, have since evolved and brought their own ranged weapons!

Other minor gripes include slight performance issues and framerate drops, and awkward pauses that would sometimes occur between turns. Honestly, though, with the combat being as exhilarating as it is, and as absorbing as the faction system is outside of combat, it feels like nit-picking to even bring these up, so minimal is their overall impact on the experience. Rather than think about bugs, I can’t wait to start the whole thing over again, delving into the multitude of DLC’s that are sure to keep me busy for another 30-40 hours.

 

Conclusion

 

Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition is a fantastic turn-based strategy game. Its unrivaled world-building and innovative combat make this a must-play for fans of the genre. If you can overcome the lack of variety in the early game, then be prepared to lose hours upon hours as you race to save humanity from complete obliteration.


Final Verdict: 4.5/5

Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 5 (via Backwards Compatability), Xbox One, Xbox Series X (via Backwards Compatability); Publisher: Snapshot Games Inc; Developer: Saber Minsk; Players: 1; Released October 1, 2021;

Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Phoenix Point: Behemoth Edition provided by the publisher.

Shane Boyle
Shane's passion for gaming began many moons ago upon receiving his first console, Sega's Master System. These days, he games across a variety of systems, though he primarily sticks to his PlayStation 5 and Series X. Despite enjoying a wide variety of genres, he has a huge soft spot for RPGs, both Western and Japanese, whilst also being a self-professed Destiny 2 addict. Outside of gaming, Shane enjoys live music (as long as it's rock or metal!) and going to stand-up comedy shows, and is also Father to a little boy who he hopes will one day be raiding alongside him in Destiny!

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