Phoenix Point - What We Know So Far

Move over Fire Emblem: Three Houses: a new tactical turn-based RPG is on the horizon. Famed game designer Julian Gollop, who birthed the X-COM franchise back in 1994, has returned with a new take on the genre. Phoenix Point, the crowdfunded spiritual successor to X-COM, will finally land later this year. The game pits humans against a group of destructive aliens that threaten to exterminate humanity. The world as we know it is a remnant of the past, and it's up to the survivors in the last few Phoenix bases to ensure the future of the human race.


Phoenix Point rides on the coattails of the original X-COM: UFO Defense. The 1994 classic made its mark on the turn-based tactics genre, and its legacy remains salient today thanks to Firaxis' reboots. While the new ones are missing the hyphen, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2 both received positive receptions. However, now Gollop is coming back, and he's trying to show Firaxis a new take on the genre.

If Phoenix Point is on your radar, stick around and we'll tell you everything you need to know about the game, including its Epic Games Store exclusivity deal.

Phoenix Point's release date

Unfortunately, Phoenix Point's development history has been wrought with release date delays. We first expected to see it in 2018, but Snapshot Games' Julian Gollop wanted to ensure the title's high quality. This pushed the game to a June 2019 release window. The team then delayed the game again to September, then again to December.


Now, a month ahead of release, Snapshot revealed a solid release date of Dec. 3. Additionally, an Xbox One release is planned for Q1 2020, with a PlayStation 4 launch to follow later that year.

Along with the revealed release date, the developers announced that they have plans to support Phoenix Point with DLC. Five packs are planned; 1 and 4 will cost $5, while the others will cost $10 apiece. However, you can pick up all of them through the season pass, which costs $30. Backers who supported the project before March 12, 2019, will get the season pass for free. We only know the names of the first three pieces of DLC at the time of writing: Blood and Titanium, Legacy of the Ancients, and Festering Skies.


Phoenix Point's trailers

The most recent trailer for Phoenix Point was released back in June during E3. It's set to the somber tune of "The Next Life" by Suede, and it showcases a variety of dramatic shots featuring humans and aliens. It paints this bleak picture of a future where humanity has to claw for its own survival. We see squads of geared-up soldiers wearing sci-fi battle armor while carrying high-tech rifles. These hopeful shots juxtapose well with the menacing close-ups of the aliens.


The trailer ends on a more motivating note, spurring on players with the game's slogan: "Think. Adapt. Overcome." This drives home the point that Phoenix Point will make players struggle for victory. With the right skills and cleverness, players just might be able to overcome the challenge.

Toward the end of 2018, Snapshot Games released a trailer that focused more on the core gameplay of Phoenix Point. Instead of dramatic cinematics, we saw some slick footage of the turn-based action. Between sweeping aerial shots of the battlefield to tight cameras over some units' shoulders, you'll see a good view of what the combat can look like.

Phoenix Point's X-COM legacy

If you've seen footage of Phoenix Point in action, it might look familiar, perhaps even reminiscent of the XCOM Firaxis reboots. Those reboots took inspiration from the original X-COM in the '90s, made by Julian Gollop. That same man hopes to bring his best work to Phoenix Point. Since he started making games in the early '80s, every step of his career has been leading to what he's working on now.


"It's true to say that Rebelstar Raiders was the beginning of a long line of games that resulted in X-COM and now ultimately Phoenix Point," Gollop said. "It's a tactical combat system that I continued to refine over time as my skills improved."

Essentially, if you're a fan of tactical games with some strategic elements layered in them like XCOM, then Phoenix Point is one to keep an eye on.

Phoenix Point on consoles

Considering the legacy behind Phoenix Point, it's a given that it will release on PC when it launches. Snapshot Games is also developing the title for Mac OS. However, when you look at the XCOM reboots, you'll notice that they released on consoles as well. XCOM: Enemy Unknown made an appearance on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in the day, and XCOM 2 followed suit by launching on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. So it only makes sense that Phoenix Point would do the same, right?


Well, you'd be half correct to assume that. Phoenix Point will launch only on the Xbox One, alongside its PC and Mac editions. This leaves any hopeful PS4 owners out in the cold, unfortunately. In their official FAQ, the most they have to say about other consoles doesn't really spark any hope either: "We have nothing to announce for other consoles at this current time."

Maybe PS4 (or even Nintendo Switch) owners can get their hands on Phoenix Point down the line, but as for now, it's looking like PC, Mac, and Xbox One are the ways to go.

Epic exclusivity and refunds

While you'd think that the biggest news about Phoenix Point would be that it involves one of the forefathers of tactical turn-based games, there's also a certain controversy that took center stage. Back in March, Snapshot Games announced that the game would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store for the first year after launch.


It's no surprise that this was met with harsh criticism from the fanbase. Other Epic exclusives, like Metro Exodus and Borderlands 3, met with a similar backlash as gamers started to boycott the digital storefront. Reports claim that Epic paid Snapshot about $2 million for the exclusive deal. While it was a financially sound move, some backers claimed they would want a refund from Snapshot, as they refuse to play Phoenix Point on Epic.

Gollop offered an apology to fans, which was met with much disdain. To make up for the decision, the studio plans on releasing free DLC in the year after it launches. Additionally, fans who stick with the game will receive a Steam or GOG key after the Epic exclusivity expires. If that's not enough, the studio has offered anyone who wants it a full refund.


Other storefronts

Despite being an Epic Games Store exclusive, prospective players can actually pick up Phoenix Point through another digital avenue. Since the game will launch on PC as well as Xbox One, it will be featured on Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass program starting in December.


It's worth noting that there are now multiple versions of Xbox Game Pass to consider. If you're only looking to play Phoenix Point on the console, you only need the console version of the plan, which runs for $10 a month. For PC players who want to circumvent the Epic Game Store, you can look into getting the Xbox Game Pass for PC plan, which costs $5 a month. Alternatively, if you might play on both platforms, you can get the Ultimate plan. It costs $15 a month, but Microsoft throws in Xbox Live Gold as well.

For the patient ones boycotting Epic, Phoenix Point will still hit other PC digital storefronts in late 2020 or early 2021. The game will land on Steam as well as GOG.

The Pandoravirus and the story of Phoenix Point

We don't know everything about the story of Phoenix Point since it hasn't been released yet, but the marketing materials don't paint a pretty picture of the future. In 2022, humanity discovers a new super virus in the melting permafrost. This disease takes over other creatures, turning them into various versions of crab-like abominations. Called the Pandoravirus, this plague brings humanity to its knees within 25 years. By 2047, few survivors remain.


These humans flock to the Phoenix bases, a network of fortresses that activate when presented with a doomsday crisis. You take control of one of these bases and attempt to establish contact with the other cells. All the while, you have to fight through the horde of mutated, alien creatures.

The Pandoravirus also affects the gameplay in Phoenix Point. Creatures mutate in various ways, based on a variety of other animals. This means that enemies you familiarize yourself with can change drastically, forcing you to change tactics you've become comfortable with using.

Phoenix Point's gameplay

The gameplay in Phoenix Point is twofold. In the battles, everything involves turn-based tactics. You move units across a grid, and enemies do the same. Proper positioning and use of cover could mean the difference between life and death for your units. Furthermore, battle situations can change at the drop of a hat. Enemy reinforcements and bosses can show up out of nowhere, forcing you to stay on your toes.


Additionally, there's a long-term strategic element to Phoenix Point that involves building up your Phoenix bases. Depending on the facilities you construct, you can buff your units in the battles. If you foresee your squad lacking in something down the line, the bases might offer the solution you need over time.

To really muddle the genres, there's always a chance that enemies might invade your bases, forcing you to always consider how defensible your facilities are. These battles take place using the turn-based system and blend tactical and strategic gameplay. It's all about placing your units in an optimal spot so they can do damage with every weapon and skill at their disposal. Essentially, Phoenix Point is a numbers game, all about minimizing risk and maximizing reward.


Not quite X-COM

If you've played old-school X-COM or the new Firaxis reboots, you'll notice that the gameplay in Phoenix Point bears a strong resemblance. Building a home base and guiding units across a gridded map are both hallmarks of the X-COM franchise. However, it's the little details that make Gollop's newest title stand out.


For example, in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, battles were about whether you hit the enemy or not. Phoenix Point takes things a step further by having you aim at specific body parts. If you want to pin down an enemy, aim for their legs. Damaging them enough impairs their movement. Alternatively, if you want to cripple their offensive capabilities, hit their pincers.

Additionally, your chance to hit is rolled multiple times in an attack, compared to XCOM's singular roll. If your unit in Phoenix Point shoots three bullets in an attack action, each bullet gets a chance to hit. This means some might hit and others might miss, as opposed to the more binary XCOM approach.

Collateral damage

When Firaxis rebooted XCOM, many felt that it was a faithful enough re-creation of the original games. Yet, one major sticking point was left out: bullet ballistics. In the newer titles, an attack either hit your target or didn't. In the older titles, if a bullet missed, the rest of its trajectory would still be calculated. Sometimes, this would mean the bullet would hit a wall or stray object behind your target. Other times, it could hit a unit standing behind the target, regardless of whether they're an ally.


Julian Gollop plans to bring bullet ballistics back with Phoenix Point, adding another tactical layer to the combat. If you position units on both sides of an enemy, your squadmates could theoretically shoot each other on accident if they miss the target. Alternatively, you could still benefit from a missed shot that keeps going and hits another enemy behind your target.

By bringing back bullet ballistics, Snapshot Games has added a new layer of depth to Phoenix Point, contributing to the tactical sandbox that the developers are aiming for. Hopefully they don't miss.

The Willpower system: Your units are people too

The traumatic effects of war are illustrated in Phoenix Point via the Willpower system. Each unit has a stat called Willpower, which illustrates their capability to do strenuous actions in battle. The higher their Willpower, the more Will Points they'll have. The more Will Points, the more special actions they can pull off in battle. By committing to one of these special abilities, you spend some of that unit's points.


However, other external factors can affect a unit's Will Points. The death of an ally or a serious injury can lower them, while a pep talk from a commanding officer can restore those lost points. Some enemy attacks, however, can directly target Will instead of health.

A unit can have their Will go below zero, and when it does, they start to panic on the battlefield. This can lead to possible insanity, which can permanently affect the unit. Moving forward, that unit might suffer from residual post-traumatic stress disorder.

Base building

In Phoenix Point, you'll start out with access to only one home base. In this base, you can demolish and build new facilities as you see fit. Each of these rooms can have long-term effects on your units and your ability to battle the aliens. Snapshot is keeping the details close to their chest for now, but some examples of facilities include an industrial processing room, a high-tech laboratory, and various workshops.


Inevitably, your decisions here will affect the bottom line of your people. To ensure the survival of humanity, you need to build the right rooms. Additionally, you can expand and find more bases out in the world. To keep them all in communication with one another, you can build satellite uplinks.

As you build your bases, you'll have to factor in how defensible they are in the face of invasions. You're always at risk of aliens knocking on your door, and the ensuing battle could damage your facilities. However, you can place props in each room, which double as forms of cover that you can tactically play around.

Phoenix Point backer builds

While Phoenix Point doesn't release until December, some people already have early versions of the game. Backers who pledged money during the Fig campaign have access to the Backer Builds. These versions aren't final, of course, but they give them a taste of what's to come. The developers can also get feedback from players as they work toward the final product. If you're itching to play it now but haven't pledged, you can purchase the $60 version of Phoenix Point to gain access.


So far, early impressions of the game look positive. Charlie Hall from Polygon wrote generally positive words about it back in May 2018. He described every enemy as "a puzzle waiting to be solved," marveling at the various approaches players could take in every battle. Samuel Roberts and Tom Senior from PC Gamer published a piece around the same time. In it, they excitedly described how Phoenix Point differs from XCOM: "There's the whole strategic layer yet to be revealed. I look forward to seeing more."

Phoenix Point's editions

You have three options for purchasing Phoenix Point. The cheapest option comes in at $40, and it nets you the Base Edition. This gives you a digital copy via the Epic Games Store along with a digital manual and an exclusive desktop wallpaper.


If you spend $60, you can get the Platinum Edition. Along with the previously mentioned goodies, you'll get an ebook of The Compendium, a digital artbook, the soundtrack, and some in-game items. Perhaps the most enticing part of this edition is the early access to the Phoenix Point backer builds.

For the truly enthused fans, spending $80 gets you the Signature Edition. It comes with all the benefits of the Platinum Edition, but you can also add a name of your choice (your own, for example) to the in-game soldier roster.

Of course, you could also get Phoenix Point via Xbox Game Pass, although you'll have to wait until December to play it that way. Alternatively, Epic boycotters will need to wait for late 2020 or early 2021.