How X-Com's creator is reinventing his masterpiece in Phoenix Point

Can you talk about how you approached classes this time, considering the type of enemies players are contending with?

We do have a character class system, and you start with three basic classes—normally a heavy weapons guy, a sniper and a standard assault guy. Very standard, boring stuff, except the heavy weapons guys really do have heavy armour on them. Each of the factions has one or two unique classes, and they also have some of the classes that are completely missing. So for example, Synedrion, they don't have assault guys or heavy guys. They have snipers and they have infiltrators and they have technicians, for example. If you exchange or steal technology with Synedrion or ally with them, you'll get access to the new classes that they have, and you can specialise one of your guys, who may be an assault [class], and convert him or upgrade him into one of these new classes you now have access to. 

I guess that's the big difference: the classes you've got access to are based on your faction relationships, and you can actually multiclass your characters. 

And you can only align with one faction per campaign?

No, it's not quite that restricted. You can ally with more than one faction—potentially you could ally with three of them, but not for very long, because they will come into conflict with each other at some point. But you've got three ways of getting technology and resources from factions. First of all, you can literally just steal it. You've discovered that they've got a laboratory with their tech research, and you can go in there and take—though you'll have to fight for it, obviously. The other is, you can do trades. So if you've got something they want, and they've got something you want, you can exchange stuff. Third thing is, you can ally with them. This relies on you helping to defend their havens, but in return, you get access to their latest tech, you can help them develop their tech. That's probably the most reliable and cheapest way of getting their tech, but it may break your alliance with one of the other ones, or if both your allies come into conflict with each other, you've got to make a choice. 

We're not sure how it's going to play out, but if possible, I want the player to have different strategies. They might want to sequentially ally with the different factions to get their tech. You might want to ally with one in order to attack the other one and steal their tech. You might want to build your own resources to do more trading, without coming into conflict with any of them. All of these should be possible ways the player could actually play the game.

So in theory, you could blend classes from all three of the factions by the late game?

You could, yes. You'd get access to all of their classes, which would be quite interesting because they look very different to each other.

I get more of an idea of the 4X elements you're blending with the game from the way tech works, there. Are your interactions with other factions similar to something like Civ?

It's similar. So each haven has a leader, with a personality that affects who they like, who they don't like, whether they're cautious, aggressive, more insular, whether they're looking for allies, that kind of stuff. Then each faction has their own leadership, as well. Again, they have their own personality and objectives, these leaders. Synedrion's leaders can change a lot, which can be a bit annoying, because they're a democratic, council-based kind of organisation. The leader of New Jericho is this charismatic leader, Tobias West, somebody who can also change his view on things, which can affect you in different ways. Disciples of Anu are a bit more difficult. To even reach a discussion with them, you have to go through a whole series of tests, going through layers of their hierarchy before you're even allowed to talk to their leader, The Exalted. So they all have a different way you interact with them. Systemically, they're much more different to each other than the civilisations in Civ. 

In the case of the latter leader, that sounds reasonably arduous in terms of time investment. With humanity shrinking, do you have to be conscious of time ticking down when you make these choices?

Yes, because time is not on your side, the mist will start enveloping. There are things you can do to push the mist back, to stop it attacking havens. It depends on having access to the right technology at the right time. You can't spend forever doing this stuff, and there is a bit of time pressure involved. The aliens have their own agenda, and they'll pursue it regardless of what you do. They're not going to wait for you to have your conversation with the Disciples of Anu. You can't do everything. 

A lot of it will be down to the player's attractions to these factions: their personalities or maybe their technology. It just gives the player a different way to play the game. It's a different balancing act, because you have to make sure that each of these factions are equally attractive to the player. Certain types of players will be attracted to the militaristic New Jericho, who like blowing stuff up. And if you really like blowing stuff to bits and burning everything to the ground with robots and big guns, New Jericho are probably the guys for you.

If you're much more interested in stealth and theft-type missions, then Synedrion are probably the guys for you. If you're really interested in weird religious cultist shit—maybe you're a goth, I don't know—with some really weird characters doing weird stuff, then Disciples of Anu are for you. That's basically the way we want it to work, so we tried to make sure at every level the factions have these very distinct technologies, ideologies and character classes. It gives the player a meaningful choice. 

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.