Ever since Julian Gollop, designer of the original X-COM games, teased Phoenix Point three years ago, details about the minutiae of its systems have released practically every week via blog posts, narrated playthroughs, and our own hands-on time with it.
It means that even though we're still months from release, there's a ton of information out there about Phoenix Point, including how combat works, what enemies you'll face, how you'll customise your soldiers and build your bases.
But don't worry—instead of having to trawl around the internet for little bits of info, we've collected everything that's important in one place. Here's everything we know about Phoenix Point.
Phoenix Point's release date: when you can expect to play it
During E3 2019, Snapshot Games announced that Phoenix Point's release date is September 3, 2020 on the Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store, and Microsoft's PC Games Pass.
Get a load of Phoenix Point's new 'Next Life' trailer from E3 2019
Phoenix Point gameplay
Here's a lengthy narrated gameplay video from May 2019, showing off an entire mission from start to finish.
Phoenix Point is a spiritual successor to X-COM
The crowdfunded “spiritual successor” to 1994 space strategy game X-COM: UFO Defense. While looking at the world map from a zoomed-out perspective, you explore points of interest, interact with three human factions and decide which missions to take on. During missions, you control a squad of soldiers in tactical turn-based combat against mutated aliens. The aim is to repel these alien forces, save humanity, and find out what happened to the rest of your organisation, called the Phoenix Project.
In 2047, humanity is on its last legs. An extra-terrestrial virus initially discovered in melting permafrost has ravaged the Earth, turning humans and animals alike into mutated monstrosities. Most of those unaffected by the virus have been killed or captured, and only a few groups of survivors are left.
There are three other human factions: the religious Disciples of Anu, who worship an alien god, the Synedrion, who have visions of building a new utopia out of the remains of Earth, and the militaristic New Jericho. There are also independent groups that you can find in havens—towns, basically—around the world.
Phoenix Point will have multiple endings based on which of the factions you ally with, and the story partly depends on how you treat each group. You can help them, spy on them, trade with them, exchange research and technology or rob them blind, and throughout the game you'll learn about them and the virus that has destroyed the world. If you want, you can ignore the factions and strike out on your own.
Phoenix Point's combat is like X-COM meets Fallout's V.A.T.S system
In each turn-based battle you control a squad of four or more soldiers. For some missions, you'll have as many as 16 soldiers at your disposal. It's similar in style to the recent XCOM games: you move your squad around the battlefield, putting them in cover, firing off a variety of weapons, throwing grenades and destroying objectives. Each of these actions costs action points, and each soldier has a limited number of action points per turn.
A couple of things set the combat apart from the recent XCOM games, though, the first of which is its physics-based ballistic system. Each bullet is individually modelled and has a chance to travel anywhere within a cone of fire. The width of that cone is determined by several factors, including the skills of the soldier firing it. Rather than telling you a percentage chance of hitting an enemy, the game will tell you the potential damage you can deal to their health bar.
The bullets will damage whatever they hit, be that an enemy, a squadmate, cover, or a building, and every object is destructible if you deal enough damage to it.
Phoenix Point also has a feature called Free Aim, which lets you target different body parts in a similar way to V.A.T.S in Fallout. Shoot an alien's legs out and you'll hinder its mobility—cripple one of its arms and it will drop its gun. Some enemies will have weak spots that you can target to deal more damage.
Free Aim will come in handy when you battle bosses, which will happen multiple times per playthrough. Gollop has described these bosses as “like organic battleships with multiple weapon systems”.
As well as action points, each soldier has Will Points. You can spend these points to activate Overwatch as well as other special abilities, and they also impact the mental state of that soldier. The number of will points you have is affected by a soldier's willpower stat, and certain events can cause your willpower to drop. Seeing a particularly terrifying enemy enough times can take a chunk out of your willpower, for example, and some enemies directly target willpower rather than HP.
If willpower drops below zero, your character may panic. If it drops further, your soldier may suffer from mental trauma and pick up a negative trait that will last across multiple battles, making them less reliable. Certain skills, such as leadership skills, can negate drops in willpower.
Phoenix Point's Geoscape: how it works
From your starting point, you'll be able to fly around the globe, investigating question marks on the map that represent points of interest. In each playthrough, you'll have between 100 and 200 havens to explore—some will belong to one of the three factions, some will be independent.
You'll be limited by the amount of fuel you're carrying for your ship. On the map, you'll be able to see how far you can go without running out, and you can discover refueling stations as you move through the world to keeping making forward progress.
Many of the missions will be linked to the human factions, and some will require you to pick a side in inter-faction combat. Your decisions will impact a faction's view of you: if you're in their good books they might trade with you, or exchange research, but if you annoy them they'll make your life difficult.
Phoenix Point system requirements
- OS: Windows 7 SP1+ (64-bit), 8, and 10
- CPU: Intel Core i3 / AMD Phenom II X3
- RAM: 8GB
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 / AMD Radeon R9 270
- DirectX: DX11
- OS: Windows 7 SP1+ (64-bit), 8, and 10
- CPU: Intel Core i5 3GHz / AMD FX series 3.2GHz
- RAM: 16GB
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon R9 390X
- DirectX: DX11
Phoenix Point mission types: what to expect from a campaign
There are plenty—you'll often defend towns against alien attack, assault alien bases and reclaim abandoned Phoenix bases. On the human faction side, you'll be involved in kidnap missions, rescues, assassinations, sabotage, infiltration, haven takeovers and base defences.
You'll be able to abandon most missions at any time, and you can adapt objectives on the fly. Perhaps you've landed on a laboratory to steal some tech, but it ends up going wrong, in which case blowing up the facility and leaving might be the best option.
Quite a lot of the game is procedurally generated. At the start of every playthrough, the game will seed points of interest and simulate several years of war between factions, as well as the encroaching alien threat, before you start playing. This will be partly randomised, which means that the world map will look different every time you play.
The arenas you fight in are assembled from pre-designed modules, and the way they're arranged is semi-randomised. Each location will have its own feel and aesthetic based on where it is in the world, and each faction has unique building designs.
Enemy forces mutate throughout the game, giving them new abilities and a new appearance, so that they can adapt to your tactics. Gollop has said he wants it to seem like the forces are evolving: if you wipe out a certain type of enemy in battle, the next time you see them they might be able to use human weapons or poison attacks, for example.
There's an element of randomness to the mutations, but if a mutation works against you on the battlefield you can expect it to spread throughout the enemies you face in that playthrough, forcing you to adapt.
How Phoenix Point's soldier classes and customization works
Soldiers from the Phoenix Project will all have a base class—marksman, heavy, etc—and then further specialisation options. You'll be able to pick new abilities via a branching skill tree for every class, allowing you to create unique roles for your soldiers. Some of these will encourage stealth, and there will be a stealth system in combat that allows for silent takedowns.
You'll be able to recruit soldiers with different classes from the other human factions, and these classes will all be specific to that faction. The Disciples of Anu have a class called the ‘Mutdog Handler', which can deploy and control mutated dogs during a battle, while New Jericho has a Technician with robotic arms. If you don't want to recruit soldiers or exchange research with a faction, you could try steal the class technology instead.
Many abilities will be linked to the equipment you carry, and each soldier has their own inventory. You can pick up and swap out items during battles. In addition to the skill tree, you have an overall tech tree that will let you unlock new items, and you can also customise the appearance of your soldiers whenever you want.
Permadeath will be a part of Phoenix Point—but Gollop has said you might be able to mitigate some deaths with specific abilities.
Can you build bases in Phoenix Point?
Yes, but you can't freely choose where your bases are located. You get your first base, called Phoenix Point, and a single aircraft at the start of the story, and as you explore, you'll come across more Phoenix bases, which are abandoned structures formerly used by other cells of the Phoenix Project. These bases will contain different facilities for you to use, and once you've repaired the base and got it up and running you can add facilities of your own, such as places to train soldiers, or a containment facility where you can lock up a captured alien.
Phoenix Point won't be an Epic Games Store exclusive, after all
Back in March, Gollop announced that Phoenix Point would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store for one year, even going as far to apologize for the inconvenience and giving its first year of DLC away free to early backers. But at E3 2019, we learned that Phoenix Point will launch on the Microsoft Store as part of its new Xbox Game Pass for PC.
If you preorder at the $60 level, you get access to Phoenix Point backer builds—but we'd wait until release time before dropping your cash. Earlier this year, Snapshot Games was offering refunds for any backers dissatisfied with the availability change. According to an email sent to backers, Snapshot deal with Epic is worth more than $2 million.
Phoenix Point has DLC scheduled for post-launch
Snapshot Games are releasing DLC three months after launch, which will contain new missions, two storylines, and in-game items such as armour. Another piece of DLC will add a floating Phoenix base.
Phoenix Point doesn't have multiplayer
It's a singleplayer-only game, in case you were curious about online possibilities.