Despite some repetitive missions and cutscenes, there's a massive and complex plot waiting to be discovered in Phantom Doctrine. Although it might not feel that way at first, the game offers a mix of tactical and strategic decisions way more complex than any of the XCOM games. I also think the game perfectly catches the Cold War atmosphere of the early 80s, and delivers it in the form of a tactical stealth turn-based formula. Phantom Doctrine tackles a sensible but fascinating subject, the Cold War, and does a damn good job at it.
My score: 9.6
Unique take on X-Com styled gameplay. It's not perfect, no game is, but it's one of rare games that will make you think it's perfect. It's one of few games not worth waiting for sale. Scratch that itch with Phantom Doctrine.
You’re free to grow your operation, tinker with drug combinations to engineer supersoldiers, get the right mix of equipment and training, and fully deck out your MKUltra brainwashing facility. We aren’t fans of how often “addictive” is used as a synonym for fun, but thanks to its loop of world map organisation and tactical missions, Phantom Doctrine is both.
You might well find the evocative, smoke-damaged backdrop of ‘80s espionage fresh enough to carry you through a satisfying playthrough. But even with the plates changed and the serial number filed off, there’s no mistaking XCOM 2.
I can see that there is a game to be enjoyed in Phantom Doctrine. I really want to enjoy it, I can’t though until the issue with combat is fixed. So far the best solution has been what Mario + Rabbids has done with its cover system, but even that isn’t a perfect response to a clear problem with turn based strategy games. There’s some unique aspects that I hope are observed by other developers but there are better strategy titles out there like Invisible Inc. that do the core basics better.
Phantom Doctrine may find an enthusiastic audience with strategy-game masochists. It is complex and open-ended; there are multiple ways to finish missions, and they’re are not always about taking out targets. But it’s also punishing and opaque, poorly explained and hampered by a flummoxing plot. For most of us, it’s a confused and very niche experience.
The critics have this one wrong (and steam has no idea what they are talking about) - they should only use isometric RPG players to review games and that is why the user reviews are higher.
We, the users are obviously the real deal. I've seen references to Jagged Alliance, Fallout Tactics, DOS, XCOM.... Listen to us, this game has some issues, but it is certainly a great addition to our niche genre and needs to be supported. It's far better than Battletech at release and both of these titles need to live and grow.
*What is the complaint against graphics? They are pretty damn good on 3440 x1440
*Combat and stealth are decent, the worst complaint I can give is that soldiers in full cover can be killed in a single turn by a force of 4 or more (can be unfair)
*Have not seen enemies shooting through walls, only stepping out and getting good angles, however it's annoying being seen behind a window.
*Tutorials need a lot more work and are absent to several features.
*World map metagame punishes you too much for not understanding how to progress the plot (you have to do repeat missions as a punishment for not getting it - this needs some work)
*Some of the voice acting is really dumb, just change them out.
*Not enough diversity of settings (pretty much always big buildings with a few small ones in a urban area.
*Creative Forge - look at how Stellaris uses automatic pop up tabs when you hover over icons - this keeps the tutorial content down, but lets you figure out what all those little icons over characters means - you need more of that.
*This is a hardcore isometric turn based game, it was obviously not made to be liked by the masses - if you are not already a fan of the genre, you will have to work hard to learn it and like it.
*Progress can feel very slow when you don't know how to progress the story line and get access to new content.
This game goes on for far too long and is full of repetitive one dimensional gameplay. I am probably giving this game a higher score than it deserves but at the time I played it I was desperate for some original turn based combat game and this seemed to tick the right box on that. In no way is this game a substitute for XCom, but it doesn't really have any major flaws either so the score reflects that.
A solid game that feels like a very well made mod for Xcom 2; but a bit more than just that .. It feels more personal and more frantic than Xcom though .. while at the same time it does not offer the freedom of developement and choice of Xcom off mission. It is not a revelation and still relies much on a very limited move-set and tactical options. So everything is quite simplified and the AI can only really win by being placed in quantity and at an advantage. Speaking of AI ... i was not impressed by it. For a turn based game it was hardly any better than like any over a decade old game.
First off: I applaud the developers for taking player feedback seriously and releasing a series of patches in quick succession. So far they've been very communicative about their plans.
The question is: Do I recommend Phantom Doctrine? The answer is no.
Let me start with the good things, those are the things you'll see at first. Chances are you're going to see these mostly for the first 2 or 3 hours of the game; most of the bad stuff only pops up once you can't easily refund the game on steam anymore.
1. The cold war espionage setting is fresh and the aesthetics of the game fit perfectly.
2. Having to connect pieces of information on a corkboard is a nice touch. Feels natural rather than a tacked-on minigame.
3. Stealth gameplay is good, having to evade line of sight of guards, cameras and civilians.
4. The strategic layer is fun. You have to pay attention when and where points of interest pop up and react quickly. Additionally, you have to find a balance between spreading out your agents and keeping them together in order to avoid ambushes.
These are the most enjoyable parts of the game. Unfortunately, the fun is marred by a series of very strange design decisions made by the developers. Some may have seemed good on paper, but in practice are revealed as bad game design:
1. The camera during tactical missions is far too close to the action. The only way to zoom out is holding down the 'v' key to get a better view of the scene - temporarily.
The devs need to add an option to reverse the functionally (i.e. having a zoomed out view and pressing 'v' to zoom in). The screenshots and trailers make it seem like situational awareness is a thing in this game, but it's often not. This is because of the camera and...
2. ...the level design. I've had a mission where I needed to kill an enemy agent that was located in the second floor of a small building located on the other side of a trainyard. One of the issues with this map were the fact that you often couldn't tell where you could and couldn't go. Agents can jump out first floor windows but not climb over a waist-high rail waggon? Strange. Add to that the fact that the walkways present on the map will obstruct your view when you're on ground level.
Just as bad is the fact that combined with the terrible camera it is often impossible to see where the enemies are - both in and outside of combat.
To make matters worse, the target was in a room, with a civilian, that could only be reached through a ladder. It was impossible in this scenario to reach and incapacitate the target without alerting everyone and starting combat, because the enemy agent would *always* spot my agent entering the room even though he was staring at a wall. This is bad game design, there's no other way to put it.
3. Maps seem like they are generated from a set of components rather than being handmade. Either that, or they are badly designed for stealth AND combat. Making informed decisions about the tactical positioning of your agents is also impossible because you don't get enough information to do that!
4. Hiring new agents automatically increases your HEAT level (heat being an indicator of when your base of operations is exposed and you have to move). It's nonsensical and adds nothing interesting to gameplay. It's just a nuisance.
5. Reloading large (non-pistol) weapons uses all of your movement and action points. Considering that some weapons (like LMGs) expend all of their magazine in as little as two(!) attacks AND take up almost all your movement and action points to fire, it begs the question if the developers ever tested their balance? It would seem that was not the case.
6. Dealing and receiving damage is more unpredictable than it would have been with random hit chances. This is because damage can be dealt in full, as graze or none at all. If no damage is dealt, the targets awareness is reduced (which is the main resource apart from hitpoints). However, since enemies have wildly varying amounts of hitpoints (could be 30, 50 or 80 - all in the same mission) and it is often unclear which amount of hitpoint or awareness damage is dealt, this makes calculating the combined firepower needed to kill a single enemy impossible. What's worse, enemy awareness is only displayed as a bar, so you have no idea how much they actually have, nor can you see how much awareness you are going to drain with an attack.
Like I said before, I respect the developers for the way they have been dealing with the bug-ridden release so far, and I applaud their decision to tweak the problematic LOS/LOF system. Yet I can not recommend this game with a clear conscience in its current state, because I believe the issues to be too deep and far-reaching to be fixed in a patch or two. A complete overhaul of several gameplay mechanics would be in order to do that.
If the developers manage to achieve that, however, I will definitely change my review accordingly.
Only if you can accept the fact that every shooting is gonna hit. You can use against the enemies of course, but for me this is completely ruins the game. Nothing really have to do with X-COM, don't expect anything from it. The AI is dumb, they shoot you if they see you, if they lost sight, they not gonna follow you. UI is over complicated, graphics is gray and boring. This game has the worst of the tactical-turn based systems. Very amateur job.
I also wanted to mention how obvious that some of the "8-10" pointers (if not all of them) are paid reviews. If they starting the review with introducing the company, you can bet that it is fake as hell.
SummarySet in 1983 during the Cold War, Phantom Doctrine is an alternate history thriller in which players lead The Cabal, a secret organization dedicated to fighting a global conspiracy committed to controlling the world by pitting world leaders and nations against one another.