Phoenix Point was one of my most anticipated games of 2021. It's also one of the most frustrating games that I've played this year.
If you're not aware of this one, Phoenix Point is a spiritual successor to XCOM. Developed by Julian Gallop - creator of the original X-COM games - this is basically Gallop's own attempt to make his own new XCOM. There's a whole lot of reasons to be excited about this. Especially if you're a guy like me who discovered Terror From The Deep at a young age, and fell in love with the turn based strategy genre because of it. And definitely if you're a guy like me who spent hundreds of hours playing Enemy Unknown, Enemy Within, XCOM 2, and War Of The Chosen.
The truth is, I wasn't expecting XCOM 3, here. I know that Gallop's studio doesn't have the resources of 2K. But still. For every good idea that's brought into the fold here, there seems to be some other frustrating that negates it.
On the upside, the bones of the game are certainly good. There's definitely a decent game hiding here. But what bugs me is that this has existed on PC for several years now. It's had time to cook. It's had time to work the bugs out. Heck, there's even a bunch of DLC included here. I didn't play it on PC, though. I for sure don't have a capable PC to play it on. But I had to think that when it finally reached Xbox, it'd be ready to make a splash. Not the case. Not by a long shot.
But wait - I'm sorry - I meant to focus on the good first. The good is that the story is cool. The whole pandora pandemic thing? Timely anyway. And the vaguely oceanic aliens? Pretty awesome. And the branching story and factions? I can dig that as a fan of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
The problems, though... the problems are all seemingly technical. There are so many issues here that impede my enjoyment of actually playing the game.
First of all the loading times are just embarrassing. The game loads before and after each mission, and these loading times can stretch into several minutes. Like, legit get up and go get a drink and come back and still wait. It's baffling. It feels like the least optimized game I've ever played on Xbox. Granted, I don't have a Series X (yet) and maybe that would fix it. But in a world of chip shortages, I'm far from alone trying to play this game on an Xbox One. So this is just not a good look.
The controls and UI are also an issue. Not so much in-mission. But on the Geoscape I'm constantly getting mixed up on what buttons do what and how to access what menu. And sometimes button presses don't register, making feel like the game is struggling to keep up with each menu change. It makes EVERYTHING feel like a chore.
Add to all that the random crashes. Yup. Those exist in a commercial Xbox One game in 2021. I can't tell you the fury I've felt having a mission take minutes to load, then only minutes to play, then minutes more to load only to see the game crash and my progress get wiped. This should not be a thing.
And THEN there's the unintuitive UI. My goodness. As said, I've spent hundreds of hours across the XCOM games. So why is it that after spending 15 minutes I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get certain recruits to get on one of my ships? So I'm at a point where I don't even know how to send them on a mission I want to send them on? And how do I intercept this big flying creature? I can click on him. I can send a ship in his path? How do I interact with him? Nothing seems obvious here. It's a lot of work - again - when things take so long to load.
I'm just really disappointed in this one. Even if it had been a pretty competently performing XCOM clone, I'd feel like it was a successful side entry. Instead, it feels undercooked after YEARS of me hyping it up in my head.