I’ve talked recently about Phoenix Point, and corrected myself on it being Snapshot’s first game. In fact, this is Snapshot’s first game, and an interesting one it is. For what it’s worth, I used the demo for this post, and haven’t even finished the tutorial, so I expect there are plenty of mechanics and things that I haven’t even seen yet.
Is it, ultimately, a turn-based strategy game that does resemble XCOM, but with wizards and a hex grid. In reality, it plays like a combination of XCOM, Hearthstone, with some D&D-like elements as well. You are the wizard, you cast spells, including but not limited to summoning spells, in an attempt to kill the other wizard. If this were chess, the wizard is your king. If he goes down you lose.
Casting spells is pretty straightforward. You drag a card to the intended destination. All the summons I’ve seen have a range of one. There’s an attack spell in the tutorial with a range of two, I think, and a card that alters the law/chaos balance of the board that has a range of self, technically. I’ll address the law/chaos system later, as it has a couple of different forms.
The creatures I’ve seen so far are the lion, elf, and dwarf for myself. The enemy wizard has also used the lion a couple of times, but usually uses a goblin or rat pack, which is three separate creatures that are individually fairly weak. The elves have a powerful ranged attack that I’ve found quite handy, especially if you can get them on high ground. Naturally being on higher ground than the opponent gives you an advantage.
There’s a blocking mechanic that reminds me of the D&D attack of opportunity mechanic. It’s designed to allow you to control territory so units can’t just run around your defense and smack you in the face.
Additionally, once you’ve engaged a unit, or set of units, you can’t always withdraw, making it doubly hard to run a well designed defensive blockade. There have certainly been times where I was trying to take out the engaged units with a ranged attack so that my melee units could advance and attack. If push comes to shove, they can always move after they attack as well, but only if they defeat the other unit.
This brings me to one form of the law/chaos system, which is the field balance. Some cards like the lion or magic bolt are considered neutral. Others, like the elf/dwarf or the goblin are law or chaos aligned, respectively. Casting them pushes the scale slightly in the direction, if successful.
Which brings me to the other system. There are two modes you can play in with different mechanics. In law mode it’s basically a numbers game. You have a regenerating pool of mana and your spells have a cost. Presumably, the field law/chaos would alter the cost, making aligned cards less expensive and opposing more expensive. I’m guessing, as I haven’t actually tried it on the field alignment tutorial.
In law mode everything has a health bar as well, but hits are guaranteed. Only the strength of the hit would change with things like elevation. In this shot you can see also how the goblin has a red and green section to its health bar. The green section is how much will remain after being attacked.
In chaos mode, instead of things having a mana cost or a health bar it’s just a probabilities game. A lion summon has a flat 70% chance to succeed. Field alignment alters the chance of success for spell instead of altering the cost. This can be pretty harsh for something like the elf, which is only 60% with a neutral field. Still, with a little luck you can very nearly spit out a lion every turn instead of every other turn like the law system.
Likewise, combat is faster and typically more brutal. Instead of doing damage you have a percent change to outright destroy the other creature. If you fail you have simply lost that attack. It’s based on the same attack/defense comparison as the law system, it just uses a pass/fail roll instead of a health system.
Overall I have preferred the chaos mode not only because it’s faster but it feels more familiar. The law mode makes for a much slower paced but predictable game.
I’m seriously considering going ahead and purchasing the full game. It allegedly has an online campaign with co-op battles, and that’s something I would like to try. It’s also a good sign for Phoenix Point that they can take something I’m familiar with and give it some interesting and varied systems.
Y’all take care, may your summons and attacks never fail ten times in a row.