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The 25th Phoenix Point Fig update leads us straight to the Phoenix Point development blog, where the real update awaits us. According to it, the Geoscape, Phoenix Point's real time strategic layer, will not serve merely as a way to get into fights with aliens, and instead be a complex system in its own right. Starting with just one base and a single aircraft, you'll soon encounter multiple AI factions all acting according to their own interests, abandoned bases filled with new technologies, rampaging alien Behemoths, and much more.
And the best part – each campaign will be different, because even before letting you, the player in on the action, Phoenix Point will simulate a few years worth of conflict between the AI factions, creating a unique seed for you to play in. Let's just say – I'm intrigued to see how it all works out.
The realistic ballistics system, mentioned a few days ago by Julian Gollop on the Phoenix Point forums, is also covered in the update. Projectiles that can go through cover, cover as an actual physical object and not just a to-hit modifier, a manual targeting system – it all sounds great.
And apart from that, the update talks about the upcoming EGX, and the newest Snapshot Games team members, so there's a lot to check out there. A few snippets:
At the start of the campaign, you have a single base: Phoenix Point. You also start with a single aircraft, which has its travel distance limited by its fuel supply. In the example above, the range of the aircraft is shown by the two-tone orange circle. The centre, lighter circle is the safe distance for making a return trip. The outer, darker circle means a one way trip. You won't have enough fuel to return unless there is somewhere else where you can refuel.
Within your travel range, you can see a number of question-marks. These represent unknown points of interest and could be a number of things;
They could be one of the many isolated Havens spread around the world (there will be approximately 100-200 to discover per game). These could belong to one of the 3 major factions, or they could be independent Havens. Some of these will be extra special, as you may run into some of our Immortalization Edition backers here, as creating your own Haven and its leader is one of the perks for supporting Phoenix Point at this level. The major factions could be your allies or your enemy. Your actions and diplomacy throughout the campaign will decide this. Independent Havens will likely be willing to offer you precious resources or personnel in exchange for protection.
It could be an inactive base belonging to The Phoenix Project. These bases will offer somewhere for you to refuel your aircraft, and may contain new technologies for you to utilize, or facilities to aid your war effort.
They could be scavenger sites. These places are a rich source of much needed supplies and resources, and may even have the odd vehicle lying around which you can repurpose. Be extra careful though; these sites are generally overrun with alien creatures.
Early on in the campaign, the Phoenix Project are an isolated group, coordinating from their only base, Phoenix Point. Your first priorities are to explore your surroundings. Make contact with potential allies, find resources, establish refueling stations for your aircraft. The exploration phase of Phoenix Point is inspired by great 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) games such as "Masters of Orion" and "Stellaris". Some places you will just discover as you explore the globe, trying to uncover what is left of humanity. Other points of interest on the map will only be revealed to you through elements of the narrative.
You will also be pleased to know (if you haven't worked it out already from the temporary interface) that the Strategic Layer runs in real-time, with the option to pause or speed up the passage of time.
Phoenix Point is set in the year 2047. Rising sea levels have completely submerged large areas of land in South America and Australia. Florida was completely consumed by the ocean, sharing a similar fate to Denmark and The Netherlands. The icecaps are gone. The Northern pole is now just a sea, while Antarctica is a scattered and broken landmass.
Every new game of Phoenix Point will be different. Every time you explore the globe, you will have a unique experience. Before you start each new campaign, a number of Havens and various other points of interest will be seeded around the globe. A very clever simulation, which all happens behind the scenes, simulates several years of war between the factions and the independent Havens, fighting over outposts and resources. The alien threat starting to encroach on the land, consuming and mutating as it goes. Each faction has its own "personality" which tells the simulation how and where it should try to expand. You will never have the same play-through twice.
However, Phoenix Point is going back to the original X-Com roots. A physical projectile will then be simulated from the shooter to the target following a trajectory which can deviate slightly depending on the weapon type. Even a shot that drifts slightly wide can still hit its intended target, with a higher chance to hit closer targets. Stray shots can also hit other enemies besides the intended target, or even friendlies if they get in the way. Stray shots (and those deliberately aimed) will also be able to destroy certain cover types.
Speaking of cover; the cover in Phoenix Point is dynamic. Instead of cover just being "low" or "high" with a fixed stat modifier, the cover in Phoenix Point will be a physical barrier, which will vary depending on the size and shape of the object being used as cover. The physical simulated projectile will then have a chance to hit the cover, unless it can find a way around or through it to reach its target.
One of the big challenges with this dynamic cover was finding a way to give the player meaningful feedback for how effective a piece of cover is (the chance to hit in the original X-Com didn't take cover into account). In Phoenix Point, when taking a shot, you will be able to see the target from the shooter's point of view. You will have a targeting reticle which will indicate the probable area where the projectiles will land. You will then be able to manually adjust the aim to compensate for cover and other tactical advantages.