Phoenix Point preview: This upcoming PC game may be the next big thing in turn-based tactics

In 1994, X-COM: UFO Defense was unveiled to the world, taking the gaming community by storm with its deep strategic gameplay. Ever since, X-COM has become a hit franchise, with each release over the years implementing new mechanics that keep things fresh and enjoyable. Phoenix Point, a new X-COM inspired title coming in June 2019, aims to achieve the same level of quality. Recently, I got to play a preview build of it, and I think it has some serious potential. Here's why.

$30 at Phoenix Point

Explore, battle, survive

Phoenix Point is centered around a simple concept: you, as an armed human force, must explore Earth, build bases, and gather resources in order to fight back against alien attack. To start with, you get a single base, a ship, and a small army. Using your ship, you can travel to unknown locations, but only if you have enough fuel. Therefore, in order to truly explore far and wide, you'll need to build refueling stations in locations that you discover so that you can extend your ship's range. Eventually, you can build more bases, and this leads to more resources being available to you.

Sometimes, you'll come across a location where aliens are already present, and its here that battle begins. Depending on whether you win or lose a fight, you'll either gain significant resources and equipment, or lose a portion of your fighting force and get put on the defensive. Even the simple decision of choosing whether or not to fight is important.

Combat like never before

Like most X-COM games, Phoenix Point's combat consists of turn-based mechanics in a three-dimensional arena. Each turn, both you and the alien forces can move, shoot, and use special abilities that have various effects on the fight. One of the coolest things about Phoenix Point is that it features realistic ballistic physics for bullets and explosives, which means that attacks will destroy cover and have a certain amount of randomized spread.

The best part of Phoenix Point is the aiming system. Unlike X-COM, where your chances to hit or miss an enemy are based around a calculated percentage, Phoenix Point instead shows you a red circle where rounds are guaranteed to hit. This essentially means that if you can find a way to get the entire target in the red circle, you will hit shots. One of the more frustrating aspects about X-COM games is that you can be face-to-face with an enemy and somehow miss due to the fact you got unlucky with the dice-roll. Such is not the case here.

Sometimes there will be obstacles in your way, but Phoenix Point also includes a neat micro adjustment mechanic that allows you to manually aim where your units fire. In the picture above, for example, I was able to angle my trooper's weapon so that when fired, it would shoot the part of the alien not covered by its shield. This dynamic aiming is a huge breath of fresh air for these types of games, and it's surely going to revolutionize the way combat in turn-based tactical games work.

Final thoughts on Phoenix Point

Though I only got my hands on a preview build, I am incredibly impressed with what I've experienced of Phoenix Point thus far. I'm sure there will be loads of new features in the full release, so what I have now is likely just the tip of the iceberg. Any fan of strategy games and tactical combat should definitely keep Phoenix Point on the radar come June 2019.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.