Nowadays there is an opinion that the “TBS” genre experienced its heyday somewhere in the late 90s with the advent of the popularity of the series of games XCOM, Civilization, Jagged Alliance and Might & Magic Heroes, so now, supposedly, slowly but surely it is going to its of death.
In some ways, we can agree with this, but only with the fact that, rather, the number of outgoing games in this genre has simply decreased. Therefore, we can say that the genre is not dying, but simply its popularity has become a little more modest. From now on, turn-based strategies are a niche genre, but quite stable for that. Examples include the success of XCOM 2 or Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. On top of that, as a rule, not large, but talented studios release a variety of masterpieces in the same genre like Massive Chalice or Invisible, Inc ..
Turn-based “Cold War”
Phantom Doctrine. Preview
Nevertheless, the main feature of all these projects is isolation in themselves and intimacy. In these games, there is only one basic action mechanic on which the foundation of the entire gameplay is built. This makes games in this genre intuitive and lowers the barrier to entry.
If we look at these games from the other side, then we can say that all these games lack some kind of complexity, when the main system, and in this case, field operations, would “overgrow” with some kind of superstructure. And yet all of these games lack the scale that XCOM has always presented. XCOM is, perhaps, at the moment the only franchise that, in terms of game design, has harmoniously made the existing systems of tactical missions and base management.
“The number of places where you can deploy your agents will please. Moreover, the places where agents can be thrown can be the most unexpected, and you should prepare for any surprise in Phantom Doctrine in advance. ”
However, things may change in 2018. After all, the Polish studio Creative Forge, the authors of the curious game Hard West, are preparing a rather ambitious project, albeit in a very difficult genre.
Phantom Doctrine is set in an alternate reality during the Cold War in 1983. A classified special organization called Cabal and the protagonist at the head are trying to uncover a global conspiracy, and in the spirit of conspiracy theories, setting one power against another. And the main character is the only agent, after whose death the game ends. The rest can be sacrificed for a greater purpose.
The game resembles a thriller in the spirit of “Spy, Get Out” or “Munich”, where you, as the main character, reveal the plans of the opposition structure in detail. Visually, the game is extremely simple and, most importantly, familiar. Interface, enemy agents, cover system – you could already get acquainted with all these details in other similar games (in XCOM, for example).
Play time is allocated between the exploration process, the planning phase and between field operations. The planning phase is an isometric view of the base, where the player can move between rooms, each with its own important purpose in this entire spy structure. However, all this is again familiar from XCOM.
“Yes, just like in XCOM, specialty gear is essential to any mission, but even that won’t help you if you don’t do some blindfold reconnaissance.”
Preparation for the next mission is another matter – this is indeed the most important stage of planning. Before starting the operation, it will be possible not only to choose the most suitable agents for yourself, but also to equip them. And you can also pre-introduce your spies into the enemy’s territory. But at this stage, completely different mechanics come into play.
For example, interacting with the global map, using the time scrolling, you can select a couple of agents and send them to different parts of the world, in order to collect valuable information or to be introduced into hostile cells of the enemy. In fact, the mechanics are not new, but very, very old, because something similar could be seen in the game Covert Action. And in the spy craft, keep in mind that any wrong decision can be fatal to the entire operation and Phantom Doctrine is firmly committed to this idea. Even before you sit in a window opening, you should definitely conduct reconnaissance.
“On the global map, agents can be sent to all sorts of reconnaissance missions, thereby collecting valuable information. This is how you have to unlock new story missions. “…
In addition, field missions will not appear on their own – they will have to be opened. How? Collecting information literally bit by bit. And everything that may have at least some value will come in handy: photographs, scraps of files, various clippings and classified documents. Analyzing the information, you are looking for key phrases that in the future can literally be connected with red threads on the global board. In general, an investigation in the spirit of the 80s. And only there you can open new tasks and move on along the storyline. Therefore, during the passage of Phantom Doctrine, you will not have that character who will play the role of a mentor and poke his nose about what needs to be done next.
Although there is still an opportunity to make it easier for yourself to search: you can do it automatically, but using special glasses. However, you don’t want to use this method to make your gameplay easier. Why? First, the spy atmosphere in Phantom Doctrine is amazing. Secondly, all this waste paper is written so excellently that you don’t even want to miss it all, and therefore you want to get to the bottom of everything personally!
“If you are already familiar with games from Firaxis Games, then it will not be difficult to understand the interface of the game, although it will still have its own unique features.”
And also, as it should be, in good spy thrillers, sending your secret agent to the enemy, you never know “by whom” your once subordinate will return. In Phantom Doctrine, everything can turn out in such a way that a typical “mole” will appear in your office, which will literally hit you in the back at the first opportunity. For that, for such dubious “frames” in the game there will be a correction room, so to speak. This mechanic will please you more than once, because Phantom Doctrine walkthrough takes on a really interesting turn at such moments. Doubt about your subordinate? Don’t worry, he can always be brainwashed and turned over a double agent. Nevertheless, the risk always remains and no one gives you a guarantee that everything will work out. What if he’s a committed communist?
Phantom Doctrine. Overview
Phantom Doctrine doesn’t even do without classic spy techniques in the spirit of the Manchu Candidate movie. For example, you can literally inspire your agent with the thought that he is a member of another organization, and then release his “field” and at that moment when he meets you on a mission, you can use a secret passphrase to return his memory back to him, thereby obtaining one more secret agent.
“There will be many attractive places in the game. For example, the noir German Democratic Republic. ”
Such agents will already be useful in that, for example, they can turn off CCTV cameras and open the necessary doors that were previously inaccessible, or even remove unsuitable people from the path. But this does not mean that everyone needs to be brainwashed. First, it will be time-consuming. Secondly, it will be corny impractical. In addition, other organizations are not stupid, which means that they can be one step ahead, respectively, the day spent on recruiting another agent can be the last for your organization.
Another really cool mechanic in Phantom Doctrine, which no one has yet fully disclosed in any game, but for that it already looks incredibly laconic here, is the degree of recognition of the agents. It works simply: if at the time of raising the alarm your secret agents were identified, then this means that in the next operation such agents will be revealed as quickly as possible, which thereby puts the entire operation at risk.
“The management will definitely surprise and delight you, because so many Operator upgrades are the envy of any other game like it.”
But even this can be fought in the spirit of espionage. Good old-fashioned identity falsification works wonders: a new look, a new passport, and a new story. Of course, this is a difficult process, which means that such a transformation will take a lot of resources. Therefore, you begin to ask yourself: is it worth it at all, or is it better to take the risk? Phantom Doctrine will definitely make you treat people as tools to achieve higher goals.
And the game also has a real sense of the unknown. After all, you never know who you are fighting against today, and this already suggests that there is no way to predict the actions of the enemy. In addition, you should always remember an important rule of all conspiracy thrillers: you are always in the minority, so whatever you prepare for the outing, the “bad guys” can always bring more “toys”. For example, a helicopter. And it’s not a joke.
“The main thing is to remember that there will always be more enemies, so you should only go for an assault if there are no other options.”
Phantom Doctrine. First details
Even despite the fact that the game initially sets up its player to act as discreetly and accurately as possible, it does not prevent you from solving problems in a much louder way. So you can make your way through mountains of corpses, but since the game tries to be as close to reality as possible, be prepared to die just as quickly. And I’m not talking about randomness – it’s not here. Because damage, for example, is calculated based on distance, weapon characteristics and parameters. There are no unpleasant surprises in the form of an always annoying and sometimes stupid randomness. On top of that, you can enlist the support of some sniper (fireman) who sits in the building or reconnaissance, where some agent will sit, observing the situation through a telescope or binoculars.
“The game will definitely attract attention due to the lack of randomness and realism in the battles. Enemies from a direct hit will die very quickly, but at the same time you remember that your heroes are not sponges for bullets either. ”
And the most important question that may arise now: how much will the choice of approach to the game affect the plot as a whole? This is still unknown, but the authors already promise to add replayability, and in quite interesting ways. For example, initially the game gives you the opportunity to choose one of two characters: a former KGB agent or a CIA operative. In addition to the fact that these guys have distinctive characteristics, they also have different stories. Based on this, perhaps, therefore, the plot for each will be played out differently. For that, it is known that each ending reveals only a part of the whole story, and this already suggests that if you want to have a complete picture of what is happening, you will need to go through the game for two characters.
In Phantom Doctrine, there will even be NI +, in which a still unknown third character will appear. On top of that, the random generation of enemy positions and key objects on the map will not go anywhere. So each task will require the highest quality and tactically thought-out approach from you.
After completing several operational missions and analyzing game management, we can safely say that there will not be so many games of this scale, especially in the spirit of the TBS genre, next year. It is clear that many fans are expecting the release of Phoenix Point and Xenonauts 2, but Phantom Doctrine’s unusual setting and a number of intriguing mechanics can definitely push other projects in this genre aside. In addition, against the background of pseudo-science fiction and the eternal struggle with aliens, the spy thriller Phantom Doctrine looks not only a serious project, but most importantly – fresh. The developers have made an excellent bet on a combination of unusual mechanics and setting. So now the main thing is that the implementation does not let us down.