Turned based games are not just limited to role playing and found their true calling in strategy games. CreativeForge Games looks to enter the market with Phantom Doctrine, a turn based strategy game that takes players back to when the Cold War was still being fought.
Phantom Doctrine will immediately be compared to X-Com. While the games certainly share similarities, it would be unfair to liken the indie title to the popular franchise. The main reason the newer game will remind many of the alien invasion strategy is its turn based squad nature. While there are tiles and cover to get behind, Phantom Doctrine is much more than a clone.The biggest difference between the two is the setting. Phantom Doctrine takes place during the early 1980s. The game has the look and feel of a spy thriller set during the era. The color has a darker feel to it and the music is atmospheric. The player is seamlessly dropped into the decade.
Missions are split into two distinct parts. The infiltration section involves the player sneaking around the map and looking for the target. Along the way there are secret documents to be found and guards to be avoided. The second section is optional. Combat begins when you are caught by a guard, are seen doing something suspicious by a civilian, or just decide to go in all guns blazing.
Stealth is affected by almost everything, including what your team is wearing. Silently taking down guards may seem easy enough, but when guards do not report in, others begin to worry and investigate. This requires the player to keep moving forward, despite there not being a move limit.
Phantom Doctrine also has a less obtrusive way of dealing with incapacitated bodies. An important part of stealth games is disposing of guards that have been handled in order to prevent detection. This can become tedious over time. Phantom Doctrine simply has it incorporated as an action with a cut scene. This is a great idea since carefully going through maps can already take upwards of an hour.Combat is not plagued by percentage based decisions that can make other tactical strategy games frustrating. You will always do damage with the value being decided by your awareness versus the enemies. It is as simple as that and eliminates the annoyance of random number generation.
The moments at your hideout is what really separates Phantom Doctrine from similar games. The base is in what appears to be a rundown tenement. No difference here as many games will have their antagonist operating in less than ideal conditions.Where the game excels in its presentation. There are missions to send agents on, an infirmary for the wounded, and upgrades available, but there is also an area to conduct investigations. This is the highlight of Phantom Doctrine as you will literally pin clues to a cork board as you connect the dots to unravel the conspiracy. Attempting to solve the ever-growing mystery is the most engrossing part of the game.
Phantom Doctrine’s main problems seem to be due to budget. The graphics are PlayStation 2 era, though the developers made the odd decision of having some scenes fully animated while others are simply a still picture with audio. The consistency of choosing one style would have made the unimpressive graphics less noticeable. Many cut scenes are also reused. The camera can also be unhelpful at times as you do not get a full view of some ares. The biggest offender are the long load screens. Once an area has been loaded, movement on the map is seamless, but the wait can be excruciating.
(As I was reviewing this, a day one update has been announced and many issues will be addressed.)
Phantom Doctrine is one of those rare games that improves on existing games instead of just putting a new skin on. It is deep with systems and strategies and never holds the player’s hand. It is also unafraid to take risks and is a great addition to the PS4.