|Classes and Skills|
|Final Mission (Spoiler!)|
Preface and acknowledgements
This is the second edition of A comprehensive guide for playing Phoenix Point (or an attempt at one) that I first posted on the official Snapshot forum. A few fellow players were kind enough to read it, give comments and suggest improvements and corrections. As I was preparing this second edition at first I tried to directly quote and credit each contribution with a link to the post from where I took it, but it proved more difficult than I thought.
So, first of all, I want to thank individually all those who contributed to this guide (in alphabetical order and hoping I'm not missing anyone): conductiv, David123, MadSkunky, MichaelIgnotus, noStas, Unstable Voltage, Valygar, Yokes
- 1 About the Phoenix Point Mentaculus
- 2 Differences between the difficulty levels explained
- 3 Baby steps on the Geoscape
- 4 First blood
- 5 Understanding the goals of the Phoenix Project and the Doomsday Clock (aka Human Population Census, or HPC)
- 6 About RNG on the Geoscape and how it can impact the starting game
About the Phoenix Point Mentaculus
What is Mentaculus?
Mentaculus refers to a quasi metaphysical attempt to comprehensively capture the entirety of a subject so that the whole and any part of it may be perfectly understood.
While my colleagues at the University are pursuing what may appear as far nobler and worthier endeavors, I poured my efforts into this bottomless vessel of doubts and tribulations that is Phoenix Point, with the object of understanding it and making it understandable to others.
Why? Well, of course, such a thing as a Mentaculus is by definition the work of a madman, and perhaps that alone should provide sufficient explanation.
But as terrifying as it might be, and as much as it may lead me to be the object of scorn and ridicule by my colleagues and peers, I dare say that behind the admittedly crude and clumsy portrayal of The Ones Who Came Before Us may lie some greater truth about our future as a species and the trials that await us.
Dr. Voland Kandinsky
Miskatonic University, Akrham, MA
November 23, 2020.
How to use the Mentaculus
Any way you like, of course. I have attempted to avoid story spoilers in the Mentaculus itself, and whether a link takes to you another part of the wiki that contains spoilers hopefully there should be ample warning.
Please be aware that the work of compiling the Mentaculus is never over and you will run into outdated bits or contents that could use some improvement. You will probably also run into errors and typos of all kinds. Please feel free to let me know: I started a thread on the Snapshot forum https://forums.snapshotgames.com/t/phoenix-mentaculus-feedback-corrections-and-suggestions/12346, and you can also tag me on Discord (Voland#9494).
I have used some formatting conventions on the assumption that they will make reading easier:
Verified facts, rules, or formula are written in this code format
Defined Items (Anchors) Are in Caps, Underlined and in Bold
Tangent commentary and proper names, such the Phoenix Point, or Manticore 1, are written in italics
Instructions or advice regarding user interface is written in green
Something important or unexpected is in bold
Differences between the difficulty levels explained
There are 3 fundamental differences between each difficulty level:
1) Conditions on starting a new game (starting resources, recruits and equipment)
2) Acquisition of recruits and rate at which they improve (initial stats and equipment, skill points awarded per mission)
In broad terms you should be aware that
- Experienced TBS players that play Phoenix Point for the first time usually find that Veteran provides an adequate challenge. If you play Firaxis Xcoms on the third difficulty level (Classic/Commander) you should probably start Phoenix Point on Veteran, and if you find it too hard try on Rookie. Phoenix Point is a complex game, with many game systems. It can take you some time to master them.
- The difficulty curve in Phoenix Point is such that the game is easy at the beginning and progressively gets harder (though some optimal decision making and grinding can allow you to reverse this curve towards midgame making the late game very easy); if you are finding the first missions too hard, you should probably restart at an easier difficulty level.
- The hardest difficulty setting (Legend) assumes that the players are not only familiar with the game mechanics, but also have some meta knowledge of the game that will allow them to take some optimal decisions or that they will know how to live with the consequences of not doing so.
- Players who are already familiar with the game but prefer less pressure from the Doomsday Clock or want to take their time finishing the game often choose the third difficulty setting (Hero).
Conditions on starting a new game
|Difficulty||Starting resources||Starting recruits||Starting equipment||Lose on HPC|
|Rookie:||200 800 400||Assault 3 Sniper 2 Heavy 1||Medkits 10 Odin Grenades 10||<5|
|Veteran:||150 600 300||Assault 3 Sniper 1 Heavy 1||Medkits 6 Odin Grenades 6||<10|
|Hero:||100 500 200||Assault 2 Sniper 1 Heavy 1||Medkits 5 Odin Grenades 5||<15|
|Legend:||80 400 200||Assault 2 Sniper 1 Heavy 1||Medkits 2 Odin Grenades 2||<20|
Acquisition of recruits and rate at which they improve
|Difficulty||Initial Stats||Cost||SPs per mission|
|Rookie:||20 Strength 9 Willpower 14 Speed||Recruit, weapons and armor with 20% discount||12|
|Veteran:||18 Strength 8 Willpower 14 Speed||Recruit, weapons and armor, regular cost||10|
|Hero:||16 Strength 7 Willpower 14 Speed||Recruit and armor, with +10% markup||8|
|Legend:||14 Strength 6 Willpower 14 Speed||Recruit, no weapons, no armor, with +20% markup||5|
On Rookie and Veteran you don't pay for the ammo already loaded in the recruit's weapon(s)
On Rookie recruits come with a medkit and 2 mags of ammo, which you acquire at 20% discount
Enemy capabilities and behavior
- The speed of Pandoran Evolution is lowest on Rookie and highest on Legend.
- There are more enemies and they are stronger on higher difficulty levels. This is true for both enemies deployed at the start of the mission and for the enemy reinforcements.
- There are more advanced enemy types on special missions on Legend, particularly in the first introductory missions given by each faction.
- The number of Pandoran structures that can exist on the Geoscape at that same time is lowest on Rookie (5) and highest on Legend (8) higher number of structures has been reported and verified on both Hero (9) and Legend (also 9), pending check to see if bug or intended
- Pandorans attack havens more frequently on higher difficulty levels.
However, the enemies on all difficulty levels are the same: they have the same stats, mutations and abilities, and the same AI
Baby steps on the Geoscape
If you are playing for the first time, you should definitely start with the new Tutorial that comes with Polaris and Year One Edition update.
If you start the game without the Tutorial (or after you complete it), you will see your base, Phoenix Point, and a couple of nearby Points of Interest (POI) marked with signs. You can travel to these POI with your aircraft (the Manticore 1) to explore them, which can result in any of the following:
- A haven of one of the factions ( Anu, New Jericho or Synedrion), and, when you meet a faction for the first time, it will give you its starting quest, which you can choose to do later (see Diplomacy for tips on how to handle factions), or an independent haven that gives a side quest (see Independent Haven missions, with spoilers!).
- An Exploration Event: a short text adventure that yields resources, adjusts the attitude of one faction towards another, damages to the aircraft or the operatives in it, allows to recruit additional operatives, or does nothing at all, etc. (see Exploration Events for a complete list, with spoilers!).
You can also get text adventures or mini-quests at havens when you visit them for the first time (Haven Events) (see here all haven events, haven events and haven events, warning, contains spoilers!) .
- A scavenging mission (you can choose to do it later)
- An ambush; you can't choose to do it later, nor prepare your troops adjusting their equipment, spending excess Skill Points, etc. The ambush missions work as a deterrent, to prevent exploring the map using a aircraft with, for example, only one untrained and unarmed soldier.
If the POI turns out to be a haven, it will reveal any POI within its operating range (it will also reveal distant havens of the same faction if their operating ranges intersect). Your base also has a Satellite Uplink that will automatically scan the surroundings in search of POI. The scanned area is that green, expanding circle.
|A New Jericho Haven||this means that there is an Assault soldier available for recruitment at the haven|
|This means that the haven produces and trades this resource|
You can’t travel anywhere you want on the globe - you can only travel to a POI that is within the range of your aircraft. This means that you fly around the planet in baby steps, or following a chain of POI. Eventually (sometimes quite soon) you will want to get to far away POI to do Special Missions (marked with this sign for both main and optional missions, and with different hues for the faction diplomacy missions) that you are given over the course of the game and which you need to complete to advance in your path to victory, or to get something nice.
You want to discover as many POI as fast as possible to increase the reach of your aircrafts. Explore new POI and do scavenging missions whenever you can to gain resources, recruits or vehicles and combat experience for your operatives.
So, send your Manticore 1 out to explore, but first click on the flashing 'Research' tab and start researching, and then on the 'Personnel' tab to equip your operatives: have all your operatives carry a medkit, extra ammo and a grenade (you can also equip your troops in mid-flight, or right before starting a mission, except in the case of ambushes and base defense).
To reduce the size of the user interface in tactical combat, uncheck in the GAMEPLAY tab in OPTIONS "SHOW DETAILED EQUIPMENT INFO IN BATTLE"
Chances are, your first mission will be either the introductory mission of a faction (which will offer it to you the first time you discover one of their havens) or a scavenging op (this one for sure if you are playing the Tutorial). If you are playing on Legend, you will want to avoid doing the first Synedrion and New Jericho missions because they are too hard for your initial team of rookies.
You might also want to postpone them (especially the mission) if you are playing on a lower difficulty level. The mission is easy enough (it does have a poisonworm shooting Chiron on Legend, but if you are skilled enough to be playing on Legend you should have no trouble dealing with it) and so are the scavenging ops.
Tactical combat is covered in detail here, but for now it's largely unnecessary: the first Pandorans you will face are melee only with little to no armor ( Arthrons and Triton Stranglers). They are easy to take care of, provided you don't let them get close where they can do quite a bit of mischief. You want to either take care of them on your turn before they reach you, or use short range overwatch to dispatch them as they approach you.
After every tactical mission your squad receives experience points (XP) that are divided among the team members based on their individual performance during the op and each of them also receives a fixed number of Skill Points (SP), depending on the difficulty level (12 on Rookie, 10 on Veteran, 8 on Hero and 5 on Legendary).
XP (required for leveling up to gain access to new skills) and SP (used to improve attributes and acquire new skills]) are covered in detail in the Character Development section, but for now the big takeaway is that the total amount of XP depends on the type of mission and performance of the squad as a whole, while their distribution among the team members depends on individual performance (mostly enemies killed, but also damage dealt, HP healed and some other factors), which means that you don’t get more XP for slaying more enemies.
After each mission your operatives will heal any disabled body parts, but will not recover lost HP. However, these can be permanently healed by using a Medkit, which means that it's not really necessary to go to base to heal there.
Each operative starts with 40 Stamina, and loses 1 point per turn up to a maximum of 10 on a tactical mission. Once Stamina decreases to 10, the operative is tired and has only 3 AP instead of 4 to spend each turn. If Stamina goes to 0, he is exhausted and has only 2 AP. You recover Stamina at a base with a Living Quarters at a rate of 2 per hour per facility.
In short: you don't want to do any missions with operatives who have 10 stamina or less. You will get a warning before deployment informing you that some of the operatives are tired or exhausted, but if you want to save yourself the trip to the mission, check the stamina of your operatives in the 'Personnel' tab every once in a while.
Moving and actions
Your operatives can do actions in any order as long as they have Action Points (AP) remaining, and they can spend part of an AP on moving, then take another action (like shooting) and then spend the remainder of that first AP on further movement. So you can do things like move forward to approach an enemy, shoot, and then run back, or move into cover to break Line of Sight (LoS) with the enemy.
Aiming and projected damage
Maps are small. You will often start with some of the enemies already detected and within Line of Sight. Target them with different weapons (you will have Ares Ar-1, Cypher HG, Firebird SR and Tyr-1 Autocannon). Play around with the aiming reticle. Convince yourself that zooming doesn’t alter the size of the reticle. (For detailed explanation on how aiming works, see Accuracy).
So, the first thing you should notice is that most weapons are out of range of the enemies that you can see at the start of the mission: if the inside circle of the aiming reticle is not covering fully the target, you have less than 50% chance of hitting it, and the empty spaces that the target might have, count (for example, Arthrons are thin, and even when you have them completely covered by the aiming reticle there is a high chance that the shot will miss). Usually, you don’t want to take that shot.
Another thing you should notice is that targets are constantly changing their position, so their exposure changes. This is because all the characters are performing the ‘idle’ animations all the time and selecting the 'SHOOT' button or the 'FREE AIM' button at the right moment can enable you to take a better shot.
Look at what happens to the health bar of the targeted enemy as you move the aiming reticle around it. You will see that part of the red bar will be filling with white < wedges. The part of the red bar covered by the wedges and the size of the < wedges can change as you move the aiming reticle: each wedge represents the damage that can be dealt to the target with each shot taking into account the armor of the target at the spot where you are aiming. The more white you see, the higher the damage potential of the attack.
A flashing red skull & crossbones next to the HP bar indicates that the attack is certain to kill the target. You will see a similar HP bar next to a targeted body part and a card detailing what will happen if the body part is disabled. (For detailed explanation on how damage works, see Damage).
Because the aiming reticle usually covers more than the target, and more than one body part of the target, and body parts have different armor strength, Phoenix Point runs a Monte Carlo simulation on the current shot and the projected HP is an average of the results
Know your enemy
If you hover the pointer over an enemy you will see its basic Stats, like Hit Points (HP), Willpoints (WPs) (for more info on what are these, see Willpoints (WP) in the Combat section; for now think of them as both morale and mana for using special abilities) and Movement (in tiles).
You can left click on an enemy and then left click on info, and see everything there is to know about it, as if it was one of your own troops. By hovering over its weapons you can see how Damage they can do (for more information on how to read this data, see About weapons)
- Overwatch will be triggered by any enemy that steps into the overwatch cone that you set up (if it is within the Perception range of your operative after taking into account the stealth modifiers, but you don't have to worry about this for now)
- When setting up overwatch you can press CTRL and use the middle mouse button to adjust the height and base of the cone to choose exactly the area you want to be covered
- Avoid painting the Overwatch cone over cover and obstacles; it is very likely that the enemy might be behind it when the Overwatch triggers and you will throw away your shot
The nuances of cover in Phoenix Point are dealt with in detail here, but for now just do not overestimate it, especially if you are coming from cover-centric games like Firaxis XComs. In Phoenix Point cover only protects you if it's actually in the way of a projectile. There are no penalties (like critical hits) for being outside of cover and no bonuses to defense for staying in cover. Your best defense is to neutralise the enemy before it can attack you, and your second best defense is to keep out of its Line of Sight and a long way away.
Things to be aware of when doing scavenging missions
- On missions where one of the objectives is to evac (notably scavenging missions and ambushes) any items left on the ground will be lost. If you want to take something with you, one of your operatives must pick it up and evac with it!
- Approaching blue crates (which you will find in the scavenging missions) opens them and grants 5 WP to the operative (for more info on what these are, you can check the Willpoints (WP) in the Tactical Combat section; for now think of them as both morale and mana for using special abilities - at first you will only spend them when using your heavy's jet jump (which costs 2WP and 3AP). Note that to transfer items from the crate to the inventory of the soldier you need to spend 1 AP.
- On rescue scavenging missions you have to approach neutral soldiers to gain control of them and then evac them with your operatives. There are different setups for these missions, but most of them are designed so that unless you are very aggressive and run as fast as possible to the rescue, most of the neutrals will get killed before you reach them.
- Enemy reinforcements will continue to arrive until your evac. They will be small in number and perfectly manageable, provided you brought enough ammo.
- There are Mist Sentinels (pillars of living matter) that will auto-spawn Pandoran mist every turn. Mist is bad for you, good for Pandorans: any operative starting the turn inside it will lose 2 WP and Pandorans gain 1 WP and are more difficult to spot; just don't go inside and be careful around it because there might be enemies lurking about. If for some reason you absolutely must get rid of the mist (for example, if there is an enemy inside and you can't spot it), you can use Odin grenades to clear it up (any weapon that deals Blast Damage will do, including all kinds of grenades, missiles and spider drones).
Understanding the goals of the Phoenix Project and the Doomsday Clock (aka Human Population Census, or HPC)
The aim of the game is to defeat the Pandoravirus and save Humanity before the human population, represented by the Human Population Census (HPC), drops below a certain level.
Here is the first confusing part: what makes the HPC decline and is there a way of slowing it, or stopping it altogether?
In fact, what actually makes the HPC drop like a ship from Heaven in the first weeks is not the Pandoravirus, but... overpopulation. Many havens start with populations that they cannot support with their existing food supplies. There is nothing you can do about that.
The other major source of population loss is the destruction of havens, mostly by the Pandorans. You can do something about that, as you can intervene in any attack on a haven on the side of the defenders and stop it.
However, your goal is not to protect the havens indefinitely. You can't stop the Doomsday Clock; you have to beat the game before it runs out.
It's important to keep this in mind, because although you will want to defend havens to get rewards and to discover Pandoran bases, you should be prepared to let entire areas of the world go if defending them is not worth the time and resources.
To win you want:
- Research to improve your tactical and strategic capabilities and to ultimately uncover the mysteries of the Pandoravirus and how to defeat it
About RNG on the Geoscape and how it can impact the starting game
A fairly common complaint (from other game players) is that there is too much 'dice rolling' on the Geoscape; start the game anew and you get a different start location (and no one wants Central or South America, because there is less landmass to generate POI) and havens are spread around differently. Reload the game, and you will get a different outcome from an exploration, different recruits available at the base and from the havens. Particularly, the way diplomatic missions can spawn on the other side of the world in some unreachable spot can be very upsetting to some players.
Personally, this is something I find enjoyable because 1) it helps to make each playthrough different and 2) I have never had a situation where this RNG made me lose the game. Honestly, I don't find starting in South or Central America much of a disadvantage; activating the first couple of bases is cheap. As to the random outcome of explorations, good opportunities can be made of any scavenging ops: vehicles are very powerful in the early game, recruits are always needed and so are resources. If your aircrafts are reasonably manned and equipped ambushes are not a problem and can be used as experience training missions. Over a playthrough in my experience they always make a minor proportion of the encounters.
Of course you can start a new game if your initial base is in Central or South America, or even save and reload the game before every exploration. Or you can roll with the dice, and adjust your strategic plans accordingly.