A turn based tactics game for the 'XCom' fans. But can an incredibly complicated niche game find a home on the Switch - a system known for its mass market appeal?
Developed by Creative Forge
Published by Forever Entertainment
Released in 2020
Sometimes, size and scale can be intimidating. When I scour the shelves of my local board game cafe, I will ignore the games that exist in giant boxes. I worry I'd never understand a game so heavy that it literally make the shelf it sits on bend and bow. Clearly, this heavyweight title must have a huge amount of rules, figures and components to fill that big box. “If I don't understand them all, I'll never enjoy the game” I worry. But to others, this gigantic package is enticing. The game within will be something you can sink your teeth into; an appealingly imposing game where satisfaction can come from understanding the nuances and mastering the complexity. A big box equals a game that you will need to set a whole weekend aside for, but one that has enough scale and scope to make that dedication feel like time well spent.
I find myself thinking of board games when I analyse 'Phantom Doctrine' an espionage game developed by Polish studio Creative Forge. The bulk of the game will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played a certain alien hunting strategy game, something Creative Forge themselves recognise. “It’s a tactical cold war thriller; It’s ‘XCom’ with Spies.” says designer Blazej Krakowiak. “‘XCom’ is definitely the benchmark in the genre, but then the formula is so wide, you can do so much creatively with it. Doing alien invasions are not the only thing you can do with it.” Consequently, the bulk of ‘Phantom Doctrine’ involves moving characters over an isometric grid. Playing like a game of chess, you position your team and then perform actions with them. These actions can be as simple as gunning down an enemy agent, or more complex tasks involving stealing files, laying traps or even interrogating, instructing sniping, breaching a room or going onto Over watch – when you’ll be on constant guard should the opponent perform anything untoward in your vicinity. Once you’ve spent all your agents allotted skill points it’s your opponent’s turn. They will then move and perform similar actions. Play continues in this way until, either your agents are all dead or you complete the mission’s objective. Obviously this means you’ll be sitting watching the computer do their moves for half the play time, but that’s to be expected in this kind of game.