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Jean-Luc

Phantom Doctrine - An espionage themed X-Com-like set during the Cold War.

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It even has a secret "third party" trying to destabilize the world by pitting world powers against each other.

There's some inspiration to be had here for sure if you happen to be working on a strategic planetary defense simulator with covert themes set during the Cold War: http://www.goodshepherd.games/games/phantom-doctrine

It's by the Hard West devs, the trailer's pretty crazy.

 

 

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Yeah this does actually look pretty good - I'm also a bit envious that they apparently have a team of 50 people working on it. It's gonna be a fairly big budget production by the looks of it.

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I much prefer the sci-fi setting of Xenonauts or XCom, but after watching a gameplay video of it, I was pretty impressed by the level of detail:

Was actually on the otherside of the fence when it was initially anounced on GOG ("Will not buy), but I ended up just purchasing it today after watching this gameplay video.  Really like the addition of the "Awareness" attribute to give a little more tactical depth to combat.

Apparently will be released for download tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl...may end up regretting my purchase in the end, but it wasn't too expensive ($45NZD ~ 24 Pounds) and visually looks decent.

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I have the timer ticking down on this upon GOG. The action in Hard West was pretty cool, I guess they must've just pipped XCOM to the Engine (Hard West), being the only two using that GE. I doubt this will have that base however, i imagine Firaxis bought sole use for XCOM. Anyhow the developers didn't take it and turn it into apple & blackcurrent omelette with chips.

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Just had a quick google:

-XCOM: Enemy Unknown uses the Unreal 3 engine

-Hard West uses Unity (I'm not very fond of Unity, ever since Pillars of Eternity any games I purchase that are built with this engine tend to be very hard on graphics hardware with even relatively average in-game graphics)

-Phantom Doctrine uses the Unreal 4 engine (I should of checked this before purchasing the game, but I'm so relieved that it's using the Unreal engine...phew!)

Not sure how to answer about your apple & blackcurrent omelette with chips however :D

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The ground combat in Phantom Doctrine doesn't make any really fundamental changes to the way combat is handled, other than perhaps the way that shooting is handled. Most of the changes are on the more abstract layer - the way the the game handled such things as off-table support, team actions, etc. etc.

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As i read the reviews, it's not well with LOS and bullet passing walls problems.. heh like Xe-1 at first days.. and the combat is very very hard.. you just need to be under cover and as people says, it's not well too..

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Hmmm, yeah seems rather buggy so far.

I didn't get much further than the first mission, and I played it stealthy so I didn't get to see the Line of Sight issues others have run into, but I believe it is a pretty important issue currently.

I actually tend to spend quite a bit of time setting up graphics options in game.  The "Default" anti-aliasing was pretty destructive on texture detail, so I switched to TXAA which was a little better but results in the whole screen shaking ever so slightly all the time....

AA turned off and AA quality on low and the game looks a lot better IMO.  reshade works fine with the better less destructive SMAA.

Yeah thats me..spending more time tweaking the game graphics options rather than playing...

Rather disappointed about the lack of documentation or explanation on certain mechanics; really could do with the some hover tool-tips to explain things better.

The "Danger" mechanic I think works similarly to the one proposed in Xenonauts 2 where the higher it is the close you are to having your hideout discovered, but I haven't played very far and the learning curve is steep (steeper because there really isn't much in the way of explanations on things).

The combat doesn't actually have a % chance to hit which is different, and that is where "awareness" is used to help you "Dodge" incoming fire.  I'll probably start a new game again and see if I can make more sense on things.

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The most fun you'll have in the tactical missions is when you aren't fighting. It plays out a lot like Invisible Inc. The game encourages you to sneak around and slip past patrols as there's only so many people you can ko or kill before enemy agents come looking for you. It's a lot of fun working out patrol routes and slipping past mooks. Actual combat feels like MGS, where you're punished for not successfully sneaking. 

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I've played a fair bit of the game, and I'm slightly disappointed.

I haven't had any LoS issues at all, even after around 10~ hours of gameplay. I tend to avoid combat as much as possible, focusing more in the infiltration aspect.

The game does a very poor job at explaining certain mechanics, and early in the game I got extremely frustrated due to this. One big example is that the game doesn't tell you that knocking out guards will eventually make everyone go on high alert, start looking for you and erase all intel from the map. Knocking out guards is also based on your agent's HP, so if your agent has lower HP than the enemy, they cannot be knocked out. A bit weird, but I suppose it's one way of balancing it.

Combat is also weird, as Baqar said, since ALL shots have a 100% chance of hitting; the only way to avoid a hit is to have a high Awareness value (which regenerates every turn and can be replenished by certain skills). Cover helps make the hit be a "graze", which significantly lowers the damage of the hit. I'm not certain how much I like the system, but I've tended to avoid it. I've had maybe a couple of big firefights in the game.

It is also EXTREMELY easy to "cheese" the game with disguises and the help of a perk called "Actor". Disguises make your Agent start in a random place of the enemy compound and do not get detected by cameras nor enemy mooks (but CAN be detected by enemy Agents) but can only equip an SMG and/or a pistol in their weapon slots. The "Actor" perk, however, make the Agent be completely undetectable even when against enemy Agents, so they are completely free to roam around the map without repercussions. Even more, if you give them a silenced SMG, they can "breach" (an ability everyone has that moves your Agents into a room and they automatically shoot anyone inside it, but somehow they still retain all movement points) any room and clear it very easily. 

The strategy layer is very interesting and Chris might extract a feature or two from it into Xenonauts 2. You send your agents across the globe to investigate places, which sometimes turn out to be false positives (nothing happens), informants (they give you something after X time if you can protect them), or enemy activities. You have to be very proactive about this, as if you let enemy activities go unhindered, your Danger meter increases. If your Danger meter reaches a certain threshold, there's a high chance the enemies will launch a raid on your base (very similar to what Chris was talking about for Xenonauts 2, funnily enough). The only way to decrease your Danger meter is to change hideouts, which takes a significant amount of money. Once you detect an enemy activity, you have several options (most of them you need to unlock first) to deal with it. Interrupt, which simply prevents the enemy action from happening; Tail, which I haven't done yet, presumably it gives you intel on enemy Cells on the map; Recon Site, which lets you use Support Agent and removes the fog of war from the map if you decide to launch an attack; Launch Attack, self-explanatory. You can do even more things against an enemy Cell like infiltrating it or staking it out, but I haven't done it yet so I don't know what they do. All of these actions require that you send your own Agents (sometimes 2, sometimes 4, depends on the action) to do them, so there might not be enough time to do them if it is very far away and/or don't have Agents in the area. It makes you think about whether it is better to conserve resources and if you should scatter your Agents across the planet to better respond to threats.

There are some really odd design decisions as well. Capturing an enemy Agent early in the game gives you some kind of boon (intel, blueprints to craft equipment, etc) instantly and for free, with the enemy Agent killed right afterwards. If you unlock the MKULTRA facility in your base, however, Interrogating the enemy Agents costs money and a lot of time, and they give you the same thing as before. Furthermore, enemy Agents in your cells increase your Danger meter by 1 for every hour that passes, so while before unlocking the facility capturing an enemy Agent was free, instant and danger-free, now you get the same thing with all of the downsides. It's true that you can unlock really cool things like Brainwashing enemy Agents into your cause, making them Sleeper Agents so they "flip" during a mission, putting control chips so they go back to their Cell and blow it up, but all of these options require unlocking first, so when you first unlock the facility, you're stuck with a worse version of what you had before. 

However, none of what I said earlier is worse than this: the game is really zoomed in. Seriously, it's incredibly hard to see anything or plan your movement because the god damn camera is right on the god damn pavement. There's even a button to zoom out, but it's NOT a toggle, so every time I'm in a mission I'm holding the Zoom Out button to be able to see anything. There's no option to increase the zoom level, nor at least make the button a toggle (oh, and sometimes the button doesn't work, like when using abilities from the Support Agents). This is, by far, the worst feature of the game.

Anyway, I would suggest to anyone who is interested in this game to wait a bit before they fix their issues. It's certainly a very interesting idea, but a few minor things prevent me from fully enjoying it.

Edited by Akrakorn1
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To add to Akrakorn, the impression I get from it is that it's been tested by people who knew the mechanics, therefore they never needed it to be explained to them and the game has been shaped by people who are used to its oddities, so they don't push for things that a fresh face would ask for. This is a possible pitfall for X2, I hope that we get a steady stream of fresh faces trying different things so that the game doesn't fit an insider's idea of how the game should work. 

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3 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

To add to Akrakorn, the impression I get from it is that it's been tested by people who knew the mechanics, therefore they never needed it to be explained to them and the game has been shaped by people who are used to its oddities, so they don't push for things that a fresh face would ask for. This is a possible pitfall for X2, I hope that we get a steady stream of fresh faces trying different things so that the game doesn't fit an insider's idea of how the game should work. 

I agree, the game's tutorial does a fair job at explaining some of the tactical options you have, like Breaches, but it's awful at explaining more advanced mechanics, which can often lead to very frustrating experiences.

 

By the way, the game is currently being patched. They are at 1.02 now. Lots of translation fixes (apparently they used Google Translate-tier translations for some of the basic tooltips in French/Russian and other languages) and some LoS visualitzation tweaks as well. They said they are currently working on the most extreme LoS bugs as well, like enemies ignoring certain walls when shooting at your dudes. I'm pretty sure it's something related to height differences, but we'll see.

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I'm several missions in myself, but since I've tried to play it rather stealthily (only take downs so far, and I avoid those if I can), I've never had a chance to deal with the LOS issues.

I have found several bugs though; for example in one of my missions, the Agent got suspicious as guards weren't reporting in.  The agent then headed for the camera security system to reactivate it, but as soon as they switch it on the game gets permanently stuck on enemy movement, so I had to reload earlier back, got a little further and it got stuck again (on the turn that they reactivate the cameras).  Pretty much a matter of reloading earlier saves and hoping the agent wouldn't activate the cameras that turn until I could catch up and take them down.

Also disposing of agent bodies causes a Fatal Error every time; in my case it happened after carrying an agent then dropping them with intention to pick them up, but then I could no longer pick them up and only had the option of "Dispose of Body" which causes a Fatal Error crash to desktop.

Also had a UI lock up bug when completing one of the investigation boards; could only switch between the world map and board, however the world map was empty....thankfully reloading the last save fixed this.

Hmm, just seen the 1.01 patch on GOG, seems to fix the Fatal Error bug I've run into, also have included a manual in pdf format, although it seems pretty pitifully sized (21 pages) compared to the game complexity.  A quick glance at the manual does show some good information, for example cover:

Half cover = 50% damage reduction

Full cover = 75% damage reduction

So perhaps the manual might still be helpful...I'll have a look indepth later today.

Edited by Baqar79

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Having played PD a bit more now, the strategic map has some important lessons for X2. While there are things you can do on the map, Most of them are progress bars. Because almost every action you can take on the map is a non-interactive progress bar, time on the strategic map is sped up so as little time as possible is spent on the strategic map. If time wasn't sped up, then it would get boring fast. In X1, you spent a LOT of time looking at the strategic map. I don't imagine this is going to change significantly for X2, but if agents are going to play a meaningful role on the strategic map then there are going to have to be ways to distract from little agent progress bars filling up. 

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I’m definitely going to play this extensively when I get back from my honeymoon; I’ve had my eye on it for a while. I’ve seen some of the interesting strategic mechanics shown in pre-release streams and they look cool but I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve experienced them first-hand.

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 I honestly think there's a dichotomy of design with PD. The game offers me a lot of options for fighting. All of the characters you hire come with a starting weapon, you get heavy-to-light weapons right from the get go, two thirds of the equipment you can build from the start is related to combat, your agents perks are slated towards combat, their trained skills are all to do with combat and ALL of the stuff you loot in a mission is either weapons or armour.

But, if I start a fight in a mission I've done something wrong. Straight away reinforcements will pile in. Then either more reinforcements are queued up, or an air strike is queued up, and this will continue to happen until my team either escapes or are all killed. As you always hit your target, weight of numbers matters more in this game than it does in a game where there's a chance to miss and guess what? The enemy outnumbers you. I completed a mission recently where I spent three quarters of a tedious hour getting agents into position to ko as many mooks as possible in a simultaneous strike so I could then take out the remaining agents as rapidly as I can. PD gives me all these options for fighting, but it slaps me down if I then use the tools it gives me. 

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Quite a good game. Enjoyed it, finishing it with two of the three factions available. Sadly, due to company problems and the game not reaching the expectations in sales, the dev team all quit the company, so the game is unlikely to be improved. The last thig they added is the modding support, but I saw after its initial release it disappeared from the steam community, so I have no idea if the modding is really still possible.

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