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Details on Julian Gollop’s Phoenix Point, his new take on the original X-COM formula

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X-COM: Apocalypse, now

Julian Gollop, the man who gave birth to the original X-COM: UFO Unknown, chose the week of E3 2016 to reveal the first details of his next project. Titled Phoenix Point, at its core it’s the same kind of turn-based, tactical strategy found in the XCOM series. But, he told Rock, Paper, Shotgun, it will also lean heavily on the mechanics of modern grand strategy titles like Crusader Kings 2 to create procedurally generated, emergent storylines each time you play.

If you were a fan of X-COM: Apocalypse, it’s time to pay attention.

In 2046, the Earth’s melting permafrost releases an ancient, mist-like virus into the sea, unleashing a horde of aquatic mutants on humanity. Before long, the only people left alive are hedged into isolated "havens," discrete pockets of civilization protected from the mists by quirks of their geography. Soon, these havens become heavily armed island bastions floating above a viral sea.

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Phoenix Point is one of those havens, and players will be tasked with scavenging enough food and other supplies to keep their people alive. The monsters at the gates will come in many shapes and sizes, some as large as buildings. But as your squads begin to successfully engage them, the aliens will begin to change shape. They might alter how and where they're armored, or begin to corrupt new kinds of land animals — and even humans — to throw into battle.

"Procedural generation works on two levels," Gollop told Rock, Paper, Shotgun. "The first is interchangeable body parts. The other thing is morphing in size and shape to some extent. It might be that an alien has a vestigial element that can get larger. Or it might be a relatively small creature that is based on a large insect or bat, but that might get bigger or nastier."

Tactical combat will allow soldiers to target individual limbs. During encounters enemies will hide in the mist, and you'll have to draw them out or brush the mist aside to get a bead on them. There will be procedural objectives as well, and they will give players access to special cards that can be used to boost individual characters or whole fireteams.

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But Phoenix Point isn’t the only haven left on Earth. Among the other factions on the map are the Human League, a band of military survivalist types who want to confront the aliens directly. Sanctuary, on the other hand, seeks to coexist by using their knowledge of ecology to build a kind of wall that will push the mist back. Finally, Advena Domine is a religious cult that believes in ritualistic sacrifice and has been able to develop sentient human/alien hybrids.

But there’s also a kind of political layer to the game, just as there was in Apocalypse. Factions may choose to ally with each other, or with you. Factions could even fight amongst themselves, and ask you for aid in their battles.

Ultimately, you can befriend these factions, borrowing their unique perks. Or you can take them by force.

Phoenix Point is expected in the second half of 2018.