First Look: CreativeForge Make their play for the turn-based tactics crown with Phantom Doctrine

With Firaxis rumored to be putting the X-COM franchise on the back-burner, there’s sure to be a hole left in the hearts of turn-based tactics fan everywhere. Fortunately, this might end up being a major opportunity for CreativeForge Games’ newest title Phantom Doctrine.Now due for release in a world where the world's biggest turn-based tactics franchise looks to be facing fresh retirement, the game looks ambitious enough that it could almost constitute a full-blown play for the crown.

[Related: Monster Hunter World review: Forget about the look - it's all about the thrill of the hunt]

[Related: First Look: CreativeForge Make their play for the turn-based tactics crown with Phantom Doctrine]

[Related: First Impressions: Crossing Souls tackles 80s nostalgia in ways that few video games attempt]

We sat down with one of the game’s developers for a first-hand look at what Phantom Doctrine will be bringing to the genre with their espionage-laced take on the formula.

CreativeForge Games’ previous effort, Hard West, was generally well-received despite its flaws. It was a game with a lot of style and great turn-based combat. Unfortunately, structurally, it was a all-over-the-place. The studios’ choice to segment the game’s single player into several discrete chapters made for an experience that was fun in the moment but constantly stifling its own narrative and strategic momentum. Thankfully, Phantom Doctrine looks to learn from those mistakes.

Set in an alternate version of (whilst also being deeply inspired by) the Cold War, players take on the role of managing a renegade spy agency known called the Cabal. They’ll dispatch agents across the globe in missions in order to fight off a sinister global conspiracy. Much like Hard West, it’s big on theme and the trappings of its particular genre. However, on the whole, things look and feel a lot more polished this time around. Or, at least, the slice of the game we experienced was.

The smart, but oft-subtle, evolution here draw some easy parallels to the refinements that Firaxis recently made to the X-COM formula with War of the Chosen. Like those sequels, Phantom Doctrine leans into the stealth part of the equation, encouraging you to try and infiltrate or quietly eliminate guards wherever possible. That said, you do have a lot of options should you choose to instead go loud. For one, CreativeForge have implemented a nifty ‘breach’ mechanic, which allows you to burst into a room from multiple angles and engage those within in a single action.

Like Hard West, Phantom Doctrine also leans away from the unrealistic and sometimes frustrating RNG in combat. In their words: these are highly trained agents, they know how to hit a target. As a result, shots fired will always do at least some damage - and the exact extent of that damage is what will vary. There’s also a new stat called ‘composure’ (replacing the ‘Luck’ system of Hard West) in the mix here, which acts a buffer for damage and creates a satisfying ebb-and-flow to the firefights.

Our demo for the game also touched on the larger, big-picture, strategy of the game. Like X-COM, The Cabal have a headquarters that can be customized and upgraded with new facilities and amenities over time. The net effect here is that you’re both able to enhance your agents directly and also support them in the field using a variety of assets - from supply drops to sleeper agents.

There’s no shortage of systems and fascinating features in the mix here. Agents have mental and physical health to keep track of and captive enemy agents can eventually be brainwashed be turned against their former masters. What’s more, this approach - while valuable - doesn’t come without risk. CreativeForge indicated that these double and triple-agents are a very real possibility in Phantom Doctrine. If too many of your own agents are captured in the field, the location of your HQ might be compromised and you’ll have to abandon it and find a new home - setting back some of your progress.

Refreshingly, there’s a big focus here not just on winning missions and gathering intelligence. You’re also asked to make sense of that intelligence. Consulting your very own conspiracy wall, you’ll be able to read through the intel you’ve gathered, find patterns and discern what the various code names and pseudonyms represent. It’s a neat bit of puzzle solving that often doesn’t make the cut in even the most die-hard of espionage games.

It’d be easy to write-off this as something that simply transplants the combat system of Hard West into a fresh setting. However, CreativeForge look to be reaching more than a few steps further than that with Phantom Doctrine. Wherever possible, they’re drawing out new mechanics and systems from both the genre of espionage and its real-life, historical counterpart. While this approach might make for a game with a lot to keep track of - that’s exactly what the target audience for it are after.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags X-COMPhantom DoctrineTurn based tactics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Fergus Halliday

Fergus Halliday

PC World
Show Comments





Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?