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Phantom Doctrine

Phantom Doctrine is a strategic turn-based espionage thriller set at the peak of the Cold War. Drawing on a wide variety of influences and capturing the subtle intrigue of classic spy films, the game thrust the player into a mysterious world of covert operations, counterintelligence, conspiracy and paranoia. As leader of a secret organization known only as The Cabal, you are charged with preventing a global conspiracy that seeks to pit leader against leader, and nation against nation. By carrying out secret missions, investigating classified files, and interrogating enemy agents, a sinister plot is uncovered. With the clock ticking, it must be thwarted in order to save the world from an unthinkable fate.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

One of the most innovative game I've ever played but comes with major gameplay flaws. Very similar to XCOM but has its own unique flavor. The game is very ambitious with its gameplay and it backfired. The stealth element is waaayyy too rudimentary. It is still fun IMO, just unnecessarily frustrating.
- Enemies only react strictly to their line of sight or if you fire a non-suppressed weapon. You can kill someone or break windows right next to them, they will not notice you.
- If an enemy notice you, the entire level will immediately be alerted regardless of situation. You can kill them immediately or on the same turn and it doesn't matter.
- Once the entire level is alerted to your presence, every single enemy will hone in on you like a hive mind. Enemies will know where you are at all times, and will set up overwatch based on that too. This one will F*K you up in hard mode if you are discovered with enemies in all directions because unlike XCOM nobody misses a shot.
- You can't crouch behind half-walls when moving so enemies will see you if that half-wall is in their line of sight.
- CANNOT HIDE BODIES
- Dodging bullets is based on the "awareness" bar that drains real damn quick in gunfights, so stealth is a more sustainable approach especially in hard mode but it's kinda trash as I have explained.
- Enemies can shoot through walls.
- Missions are repetitive and boring. Objectives and levels appears to be dynamically generated.
I'm still recommending Phantom Doctrine because I want a successor that addresses these issues. I'm in love with the ideas and concepts for this game.

Review from Steam

Giving this a very tentative thumbs up and here is why. The only way to play this game in full stealth, complete all main and optional objectives, as well as using non lethal force to extract enemy agents from maps is to play on Easy mode. This is because of how the Takedown ability works. On Easy mode it works as long as you have enough Awareness and a at least one fire point, which is pretty much automatic, even when Awareness is depleted when using skills, ending turns refills it. Takedown is a non lethal action that allows you to knock out enemy agents. You can then pick them up and carry them with you to the extraction point and interrogate them at base. The problem is on Normal and Hard mode if you have less HP than the target (enemy agents almost always have more HP than your characters) you can't use Takedown even when you have the Awareness and the fire point available! So now your only option is to kill the agent. That's cool, but you want to do it stealthily? Well guess what. Your only option is to use a high powered, silenced weapon and if that weapon is not powerful enough to kill the agent with one shot, even when using the Headshot skill you are forced to fight it out with the entire map. This is not good for a game that is supposed to have a stealth, espionage type of theme.
As someone else mentioned in a review. This game is meant to be played using stealth, but on difficulty modes most ppl play you don't always have stealth options if you want to complete every objective. This game really had a ton of potential. The espionage and cold war them is really cool. Base management is simple, yet the base facilities definitely have that secret cell feel to give the player a nice spy game experience. The devs just messed up by thinking taking away certain stealth options in the difficulties players would use the most would make the game more challenging. Nah, it only made the game frustrating not due to difficulty, but due to lack of options.

Review from Steam

I can't understand for the life of me how people would rate this game negatively. I have never had a technical issue with this game. This is a different type of x-com with less random combat, more emphasis on stealth, and set in the cold war era.
If you dig those concepts, the game is amazing.

Review from Steam

Got this for 90% off on sale and it's an absolute steal! Highly recommend for everyone. Against full price I would still recommended, but only for fans of the genre. The game has a lot of potential but could use some polish in certain areas.
It's important to note this is not X-COM. It has an entirely different combat system. Did take me some getting used to. No more random chances, shots will always be fired on target, but the target can dodge and dodging, armor and cover can mitigate incoming damage. Dodging costs awareness, which is your currency for advanced combat abilities like silent takedowns and headshots. It has it pro's and cons. It basically changes the frustration of missing 95% shots for the frustration of getting shot in the back by enemies you can't even see but apparently they can see you. On most missions entering combat is completely optional though. Only on ambushes and mystery alarms called Force Majeur you're forced to enter combat.
That last bit is actually a bit of a shame, 99% of the missions can be fully completed staying in infiltration mode. The only downside is that your agents only earn half the XP for taking out enemies in infiltration mode. However, it is a lot easier in infiltration mode, as you don't have to worry about getting shot, so you won't have agents hospitalized, so you don't have to invest in hospital upgrades and can keep your agents mission ready. I think it would be more interesting if more missions had an incentive to go into combat mode, for examples by concentrating loot and intel in a room which is guarded by too many enemies to taking them all out one by one silently without the other ones noticing. That way you have to make a choice, be greedy and take everything but make the mission more difficult, or just go in and out silently to secure only your primary objective.
A very minor detail, but I did one of the story missions with silent takedowns only, just to have my handler call me to say he heard about the shoot-out.
The biggest complaint I have about this game is the lack of maps. I've seen the same map multiple times, with only a few random changes. Those random changes are not always good, as for example it placed the CCTV control in the living room room of some random civilian. The game would benefit greatly if the maps were more diverse. It would also be nice if the location of the mission for be reflected in the map. Whether the mission is in Moscow, New York, Paris or Beirut, it can give you the exact same map.
Another point of improvement would be to voicework. It's a bit hit or miss, with the overall result it's meh.
What I do like it that agents don't have a fixed class tree, instead their capabilities are determined by background, training, physique and perks. Starting physique and perks are random, and starting perks often hidden. Hidden perks get unlocked during gameplay. Many perks mean a talented agents, but since double agent is also hidden perk, hiring more talented agents is more risky. I didn't care about that, since double agents only turn on you if you enter combat, and I rarely did. That was a mistake when one mission turned out to be an ambush and suddenly I only had one agent left, who had to run for his life. Perks that get unlocked give you the choice of selecting 1 out of 4 random perks. Training is completely under your control, you can even retrain training slots already filled in when you hire the agent. The result is that your agent are highly customizable and no agent is exactly like the others. Agents can also get random event chains, like for example getting depressed, want to go away for training, or getting headhunted by a PMC. You then have to make choices and usually invest some money if you want to keep the agent. It often involves the agent getting MIA for a while, and MIA agents may be approached by the enemy, or just never return. However, if you stick with your guys you're they'll usually notice and become loyal one they return.
Overall the game has a decent story and interesting mechanics. It could use some polish, especially more maps and mission variety and some better voicework. Overall it gets a solid 7/10 from me. With a bit of polish I could see that becoming a 9/10. Too bad there's no expansions for this game and it's successor apparently won't be turn based.

Review from Steam

It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used.

Review from Steam

Mixed feelings. Similar to XCOM 2, but where XCOM fails at stealth (by starting to inform the enemies of your location after 2nd turn), this one intends you to spend most of your time in stealth. Liked it at first a lot. Here are the things that made me drop it eventually:
1. The game tries to force into stealth the first part of the mission and tries to force you into action after fulfilling the objective. Usually, the levels are set up in such a way that you barely lack the physical strength to subdue the target silently and for some reason 2 people cannot do it simultaneously without somehow immediately alerting the whole map to your exact location. The game really tries to limit the way you go through missions.
2. The missions become SO repetitive after a while. Even the procedurally generated maps start becoming repetitive.
3. The puzzle tasks seem interesting at first, but then you see they really mean nothing. No actual sense of discovery.
4. When your agent is discovered and attacked, if you kill the enemy agent, I'm not sure it even counts in the overall count of enemy agents. Maybe I haven't played enough, but it seemed to me like the amount of enemy agents hunting you at any given time is really unlimited and removing them does not have a noticeable effect on the game flow

Review from Steam

Finally, another type of turn-based tactics game. There is some good here but unfortunately a lot of bad as well. I liked the premise and story type. Some of the new things they tried, like implementing an “awareness” resource is a cool new idea. The combat system, in my opinion, is very unnatural and makes the game unplayable for me. I feel that a lot of situations are unfair, like how you cannot avoid taking damage while being fired upon even when you dodge. But I do appreciate that stealth is an option. It also has some weird quirks such as - you cannot perform a takedown on a character with more HP. While in mission you can hide bodies, but they miraculously disappear. You can gather intelligence and make connections (in game mechanic), but while this is a cool idea, the mini-game in its self is overly simplified. You also cannot pause the cinematics.