Title: Phantom Doctrine
Developer: CreativeForge Games
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Simulation, Strategy
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 18
Release Date: Out Now – 13/06/19
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title. *Currently on sale for £12.05 until 14/08/19*
My first thought of Phantom Doctrine is that it bears a close resemblance to games similar to XCOM and other turn-based tactical titles. Although I noticed some issues with graphics and some of the mechanics in the gameplay, these were not enough to deter me from continuing and exploring some of the other strengths I noticed. Gamers who enjoy turn-based tactical games will no doubt find all the usual interfaces here.
Phantom Doctrine adds an additional layer to the usual format by introducing an espionage screen between tactical missions that help progress the story and further agents abilities and skills, which makes the game more entertaining. All in all, players who enjoy the historical period and turn-based games will find many of the elements in Phantom Doctrine to their liking.
The premise of Phantom Doctrine is an interesting one, lead a team of covert operatives during the waning years of the Cold War to gather secrets and collect information. A popular historical period with great potential within game development, Phantom Doctrine lets the player use a range of approaches to complete missions. With successful missions, comes the opportunity to upgrade and build operatives skills. The start of the game immediately introduces the player to the game’s core elements of stealth and combat. However, the game progresses once the beginning tutorials are finished, and this shows the great strengths that Phantom Doctrine brings and where some elements need improvement.
The development team behind Phantom Doctrine, CreativeForge Games, known for another great turn-based tactical game Hard West, have received generally good reviews for their third title release and have won a range of awards. Available on all major platforms, Phantom Doctrine is classed as a turn-based tactical stealth game, and it clearly draws inspiration predominately from XCOM with a similar tactical screen and over the shoulder camera during action turns, however, Phantom Doctrine has many standalone features that allow it to stand as a game within its own right.
Upon starting the introduction to Phantom Doctrine, I immediately noticed that the visuals were not a strong point. In fact, I was strongly reminded of games I’d played on previous consoles such as the PS1. However, I was playing on the Switch, and although I would not see this as an excuse for poor graphics, I do believe that some texture quality can be substituted because of the nature of the handheld console.
These graphical limitations could be overseen, but they were so woeful for a modern console that I found it hard to ignore them, the specs may be different if played on PC, and on Steam they do look better, but in today’s gaming world, graphics are essential, particularly if the game is being sold at similar prices to other titles on the Switch.
That being said, the interface and UI are clear and defined and are what I would expect in a modern title. CreativeForge have taken much of the art style from XCOM as the tactical element of the game, the blue movement tiles are similar, and this means that the game is easy to understand and play. A particular aspect of the game I found enjoyable is the lighting, which adds to the atmosphere of the title and reinforces the stealth approach that the player needs to stick to in order to successfully complete missions.
The audio aspects of Phantom Doctrine are an area that CreativeForge have done well. Generally, voice acting and sound effects were good and were what I would expect. The music is solid and is suitable for the genre. I would say that music is an important part of this type of game because often characters do not have lengthy dialogue and the game world often becomes repetitive. This can mean that the sound adds to the atmosphere but at the same time needs to be subtle enough to not distract the player, and Phantom Doctrine does this well.
While playing the game, I noticed little effects that I enjoyed such as, heavy weapon experts making ‘clanking’ sounds as they move, stealth players having quieter footsteps and clear noises that indicate something has happened or will be happening. This made playing the game much more enjoyable, and there are no areas that I would complain about when it comes to the audio.
For those players familiar to a turn-based tactical game, the gameplay is exactly what you would expect. Players start by positioning their agents around the mission map. What I do like about this game is that the starting positions are extended and cover a much wider range of the map, giving the player much more options when it comes to deployment. Then the player is allowed to move agents, and then the enemy takes their turns. How Phantom Doctrine is different from other games of this type is that it relies on agents having specific skill sets, and depending on which agents you choose, depends on how the mission plays out.
This ability to have specialised agents means that each agent is vital to the player and if you lose an agent on a mission, it does genuinely feel like you’ve lost a part of the team. I did find that some agents are more useful than others, although a well-balanced team on missions were much more likely to succeed. One area I felt could have been improved is that when discovered, the enemy sends in reinforcement. Unfortunately, these reinforcements keep coming, and this means that your weapons experts are useful but only if you are found.
It also meant that holding ground and fighting your way out is impractical and impossible, meaning that stealth is required. This, in my opinion, limits the approaches a player can take and therefore, the game can become tedious in the later stages. I found that as a turn-based game, Phantom Doctrine was well rounded and fun to play, however, it still has the same problem as other turn-based titles have in that the world becomes repetitive and the later game becomes stale.
This brings us nicely onto replayability. Phantom Doctrine is a good game, yet I think in the future it would be one of those titles that will find itself deleted to make way for another game. The story is limited, and the later stages were a slog, but it was fun and put a nice twist on the genre. Unfortunately, it is a title that doesn’t have me wanting to play it a second time over. For me, the game was worth playing, but I was happy with my playthrough, and that was enough for me to feel like I’d seen and experienced everything this title had to offer.
Phantom Doctrine is a great title to add to the fantastic genre of turn-based tactical games, it also does a great job at sticking to its stealth theme and the historical period is an excellent setting for this game. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing through the story and became invested in my team of agents. There are weaknesses in the title that I feel prevent me from wanting to return to the game in the future such as the graphic quality but all in all I think that CreativeForge has delivered a great game and I look forward to what the studio release next.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Phantom Doctrine on the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Phantom-Doctrine-1572854.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.