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March 2019

Phantom Doctrine

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Developer: CreativeForge Games
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2018


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Phantom Doctrine'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 18, 2018 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Phantom Doctrine is a turn-based tactical Cold War espionage game.

The world of spies is a dangerous one. We may think of James Bond, but for every 007 there are dozens who live with conspiracies, fear and paranoia trying to unravel the complex weavings of the greatest game of all. Phantom Doctrine is all about that. You're sent back to the Cold War Era and discover that a mysterious organization is attempting to turn the Cold War into a true world war. Your only hope is to use your elite group of agents to uncover the danger before the world is thrust into horrifying chaos.

Paranoia was the name of the game in the Cold War, and it's no less true in a hidden war within the Cold War. You are constantly under threat from mysterious entities. Some of this involves them attempting to track down your main base of operations or expose your agents. You can counter attempts to expose you through missions or special actions, such as forging a new identity for your agent, though that can cost serious money. You don't want to lose valuable agents, so you need to spend quite a bit of time preparing and making sure they're protected.

Even more dangerous than being discovered is being suborned. In the world of Phantom Doctrine, mind control is real and remarkably dangerous. Any agent you hire may or may not be a double agent. Agents have hidden perks, which are special attributes that can make them far more effective than a regular person. On the other hand, those hidden perks can also be "is a double agent" or "is currently being brainwashed."

This same mind control can be turned back on your enemies. Captured enemy agents can be suborned and forced to work for you or even sent back to their own side to work as a double agent. Depending on how malicious you are, you can install an explosive in the enemy agent set to detonate when they return to base. If you're really heartless, you can even install an explosive in a suspected mole (or even an innocent rookie), let them get "captured" by the enemy, and then sacrifice one agent to blow up a few dozen enemies.

Discovering the truth behind the conspiracy is also important to survival. As you play the game, you'll collect evidence, which is encoded, and you'll have to discover clues in various pieces of evidence that link them to other pieces of evidence. Eventually, you create a giant corkboard full of interconnected conspiracies. Discover enough to unravel a mystery, and you'll get bonuses, such as new agents, and you'll come one step closer to discovering the truth.

By hook or by crook, you'll eventually be forced into playing missions, which are very standard modern X-COM-style gameplay with a few interesting twists. One is that you can assign agents to serve as support roles prior to a mission. You can set up an agent up on a nearby rooftop with a sniper rifle, and this gives you a chance to summon them during an emergency.

My favorite ability is the power to spend time Gathering Intel before a mission. If you just rush into a mission, it will have a number of disadvantages for you, such as fog of war. If you gather intel beforehand, you can figure out where your targets are or find non-violent ways to explore. You can even use disguises, which allow you to move around the map without being detected.

Needless to say, Phantom Doctrine has all the makings of a viciously brutal game and yet a remarkably compelling one. It's taking the basic X-COM framework and adjusting it to allow for more outside-of-combat choices and planning. Assuming the final version lives up to the compelling preview we saw, Phantom Doctrine should be a must-play for fans of the genre. The game is due out Summer 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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