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Turn-Based Tactics Phantom Doctrine - "tactical Cold War conspiracy thriller" by Hard West devs

LESS T_T

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https://www.phantomdoctrine.com




https://af.gog.com/game/phantom_doctrine?as=1649904300

Alternative history of Cold War; strategy layer with investigation, intelligence, and research; "next-generation" turn-based tactical combat with "unprecedented flexibility of movement and actions" and "fully-fledged stealth gameplay".

It's developed by Hard West developer Creative Forge Games and published by Good Shepherd Entertainment (formerly Gambitious Entertainment, the same publisher published Hard West).

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Set in 1983 during the Cold War, Phantom Doctrine is an alternate history thriller in which players lead The Cabal, a secret organization dedicated to fighting a global conspiracy committed to controlling the world by pitting world leaders and nations against one another.

Throughout secret missions, classified files investigations and enemy agent interrogations, peel off layers upon layers of a sinister plot and save the world from a somber future. If you can.

Features
  • A rich alternate history plot anchored by historical events and characters, bringing the chillingly relevant Cold War reality to life from a unique point of view.
  • Next-generation turn-based combat: Unprecedented flexibility of movement and actions, variable overwatch modes and assault-oriented Breaching ability
  • Expanded battlefield: position assets around the world and call for assistance in the middle of battle when you need it most. Just remember, the enemy can bring their own reinforcements, heavy weapons or even air support and their toy box is much bigger than yours.
  • Knowing is half the battle: scout mission locations ahead of time, infiltrate with undercover operatives and improve your odds. Elite enemy agents with their own agenda are always ready to spring their own ambushes.
  • Go loud or go home (stealthily): fully-fledged stealth gameplay with silenced weapons, silent takedowns and cutting-edge Cold War era security technology. All this makes completing entire operations clandestinely a viable option.
  • Run your own counterintelligence organization: recruit subjects of top secret government experiments, operatives of the world’s secret services, KGB & CIA included, or even criminals. Manage a global operation, securing weapons, resources and contacts. Command from a distance or go hands-on to fight for the real stakes.
  • Actively pursue the truth: research cases, locations and individuals in Investigation Board gameplay mechanics to uncover new missions, resources and technologies.
  • Employ technology ruthlessly to your advantage: learn from the enemy or research your own methods for brainwashing, interrogation, body engineering and chemical enhancement.
  • Customize your operatives and then do it again once they need a new identity: forge documents, change appearance, retrain them for lethal effect and send them back into the fray.
  • Replayable, modular campaign with an array of mechanics to ensure unique and markedly different playthroughs: generated character names and backgrounds, modular and algorithmically populated maps, randomized intelligence snippets.
  • A highly replayable, story-driven campaign with meticulously designed and adaptable maps.
  • Two stories to choose from: a KGB counterintelligence operative or a CIA wet work commando who have to come to grips with the truth and challenge the conspiracy, with an additional New Game Plus protagonist.
  • No mission too big, no mission too small: enter a bustling government facility undercover to assassinate a target with surgical precision or mount a heavy frontal assault on an enemy staging base. With optional objectives closely linked to a mission’s complexity and opportunities like loot and intelligence to collect, there are decisions to be made at each step.

Looks and sounds very cool.
 
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Jinn

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This looks impressive! Seems to have more of the consistent character development that I was hoping for with Hard West. While I liked Hard West's approach, I did think it would have benefited from a more focused progression.

What an interesting and great setting for an espionage turn-based strategy game.
 

Hellraiser

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Well this looks interesting, I do have a fondness for stealth and tactical games. Definitely keeping an eye on this. Also they get bonus points for having my home city as a possible mission location, that doesn't happen often.
 

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https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/08/30/phantom-doctrine-preview/

XCOM-like tactical espionage thriller Phantom Doctrine was my Gamescom highlight

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At first glance, Phantom Doctrine [Steam page] looks an awful lot like a Cold War flavoured XCOM. That’s quite an exciting prospect and the closer I looked, the more exciting it became. There are agents instead of aliens, and some novel infiltration and reconnaissance systems, but everything from the UI to the cover system is immediately familiar. The tactical missions are hiding unexpected twists though, and zooming out to the campaign map shows that the setting informs every aspect of the game.

It’s early days, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but Phantom Doctrine might well be one of 2018’s strategy highlights.

XCOM is the first reference point that comes to mind but many others follow, prime among them Covert Action, an early Sid Meier game that tackled a similar setting. Phantom Doctrine divides your time between a world map, where strategic decisions and team-building take place, and hand-crafted tactical environments where missions play out. Both layers have plenty of qualities and rules that make them more than Cold War reskins of existing games, but rather than digging into every feature, I’m going to focus on the ones that really stand out.

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Let’s start with the strategic map. You’re the head of an agency caught in the middle of a big ol’ conspiracy. You’ll always be outnumbered and outgunned so you’ll need to use intelligence to improve the odds. That’s intelligence in both the espionage sense and the actual brain-thinking sense. You need the latter, in varying degrees, whenever you pick up a strategy game, but the former is rarely used.

In Phantom Doctrine, enemy agents and cells move around the world map and one of your main objectives is to figure out where they’re going and what they’re planning to do when they get there. To this end, you can spend a sort of intelligence currency, gained during missions, to do clever things like planting tracking devices on captured agents.

Let them back out into the wild and you can follow them back to their HQ and from there you can observe that HQ and prepare for an assault. Or maybe you’ll infiltrate by planting one of your agents on the inside as an employee, undercover. Then, when you trigger a mission in the location, you’ll be able to control that insider and either have them silently assassinate their former co-workers and guards, or disable cameras and other security devices.

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Or maybe you’ll use a Manchurian drill on a captured agent. In that case, once they’re released you can push a button at any time to take direct control of them. That degree of brainwashing is a costly affair but comes with obvious benefits; you could sabotage defenses during a mission by bodysnatching an opponent, or could flip the asset (INFO WAR EUPHEMISM AHOY) while it’s on-site at an embassy or agency HQ, using it to gather information and to help plot an infiltration from the inside.

Tucked alongside the campaign map, where all of the mission and agent tracking takes place, there’s a wall that you can pin all of your leads onto. It immediately reminded me of that one scene in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when Charlie is chasing conspiracies.

You’ll have your own Pepe Silvia before long, and a whole bunch of other names and places. As you interrogate captives or find dossiers during missions, you’ll get more info to pin to the wall, and as codenames and references appear, you can link them together until you have enough connections to discover a new location or person out in the world. That leads to new potential missions and other opportunities.

It’s easy to see a satisfying core loop of intelligence gathering backed up by missions that are either stealth or combat focused, depending on your approach and the reality on the ground. I should make it clear, I haven’t seen the campaign working in all its dynamic glory. All of the individual components are in place, but given the limited time available and the fact I was mainly meeting up to view a demo of a tactical mission, I didn’t see agent movement and interactions.

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But I did see body engineering and chemical enhancements – “think of Ivan Drago’s training regime”- and those conspiracy boards, and agent training and recruitment, as well as the map at the centre of everything. It’s an exciting prospect, a game packed with moving parts all tied beautifully to that cold war espionage theme.

The most solid part of the whole puzzle so far is the tactical combat though, and that’s potentially the least interesting ingredient. At first it looks like an XCOM reskin, with a UI just about similar enough to trick my brain into looking for sectoids in the shadowy corners of the embassy our agency is raiding.

As the mission unfolds, unique elements become clear though and, again, they fit the theme perfectly. You can have agents off-map, for instance, working as snipers or spotters. That gives you better visibility or the ability to pick off enemies from afar. And maybe you do have somebody on the inside, standing by a photocopier and trying to look innocent. As your team sneak through the building, you can have Mr Xerox slip away from his colleagues to turn off all the security cameras.

The embassy guards won’t see you coming, or leaving if everything goes to plan.

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Or you can bring some hardware and shoot your way through. There’s no RNG for firefights – you shoot, you generally wound or kill. Characters do have a composure rating that allows them to dodge shots provided there’s enough distance between them and the target. They’re not doing a Neo and literally bending their body between bullets – it’s more a case of ducking behind cover for a moment – but the composure acts like an armour stat, draining as agents are targeted. Once it’s gone, damage goes straight to the body and it doesn’t take many bullets to drop a person for good. We are not made to absorb bullets like some sort of bullet sponge.

Worse than the terrifying mortality and fragility of your recruits is the fact that the enemy will almost certainly bring bigger guns to the fight than you can. A helicopter started launching rockets at our embassy crew, though they did manage to call in an escape vehicle and get out of harm’s way.

I could write so much more about why Phantom Doctrine nestled into my brain so comfortably. It’s from the team that made Hard West and it’s a far more ambitious game, building on the tactical framework of its predecessor. The setting is less imaginative, but more appealing to me, and the game looks like an exquisite marriage of setting, mechanics and theme.

Three Days of the Condor and The Manchurian Candidate reimagined as components in a complex strrategy game. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to play it until I saw that it existed and now, I’ll be following its development as closely as anything else out there.
 

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http://www.pcgamer.com/torture-brainwash-or-kill-enemy-agents-in-this-xcom-style-cold-war-game/

Torture, brainwash, or kill enemy agents in this XCOM-style Cold War game
But watch out, because the same could happen to your agents in Phantom Doctrine.

Phantom Doctrine walks and talks like XCOM: it's a turn-based strategy game where you guide agents across sprawling, gridded maps to execute infiltration and combat missions. Between those missions you spend time managing and equipping your team, completing research in your secret base, and plotting your next move on the world map. Or, perhaps, implanting a tracking device in someone's skull.

Developer CreativeForge Games isn't watering down the brutality of the Cold War in its conspiracy-rich strategy game. If you subdue an enemy while on a mission and manage to drag them to the extraction point, you can subject them to some unsettling treatment back at your base. For example, enemy agents can be implanted with a secret phrase, then released from your base. When you encounter that agent on a later mission, you can "say the magic word to make them come to your aid when the enemy is least expecting it," according to creator Pavel Zagrebelny.

Less insidiously, you could interrogate them to gain information, or you could try to flip their allegiance or make them a mole that continuously sends you bits of information. When you reach a tactical mission, these undercover agents that are at that location are controlled by you and can walk freely on the map, scouting, killing, or sabotaging right under the enemy's nose while your better-armed operatives move in.

But wait: all of this awful stuff can happen to your agents too. Abandon a wounded agent on a mission, and they might return later on in the campaign, claiming to have 'barely made it out,' while actually being a double agent for the enemy. My demo here at PAX in Seattle this weekend didn't provide enough time to see exactly how these techniques would play out over the campaign, but I really like that these systems are available to you and your opponent equally.

Another neat piece of Phantom Doctrine is the way information is amassed as you play the campaign. You build an actual, cliched 'conspiracy board' made up of individual pieces of information and photos, connected by lines of yarn on a corkboard.

Games like Phantom Doctrine don't lend themselves to 30-minute demos, so we'll definitely have to spend more time with it to understand how these mechanics function across the course of many hours. But so far this is looking like an inspired take on XCOM-style strategy with a dark side.
 
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Looks a bit like Shadowrun Returns. I liked Hard West quite a bit, so I think I'll get this one as well.
 

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Kacper Szymczak will be giving a talk at this conference in the Potatolands next week: https://gic.gd/agenda/#kacper-szymczak

Designing Balance
Kacper Szymczak CreativeForge Games

Balancing is a problem seemingly no one exactly knows how to tackle. Should you calculate it all? Should you tinker with values until you're satisfied with every detail? Should you turn to focus tests? I aim to propose a different approach and treat balance as something inherently systemic. I'm going to talk about structuring systems and content around a balanced framework. I will elaborate on my experience with such an approach in Phantom Doctrine, focusing on solutions we utilized and effective techniques required to master the balancing of a lengthy campaign in a complex game.

(Josh Sawyer will be there too, I'll be sure to tell him to attend :D)
 
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This looks very interesting. Should Hard West inspire optimism about it? I've never played Hard West.
 

Jinn

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This looks very interesting. Should Hard West inspire optimism about it? I've never played Hard West.

Hard West was fun, but I'm hoping this one has a little more focus, depth, and more of a sense of progression. Those were the areas I found particularly lacking in Hard West.

In short: yes, HW was a good game and if its any indication of where this team is heading, their next game should be something people around here will like very much.
 

Saduj

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The more I played it, the more Hard West grew on me. This looks next game looks like it could be even better. But I hope the developer is planning on having a proper save system with multiple slots in this one. More than once I had problems with the save game in Hard West and had to start a nearly completed mini-campaign over. Annoying and unnecessary but forgivable given how short the campaigns are. And I get that the save system in Hard West was the way it was because they wanted players to have to live with some of the negative effects coming from decisions made on the overland map. But in a game with a long single campaign the autosave system combined with buggy saves would be unforgivable.
 
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Is this going to have CYOA parts too while you wander around the map ?
Nope, instead there's a world map which is basically a spy network where you fight in a strategic scope, a hideout where you do brainwashing, forging cash, analyzing secret files, adjusting agent params with chemicals and such.
There are some random story bits that give you some choice here in and there, but it's just a tiny fraction of that.
 

Azalin

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Thanks for the answer but why are you quoting me answering in this thread a question I made in another one???

:philosoraptor:
 
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Very cool and unexpectedly interesting announcement! Interesting to see this developer stick to their guns with developing turn-based games like Hard West. Some of the main features, like emphasis on level design and on site intelligence gathering are reminiscent of Hitman: Blood Money; while the globe trotting and espionage and Cold War political focus is similar to Alpha Protocol. Although as amusing as the live action trailer is I wish they dedicated those four minutes to showing gameplay in action.

Thank you for posting about this. I'll be keeping my eye close on this one!

:incline::salute:
 

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https://www.pcgamesn.com/phantom-doctrine/phantom-doctrine-release-date-gameplay-trailer

Phantom Doctrine is a Cold War take on XCOM with spies instead of aliens

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Phantom Doctrine takes the framework of XCOM, with its turn-based tactical combat wrapped in a strategic metagame but applies it to the quiet conflict of spies during the Cold War. Between infiltrating Russian and US military bases, you’ll be brainwashing captured agents, piecing together evidence to unveil secret bases around the world, and rooting out any double agents that have infiltrated your organisation.

You lead The Cabal, an organisation independent of political affiliation, working to keep the world a (relatively) stable place. As you uncover plots and defuse emerging threats, you’ll learn how they’re all connected to a larger, global conspiracy, one that winds itself around real events - giving everything a whiff of plausibility.

That wasn’t why I came away from my demo convinced Phantom Doctrine is one of the most exciting games of 2018, though. No, it’s because the game is spilling over with new ideas. It’s like the developers went through a library of spy stories, pulling down books and films, and turned as much as they could into playable systems. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Manchurian Candidate; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; even the Bourne films, have been plundered for play mechanics.

Agents that can speak the local language on missions will be able to talk to guards, distracting their attention.If an agent is spotted on a mission they will build up heat until their cover is blown and they’re ambushed by enemy agents - the only fix is to forge them a new passport and cover identity. Through missions and interrogations you can collect information that you can try to connect together to uncover secrets - you do this by trying to connect documents together with red string on a corkboard.

That’s just the start of the game’s network of sabotage, stealth, infiltration, and deception. Despite its Cold War setting, then, Phantom Doctrine is a hotbed of new ideas.

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As you progress through Phantom Doctrine’s campaign, uncovering secrets from the enemy, you’ll be able to expand your homebase with new facilities and upgraded machines. So your agents will be able to train in new abilities, giving them access to specialist equipment and weapons. You’ll get access to technology that lets you inject your agents with chemicals of your own design, ones that depending on how you’ve assembled the chemical components, will buff some abilities while having a negative effect on others. In time, too, you’ll learn to do more than just interrogate prisoners but also brainwash them, sending them back to the enemy to destroy their bases or, if you meet them in combat, switch to your side at the utterance of a trigger word.

There are too many activities for your small team of agents to work on them all at once, so you will always be balancing where your team focus their energies. Forget to forge money and you can find your funds running short, leave documents uninvestigated and you’ll fall behind your enemy technologically, and if you focus on home rather than sending agents to respond to flagged activities on the world map then you might miss the opportunity to disrupt an enemy cell as they are setting up and, instead, now have to send a full assault team to destroy it.

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It can all seem a little overwhelming and disjointed when described, but I’ve seen how all these separate systems can tie together, creating stories. Picture, for example, that you’re informed on the world map that a new enemy cell is forming in Leningrad and you must send out an agent to stop it before it becomes active. You’ve only one agent who speaks Russian so you send him. However, the heat on their cover identity means that enroute to the mission they’re ambushed by enemy agents. You settle in for a tough fight before realising that one of the agents coming to kill you is someone you captured and interrogated hours before, installing a trigger word in their psyche before releasing them back into the world. You wait till your agent is surrounded before activating your mole and turning them on their friends. You nearly escape but the fight is too much and your agent is captured and your mole killed. You chalk up the loss and carry on but a few in-game months later your agent is discovered, he claims to have escaped the enemy but can you really trust him?

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It’s easy to forget that underneath that umbrella of interlocking systems is a turn-based tactical game where you control your agents in infiltration missions. As with everything in Phantom Doctrine, there are a tonne of choices how you go about this. You select your agents and their equipment, yes, but you can also select support agents who you can place on a side of the map with a powerful weapon, like a sniper rifle or a grenade launcher, to cover your agents on the ground. If you have the time and resources you can scout out the mission area ahead of time, removing the fog of war, making it easier to plan your mission.

When the mission begins you’ll be in reconnaissance mode and this will stay active until any of your team are spotted doing something they shouldn’t. This is where an agent with a command of the local language can be a great help, they can walk up to guards, distracting them in conversation while other agents sneak past them. Whole missions can be completed without leaving this mode, but it’s more likely at some point you will have to go loud and start shooting the place up - at which point, any agents you’ve set up in support positions can help keep your team covered.

A constant risk is that one of the civilians on the map or people who look like low-grade soldiers could actually be an enemy agent in disguise. If they spot one of your agents they won’t be fooled and will immediately raise the alarm, and, more than that, they’re able to bring more powerful weapons and abilities to bear in combat.

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In a similar way to Invisible, Inc, missions in Phantom Doctrine only become more dangerous the longer you’re playing. After going loud, enemy troops become more aware of their danger, which makes them more difficult to hit. On top of that, reinforcements will start arriving on the map, either in the form of truckloads of soldiers or heavily-armed helicopters looking to cut down anyone left out of cover.

Complicating matters, escape isn’t as simple as just walking out of the level, either. You have to call in an extraction, which is not immediate. So you’ll have to pick a spot on the map that looks like it will be safe in three turns time and try to get your whole team there in time for the helicopter’s arrival.

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This was the first time I’d seen anything of Phantom Doctrine and it was an impressive slice of game. It’s fascinating seeing the XCOM formula applied to something closer to home than alien invasions, and to see so many tropes of spy thrillers adapted and recreated for a game. How well all its systems work together, however, will only become clear when we can get our hands on the game for ourselves.
 

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