Release Date: 14th August 2018
Developers: Creative Forge Games
Publishers: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre: Action, RPG, Turn Based, Strategy
Platforms: Console and PC compatible (Reviewed on PS4)
Phantom Doctrine feeds everyone’s fantasy of becoming a top quality spy. The game is set during the 1980s and focuses on real world topics in immense detail. For example The Cold War. The campaign is completely re-playable and spans over 40 hours. With over 60 detailed and interesting maps, you will feel like James Bond but better.
As you begin, the game offers you 3 difficulty settings with an option for a ‘Regular’ playthrough or an ‘Extended’ playthrough. I really enjoyed having the choice of whether to challenge myself or to focus on the story. Plus, the options you choose at this point were so focused on the player and gave you a wonderful amount of freedom to play as you see fit.
Although I can see this as being suitable for hardcore fans of this genre, I can also see this as being played casually. I am certainly new to the Spy genre but I was very much inclined to get a cup of tea on the go whilst playing through the levels at my own pace.
You are able to choose between being the CIA or the KGB. This is a more important decision than you may originally think as each side gives a much different perspective. Not just in the field of gameplay but also story, missions and conversations. There was also a third option that unlocks after you have completed a play-through. I do not wish to spoil your experience! The cursor was extremely hard to track through these menus however and I found myself really straining to find what I was hovering over.
Character set-up was an absolute joy. I’m not sure if it would appeal to the action folk of the world but certainly, from my perspective I loved it. It has a ‘Sims’ essence and a tremendous amount of detail. You can pick your background, religion, gender and ID photo. Beyond this screen you can then change the shape and details of your face, the outfits you can wear and I was pleased with how diverse your characters could be. Hijabs and Niqabs were included which gives a strong sense of inclusion. The character you create will be extremely personal to you. I was overwhelmed at the level of detail.
The menu music was delightfully eerie and felt extremely like a cop/detective thriller from many moons ago. It really immersed you because it suited the genre so well. The background music throughout was not annoying but complemented the situation you were in. It could get repetitive but the strategic aspects of the game ensured you zoned out anyway trying to work out your next move.
The gameplay itself, when in combat, was not my favourite part. The actions are turn-based and you are placed in a bird’s eye view controlling your characters around a miniature board game almost. You are faced with costs for attacking and moving around the maps which I was always low on.
The game gives you various abilities you can use each turn from ‘Overwatch’ (you and your teammates can stand and defend an area) to ‘Breach’ (where two characters can enter a room all guns blazing). You will have the ability to disable cameras, attack enemies and loot various ‘intel’ to take back to HQ with you.
Each map was dynamic with weather conditions and destructible in parts, I found my character leaping through glass windows and doorways with ease. You will need to be a quick thinker as you will choose which weapon to use and how to use it. Players can dodge and fights could get very tense quickly if you made the wrong decision. At the end of each level, after completing your objectives and optional objectives, you will have an evacuation zone to make your way to. A stats screen follows and is very helpful if you want to 100% each level.
I found the combat to be smooth and interesting but I wasn’t a fan of turn-based attacks. The wait time until your turn wasn’t hugely long but it just couldn’t engage me and I found exploring the maps and finding the ‘intel’ more interesting.
I was absolutely thrilled when the game took me to HQ. This is where Phantom Doctrine truly excels. I chose the KGB path so not only do you feel completely awesome speaking in Russian to all your agents but you are able to manage and solve conspiracy cases.
You are given a world map which details different places and any threats that are happening across those areas. It is your job to assign agents to investigate or infiltrate when a problem arises and ensure their identity is not compromised.
Although the game fails miserably at explaining anything to you in any detail, you can become power hungry fast and work things out on your own. There are a number of tutorials but they are given to you in such a large amount, with little to no real information on them and so I found 3/4 of my experience was trying to work out what was happening.
From the HQ you will be able to hire agents, craft new items, put injured colleagues in the infirmary and investigate evidence. You can assign agents to do reconnaissance or uncover ‘intel’ which they will bring back for your Investigation Board. When an issue arises you can choose to lead an assault on that area or not. Being able to manage this spy operation was certainly my most favourite part of Phantom Doctrine and I found most of my hours were spent in the HQ.
There is a danger level and as you move your agents around the many locations they can become compromised. Once the hideout danger level reaches ‘fit to burst’, you will need to relocate. This is all up to you as the player.
The most joy I obtained from Phantom Doctrine was the Investigation Board. You are able to drag and drop various documents, posters, leaflets and other ‘intel’ onto the board. You will need to uncover the keywords by reading each piece of evidence carefully and then matching the information you have obtained together. Making connections like this, uncovering new information, finding ‘intel’ about unknown enemy agents and feeling really smart when you solve a conspiracy was what kept me playing.
My experience with Phantom Doctrine has been vastly positive. Other than turn-based combat not being my style, I am super impressed with the level of detail and time that has gone into building you up to become a Super Spy. Managing your own team of agents has been a highlight of mine combined with the thrilling stories and case solving. I can understand why many have waited in anticipation for this awesome spy thriller.
- Detailed Character Design
- Music is genre relevant
- HQ Management is fun
- Challenging and exciting
- Turn-Based Combat can be slow
- Maps are detailed but bland
- Complicated to learn how to play