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PHANTOM DOCTRINE
A fine slice of turn based espionage.    

REVIEW
By JAY TEE
14/08/18

From the moment you boot up, Phantom Doctrine immerses you in its moody, downtrodden world. The subtle, melancholic soundtrack sets a heavy tone; this isn’t a bombastic, shoot ‘em up adventure. This is a world where you see the wheel’s turn; where patience and careful planning is rewarded, and rash decision making is swiftly punished.

The turn based nature of traversal and combat cements a deliberate pace, and is a defining aspect of gameplay. You spend most of your time navigating various dingy locations, retrieving intel, bagging targets, and generally indulging your ultimate spy fantasies.

You’ll upgrade characters, craft new gear, put pins on an investigation board, and call the shots across a substantial campaign. 1v1 online multiplayer skirmishes are also available, letting you put your skills to the test across extended match ups.


THE BASICS - Third person, turn based strategy game, placing you in charge of a global spy network.  

PLATFORMS - PS4, Xbox One, and PC

PLAYERS - Offline - 1, Online - 2

CO-OP? MULTIPLAYER? - There’s a 1v1 competitive multiplayer mode, separate of the main campaign.
 
DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT - None currently announced.

TARPS? - At the bottom of all our reviews, you’ll see a series of absurd looking images (with equally stupid, in joke laden names). These are the TARP badges, which represent our ‘Totally Accurate Rating Platform’. They allow us to identify specific things, recognise positive or negative aspects of a games design, and generally indulge our consistent silliness with some visual tomfoolery.

REVIEWS KEY:

The Look - Art style, graphics, and overall presentation.

The Feel - Mechanics, controls, and learning curve.

The Sound - Music, sound effects, and dialogue.

The Experience - Anecdotes and random thoughts.

If you get spotted by a camera, all hell will break lose! … Across several turns.

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FINAL SCORE:

STYLISH THREADS - A mixture of hand drawn animation, traditional cutscenes, and slightly exaggerated design make up a visually diverse package. Character models really pop within the environment, especially as you’re exploring predominantly dark spaces. Thankfully, the lighting design is also on point, setting a dour tone without being artistically bland.

SCOTT RYDER - Facial animation is definitely a weak point, with very basic movement and an overall lack of finesse. This does distract, especially in cutscenes, where the absence of detail is particularly noticeable. It’s hardly game breaking, but definitely something that could be improved.

LEVEL PEGGING - Performance wise, the game runs well on a PS4 Pro, with no noticeable dips in framerate.

Phantom Doctrine is a thoughtful, engaging spin on the turn based tactical formula, with an engaging narrative and wonderful setting that keeps you coming back for more.

*PS4 review code provided by Indigo Pearl*

SLOW AND STEADY - Each turn, you’re given movement and action points to spend for each character you’ve deployed. Movement actions cover basic traversal, accessing harder to reach areas, and taking cover. Action points typically get spent when engaging a particular enemy, or deploying an offensive skill. The tutorial that teaches all of this is superbly well made.

TIC TACS TO THE MAX - I normally shy away from turn based strategy, but this is the most accessible example of this kind of gameplay I’ve played in a long time. And that’s not to say Phantom Doctrine is lacking depth; the reality is quite the opposite. The litany of tactical options at your disposal is impressive, and thankfully, the controls don’t detract from the action whatsoever.  

GREY MATTER - The meta game investigation elements are wonderfully complex, and complement the main mission design.

PLAY IT AGAIN - I was incredibly impressed with the audio design across the board, and the soundtrack is a particular highlight. Even the main menu music is great, with a menacing, gradual build up that totally fits the world they’ve created. It’s clear a lot of effort has gone into getting this right, and it shows.

PEW PEW - Weapon sound effects lack impact, but your interactions with the world, and the ambient sound design, is excellent. Even simple things, like footsteps in the rain, have been given obvious care and attention. It certainly helps to sell the aesthetic, and keep the experience grounded.

CHATTER BOX - Fully voiced characters, in both cutscenes and gameplay, are a welcome inclusion, and pretty solid throughout.  

LASER EYES - I’ve had a couple of moments where the A.I seem spontaneously capable of landing perfect shots on my agents, from what I thought was an impossible distance, and others who couldn’t shoot a Snorlax from 3ft away.  I recognise that there is a chance element intrinsic to the gameplay, but these moments can feel more like a glitch than randomness by design.

FORK IN THE ROAD - Each map offers a broad area to explore, optional objectives, and tangible rewards for straying from the path. I enjoyed feeling like I was stumbling upon side missions by accident, even if they had been cleverly placed to attract my attention. There’s also a partially non-linear aspect to some encounters, with multiple ways to achieve your set goal.

PACKAGE DEAL - There’s, quite simply, an enormous amount to see and do here, that will keep you fully engaged throughout.

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

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