That joke in the title was a bit pathetic, and I’m sorry. Not sorry enough to change it, but still sorry. A post on the PCGAMER blog was my first indication of Frozen Synapse (Get the joke now?), and then Gaming Daily did a little piece on it. I pre-ordered it on Saturday and I haven’t regretted it at all.
What is Frozen Synapse? Well, the best way of looking at it is Counter Strike crossed with Civilisation. You have your two teams of gunmen, but you act as an overlord for one, as opposed to taking control of one of them. It just works as a turn based strategy, similar to the Chaos League TB mode, if anyone ever played that.
What this means is two people have an infinite time to work out what they think the other person is going to do, and anticipate it. Let’s begin with the main mode: Extermination (Or deathmatch for those who know their roots). Each team begins with 4-8 squad members in random positions (Each of which can have 1 of 5 load-outs: Machine gun, shotgun, sniper, grenade and rocket), and the person who wins is the person with the most men/women (No sexism here) alive at the end.
It doesn’t really matter what you’ve been given, seeing as the other person will have exactly the same. What you need to do is work out how you’re going to use them. A smart person would be using their shotgun troopers to run into rooms and shoot the gunners, who have a longer range but a slower spot-to-shoot ratio. The snipers would be moving slowly and keeping an eye out for anyone who’s not in cover, while the grenade men throw grenades into rooms just for the fun of it. The rocket guys, however, are the most fun.
There’s a cover system in place that can be used to increase your chance of winning a fire fight (Crouching behind a small wall makes it hard to be hit, while they won’t have that chance), but a wall isn’t much cover if there’s a rocket coming towards you is it? Hitting a wall with a rocket (Though oddly, not with a grenade) does do the splash damage, so the wall will be taken down and anyone behind it as well. What this means is that you can anticipate what the other person is planning on doing and counter it.
This is the start of a match against Waste_Manager (The editor for Gaming Daily. May let him win. Biting the hand that feeds you etc). We’ve not got a lot to work with, only 3 units each. So, how can I play this? Well, for the shotguns to be of any use they need to get up close. The machine gun needs to be behind cover and the rocket man needs a wall to fire at. With all that in mind, I worked out what I think Waste will do, and what I’ll do to counter it.
Simple eh? All I need to do is fire a rocket at that wall where the two units are going to be and I’m home and dry. The advantage of this is I can test this out before sending it on to the main server. It mostly works. As I write this, Waste hasn’t replied, but hopefully it’ll work out to plan. I’m also hoping this doesn’t show up before he replies.
There are plenty of other game modes as well. With my brief foray into the world of Frozen Synapse, I haven’t played them all in depth because I have the tactical mind of a 4 year old*. However, a brief look at them is probably worthwhile. The most CSS like is the hostage one for sure. One team has 2 hostages to look after, while the other has to prevent them escaping. The hostages can’t move until the second turn, and they can’t be killed until they escape the room. Only thing is you have to make sure they have the plan to escape, since you can’t edit/give orders to them after you give them their first, unlike I did here:
Secure is very interesting. The first turn is a bidding turn, where you get to choose what sections of the map you think you can defend. The person who bids the most is the defender. To win, the attacker just needs to put a man in the section of the map the defender selected for 3 turns. The defender has to prevent that. It’s quite good fun, but then again, I won the 2 games I played of it.
I’d love to speak about how the last game mode (Disputed) plays, but the thing is that nobody wanted to play me. Which means that either it sucks and nobody wants to play it, or everyone hates me. Though these are not mutually exclusive. It is a case of getting hold of 3 or more boxes, which will appear after the 5th turn and then escaping.
Should you be looking at this game? Yes, for 3 reasons. Although it’s only a beta, it’s perfectly well polished and it all works, but sometimes the scoring can be a bit odd. There’s a global ranking system in place, so the better you win, the more points you get (Though you lose points if you do lose), and though it seems to be related to the kills in Extermination, I can’t see exactly how it works it out at all.
The second reason is that it is remarkable quick and intuitive. The games last no longer than 12 turns (1 minute in real time) if playing Disputed, but most of them are 5 turns. The interface is nice and easy, and if you didn’t care about tactics you could plan a turn in seconds. It’s something that could easily be made difficult, but it isn’t.
Finally, it’s a bargain of a pre-order scheme, and one that supports an indie development team. You can pay £23 and get 2 copies of Frozen Synapse, a chance for your picture to be in the game, the soundtrack, your name in the credits and much more. Or you can just pay £17 and get the basic game. Your call. I don’t care how you get hold of it, just do it. It is brilliant, and one of the best pre-orders I’ve done.
*You can take tactical out of that sentence and it’ll still be correct. Return to reading.