Frozen Synapse

This game have been around a couple of years now and is essentially what you get if you adapted the concept of Facebook into an indie, turn-based, strategy game. To help explain this convoluted metaphor, I’ve employed (embedded) Jerry Seinfeld to help:

Frozen Synapse is an online, turn-based, squad, tactical strategy game where you can plan your move and lock it in, turn the game off, walk away for a hard day of whatever-you-want and then return 12 hours to see your turn played out simultaneously with the opponents. You never have to interact with the other player if you don’t wish, nor rely on stable internet connection. You can even multiple games going at once. This game comes from Mode 7 Games, also the publisher of Determinance, an online PC sword-fighting game from 2007.

Set in the dystopian, cyberpunk city of Markov Geist, you control small squads of artificial humans as you attempt to… actually I’m not sure what the whole setting is as when I played the single-player campaign, I never read any of the dossier information and was much more focussed on the multi-player which was the entire point of the game. It would be like playing a single-player campaign of Counter-Strike. There was a tutorial which I recommend, but is not absolutely necessary as you learn by doing and experience.

One guess what weapons my squad use...
One guess what weapons my squad use…

The graphics are very simplified which makes it somewhat easier to control your squad and assess the environment. Though as a warning, there is a slight 3D effect which means that when you’re hiding behind that wall, you might not be hiding at all. You are always the green guys with red being the enemies. Each member of you squad has a single weapon which is used to various effects, riflemen, snipers and rocket launcher…ers being just some of them with all squad members only taking one shot to kill them. The dark blue walls are regular sized walls with light blue walls and blocks being half sized, granting cover.

You have 5 seconds per turn to give you squad directions to move, aim, look around, duck, stand, focus on enemiues, delay and predict the movements of your enemy. There are several different types of games each with a light (you can see your enemy) and dark (you can only see your enemy when your squad can) move of play. As I mentioned, the turn you planned plays out simultaneously with your opponents where you can tell your squad to open fire automatically or tell them them to ignore the enemy to run away like the artificial humans they are!

Often this game comes down to predicting your opponents movements and choices and taking advantage of the randomly-generated levels and squad composition. You can also construct your own levels to share around.

SS3
Ah yes… drink time.

I played Frozen Synapse when it first came out with lots of Steam friends and it was a lot of fun. Especially once I had the good handle and grasp on the game and therefore wasn’t losing every game. The learning curve is not steep in the slightest and because there is minimal interaction between you and the other players, never a lot of slamming, especially since beating people only improves your rank and there is no co-operative game play (I have the barbaric rumours of Heroes of Newerth).

I picked up this game recently to write this review and was saddened immensely by the lack of players. When it first came out there were about 8 servers with a minimum of two dozen on each. Now there half as many servers with a maximum of ten people on each, half of them completely empty. I’m hoping this is because I don’t own the Red DLC and not because the game has gone dead. While I would recommend this Frozen Synapse for purchase, especially if you like the concept, even a good game is no fun when there is no-one else playing.

Frozen Synapse is available for $24.99, the Red DLC for $9.99 or the Complete Pack, including an extra copy of the original, the DLC and the soundtrack, for $34.99, all on the Steam Store. You can also buy them from the website, all purchases including a bonus copy of the game.

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