Set in a futuristic dystopian city, Frozen Synapse is a turn based strategy game which tries to do things a little different. We’d love to tell you about the plot but we couldn’t get to grips with it. Basically there’s some people doing bad stuff and you are fighting against it in order to win the day.
The core gameplay mechanic in Frozen Synapse is the fact that the turn based combat is resolved simultaneously. Instead of one team moving and attacking and then the other team, here both teams put their moves into play and the turn is carried out at the same time. This means that you can never be certain where the enemy is or how they are thinking. Anticipating your enemy’s moves is the key to success. In order to help out you can run a simulation of the turn but this rarely covers all the angles and you’ll soon stop relying on it.
Combat mechanics work on a kind of rock, paper and scissors mechanic with different units having different strengths and weaknesses. Shotgunners move quickly but have limited range, Snipers move slowly but never miss, machine gunners are the middle ground and rocket and grenade soldiers create even more havoc. The trick is to get the right units engaging in the correct way and mistakes can be very costly often resulting in losing several units in a turn.
The combat takes place on a self-contained square grid with walls, doors and windows placed within it. You have to constantly check both your and enemy troops line of sight and carefully manoeuvre into positions to trap the enemy. Missions are wide ranging and everything from destroying all the enemies, stopping them reaching a point or collecting objects is present. It’s basically a big toy box full of classic squad based scenarios waiting to be played around with.
It must be said though that the game takes a fair while to get to grips with. It wasn’t until we had put a few hours in that it stopped seeming fiddly and imprecise. This isn’t helped by the early levels not exactly easing you in either. Once you do get to grips with it though it’s clear this is a superior tactical game and every map becomes a puzzle to solve where nothing is every truly lost or won until the very last turn.
The level of control you have over your troops is excellent and you can issue them all kinds of commands. As well as just pointing them to a place to walk you can adjust their view as they move, order them to engage or ignore targets in certain orders and even make them duck under windows to avoid fire. You’ll need to master everything the touch activated command wheel has to offer as soon the maps go dark with only the enemies last known positions plotted and any careless step normally resulting in death.
As well as the single player there is a host of multiplayer options and battling other players is where the longevity of the game is going to be. Brilliantly it also contains the post style setting of Everybody’s Golf. That way you can plot your move and your opponent can do it later on without needing to be online at the time. Imagine it like playing chess by post but with more guns.
Overall, Frozen Synapse is an intelligent and superior strategy game. It’s a genre that should be catered for more on the Vita and this shows how you can create something excellent from a well-chosen set of rules and materials. There isn’t really anything else like it out there and any fan of games such as Xcom should get this downloaded as soon as possible.