Frozen Synapse Review

By on May 28, 2011

An innovative simultaneous turn-based multiplayer game.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

Just like in high schools there are two groups of people: a bunch of jocks – dumb and strong, and a group of nerds – intelligent yet weak; Similarly games can be pretty much divided in same stereotypes. Where games like Halo and Call of Duty are straightforward dumb shooters taking all the glory and then there are some nerdy games like Frozen Synapse which enjoy people using their brains to get things done. Frozen Synapse is a tactical turn based action game. If you ever played X-com or Laser tag nemesis then you would have a great idea what to expect, but with modern touch.

The game pits two teams (red and green) in randomly generated arenas for battle. Each team has variety of soldiers hauling machine gun, sniper, shotgun, grenade or rocket launcher. Overall objective is that each player takes turn to finish off the other team. But there are twists to the standard turn based mechanics. The game features “simultaneous” turns. Which means that while other player makes his move you don’t sit around and wait like in chess. But you plan your own moves too. And once both players have selected their moves, the overall result is calculated by the server and both players pawns move simultaneously carrying out the orders planned out.

How your soldiers move and command is very detailed and yet accessible by anyone to start using the graphical interface. The game comes with detailed tutorial to make you understand the GUI control scheme. You basically decide way points for your soldier to move. and at each way point certain commands can be given. e.g. which way to look/aim, make a run for it ignoring enemy, engage enemy on sight, duck/stand, wait etc. Although you would not have an idea what other player has planned for his current move but there is a nice mechanism in the game that just like you can command your soldiers you can also “fake” command enemy soldier, as per your thinking what enemy will do next. and then you can press “play” in controls to simulate how it will work out. Once you are sure you have a solid plan, just press the “prime” button to send your move to server. And then you will see what other player actually did and what are the results.

The game is brilliant if you love to make tactical strategies, calculating what your enemy will do next. and how you should counter it. Use some different route to attack, take advantage position from behind a crate or window, use rocket launcher to blow open the walls and make your own route to enemy hideout etc.

There are many game modes to keep things fresh. One is simple “Extermination” which is vanilla deathmatch mode. “Hostage” rescue where your few team mates are captured and must be set free. In “Disputed”, 5 boxes are randomly placed in map and you must collect more than enemy and then escape the map. In “Secure”, one team selects a stronghold zone and must protect against the attackers. But my favourite is “Charge” mode, in it whole area is distributed into zones like American football field. Both teams bid how far they can reach. The player who selects farther zone wins the bid and becomes charger, while other team must defend them from crossing the zone till turns run out. These modes add a great variety plus all of them feature a “dark mode” variation, in which you don’t see the enemy unless you have direct line of sight. With such variations and randomly generated maps, no game is ever the same. In other multiplayer games, maps become predictable for best routes, and choke points, but here you would not face any such problem.

The game may look a little daunting to casual players with its birds-eye view, complicated timers and waypoint / eye-sight lines on GUI, in the start but once you start playing it gets real easy to get sucked into it. The visuals of the game leave a lot to be demanded. The theme of graphics is Tron like “digital” world, but I think they could have done much better if there was more variety than an all blue design every time. The in-game context menu and Main menus in same way are rather dull and old style with lots of text. Those are my only complaints which bring the visual aspect down of the game.

The game features Singleplayer skirmishes as well as a campaign story mode. But the main focus of this game is the multiplayer portion. The game features very flexible multiplayer system. Once you start a match and have primed/sent in your move. You can easily join another game and start playing that too. You can play as many multiplayer games as you like turn by turn. Even if other player goes offline, its no problem. Game session will be saved, when offline player logs back in game he will see that his turn is awaited and then can play those rounds. This whole server scenario saving system is a great blessing.

The game carries a $25 price which is quite high as expected from regular $10~$15 priced indie games. But its innovative simultaneous turn-based multiplayer and addictive potential makes it a definite buy.

The Scorecard
Solid tactical game, Many game modes and options to play with.
No variety in level visual style. Even the GUI leaves lot to be desired.
The sound effects do nothing special for the game. But electronic background music is good.
Price is slightly steep. But the infinite multiplayer sessions, random level generation and great game modes make it worth it.
Game is lots of fun. Huge multiplayer community available around the clock.
Superb multiplayer game with modern twists. Recommended for players who want brains involved with action.


Dad in the day, Gamer by night. Loves everything Geek. By profession an Engineer but my hobby has been Video gaming on PC since 1989.

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