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Frozen Synapse Review

Indie Game success stories are become more and more common in the PC games industry. While Minecraft is the most well known, there are plenty of recent indie titles that have made a name for themselves, such as Magicka and Terraria. Mode 7 Games are hoping that Frozen Synapse will achieve similar success.

Frozen Synapse is a tactical strategy game set in a dystopian future where you play as a member of a resistance group that commands teams of soldiers using virtual reality technology. The story is a bit confusing but it does provide a great excuse for fifty-five missions which offer a huge variety of combat scenarios for you to play through.  You could easily compare it to an RTS version of products like SWAT and the older Rainbow Six games, as well as other turn-based tactics games like Jagged Alliance or Combat Mission.


The game is turn-based, so every turn you plan out a path for each of your soldiers to follow as well as set additional commands such as which way they should aim and whether they should engage enemies or let them pass in order to reach an objective.  Both players then get to see their tactical maneuvers play out simultaneously, this makes even the most straightforward mission extremely challenging because of how dynamic the gameplay is.  

Each mission in Frozen Synapse is almost like a puzzle that you have to solve through unit placement and superior tactics. Every member of your team is equipped with a random set of weapons, sometimes you’ll end up with a team that exclusively uses shotguns and other times you will end up with a mix of sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. This element of randomness helps keep missions fresh because, even when you attempt them for the eleventh time, there’s always a chance that you’ll end up with a really good combination of team members. Some missions involve escorting or eliminating AI controlled targets on the map, but most involve taking out all the enemy soldiers in a set number of turns. 

The core gameplay of Frozen Synapse is easy to get into and, once you get the hang of it, you’ll love managing your force effectively in order to lure the enemy into a trap. While the single player campaign provides plenty of missions to play through, the best part is the online multiplayer. 


The multiplayer allows you to take it online against your friends or random players in a variety of game modes, such as Extermination (Basically a Deathmatch mode), Disputed (In which you have to collect crates scattered across the map) and Hostage (One team protects hostages, the other has to rescue them). The last two game modes are Charge and Secure and are based around a cool betting mechanic. In Charge players bet as to how far they can push across the map and then whoever made the more modest bet has to prevent the other player from following through with his claim. Then in Secure players bet as to whether they can hold a point on the map for a set number of turns and then whoever made the boldest claim has to prove it. 

On top of the five game modes, each mode is playable in either Light or Dark modes. When you play in Light mode you are able to see exactly where your opponent has positioned his forces, whereas Dark mode brings the Fog of War into play. Regardless of the game mode you choose, the map layout and team composition in each multiplayer skirmish is randomly generated and since rounds can go by very quickly it’s easy to lose a lot of time to Frozen Synapse. You know a developer has planned ahead when you don’t even have to be online to take someone on in Frozen Synapse. The game allows you to plan out your turn and send it to the server and then when your opponent makes his move you can return to your match and see your turns play out. 


Mode 7 Games have gone to a lot of effort to give Frozen Synapse a cool retro-futuristic art style that is strongly reminiscent of the games developed by fellow indie developer Introversion. The game also features a solid techy soundtrack that makes you want to keep playing. Plus it has a level editor which is always nice. I originally played Frozen Synapse when it was in beta and the game has come a long way since then. I did have some issues connecting to the online mode but that’s due to their servers being overloaded with people playing, rather than anything on the developers end.

It’s extremely easy to get into Frozen Synapse and any fan of turn based strategy games will find themselves right at home with its solid core gameplay. Mode 7 Games have gone to great lengths to make sure that their product is both unique and accessible and they deserve props for putting together a fantastic multiplayer system that makes it easier than ever to take your game online.

Frozen Synapse is available now on Steam, GamersGate, Impulse, GetGames, Matrix and Desura for $25.



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