Preview: Frozen Synapse (PC)

June 23, 2010

Staff writer Eric Schabel took a look at Frozen Synapse, an upcoming PC strategy title from Mode 7 Games.

Welcome to the world of Frozen Synapse, a neon-colored SWAT strategy simulator. Synapse, a turn-based strategy  PC (and Mac) game, is the newest indie endeavor from three-man development team Mode 7 Games. The game is kind of like a turn-based version of the Rainbow Six titles viewed from a top-down perspective. Players control a squad of soldiers with various types of equipment that must track down and eliminate the enemy threat, hopefully without losing any of their own team in the process. 

As with most PC games, you have the option to go up against a CPU enemy, or face off against other players. In some ways, Frozen Synapse feels fast-paced for a turn-based strategy game, but that really depends on how players choose to play. Against a computer, the time between rounds is only a matter of seconds, but fighting it out with other human beings can be quite a different experience. Depending on how involved each player is, a match can be over in minutes or it can span hours; this is because if a player happens to drop out of a match for any reason, the rounds can continue via email notification.

Frozen Synapse, like many turn-based strategy titles, can be quite complicated. Selecting a soldier to command during the planning phase of a round gives you many options. Moving around is easy enough, but when it comes to deciding which way your unit should aim, whether or not he should engage on sight, or how long he should stay at each waypoint, things can be a little hectic. Luckily, Frozen Synapse has an extensive tutorial mode built into it, and you are never asked to control vast armies, so with a bit of practice controlling your little neon SWAT team is not terribly difficult.

Playing “Dark Elimination” rounds against other players is the main mode of Frozen Synapse, at least in the current beta, but there are several other modes that Mode 7 Games have included to add a little variety, including a Puzzle Mode that requires you to use your brains to capture certain points on a map while avoiding casualties in the process; if any soldier is killed, all of the points that he captured are back up for grabs on the map. There is also a Hostage Mode that plays just like it sounds—you must eliminate the bad guys without getting the hostages killed in the process. Mode 7 Games has given players a lot of options to explore in both single player and multiplayer settings, including a campaign mode that will be completed before the game releases late this year.

All of the modes are accessed through a minimalistic but stylish menu interface; it is easy to find players to challenge, and even if you are in the midst of a battle you can be challenged by another player, making it possible for you to juggle multiple matches (this is when the email notification comes in handy). Much like the menu interface itself, Frozen Synapse’s gameplay visuals are simple but stylized. The game is not a graphics intensive title, and should run on any system released in the last five years or so without any hitch. If you are a fan of strategy or indie titles, this is one to look out for. The best news is the beta is currently available for anyone to try out immediately.