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Frozen Synapse (BTA) Review:
Frozen Synapse is a turn-based strategy game that has you issuing a complex series of orders to multiple units in an arena. You goal is to take advantage of the environment to kill your opponents before they kill you in this highly dynamic game of chess.
The game allows you to play through a single-play campaign, generate a skirmish to your liking, or go online for some coordinated multiplayer carnage. I decided to go through the tutorial and then jump into the campaign. Before you get to the mission in the campaign though, you have to go through some backstory.
Once in the mission, you will be able to issue a variety of commands to your units, including telling them where to move, where to look, to take cover, and more. Many of these are covered in the tutorial, but not everything. After you set up your units' moves, which you can watch play out independent of your opponent, you hit a button, and after some computing, every unit follows their commands. Hopefully you did a good job with your units and they are not slaughtered. If you did not and need to restart, you will find the arena and unit placement has changed, so you cannot just tweak the plan and try again.
I do not seem to quite have the temperament for this game, at least with the AI as it is. The simplest way I can put it is that the AI knows all the numbers, and you do not. It knows the range of its weapons and when something is blocking the line of fire. I have actually placed a unit in what seemed to be a great spot to kill an enemy as it passed by a window, but it just sat there as the enemy walked by, I assume because there was an obstacle. On a different turn though, an enemy positioned itself next to a wall, to provide it with cover and kill one of my units. When I attempted the same tactic, it failed because I was not able to place the unit in the sweet spot the AI used. Perhaps I would have better luck against human opponents.
The graphics are stylized with straight lines and primary colors. It works well for the game as it gives a clear contrast between different elements. One the PC the only graphics options you really have are resolution, fullscreen or windowed, and bit depth. The resolutions are limited by the way, so it will not run at my monitor's native 2048x1152 resolution. On my phone the game looked just as good, though because of the limited controls of the touchscreen, most of the commands have been wrapped around the screen, obscuring part of the arena. Also I found that the text was hard to read on my phone, so an option to increase font size would have been appreciated, but is not there. A tablet would likely not have this issue.
The controls on the PC are very mouse-heavy, which is not unexpected. There are keyboard shortcuts you can use, but it really is the mouse you will be relying on. On the phone, the multi-touchscreen does not work quite as well. Issues with precision from your finger covering the screen are obviously there, but I also encountered some sensitivity issues. At times I would try to drag the view somewhere else, and instead of doing that, the game would create new waypoints for whichever unit I had selected. I would then have to delete these waypoints before moving on.
The soundtrack has a definite electronic sound to it with synthesized tones and either processed or synthesized instrumentals. The rhythm of the music can be very driving at times, almost overwhelming your ears with its intensity, only to calm down later. You may not want it turned up too loud when playing, if you are worried it may break your focus.
Some of you may suspect I am going to not recommend this game because of what I said earlier, so I get to surprise you. I recognize the potential this game has for those who do not mind its idiosyncrasies, and even for those who do mind, I could easily see this game being fun when played with friends, where some of those idiosyncrasies will disappear. Is it worth getting the entire bundle and beating the average for? For those of you who fit the descriptions I just gave, yes. The rest of you may not enjoy it as much.