Multiplayer Game of the Year 2013 Runner-up: Frozen Synapse

By Owen Faraday 16 Dec 2013 0
On blast. On blast.

I never did finish that review of Frozen Synapse for iPad. And I'll tell you why: I never felt ready.

Frozen Synapse is a perfectly wonderful single-player turn-based tactical game and if you're one of the 80% of gamers who never play a game online, then you should certainly pick it up and have a blast with it. Don't even think twice, just do it. But if you're into multiplayer games... well. Frozen Synapse is something you should enter into with caution. Because I promise you're not ready, either.

When I was a kid there was an auto racing series called IROC that Pa Faraday and I followed religiously. The International Race of Champions took drivers from all around motorsport (IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, rallying, etc) and stuck them all into absolutely identical stock cars and set them loose on the track. In practice, it wasn't the great leveller it pretended to be, as NASCAR drivers had a serious leg up in competition, but the idea of IROC was a romantic one: pure racing with as much tangential frippery stripped out as possible -- a mano-a-mano bare-knuckle duel on wheels.

That's the great lure of Frozen Synapse. It is a romantic ideal of a multiplayer strategy game, paring back presentation and effects and complexity until you're left with a squad tactics game so simple that it's two or three notches away from chess.

There's no upgrades in Frozen Synapse. There's no RPG levelling. There's no equipment. There's no mana pools. There are but a tiny handful of different units (snipers, shotgunners, riflemen, and rocket troopers) at your disposal on a particular map, and your opponent will have a selection of the same. There's no fog of war -- you always know where every piece is on the board --and you are planning moves which will be executed simultaneously with your opponents'. Frozen Synapse multiplayer is about careful planning, but also about being able to adapt to the unexpected. It's about misdirection, and anticipating your opponent's moves. It's not a game, it's a discipline. It's damned zen state that I can't achieve.

And that brings me back to why I haven't finished my review. As much as I'm filled with admiration for the game, I'm terrible at Frozen Synapse. I've watched visit the awards index page.
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