Frozen synapse 2

A se­cond help­ing of tac­ti­cal cy­ber­punk ac­tion

Games Master - - Contents -

Can you pre­dict your op­po­nent’s next move in a cut-throat, neon­soaked world of cy­ber-corps?

There’s some­thing very rem­i­nis­cent of table­top gam­ing here. You con­trol a small squad of armed sol­diers, usu­ally four or five guys, as does your op­po­nent. Ev­ery­thing they do, from move­ment, to po­si­tion­ing, to whether they fire at will, is up to you. Both play­ers’ turns go off si­mul­ta­ne­ously, so you need to an­tic­i­pate what your op­po­nent will do. It’s a game of out­ma­noeu­vring, of prod­ding and pok­ing, and it’s very sat­is­fy­ing to set a com­plex se­ries of or­ders in mo­tion and see them play out per­fectly. Of course, this was also true of the first Frozen Synapse game. Where this one dif­fers is in the new city game cam­paign. This mode puts you in charge of a bu­reau of agents, tak­ing con­tracts from dif­fer­ent fac­tions in a sprawl­ing me­trop­o­lis. You might need to in­ter­cede in a ter­ror­ist at­tack at the uni­ver­sity, or fight your way through a street block­ade of re­li­gious zealots. This is all con­trolled via a pretty, neon-blue cityscape map. When your squadron ar­rives at a build­ing, the cam­era pans around, zoom­ing in on the struc­ture, re­veal­ing the in­te­rior. It’s a cool ef­fect, and it makes you feel like you’re a hacker ac­cess­ing the main­frame in a cheesy ’90s ac­tion movie. This is all wrapped around a plot which in­volves a de­struc­tive fac­tion known as Sonata, whose seem­ingly il­log­i­cal but vi­o­lent be­hav­iour is stir­ring up what is al­ready a ver­i­ta­ble caul­dron of mis­trust.

Un­for­tu­nately, much of the nar­ra­tive leaves us feel­ing un­der­nour­ished. There sim­ply isn’t enough in­for­ma­tion avail­able about the var­i­ous fac­tions. Some, such as the Par­cel Tossers (a group of couri­ers) are ob­vi­ous, but oth­ers, with more am­bigu­ous names, are im­pos­si­ble to fathom un­til you’ve in­ter­acted with them sev­eral times. Con­se­quently, it’s dif­fi­cult to lose your­self in the fan­tasy be­cause the names are mean­ing­less to you. What is Blue Sun­light? Why is it con­duct­ing ‘re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion’? Does that mean it’s some kind of cult? We aren’t im­me­di­ately given this in­for­ma­tion, so it’s dif­fi­cult to be­come in­vested. Some voice act­ing might have gone a long way to­wards en­hanc­ing the mood, es­pe­cially given that the sound­track is one of the best we’ve ever heard in a game.

Feud for thought

Sim­i­larly, many of the me­chan­ics are ob­tuse and not prop­erly ex­plained dur­ing the tu­to­rial. You’ll keep get­ting re­ported for mu­nic­i­pal code vi­o­la­tions, but there’s no in­di­ca­tion of what that means or how it’s af­fect­ing your fac­tion and its stand­ing with other fac­tions. Is there a way we can avoid these? Should we even be try­ing to avoid them? I mean, you’re ob­vi­ously not sup­posed to fire ma­chine guns on the streets, but we did just res­cue a li­brary full of civil­ians.

Yet there are some com­pelling ideas on of­fer here. While many of the city’s in­hab­i­tants see Sonata as a de­struc­tive, evil force, oth­ers ques­tion our right to judge it, given how lit­tle in­for­ma­tion there is about it. At times, Frozen Synapse 2 tran­scends the medium and al­most be­comes a work of philo­soph­i­cal lit­er­a­ture. Un­for­tu­nately, it never re­ally achieves a co­her­ent nar­ra­tive, which is a shame be­cause it looks gor­geous, and ini­ti­at­ing com­bat and then play­ing it out on the map is al­ways fun.

“it’s very sat­is­fy­ing to set a com­plex se­ries of or­ders in mo­tion and see them play out”

There’s still solid tac­ti­cal ac­tion un­der these ’90s hacker movie stylings.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.