Frozen Synapse 2
It’s always worth double-checking in Frozen Synapse 2.
The action in Frozen Synapse 2 plays out in perfect five-second bursts, as soldiers carry out orders with precision. It’s great to watch. Your team might breach a room from multiple entrances at once, or duck behind cover just as a grenade explodes on the other side. It’s flawless and meant to be enjoyed, because these moments take plenty of planning on your part. Like its predecessor, this is a game fuelled by intense simulation. You may not know what your opponent plans to do next, but you can run tests until you have a pretty firm idea.
Let’s say you find yourself controlling a soldier armed with an assault rifle facing an enemy unit holding a shotgun. Between these units lies some basic cover. Should you tell your soldier to stand their ground and take a shot, or move to the cover and open fire? Which is safer? What happens in either case? Unlike most turn-based tactical games, in Frozen Synapse 2, you don’t need to guess.
Instead, you run a test scenario for each decision. This means not only simulating your soldier’s actions for the next five seconds, but also those of your opponent. You can confirm what will happen if both units hold their ground, or what happens if one, or both, of them run for cover instead.
Know Thy Enemy
After collecting this information you’ll want to see if you can give your soldier an order that has them win regardless of what your enemy does. The question changes from, ‘What should I do next?’ to, ‘What do I think the enemy is going to do next, and how do I counter it?’
In singleplayer, this often comes down to logic. The AI is challenging, but I rarely found it surprising. Its response to player action is usually an aggressive one, although it tends to avoid most unnecessary risks. This makes it reasonably predictable, although in most cases that’s countered by the fact that it’ll bring a lot more firepower to the battlefield.
However, playing against other human beings can be anything but predictable. This is where the game truly grabbed me. I’m reminded of why I don’t enjoy playing chess against AI, but love playing in person: The best move is often the one that surprises your opponent the most.
If you think back to the example scenario with the soldiers facing each other, things change when another player is added to the mix. It prompts a third, vitally important question: ‘What do they think I’m going to do next, and how can I take advantage of that assumption?’ It’s these questions that made the original Frozen Synapse such a delight to play, and they’re still just as enticing in its sequel. The major difference here is that there’s a much bigger playground for them.
The campaign features a procedurally generated city for the player to scheme and fight over alongside several other factions. Each of these groups has a different agenda, which sees them clashing at times, although all of them are equally interested in the ‘relics’ you’ve been collecting as you defend the city from an invading force.
There’s so much room for experimentation here. Do you want to maintain a good relationship with the more powerful faction? You don’t have to. From the very start, you can choose to attack any building in the city, no matter who owns it. If your attack is a successful one, you can then steal whatever was stored there. Be warned, though: Other groups may choose to do the same to you.
Art Of Wa r
Each of these structures is itself a unique map, and the forces you’ll encounter will depend on what squads have been housed there by the other factions. Squads move around in between fights and have their own operations to complete. Although it was the multiplayer that I was drawn to, if you enjoyed the campaign from the original, there’s a lot more going on this time around.
Frozen Synapse 2 is not a game of chance. Luck isn’t meant to be much of a factor. It’s about running the same simulations your opponent is running and then trying to get inside their head and figure out what they’ll do with that information. Just like in chess, it’s about seeing a good move and then looking for a better one.
The best move is often the one that surprises your opponent the most