Frozen Synapse iPad Review
- The touch controls add an additional visceral engagement to giving commands.
- The music makes its presence known, and aids strategic decisions well.
- The ease of creating and joining games.
- Sometimes it can be difficult to give minute orders.
- It's hard to say whether it would be better to teach the game through a series of missions rather than videos, but it's something to consider.
- Not everyone is going to enjoy the deliberate planning required to succeed at the game.
A premiere strategy experience for the iPad, primarily focused on multiplayer, whose touch controls create a more engaging experience than its PC counterpart.
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What is a gamer ideally looking for when they're in the market for a strategy game? Are they looking for a lengthy campaign complete with engaging narrative? Are they looking for a robust multiplayer experience with plenty of depth and complexity, or are they just looking for something that's, quote, a little different? Well you're in luck 'fictional gamer created for the sake of this review', because Frozen Synapse has got all those bases covered. Well perhaps not the engaging narrative... but they do try.
The campaign actually takes a back seat to the multiplayer right from the second you first log in, as the first three options are the tutorial videos, an AI skirmish, and finding a multiplayer game to jump into. The tutorial videos are a must to understand the general idea of the game, the skirmish gives you a good idea of what you're in for, and then you'll be spending the majority of your time battling other people. Since it is turn based, you can have multiple games going on at once as taking your turn can be a lengthy process (which your opponent is partaking in at the exact same time). So let's explain how the basic game works.
Unlike most strategy titles, both your units and the enemy's are visible from the get-go. The main game is deathmatch, so you have a number of turns to try and kill all of the opposing team's units before they kill yours (although other modes exists where you have to collect hostages, control zones, or kill specific enemy players while protecting your own). Turns are taken simultaneously in that you can assign orders to your units, and see how they play out before committing to any course of action. As you can also assign orders to the enemy units to fully test any scenario based on what moves you think your opponent might make, it's easy to see how calculating you need to be when deciding the best way forward. Once you believe you've exhausted all options and come up with the best possible plan, tap that prime button and if your opponent has done the same, watch the next ten seconds play out in real time. More often than not, your opponent's decisions will surprise you, leading to the next planning phase being one of compromise and coming up with an entirely new strategy based on the information you now have.
This is partly why Frozen Synapse remains engrossing game after game. You can't account for the actions of another human being (or a crafty computer) no matter how much forethought you put into it, as while you've spent an hour preparing for every eventuality, they might have just thrown together some actions, pressed 'prime' and have come out on top. The ever present music helps keep the planning phase portion of the game engaging, but what really aids things is the ease of the touch controls. Every action is planned out in steps, from aiming, checking directions, moving from waypoint to waypoint, and even choosing whether to ignore or fire on visible enemies. The breadth of actions available can be overwhelming, but most things are self-explanatory, and the tutorial videos are always on hand as a primer. Having played the game upon its initial PC release, the touch is heads above using a mouse, as not only having the iPad in your hands creates a fantasy of issuing military orders on some futuristic electronic clipboard, but the whole experience of testing out plans of action has a more immediate feel to it.
But of course the methodical nature of the game is not going to appeal to everybody. The tutorial videos are an unfortunate way to teach someone how to play, and a player well versed with what can be done is certainly going to outshine a newcomer. This is one of those must buys in a genre however, and adds to the growing list of games ported specifically for the iPad. A definite recommendation for strategy fans.