Frozen Synapse 2 - Review

Author: Damaso Scibetta
Date: 2021-01-26 22:18:05
Talking about Frozen Synapse 2 today, a few days after its release, is almost an honor. The videogame community has been waiting for it since 2011, when the first chapter of the series was released, and I myself, who recovered the original only a short time ago, take its extreme charm and sense all this waiting for the sequel. It is even more an honor if I think that the quality of the gameplay of Frozen Synapse 2 is so convincing that it has led me, beyond the single player campaign (extremely ambitious), to be completely bewitched by how that gameplay manages to support a multiplayer mode (to all intents and purposes easily interpreted as the real fulcrum of the game) in an exceptional way, never tiring and with an always incredible freshness.

Frozen Synapse 2 is a turn-based tactician, but such a simple definition does not do justice to the tactical marvel created by Mode 7 both in the previous and especially in this sequel. It's easy, thinking about turn-based tactics, to think of games like X-COM (whatever) or the very recent Into the Breach, in some ways even Transistor (at much lower levels of complexity, of course). Frozen Synapse 2, on the other hand, makes you think more about something profoundly different: chess. If, in the midst of dozens and dozens of tactical games, chess (but also Go, to a lesser extent) have been able to remain interesting after centuries of games and continue to amaze fans to this day (I myself play chess and studio matches daily), this result is mainly due to two focal features that Frozen Synapse 2 captures in full. Around them he builds the entire gameplay, both in single player mode (managed through a sort of tactical open world that is very interesting theoretically and very varied), and above all in multiplayer mode, where perhaps it really gives its best.

On the one hand, this type of tactics brings with it extremely simple movement, attack and defense mechanics (think of the rules of chess, to understand), but not trivial, therefore sufficiently elaborate and deep to be able to support a very high quantity always fresh combinations and situations. Frozen Synapse 2 is fully reflected in this description: in the real core of the tactical mechanics of a clash, we will find ourselves, in the various turns, moving our soldiers / mercenaries planning their every action down to the smallest detail. We will be able to tell him which path to follow, when and where to wait, where to look and where to aim at any moment, which enemies to follow, which areas to patrol, when to duck, when to get up, even when to run and ignore enemies. We will be able, based on their weapon, to exploit different movements and decide where to hit (a sniper or a grenade launcher must be managed in a very different way), and even take advantage of the exceptional and interesting abilities of the flamethrowers. Now, all this in itself would not be anything too special if we did not add to this an element that changes all the cards on the table: the planning is achieved through the study of possible enemy movements, based on the last known position in which they have been seen.

Let me explain: as soon as you have established all the instructions given to our soldiers, in the five seconds of a normal turn our characters (and our enemies) will all act at the exact moment. At that point each soldier (of both factions) will stop for the start of the new turn, and, if we know the position of a soldier, we can hypothesize in the game itself how he will decide to act in the next five seconds, and simulate the event to understand if our plan will be successful, or at least it will lead us to an advantageous situation. You can study any enemy movements at each turn, simulating any possibility and, potentially, making our plan practically infallible. This is the pure and total apotheosis of the concept of tactics: every action, with its consequences, can be potentially anticipated and avoided, just as in a game of chess one can potentially evaluate several successive moves, and therefore the outcome of each move, if you have enough time and skill, it can be studied to perfection.

In Frozen Synapse 2 these elements are the real core of the gameplay, and even if they seem very few to support an entire game (and practically all multiplayer is based on these concepts, beyond specific objectives or challenges created ad hoc to clash with other players), are elements so well balanced and deep that they can easily support dozens of hours of play. The possibilities and variables are so many that you can make shifts last hours, if only you want to. And all this, in the painstaking way in which you can decide every single action of each soldier on the team, makes the execution something superfine, as soon as you see a plan really succeed as it was designed. All the possibilities of our soldiers, among other things, are also guaranteed to the enemy AI (of the highest level) or to our human enemies in multiplayer mode, essentially making the clashes extremely balanced.

Especially considering its other focal feature that it has in common with chess: the total absence of a random element in tactical battles. Unlike games like X-COM, for example, here a plan has a 100% chance of success, there is no roll of the dice, no possible "miss" due to luck: a shot fired depends on several characteristics (the exact point aiming time, the time allowed to aim, the position of the character, whether he is stationary or moving), but the equation that decides whether the hit is correct is correct, has no random elements and is determined exclusively by our choices and from those of the AI / human opponent, which can potentially all be predicted with millimeter precision (counting the exaggerated zoom granted to the player). Just like in chess, a winning plan is always a winning one, completely eliminating a factor that, although it has its own why in other games, leads to situations extremely different from the structural elegance of a well thought out and well executed plan of this tactical masterpiece. In some ways, Frozen Synapse 2's kind of tactic, with its depth and precision, is as close to my ideal tactic as I can possibly get.