Recently I’ve been hooked on a game called Frozen Synapse
, a turn-based strategy game you can run on Windows/Mac/Linux under wine. The focus is squad-level combat missions that take place on procedurally generated maps. The graphics are simple but attractive, something like a schematic from the Tron universe. There’s a single player campaign, but the real meat of the game is in the online multiplayer mode. There are two reasons why I love this game:Asynchronous Play
It’s really difficult for me to carve out time for lengthy gaming sessions. Even harder is trying to match my gaming availability up with a friend’s. In Frozen Synapse I can take a turn at my leisure, see the results, and get back to life while waiting for my opponent to make his move. But the beauty of the async play goes beyond convenience. Since each player’s moves are executed simultaneously, there’s an element of suspense built into every turn. You start every session by watching the resolution of your last set of orders. Your opponent has already seen this action sequence and plotted his following move. As soon as you prime your new commands, the action is immediately resolved and the outcome is displayed. Finally, you plot your next set of maneuvers, leaving you with a cliffhanger that isn’t resolved until your opponent returns to the game. Watching two action sequences and making two moves makes the game much more engaging than a “Words With Friends”-type experience where you make a quick play and forget about the game. You spend long enough thinking about the match to develop continuity and an anxiousness to see the outcome of your choices.Strategy Over Interface Mastery
Since this is a turn-based game, players can spend as much time as necessary plotting out possible strategies. The game facilitates this by allowing simulation of the next turn, encouraging you to consider different approaches. You can even give the opposing troops hypothetical orders to evaluate how your team will respond, and then refine your actions accordingly. You only have a handful of troops to command so it’s very feasible to try a few what-ifs.
I’ve spent some time watching a Starcraft 2
tournament in the office, and I’ve been tempted to give it a shot. Holding me back is the knowledge that I’ll need to spend hours mastering the UI, learning hotkeys, and devote time to developing basic tactics into muscle memory. Chances are I will abandon the game due to frustration or boredom before developing the skills to compete. With Frozen Synapse I can focus on developing my strategy rather than the mechanics of executing it.
Frozen Synapse is available on Steam or from the developer’s website. For $25 you get two licenses to the game, a viral strategy to get you to pass a copy on to a friend (thanks +Steve Latta
!) If you’re playing you can find me on the ‘Texas’ server, my screen name is the imaginative ‘tonyzale’.