Meticulously planning your encounters is key in Frozen Synapse 2. It’s the difference between a scenario where you and your units take heavy losses and walk away in shame, and a scenario where you accomplish your goals and walk away victorious and completely unscathed.
And that’s what you’ll spend most of your time doing in the game, planning. Each and every action that your units take in Frozen Synapse 2 requires an immense amount of patience and setting up, because what awaits an unprepared player is crushing defeat.
Played from a top down perspective, encounters in the game are divided into two distinct phases, planning and executing. In the planning phase, you provide each of the units under your command with orders for their actions during the execution phase using a very in-depth system which allows you to break down their path into multiple different steps.
You can issue orders for each of these steps, and can devise complex tactics for each and every one of your units. You decide where and when your units attack, hide behind cover or even just sprint through enemy fire, and the result is the culmination of beautifully interwoven strategies that are immensely satisfying to watch unfold. Best of all, there’s no timer, and you can spend as much time as you need for your planning.
Also, while the actions of the enemy factions are more or less obscured during this phase, the planning system goes a bit further by letting you to assign orders to their units as well, allowing you to take a look at any potential paths that they might follow and then adjust your strategies accordingly. It’s extremely thorough, and when utilized properly, leaves very little room for errors.
And while the system of issuing orders is very intuitive, I would be lying if I said that it did not have a steep learning curve, especially for players new to this genre of games. It’s not very welcoming, and even the tutorial itself isn’t very good at teaching you the ropes either. Most of my understanding actually came from rigorous trial and error during the game’s single player.
Speaking of the single player, Frozen Synapse 2’s main attraction is a massive procedurally generated city populated by multiple different factions. The central goal is to gather 7 relics that are scattered throughout this city, while establishing new outposts, carefully positioning your squads and engaging in skirmishes with the mysterious organization Sonata.
You also have to make some careful decisions that determine which factions you ally yourself with and which ones you turn into enemies, such as when you decide to take on contracts from one faction to eliminate a competitor or the like. It’s not the most complex system of this type seen in games, and I often struggled to find things that truly made me care about who to side with, but it’s a welcome addition to the otherwise constant barrage of firefights, and gives some level of meaning to the actions you decide to take.
I wouldn’t bother much with the story though, because it mostly acts to provide context for your urban operations. Dedicated fans of the Cyberpunk genre will definitely find some content to chew on, but mostly it’s just kind of dull, and you’ll often find yourself skipping through most of the written dialogue. Which is honestly completely fine, because the star of the game is the amazing gameplay.
Then we come to the truly great aspect of Frozen Synapse 2, it’s multiplayer mode. In this mode, you can engage in a number of different scenarios against other players as they each play their own respective strategies.
The best part of this is that the game doesn’t make you wait, and once you issue your orders to the units and finish your turn, you don’t have to wait for your opponents to finish theirs. You can just jump into another game and start playing with another opponent, and check back periodically to see the outcomes of your encounter.
In conclusion, Frozen Synapse 2 is a massive improvement over it’s predecessor, and not just in terms of the visuals either. The gameplay is great, and the single player city is a very welcome addition to the formula, even if not all of it’s features pay off. It also helps that the soundtrack is exceptional and the ability to have multiple different multiplayer games going on at the same time is very useful.
Frozen Synapse 2 is out now on the PC, Linux and Mac OSX. It is developed and published by Mode 7. This review covers the PC version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
Frozen Synapse 2 Review
Frozen Synapse 2 might be a tricky game to master, but it is nonetheless an amazing tactical experience. It’s complex in all the right ways, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in its systems.