Frozen Synapse: Here, Reviewed By Meer

By Alec Meer on May 27th, 2011 at 10:40 am.

Fireworks of murder! Murderworks!

Mode 7′s turn-based yet lightning-quick combat strategy game Frozen Synapse finally got a proper, big-boy release yesterday. A fair chunk of you will have played it already, as it’s been in a purchasable beta form since the beginning of time or thereabouts, but if you’ve not glanced back at it since the early days, you’re in for a meaty treat. In addition to a host of improvements to the UI and multiplayer, the singleplayer elements have worked out far better, and far more substantial than I’d imagined.

I bang on about such things at length in my Eurogamer review here. Here’s a quote, in time-honoured RPS Writers Link To Their Off-Site Reviews fashion:

‘Commit’ is such a beautiful name for an End Turn button. Press it with trembling hand, for there’s no backing down afterwards. Watching the Outcome of a turn is up there with staring at the flickering television in a bookie’s office, ticket clenched into your sweaty paw as you pound imagined psychic energy into the horse you’ve bet everything on. This time. This time. It must go as planned.

And I believe Jim is beavering away on a write-up for RPS next week, hopefully to be followed by a think-o-chat between us. In the meantime, here’s the launch trailer:

Frozen Synapse is currently discounted to $19.99. That’s just over £12, for which you get two copies – one for you, one for a chum/relative/lover/enemy/particularly dexterous pet. It’s going back up to $25 in a few days though.

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96 Comments »

  1. gorgol says:

    I read the first half of the first page of that review and I didn’t need to read any more. I was convinced to add it to my to try list.

  2. ZenArcade says:

    TotalBiscuit’s ‘WTF is…’ of this game got me all jittery and excited. Looks like a good’un.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Urge to buy rising!

  4. Schaulustiger says:

    I tried the singleplayer campaign yesterday for the first time and all I have to say is: wow! Just like Alec I couldn’t imagine that the solo part could be as satisfying as the multiplayer mode. Boy, was I wrong. The difficulty is satisfyingly hard without becoming frustrating and the objectives are as varied as they are well thought out.

    Hands down, this is the best turn-based strategy game I’ve played in years.

    What I don’t understand, though, is their pricing model. Sure, 20€ for 2 copies is more than appropriate, but why can’t they sell a single game pack for half of the price? 10€ would be an impulse buy for many people and that is what the game needs: an influx of new players to get intrigued by the multiplayer mode.

    • 4026 says:

      Yeah, I’m still trying to work out if it’s a genius sales move or an incredible self-foot-shot.

      It’s reasonable to assume that the inevitable Steam indie bundle with it in / mega-sale at some point will require them to release a single-copy version for sale, though.

    • Zakski says:

      indie multiplayer games traditionally have a low playerbase, since all the games atmo are 1v1 youll have at least one person to play against

    • 4026 says:

      Well, sure. But it’s not like I’ve ever had trouble finding an opponent during the beta. Just hit the matchmaking button and be playing within a minute. I mean, it’s great that I got to invite one of my mates to the beta as well, but I’ve played fewer games against him than I have against some guys I’ve been randomly matched with.

    • Godsmith says:

      Sadly the one thing holding me back from a purchase is that I haven’t found someone to split the cost with. :-( And statistically there is a very low chance that I’m alone in this. Was it one copy for $15 I would probably have bought it weeks ago.

    • gorgol says:

      Yup, its an odd pricing strategy. I will hold off till it goes down in price for a single copy.

    • Flameberge says:

      Glad to know I wasn’t the only one holding out on pricing. Not interested until it’s a bit cheaper, looks good though.

    • Rii says:

      What do you mean ‘until’ it’s a bit cheaper? The price has only just gone up from being 30% off, and before that 50% off.

    • gorgol says:

      Rii,

      You currently have to pay 18 Euros to buy a copy of the game (the extra copy is only worth something if you have a friend willing to give you half the money for it). We think that’s too expensive, regardless of any yo-yo-ing of the price that might have occurred in the past.

      Whether you think its too expensive or not is irrelevant to us tbh. We will not buy the game at its current price because we think the price is too high.

      Now I’ve written this out it all seems painfully obvious. What was it that you were confused about exactly?

    • Rii says:

      I guess I’m just wondering why you didn’t buy it earlier when it *was* cheaper. It’s not like there’s been any shortage of info or footage or gushing praise about the game in the past. Folks have been playing this game for ages.

      But yeah, that’s obviously 20/20 hindsight and not particularly helpful. So, fingers crossed that a pricing model more amenable to you comes along soon. I do happen to like the dual-license idea, though, and to preserve that the single license obviously can’t be too much cheaper else it rather defeats the purpose. Maybe 10 Euros for one license and 15 for two or something?

      In the meantime maybe you could arrange via the RPS forum to split a license with someone?

    • gorgol says:

      Well, personally, because I didn’t decide I wanted to even try it until I read this particular review.

      About splitting the cost with some quasi-random person over the internet, I dunno…

  5. Teddy Leach says:

    Mr. Biscuit has done a ‘WTF is’ of it, if anyone’s interested:

    • karry says:

      Who the F IS that guy ? He seems to get a lot of inside betas and stuff for no obvious reason.

    • hotcod says:

      I was kind of interested in the game but honestly I’m not a huge muiltplayer fan, I do it and I enjoy it but it’s rear that a game who’s focus is is will draw me in but after seeing TBs video and hearing that the single player is actually really good I really want to pick this up now.

      sadly i lost my debit card and I’m going to have to wait until a new one is sent out before I can pick it up

    • Teddy Leach says:

      He’s a gaming commentator. He makes his living out of it. He’s got a team and everything, I believe!

      So a lot of indies value his input.

    • rayne117 says:

      I am very much so! Thank you good RPSer. I like him very much but don’t wait and watch for any new videos so it’s helpful to get linked directly to it.

      I just watched Total Buscuit’s impression of Frozen Synapse: SWEET BABY JESUS THIS GAME LOOKS AMAZING.

      Ahem. That is all.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      karry is a known troll, don’t encourage him.

  6. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    This game is so incredibly, incredibly smart.

  7. BooleanBob says:

    Read like a 9 (am I doing this right?).

  8. Antsy says:

    Hah! Eat it 6!

  9. fuggles says:

    Same as others, why does Alec think it’s $12 when its £18? Seems expensive and even though it’s two copies – why would I want two copies? Ah, the life of a lonely gaming pariah. I could get a lot of games with £18.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Because $20 (which is the current launch discount price) is £12.17 at current exchange rates.

    • gorgol says:

      Hmm conversion rates rarely apply in steam world. I’m surprised if as a PC game commentator you weren’t aware of this. For example $18 = £18 = 18 euros. (I can’t actually confirm the £18 figure since I live in Spain, but I can certainly confirm the 18 euros figure).

      EDIT: I have just been informed that you can actually pay for the game at the cheaper American price regardless of your location by simply changing the language option to United States on the developer’s order page. An odd but effective money saving tip.

      EDIT: Steam however still charges in your local currency without accounting for exange rates. :/

    • psyk says:

      Go to frozensynapse.com
      Click buy now
      Click regular = $19.99 = £12.17
      Buy

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      It’s actually £14.99 on frozenbyte.com if you go through the store to purchase it.
      Still 20p cheaper than Steam though.

  10. Commander Gun says:

    This question is probably already asked somewhere, but why am i obliged to buy 2 copies on steam?

  11. Xocrates says:

    You know, I WAS going to buy it, but then they wanted to charge me 19.99€ despite their site proudly announcing 19.99$, so I’ll take my business elsewhere.

    • Xocrates says:

      Right, turns out that you can just change your country in the payment screen and buy the game by the 20$.

      it didn’t even matter that my address had a completely different country.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I believe that’s something to do with tax.

    • gorgol says:

      Wait, so if we live in France, we can legally chage our steam country to USA, and buy the game for the USA price instead of the European price? :o If so: awesome, will do that next time I buy a game on Steam.

    • Xocrates says:

      @DrazharLn: The 19.99$ include VAT. So the only way the 19.99€ would be due to taxes would be if they charged VAT on VAT, which I’m pretty sure is illegal.

      @gorgol: No, that’s not the case with Steam at all. It is however, the case with their website.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I talked to Ian (lead developer) on IRC, he said he’d look into the euro/dollar pricing thing.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      gorgol no you can’t do that not without IP tunneling to fool Steam into thinking you’re somewhere else.
      What the others are talking about it the developers store on frozenbyte.com which sells you keys you can add to your Steam account.

    • Dana says:

      @Malibu Stacey
      You shouldn’t do that. Its safer to ask someone from USA who you can trust, to buy it for you.

  12. Alec Meer says:

    Hmm. Looking into the $20/€20 thing now. Bear with me.

    • gorgol says:

      We await with bated breath.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Will you really need bear support for this?

    • gorgol says:

      Heh.

      In other news, the issue has been resolved I think. You can pay the cheaper American price by changing your language option on the developer’s order page to United States O.o If you put in a European language however you will be charged in your local currency without accounting for exange rates.

  13. Uglycat says:

    It’s 12.49 plus 2.50 in VAT so it’s actually 15 quid.

  14. Melf_Himself says:

    At the risk of sounding unpopular, I was in the beta for this a while back. I personally didn’t care too much for it, but after reading the reviews and all the improvements that have been made, I think it’s an easy $10 sale. Their chosen price point I think is a bit too ambitious.

  15. fuggles says:

    Thinking about this, I wonder if people are more compelled to play a game they paid for than were given for free.

    I know I would feel robbed if I buy a game and don’t play it enough to get my money’s worth (damn you killing floor) but if someone gave me a game for free I would psychologically be happy investing less time in it.

    I guess either way mode7 shift two copies but do they get two players?

    • applecup says:

      Considering how much time I’ve wasted in Solitaire and Minesweeper over the years – it’s not about what a game cost, but how much it entertains me. Yes it annoys me when I can wring more value and enjoyment out of a £2.50 game than a £25 one, but something being free doesn’t mean I don’t feel compelled to play it. ymmv.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      This is one of the reasons why I don’t buy games for £25. I haven’t paid more than £8 for a single game in over 2 years & even that’s an exception rather than a rule. Generaly it’s more in the £4-6 bracket.

  16. BurningPet says:

    How are those graphics ingame? i admit, depsite playing Dwarf Fortress and other rougelikes, i am still a graphic whore. i dont need the graphics to be realistic, but i demand atleast a charm., or if not, atleast i demand that graphics whont stand in the way.

    here, the strict pallete is making my eyes bit tired

    • Teddy Leach says:

      They’re very charming indeed and work very well.

    • 4026 says:

      You can actually adjust the colour palette yourself in the settings. Presumably in case you’re colourblind (?) or aesthetically offended by the green/red/blue scheme.

  17. Kid_A says:

    Naturally, the first thing I did was challenge Pentadact.

  18. Mattressi says:

    It sounds good, but I won’t consider it until they release a demo. Games like this are hit or miss for me – some bore me, others interest me, so I’d need a demo to know if I want it.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Why not try the kindness club and see if some has a spare copy of wants to go halves? Halves is only cost of a couple of pints!

    • Mattressi says:

      Appealing (especially considering the high price of the game, relative to other indie games of similar calibre), but I’d still want to try it out first. If I just went and bought every indie game that looked like I’d like it I’d be broke and I’d have a pile of games which I only enjoy the concept of, not the execution.

    • airtekh says:

      @Mattressi

      I’m in the same boat. It would be nice if they released a demo for it, as I can’t really make up my mind by just looking at trailers.

    • UnravThreads says:

      It’s the same for me, especially with the rather high price of the game (Well, high considering it’s an indie game) and the fact that two copies would be completely pointless in my case.

    • Christian Dannie Storgaard says:

      Same here. Even though it looks like a game I might enjoy, I though the same about Braid and didn’t like that one, and that was somewhat cheaper. Just give us a 20 minute trial or something, just so we can at least try a bit of it.

  19. Nameless1 says:

    This game is awesome. Totalbiscuit reviewed it, check it out.

    Overall it seems to me really polished, with a surprisingly deep single player, and with astonishing music.

    PS: the guy trolling you in the tutorial made me laugh :D

  20. Brumisator says:

    I still want a demo! :(

  21. Gothnak says:

    Wanted a demo, but for £7.60 each for my workmate and I and all your happy comments, it’s a steal. Then noticed Shogun 2:TW for £20, 2 games bought in 1 day, i think i need a lie down…

  22. Robmonster says:

    I’m still trying to shift my spare licence, since I have no real friends to pass it on t. Any interested in purchasing it?

    • Towercap says:

      Sure. I’ve already got a couple of keys and gave one away, but I’d love to spread the cheer around some more. If you’re still looking to palm it off for a few quid, drop me a line on mchumak at gmail dot com.

  23. Jaymis says:

    I signed up to comment on RPS specifically to say:

    Thanks so much for featuring this! Such superb gaming. Beautiful stuff.

  24. Sinomatic says:

    Well that’s my father’s day gift sorted. (And I get a game for myself, result!)

  25. PoLLeNSKi says:

    Thankyou for the 1200 words last year Kieron :-)

  26. Temple to Tei says:

    “ticket clenched into your sweaty paw as you pound imagined psychic energy into the horse you’ve bet everything on”

    Someone has not been paying attention. It was a giraffe I bet on. And a walrus. I had them 1-2 finish.
    Not sure what my psychic energy was doing, but it turns out the walrus is not very fast, the robot horse killed the panto horse and the 6 legged horse won it with the yeti in second.
    Obvious really.

  27. BunnyPuncher says:

    While this looks pretty good I’ll struggle to play it without comparing it to Laser Squad Nemesis. In what way is it better than LSN, other than being available to buy?

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Absolutely this.

      Oh, my poor lost Grenadiers.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      I only ever played LSN to see what a simultaneous turn based game was after reading about FS – but was then put-off by the high subscription price – which for a year for one player was higher than two copies of FS.

      LSN has the advantage of the extra races to add strategic depth and full colour maps and characters rather than the minimalist look of FS which does get a little samey but LSN was slooooooooow – I think I can finish multiple games of FS in the time it takes to complete a turn in LSN. Also FS does away with the grids (well actually makes the grids smaller than the player models) which makes for a more analogue, precise feel to the games.

      IDK though – A part of me wishes I’d paid up for the full LSN and had a proper play around but from checking their forums it seems it’s too late now as the server has been disconnected and only direct games can be initiated between people. Which has got to be a key decider for you…. do you want to log on and play with one or several of the 889 players online right now or play the same friend (or AI) you’ve been playing for years? (note the server is completely overloaded and super slow right now so there are probably some people trying to get in who can’t)

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Wasn’t it £8-12 a year or something like that?

      Well worth it. The last (actually only) competitive game I was any good at, that.

      Surely the slowness depends on your opponent in either game? (Haven’t really got to grips with FS yet)

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      When I talk about the slowness I really am talking just about my personal speed as you could have multiple game’s with different opponentsin LSN as well but I only played vs demo AI. 10+ lots of orders for your team rather than 2-6 makes a huge difference – and then you have the relative amounts of turns required to fulfil your dastardly deeds to account for as well – killing 10+ enemies with sufficient care takes longer.

      Tonight – although there were many noobs on – I was averaging probably only 3/4 turns a game, LSN took plenty more – you even had to go back and get ammo on the longer ones – really I loved LSN and could see what would make it fandabbadabbatastic as multiplayer but I saw somewhere while researching tonight that they said it was 22 squid/year – that might be complete codswallop but I remember it being not worth it when I checked out the prices it said on the demo as you had to buy the game and then subscribe once your 3 inclusive months ran out. Even at 12 squids/year it’s more than a single (lifetime) purchase of FS which is what I was looking at LSN for in the first place.

      That said, LSN has a demo, FS doesn’t – so ummers and aaaahers should have a go at that. They should just bear in mind it’s MUCCCCCCCH slower and a little more complicated – and dead for multiplayer.

      Also there’s a free to play java based version of LSN called Stellar Forces which I might be checking out for the bigger squads.

      Both available here: http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/lasersquadnemesi/download_6093181.html
      and here: http://www.stellarforces.com/

      One final comment – it’s completely within the devs power to add different races/units/squad sizes now they have the game up and running and balanced for the basic units – I’d even go as far as to say it would be simple for someone to mod the game in that way if they’re open to that kind of thing.

  28. Colonel J says:

    Tried to get to the order page on the developer’s site but it seems to have fallen over in the launch day excitement.

  29. Fumarole says:

    Play this game people. That is all.

  30. Dana says:

    Yeah, too bad they dont sell single copies. Dont have anyone to share it with.

  31. MythArcana says:

    I bought it, played it, learned to dominate the bots and win 4/5 matches. I like the game, but it tends to be a mono-tasker and somewhat of a one trick pony. A single user license for $5 would have made me feel a little better about it, but it’s a good game regardless.

  32. man-eater chimp says:

    I hate friendly AI with rocket launchers, killing my perfectly placed men with guns and missing the enemy.

    Other than that, awesome game!

  33. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    I’ve just seen that the excellent soundtrack was made by nervous_testpilot, who I only knew from micromusic.net before. Let’s say the musical style of his uploads was… slightly different from the things we hear in the game.

    But still excellent, of course.

    I wish I could link something, but I can’t figure out how to do it. Micromusic is a strange website.

  34. malkav11 says:

    Frankly, I have extreme doubts that I would get much out of the multiplayer even were I more into competitive multi. Having a handful of unit types distinguished only by which of a handful of pretty generic weapons they use is no doubt tactically elegant and chesslike, but it’s nowhere near enough variety for me. I can’t even get into skirmish play in something like Starcraft, which has much more unit variety but still nowhere near enough for my taste. I much prefer something along the lines of, say, Dominions 3 where there are about 40985 different unit types all with their own only semi-disclosed properties, which require a degree of statistical interpretation and hidden trait knowledge that I have never actually mastered. I got ’round to preordering Frozen Synapse only because of the promise of the singleplayer campaign, where a paucity of unit types can be counterbalanced by a wide variety of objectives and rigged situations.

  35. papabear says:

    I tried to play this game a while ago.

    I couldntly.

    Hard it is.

  36. ChampionHyena says:

    If we can’t get a demo for it, a decent quorum of critical reviews would help me make a call on buying it. So far I’ve only heard from Eurogamer (whom I trust, our dear Alec in particular), Reaction Time (of whom I’ve never heard before today), and TotalBiscuit (who, despite having a good head on his shoulders, sometimes gives high marks to games I end up unenthusiastic about–Brink, anyone?). Now, granted, all of those reactions are OVERWHELMINGLY positive, but still. We just had that article about early reviews, and I still don’t want to jump the gun until I can get a bunch of opinions.

  37. Yosharian says:

    Am I the only one who gets slightly turned on everytime someone says the word ‘Cyberpunk’?

    ….

    I feel your stares, die, DIE!

  38. Dave Mongoose says:

    I saw a preview of this game and thought the concept and styling was brilliant, but after playing a good few hours of the multiplayer (particularly the ‘Dark’ modes) I’ve found it’s one of those games that, for me, is just too tense!

    Where is his sniper? Is his shotgunner flanking me? Should I break cover incase his RPG is aiming for this wall? Is it worth giving away the position of my grenadier to try and get his SMGer out into the open?

    A fantastic game but not a relaxing experience :|.

  39. TychoCelchuuu says:

    In case anyone wants a video like TotalBiscuit’s but focused on multiplayer rather than SP, I happen to have made one:

  40. Brumisator says:

    I really have to ask… why the FUCK does the 1st mission in the campaign start you off outnumbered 4 to 5, with lesser weapons? I mean what the fuck? Are they trying to keep players from learning the gameplay by raping them in the very 1st mission?

    • bill says:

      trying to appeal to STALKER fans?

    • Goateh says:

      Your units actually have a huge advantage in that they have a limited range but run far faster and will win nearly any firefight they’re in range for. They do a poor job of explaining any of that in the tutorial or how you should use your shotgun+ units (those are better than even normal shotguns).

      Don’t engage from range, you can run across line of sight fast enough to avoid being shot crossing corridors when you’re out of range. Sadly, none of this is apparent until you try and die a lot.

    • Soon says:

      Remember your “continue on sight/engage” toggles to get you into a better vantage point faster, and remember you can duck behind cover so you can’t be seen, then pop up and shoot once (you think) they’re in range. A commando will be shooting first. Let them come to you and ambush them.

      I’d probably agree it’s a bit harsh for the first mission, though. Especially to people who haven’t played many similar games where having a fleet, close-range specialist would be a standard choice.

  41. bill says:

    Is it 2 for $19 or buy one get one free?

  42. awkward_ghost says:

    Is anyone interested in buying my bonus copy for £6.50?
    Edit: I’ve just checked my PayPal and the proper 50% price for what I paid was £6.22, so how about we call it £6?

    Edit: SOLD.

  43. Kron says:

    Gah, I read your Eurogamer review. They’re called vatforms, not shapeforms! Shapeforms are AI constructs like you and Belaqua!