Archive for the ‘Frozen Synapse’ Tag

Indie Games, Part 1!   1 comment

Recently, I’ve noticed a great change in the indie community. A lot of good-quality games are being made, and it’s really hard to keep track of them all. I’ve actually made more purchases this year from indie companies than I have from AAA ones.

I’ve decided to make a post about some of the indie games that I’ve been enjoying recently, to bring some really awesome gems that have been hidden away to light. Also, because I talk far too much, I’m going to split this into two parts to stop this becoming a gigantic post.

Terraria

Featuring adorable rabbits!

Terraria has had quite a rough start. A lot of people see this game and notice that it’s a game which involves mining, crafting and killing monsters. This immediately brings the phrase “So it’s a 2D Minecraft?” into conversations, which, let’s be fair here, is a very reasonable opinion to have. In the wake of the gigantic monolith that is Minecraft, we’ve seen a lot of games that have tried to take their share of the pie, such as FortressCraft and Manic Digger – it’s totally understandable that people would treat games like Terraria with caution, especially if they’re already owners of Minecraft.

Luckily, Terraria actually comes out of the fiasco really well. I cannot deny that Terraria does not share roots with Minecraft – that would be straight-out lying – but what it doesn’t do is take the Minecraft formula, stick an extra novelty on top and call it a day. It’s very evident from the first few minutes of play that Terraria is trying to do something completely different here.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Terraria is much more combat-focused than Minecraft. Monsters come thick and fast, especially at night, and combat is relatively easy to get into. There are swords, guns, magic missiles, and even a sword that summons stars from the sky to deal additional damage. While Minecraft takes the stance of “You can build anything you want”, Terraria goes down the route of “You encounter enemies, and must gear up accordingly to fight them”. The deeper you go when you mine, the better the quality of ore there is to find, and the more advanced the enemies become and the harder they are to slay. You keep going on a loop of probing the depths, finding a depth which is a challenge to you, mining the ores there until you can craft items that allows you to kill any enemy by rolling your face on the Attack button, and then probing further. Rinse and repeat.

Oh, I didn't mention the bosses, did I?

The main flaw of this is that enthusiastic players, such as I, dig “dwarven style” – that is, dig too greedily, and too deep. This is especially true with a band of friends in the multiplayer, where fighting the evil monsters that live in the dark depths of your mines becomes more of a chore than an exciting foray. This then means that you get easier access to the ores of that level, which means you gear up faster, which means you progress through the game much faster. Within two days of normal play, a few friends and I had managed to get to the hardest of hard zones – the Underworld. There, we farmed the monsters for goodies, mined the precious ores and stocked up with the best the game could offer. Then we all put the game down.

There are other treasures in Terraria, such as the Underground Jungle, the Dungeon and even NPCs that occupy buildings you make for them; however, the game is quite quick to consume if you’re the kind of player which has the constant desire to progress, such as I. Despite this, future updates have been promised, and hopfully the developers will add more challenging areas to explore for the more persistant players in their fanbase!

Terraria can be purchased on Steam for £5.99 ($9.99) at time of writing, with both single and multiplayer (server-based) modes.

Frozen Synapse

Tadaa!

Frozen Synapse is definitely not for the faint of heart. This game takes the hardcore tactical squad shooting action that is present in the old Rainbow Six games, and delivers an additional layer that is bound to make your head hurt and your mouth curse.

Frozen Synapse is a strange beast. From gameplay videos, it looks to be your bog-standard WASD-controlled top-down shooter, with multiplayer. However, gameplay videos alone cannot do Frozen Synapse the justice it deserves – it is a much, much deeper game than this.

Basically, at the start of a mission, you are given a squad of characters. They’ll come with different weapons – from the Assault Rifle, which is a long-range but quite inaccurate burst-fire weapon, to the Shotgun, which has a maximum range of fire, but shoots faster than the Assault Rifle, and with more devastating effect. It’s crucial that the player learns about each weapon their units have, and what they do, as it becomes incredibly important in the next set of phases.

Your squad will find themselves in a complex, with enemy units to keep them company. You’re then asked to give your units commands. You can tell the units to move to specific areas by double-clicking on a spot – the computer then calculates the rest, and places a best path to that point, dotted with nodes. These nodes can be moved, deleted, or even edited to optimize your unit’s movement – you can tell the unit to wait at a specific node for a shot amount of time, or tell the unit to cease fire and concentrate on movement rather than shooting, or even tell them to point their guns in a specific direction while moving, on sacrifice of their speed. The key thing to note here is that the game isn’t running in real-time – as you’re doing all of these commands, all of the units are completely static. It’s only until you hit the Play button does your units spring into action and carry out their moves, ducking and diving behind cover and firing at the enemy.

It looks shiny, too.

At this point, you’ll notice that your AI friend doesn’t do a lot of anything. That’s because the Start button doesn’t initiate your turn – it just shows you what our current orders do given the scenario that the AI does nothing. Sure, your shotgun-wielding unit does manage to take out that one guy inside the room, but that’s only if the AI, on their turn, decide to keep him standing there like a sitting duck. All the Play button does is allow you to monitor how your units go about carrying out your commands. No, the real fun kicks in when you hit Commit.

At this point, the AI wakes up, and does their turn. They do the same thing that you did – plot out their moves based on the idea that you have moved none of your units around. Then when you both have finished your turns, the game goes into Outcome Mode, where both teams perform the actions set at the same time. You can see that this can get incredibly chaotic incredibly quickly.

This, as you might have guessed, calls for players to metagame like crazy. Yes, you can go to the waist-high wall facing into the room where the bad-guy stands and shoot him, but what’s not to say that he’ll preemptively see that, and plan a route to take you out on his turn? What if he leaves the room, cycles around, and catches you in your side as you stand there absent-minded, staring into the room where the bad-guy once was? Of course, that means not setting up by the wall – that means setting up in a way where if the guy then tries to counter your wall-attack, you can counter him.

Yes, I am implying the usage of a counter-counterattack.

This game has a ridiculous amount of metagaming. A huge amount of attempts to mind-read your opponent. And an ungodly amount of swearing when they catch you off guard. And it’s worth every penny.

Frozen Synapse comes with a campaign, random-generated scenarios, and multiplayer. You can buy it on Steam for £18.99 ($24.99) at time of writing, which comes with a free extra copy for a friend, or you can pay a little extra to have the OST bundled in with it. You can witness the game yourself here.

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Posted June 4, 2011 by galenor in Indie Games, Reviews

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