Back in 2011, Mode7 released an unusual shooter called Frozen Synapse. Where most games seem to exist between the two strategy genres of either a turn-based or real-time form of strategy, Frozen Synapse existed in that odd area between the two. While the Steam store-page assures it is a turn-based strategy game, which I guess it is since it goes turn-to-turn, each of the turns operated in real time as both yours and the enemy’s turns trigger at the same time. This ended up leading to a lot of tactical decisions that focused down, not just where to go with who, but also when and what direction to aim as they move. While I was interested, I admit it was a title my feeble brain could not wrap my head around.
So when I saw Frozen Synapse 2 at EGX Rezzed, I was curious. “Maybe they’ll do enough new things to allow me to stand a chance? A new perspective or tactical form I could grasp maybe?” was a thought that went through my head. Fortunately for me, in a move I could not have predicted, on top of the battle-system there seems to be a city-conquest mode that allows for a meta-game on top of the combat. I was also fortunate to get an interview with Mode7 co-founder Paul Kilduff-Taylor.
Kailan May: After trying Frozen Synapse 2‘s combat, I admit that I couldn’t see any noticeable differences from the previous game’s gameplay, besides extra weapon choice. Will there be any other alterations from the prior game outside of the faction/city gameplay?
Paul Kilduff-Taylor: “Sure, there’s a couple of major differences. Firstly we’re adding stealth mechanics in some levels, so enemy units will patrol until alerted to your presence; you’ll also be able to perform stealth kills.
Also units will be able to have certain perks and disadvantages in single player, so there will be some complexity within each unit class.
Finally, I’d say that ‘extra weapon choice’ might be slightly underplaying it: with melee units, flamethrowers, smoke grenades and some of the other stuff we’re putting in, combat is going to look very different from FS1 in some situations.”
KM: Moving onto the main center piece of Frozen Synapse 2, the city, could you describe the overarching gameplay of the faction domination as well as if there is a narrative behind it?
PKT: “Certainly – the game is set after the cataclysmic events at the end of the first game. The city has been reconstructed and various powerful factions are exerting their influence upon it.
The player is sent into the city to investigate (and potentially oppose) the actions of an invading “incursion force” – think XCOM Apocalypse. Each faction will have its own approach to the incursion force: they may want to ally with it; destroy it; research it; or use it as an opportunity for their own nefarious ends. So, you’ll have to balance inter-faction diplomacy with your core mission.
In practical terms, that means you’ll be creating squads and sending them to incursion locations. Other factions will try and beat you there to engage with the incursion force themselves; you’ll also have to resist attack from any faction who is at war with you, so we want the player to be thinking about maintaining their standing in the city as well as just doing their missions.”
KM: I believe you play as your own faction within the city as part of the single-player campaign. How customizable will your faction be? Will you be able to customize your own avatar representation (e.g. icon, appearance, if they’re able to act in the combat sections what their class will be)?
PKT: “You can have as many squads as you want, with any composition that you want, based on units you’re able to hire from a marketplace. There will also be the ability to take over buildings to use as bases, customizable vehicles and possibly some other things such as setting up patrol routes within your own base. It’s possible the player will be able to select their own avatar as well; I think you’ll probably be able to name your faction.
Yep! As you mentioned, the player will exist as a character in the game who resides in their home base. I hadn’t actually thought about arming them but that could be pretty hilarious!”
KM: You mentioned vehicles as a possible avenue of customization for your faction. Could you describe their use in the game?
PKT: “Currently, a vehicle is used when your squad arrives at a building; the squad deploys in and around the vehicle. The vehicle itself essentially deploys cover, so we imagine players will want to customize the distribution of cover around it.”
KM: Will AI factions vary in size upon starting the single-player campaign or will all factions begin operation on equal footing? Will you be expected to build your faction from being a small-time unit, or will you be starting as a major powerhouse?
PKT: “Factions will vary in size, most likely. You’ll be expected to build up from a single small squad every time, yep.”
KM: I read that if your headquarters gets attacked and your avatar representation is killed, the game finishes. Will your character be able to defend themselves or escape, in case your bodyguards are killed? Will you be able to call in reinforcements?
PKT: “So, this was largely conceived as part of the need to defend your home base. Enemy squads will attack; you’ll need to try and intercept them before they get there or make sure you have enough at home to defend. I terms of escaping or reinforcements, that’s not something we’re sure about yet; that’ll be a very extreme last-ditch survival effort if it happens.”
KM: Will the customization of your faction extend to designing your headquarters layout, including arranging choke-points, guards and cover?
PKT: “That’s something which has been discussed: it’s definitely on our radar as something we’d like to do but at the moment we’re working on the big gameplay loops – doing missions, upgrading, progression and faction relations etc – so that’s going to be a secondary thing. We’ll keep everyone updated!”
KM: There was a part of the EGX Rezzed demo that sadly didn’t seem operable when I saw it, but I got a brief explanation: Contracts. This was the idea that other factions would set up contracts for you to complete in exchange for funds. Could you explain the mechanics of this? What contract types will there be? Will completing contracts for another faction affect the attitude of the other faction towards you?
PKT: “Yeah, factions will post contracts based on things that they want. For example, the police will ask for your help arresting criminals or clearing gangs out of buildings; the civilian factions may ask you to remove proselytizing religious factions from the streets.
They’ll post a contract with a monetary value – you’ll then need to send a squad to the requisite map location and do the mission. If you don’t get there in time, or if you fail the mission, you won’t get the money. You can choose what you do at all times, however, so if you’re given a precious item to transport and you feel like keeping it, you can…just expect reprisals from that faction.
Not sure of the full range of contract types yet: we’ll have delivery missions, assassination missions, “attack this building”-type missions, bodyguard missions…and probably a lot more
Yes, the nature of the contracts you take will definitely affect your faction’s standing.”
KM: Another aspect of contracts, that I heard existed but was able to see a basic form of it myself, was the ability to create your own contracts. Could you explain the process of setting up your own contracts? Will some factions be more likely to do the job for you than others? Is there a chance the people you hire for a job fail at their task?
PKT: “This is something we haven’t really explored yet – it’s just in there as something we’d like to test.”
KM: Could you describe how the economy system of faction management works?
PKT: “You’ll have a salary cap which will affect how many units you’re able to retain; as well as sources of income and disposable income seized from missions. This is another area where we have some systems in place for testing at the moment and we’ll explore the ins and outs of the economy as we move towards a fuller content phase.”
KM: Will there be online/local multiplayer of Frozen Synapse 2? Will it function on the city map, maybe as multiple people controlling factions or multiple people controlling one, or will it be exclusive to the combat system?
PKT: “The city map and related gameplay will just be in single player.
For multiplayer, obviously the new units will have a big effect on the game. We’re going to look at a better solution for people abandoning games, also timed turns will be available as a much more obvious easy-to-use option; it was in FS1 but wasn’t prominent enough.
We’ll also be looking at some new multiplayer modes: I’d like to see a base defense / attack mode if we can do that.”
KM: Any confirmation of release dates and what platforms it will be on (including if Mac and Linux will be getting a release)?
PKT: “We’re a few months out from beta on PC. Definitely want to do Mac, Linux and tablets again if at all possible – other platforms…we shall see!”
Thank you, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, for taking part in the interview.
In addition, I got to experience the combat in the game while at the booth. Sadly, a lot of the new weapons were yet to be added and I experienced the tried-and-true machine gun and shotgun combination, faithful to the previous game. I wish I could comment about how it all seemed new and exciting, but rather instead in the current build state it seemed rather faithful to the original game. I also got to overlook the city-hub, but didn’t get to try any gameplay surrounding it, besides sifting through menus to see what may be available in the full release.
Still, with the answers given, I am curious on the faction management end of things. Even though I am weak on the combat, I get the feeling if I could build my team up enough I may be able to compensate for my strategic weakness. Then again, I may just enjoy the sensation of trying to build my own personal company up to see what tale they may end up telling (mostly due to my many, many failings) in the campaign mode Frozen Synapse 2 will have.
You can find the full Frozen Synapse 2 website here.