With so many games at this year’s Rezzed, we’re still working our way through just what we saw. Today we’ve got three more of our highlights, coming in the form of a turn based tactical title, a platforming puzzler and an acrobatic shooter, each of which has elements that set it apart from pretty much anything else out there.
Frozen Synapse 2 | PC, Mac | Mode 7 Games | 2016
It would also be fair to say that those of you who played Frozen Synapse will have a very good idea of how Frozen Synapse 2 handles, but for those of you who never experienced the original, I’ll give you a quick run down.
The game is a turn based strategy title at its core, but one where both sides take their turns simultaneously. Each turn has both teams plan out the actions of their units, setting waypoints for movement and taking actions independently of one another. A play button lets you simulate what your units will do on the next turn if everything goes exactly as planned, but things can deviate from the simulation quickly if they run into enemies.
Once you’re happy with your orders, you commit your actions and both teams leap into action. There’s a slim chance that everything goes according to your simulation, leaving you to quietly revel in your tactical genius, but chances are that they’ll go to hell in a handbasket, and you’ll be caught out by unexpected moves from enemies and are dispatched with uncompromising brutality.
While Frozen Synapse and Frozen Synapse 2 share that same core gameplay, what Frozen Synapse 2 adds is an overworld. You now play as one faction in a city, presented as a coloured map. Each of the city’s factions have control of certain blocks, and you can either take on missions or confront them on their home territory.
One of the nice touches with this new system is that the map for a mission will reflect the city block you selected from the overworld. It’s a simple thing, but it ties the two sides of the game together, leaving the whole thing feeling more cohesive.
Ultimately if you played the first Frozen Synapse then you’ll know what you’re getting into with Frozen Synapse 2, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The game’s core is distinctive and solid, and the addition of an overworld should help to bolster the game’s longevity.
Black the Fall | PC, Mac, Linux | Sand Sailor Studio | Autumn 2016
Growing up, the Oddworld series was among my favourites once the PlayStation era dawned. Far too many hours were spent trying to navigate my way through Abe’s Oddysee and save my fellow Mudokons from their terrible fate.
I haven’t really come across much else that compares to the gameplay of Abe’s Oddysee, particularly its combination of platforming, puzzle solving and NPC management. Fortunately, Black the Fall comes pretty close to that formula, with its own spin on proceedings.
For a start, Black the Fall is far more dystopian than the Oddworld franchise ever was, with a demo set against an incredibly bleak industrial backdrop. Workers in this scenario have antennas embedded in the back of their heads that allows them to be issued orders by guards with a pointer. You manage to get your hands on a pointer of your own relatively early on, allowing you to take control.
Much like Oddworld, you can issue commands that will help you work your way past puzzles, but it’s far less altruistic here. Your character, the titular Black, is only out for himself, trying to escape from the factory. While you use workers to help you on your way, there’s certainly no concept that you’re working to free them.
The platforming elements work well too, largely because the game is 2D. While there certainly isn’t the pace or fluidity of a Sonic or Super Meat Boy, you’ll still be required to move with haste and have your wits about you if you want to make your way past the platforming puzzles you’re presented with.
While most of the puzzles are well realized, there are a couple that really shine through. There’s one that plays nicely with a couple of tropes of the platforming genres, subverting your expectations in a way that’s both remarkably simple and smart at the same time. There was also a timing puzzle towards the end of the demo that was particularly tricky and relied entirely on sound. At the same time, it was incredibly satisfying to make my way past.
Black the Fall is a game that feels almost unique in the current landscape. While it’s reasonably close to the Oddworld series in some ways, it’s following its own path in plenty of others. Its dystopian, industrial setting is particularly worthy of praise, managing to create a distinctive atmosphere when it would be very easy to feel generic.
Seraph | PC, PS4 | Dreadbit | 26/04/16 (Steam Early Access)
With a plethora of different types of shooters out there, it’s a real credit to Dreadbit that they’ve managed to create something that feels quite different in Seraph. While first person, third person, twin stick, and even on the rails shooters are all common place, I can’t think of much else that falls into the same mold as Seraph. It’s perhaps best described as a side scrolling acrobatic shooter with auto-targeting.
That’s right, all that Seraph requires from you in order to shoot is to pull the trigger and let the game do rest. Perhaps the closest title was Wet, which featured auto-targeting on one of the protagonist’s guns and had a similar acrobatic styling as Seraph. In fact, Wet is an inspiration that Dreadbit happily name check, expressing disappointment that the game didn’t entirely deal with targeting by itself.
The skill in Seraph is instead on the more platforming end of things, requiring you to keep in near constant motion if you don’t want to be killed by the demonic hoardes that are after your flesh. Movement and combat are intertwined, both feeling incredibly smooth as you wall jump and flip your way past large numbers of varied enemies. The fact that the game’s auto-aim will pick out multiple enemies when you’re dual wielding weapons only adds to this and enhances the smoothness that pervades the title.
From the demonic enemies and the game’s title, it should come as no surprise that you’re playing as an angel, albeit one that’s possessing a human body and is trying to regain her full array of powers. You’ll gradually earn moves beyond your standard traversal abilities, like an aerial dash that helps you both in navigating the world, and combat moves that can shoot orbs of light to deal damage to enemies before boomeranging back to you.
For those of you who enjoy streaming, it’s worth pointing out that the game integrates some nice features for this. The game features a dynamic difficulty, with the current difficulty multiplier displayed in the game’s bottom left corner for all to see. Dreadbit have also made sure there’s a dedicated area for your facecam feed to go without interrupting the game, as well as adding some Twitch specific functionality that allows your viewers to vote on whether you’ll get positive or negative modifiers in the next section of the game.
Seraph is a game that just feels remarkably well put together. It looks great visually, the addition of streaming features is smart, and the combat and movement are both buttery smooth. It should certainly find an audience when it goes into Early Access on Steam on the 26th of April, and launches on PS4 later in the year.