Synced Preview – Adding nanomachines to your looter shooter rotation

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Given all the cautionary tales that we have in science fiction books, movies and video games, you’d think that we’d stop all research into any kind of technology that could be described as “revolutionary”. As sure as tick follows tock, you just know it’s going to go very bad, very quickly, and that’s exactly what happened when nanite tech went rogue in free-to-play co-op looter shooter Synced.

Years on from the Collapse and nanomachines now roam the land, taking on the form of their creators to create hostile, loosely humanoid Nanos as they do so. There’s peaks and troughs to the Nano’s activity though, with Locus Nanos creating a focal point around a larger, deadlier kind of Nano, surrounding themselves with a Surge of other activity.

You’d probably just want to try and hide away in relative safety, but not the Runners, who venture into the Meridian (the name for the exclusion zone in the Pacific North West and the tech facilities that ended up being the source of this future tech scourge). All this in the name of Nerva, a nanotech energy source that’s pretty vital to mankind’s continued existence.

Synced Nano enemy horde

Thankfully, Runners don’t have to go it alone. Firstly, this is primarily a co-op experience for squads of three – with solo missions and PvP matches also an option – but then there’s Synced’s distinctive hook of being able to turn a Nano back to fight alongside you.

Any of the Prime Nanos that you run into can be turned into a Companion Nano by downing them in battle and then getting right up close to stab them with a hacking tool of some sort. Once they’ve been assimilated, they have a distinctive dual purpose, either living on your arm and augmenting you with a passive ability, or then being summoned into the world to fight alongside you. You don’t start a level with a Nano by your side, but have to find, down and capture one each time. This could add a lot of variability to each run, but in practice, you can set a default and build your character around that.

It’s an interesting double upgrade for you and your chosen character and build, with four different Prime Nano classes that each add their own specific abilities. The Crusher is great if you want to summon a second fighter to battle an oncoming wave of enemies, while Guardian gives you a shield around your gun or can be summoned to create a shield wall in front of you. Suppressor adds some ranged support, while Seer can warn of nearby enemies (great in PvP), highlight weak spots, or be summoned to create a mimic and confuse enemies.

Synced Suppressor Nano

Naturally, each character has their own special ability, whether it’s Deadcut’s fire grenade, Dr. Stone’s healing aura, or Park’s ‘Bouncing Ball’ which chains between enemies, but character builds are spiced up further by a light roguelite or MOBA element when you’re out on a mission. As you gather resources through the level and then run into upgrade pods where you enhance various stats and add different perks. Ricochet bullets, explosives dropped when reloading, health regen from kills, and more Nano-specific buffs all add more fun abilities on top of the fairly standard military gear.

For our hands-on, we had access to fairly advanced and levelled up builds and were able to take on both early Dead Sectors and late-game activities. There’s two types of environments you can play through, with some Dead Sectors taking you to areas on the surface and larger, more open areas that you can explore more freely, while others delve into sci-fi facilities that are more linear and broken into multiple stages. It’s a pretty stark contrast in tone and feel between the two environments, but both feature the same kinds of smaller encounters with pockets of Nanos, building up to a big showdown against a powerful Tyrant Nano.

These have specific move sets and attacks that you need to account for, giving a more engaging challenge to put yourself against, whether it’s the Eroder putting out poisonous gas pods, the towering Reaper sending a smaller version of itself to fight you alongside hordes of other Nanos, or the Rusher charging around and creating pillars out of thin air to obstruct your movement.

Synced Tyrant Nano

Without getting to sample the regular flow and progression, it’s difficult to know if there’s that early game hook to get people really invested in yet another live service game competing for their time, but there’s certainly solid foundations here for NeXT Studio to build upon. It might simply depend on how quickly they can build and grow from the initial launch, with a seasonal plan for content, holiday events, and plans to delve into the backstories of the Runners. So long as they get the balance right with monetisation, Synced could easily find its way into the weekly rotations of people looking for a fresh alternative.

There’s no specific date yet, but Synced is coming out in summer 2023 (so really very soon) for PC, with a console release also planned for the future.

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