tl;dr — Simultaneous-resolve turn-based sports game. If you like(d) either Blood Bowl or Frozen Synapse, check it out. If you're looking for a game that you can play with friends over long-distances that doesn't take a lot of time or emotional commitment, check it out. Mode 7 does great work, and nervous_testpilot's soundtracks are always top notch.
If you hated FTL or Binding of Isaac (or any of the games I mentioned above), you may want to pass. And if you're on the fence, check out Northernlion's preview of it. He gives a good idea as to what the game is like.
And now into the nitty gritty.
All in all, I would recommend Frozen Cortex
. It's highly addicting, really fun, and the games are short enough that you can play one on a break or with minimum time commitment. Bonus, it runs on my toaster of a laptop. The controls are snappy and responsive with no noticeable input delay, and the interface is simplistic and clean. The background designs are gorgeous, in that whole cyberpunk future kind of way, and it's fun to see my old friends from Frozen Synapse making a return as coach icons.
That isn't to say I don't have my gripes with it, however. Overall, the game is not new player-friendly. That isn't to say it's not fun
, however. It has a learning curve that is relatively short, but steep, and hopefully players will go looking for assistance when they confront their frustrations rather than making smear posts on the forums.
Frozen Cortex can be absolutely rage-inducing at times. If you've ever watched (or played) sports, you should already be aware of the feeling of watching a good plan come crashing down. It'll happen. More than once. Get used to it.
Once a match starts, there is no RNG. Let me repeat that: there is zero RNG
. People will complain that the enemy blocks you more than you block them, but it's a matter of using the tools you have available. If you know what you're looking for, you will never be blocked the entire match. Plain and simple.
However, there are
RNG elements to the game. The pitch design is randomly-generated from a seed. Feasibly speaking, half of the map may be cut off from passing routes; corners may be entirely sectioned off and unavailable. End zones may have only two available avenues of ingress—and both of them may be blocked by the other team's defenders, with no way to pass them other than by risking them intercepting a pass.
The robots you have to choose from to upgrade your roster also appear to have randomly-generated stats; again, probably from a seed. In some modes, it appears that the opposing team's stats may also be randomly-generated, going from either junior varsity or the monsters from Space Jam.
My main gripe about the game is that the "standard" difficulty should not at all be considered "standard." It's really "hard" mode. You're given a team of tired, limping robots and expected to pull wins out with them—with better robots available based on your performance. So if you can't pull out a lucky win, by the time you get to Week 4-5 of a Knockout season, you're in hot water, especially if (again) you get a pitch that the more maneuverable opposing team can better take advantage of.
In a similar vein, why the developers consider Knockout mode to be the "primary game mode" puzzles me. The other teams in that mode are not single-elimination (they come up with some nonsense about how money's tight, so if you lose *at all* the season's over, GG no re).
Meanwhile, one click over, there's a much more "normal" season of 14 weeks, then a two-week single-elimination playoffs. I highly recommend this mode over Knockout, especially for starting players.
The teams are on a more even playing ground, you can manage your money and hire better robots in greater numbers if you know how to bet, and the game doesn't automatically send you back to square 1 if you make one mistake.
I find the match length rather short, furthering the "roguelike" moniker that if you make one single mistake (which may come down to a coin flip, even in the best of situations, if RNG just happens to stack that way), you will likely find yourself in an unrecoverable disadvantage. Furthermore, since we're human and the AI is not, one error often leads to another made in haste and frustration, while if the AI makes a mistake, it coolly carries on. This is why I said if you hated FTL or Binding of Isaac (or similar games), this one may not be for you. There *will* be times that you're put up against overwhelming opposition with no way to counter and a pitch that hampers your every move while the other team goes trolloping around. And you will lose. And if you're on Knockout mode, that's the end of your season.
But then there are the times you get it right. The times you land your blocker right in the runner's path and he kicks a robot in the gut, catches a pass, and lobs it back across the pitch to your runner on the far side, who squeaks out an easy and uncontested 11 points in a single run. There will be the times you'll punt it away only to run up and sucker punch the guy who claims it in the jaw. Those moments are priceless.
Last but not least, I feel like the tutorial is incomplete. This may be intended. There are parts of the interface that go unmentioned that can take a lot of the mystery out of the game, for better or worse. For example, the movement node is filled with color if the intended move can be completed without risk of any other players coming to block them. Nowhere is this mentioned in any of the tutorials I have seen as of the time of writing this review. It means that new players are going to get frustrated because they don't know all of the tools available to them, and that's not even factoring in the simulation mode that Frozen Synapse players are already familiar with.
But all that complaining aside, I still recommend the game.
It takes a bit of figuring out what modes you enjoy most, but once you've got some practice down, you'll be throwing long passes with the best of them. Moments of rage pillowed by hours of fun.Bonus: You get two copies when you buy it, so do yourself a favor a bring a friend along for the ride.