TheIndieJar: Frozen Endzone Preview
“SPORTS!” comes the cry of the cool kids. Show them this game and they may be tricked into nerdyness! Haha! It may have a ball and players and tactics but it is in fact a strategy game. “NOOOO!” they scream as their exercise sculpted bodies fall into the pit of sweaty geek stereotypes. Now they are on our level and have to be our friends or they won’t be able to get their fix of Frozen Endzone.
Now I’m done with the power reversal fantasy, I can inform you about this promising in-development video game from Mode 7, creators of Frozen Synapse. Anyone who has played Synapse will immediately understand that the underlying mechanics are straight out of that. In the Frozen Endzone arena, your team of uniformly painted robots stand ready for the first turn. Your objective is either to get the ball to the glowing end zone for points or to stop the other team from doing so. These sport-bots can then be selected to move to somewhere all tactical and sporty-like, because when moving they can’t block the other players making movement an important obstacle. The planning phase lets you scheme the perfect plan to gain the advantage in the first few seconds. Consider all the variables by predicting the moves of your opponent, get into their head and then play out the next few seconds theoretically before you commit to it. This is the cool part, your plan goes into action. The teams are mobilised and for that turn you have no more control, while the game simulates both plans at the same time. The only way to end the turn is to pick up the ball or wait until the time is up. After this you are back into the planning phase to react to the results of the round. Perhaps there was a player you didn’t account for that ran into your endzone and can now be thrown the ball for the win, or maybe your plan went perfectly and all the ball carrier’s exits are sealed. Watching your sport-bots weave around and beating up the opposition is immediately satisfying.
Let me walk you through a quick game I had at Eurogamer Expo. It was my turn to score and the ball was in the top left of the field, protected on the right by a wall and two of my players. Round one begins, my player nearest the ball ran past it into some free space the second scooped it up and threw it over the wall just before yellow’s shoulder went into his chest. At the start of round two the carrier weaved round walls with two yellows hot on his tail, while my other players were standing off my opponents and clearing a path to the right. Now on the far right, the carrier has only one clear route to the end zone and enough yards on his chaser that he could make it on his next turn. Unfortunately I had not reviewed the randomly generated field properly and there was a wall with no way past. Alone, I plotted a zig-zagged course to avoid the freight train headed to knock him off his feet. This didn’t last for long as he was over-taken and ran into the waiting arms of the pursuer. Unsurprisingly I lost that game and still loved it. I thought I was so clever, but that had no bearing on quick thinking turn to turn.
The chance to adapt and dream up tactics on the fly is the heart of the game and when there are lots of modes and rules to mix it up people will create a community around this game as large and as friendly as they have with Frozen Synapse. Having loads of people to compete against is going to be one of the biggest draws. I hope that there are tournaments and streams of it and lots of new strategies that nobody has ever though of. The simplicity of the game will be it’s biggest asset in drawing a crowd!
Having chatted to the devs at Eurogamer Expo it seems that they are striving to bring the game to every console under the Sun and your microwave oven. They are also dropping the occasional hint on Twitter that there could possibly be a beta version available some time in the near future! This is super-happy-fun-time that nobody will want to be left out of… even the cool kids. E-SPORTS!