One of the big indie hits on PC a couple of years ago was a tactical shooter called Frozen Synapse, which was an indie tactical turn-based shooter developed by UK developer Mode 7. It came across as a hybrid of Counter-Strike, XCOM, Tron, and Chess, and it was a surprise hit. As a follow-up, they are working on Frozen Endzone, which takes the same turn-based approach and applies it to team sports. I got a chance to play the Alpha, and so far it’s looking like a worthy successor.
Let’s get this out of the way; Frozen Endzone is essentially American Football, but with asynchronous turn-based actions. You start on a square grid with two teams of five players, and with the object being to pass or run the ball into the endzone. Like its real-world counterpart, the key to success is planning, strategy, and execution. On more than one occasion, I found myself drawing up brilliant plans which were to culminate in my receiver doing a victory dance, only to be destroyed after one play because I didn’t anticipate my opponent’s plan.
While the pace of this game can be relatively slow, it really comes down to who’s playing. I tend to be more of a speedy player (not a good strategy as I’m also really bad at this game), while others take their time, which can lead to some waiting until the turn actually happens. Like Frozen Synapse, moves can be made and stored until later which means you can have a bunch of games on the go and can take as long as you’d like. As somebody who doesn’t have the ability to commit a bunch of uninterrupted time to a multiplayer game like Dota 2, I appreciate that Mode 7 respects my time enough to let me make a move when I’m damn well ready.
Maps are constantly changing in terms of boxes and player formations, with each change forcing you to adjust your tactics. Some of the maps are incredibly friendly for offensive zone players, while others favor those playing defense. In my experience playing, however, the biggest factor in determining the outcome of a game is skill. Much like with sports, your good and bad luck will balance out over time.
As Frozen Endzone is still in Alpha, there’s not a whole lot of content aside from being able to jump into multiplayer matches and single player challenges. That being said, the core game is pretty solid even at this stage and I can’t wait to see what it looks like with all the bells and whistles attached.