You may not have heard of Frozen Cortex yet, or you may have seen the feature image at the link you just clicked and thought, “that looks like Frozen Endzone?” Well that’s because this is Frozen Endzone. It seems that half way through the early access release of the game the developers changed their mind and rebranded it Frozen Cortex.
Frozen Cortex is the sequel of sorts to Frozen Synapse, the asynchronous turn based strategy game which had players guessing their opponents moves and reacting to it. Frozen Synapse was a fantastic game, but the nature of trying to have one of your four man squad be the last man standing meant games could be as much about hunkering down as they could be hunting and taking out the opposing team.
The premise of Frozen Cortex is better given away from its original name, Frozen Endzone. The same asynchronous turn based style is present, but in place of your 4 man military squad, you have a 5 man football (read: American Football) team. Maps are now playing fields, and the objective is now to outscore your opponent in a match where you will play at least once on offense and once on defence. One scoring technique has been brought forward from one of the Frozen Synapse game modes, there are a few point zones dotted around the field, and if a ball carrier passes through one he scores two points for his team. Carrying the ball into the endzone scores you five points and ends the round.
The strategy comes into deciding when to pass and when to run. You can usually make up to three passes before having to run, but if you chose to run at an earlier point you will not be allowed to pass again. On defence you will be trying to block ball carriers to make a turnover, or get into the path of a pass for an interception. A good offense will find the path that the defence won’t be able to reach, and the asynchronous gameplay allows you the time to sit and plan out your strategies below committing to one. When both players have committed the turn it can be played out and only then do you see how the other player is reacting to the situation.
The style of the game is really nice, a futuristic robotic design. The players are robots, and the matches are commentated by one human and one robot, giving you the idea of a time where both live harmoniously together. The players make a wonderful metal clunking sound as they run around the field and crash into each other. The GUI could still do with some work at this stage, and was always the weak point with Frozen Synapse too. There are also a few bugs still kicking about at this stage, such as player names missing in commentary text when they are obviously meant to be there. A result of what is a nice feature though, customisable teams. You can rename the team, the players and adjust all their stats based on a points system to keep the game balanced.
Frozen Cortex is still in Early Access, but it really is promising. Anyone who enjoyed Frozen Synapse should like this, and the change of theme is an inspired one that should entice sports gamers who don’t usually touch turn based strategies. The early access community is growing so you should be more and more likely to get games when you are looking for them, but the turn based system allows games to be played out over as little or as long as the players want to take on them.