Mode 7 Games has announced a sporty successor to Frozen Synapse , our 2011 Strategy Game of the Year , and one we continue to recommend as a kind of turn-based, top-down Counter-Strike. The British indie studio's new project is Frozen Endzone , and it's "meant to feel like futuristic, highly-stylized, exaggerated NFL football,” says Ian Hardingham, Frozen Endzone's lead designer and lead programmer.
Mode 7 is taking the simultaneous turn-based scheme used in Synapse and putting it into a futuresport played by robots. And despite the different theme, they aim to retain Synapse's strengths: replayability, randomly-generated terrain and player positions, and providing and visceral payoffs for players' chesslike planning.
In talking with Mode 7 about Frozen Endzone over the past week, what's impressed me about the concept is the way the team seems to be finding a way to preserve so much of the spirit and feeling of Synapse while migrating its mechanics into what's arguably experimental territory. Like Synapse, most matches are about five minutes along, with your (AI or human) opponent controlling five procedurally-placed robots apiece on a field pocked with randomly-positioned barriers. From that start, the both teams (one on offense, the other on defense) assign movement and other commands with what I like to call Photoshop-like waypoint tools, attempting tackles and throws while anticipating the hidden commands of their opponent before both sides' robots play them out simultaneously.
Key aspects of Endzone's single-player campaign are still being decided on, like whether it will take the form of a league or playoff format, and what form robot upgrades will take. "I think it would be so easy for us to say 'yes, you can have amazing pneumatic legs that buff your speed!' says Paul Taylor, Mode 7's joint managing director, writer, and composer. "Single-player development will mostly start after the multiplayer beta. We don't want to start promising things that may not happen." What is confirmed is that you'll play as a team coach that's "a defined character with a story." Taylor: "NFL coaches have lots of personality and tend to be divisive figures so, in the single-player story, I think it will be interesting to play someone like that."
Frozen Endzone is planned for 2014. For a dogpile of detailed information on Frozen Endzone's mechanics, design, "huge, crunching tackles" and a detailed moment-by-moment breakdown of a match, come crack open our massive Frozen Endzone interview .