We’re in the last quarter, all the bases are loaded, and you’ve just scored a birdie on hole 9. By now you’ve probably guessed I know very little about sports other than the occasional buzzword. Fortunately, the upcoming turn-based future-sports title Frozen Endzone doesn’t care if you know anything about athletics so long as you can think tactically and enjoy watching robots clobber each other in the name of entertainment.
Frozen Endzone is best described as a mixture of chess and American Football, only set in the future and populated entirely by menacing looking robots who like to punch each other for fun. What strikes me the most about the game is how accessible it is to someone who couldn’t throw a ball to save his life. If you’ve played Frozen Synapse - the previous entry in this strategic series – you’ll find many of the gameplay mechanics to be similar if not the same. Multiplayer matches can be played without the need for both participants to be online at the same time, the player can simulate actions of all units on the playing field before committing to a specific play, and the overall control scheme and UI borrows from the previous entry.
New players need not worry about memorizing a long list of rules and regulations as the game is fairly straightforward and easily explained via the in-game tutorial. You spawn onto a grid with both teams players scattered across the various positions on the map. One team ‘attacks’ by attempting to move the ball down towards the end zone – a field that spans the bottom of the pitch – while the opposite team must intercept the ball before it can reach the goal. From this simple formula, both players must scheme and plot their way through each turn, making sure to have their units in the right place whilst simultaneously guessing what the enemy is planning.
In essence, the game is just as much about reading your opponent’s mind as it is about strategy. During one rather tense match versus an AI opponent, my situation looked so dire that the only option seemed to be to wait until my mechano-man got dog piled upon. I spent a good five minutes simulating a number of different moves, trying to find the right approach that would let me get out of this situation. I planned and I simulated again and again until it felt like I was simulating myself inside a simulation. Suddenly, a chance appeared, an opportunity that seemed so outlandish and drastic that it had to work, so I took a chance and committed my actions into the hands of fate. Unfortunately fate decided my ambitions of winning were much too high. As my loyal team member attempted to win the game in one heroic swoop like a glorious 90’s feel good movie, the crushing thud of an enemy player lands right into the poor guy’s face knocking him to the ground to lay in a pool of shame and motor oil.
The game is currently in an early beta state, but there’s plenty to do in the current version. Single player currently offers a Vs. AI mode which will have you facing off against a computer opponent in either one or three-round matches. There are also six challenge scenarios to play through. Multiplayer currently offers the follow four game modes:
- Endzone – Randomly generated playing fields where one player is attacking and one defending. Once the first round is over the positions are swapped and the team with the highest score at the end wins the game. This mode is very quick-fire and recommended for shorter matches.
- One Play – Similar to Endzone, except the teams do not swap after the first round ends. Once the ball reaches the goal or it becomes intercepted by the defenders, the match is over.
- Handball – This mode is less restricted than Endzone, with multiple tackles and changes of possession without the match ending. Both teams must get the ball to their end zone, so in many ways this could be considered the most comparable to a real game of football.
- Handball Easy – A variation of Handball in which most of the restrictive rules have been removed (ball throw limit etc…)
Future plans for Frozen Endzone include variable stats for individual players, allowing you to build up a more in-depth team of strengths and weaknesses. There will also be an expansion to the single player experience that will consist of a story mode, a single player “roguelike” season mode, and a long-form season mode. Multiplayer will also see additions in the future with the promise of more modes and the ability to create multiplayer leagues with your friends. The visuals are also set to receive more work with new animations, more stadiums and team armours, and a whole host of customization options for players to add a personal touch to their robot squads.
Today marks the launch of Frozen Endzone’s beta, and those looking to grab a copy can do so via the official website. The first tier, sitting at $25 (which is about £15 or €18.50) nets two keys for the beta, with optional Steam keys and access to the full version on release. Higher tiers come with a number of luxury extras including the game’s soundtrack, in-game cosmetic items, and animations for your team. Every purchase also comes with a 30% off voucher for Speedball 2 HD on Steam if you feel like going on a future sports binge.
© 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.