Monday, 29 October 2018 13:26

SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising Review

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Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

The Heart of Armageddon

Synthetik is a top-down shooter roguelite developed by Flow Fire Games. It originally released back in March of this year, but with the recent release of the Legion Rising free content update, I decided to take a look at it. I’m certainly glad I did. Synthetik is a fast-paced, frenetic romp through colorful industrial parks with a heavy emphasis on tactical positioning and class-based combat. While you can certainly play through the game by yourself, it’s certainly more fun with a friend at your back.


Synthetik is mostly a mechanics-focused game rather than story-focused, as most roguelites are. Thankfully, the mechanics are pretty well designed. You play as a robot of your desired class. With four class types divided into two subclasses apiece, there are eight total classes available for a wide range of play styles. The four archetypes, Guardian, Rogue, Commando, and Specialist, share upgrade trees. Overall, each subclass levels up individually; if you attain level ten in Breacher, one of the Guardian subclasses, you'll still be level one in Riot Guard. However, any unlocks you've acquired, from weapons to Memory Modules, carries over between subclasses. The only thing that doesn't carry over is the subclass-specific bonuses you acquire every five levels.

And you’ll want those bonuses. Synthetik pits you against a variety of enemy robots, some modeled after the four archetype classes you have access to. It also helps that you and your enemies both play by the same rules. The biggest part of the game is determining when to move and when to shoot. Every weapon has a variety of statistics defining things like attack power and rate of fire. They also have accuracy and deviation modifiers. While you're in motion, the deviation modifier for all weapons becomes drastically higher. Shooting in motion is really only viable when firing on a large number of enemies. Standing still not only reduces deviation and increases accuracy, but also enables the possibility of landing a headshot. As you may expect, headshots deal much more damage and critical headshots doubly so.

We Are Legion

The issue comes in that the only way to avoid incoming fire is to move and you are almost always outgunned. Typical pods of enemies range from three to five, but you can trigger more than one pod at a time. When the bullets start flying, being able to keep your head, knowing where you are in relation to other pods, and effectively choose targets is vital for survival. It is also very, very difficult. You will die frequently and in new ways. While one mistake is not necessarily game over, recovery can be difficult, especially if your particular class doesn’t have a healing item.

This only gets more complicated when you throw in a co-op player. Friendly fire is enabled by default for both you and your enemies. Maneuvering opponents into a position where they can be gunned down by their allies is very rewarding, but accidentally shotgunning your own ally in the back because you didn't check your line of fire is equally dismaying. Thankfully, each archetype is very clearly defined by a specific color, and if you happen to both be playing the same archetype, a flag denoting who is which player hovers over each of your heads. This flag also shows when your ally has an empty magazine in their current weapon and when they're reloading. You can also see your ally's targeting reticule so you don't have to guess if you're standing in their way.


One of the more interesting things about Synthetik is its modular difficulty settings. Just like your starting loadout, you can tailor your difficulty settings for any given run before you start out on it. These eleven settings range from how effective headshots are to whether or not you have to manually eject the magazine in your weapon before you can reload it. This minor addition over other gun-based games changes much. When you're down to your last bullet in a magazine and you hear the telltale click of an empty pistol, your first instinct is to just jam the reload button as fast as possible. Far too often the panic of being under fire while trying to reload will selectively excise the step of having to eject a magazine before reloading from your mind. It certainly adds to the rush of combat.

Sadly, sometimes the number of moving parts weighs Synthetik down. Level progression can be very slow past level ten, and data acquisition, the currency that allows for global and items unlocks, can be equally glacial. As well, the top-down 2.5D perspective can make judging angles difficult. More than once I thought I had a clear angle to an enemy around the corner only to sink three rounds into the edge of a wall. Worse, I would have my reticle clearly encompassing an enemy only to have the shots fly past without hitting them. Make no mistake, they would be close, but it was a miss all the same. Lastly, I tried hosting my own multiplayer game more than once but was completely unable to. Worse, when I loaded up a run after giving up on co-op, for the time being, Synthetik would crash.


The Verdict: Great

You still have all the basic tenets of roguelites: you move from room to room, killing enemies, collecting items, getting stronger before fighting a boss, and moving on to a new section. However, the additions to the genre that Synthetik brings make it feel like more than just the sum of its parts. What it is more than outshines the issues I had during my time fighting the robotic legion.

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John Gerritzen

John Gerritzen is a programmer by education, author by hobby, and game critic by occupation. While he usually favors RPGs, he will play anything that engages him narratively or mechanically. When he's not playing games for fun or profit, he's usually reading or watching anime.