Synced: Off Planet played – A nice shooter that unfortunately (still) lacks variety
After the Great Collapse in Synced: Off Planet, the machines revolt against the humans, pitting their once-faithful war machines, the nanos, against their own creators. In order to protect the only safe place left for humans, you, a so-called runner, are sent to confront the machines and collect the important resource Nerva.
In a try-out event, I was allowed to try out the PvP and PvE modes of the third-person looter shooter. So far the title from developer Next Studios and publisher Level Infinite hasn’t knocked my socks off, but I haven’t fallen asleep on it either. Synced could do with a little more variety, but has really incorporated a few nice ideas here and there.
I liked the design and characters
Let’s go to the post-apocalyptic world, which looks really great visually. Sure, it doesn’t quite reach the level of Destiny 2, but you still feel in good hands here in 2022. The movements of the characters are also pleasantly fluid. Technically, I’m satisfied so far, especially since this is only a beta. It’s pretty dark, which suits the setting, but unfortunately also makes for less visual variety, which makes it easier for beginners in particular to find their way around. The feeling of a world ruled by machines that has lost its soul is conveyed wonderfully.
The characters… well, they fall into the too cool for this world category. That’s why they live in a post-apocalyptic time, because only here do the really crass sayings work really well. Except for me. I had to bite my lip a bit because my runner’s first set was really uncomfortable. Why actually bite? Maybe as a counter-pain because that unnecessary bravado hurt a bit in the face of an apocalypse? In any case, the NPC immediately jumped in and threw her own harsh survivor spell into the ring.
I actually think the design of the runners is cool, all of which could easily have come directly from The Walking Dead, which makes them very believable in such a setting. Each of them has special abilities that you can take into account when putting together a team. There is a runner with a healing aura, two with different grenades and a character that allows team members to uncover enemies in the area. So there are tactical roles, supporters and pure attackers.
The situation is similar with the nano-bots. Here we have a healer, a tank, as well as a ranged fighter and a melee fighter. You don’t own these big machines from the start. You get them after weakening the first enemy robots and hacking them. In the course of a round it is even possible to control several robots and switch between them. A nice touch is that it makes one of your arms mechanical – even in the style of the nano you control.
The menu needs improvement
The tutorial is great, introduces you directly to all the important elements in a small game sequence and is mandatory so that every player knows at least the basics before venturing into the death zone. I would like to say exactly the opposite of the menu, because it wasn’t exactly structured intuitively. The riders were sometimes arranged in a somewhat misleading manner and many participants also had to search briefly for an invitation to a match. But there could still be some improvements for the release.
In the hub, which is the safe haven for people, you can’t just go to the menu with the mouse, you have to use the keyboard to go the more cumbersome way. But what I particularly enjoyed about Haven is the large screen in the main room, which shows the top three players with their names and the winning runner from PvE and PvP. You are much more motivated to make an effort if you are presented to the whole world as the runner of the day.
For me, the fly in the ointment is the structure of the matches
The modes also left me split. In PvE you fight in threes against the wild Nanos. There are a total of three individual stages in a match. The first two stages consist of running, killing and upgrading. I really like the upgrades. You constantly collect currency, for example by killing nanos, and can spend it on special machines. In return, you will receive improvements that equip you with new passive skills. These ensure, for example, that you have a certain probability of stunning your enemies or releasing small explosive grenades. Each time you have a choice of two random upgrades, so you can play a little differently each time. The further you get, the more expensive and powerful the improvements become.
The first two stages play exactly the same, only the enemy nanos are a bit stronger. Because of this and because of the same environment and similar opponents, Synced still seems quite repetitive. Only in the third round do you fight directly against a boss and get a little variety. If you die and aren’t revived by a teammate first, you can come back twice in total. After that, you’re out for the rest of the match. So that nobody had to twiddle their thumbs for the remaining rounds, my team had no choice but to kill themselves on purpose in order to be able to start a new game with our third party.
Not much changes in PvP. You continue to play in threes, but this time against Nanos and three other teams. The team that has collected the most Nerva at the end wins. Victory can also be achieved by eliminating all other teams. Other upgrades are also used here for balancing reasons. A small tactical trick at the beginning of each round, which made me happy, was a 3D map on which you can uncover areas you have selected yourself before landing in the death zone. You can scan the map three times for important buildings in order to get the loot right at the beginning before others do. But it can also be the case that you select areas in which nothing is displayed to you at all.
second hand? My little preliminary conclusion on Synced
The gameplay is probably most comparable to Hunt: Showdown, an absolute favorite of our Alex. In Hunt I find the suspense curve and the varied areas and tasks a bit better. Nevertheless, I give Synced credit for finally daring to bring a breath of fresh air into the PvPvE genre. The studio doesn’t just copy a concept, but creates their own recipe for the same dish with the nano mechanics and the random upgrades.
Synced gives me mixed feelings. Where I voice criticism, I immediately find a nice feature and vice versa. The still lacking variety can be remedied with new cards and runners, which will definitely grow in the first few seasons. There should be a lot more maps available for the release and so far I can at least select five runners from the menu, different weapons, mods for PvE and a nano. However, this does not change the repetitive structure of the matches. Somehow I wish I had enjoyed the shooter more, because it looks nice and shines with a few nice ideas every now and then. So it doesn’t really taste bad, but I still lack the spice, that certain something that makes Synced stand out from the crowd.