The robots want Armageddon, so give it to them
The first thing you should know about SYNTHETIK, published and developed by Flow Fire Games, is that it is difficult. You will die numerous times, but does this make it a bad game? As with most games in the Roguelike genre that answer is no, as death plays a crucial part in the main gameplay loop, and is key to keeping you coming back for more. What makes SYNTHETIK stand out from the rest though? Well I’m here to tell you just that.
When you open the game up you are greeted with a lot of options, and this can be confusing for your first time delving into the game. The one you should look at first though is your class tab. The game offers a good amount of choice with eight classes to choose from. Each one can be leveled up and will grant new passive bonuses that will help you with future runs with that class. In addition, you can select starting equipment that includes your starting pistol and two items along with two perks.
Once you have your class sorted, it’s time to jump on in, and this is where the fun begins. SYNTHETIK is played from a top down perspective, and has a few interesting mechanics up its sleeve that separate it from other top down shooters. The first and most important of the bunch is shooting. Running around and trying to blast bots is a quick way to not hit anything. As you move your general accuracy will decrease and your shots will land all over the place. Standing still will help with that, along with quick bursts of fire. Save for some exceptions, this will keep your shots on target and may even result in headshots! Once you start firing though, your enemies will zero in on you and start returning very lethal return fire. The best way to survive is not getting hit, so movement is critical in that regard. To help with this, the game offers a quick dash key to help avoid incoming danger. This created an interesting dynamic, where to hit things you need to stop and shoot a few rounds, followed by dodging the return fire and repeating the process until the group that you have engaged is nothing more than a pile of scrap. There’s more though, as shooting depletes ammo you will need to reload, but this is not your standard reloading. First thing that happens when you press reload is you dump the magazine, including all the ammo that you might not have used. Then you need to load in a new one by pressing the reload key again. If you’re good with timing, hitting the highlighted section will grant you an active reload, speeding up the process. More to consider, as you fire the weapon you are using will get hotter and hotter, until it overheats. This causes the gun to have a drastic reduction of fire rate and will damage your character. Finally, a gun might jam up at any point, being your first shot of the fight or the last. This can be fixed by mashing the reload key, but is yet another thing to consider when getting into a big fight. Now, that is a lot to take in, and it will take a few runs to get a handle on everything, but stick with it and you will find a top down shooter that has a flow unlike any other.
When going through a run, clearing every floor of the robot hoard will net you credits that can be spent on various things though the run, including new items and guns, upgrades for you items and guns, healing stations, and loot boxes. Other things that you will find on each floor include quest stations that will give you a small challenge to complete in exchange for a random reward and XP for your class. Alters to the Machine god that grants various buffs and debuffs. gambling stations that will double your cash or take it all. Lastly, you have your crates that contain a random weapon or items. You can have two additional guns to go along with your starting pistol and these include SMGs, shotguns, rocket launchers, etc… Some of the rare drops can get a bit nuts with tactical nuke grenade launchers and buzzsaw launchers. Personal favorite is the 420 Sniperdragon, with a bonus mechanic of spinning your character 360 degrees for a damage bonus on your next shot. Be careful though, some of these weapons are as deadly to you as they are to your enemies as shots can ricochet and bounce right back into your face if you are not careful or just unlucky. Items are the other thing that can show up in a box, and these can range from the basic things like weapon mods for you gun, grenades and turrets to crazy powerful orbital satellite cannons, cluster bomb airstrikes and a paper bird that rips though reality to damage your foes. You are allowed up to nine of these and any extra can be scrapped for a bit of extra cash.
When you inevitably bite the dust, you get a screen that tells you general statistics and how much XP you have earned along with how much data that you have collected. Data is spent in various places like your class tab to unlock new guns or items to start with or at the research station that will add on additional modifiers like gun variants that will give weapons stat modifiers and can change its fire rate depending on what you get, or the supply hack tab that can allow you to modify the drop rate and power/ammo gain for various items and guns. Finding the game a bit too easy or hard? Head over to the difficulty tab. This will allow you to toggle modifiers including some of the core game mechanics to make the experience more to your liking. After looking through and modifying your class, just jump right back into the fray. You can also bring a friend along as the game supports co-op! Friendly fire is on, so watch out.
Going into the other aspects of the game, visually it looks very clean. Starting floors sport a very vibrant color that will make the spirits pop making enemies very easy to spot when they are not behind something. The various Robots are well designed, making each enemy type noticeable at a glance. Some of this is lost on later areas though, after clearing the first main area you are greeted with a much darker area, which sports new enemies that can be hard to spot as they are see through. The third is visually unlike any of the others and includes some very angry rocks that blend into the background if you are not looking out for them specifically. The final area does go back to a visually brighter backdrop but is very reminiscent of the first areas.
General sound effects are very well done. Bullet impacts when you hit an enemy are very satisfying, headshots and critical hits specifically. Explosions are snappy and not too loud, and your general gun fire is extremely punchy with the rare and powerful guns thankfully having effects that match the damage numbers that pop up. Music is also well done, an electronic score that fits the setting very well but can be overwhelmed with the other sounds that come into play when you are in the thick of combat.
Overall, SYNTHETIK: Legion Rising is an absolute blast to play. The main gameplay loop is very satisfying thanks to interesting mechanics and fun enemies that will challenge the best of players. While the main menu is a tad confusing and some of the areas visually repetitive, the core of the game is so strong that it overshadows its shortcomings and is definitely a game worth playing if you enjoy top down shooters or Rougelites. The best part? If you are unsure if this is a game for you there is a stand alone expansion called SYNTHETIK: Arena that can be played for free! In this expansion you are presented with five different modes that include base defence and wave survival that feature the same core gameplay in a bite sized mission. If you like what you see in Arena, then you will absolutely love Legion Rising!