When I was wee lad, nothing gave me greater joy than jumping around, dodging aliens and engaging in some good ol’ twitch-based shooting. For most this experience was achieved through games like Quake and Unreal Tournament. But I was a noob. I played Tremulous. You’ve probably never heard of this game before, I was naive and had no money. It was free, and pretty damn fun (bare with me this is going somewhere). Since that euphoric period in my early teens, I’ve struggled to recapture the nostalgia — the speed of movement and punishing precision. For me, Doom was the first step in attaining this goal, and now, Desync, by Foregone Syndicate, tickles that nagging itch.
I sat down to play Desync for roughly 30-40 minutes, and in this time I was given a strong demonstration of what this game is and what it purports to be. Straight out of the gate, you’ll notice the unique aesthetic: Starkly beautiful, with an intense, but gorgeous low-poly style. Most importantly, it’s just… Pure. The art-design, combined with the pumped up synthetic score, offers something fresh and engaging, while still enabling the player to effectively scan the environment, know who to shoot, where to go, and how to string enemies into combos.
What are combos you ask? Well, that’s the interesting twist you see! Desync has found a way to intertwine a combo system into their already fast-paced shooting gallery. Essentially, when you combine certain actions while killing enemies, or finish them with a combination of moves, you get a speed increase, as well as a significant boost to score. When you trigger a combo for the first time, or complete a combo against a different enemy type, you trigger Desync mode (it’s the name of the game, get it? Wow, these ‘get it’ jokes are getting old), which slows down time and gives you some space to breathe and stay alive. Desync mode also occurs in special periods in a level, when any combo you perform will trigger it, but the enemies are A LOT stronger.
Desync also offers a huge amount of variety. The game is broken up into zones, each of which possess multiple maps to play through. These zones, however, throw different challenges your way. For instance, the first zone was designed to help to develop standard dodging and shooting skills, while the second zone threw in a huge amount of environmental hazards to avoid. Every level is handcrafted and does not succumb to random generation; the developers want you to train yourself, learn the patterns, the maps, and become a god. This philosophy interplays with the score system as well, players will be able to acquire new weapons in later levels to bring back and beat their previous high score, but more importantly, they should have improved.
Desync is not an easy game. I made this assessment fairly quickly, and I may have had the developers skip me through a level that they saw was obviously holding me back. People will probably find it frustrating (I know I did), but without the difficulty curve, the combo system would lose its appeal. Running out of ammo and being forced to kill yourself (and lose score, but not progress) forces you to approach enemies in different ways. It drives you to experiment with combos. Different enemies also tie into the difficulty, some deflect your bullets requiring you to use the environment and alternate weapon abilities, while some will just charge at you. They can also be paired with modifiers, like an explosion upon death, or they could slow the player when close by. These changes, while simple, had me adjusting my priorities and developing different strategies to cope with them. Fortunately, there are ‘core’ abilities, which — when charged through combos — can be used to give you a leg-up in the encounter. The core being shown off on the PAX demo was just a basic heal, but I was informed that plenty of different abilities will be added by release. Take care though, it’ll lower your score if you use them!
Desync is being shown in the PAX Rising area, and will be out on Steam in early 2017. I strongly advise you check this out!