Synapse review: A mind-bending Rogue-lite VR

Examen de Synapse : Une VR Rogue-lite à l'esprit déroutant

PSVR2 has finally started releasing some big titles, and Synapse might just be one of them. This title is the latest from nDreams, the developers of Fracked and Far Cry VR. It's their most ambitious game yet, set in a mindscape that constantly changes and produces a variety of enemies to take down. Synapse also brings in iconic voice actors such as Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Metroid Prime) and David Hayter (Metal Gear series, Marvel Heroes). With hardware of this quality, we can expect the game to be a hit, right? Well, stick around to find out whether or not you feel like embarking on this experience.

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Synapse is a game that uses a classic combat system found in most VR FPS games. That's right: guns and telekinesis. Fortunately, it changes things up by adding some flexibility to your attacks. But it's not perfect. The start of the game is really shaky, especially when you have almost no upgrades. At this point, most enemies you encounter will crush you in seconds. You'll also have to accept Synapse's unfairness early on in the game. It's not the most balanced feeling out there, but if you're the type of player who enjoys grinding, it won't bother you too much. The best way to deal with an uncomfortable start to the game is to complete challenges and earn as much currency as possible.

Once you purchase a few upgrades, the battles will start to intensify. The use of the skill tree is one of the strengths of Synapse. Everything included in the improvement paths feels like it has been carefully thought through. It’s a game that encourages experimentation. Thanks to rogue-lite's structure, you can approach each area with a new and creative strategy. For example, you can wield your weapon with one hand while using telekinesis to strike enemies with the other.

Travel is also incredible, thanks to the fact that there are no limits. You can run, climb, and take cover while making your way across the map. It's rewarding because the level design encourages the fast-paced approach to John Wick-style gunfights.

Telekinesis is also a lot of fun to learn. To play with brain science, boxes called “mental blocks” are scattered everywhere. You can use them to create some fluidity in your combat experience – punching, swiping and lifting enemies by swinging your PSVR 2 controller wherever you want. With a few improvements, you'll be able to use mind blocks in new and creative ways. For example, shooting objects, messing with enemies, using explosive barrels to deal splash damage, and much more.

The game would have easily benefited from allowing players to crouch, jump, and slide in addition to the other movement techniques present. That said, overall you'll be happy with the gameplay if you like the core element of randomness in its rogue world.

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Story and Gameplay Structure in Synapse

Synapse is riding the rogue-lite wave, and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is that it's painfully obvious that nDreams didn't want to invest resources into a longer, linear game, and the story suffers as a result. The premise of the game places you, the anonymous player, in a heist through the mind of Colonel Peter Conrad, “a notorious enemy of the state”, with the mission of uncovering the plans for a dangerous attack. Clara helps you on this creation-like journey, as she is your guide and assistant into the depths of Colonel Conrad's mind.

Narrative-wise, it's pretty cliché, but most people don't expect VR games to be as well-told as The Last Of Us. The excellent voice actors can sometimes feel like they're wasted, as you find yourself repeating certain levels and hearing different variations of grunts and helpful remarks from Clara.

In order to give a sense of progression to the game structure, you will need to earn “Revelations” in each game. Revelations are used to purchase upgrades at the end of your journey. They are very useful for adapting gameplay to your personal preferences. Revelations allow you to gain Insight Points that you can invest in the three main branches of the skill tree: Tactician, Assassin, and Survivor. Choosing the right path will allow you to pass levels faster.

Improving capacity, ammo, and health will greatly help you get through the levels, which is why you should take advantage of this system. At the start of a game, you will receive a temporary mod called Mind Hack. This is a powerful and powerful tool. Like in other roguelite games, getting a good temporary mod for a run can get you to the end of the game quickly. The problem is that you have no way to influence the system. It is therefore very important to get the most out of each run.

Completing a run in Synapse will probably take you 3 hours. This is a game that could have been much better if the story had been more fleshed out. We can't put the blame on nDreams alone, though. VR games are known to be tiring for players, so a shorter experience is better for most people.

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Artistic direction

Synapse is a beautiful game. If you're going to spend hours in a PSVR 2 headset, you'll be hard-pressed to find something this good. The visuals are stunning, and while the monochrome design seemed a tough sell, it actually helps give a distinct identity to the entire experience.

The sound design is also a strong point of this game. The sound effects are brilliant and you know our love for voice actors. Hearing the dialogue as you progress is satisfying, and the added level of immersion offered by VR rounds it all out for an otherworldly experience.

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Final thoughts on Synapse

Synapse is a VR game that takes advantage of everything the PSVR 2 has to offer. However, it doesn't look like the developers can be too ambitious with PSVR 2 games just yet. If you're looking for a pure sound gaming experience and a fun time, you can't go wrong with this title.