SYNCED Review – A Fun Free-to-Play Shooter with a Lackluster Grind

SYNCED's endless grind can eventually grow tiresome due to poor incentives despite superb gameplay mechanics.

Posted By | On 14th, Sep. 2023

SYNCED Review – A Fun Free-to-Play Shooter with a Lackluster Grind

It’s tough out there for gaming fans. And by “tough,” I mean that there is a wealth of options at our disposal when it comes to stellar triple-A experiences. That makes it all the more baffling when games launch that only feel halfway good. SYNCED is one such free-to-play title that shooter fans can find now on Steam. Developed by Next Studios, this sci-fi action experience offers a great time at the shooting gallery, but not much else. SYNCED has all of its eggs in a couple baskets, leaving others pretty barren, and I’ll get into that.

So, what is SYNCED all about, first off? To summarize, it’s a futuristic sci-fi shooter that pits human character players against swarms of humanoid or creature-like monstrosities constructed out of polygonal shards called Nanos. No matter which game type you select, you have the capability of seemingly “hacking” one of these beasts and forming your own Nano to help you fight back. In effect, you “sync” with a Nano hence the game’s title. This third-person shooter offers two modes, a PvE and a PvP mode. The PvE mode, which enables online co-op play, is easily the more thrilling option that offers a sense of adventuring progression despite a thin story.

"This sci-fi action experience offers a great time at the shooting gallery, but not much else. SYNCED has all of its eggs in a couple baskets, leaving others pretty barren."

From a gameplay position, SYNCED is a well-oiled machine. The shooting and other tactics you employ in the field such as unleashing and recalling your synced Nano, tossing throwables, looting, and even power leaping long distances (with your Nano in tow), are all highly satisfying with intuitive controls and smooth action. To complement the gameplay, the visual design and non-linear maps within the world are detailed and exquisite. Perhaps, for these two reasons, SYNCED is likely worth your time trying out since it is free-to-play after all.

However, those two highlights of SYNCED are (currently) the best aspects of the experience. Despite its sci-fi backdrop and unique-designed characters, the story and lore are painfully thin and extremely dull. The characters follow suit with one-note dialogue and personalities. This, however, is a minor complaint for a game that still offers a decent draw with regard to great gameplay mechanics.

The heftier issues with SYNCED lie in its progression grind. This is obviously what will keep players returning for more playtime hours and potentially spend money on the game’s monetization efforts: microtransactions. While I’m on the subject, microtransactions don’t feel overtly intrusive – at least not from what I’ve seen in my time with SYNCED. The main menu doesn’t throw any big flashy advertisements at me immediately and I have to actually visit the vendor at the Haven to look through the bundles, skins, currency, and other items for sale. Of course, that can always change down the road. But for now, the monetization is respectable and largely stays out of your way if you don’t intend to give the shop a look.

Now, about progression. There is a “main campaign” that is central to SYNCED. Basically, it’s playing all of the PvE levels throughout the Dead Sector mode. At first, you’ll be tasked with clearing swarms. Do this enough times and your team will obtain the data that will lead you to a Tyrant Nano – which are, essentially, the boss fights of the game. You are allowed to play through Dead Sector solo, but that might make the experience feel even “grindier” if you catch my meaning. If you have friends that play or simply matchmake with folks over at Haven, you can strike it out as a team of three.

synced

"From a gameplay position, SYNCED is a well-oiled machine. The shooting and other tactics you employ in the field such as unleashing and recalling your synced Nano, tossing throwables, looting, and even power leaping long distances (with your Nano in tow), are all highly satisfying with intuitive controls and smooth action."

The progression ultimately hinges on you battling your way through an onslaught of Nanos. With refined gameplay mechanics, this is good fun – for a while. The game lacks a range of diversity in its objectives, however. This can lead to rapid burnout. Furthermore, the game offers little incentive to return to areas you’ve already completed which begs the question: What happens to a newcomer down the road when most players are far beyond in more challenging levels? Perhaps, the game will draw in newcomers for quite some time, and that may not be an issue. However, the incentives seem to be lacking as they’re largely basic. It’s incentives, after all, that drive progression in most solid online experiences. Again, however, this is something that could always change with future updates to SYNCED.

I found myself more drawn to PvP match-ups against other players. This is ultimately what may have players returning in the future. With solid shooter mechanics, going up against skilled players makes for a fun and thrilling challenge. Each PvP match is a 3 versus 3 scenario. You can, of course, sync with a Nano and bring them into the fray.

Your character (referred to as Runners) and Companion Nano that you select while in Haven or in a pre-game setting (whether PvP or PvE) have their own sets of abilities. For instance, the Seer companion, while fused to your character’s arm (not unleashed in battle) can detect other Runners close by. When deployed, the Guardian Nano will utilize a shield to help defend itself and you. If it’s not deployed and fused to your arm, you can materialize a shield in front of you when aiming. Different Runners also have different abilities. Layla can use a cloaking ability to conceal herself while Dr. Stone can deploy a drone that heals himself and allies in a certain radius. So, there are strategic reasons behind your character and Nano selections that, when coupled with a team, could synergize well if you all coordinate.

synced

"The progression ultimately hinges on you battling your way through an onslaught of Nanos. With refined gameplay mechanics, this is good fun – for a while. The game lacks a range of diversity in its objectives, however. This can lead to rapid burnout."

At the end of the day, SYNCED offers players a worthwhile shot at a potentially fun online free-to-play shooter. With any luck, future updates will refine the progression aspect of the game – it’s driving force in finding a returning audience. Still, fun and frenetic gunplay coupled with excellent visual design and the low, low price tag of “free” should at least earn an hour (at minimum) of your time just to see what the game is all about. It may not be the best free-to-play title out there, but you can easily do worse.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Smooth, fun gameplay mechanics; Great visual design.

THE BAD

Lackluster progression grind.

Final Verdict:
GOOD
SYNCED leans into its sci-fi themes as players combat swarms of machine-like Nanos while deploying their own in combat. The gameplay is solid, offering refined gunplay and elements of strategy that make this co-op (and PvP) experience a lot of fun. The progression grind, however, suffers from a lack of incentivization and a narrow range of objectives within its loop. Whether those elements are updated or players stick around for the long haul remains to be seen in time.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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