Hot off of Summer Game Fest, we have landed in Steam Next Fest, meaning a lot of the games I just played in LA now have public demos available. This is true for Level Infinite’s SYNCED, a PvE/PvP shooter developed by NExT Studios, which has its demo playable until June 26th.
Summer Game Fest Play Days has some great demos available, but time can be limited. So, when I jumped into the Steam Next Fest demo, I was thrilled to see the amount of content available to dive into. Here I was able to experience more of the home base, Haven, and I got time with the game in both PvP(Nerva Run) and PvP (Dead Sector) modes.
Your world is in shambles, with civilization being destroyed by rebel technology called Nanos. In SYNCED, you play a runner tasked with taking down Nanos after “The Collapse.” Sitting down at Summer Game Fest, the game was giving me Destiny meets Mass Effect, but now that I’ve spent more time with the PvP side of things, SYNCED feels uniquely its own.
“Sitting down at Summer Game Fest, the game was giving me Destiny meets Mass Effect, but now that I’ve spent more time with the PvP side of things, SYNCED feels uniquely its own.”
The demo begins by helping you get familiar with the basics. You begin solo, playing as Deadcut, and my first impression was that he was far too cool a character for me to control. You learn about melee and ranged combat, Nanos, and Surge Storms, which will be your main reasons for combat in SYNCED.
Taking down Nanos is essentially taking down a swarm of metal zombies that come at you all at once. A Surge Storm is where you’ll find the strongest Nanos, like the Locus Nano. The lesser Nanos will weaken once you take them down, and the Surge will clear. When you find your first Nano, you’re able to tame it essentially, binding it to you, and then you can summon it to attack at your will. There will be a faint line connecting you two, which is helpful for keeping track of your not-so-little wanderer.
I asked about customization in SYNCED and was told there would be some, but after diving into the Steam demo, I realized it isn’t as elaborate as I thought. This meant different skins for your playable character and its Nanos rather than designing the base character itself. I honestly preferred the base outfits for each, but changing the colour and shine of my Nano will definitely happen.
You can play as one of three characters in the SYNCED demo. Deadcut feels more like a “take it head on” kind of guy with Fire Grenades and Dragon’s Breath skills. Glory is more of a stealth character with skills like Smoke Bomb and Sight Lines, which affect her sniper. Dr. Stone is our healer class, with an AOE heal called Healer’s Aura and Combat Medic skills. There were three other characters greyed out—Park, Layla, and Ragna—so it looks like there are other playable characters and maybe more to come in the future.
You can also choose your Nano as well. There are four; Crusher, Suppressor, Guardian and Seer. Their roles are pretty self-explanatory based on their names, but I still think they sound incredibly badass. Pairing your Nano to your character is vital. I preferred Deadcut with the Crusher, but I can see some interesting pairings with the different variations. For instance, if you’re the healer, Dr. Stone, you may want an aggressive Nano to protect you while you heal.
It looks like you can change your character and Nano loadout before each match and after each death in a match. This is a curious choice to me. Ultimate freedom is nice, but it felt a little bit too hand-holdy to me—like there is no commitment to your choices. I like swapping between matches, but during them felt a bit much.
During your runs, you will collect Radia, which allows you to unlock mods at Exchanges throughout the map. These can offer unique powers, like explosions when your clip runs out or stunning Nanos when you strike their weak points. Your mods can also affect your Nano instead of you. These Exchanges were plentiful on the map, often popping up right before you faced a big fight, much like coming across a save point or pile of med kits in older games.
I have to say, I got absolutely slaughtered while trying to master the PvP Nerva Runs. It’s not like a 50-person match in Fortnite. You take time to gear up, explore the map and find exchanges. It wasn’t often that I came across anyone. I believe there were only ten people in a match, which didn’t leave a lot of time for practice. I would swap between characters to get a feel for each of them but found myself back to Deadcut every time.
You can play these matches in teams of three or solo. Because it’s an early demo, I have not convinced all my friends to dive in, so solo it was! It does look like SYNCED has in-game voice chat, which is a nice addition.
Personally, I think the PvE Dead Sector Runs are going to be where it’s at for me. Your goal here is to eliminate Nanos to defeat several Surge storms, which increase in difficulty. During the run, you’ll collect Radia to make yourself stronger with mods and then eventually confront the Tyrant, a very strong Nano—basically your final boss.
I like the feeling of quick PvP rounds but being able to take on AI enemies instead of real people. Playing instances instead of a massive open world is less intimidating sometimes and feels easier to take on when I have short periods of time to game. My only complaint is that sometimes the NPC enemies felt simple, which I do not often complain about. It felt like they would hover and wait for me to take on a few at a time. However, I’m not sure how this will play out in the final game build.
“SYNCED looks to be more than a simple shooter you jump in and out of for a few rounds here and there. It feels like a fully-fledged story placed in the world of something more casual…”
I do have to make note, SYNCED is not a game without any jank. The mouth movements for characters are rough at best. Loading the game in Steam—both on my PC and my ROG Ally—was not a smooth process, with the game playing noise before I could ever find the window it launched in. There are also some quality-of-life choices, like holding down keys to open doors or picking up items, that could be done with a simple tap. And something I didn’t like that doesn’t really affect anything; they named the table where you choose your mode the “Situation Table.” It’s like NExT wasn’t even trying.
SYNCED looks to be more than a simple shooter you jump in and out of for a few rounds here and there. It feels like a fully-fledged story placed in the world of something more casual, like Fortnite, but filled with real mechanics that will take time to master. There are many different mods, power-ups, pairings and systems in place that—if done right—will take SYNCED above and beyond other shooters.
My only concern is that SYNCED will lose the freedom of choice it gives right now because of overpowered skills and pairings. I hope that isn’t the case on launch, and I am looking forward to checking it out in more detail on its full release later this year.