The future as presented in Freedom Wars is a bleak one – the latest offering from Studio Japan is a PS Vita RPG that oozes personality and charm. Set in the distant future, humanity – having exhausted all of their resources – have split into factions and formed a series of super cities known as Panoptocons (‘cons for short). Members of society who aren’t pulling their weight and seen as a ‘drain’ on resources are branded as a sinner, slapped with a one million year prison sentence and forced to carry out missions in order to reduce the time they must serve. Everything from going to sleep to conversing with the opposite sex are crimes punishable by an addition of years to your sentence, these rights must be purchased with points acquired by completing missions. The humour of being given extra years on you sentence for something as trivial as talking to a member of the opposite sex is both funny and annoying and something tells me that is exactly what was intended.
The core experience of Freedom Wars will be instantly familiar to those who have experienced games such as Capcom’s Monster Hunter. Players are sent out on missions to defeat certain types of enemies, and are rewarded with a reduction of years on their sentence, as well as resources which can be used to upgrade or create weapons and enhancements for your charcter, this process in turn allows you to complete more difficult missions for better rewards – rinse and repeat. In between missions, players interact with a charming cast of characters and get tangled up in a grandiose plot which has dire implications for all concerned. The story kept me interested and there were an number of stand out characters, however I didn’t like how there were points in the story where I would be forced to run from pillar to post in order to progress to the next set of missions. While this may not have been such a problem on a home console, there were times where I would go 20 minutes with nothing but dialogue, in a game on a console where portability and bite-size gaming chunks are a major selling point, it definitely became more tedious each time I had to go through this. Often my very limited play time on a train journey was taken up entirely by watching cut-scenes.
The world of Freedom Wars is gorgeous and looks amazing on the PS Vita and is one of the best looking games on the handheld to date. The game chooses to adopt a stylised anime art style which both looks and runs amazingly well. There were times when there was a lot going on at once where there was some noticeable slow-down, however given the graphical prowess of the game and the amount of enemies and AI characters that can be on screen at once, these minor flaws were easily forgiven and didn’t have too much of an adverse effect on my enjoyment of the game.
The sound design is another feature which this game absolutely nails, the Japanese voice acting is powerful and theatrical, while I had to read the subtitles to actually understand what was going on, the voice acting really helped pull me into the game. On that note it is also worth noting that the localisation for this game is very well done, the translation feels very genuine and there are times when it is down right hilarious.
Where the game really shines however is in the gameplay department. Missions involve taking a team of either human players or AI controlled characters into battle and completing a variety of missions ranging from team death match style fire-fights – with the winning team being the frist to deplete the other side’s available troops to zero – to gruelling battles with the giant Abductors which are the game’s main enemy. Combat in Freedom Wars is fast and fluid and with a large choice of weapon types, there’s something for everyone. I found it immensely satisfying to pick off enemies with my sniper rifle from afar and then to switch to my great sword to deal huge amounts of melee damage to the abductors. One of the most interesting features in the game is the ‘Thorn’ which is an item worn around the player’s wrist, it can be used as a grapple to zip around the environment or to latch on to the abductors and – depending on the type of thorn you choose – it can be used to trap enemies, heal allies or to shield them from damage, the whole concept adds another layer of depth to an already fantastic game play system. each player is also given an ‘accessory’ an artificial intelligence that is tasked with keeping tabs on you and providing the authorities with up to date information on your activities, but also they are able to join you in battle, aiding you in combat scenarios – each of your party members also have an accessory which can make some of the more difficult missions a little easier to complete, while there were times I really appreciated the additional help from my AI companions; there were definite moments where I felt like there was just too much going on at any given time which made it difficult to distinguish friend from foe.
While combat with the abductors is definitely one of the best aspects of the game, there were more than a few annoying moments early on when my character refused to lock onto the smaller characters and all of my attacks seemed to miss no matter what – having said that once I hit my stride and really figured out the mechanics, those frustrations became few and far between. During missions, citizens who have been abducted can be rescued, the citizens you rescue become a valuable asset outside of missions as they can aid you in creating weapons, augmentations, combat items and more.
Missions can be either completed alone with a number of AI companions or you can venture online or group up locally in order to defeat the more difficult missions. While I played mostly offline, I will say that when I did test the online aspect of the game, it brought another dimension to the game – I can see the online community for this game growing over time and sticking around long into the game’s life.
Despite a few issues with story pacing and gameplay mechanics, Freedom Wars is a game that anyone looking for a deep gameplay experience with a lot of re-playability should consider picking up, packed with missions, side quests and an interesting story – Freedom Wars promises to keep you busy for a long time to come.
Despite a few issues with story pacing and gameplay mechanics, Freedom Wars is a game that anyone looking for a deep gameplay experience with a lot of re-playability should consider picking up, packed with missions, side quests and an interesting story - Freedom Wars promises to keep you busy for a long time to come.