At its core, Freedom Wars is a third person action game developed by Japan Studios – revolving around an apocalyptic world set far in the future. The game has you fighting giant monsters called Abductors, humans called Sinners and robots called Accessories in an attempt to work off years of servitude you owe your homeland.
The story behind Freedom Wars is actually quite interesting, but at times can seem to get in the way with a lot of talking. Taking place in the year 202014, most of the world’s resources are scarce and everyone that is born is considered a drain on those limited resources. Being as you’re a drain on the resources of this Panopticon, you’re assigned one million years of servitude; the only way to deplete your sentence being either completing operations or donating some of your resources.
In the world of Freedom Wars you’re also fairly limited to what you are allowed to do – so if you want to gain more freedom you’ll need to complete operations to gain Entitlement Points and then use those to unlock new rights. Some of the things you can get in trouble for (aka; don’t have the rights to do by default) made me laugh, but also really pulled me into the whole experience – especially considering how well the AI characters can make you feel like a worthless drain on society. It’s obvious that the narrative and character interaction are geared towards making you feel like a part of the story, and in that respect I think they’ve succeeded.
Moving onto the game’s actual mission formula, it’s actually much like other hunting games. Like Soul Sacrifice or Monster Hunter you follow the ‘pick a mission and then head out onto the chosen map’ formula, however more like Soul Sacrifice you are locked to one area within that map as you fight the enemies. Giving it part of the Freedom Wars twist, you’re able to choose from a variety of mission styles to take part in; you have citizen reclamation missions which involve you and your team rescuing citizens from abductors or containment pods, liquidation missions which have you eliminating the enemy abductors as quickly and professionally as ppossible, and seize control missions where the objective is to control the most points when the time runs out. When completing a mission you are given a rating out of six stars, each star awarding a resource; if you get all six stars you get all the resources and the best resource. Time off your sentence is determined by the difficulty of the task at hand and how well you complete it, so make sure to complete hard missions to the 6th star if you’re looking to get ahead quick.
Next up is combat, where Freedom Wars uses a unique system in which every sinner has the ability to use a weapon called a ‘Thorn.’ The thorn is a rope-like weapon that can hook to enemies; using it to either drag them down, or launch you towards them – though they also can be used to do other things if you charge them up. There are three types of thorns can all do the same basic grapple effects, but when charged do different things; the binding thorn is used to bind sinners and abductors, the healing thorn can heal your teammates and will drop a healing area, and the shielding thorn can boost your entire team’s defense or deploy a wall that blocks projectiles. This is where your play style can be effected, as choosing between a healing, attacking or defending style will alter the game’s play style drastically.
One of the best things about the combat however, is that you can mix and match the different thorns with your teammates and really get a strategy going. I preferred using the binding thorn and doing a lot of the cutting of limbs on the abductors, but there were many other roles and ways to tackle the problem.
Not only does Freedom Wars have you choosing different types of thorns to use, but there are tons of guns and melee weapons to equip as well. Each Sinner is able to carry two main weapons (which you can mix and match however you please), while your Accessories can only have one main weapon. Your load-out is very customizable; after you choose your two main weapons you can also change your combat items, and augmentations. Combat items range from health packs, to ammo packs, grenades, and many other useful items to help you take down your enemies – augmentations are a bit different, and must be made inside your facility management page. Before I go into the that though, augmentations permanently boost your Sinner’s basic stats. There are ton of different augmentations, but your sinner can have only 5 equipped and 10 points used. Certain augmentations can use up to five points while others don’t use any points – some of these include more health, increased defense, and even defense against just abductors or sinners.
When fully equipped and ready to go, I found myself readily jumping onto the Abductors arms and sawing them off… it really made me feel like a bad-ass. The cool thing is that while you’re sawing off parts the abductor will try and shake you off, and if you jump off in time you can actually re-shoot your thorn at the abductor while airborne and go right back to cutting parts off like nothing happened. This kind of fluidity of play is what kept me coming back over and over again.
In addition to controlling your own Sinner, you can use the touch screen to send out orders to your Accessory and companions – telling them to cover you, fire at will, pick up citizens, or even heal you. There are plenty of other commands available, but your accessory can only have eight assigned to them total. This command system can be very useful when you need your allies to do things for you, and/or to obtain some semblance of order when things aren’t going your way.
I mentioned the Facility Management page earlier, and think it’s important to touch on that further as it’s where you can craft new items, weapons, and augmentations. All of these management options cost resources in order to perform, though the results of upgrading, crafting or augmenting will no doubt further your ability to manage enemies and gain more resources – bolstering your ability to upgrade further.
One of the ways you can upgrade your weapons is to add what they call modules, with effects ranging from increased elemental damage, to increased rate of fire, larger clips, or increased damage with headshots. The only problem with this system is that sometimes you get negative effects which can ruin the weapons strength – for instance, I had a really strong gun that had ‘Power Up (L)’ (the ‘L’ means it’s a large effect) and when I modified it I ended up losing that module. It was a very upsetting move, because that gun then became a much weaker weapon as a result. The only safeguard for this issue is that you can use other resources to lock in some abilities or help influence what will be added to your weapon.
After you choose what you want to add, you then get a timer of how long it will take to make what you’re requesting. This is real world time as well, which can be frustrating as some things can take up to 30 minutes to complete – however, if you’ve rescued some citizens you can use them to decrease the time (but only one citizen per facility).
The gameplay in Freedom Wars feels really good; the only problem I’d say is that the camera can sometimes mess you up. They give you multiple control schemes too if you want to use more guns then you can use the one designed around shooting. I found myself sticking with the original control scheme, but would change it up when playing multiplayer.
Being as most hunting games include some sort of multiplayer, Freedom Wars is no different – other than the fact that player vs player has been thrown into the mix of course! In PvP mode you can take on another team of four contoled players, each bringing their Accessories along – this makes for an 8 vs 8 match and a hell of a game. Aside from PvP, there’s also the usual coop mode in which you can play the missions from the single player campaign with your friends or randoms.
As for who you’re fighting for, that’s simple – at the start of the game you choose from one of 50 Panopticons (world cities), and this choice becomes your home base. Though it doesn’t have any real influence on single player, it does give you a team to play for in multiplayer while you’re scaling the rankings.
The only real problem I’ve seen in the multiplayer is lag, but luckily that was only when playing with people from Asian territories; if you stay within your own area you shouldn’t have to much of a problem. Aside from lag, the game could use an “invite player” feature, but that’s more ease of use than anything else.
Graphically speaking Freedom Wars is a very pretty game; with well drawn anime style characters and surprisingly more color than one would expect, it really grabs the player. The environment is put together quite nicely, and by using your thorn to gain a unique perspective you can see things that most games would probably not bother to include or take into consideration. The bottom line here is that if you’re worried about the graphics you shouldn’t be, as they’ve taken the time to make this game shine.
Some games are over looked for their soundtrack, and I feel Freedom Wars could get the same treatment – despite all it does well. The music while you’re fighting is well put together and feels just right for the game, the guns sound (and therefore feel) real, and the abductors sound very mean and mechanical – which can be very intimidating when you have a couple to take on at once. The audio in Freedom Wars never failed to live up to what was shown on screen, though it might not have been stand-out enough to be memorable.
Freedom Wars may be another hunting game on the Vita, but it’s by far one of the best. With great gameplay a unique story, and a solid multiplayer aspect, it’s a must have on the system – the few small flaws it bares quickly covered up by just how much fun you’ll have playing it. Not only that, but the game has a ton of replay value (especially with multiplayer) and the want of upgrading all those weapons will have you struggling to leave it alone for long.
In the end, I’d have to say that Freedom Wars is worth every penny you’ll spend on it – and being that it’s even cheaper than most full-fledged Vita titles you’ve got very few reasons not to add this one to your collection, so what are you waiting for?