Review: Freedom Wars (PlayStation Vita)
- Release Date (NA): October 28, 2014
- Release Date (EU): October 31, 2014
- Release Date (JP): June 26, 2014
- Publisher: Sony
- Developer: SCEJ/Shift/Dimps
- Genres: ARPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Forgive me, for I have Sinned!
Set in a distant dystopian future, Freedom Wars is a scifi hunting game where rival player bases known as Panopticons are at war with each other over the Earth's limited resources, all in the name of The Greater Good. Panopticons or 'Cons' are self-contained city sized structures containing thousands of cells that hold the prisoner-workers when they are not carrying out missions for the state. If you have ever read a Judge Dread comic or seen the recent movie, the City Blocks featured in that universe are very similar to the Cons found in Freedom Wars.
Due to the limited resources available, humans need a permit to procreate. Offspring born without a permit are dubbed Sinners and are automatically issued a 1,000,000 year sentence and must work for the oppressive state, conducting various missions and operations in order to reduce their sentences whilst donating found materials and resources to their home Panopticon. This is the story setup for Freedom Wars which has a ton of lore and backstory, but the story is slow and isn't delivered very well. I often found myself fast traveling around the Con and skipping the dialogue just to unlock the next set of quests so I could get back to stomping the huge Abductor mechs.
Easily the best part of Freedom Wars is the combat and operations gameplay. You are issued missions that vary from destroying enemy forces to reclaiming citizens that have been abducted by the aptly-named Abductors; huge colossus sized mechs that are covered with armor and seal captured citizens in their containment pods. Sinners have hundreds of weapons to choose from at their disposal to try and bring down the Abductors. These weapons include assault riles, artillery cannons, light and heavy melee swords and polearms, as well as one-time use items such as grenades and mines. Nearly all of the weapons are customisable or upgradeable making the hunt for dropped loot to create the next best weapon both addictive and challenging.
A feature unique to Freedom Wars is the addition of the Thorn, essentially a multipurpose hook-shot. There are 3 types of Thorn; Binding, Healing and Shielding. The Thorns can be used in many different ways, for instance, the Binding Thorn can be wrapped around an Abductor, temporarily bringing it to a halt so everyone else in the party can wail on it uninterrupted for a few seconds. A Sinner equipped with the Healing thorn can heal other players as well as create a temporary healing fountain in the field. The main use of these Thorns though, besides traversal, is to attach and launch yourself onto an Abductor where you can start to sever parts of it using your trusty Heat Knife. This strategy becomes essential in later battles where you must first remove certain parts of an Abductor to drop its shields or remove its weapons before trying to bring it down or rescue a citizen. You can also kind of lasso the Abductors along with your fellow teammates to try and pull it over so you can land a few easy hits. If the Abductor starts to run away, it will drag you all around the level as you try to bring it down before it frees itself from your Thorn. It's pretty thrilling when you have a competent team with 2 players in the middle of severing an Abductor's arms off while the other 2 are hooked on with their Thorns trying to topple the giant beast! The Thorn also offers verticality to the gameplay, but the arena type levels are often capped with invisible ceilings making it feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Regular human enemies and drones are easy to defeat, especially if you are using anything more powerful than the assault class weapons. Enemy soldiers are usually fighting for rival factions and are scattered throughout a mission as a distraction to take out in-between Abductor spawns. Controls initially felt a bit clunky especially for traversing the levels and mounting the Abductors, but after I adjusted the aim and camera sensitivity to max everything clicked and felt great.
Every Sinner is issued an Accessory, a fully customisable android sidekick that will become your best friend throughout the game, regularly offering you new information and informing you of what to do or where to go next, as well as accompanying you into battle. The customisable options on offer are vast for both your own Sinner character and Accessory ensuring you never quite see the same setup on another player throughout the game's world. You can issue your accessory commands of what to attack or heal, or to extract rescued citizens. Each mission potentially has up to 4 player characters, each with their own accessory making your team consist of up to 8 players during a mission.
The meta game within freedom Wars is all about raising your chosen Panopticon's status within the world league. At any time you can choose to go online and play a versus match where you can attack another region's Con. The more you donate to your home's cause, the more points it will accumulate and eventually rise up the ladder. This sounds great and fun in theory, but it is greatly unbalanced due to regions with more people living in them and thus playing the game have an advantage over the regions with fewer players in them. For instance China is ranked number 1 in the league and is basically untouchable with around 6,043,133,308 points, versus my home Con of London which is currently ranked 7th with just 66,241,920.
Overall Freedom Wars feels fresh in the somewhat overpopulated hunting genre. It looks great and plays well and has enough original features and content to keep you going for a while. Released at a very low price point compared to other titles (£€$19.99), there is no real reason to not add the game to your Vita collection and do battle against other Cons around the world. Hopefully it will sell enough units to show Sony that the Vita fans are hungry for AAA titles and will continue to support boxed physical games on the platform.
+ Loads of content
+ Deep customisation
+ Abductor battles
- Weak story
- Not enough arenas
- Convoluted weapon upgrade system
Freedom Wars stylistic aesthetic looks beautiful on the Vita's OLED screen. The Bright anime-esque visuals really shine against the bleak backdrop of the resource-starved world.
Gameplay is literally a blast. Whether playing alone or online, working together to bring down the huge Abductors never gets old despite being quite repetitive.
With a 30+hr story mode, online co-op and VS modes as well as daily challenges, Freedom Wars should last you for quite some time. Some of the guys on my friends list have already unlocked the platinum trophy at around the 100-110hr mark.
out of 10
(not an average)
I really wanted Freedom Wars to be THE AAA title that the Vita so desperately needs. The game is a lot of fun and especially shines when playing with others online. It just falls short of greatness due to a few design issues, lack of mission variety and a weak story.