It’s no secret that the PS Vita has had a lack of Triple-A exclusives in recent memory. But that’s where Freedom Wars comes in to make it’s mark on the gaming world. This time, it’s the PS Vita that dishes out a game that so many have been anticipating. From its Monster Hunter-esque combat, to it’s wonderfully crafted upgrade mechanics, Freedom Wars is not only the game Vita needs, but the one it deserves.
The easiest way to describe Freedom Wars is by stating that it’s a cross between Monster Hunter and Attack on Titan. Yes, you read that correctly. You’re thrown head-on into a dystopian world. Everything you do is for your Panopticon, or your home-base. Anyone incapable of benefiting their Panopticon is deemed useless; you’re either a Sinner or a civilian. With no real-world problem solving skills, a one million sentence is thrown over your head. A Sinner’s only choice is to get rid of its in-humane sentence. From here on out, everything you do is for the great good.
Every mission in Freedom Wars revolves around battling against enemy Panopticons. Whether it’s against their Abductors, or fellow Sinners, it’s all for the sake of survival. Abductors are over-sized, human-made monsters capable of destroying Panopticons in minutes. Sinners’ only hope against them are their thorns, hence my comparison to Attack on Titan. With a thorn, your character is able to latch onto an Abductor and hack away at its limbs until it’s reduced to nothing. That’s where weapons come in. There’re heavy-weights, light-weights, and even guns, all for dwindling your enemies’ chances. Freedom Wars is jam-packed with a variety of weapons, making strategies easier than ever. You can order teammates to hack away at abductors’ limbs while you shoot its rib-cage out, or vise-versa. But that’s also where a huge problem comes into play: the A.I. is bad. I’ve definitely seen worse, but once you get deep into the depths of Freedom Wars’ levels, you’ll find yourself being forced to strategize against the tank abductors to avoid a 45 minute — the usual mission length — beat-down. Every bullet, every cut, hell, every revive counts. And when your teammates fail to hit on all cylinders, the entire mission is in jeopardy.
Online play is available at anytime, of course. Eliminating almost all of the problems with the A.I. In-fact, it’s a bit disappointing how refusing to play online, or having no one to play couch co-op with, is almost punishing. Every mission is very much doable without other human players, but when my Accessory, you’re in game companion, ran right passed me when I needed to be revived, I almost throw my Vita across the room.
Fighting Abductors is endless fun. Freedom Wars knocks its combat out of the park. Watching an abductor fall to its demise after 10 minutes of limb-hacking, and rocket-launching, is about as rewarding as a video game can get. Although, it does have its slight faults. The camera can get kind of wonky at times, mainly when you’re attached to an Abductor, attempting to hack its launcher off of its shoulder. There are times where all you can see is the sky, and all you can do is spam away. And when you need to keep your eyes peeled to predict an abductors’ plan-of-action, it gets very frustrating. But even more frustrating is the lock-on system. With three options, you’d think there’d be one that doesn’t lock-on to the completely wrong side of the enemy in dire situations
You don’t only fight Abductors, interestingly enough. There are various mission types: Abductor liquidation, Abductor-held citizen reclamation, Sinner showdowns, and capture-the-flag. All aren’t fun and games. You already know how much I love Abductor battles, but Sinner battles are a whole new tale. They’re atrocious. It’s clear that Freedom Wars’ battle mechanics are for battling anything twice your size, not for eliminating an army of little people. Using your thorn is an option, but most of the time, enemy Sinners are quick to shoot their guns, knocking you out-of-place. Which leaves resorting to gun-use as your only option, my least favorite way to play the game. It turns Freedom Wars into a half-assed third-person shooter. Once it takes you 10 seconds to move your recticle exactly where you want it, it becomes clear as ever: that is not the way to play.
Unfortunately, late in the game, enemy Sinners become a common occurrence. They aren’t limited to their unique missions; instead, they’re throw into Abductor missions as well. Here, you can simply ignore them and have your allies handle it, but when they meddle in a fight with an Abductor, it gets personal. Late in the game, there was 10 minutes left in a mission, and the Abductor was down to 50 percent of his health. Time was of the utmost importance. Just when I tried to lay down a triple-charged spin-attack, a tiny enemy machine completely interrupted my assault. I obviously wasn’t very happy.
Freedom Wars deserves a lot of credit for the world they crafted. It’s one of the most immersive experiences in games. Not only are Panopticons given real world city names, but are also ranked by how much their perspective players have given to their home Panopticons. As of writing this review, my Panopticon — Houston — is ranked 17th. Options are given peculiar names. Renaming your Sinner is called Nominative Reassignment, for instance. Freedom Wars also goes as far as adding decades to your sentence for every little rule you break. I was given the option to take a nap, and was awoken to a slab of years above my head. I wasn’t even able to to talk to the opposite gender! As a Sinner, you have to earn these things through “Entitlements” bought by “Entitlement Points” given to you for successfully completing missions. Credit is also due when it comes to its customisation options. You have various faces, clothes, hair, and even voices to choose from. Being able to make a a virtual version of you, albeit with anime influence, is essential. I was even able to fully capture my lankiness!
If only Freedom Wars’ story was as interesting as its variety of hair styles… There is no getting around it. You’re stuck going through walls of text to progress through the game, sometimes, even through cut scenes. The start of the game almost completely turned me off. It felt like I was being forced to read a novel; it was information overload. You’ll start to feel the pressure of its story wear off as you get further in, but it will always be there. I tried to give it a chance, but half-way in, I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave up attempting to care. But unlike the story, there are certain things you just won’t be able to skim through.
To unlock more missions, you’ll have to do sneak into a place called the Cell Garden to progress the story. They’re literally stealth sections… in an Action RPG. When I had to do two-in-a-row, I almost lost it. The Cell Garden levels felt so out-of-place. It frustrated me because I was actually starting to lose the enjoyment that my Sinner fought so hard to give me!
Creating, modifying, and combining weapons is Freedom Wars’ high point, right next to its combat. You earn weapons, and resources through missions, obviously, but it doesn’t end there. Sinners don’t have any real leveling system, so the only way to stand a chance against the damage sponges that are the late-game Abductor is by creating your own load out via citizen run factories. In these factories, you can either combine weapons to give your main a dose of another, like increasing your blade’s fire element, or upgrading your weapon’s level with resources you earn through battles. Resources are given to you at the end of a mission, and are yours to keep. Alternatively, you can choose to donate them to your Panopticon, taking years off your sentence, depending on the rarity.
The rarer the item, the more it’ll cost you to keep it. Freedom Wars establishes a clever risk-and-reward system with the resources earned. You can either keep a resource far above your limit, if you need it bad enough — and hundreds of years will be added to your sentence — or you can donate them, with years coming off of your sentence. It’s a nice way to keep you from overstocking on items, and actually having to work for them. Either way, you’ll be gaining something positive. Resources can also be used to make healing items, ammunition, and modifications to increase your team’s health, defence, damage, etc.
Freedom Wars is not a perfect game by any means. It still needs work finding itself, but this was definitely a step in the right direction if Japan Studio ever decides to make a sequel. The combat and upgrading system far outweigh Sinner battles and stiff story. The replay value is immeasurable. It will probably take you 30-40 hours to even break the 900,000 sentence reduction mark. So expect Freedom Wars to always be there, waiting for your eventual return.
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