Looking at the list of big vita releases, one can’t help but notice a prominence of a particular genre.
Soul Sacrifice Delta, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, Toukiden and now Freedom Wars. They are all a part of what many would categorize as “Monster Hunter like” titles and while they wouldn’t be entirely correctly, they wouldn’t be completely wrong, either.
We can thank the Japanese market with its obsession for the genre but I wasn’t complaining since I too enjoyed those games as well. So when I heard about Freedom Wars, I believed I was in for yet another “one of those”.
However, when I got my hands on Freedom Wars I thought that this was a title with a clear identity of its own and full of potential.
Unfortunately, the more I played it, the more it became apparent that this was a game riddled with flaws and my hopes that this might be something special faded into a sea of disappointment.
Platforms: Vita Exclusive.
Voice Acting: JPN only.
Multiplayer: Ad-hoc and online co-op and PvP.
Demo Availability: N/A
Length: 15-25 hours.
At the very least, the premise of Freedom Wars is an intriguing one.
The custom-made player character is a sinner, a lower form of human being who is only good for putting his/her life on the line for the greater good of the city.
They are without any freedoms and luxuries like being allowed to talk to others, move more than five steps in the confines of the cell or even sleep while lying down. For a lowly sinner, those are privileges of the highest degree and must be earned through blood and sweat.
Such is the focal point of the game play as the player takes on missions to lessen their sins (calculated in years) and earn contribution points which will allow them certain privileges.
There’s an overarching storyline of a dispute spanning multiple colonies vying for what little bit of resources that’s left on the planet and a mysterious girl whose fate is intertwined with the main character’s but, yes. It’s nothing special and somehow becomes even less by the end.
While the premise of the world is woven tightly with the progression and overall direction of the game, the story does little to immerse the player further into what’s truly at stake during the missions.
The combat in Freedom Wars is a bit different from what I expected as there’s was a notable emphasis on using ranged weapons in the form of guns.
Machine guns, sniper rifles, flamethrowers, laser cutters, rocket launchers and other guns were available for use and they felt mandatory, especially against other humanoid enemies.
The big hook (pun absolutely intended) of the combat comes in the form of “thorns” which are more or less grappling hooks with special functionalities. It allows for the scaling of buildings and even the ability to latch onto the enemy directly to get in nice and personal to unleash a devastating blow or even rip off parts entirely.
It’s a solid addition to the combat and I found it absolutely essential to success, especially against the giant “abductor” type of enemies.
Unfortunately, the difficulty balancing in this title is absolutely atrocious and this solid, albeit slower paced combat engine simply couldn’t keep up with it.
Imagine a scenario where you’re up against two-three enemies ten times your size as they’re aggressively hunting you down with attacks that take away more than half of your health in one attack.
Now surround the arena with a stream of never ending humanoid types with guns that pelt away at you from off screen interrupting what you’re trying to do and cutting through your HP like a hot knife through butter.
Does that sound challenging?
Does that sound fun?
No, that’s just unfair and immensely frustrating.
When I face a challenging scenario and lose, I think to myself, “what did I do wrong and how can I improve my efforts?” but when I find myself in a situation where I can’t see anything I could do differently to win, it just makes me want to never play that game again.
This is highlighted in the final two chapters of the game along with a rage inducing final boss who is once again difficult for all the wrong reasons.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there were mandatory stealth sections where I had to maneuver around patrolling guards and while I was never even spotted once in those missions, it felt completely unnecessary and out of place.
Luckily, the online component of Freedom Wars is largely functional and it’s always much more fun to team up with friends to tackle a tough mission but I did encounter a rather alarming number of hard crashes that forced me to shut the game off completely. Also, keep in mind that it requires a code that comes with new copies to access the online functionalities.
I really wanted to like Freedom Wars.
The striking visual style, the intriguing premise that’s expertly tied in to the gameplay- it all felt like it was going to be a special experience. But at the end of day, the poor balancing of difficulty and dubious mechanical design choices makes this one really hard to enjoy and even harder to recommend.
Fun Tidbit – Yes, this is after the 1.20 update that was available on day one of the game’s launch in the states.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.