If you are a fully paid-up member of PlayStation Plus and own a PS Vita, there’s a good chance that you will have added Freedom Wars to your instant game collection at the start of December. However, PlayStation Plus has a tendency to turn the most attentive gamer into an easily-distracted person who sees free games as things to be picked up, fiddled with and discarded so that they can move on to something else. I’m every bit as guilty of doing this as anyone else out there, but as someone who bought Freedom Wars on release day, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you give Freedom Wars time to ease you into its world.
This is a game that has you fending off giant Abductor bosses in one mission and playing CTF the next; a game that has stealth sequences as you sneak around the Cell Gardens and bombastic battles out on the streets. It’s a game that feels like a straightforward action title when you’re out on the field, but has tons of resource management, looting, gear research, upgrading and customisation when you’re back at base.
The Panopticons of Freedom Wars
Admittedly you can get the measure of what Freedom Wars is generally going to play like after a handful of missions, but the spectacle of battles, tactical variety in the loadouts and interesting characters and setting are all things that help draw you back for more. As someone imprisoned in a penal city state known as the Panopticon you must complete various missions to reduce your sentence of 1 million years and gain various rewards. However, everyone in the Panopticon is in the same situation as you, and so you eventually team up with other characters and work together on the various missions. Gameplay sees you moving and looking with the twin sticks, whilst the face buttons handle attacks, dodges and any expendable items you’re carrying. You also have a grappling hook known as a “Thorn” which helps you scale environments and drag Abductors to the ground. As the game continues you’ll recruit more characters to pick in your team of four, gain rare materials to use when manufacturing supplies and open up additional customisation options.
During the months leading up to its release, a number of people were comparing Freedom Wars with Monster Hunter. I’ve never really enjoyed the MH series that much, but if the comparisons are accurate, then Freedom Wars is probably the game I wanted Monster Hunter to be. The scope might not be as grand as MH, but that works in its favour for players looking for something more streamlined and action-oriented. Additionally, I’ve always been disappointed at the fact that very few Vita (and PSP) games use the online functionality to its full potential – choosing either to do some adhoc gameplay feature or online stat comparisons, for instance. Even so, a few games deliver a much more well-rounded online experience. Phantasy Star Portable 2 on PSP was one such game; Freedom Wars is another. You can easily search for and join games with three other players, and once you’re connected the Panopticon acts as a lobby so that you can check your gear and items before the host selects a mission and you head off together to complete it. Whilst the AI team-mates are relatively competent, completing missions with other players is every bit as satisfying, and the game also ties multiplayer effort to your story mode progress by giving you an item which you can use in the single-player game to instantly complete it if you’ve already gone through it in multiplayer. So if you’re looking for an entertaining action game on Vita and you’re willing to soak in the slow start, Freedom Wars is recommended.