Freedom Wars Review

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Sony’s PlayStation Vita has had a mixed bag of games so far through its lifespan, but one of the more eagerly anticipated titles is finally upon us. Developed by SCE Japan Studio and already seeing a decent release in the East, Freedom Wars is a JRPG that has you whittling down a giant prison sentence as community service. I’ve had the chance to see if this first party Vita exclusive is one that should be set free, or one that should stay firmly locked up.

Game: Freedom Wars
Developer: SCEA
Publisher: Shift and Dimps
Reviewed on: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to any type of RPG, story becomes ultimately important to how a player is left feeling about it once it’s over. Freedom Wars certainly places you in a genuinely interesting world with some nice ideas. Set in a dystopian future where resources and food is nearly all but depleted, you play a character who suffers amnesia after faltering in a battle against a huge mech. Unfortunately matters become worse when the government deem your skills an asset owned by them and punish you for being so forgetful by slapping you with a million year sentence. Thankfully, you can work it down by accepting horribly dangerous missions that involve fending off enemies of the state, and that’s where it all begins.

I really enjoyed getting soaked into Freedom Wars’ narrative and landscape. The presentation is realised excellently with some impressive visuals that only once-in-a-while falter below acceptable frame rates, despite all the busy action on screen. It does well to capture a captivatingly dark tone early on, too. Of course the inescapable buoyant Japanese feel is always there beneath the service, but the visuals really hit home the dire nature of this future where quality of life is so low.

However, there is some criticism to be found here. Freedom Wars’ sets up the game so deliciously that the game suffers from far too many dips in its pacing. That’s to say you’ll be gripped by the world around you initially, but the little nuggets that keep you gripped are few and far between; only now and then will your interest in the narrative be perked throughout your time in Freedom Wars. Also, whilst the main cast look great with smooth and detailed textures, the same can’t be said for the locals. The design of backdrops have clearly been sacrificed for the superb foreground details. Blurry textures and uninspired, repetitive locations are frequent and tend leave a bad taste, especially after several hours of game play.

Fortunately, it’s that gameplay that really drives Freedom Wars. Once you’ve powered through the dialogue you’re set loose into a combat system that, bar a few gripes, is a joy to play. Essentially being an action oriented RPG, you’ll engage in furiously fast-paced battles that have a good amount of variety attached to how you approach each enemy as well as your preferred play style. For instance, classes can range from melee swordsman to ranged sniping or shooting, either of which can be swapped out easily during battle making the whole experience a more interesting one, especially during the grind. You also have a versatile hookshot type weapon that helps you traverse areas, bind enemies, heal friends and can be used to grapple onto mech-beasts flinging you towards them in battle; spoiler: it’s pretty awesome.

There’s a certain degree of gameplay that you’d place into the Monster Hunter inspired category, too. Once you’ve found your next epicly-sized enemy, you’ll want to destroy them for the body parts and loot that’ll in turn help you construct better equipment. Most of the game’s progression lies in the upgrading and strengthening of equipment, whilst opening up new play styles to counter foes. It’s great that there’s a good amount of diversity to combat because it really keeps you interested where the dialogue or story might be slacking slightly. Getting to your next fight as quickly as possible is more to do with the competent combat mechanics rather than a disappointing narrative in fairness, though. In fact, the existence of typical RPG staples such as fetch quests and long-winded dialogue breaks are more at fault here.

Issues might arise for some with the Vita control scheme – referring to those few gripes I mentioned earlier. The camera can’t be controlled whilst running which can make the experience a little jarring; same goes for shooting which gets your fingers a little twisted due to having one of either aim and shoot assigned to the button pad rather than both to shoulder buttons. It’s a good job, then, that overall the fighting experience is a good one and with some digging around in the menus, you might be able to find some settings that suit you enough to quell any problems with controls altogether.

If you’re feeling lonely you can hop into other players’ battles via an online function that adds another dimension to Freedom Wars’ excellent set pieces. If you have a group to play with, even better, but joining a random stranger still provides a unique experience compared to single player, plus the rewards make it totally worth it including extra years off your sentence and some nice gear drops. There’s also a PvP, but unlike the Co-op where I managed to (just about) get through some battles due to connection woes, the PvP wouldn’t let me join at all so it’s not something I can say much about – hopefully it’s just due to low player counts at the time.

VERDICT

Overall, the world is a genuinely interesting one, and in several places, quite unique to anything I’ve tangled with before. Of course there is a few problems regarding controls and pacing but there’s still plenty to enjoy when it comes to core gameplay. And, whilst the experience hasn’t been ruined at all, there’s so much here that sits in the nearly-but-not-quite area. That aside, Freedom Wars is an interesting, well built action-RPG that should definitely be played, but approached with the knowledge that it’s very much a move in the right direction, as opposed to something that’s already hit its destination.

7.5/10

Began gaming on a hand-me-down Commodore Vic-20 back in the mid 80's and hasn't managed to shake the addiction yet. Genres of choice include anything that contains bullets and/or bouncy balls. Has been known to dabble in Destiny content.

@nickjh82

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