If a fast-paced action RPG on the Vita sounds like your cup of tea, this is the game for you.
Freedom Wars is a “hunting” game where the player takes the role of a sinner, a person whose only crime is being a useless drain on society, and they are constantly accompanied by an AI “Accessory” who will assist them in battle and watch them 24/7. Rather than a typical prison term, they are tasked with fighting for the sake of their Panopticon, one of many city-states locked in constant battle for limited resources. Most notable of these resources are people referred to as “citizens,” otherwise known as those who are perceived as productive members of society.
In order to reduce the original 1,000,000 year prison sentence (that’s not a typo), sinners need to contribute to the Greater Good of the Panopticon by completing specific missions or donating resources, and thereby overcoming their former uselessness. While the original sentence is a bit overwhelming, the player can also be punished for other problematic behavior, such as taking more than five steps in your cell, running for more than five seconds, talking to those of the opposite gender, or lying down in bed.
The story itself is decent, but it carries with it some big flaws. Worst of all is how distinctly separated the story and general gameplay are. There are large gaps of time between missions, and the slower pacing within the walls of the Panopticon can be downright aggravating very early in the game, before you have access to quick-travel. Story events hardly happen during the missions until you get about halfway through the story, instead taking place via scripted events or casual chatter with other sinners or citizens.
Gameplay-wise, this is a third-person action RPG where the player takes on a variety of missions such as rescuing citizens, defeating enemies, or harvesting resources. These missions provide various items that can be used for item upgrade and synthesis, along with taking years off of the prison sentence.
This game is a ton of fun, but the default control scheme is awful. You have the opportunity to change it after the tutorial missions, which is a very welcome opportunity. One of the best parts of the gameplay is the Thorn, which is basically Spiderman’s web with a bunch of nifty additions. While you can’t exactly swing between buildings, you can quickly move in straight lines to points you’ve latched onto, whether on a wall, ally, or enemy.
Beyond simple mobility, you can also use the Thorn to pull down abductors (the big nasty enemies), execute quick attacks, or do specific things based on its type. If you have a Binding Thorn, you can place traps to pin enemy sinners, bind up abductors temporarily, or pull them down faster. If you have a Healing Thorn, you can create a small thicket that heals comrades continuously or individually heal them. If you have a Shielding Thorn, you can create a temporary shield against enemy attacks (see above) or boost your allies’ defense.
Where the game really shines is co-op missions, where you work together with other players to accomplish certain tasks. When playing with just the AI, you can issue commands such as “attack same target” or “focus on healing,” but things don’t work as smoothly as human cooperation. You can also tailor your Accessory’s AI with a wide range of commands, which helps to keep them from wasting time lollygagging around the field or staring blankly into the distance.
Visually, this is probably the best-looking Vita game I’ve played. On the Vita itself it looks wonderful, with good textures, detailed models, and minimal framerate changes. On the PSTV the jagged edges of character models are more noticeable, but it still looks on par with many PS3/360 games. It also feels a bit more comfortable playing with a proper controller, so that’s a plus. The only visual issue is how there isn’t much variety in field design – there are very few maps that are constantly recycled for different missions.
As an RPG, there are plenty of customization options, both aesthetic and functional. First off is the character customization for physical characteristics and outfit design of your sinner and Accessory. Below are three example of outfits, none of which are based on the default. Besides this, there are plenty of different color palettes, outfits (each with multiple “styles”), extras, and physical character options. I didn’t fiddle with that side of things much once I gave my Accessory her ponytail.
Beyond this, there are also tons of options for weapons. Besides the six types (assault weapons, portable artillery, autocannons, light melee, heavy melee, and polearms) there are multiple models that function differently, and there are different upgrade options – these include basic leveling to increase damage, clip capacity, and other factors, and then combining with other weapons for things such as elemental damage or specific perks. The game doesn’t explain all of this adequately, but there are plenty of guides online for those interested in creating a perfect arsenal.
For the sake of online play, each player chooses a Panopticon before starting the game, and there is a global ranking based on how much players of each respective area have contributed to the Greater Good. You can pay 1.99 USD for the option to change your Panopticon, but otherwise you’re stuck with it throughout the game (I didn’t realize this at first). If I had seen the ranking beforehand, I would have picked Mumbai, whose score was 0 a few days ago, putting them in dead last.
Altogether, this game is plenty of fun. Even if the overall story is nothing special, the main draw is the actual combat – it’s challenging, keeps you on your toes, and is even better with other players.
Play time – At least 30 hours for the main story, even more for online versus mode and the most difficult optional missions
Price – 30 USD on release, which is pretty nifty
Recommendation – If this type of action RPG sounds like something you’d like, definitely check it out. Even if it seems like something you’re not used to playing, I would still recommend it, as it’s a lot of fun to fly around, shoot down enemies, and tackle the challenging abductors.
Plus, it’s cheaper than a typical Vita release, which provides a great opportunity to jump into a great game!