Reviews
Freedom Wars
Playstation Vita

By Jorge Figueiredo - January 12th, 2015

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I really love it when a new game arrives to review that I have never heard of before, yet after a short amount of time I end up really enjoying it! Freedom Wars, developed by SCE Japan Studio, is one of those games, and is probably one of the most interesting new properties that I have played in recent memory. In this third-person battler, you take on the role of a Sinner, representing your Panopticon in the continuous acquisition of resources. Confused yet? So was I when I started, but it didn’t take long to understand and get hooked.

Freedom Wars takes place on Earth in the distant future. Sadly, the world as we know it is gone, as the surface has been completely destroyed and can no longer support any life. Humans have retreated underground to live in huge subterranean cities knows as “Panopticons”, in which continuous research takes place to figure out how to fix the planet. Each Panopticon is like its own country, giving people a home and security in exchange for contributions in the way of resource and information gathering. There are a number of Panopticons functioning on Earth, and they are all at odds with each other since everyone is fighting over the same resources. Anyone who is caught taxing the system too much (put it this way: being born seems to be a punishable offence) is retitled as a Sinner, is imprisoned, and is given a sentence of 1 million years.

Thankfully, you can whittle this down by doing work for the state (for the Greater Good), which mainly involves going out into the field of battle and taking down large mechanical creatures called Abductors (who kidnap productive citizens), as well as (at times) other Sinners and various cannon fodder. While exploring the battlefield, any resources that you come across can be hoarded or contributed to your Panopticon in exchange for a slightly lower sentence. Needless to say, it is a challenging prospect to regain your freedom, especially considering that practically anything can be an infraction. For instance, early in the game, I started pacing in my cell (where you hang out initially while you are not in battle). I ended up getting time added onto my sentence for walking around without the proper Entitlement.

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Some stylish action here.

What’s an Entitlement? Well, in this world (that’s seems eerily like George Orwell’s 1984) you need to earn the right to be able to do things – hence, an Entitlement. Once you perform enough missions, for instance, you will have the right to lay down on your cot and nap, or walk around your cell. Eventually, as you climb up the social ladder, you will be able to do much more (since you have contributed a lot to The Greater Good and are thus deemed less of a waste of resources), like upgrade your character’s appearance and interact with other people within the game. This theme of an overbearing, draconian society is ever-present, even in the in-game menus making the overall experience even more immersive.

‎While the story takes up a healthy portion of game time, the real meat is in battle. You and your team (which can be made up of AI or real people) are pitted against Abductors and must free the productive citizens that have been kidnapped (they are located within the Abductor). While it is possible to go head-on against these behemoths, it is inadvisable (and honestly, do you really want to fail and have your sentence increased? So teamwork is key, and trust me: it makes things a lot easier. Sinners are armed with small and large ranged weapons, melee weapons, and a short/medium-ranged tool called a Thorn. The Thorn is like an energy bullwhip, which can be used for both offence and transit. For instance, you can wrap your Thorn around the leg of an Abductor to immobilize it and pull it to the ground where it is most vulnerable; or you can wrap it around part of the upper torso and pull yourself up onto its shoulders so you can do some damage up close and personally. It is definitely really cool to be part of a well-executed rescue operation, as some members of the team lay down suppressing fire while others work to hack apart the Abductor – all culminating in the retrieval of the citizens and the escort operation back to an extraction point.

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In the future, Dre Beats headphones ore no more – thankfully.

Overall the game is a fun romp – but you really have to be into the overall story to really enjoy it. I only mention this because there is a lot of setting-up of the plot and a lot of dialogue to forward the plot – in other words: plot! Those who simply want to jump in and kick the crap out of stuff may not need apply – though you might be surprised how much you can get into the story seeing as it is so effectively developed. The battles themselves are a lot of fun – and worth the wait; maps can be anywhere between massive and sprawling (which means that you may be in for a big fight) or tight and claustrophobic (which adds to the tension). Regardless of the map, cutting down Abductors is a tough prospect – but a lot of fun, especially considering that they are a veritable walking warehouse of parts that can be re-purposed and combined with other junk that you find on the battlefield to trick out your equipment thanks to the crafting system.

Controls are fairly basic and take very little time to learn (especially thanks to the very effective tutorials), so you can spend more time concentrating on the fight, rather than fumbling around and becoming frustrated. The only real issue that I had with the controls is that your targeting system is pretty much geared towards fighting Abductors – anything smaller tends to encourage a button-mash-fest to deal with, which is the only really frustrating part of the game for me.

Visually the game is quite sharp – especially on the Playstation Vita. Graphics are good, with great use of textures and some neat lighting effects. Actually, I was quite surprised at the graphical fidelity when I started playing – and some dude on the subway leaned over and asked me what the hell I was playing because it “looks amazing, bro”. A great deal of care has been made to allow you a fair amount of customization in regards to your Sinner (and your “assistant”), and the weapon models are pretty kick-ass. Sound effects are well-done, and the soundtrack is actually pretty cool. Above all else (and kind of important to me): the voice track is Japanese with English subtitles.

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David (or Dana) vs. Goliath (or, uh, Goliatha).

Freedom Wars may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but it is definitely a well-made cup of tea. Laden with lore, this game has a very detailed plot and everything about the game revolves around it. Cool-looking characters, interesting battle tactics, and an ever-present prison sentence (that is begging to be reduced) make for an interesting adventure in the far-flung reaches of the future. The game is playable in short bursts or in longer chunks, if you have the time – it’s fun either way; and while I didn’t take part in too many online multi-play sessions, I did enjoy it when I tried it. This game is a must-grab for those of you that like rich stories and 3D orthographic butt-kicking.

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