If you've clicked here via the other articles in this website, this is not a gameplay guide, a calculator, a community or anything such.
This is meant to be a small write-up of my thoughts on Freedom Wars, an original IP of the hunting game genre (think Monster Hunter and such) for Playstation Vita. It's not inherently meant to be a review, or to convince you to buy or not buy it. Additionally, I don't consider whether I spoil anything here or not, so proceed at your own risk, if that's an issue for you.
I've played the western version of the game for roughly 300 hours. It was my first actual hunting game I played, so I don't have any pre-existing notions from Monster Hunter or such to influence things. I didn't follow the news regarding the game until very close to the western release, so I don't know much about the pre-release hype or the reactions of the Japanese players. The game had both a plethora of good things about it and tons of bad things about it.
I will probably improve this and write more in time. It's a work in progress.
I don't think it's very well written yet.
Thoughts on Freedom Wars
"Set in the distant future at a time where the majority of humankind is imprisoned in penal city-states known as Panopticons which wage war against one another, the game involves players cooperating together to fight against enemies and contribute towards their Panopticon."
- Wikipedia English
Without getting too much into detail, the setting was, in retrospect, one of the best parts of the game. The amount of various lore within the game was huge, albeit underutilized. There's the sinner camaraderie, a group of people in the same pinch, fighting for a common cause. The world, taking place far in the distant future, had unique quirks. There was a consistent atmosphere throughout the game's setting.
Music and sounds
The OST is pretty great, ranging from action filled to leisure tracks and from despair to hope. The sound effects feel like they have a nice oomph behind them.
The in-universe propaganda idol group, Kouken Girls, deserves a mention. There's four music tracks by them, which you can buy as DLC to serve as background music in battles and shops. All four songs are pretty nice and catchy, and a nice way to enrichen the Freedom Wars world. They're also available on a CD in Japan.
You're jumping between buildings in mid-air to approach high-rise sized robotic war machines, while automatic weapon fire, missiles and destructive laser beams graze and deafen you. After latching onto one, you whip up your light melee weapon to saw a missile launcher or shield generator off it. You then jump off to a higher ground to mow down groups of armed enemy Sinners and Accessories with a two meter long minigun.
Embellished a bit sure, but talk about rad, in lack of a better term.
You start with the default white prisoner's clothing, but as you advance in the game and gain more entitlements, the entire wardrobe quickly opens up. What's really useful in this game is the possibility to alter everything at every point. You're not locked into the hair or skin color you chose in the very beginning. You can even change your gender and body type from the window in your cell. Just like this black guy.
Lack of content and bosses
There's basically six different major enemy boss types (bipedal abductor, quadraped abductor, Paradoxa, Ramosa, Peltatum and Dionaea). They each have a few variations to them (basic type, advanced type, alpha type in retributions), but it can really get stale after playing a while. The fun combat alleviates this somewhat. The Dionaea, despite heavily advertised and even seen in the game cover, can only be fought in post-game missions.
Weapon and other crafting was largely negatively received. Crafting of any sort is timer based. Creating first aid supplies? Wait five minutes for them to finish. Same for munitions, like mines and grenades. Forging a new weapon? Ten minutes. High level upgrades can take around thirty. You can reduce the timers by having a citizen (who is basically an item in your inventory) work on the production, basically making it instant. Some might consider this redundant.
This is a contrary opinion, but I actually liked the timer system. I could make the system and my facilities work on something, while I personally did something else, like watch TV, write my bachelor's thesis or browse the Internet.
Crafting of actual weapons is one of the biggest criticisms of the game in general. The following is the checklist you have to go through in order to get a (semi-)perfect weapon:
- Craft a rarity 8 late bloomer weapon from your weapon manufacturing facilities (which need to be preferably maxed out as well, although this isn't a problem at all come late game). This can take anything from 30 minutes to several days, since the weapon can be anything between rarities 4-8 from highest level facilities, and even if you get a rarity 8 weapon, there's still the growth type. Basically early bloomers have higher damage early on in their upgrade path, while late bloomers max out in the very end. Then there's regular and irregular growth types in the middle as well. I've had a suitable weapon come out in few tens of minutes, and I've had to grind for one for over a week. This part is pure luck.
- Once you have your R8 LB (rarity 8 late bloomer), you need to ensure the growth rank is 1, to have the maximum possible power when it's fully upgraded. This is done by feeding an another growth rank 1 weapon into it. Basically, a weapon's late bloomer range may be 200-225. If your weapon has a power of 213 for example, you need to feed it a weapon with a power of 225. So that's another random ingredient you need to find.
- Upgrading the weapon. Now you upgrade your weapon from level 1 to level 5, where you switch to an advanced model. Then you upgrade that advanced model from level 1 to 10. This is pretty straightforward, and you probably have plenty of materials for the earlier upgrades just from playing the game. At the very end of advanced model levels you'll embrace the wonderful world of miniscule percentage RNG drop rates in post-game missions. To use the impact advanced model upgrade path as an example, to upgrade your weapon from level 8 to 9, you need a material called Processed Graphite: Ultra-High Purity. The only mission it can be found in is retribution 103, where it's a rare drop as a pickable item in the ground. How to get these retribution missions? When the game came out, the following was the path to acquire them. Every five missions, you have a certain chance (1) for a retribution mission to pop up, noticeable by how your cell is bathed in red alarm lights and notification on the window screen. The retribution available will be one of ten different ones (2). Then you enter the mission and hope the item has spawned (3). If it hasn't, surely you can just leave or complete the mission and try again? No, it's gone after doing either of those two.
- See the numbers in parentheses? I counted the number of RNG checks you have to pass. Due to the nature of how multiplication works, in simple terms this means you're fucked. There are ways to circumvent some of these by resetting the game at certain points, but utilizing loopholes isn't really an argument.
- Nowadays there is a Percy Propa statue in multiplayer lobbies from which you can buy special operations and retributions for 2000 EP (entitlement points), and lately all of the retribution missions have been available as a regular option from mission dispensers, so gathering materials is far less of an RNG hell than near the western launch.
- Adding weapon modules. Ahoy clusterfuck. Without getting further into this because of the length and complexity of the matter, you can have seven guaranteed modules (even then there's combinations that very rarely tend to stick together, like Carryable ammo L and XL) on a rarity 8 weapon. There's an NPC in the game who can remove unwanted modules for a price (5000 EP per one removed), but I've heard he wasn't in the original Japanese release, and was patched in later. What a horror it must've been before he was added.
Tl;dr? Definitely, in the sense that the whole system feels needlessly convoluted and timewasting. Personally, I sort of ended up enjoying it, since you had to do quite a bit of work to achieve a near perfect weapon.
Keep in mind that the weapon module part is greatly shortened.
So you're through the introduction and character creation into the game, eager to blow up some mechas, rescue citizens and eliminate enemy sinners? Wrong, off you go to do menial fetch quests and awkward stealth missions. This mainly plagues the game in the very early game though, and is alleviated a lot when the game starts rolling. Still, it really doesn't give a good impression to the starting player.
The plot ended up in somewhat of a cliffhanger. In a sense it was a complete story (the increasing hostilities and the fall of the Hourai panopticon and Abel's machinations), but the overall world, setting and background plot left a lot unclear. Let's start unravelling the pile of unexplained things:
- The state of the world
- Why are resources globally depleted, forcing the one million year sentence system and division of the population to citizens and sinners? What's up with Heaven (Tengoku, On High)? Do they literally live in some floating city above clouds? Are they just regular humans by origin, but just live a life of luxury while pillaging resources and inventions from panopticons, a bit similar to the civilization in the sky in Chrono Trigger?
- "Them" (I think they were called 空白 in the Japanese vocals)
- The enigmatic group of people in the highest echelons of the Panopticon command hierarchy. Would've been nice to get to know them better.
- Prototype abductors
- You get physically in contact with one in the form of Red Rage, a bipedal, red coloured abductor. Some time in the story he's said to be one of the three abductor prototypes, which all the mass production grunt models are based on. Who or what are the two remaining ones? How did abductors came to be? There's some interesting scenery at the very end of the game, when you make your journey to Simeon's lair, and you see abductors lined up and ruined scenery in the background. Were they relics of the past, intended to wage war against... something? Heaven? Other humans? Reminded me of Sora no Woto.
- Our resident definitely-not-Lucifer. The few remaining missions and scenes after the final boss battle are with you meeting him, and he gives off a heavy TDE vibe a'la Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, with him recruiting you against a war against the Tengoku/On High/Heaven.
Localization and handling
The Japanese version of the game was advertised with an accessory voice customization feature, where you could freely choose the lines your accessory says at certain situations with the inbuilt vocalization engine. This feature was completely removed for the western release, with the localizers saying it would be too hard to understand. How is a simple voice synthesizer any more complex than the humongous clusterfuck that is the weapon crafting system?
24 HOUR SURVEILLANCE
The game featured an in-game news delivery system called Citizen's Voice. It had five rotating news screens, that were both viewable from your own cell and were flashing on huge info screens in the game world. It would've been the perfect medium for telling the player population about incoming events, like certain or all retributions being available for a limited time, or a certain shopkeeper starting to carry the rarest drops in the game for high prices. So what's the issue?
This is all you've gotten in the western release since day one, and it will never change. It's literally unused.
Some of the wording was pretty odd. The main heavenly oppressors, the Tengoku (天国) faction was translated to "On High" in the western release. Talk about flavourless. Would the religious backlash really have been so high for a niche Japanese action game, if they had just named it "Heaven"?
There were also mistranslations, like clip size and carryable ammo weapon modules being mixed up. Clip size increases the maximum amount of ammunition you can carry, while carryable ammo increases the amount of ammunition that's possible to load to a weapon. More than once, when releasing the DLC for the game shortly after release, the description was completely wrong or for another item, and the piece of DLC would be temporarily removed from PSN store. Legionnaire costume DLC for example had this happen to it, and was readded to the store a few months later, when all the initial release hype for the game had died down. Can't imagine that being good for sales either. The same was for Freedom Wars Vita system themes, which were released in the end of April 2015. I doubt there were many playing the game at all at that point. I would've bought both two themes immediately in october-november 2014, but fuck that now.
At one point in the end of year 2014, North America was in patch 1.22, and Europe was in 1.21. This lasted for several weeks. What this meant in practice was that Europeans couldn't play with Americans, disrupting the playerbase. Doesn't help that the game didn't have that much longevity in the first place, due to lack of end game content.
Freedom Wars was a first party release from Sony itself. Shows you how much they care about the Vita (i.e. either not at all, or like shit) if one of the arguably biggest releases for it is treated like this. If I remember correctly, Europe initially was going to get a digital release only, but managed to fight itself a physical edition too. Not that anyone relevant will read this, but please, hire someone competent instead if there's any possibility of a sequel, or a version 1.5.
The final boss
This guy deserves a special mention. While the boss type is arguably the easiest to farm materials from in multiplayer end game, it's a very nasty surprise for those trying to just finish the single player campaign and not knowing about it beforehand. First of all, you have to finish the last three missions (7-3, 7-4 and 7-5) of the single player campaign in a row. Fail at the end of the last one? Off to the very first you go. While the first one is pretty easy to go through, the second one with Abel and Red Rage can possibly take a bit of time and effort, depending on your skills and your own and your AI companions' gear.
Then there's the actual final boss itself. Knowing is half the battle they say, and the same applies here. If you just start shooting and slashing at Peltatum, the final boss, you'll quickly be swarmed up by tons of chains, and your team ends up getting AoE stunned and killed over and over, partly due to the very short invincibility periods after getting revived or rising up.
Nothing wrong with supporting the game by adding costumes later, but a few of the DLC were blatant rip offs. In the facility management and crafting system, through normal gameplay you can utilize seven facility plots out of ten. How do you unlock the remaining three?
This "certain special condition" is probably a difficult post-game boss or some achievement? No. You can buy an extra plot for $0.99. And that's just one of them. How's that for disc locked content?
Overall the DLC wasn't really bad though. You have four musical tracks by the in-universe idol group, Kouken Girls, which are all pretty catchy. Then there's a plethora of costumes and other customization options, although paying for simple logos doesn't really feel that great. You can buy some munitions and simple weapons with actual money via DLC, but all of those are easily acquirable in-game and are basically just fodder after advancing a bit.
Above all else, Freedom Wars was a mountain of wasted potential. The setting and the underlying world building and plot could've provided for so much more. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the world of Freedom Wars could easily support even two sequels to make it a trilogy.
I wanted to rise in the ranks of my panopticon, gaining a citizen status and the associated luxuries, and eventually approaching the higher command hierarchies.
I wanted to unite the rival panopticons in the surface of the world to wage a large-scale war against Heaven (Tengoku, On High), to free the surface-dwellers from their tyranny.
I wanted to fight Simeon as the true last boss of the series (plot twist brought to you by mr. Shyamalan), with him utilizing his thorns as whips or weapons, and finally transforming into a cliche JRPG style Will'O monster.
I wanted to rest my sinner head in the lap of my customizable robowaifu at the end of a mission, with sun setting beneath the desert dunes and the corpse of an alpha Dionaea abductor burning and sparkling in the background.
Maybe next game.