Freedom Wars Review

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Title: Freedom Wars
Developer: Japan Studio, Sony Computer Entertainment
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.6 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

The world of Hunting RPGs has been one that has been growing in the last two generations.  In those generations, and more or less the handheld community as opposed to consoles, this genre is bringing a lot of franchises in.  We have actually reviewed many of these games, from Ragnarok Odyssey Ace to God Eater Burst to Lord of Arcana to Soul Sacrifice Delta.  As the years go by, the number of franchises is increasing, both on the PS Vita and other systems.

While many franchises from last gen are still getting new games, there are a lot of new IPs coming into the handheld world.  On the Nintendo 3DS, Square Enix is trying their hand at another Hunting franchise in the form of Final Fantasy Explorers.  On the Vita side, though, a new franchise has just hit the market.  Coming as a First Party title from Sony’s Japan Studio developer, they’ve introduced their latest big game for the PS Vita as of last Tuesday.

Among Hunting RPGs, Sony has had a lot of the games on their handheld, as well as their consoles with Ragnarok Odyssey Ace.  As we dive into the new week, we take a look at that latest PS Vita exclusive Hunting RPG.  Filled with huge monsters and an apocalyptic world, here is our official review of Freedom Wars!

Story

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Freedom Wars takes place on Earth in the very-distant future.  In the year 102014, where the surface of the planet lays in ruins and is no longer capable of supporting life.  The human race has since moved into underground cities that are known as Panopticons, each representing a city that once used to exist on the surface, such as New York City, Tokyo, and Toronto.  In these underground cities, they spend time researching how to live on the surface again while fighting with other Panopticons over the low resources that are left on the planet.

There are two classes of people in the Panopticons: Citizens and Prisoners.  Citizens are the researchers whom are trying to find ways to live on the surface again.  Prisoners are those that have committed crimes and must pay off their sentence by performing in manual labor jobs provided by citizens and the higher levels of the Panopticon, normally involving fighting off giant monsters known as Abductors and rescuing citizens.  You play as a nameless prisoner whom is charged with the crime of memory loss when their Android partner is lost during an operation.  As you work your way back up in the ranks of the Panopticon, you discover a deeper plot that involves the entire world and what can change it.

The plot of Freedom Wars is one thing that makes it unique.  Unlike most other Hunting RPGs, Freedom Wars has a strong emphasis on plot and story.  When you end a story mission, you could spend 20 minutes or more exploring and going through various scenes of backstory before you go back to another mission.  It’s not an award-winning story and ends on a somewhat-confusing note, but there’s a lot of depth to it and the world that has been made.

Gameplay

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When you boil everything down, Freedom Wars is an Action RPG.  More specifically, it can be classified as a Hunting RPG, involving you going on missions in closed environments to fight off occasional enemies and taking down giant bosses with multiple parts, mostly to either do a Resource-Collection or Monster-Hunting objective.  While there are other aspects of the game, like exploring your Panopticon, the meat of the game is going out on timed missions to collect resources and take down enemies.

When you first boot up the game, you can create your character and your companion Accessory.  This is fully customizable for virtually every body part.  You can customize their hair, eye color, face, voice, height, weight, arm length, and more.  The amount of options here is pretty extensive, even for games with customizable character appearances.  You can also unlock new options for this later in the game as well as with the DLC that is available to download from the PlayStation Network.

When you’re not on a mission, you’re at your base, which is your Panopticon City.  You can ally yourself with any of the 50 Panopticons you want, but the Story Mode will not change depending on that decision.  However, you will see the name labeled in a lot of areas that you can explore.  There will be some signs and screens around various areas that will say New York if you align with New York, or Tokyo if you ally with them.  Though that is more for Multiplayer than Single Player.

Your base will be small at first.  Since you’re a prisoner, you are locked in a Cell, only able to leave to participate in operations to lower your sentence.  As it stands, you are the lowest of the low, and are not entitled to do anything without earning it.  This can be freely roaming around the Panopticon or even pacing and laying on your bed.  Breaking these rules will penalize you and add more years to your sentence.  At the beginning, this can be very frustrating, but as you do ops, you can earn Entitlements to be able to do more and explore more areas.

Your main goals will be Contributions to be able to take Code Clearance Exams to reach the next chapter of the story.  These are the missions and operations you can take part in.  You take a part with you on these missions to collect resources or fight off enemies.  Succeeding in these operations will award you Entitlement Points as well as reducing years off of your sentence.  Entitlement Points are key to earning Entitlements, which will be as simple as earning the right to pace or rest, or as important as upgrading ally equipment and creating Facilities to use.

Facilities are a big part of the customization of the game.  You can create various facilities for various reasons.  You can have Weapon, Munition, Medical, and Augmentation Facilities.  Weapon facilities are used to manufacture, upgrade and modify the various weapons you can find and equip.  Munition and Medical facilities are used to create ammunition and items that you can take on missions.  Lastly, the Augmentation Facilities are used to create Augments that you can equip to alter your stats and give you various effects like increased damage or quicker health recovery.  These facilities also level up, enabling higher-quality results.  Though producing these things takes time.  This can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 45 minutes to get one piece of equipment.

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Taking part in missions is where the bulk of the game takes place.  During these missions, you will be sent out with either a fixed party or a part of story characters of your choice as you collect resources, rescue citizens, or take down giant monsters called Abductors.  You will be sent out on a mission and can go with two equipped weapons of various type as well as Battle Items.  The two weapons can be swapped between whether it’s a melee weapon, assault rifle, minigun, or something else.  Switching between melee sword-like weapons and firearms is very reminiscent of the God Eater franchise.

Each mission has objectives and a time limit, normally set at 30 minutes or 45 minutes.  While most of the time, the time limit doesn’t matter, it is there and can be quite close on some missions.  Each mission will be fighting through enemies to destroy enemies or collecting resources and rescuing citizens.  The missions normally happen in waves of enemies and there are various things to collect from fighting.  Abductors will drop resources when they’re destroyed and infantry enemies will drop their weapons for you to salvage.

A big part of fighting abductors is the ability to sever parts.  Like other Hunting RPGs, the bosses have body parts that can be destroyed.  You can go up to these parts with a Thorn you always have on you which acts as a grapple.  Once grappled, you can use a Cutting weapon to sever a part, be it a limb, armor, or weapon.  Taking these parts off will let you collect the parts as well as limiting the amount of attacks an Abductor is able to use against you.

Once the mission objective is reached, you will be rated on how well you did, higher ratings offering better resources as rewards  You can also get special items delivered for doing especially well on missions, such as not requiring revives or losing any of your limited amounts of revives throughout the mission.  You can also collect and keep any weapons and resources you find during the operation, assuming you have the proper entitlements to keep them.

Missions can also be tackled in Multiplayer.  There are Co-op options for PSN friends to join and help you on missions, and there are also Player vs Player (PvP) options if you want to go up against and be competitive with your friends in various game modes.  These are offered for both local Ad Hoc Play and online play over the PlayStation Network.

The game isn’t an easy game, and has a lot of difficulty spikes.  A lot of the progression with difficulty goes up at a steady pace, though some of the exams can be a lot harder than the other missions.  This is especially apparent later on in the game, when you’re getting closer to the game’s climax.  The game is not going to hold your hand during the game, and the later missions will require a lot of preparation and retries beforehand, learning boss strategies and how to actively use your AI commands to the advantage of each mission.

The main progress of the game is between doing operations, going through story objectives and exploration, and earning the right to do each of the Code Clearance Exams, from Code Level 2 up to Level 8.  All in all, the game will likely take you at least 20-25 hours, with the early chapters going by quickly and the later chapters requiring more preparations and customizing for each exam.  It’s a lengthy game, especially with the difficulty spikes that are present.

Controls

Controlling the game is a mixed bag.  However, the first thing to know is that there are no forced touch controls.  You can use the touch screen to issue commands to your Accessory and other Party Members, but this can also be toggled with the Select Button.  The game also controls the same way, whether you’re playing on the PS Vita or the PlayStation TV, so you won’t need to worry about switching your play styles when you switch between the two systems.

There are several different control schemes, many of which are set to familiarize with other franchise, like the Hunter scheme to be more like Monster Hunter and God Eater, and others focusing on being more like shooting games for firearms and otherwise.  However, Thorn-Wielder is the default control scheme, and all of them have you moving your character with the Left Analog Stick and the camera with the Right Analog Stick.

Unique to this is the D-Pad being used for changing your weapon as well as cycling the currently-equipped item.  The face buttons are used mostly for attacking.  The Square button is used for light attacks and Triangle is used for heavy attacks.  You will use X for dodging and Circle for using items.  Lastly, you can use L and R to enter aiming mode or lock onto enemy, as well as launching your thorn.  Many of these are swapped around in the various control schemes.

All in all the control schemes aren’t hard to learn, but a lot of them often feel a little awkward and leaving you wishing for a completely customizable scheme.

Presentation

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The visual presentation is, without a doubt, the part of the game that deserves the most credit.  Visually, with the cell shading, Freedom Wars is one of the most visually impressive games on the Vita to date.  We originally booted this game on the PlayStation TV, and the near-flawless renders and the amount of detail in everything makes the game look like a PS3 game.  The game really shows what the Vita is capable of, visually.

The presentation’s downer side are with the audio and load times.  The Audio only has Japanese options.  For those that enjoy English dubbing, the option isn’t there to be used.  The game also has some lengthy load times.  While the initial load time for the game isn’t too bad, loading a mission can take up to 20 or more seconds to load.  With other games of the genre loading missions in less than half of that time, this can get very annoying very quickly.

Apart from this, the game runs well.  As we played, multiplayer and otherwise, the game never lagged out on us.  The gameplay runs very smooth, outside of a few glitches when latching onto abductors in a few missions that caused the characters to stagger and be uncontrollable for a bit of time.

Summary

Freedom Wars is a fresh take on the Hunting RPG genre that focused more on story than any other game in the genre.  On the downside, there are some glitches to work out, along with long load times and some lengthy waiting and difficulty spikes that are rage-inducing.  Behind that is an exceptional RPG that you can get into, whether you want to experience the Hunting gameplay or the story of this futuristic Earth. 

8/10

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