I’m fresh off of a week of depression and inferiority filled office work that I spent my Spring Break doing, making it not much of a break at all, but the very concepts of breaks during schooling is nothing short of devilish, and they should be banned. I know that children should be instilled with hope lest they get mental problems, but those who have a ‘clean’ mind are those who do not deserve a spot in the utopian reworking of society of Genocider Jay… Also I played the hit Vita exclusive Freedom Wars for… I’d guess fifteen hours, got to the fifth mission set and decided that I played enough to review it, as the game was getting on my plums, and once you’re on my plums, you can’t really get off them.
Freedom Wars Review
Platforms: PS Vita(Reviewed), Playstation TV
Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Shift, and Dimps
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Freedom Wars is set in a futuristic dystopia wherein humanity has been divided up into various city states, and what few resources remain on the tattered earth are all being carefully controlled and monitored, including that of humans. You are placed in the shoes of an unwanted child of this terrible world, a Sinner who had the audacity to exist in a world that can barely support any form of life. As such, they were granted a million years of community service that they must write off, lest they be… actually, that’s not really clear, as there are plenty of old drunks who have two million year sentences and do not give a toss. You’d think that this setting would rewrite their minds and turn them into robots, as the technology is pretty darn advanced, but nope, just a sign that despite having a cool sounding premise, Freedom Wars hardly handles it with care.
The actual story itself is such a cluster of cliches and tropes that I wonder why they even bothered with an interesting setting that would ultimately be wasted. My eyes just glazed over the familiar bumps in the road, as none of the surprisingly large cast ever grabbed my attention, especially a girl who kept appearing to the player character to talk about how they are destined to bring forth a great change or some malarkey like that. Perhaps the story does get more interesting later on and the writing takes a dramatic turn for the better, but when given a decision to kill off one of my party members, I should not roll my eyes in annoyance over how the choice even exists, because I truly did not care.
Now, I wanted to care, as the overall premise is still ripe with potential, much like the gameplay. The very idea of teaming up with a bunch of other characters to slice, shoot, and pull down giant monsters while serving their limbs is nothing short of grand, but unfortunately I felt as if just about every aspect of that was handled pretty poorly. Going through that list one by one, Freedom Wars’ melee combat, at least with the light blades that I used, is needlessly hard to manage. It’s so easy to overshoot an attack and miss the target completely, as the game doesn’t recognize that you would want to attack an enemy right next to you, and you would need to end up turning the camera around and then locking onto them before attacking. However, if you are already locked on, you may as well just grapple to them, hitting them with a far more powerful leap attack.
Shooting suffers from the control schemes of Freedom Wars, and how none of them allow you to comfortably run, aim, and shoot, three things that are essential in a fast paced third person shooter. This meant that most of my shooting was done from an alcove about an Abductor, the giant robotic monsters of the game, as that was the only place where I could properly aim and fire with the control scheme I ended up using the most without having half of my health taken away by one shot from an Abductor. Abductors in general are incredibly aggressive after they reach a certain damage threshold, about 50%, but I would be misleading you if I said that was the only point where they were particularly obnoxious, as they are most of the time.
I honestly spent most of my time fighting Abductors trying to sever their limbs as it seems like the logical thing to do against such a foe, and it gives me additional resources after the mission is complete. Unfortunately, the act of grabbing onto an Abductor’s limbs, mashing circle until a bar goes down, and then picking up the limb you just cut off is hampered by how rowdy they get, and how often you need to jump off of their bodies and go through the chore of getting back onto it. Going back to the controls, you cannot run, aim, and grapple at the same time, and even with a directionally confused lock-on system, you still need to use the right stick to select your target, and then hope that you do not get the enemy in the middle of one of its constant attacks, and are able to begin mashing as hard as you can on a Vita. But you will inevitably be sent of the Abductor, and need to repeat the process again, as you need to be the one out of your squad of eight characters to sever the many forms of projectiles that Abductors possess.
Granted, your allies do have some foresight and on occasion will be smart enough to aim for certain limbs, as the AI does know what it is doing, but only some of the time. The AI will have three characters work together to bring down an Abductor and deal massive damage to them, but the AI will also bunch up around and get hit by an area of effect move that will wipe out four of them. With that revelation the other three AI controlled party members will rush over to their downed allies in an attempt to revive them while I am still hacking away at an Abductor’s arm. Well, two of the party members will stand by the corpse, while another will revive two party members, in a very inefficient manner when you have a faster long range revive, and then resume attacking. Leaving two characters who I need to revive, when I am very clearly busy with disabling an enemy.
You can admittedly change their tactics around, but they never seem to be as intelligent as they should regardless if you tell them to prioritize revival or scatter, as I always seem to need to be the one who has to save half my team from respawning enemies with homing missiles. The commands in general do not feel as if they were tailor made for the game, when I cannot think of a reason why standing back and shooting at an Abductor from a distance, focusing on one limb, and go on in with melee attacks when it is staggered would be a pretty good strategy in just about every encounter. You can’t even tell party members to drag an enemy down, when that is a pretty good way to disable enemies, but whenever they begin yanking down a two ton monster you are told by your Accessory, who I always viewed as a parole officer mixed with a nagging child, that you should join in with them.
Frustrating is the word I would use to describe so many of my encounters in Freedom Wars, but even as I was going through this malarkey and hearing my Accessory drone on in her robotic voice about how I need to rescue a citizen I dropped because I ran into a wall, there was still something there. Conceptually the game should be a blast, and it very much can be at a time when everything is properly aligned and either the AI is competent or the difficulty is toned down to the point where it really doesn’t need to be. However, that is by far an exception to a very foul rule that Freedom Wars possesses, that of irritation.
For quite some time I simply wondered if I was lagging behind on weapons or stats during the gameplay, and that was why I had so much trouble getting a high ranking on most missions, but as I was digging through the game’s weapon system and how it handles its inventory, I was kind of amazed at how bad it is. From waiting periods to upgrade, craft, or modify weapons, caps on how far you can upgrade them, a very unintuitive way of managing your inventory, and an absurd quantity of resources, I’m inclined to say this system is truly terrible. Say you want to upgrade a weapon, but need three of a certain resource. You can either guess what it is based on the name, or you could back out into your mission screen and view what resources you can collect in each mission, but even then you need to go to the right page you want to see what resources you can find. Mind you, these resources are not the same as the ones that enemies drop, in which case you need to find the enemy. It is a stupid amount of busywork, and unlike the apparently far more popular Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, you cannot find all of the information you need on a shockingly informative GoogleDoc.
You thankfully do not need to rely entirely on missions to get resources, but the alternative involves going through the hub world of Freedom Wars, which is empty, slow to navigate, and suffers from frame drops as character models are too detailed for the game to handle having too many static character standing around, doing nothing. I will admit that I found the dialog engaging at times in regards to its world building, and the restrictions in regards to how often you can stand around, who you may speak to, and how quickly you may run did give way to making the setting seem more oppressive, but it does not prevent these sections from coming across as a chore. I truly do feel that the game would be better if these sections were replaced with visual novel-esc segments where you simply select a locale through a menu.
I suppose that I should mention that the game does certainly look nice and I am rather fond of the character models as a whole. However, I did find the Abductor designs to be rather unremarkable as a whole, and the game’s fixation on military apparel for its first set of customizable consumes, and restricted colors you may paint them did a bit more harm towards my enjoyment of the game than it did increase my affection towards the setting.
I feel I can easily summarize this review by saying that, while I do very much like the idea of Freedom Wars, and it does the idea justice at times, it can be completely and utterly obnoxious at others. I feel it is all some sort of allegory for modern Japanese youth just entering the workforce, as they are now expected to live without their childlike freedoms and are expected to devote most of their life for a cause they don’t particularly care about, and only receive respite from interacting with their ‘friends’. Meaning that becoming a NEET is probably the best option, or in the case of Freedom Wars, I guess that means not playing it.
There may be points of noteworthiness, but as the titles goes on they become far less common when compared to all too common mundanities. I would not recommend it.
Wait, so it is normal for the Vita to leave watermarks when taking screenshots? That is really stupid, when it’s pretty easy to recognize this game. I mean, you didn’t even add the title, you fools!