Today, we’re going to take a look at one of the best Monster Hunter clones released on the PS Vita, Freedom Wars. Freedom Wars was released on June 26, 2014.
Note: I played through this game on the PS TV.
Freedom Wars as a game is a good concept. The game takes place in the far future, where abductors dominate much of the land. Groups called panopticons fight to save citizens and grow their panopticon to be the biggest in the world- but more on that later. This game has huge problems, and is ultimately a shell of what it could have been.
Soon after starting up Freedom Wars, I ran into what is called The Paradox of Choice. This is the idea that giving too much choice results in confusion and indecision. The game immediately gives you two character creation screens, with customization choices like neck size and leg length. There was so much choice, I ended up taking half an hour just to get into the game. In this case, less is more.
Pointless Adventures in a Sieged Land
The story involves you and a few other sinners discovering what is going on in your panopticon. But the story often hemorrhages the rest of the game because of how poorly it is executed.
The game tries to push the story on you often. Rarely can you just battle monsters- sometimes you have to talk to a shop owner, listen to a citizen, or watch a cutscene- and it doesn’t bode well for the game. The story is extremely shallow throughout, and rarely even goes into what mission you’re about to undertake.
The story often takes a long time to wade through as well. You might have to sit through a party, or travel to 3 different areas of the warren just to receive the next mission. And for some inexplicable reason, the game opens up a new CODE clearance area every time you pass an exam. But the old areas are still open and serve no further purpose for even existing. Why couldn’t there just be one cell housing area, where different CODE clearances gave you access to more of it?
Fun Fights for Freedom
The gameplay, when you can finally fight monsters, is one of the best I’ve seen. The gameplay features melee, guns, and thorns. The weapons and guns are pretty standard- large swords, small swords, assault rifles, missile launchers- but are nuanced and diverse. But the thorns are where Freedom Wars differentiates itself from other games in its genre. There are 3 types of thorns- binding, healing, and shielding- that all benefit different playstyles and ultimately open the game up for more people to enjoy. The weapon choice is immense and makes the game more enjoyable and enthralling.
The battles with abductors are probably the best part of the game. The gameplay is slow in a good way. You always know what attack you’re doing and can plan out the battle accordingly. The battle options- as in, what and how you’re attacking- are massive. You can shoot the beats from afar, drag them down with thorns, or go straight at the beast. The game allows you to pick your support characters so that they not only compliment your playstyle, but also the mission at hand.
The game has a few different main mission types, and some are better than others. One type is the battles against abductors, which are some of the best fights in the game. Another type is citizen reclamation, where you carry citizens to an RRU pod. These are hit and miss, as some of these missions don’t have any abductors at all. The task of carrying the citizen to the pod often just feels like a minor inconvenience; you’re still fighting enemies, but every few minutes you’re running back to a pod also. These missions feel like an unnecessary push to diversify the gameplay.
But the big problem comes in the missions where you don’t fight any abductors. Instead, you fight against evil, corrupted sinners. The gameplay isn’t built for these kind of battles. It is extremely hard to aim precisely, and enemies are hyper accurate. You’re best experience will be letting your teammates take out these enemies. Going one on one with one of these enemies is asking to be killed.
Speaking of killed, there is a big problem. Once you are killed, there is a short amount of time where your teammates can revive you, before you respawn and lose a life. But the AI of your teammates is complete rubbish. I’ve seen so many times where my teammate stands by, watching me on the ground instead of reviving me. I can’t believe they haven’t fixed that in the 3 years since the game was released.
The last type of gameplay might be the worst, not for difficulty, but for boredom. There are sections where you walk through a “Cell Garden”- a place where you’re not supposed to be, and where guards patrol the area. These missions are this game’s “stealth missions”. Ah yes, the stealth mission in a non-stealth game; the worst level since water levels and turret sections. There are times where you’re standing in a corner waiting, waiting, waiting for a guard to pass. The inclusion of these types of missions have, do, and will confuse gamers everywhere for years to come.
Quality of Agony
The graphics in this game are great. These are some of the best graphics that I’ve seen in a 3D Vita game. The monsters look fully fleshed out, no corners cut. The characters look absolutely amazing for a Vita game. The graphics could easily pass for a PS3 game (if they were 1080p, of course). The graphics team did a great job with this game.
Howevern there are many small problems with this game’s interface and performance that hurt its overall welcomeness and ease of use.
First is the menu system. There are 3 sets of menus, with about 7 options in each menu. There is just too many options for a casual player of the game to understand. To boot, there are 3 menus to change your look and voice. These could easily have been made into 1 menu.
The there’s the framerate. The framerate, while a little choppy, is almost always consistent. The framerate problem comes in online play. There are so few people playing nowadays, that any game I played had horrible bugs and framerates. I would often dip into single digit framerate while battling online. The game has simply not kept enough players around to make online playable in any capacity.
Finally, there is the perplexity of the environment. There are always 24 hour surveillance signs on every TV, plying the same 5 second message in a loop. This was cool the first couple of times, but got repetitive and boring. And early game, you are hit with tons of penalties for breaking rules you didn’t even know exist. Running too long, lying down, straying too far from your accessory, etc. These got annoying quickly, as I had no idea what rules existed in the beginning.
This game could have been great. The concept and combat is some of the best i’ve seen in a Monster Hunter clone. But small problems add up, and drag this great idea slowly to the ground like a monster with 3 thorns in its side. The story just isn’t there, and the atmosphere becomes repetitive and boring after just a few hours.
Quality of Life: 5/10
Overall Score: 6/10