Nowadays, games on Sony’s PlayStation Vita are few and far between. What’s even rarer about new Vita games is that they are actually fun to play. The most recent Vita game to be released is Freedom Wars, a Japanese Action RPG set in the distant future. Does Freedom Wars oppress us into once again tossing our Vitas aside, or is it a beacon of hope for the dying handheld?
I’m happy to say that Freedom Wars is most certainly a fantastic game. While it may not be the bright light in the dark tunnel that is the PlayStation Vita, it is absolutely a small glimmer of home. Freedom Wars is set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future within which all of society resides in Panopticons. A Panopticon is an underground city that houses free civilians and sinners. Free civilians are individuals that have the ability to live their lives as they see fit. Sinners, on the other hand, are criminals that have to fight for resources and save civilians in order to work off their allotted sentences. A single sentence could be one million years! As you can imagine, your work is cut out for you as you begin your adventure with a hefty sentence, and must fight to eventually become a free citizen.
At the beginning of your journey, you’ll start by creating your character. The game is presented in a slick, anime style and gives you a ton of character customization options, some of which you’ll earn throughout your play through. Following character creation, you are given the choice to pick a panopticon. This is kind of fun as they’re based on large cities worldwide. Following this is a lengthy tutorial, one or two missions, and an extremely large slowdown in the game. This is a big issue, as the fun combat missions were stalled by very long fetch quests within the panopticon. Speaking of the panopticon, all of the missions within them are very dull and can lead to rather difficult pacing issues. Now with that being said, let’s talk about the parts of the game that make it shine.
Accepting quests, or operations as they’re called, gives you multiple objectives. Sometimes you are given a team death match like objective that requires you to eliminate the forces of an enemy panopticon. Other times you are appointed to save civilians from abductors, giant machines that hold civilians hostage within their own bodies. All of the mission types are fast, chaotic, and require teamwork. Speaking of teamwork, you’ll be able to bring along three fellow sinners, whether they’re bots or actual people. Playing this game online is a blast and is highly recommended for those who get this game. You’re also appointed an accessory at the beginning of the game, which is basically someone to watch over you and report all of your crimes should you commit any. They are also extremely capable on the battlefield. In addition to companions and accessories, you can have two weapons equipped, a couple of combat items like grenades and first aid kits, and a specific thorn type of your choosing. Thorns are grappling hook like accessories that allow you to heal comrades, hold or topple a giant abductor, or protect teammates depending on the thorn type you choose. They can also be used to attach yourself you walls or enemies. It’s also a fast way to rescue civilians from abductors. In addition to thorns, you’ll have giant swords, small cutting daggers, staffs, machine guns, rocket launchers, and more. This adds variety to each encounter and can change the way each battle is fought.
Outside of operations, you’ll spend all of your time in the panopticon. You can buy entitlements, freedoms that will allow you to do more without adding time do your sentence, with entitlement points. Such things include being able to run for an extended period of time because, yes, you do get penalized for running in the panopticon. You’ll also be able to donate items that you don’t need to decrease the years on your sentence. Then there’s the ability to customize your character and your accessory. Lastly, you can spend time manufacturing and upgrading weapons and medical equipment. Outside of these things, there really isn’t much to do in the panopticon. I often found myself counting down the minutes until the next operation showed up on the to-do list.
Freedom Wars is undoubtedly a great game. The anime graphics are pretty solid, the missions are fun, fast, and frantic, and the story of the panopticons and sentencing system is intriguing. On the other hand, there are many pacing issues, primarily due to how boring time spent in the panopticons is. Often you are told to go back and forth between people and places. It is especially boring after an intense operation. The very beginning of the game is difficult to get through for this very reason. Even with its rather large pacing issue, the boring times are worth the awesome operation missions, especially those involving abductors.
Final Score: 8.0/10