It’s time to don your kilt and swab on some blue face paint because FREEDOM!!! Wars has just arrived on the Vita. This sci-fi themed Monster Hunter clone takes place in the distant future, were Earth’s limited resources can no longer sustain its bloated populace. In order to survive the globe’s major cities have transformed into prison states that battle amongst themselves, to salvage materials from the planet’s surface (the inter-city conflicts are almost as vicious as my family squabbling over the last Rolo.) In this new society brainy chaps, who can advance civilisation with their smarts, are given citizenship whilst everyone else is branded a Sinner and incarcerated. Let us hope that these fictitious laws never become reality or I am certain to go into the slammer, given how academics was never my strong suit.
When the game begins players adopt the role of a Sinner who has been given a one million year prison sentence for the crime of suffering amnesia (ouch, that’s harsh when you consider that shooting a girlfriend only nets you five years behind bars.) In order to reduce your sentence and ultimately earn a swimsuit reward (because this is a Japanese game) players will have to go on a series of dangerous missions were you’ll face rival Sinners, unmanned drones and giant bots known as Abductors. Like with many Monster Hunter inspired titles farming for materials is the order of the day. Weapons looted from defeated enemies and components harvested from smashed automatons can be repurposed to upgrade your arsenal and fabricate new gear. Alternatively you can donate your spoils to earn points that can be traded in for new perks (such as the privilege to sleep lying down without getting reprimanded.)
Each level takes place in small urban areas that host third person battles featuring a group of allies (either AI controlled characters or fellow players should you manage to connect online.) The bevy of weapons you can wield is impressive ranging from oversized blades, which put Cloud Strife’s sword to shame, to web spewing guns that can stun foes. Freedom Wars’ catalogue of weapons has something for everyone, although outfitting yourself with the right tool for the job is probably the most effective strategy you can employ. In a stage littered with infantry it may be prudent to brandish an assault rifle whilst packing a beefy rocket launcher is probably more sensible when contending with giant Abductors.
In addition to regular weapons Sinners also have access to Thorns, which are glorified grappling hooks that deploy from their wrists. Using these babies it’s possible to scale buildings like Peter Parker or engage in some Attack on Titan shenanigans, were you latch yourself onto an oversized enemy with the aims of whacking them or causing the blighter to topple over. Thorns come in three flavours – healing ones that replenish an ally’s life bar, defence ones that temporarily reduce the damage you suffer and offensive thorns that can entangle opponents. Hmmm, I should invest in one of those for my BDSM sessions.
Like my battered girlfriend, Freedom Wars and I have a love/hate relationship. Initially when I first started the game I wasn’t impressed, as the controls felt clunky and the plot kicks off with a tedious fetch quest that drags on for too long. Once I got a better feel for the combat and unlocked a few more missions things however improved. Blasting Abductors to smithereens is most satisfying and farming for materials, to bolster your weapons, has an addictive quality to it that few RPG fans can resists. Overall Freedom Wars has the right elements to be one of my favourite Vita games, but sadly a few avoidable niggles soured my opinion of it.
My chief gripe would have to be the uneven difficulty. For the most part the mandatory story missions are a doddle (even the stealth ones which normally give me headaches in other games.) I however found the final boss to be nigh on impossible. Difficulty spikes always infuriate me and to rub salt into the wound tackling said boss requires the completion of two prior levels, without the option to save in between. Another problem I encountered was the inability to play online. Connecting to the Freedom Wars servers informs me that I have a NAT type 3 connection, which prevents me from grouping with other people. I’ve tried researching for a fix for the issue, but it’s beyond my feeble computer illiterate mind. Thus I am denied access to an enjoyable facet of the Freedom Wars package, which makes little sense, as I have no problems playing multiplayer on other Vita/PS3 games.
My final rating is a three out of five. In the Monster Hunter charts I would rate Freedom Wars above Soul Sacrifice, but below Toukiden: Age of Demons (which I have previously awarded four stars.) Despite my complaints I would still class Freedom Wars as a worthy purchase, for anyone who is a fan of the Monster Hunting genre. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be plagued with the network problems afflicting me there is plenty of online fun to be had. Destroying Abductors is so entertaining that serving that million-year prison sentence will fly right by.