Freedom wars is one of the most frustrating games I have ever played. I don’t think there’s a game I have ever played that I have simultaneously hated/enjoyed more than this one, and it’s a topic I’ve been pondering for a while now. I don’t feel comfortable reviewing it without beating it-though I understand that’s not a concern all people have-and I do plan on trying to finish it. But I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about what’s hanging me up, and why I feel the game suffers from some bad design decisions. It’s going to get negative, but understand that I wouldn’t be writing this or be willing to continue if I didn’t genuinely enjoy this game. There’s a lot to like, and when I can finish it I will talk about that stuff quite a bit.
Monster Hunter Influence
Before we go any farther, I have never played monster hunter
proper. I have played soul sacrifice-a game I have significant issues with as
well, but for other reasons-but that’s the extent of my experience with this
sort of game. From what I understand, Freedom wars is similar in gameplay and
set up to that one so I feel I should wear my experiences on my sleeve so
people can decide whether or not these things will bother them all that much.
One of the more irritating decisions in this game is the
lack of a difficulty setting. There’s a lot in this game that could be tweaked
to different difficulty decisions, which would help alleviate a lot of my
concerns and allow people who like the game just the way it is to keep it that
way. Instead everyone gets locked into the same difficulty, leading to
situations where the below things frustrate me to no end whereas fans may
endure or even like them. Challenge is one thing, I love me some souls games,
but if you’re going to employ the kind of difficulty this game has on offer
then not employing this feature in any capacity is something I disagree with.
Time is something of a bugbear to quite a few people, a
stressor lingering over the head of someone studying last minute for a test, a
looming deadline, uncontrollable procrastination, etc., etc. Watching time
literally tick away is incredibly stressful, and watching your efforts account for
naught is one of the most enraging experiences I have ever encountered in
games. For someone who likes to be slow and methodical, anything that demands
high levels of speed arbitrarily is also frustrating.
Freedom wars has an arbitrary time limit for almost every mission. And they are not optional in any way shape or form. The reason for it is, I can only assume, to artificially increase a sense of tension in the player as the clock ticks down. As far as I can tell, there’s no real reward for completing the game at certain time points, and certainly not one I’ve noticed as being worthwhile enough to justify it.
In reality, all it
does is add stress to an already very difficult game and make it more likely
that even if you play conservatively as the game throws more and more at you,
you can still find yourself screwed over by running out of time. It feels unnecessary
and arbitrary, something added to try and artificially increase the difficulty-that’s
a common theme we shall come back to later as well. I’ve had more than one mission that was almost
complete, only to have the clock run out and screw me out of any reward.
On that note actually…
Nothing gained from failure
Honestly, I wouldn’t have as huge a problem with the timing
if it didn’t cost me literally everything. Losing all of your lives is a
similar case, which feels like another arbitrary system that does nothing but
waste my game time, as rather than a penalty for continuing you just lose and
instantly are booted out of the mission. This means that if for any reason you
fail one of the missions, whether from the timing or the lives or a failure of
mission objective, you get absolutely nothing for your efforts. It makes it
hard not to want to throw my vita across the room, because I know that the last
40 minutes of my gameplay were absolutely worthless. A penalty would’ve been
tolerable, but the way the system is currently set up invites the player to
feel like they’ve accomplished nothing more than once. And the timing system
just rubs that in your face, showing you exactly how much of your life you’ve wasted
on a failed battle.
This game doesn’t really have a traditional leveling system per say, so earning items and earning points to unlock more things like stronger accompanying characters is vital to progression. You can also lose your personal sidekick if it gets incapacitated during a battle, and caught by an enemy. Should this happen while you are down, you have to go on a quest to get them back. And if it’s at a higher difficulty, you have to do a pretty difficult quest just to get them back rather than a stock sidekick that is less aesthetically pleasing and less useful.
A poor idea of difficulty
Difficulty is more than a gameplay feature, given how it
permeates the entire game. It is an art that must be handled well, and one that
can ruin a game if not handled well. Dark Souls is a superb example of
difficulty, with every death and trap feeling like one you can get past. The
games are incredibly difficult, but they are very fair and if you are willing
to learn from your mistakes and adapt you will be rewarded with success. You can also upgrade or swap out your gear, as well as increasing your stats to increase your chances.
Freedom Wars has not learned that lesson, in my mind. Infantry troops have enough health to not go down instantly, and will absolutely destroy your health should they be wielding rapid fire guns. Fighting them with weapons exposes the inaccuracies of the melee fighting system, with many hits or combos going past a unit without hitting them should you angle yourself wrong. This is a game optimized for fighting big ol monster robots, and it really shows with how poorly designed enemy infantry can be.
Additionally, the games method of increasing the difficulty
is absurd as well. In code 7, you have to juggle that infantry, multiple high
health/damage robots at the same time, and after a hard fight that depletes
most of your resources and time….more get summoned. The actual robots you have
been sent to kill show up, and not only are they tougher, but by this point
your time is running low enough to force you to play risky-which may lead to
losing all of your lives. Meaning you gain nothing from the battle, and have to
redo it all again. It’s a lazy way of increasing the difficulty, and it turns
what should be fun/challenging battles into a slog as you watch the timer tick
Because your character doesn’t level up per say, your characters innate abilities-excluding the thorne and other weapons-stays roughly the same as the game progresses. This means that while the enemies scale and get tougher and tougher, your character stays at roughly the same place. While you can level up your weapons, generally it’s not going to be enough to keep pace with the enemy forces. And because all of your stats remain basically the same, even if you have an incredibly powerful weapon you can still get the floor wiped with you. It should mean skill is tantamount, but when enemies can nearly one shot you, hit you even if you’re down, or use attacks that seem directional but hit you anyway…it begins to cause consternation.
Whew. Quite a bit to say, but again I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t want to see improvement. I really like this game, and I hate that these problems hold it back. I hope that if there is a sequel, they improve on this aspect of the game. I keep going back to it despite its issues, meaning its doing something quite right, but these issues make the game far less enjoyable than it should be. As always, this is just my opinion and it should be taken as such. Please take into my account other games of this nature if you enjoy any aspects of these systems. I understand not everyone will be as bothered as I was, but I really wanted to get this off my chest and just discuss my feelings on different forms of difficulty. Hope you enjoyed, and have a happy halloooooooowweeeen!!!!!!!!