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White Whales: Freedom Wars


I tend to play every game I acquire to completion. Some may take a while to get to, but unless it’s an abysmal piece of crap (*cough*yaibabecauseigotitforfreewithanothergame*cough*) I’ll usually finish it. Or Elder Scrolls IV, which I thought I’d enjoy after digging Fallout 3, but nope, not for me. So when I was thinking about this month’s Bloggers Wanted I couldn’t recall anything that I regretted not finishing.

But here I am, writing this blog post, which the perceptive reader will understand means something did occur to me. My very own white whale, which is a great practical example of how the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. Because for as much as I wanted to enjoy those parts, the whole just didn’t click with me.

That white whale, my friends, is Freedom Wars.

When it first was announced as Panopticon, it really caught my attention. It’s the kind of setup and setting that has a much easier time getting me on board than, say, medieval High Fantasy. A post-apocalyptic world where every person is immediately considered a prisoner when they’re born, with a sentence that they must work all their lives to try and reduce?  Sign me in, now.

Then it changed its name to Freedom Wars, showing a protagonist whose base appearance looked so cool that I practically didn’t alter him at all when I began playing (besides adding a scar and sunglasses, because he needed that).

With some of the gameplay reveals we found out it was to be a hunting game, with an impressive-looking whip mechanic. Admittedly, I didn’t have much experience with this genre of games, besides trying a demo for Monster Hunter for the 3DS (the first monsters to appear were a family that were peacefully frolicking around, so I left them and didn’t touch it again) and playing God Eater Burst until I finished the story. An enjoyable time was had with the latter, for sure, but I did feel somewhat overwhelmed with all the gear combinations and possibilities and, despite some really crazy awesome-looking creatures, the missions began to feel a bit redundant fairly quickly. And playing this kind of game on a PSP brought with it some much unneeded frustration. In hindsight, this was probably a sign of things to come.

As such I decided to compile a number of things that may have, in some way or another, hindered my enjoyment of this game, which may in turn also help me to better understand the reason behind it.

Number 1: The 1.000.000 year sentence

Ok, so I bought the game, booted it up and started playing. As you’ve probably gathered from the theme of these posts, I didn’t finish it and in a deep slumber it lays.

And right in the beginning something didn’t feel right. For example, since your sentence can be reduced by doing some things, failing to do so or doing something else that’s prohibited may increase said sentence. When you start the game, running for longer than your current access level allows will increase that sentence. I love those kinds of small elements, as it’s a rather practical way to mix narrative with the gameplay. It incentivizes you to take it slow for the first minutes until you’re able to freely navigate the place, being a good tool for immersion.

Despite that, it left me feeling really tense, stressed out even, because of the realization that I’d never get to finish this game. A bit too dramatic, I know, but I’d rather feel that I wished a game could go on forever after getting to the end than thinking “OMG, when will it end?” right off the bat.

When I stopped playing it I was at a point where my sentence was yet to be decreased at a rate with a nice pacing, missions were getting too difficult and demanding for the level I was at and the missions I could take on were not rewarding enough for me to level-up adequately.

Sure, reading this by itself may seem like I’m just complaining that the game is hard and I want my level to increase in a faster and easier manner. But the next points are what personally make this go from challenging to rather unenjoyable.

Number 2: The Customization/Exploration

Right, it’s almost like I’m complaining that I need to actually drive in a racing game; which means this is more of a particular pet peeve with the hunting genre than this game, but since it’s still present I still have a rough time with it.

I love to have a variety of options in games, or at least to feel like I have them. Case in point, Yakuza. The possibilities in these games are crazy, but for one you’re gradually introduced to each of these variants and side activities, and the items seem to have much more meaning to them; even the random stuff you buy at the store. In Freedom Wars you collect lots of gear, many of which only differ in a single aspect – like having a characteristic being one point better – and materials from which only a handful of them seem non-generic stuff. It’s overwhelming!

It’s also important to note that I’m not saying this is bad in and of itself; for those who appreciate this kind of mechanic I’m sure this is amazing. The thing to focus on is that it just isn’t for me. I felt the same way with God Eater, but it became that much apparent here.

And just to continue the trend of “yeah dude, what were you expecting?”, am I the only one who wished to explore the mission areas? You only go there to defeat your enemies, get the loot and go home, but as I was traversing the maps I really wanted to just move around freely.

I had something similar happen with the FFXV demo, where I just wanted to roam from one corner to the other without having so many battles in between.

It is nitpicky, I have no problem admitting that. But, once again, is just one small element that adds to my overall perspective.

Number 3: The practically mandatory online mode

While not for me, I understand that part of this game’s appeal is the Panopticon mechanic, where you can invade and cooperate with other people online. This will help the growth of your character and your own Panopticon, as well as other people’s.

My issue is, what if I don’t want to play online? Should my story progression be halted because of that? Take, for example, MGSV. If you do all the FOB stuff, it can be helpful for you to complete missions – you get better gear, get better staff, etc. But there wasn’t a single moment I thought I needed it to get on with the plot. So much so that I never touched it once.

Of course it makes sense to make it relevant and a priority in this game, but I’d have preferred if it wasn’t almost mandatory to get past the half-way mark (if I even reached it, that is).

Number 4: Playing on the Vita

Despite having the clear advantage over the PSP just for the inclusion of another analog stick, I felt as if there were still not enough buttons, or maybe not enough space for me to feel comfortable playing it. When I was in the middle of a mission, trying to juggle the melee with the guns with the whip, I often felt my hands cramping and wishing there were some way for me to map the buttons in a way that suited me better.

It’s not something exclusive to action-heavy gameplay, as playing on the original 3DS ended up hurting me if I played it for too long (those sharp edges were not a good idea). That’s mostly why I decided to go with a New 3DS XL instead of the standard-sized one.

I do have a PSTV, so playing with a Dual Shock may actually be what will get me to finish it, but with the amount of stuff I have to get through and my interest levels being on the down low I’m not sure.

I am still somewhat intrigued by the story, despite some trope-y characters and developments, so that’s another front pushing for me to get back to it. Mostly because of Uwe and Elfriede, whose designs may be my favorite, and a couple of other secondary characters whose names I forgot but am not going to check because there spoilers may come up (which would take away a reason for me to care, and we can’t have that). And the whip works great, despite my hardships. For reference, I left it at the point where you try to face off against Abel and Red Rage for the first time, or a bit further than that.

Be that as it may, seems like the hunting genre just isn’t for me. I am glad I bought it because it does and uses things I’d love to see in other games, even if it’s not been easy getting the motivation to finally free myself of this war.

Yup, totally nailed it.

Thank you for reading and keep being great!

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About JPF720one of us since 3:45 PM on 04.08.2015

Hello there, I hail from the mythical land of Portugal and video games are a passion of mine. It all began when I played the original Super Mario Bros. at a friend's house, got rekindled when my uncle got me a Saturn with a Golf game (which I never played) and has now blossomed into a very critical, but also very loving, view of this medium.

As a Translator with a background in Psychology, I love to share and reflect on my personal experience with games, be it the narrative, the mechanics or how they are perfectly in sync (love those).

<Thanks to Dango for this compilation of may favorite games>

<Awesome Drawing by InquisitveRavenclaw>