First off, let me just say this: I consider myself a relatively competent player when it comes to the “Hunter” genre of games. I’ve got a couple thousand hours logged, between Monster Hunter titles, Ragnarok Odyssey (ACE), both Soul Sacrifices, Toukiden, God Eater, etc. I’m no fresh recruit. Very little impresses me anymore. This game, FREEDOM WARS, has managed to strike a chord with me that hasn’t been struck since the release of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.
Story-wise, this is your typical anime cliches mess. Main character gets amnesia, has to start over from the bottom rung, yadda yadda yadda. Nobody really plays these games for the story. It’s all about the hunt.
Character customization is pretty deep in this game. You can change your face, eyes, hair, clothes… You can even slightly alter the outfits you wear. It’s fun to tweak and re-tweak your toon, once you unlock the different aesthetic perks.
Okay, now, the meat and potatoes of this, and every other “Hunter” game, is the actual gameplay. And here, FREEDOM WARS does not disappoint. Fans of God Eater should feel at home, as this game definitely has that feel to it. The controls are pretty straightforward–Square and Triangle are your weak and heavy attacks, respectively. Hold X to dash, tap it to roll (a la Soul Sacrifice). Circle is the “action” button. You use it to use your combat items, and to pick up harvest points scattered all over the various maps. When using ranged weapons, the L button lets you aim, and the R button utilizes the coolest gimmick I’ve yet to see in a “Hunter” game–the Thorn.
The Thorn comes in three flavors, depending on your chosen play style:
The Binding Thorn increases the effectiveness of dragdowns. Yes, you can actually latch on to these giant beasties, and drag them to the ground, to beat on for a brief span of time. It also has two levels of charge effects–at level 1, you can set up to two binding traps that will ensnare the human characters. At level 2, it lets you paralyze Abductors, giving you free reign to beat on them, for a good deal longer than with a basic dragdown.
The Healing Thorn lets you…heal. When you attach your Thorn to an ally, it slowly heals them. With a level 1 charge, it throws a shotgun-like healing blast, which I assume heals fully. The second level charge is my personal favorite. With it, you create a Healing Thicket, that will gradually heal anyone near it, for a certain duration.
The Shield Thorn lets you buff alies’ defense. Attaching your Thorn to an ally raises their defense for a time. The level 1 charge provides an AoE defense buff, and the level 2 charge creates a Shielding Thicket that blocks enemy projectiles.
As is the standard for this genre, there are both offline and online modes of play. One nifty little aspect of using the online co-op is that, once you complete a mission online, you get a “Certificate of Non-Failure” that allows you to automatically complete that mission successfully offline. This can be extremely handy, as some of these missions can be frustrating while playing offline. (I’m looking at you, CODE 7 Exam.)
In addition to the standard co-op, Freedom Wars also offers competitive multiplayer, in the form of Vs. Operations. This is unique amongst Hunting games, and it basically plays out as a third-person, squad-based shooter, with various goals. I’ve personally only tried this mode out once, but was unimpressed and, therefore, have not tried it since.
While FW has gotten so much right, it stumbles in one key aspect: the weapon forging. It’s left up to chance, whether you’ll get a high rarity weapon, or a piece of vendor trash. Once you’ve unlocked your facilities, and upgraded them as far as you can, it’s still a crap shoot as far as what you get when you manufacture weapons. This is really my only gripe with the game, aside from a few bits of real world logic. (A quadripedal Abductor should not be running around on all fours after its forelegs have been removed, but that’s just my humble opinion.)
All in all, I highly recommend Freedom Wars to anyone who’s got a love for the Hunt. You won’t be disappointed.