I’m not the most diverse gamer, or the most knowledgeable gamer, or even the best gamer, but damn if I don’t want to be. I love games. I love gaming. I love being a gamer.
I also love writing and have spent the last ten years of my life writing about all that bounces around in my head. That’s one reason why my gaming experiences are most enjoyable when a good story is involved. Story makes all the difference.
That’s partly why I’ve chosen “Freelancer” as my first review.
If you’ve never played this game it came out in 2003 for PC and is classified as a space trading and combat simulator. The trading part is small, so if that’s what you’re looking for this isn’t the game. However, don’t let that stop you. Freelancer is always on my list of favorite games, and I’m going to tell you why.
Let’s start with the plot. You play as freelancer Edison Trent. You have left your home planet of Leeds to make your fortune. You make a deal with a Republican Shipping captain for a large shipment of boron, and then you make a deal with a man named Lonigan who is promising you 1million credits for your cargo. Just as you are signing the contract the space station you are on is attacked. You barely make it out having to carry Lonigan over your shoulder. The next thing you know you are on the planet Manhattan, Lonigan is being taken away for medical attention, and you are now a freelancer without a ship. Lucky for you a Liberty Security Force officer is looking for someone just like you. Jun’ko Zane, who wants you to call her Juni, gives you a ship, a couple thousand credits, and a job. But when all goes sideways you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole.
I really enjoy this story. One could pick it apart, poke holes in all the science that ceases to exist, compare it to other stories, but I like it. The farther you go the more fun it is, the more conspiracy theory it becomes. This is a story heavy game despite the creator’s attempts to make it more.
Next let’s talk about the setting. Something I learned in looking up a few facts about this game is that it’s set 800 years after the game “Starlancer” which I have never played. In that sense I don’t know entirely about the build up behind this game, but the opening cut scene does a decent job of setting the scene. All those 800 years ago back in the Sol system a civil war broke out between the Alliance (made up of America, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and other minor nations) and the Coalition (made up of Russia, China, the Middle East, and southeast Asia). In a last act of defiance the Alliance built five ships to break past the Coalition and settle in a new sector, the Sirius Sector.
This sector is huge, consisting of many solar systems that contain no less than two planets and a number of stations. If you understand simple physics, this will bother you. The planets seem to fall on the same line in rotation around their stars. It takes a few minutes to get from one planet to the next via a Trade Lane. Perhaps not the most realistic.
Other than the science, the look of the Sirius Sector is decent. Though most planets have similar, flat, desolate textures, the space stations have smooth surfaces, and the debris fields look the same no matter where you go, this game still looks good. Each planet has an individual backdrop when you land, the different areas you can visit are decorated in their own style, and the space backdrop…oh the space backdrop.
How about the voice acting you ask? Well, Jennifer Hale is the voice of Jun’ko Zane. That’s all I needed to learn. The main cast is good all together. They needed to be. The story is good, but there are some moments when you needed to know the characters were actually struggling with their situation. When you are escorting Juni to her home system while on this insane quest you need to hear how hurt she is to know all of what she loves may be in danger and you need to hear Trent understand her. It makes all the difference.
What about the game play? I am not a huge simulator fan, but this seems the perfect fit for me. It’s a great mix of flying a space ship, maintaining a space ship, making a reputation for yourself, and exploring a universe. The default key bindings are intuitive, the controls are concise, and you are never overloaded with things to do. Don’t think it’s easy though, as you progress through the game you will have to use more than brute force to stay alive.
What else is there? Well, not much. Aside from the main cast you will hear the same four people a hundred times over if you want to talk to NPCs. If you like hearing “activation sequence completed, lane jump initiated” many times over, then you’ll love this game. The character designs are unique amongst the main cast, but the NPCs tend to…repeat. Be it story or off campaign you do the same thing quite a bit.
Over all Freelancer is a great game. Complete the campaign, enjoy the story, love the characters, and then explore the universe. If you really love it you’ll make a fortune, own the best ships, use the best guns, and have whatever reputation you choose.
I know it’s not new, and I know it’s not “the best game ever”, and I know you’re probably wondering why I’m even talking about it, but Freelancer is a great experience. Definitely give it a try.