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Software Review of:
Freelancer

 

Edison Trent

I used several sources while writing this review: my son Brandon (an experienced game player), personal observation, and several online gaming resources.

From the June, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Freelancer, developed by Digital Anvil and published by Microsoft, is a combination of game types: epic adventure with space mercenaries and 3-D space combat, along with elements of space commerce and trading, and also political and international intrigue. One description I saw called it an open-ended space simulation/interactive universe/trading game.

This is a complex game, with quite a variety of options, characters, and action scenes. The overall ratings say it is an excellent, varied, and exciting game, although there are a few places where it is not optimal quality. My son Brandon (an avid computer game player) gave it a 7.5 out of 10, though some internet game sites gave it as high as 8.5.

Brandon suggests that an excellent game of this type should have high quality action and interaction, graphics, and sound. The story line should be complex and varied, and not just one story line and linear action for all players. The learning curve should be steep enough to be interesting, but not so steep as to cause frustration. In the ideal game, there should not be any errors, loopholes, or glitches. The system requirements should be challenging because of the need for action and color, but not out of reach for those people who don’t have a super expensive gaming machine. The action should be believable and realistic, and should change and increase in complexity over time. Let’s see how Freelancer measures up against these ideals.

Syrius The game is placed in the 30th century, in a location called Syrius where some space colonists had settled 800 years earlier while fleeing wars occurring in another part of the universe. The main cultures that have evolved out of that episode are the Liberty (American origins?) and the Bretonia (British origins?), with some others as secondary in importance.

The game player takes the role of the character of “Edison Trent” (or just “Trent”, as he prefers to be called). The game opens on a station called Freeport 7, where Trent is in the process of closing a deal on some commodities that’s sure to make him filthy rich.

Unfortunately, an unknown entity attacks the station and utterly destroys it. The next thing Trent knows, he’s being whisked off with the only other survivor of the attack. With his ship destroyed and his business deal blown to smithereens, Trent is forced to try to find other work while he waits for his contact to recover. While hanging around the local bar, he runs into a member of the Liberty Security Forces named Jun’ko, who provides him with a business opportunity and a ship. From there, the game whisks us off on a quest to try and find out who destroyed Freeport 7, and this is where our story begins...

There is definitely more than enough here to keep anyone addicted for a long time. There are two kinds of missions in the game; randomly generated and storyline. Storyline missions are obviously essential to advancing through the campaign and discovering more about what’s going on in Sirius (some are also required to gain access to new areas and technologies), but when you aren’t doing those, you can always check the job board in the local bar on any planet for some alternative opportunities. A pool of 300 missions (courier runs, convoy escorts, deep-space reconnaissance, insider trading, bounty hunts, and more) offers a unique experience for every player, every time. You can fly an unlimited number of randomly generated missions, even after you’ve finished the storyline.

The player also struggles continually to know who is a friend and who is not, which political faction to align with and which to avoid. Eventually the shifting political scene gets murky as people disappear, rumors rise about an increasingly powerful criminal group called “The Order”, and government powers begin shifting. You have to be careful who you work for. Your loyalties can determine where you will be able to land, who will talk to you or offer you jobs, and who will attack you as you fly “innocently” through space. Brandon said that “sometimes the odds were so badly against us that I was just trying to run around and stay alive until the next story material popped in. It was pretty exciting, I must say. The story line ended with me and my buddy as national heroes after we prevented an all-out alien takeover. And they had already captured some pretty important people. Oh, and I saved the President!”

Making money along the way is a must. This can be done either byFreeport 7 running missions or by simply buying commodities like fuel or consumer products in one place and selling them at a profit elsewhere.

Characters include ruthless mercenaries, fanatical missionaries, and greedy racketeers – SOME of whom will be friendly to you. The universe fiction isn’t merely a background story: it takes an active role in the game experience.

The graphics are good but not top-of-the-line. The scenes in space are of a much higher quality than the on-ground scenes and the presentation of the characters. There’s a noticeable repetition in the faces that you meet on different stops. Different names, different uniforms, but only 20 or so faces among the lot.

The sound is good, and includes some “cutscenes” or discussions from the storyline that are woven together with genuine player action, which is a helpful element. There’s also a lot of radio interaction in the cockpit (overhearing others talk), which makes it a more realistic experience.

To summarize, the game includes a living universe, dynamic character roles, a compelling story line, and simplicity of control (joystick is not used: only the mouse), and is rated by the experts at somewhere between 7.5 and 8.5 out of 10. The game is available at Amazon.com for about $47 or locally at Sam’s for about $40.


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