Freedom Wars (フリーダムウォーズ Furīdamuwōzu?) is a Japanese action role-playing video game developed by SCE Japan Studio exclusively for the PlayStation Vita.
Set in the distant future at a time where the majority of humankind is imprisoned in penal city-states known as Panopticons which wage war against one another, the game involves players cooperating together to fight against enemies and contribute towards their Panopticon. The game has proven to be among the most successful first-party PlayStation Vita titles within Japan, having attained the second highest all-time opening sales for Vita software sold there. It was released on June 26, 2014 in Japan, August 7, 2014 in Asia, and October 2014 in North America and Europe.
The game is a third-person battle action game, and features local and online multiplayer functionality, both co-operative and competitive, for up to eight players. The game features a grappling whip called the “thorn” (荊 ibara?) that the player can use to zip across the battlefield and pull giant enemies to the ground. Different classes of thorns also grant various special techniques, such as traps, healing, and shields. Players fight alongside androids known as Accessories which provide combat support during missions; the player gives a set of commands to their Accessory that they execute, which include holding a position, collecting materials, or rescuing civilians.
The game features a system known as the City-State War Mode (都市国家対戦?), where players are separated into 47 Panopticons within the Japanese version of the game, with each representing one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and 50 Panopticons representing select global cities within the Asian and western localised releases. Each Panopticon competes with the others in development, where players set out to seek natural resources and invade other Panopticons. Developed Panopticons have the capability to place other ones under their control, and leaderboards are used to compare each City-State. Within this mode, criminals fight amongst other criminals from rival Panopticons. At the end of each mission, players can choose to give the materials they collect to the Panopticon as a “contribution” which reduces their sentence and adds GPP points to their Panopticon on the leaderboards, or they can keep the material for personal use later on; however, refusal to hand over certain prohibited material will result in the player being penalized with additional years in their sentence. The top few Panopticons with the highest total GPP score are granted special rewards and bonuses during competitive events.
Missions involve players fighting against giant mechanized weapons known as Abductors, and rescuing civilians captured by them. Accessories can be abducted by enemy Abductors once they have fallen, and in such cases the player is required to rescue them. In addition to hunting and rescue type missions, item collection and capture the flag missions also exist. In some missions, players will need to fight off against other teams of fighters from other Panopticons who will compete against the player’s team, and attempt to rescue civilians for their own side. Players collect resources known as abductor parts which fall from enemies, which are used for crafting or contributing to the Panopticon; those who contribute to their Panopticon are rewarded with customisation options for their accessory and player appearance. At the beginning of the game, the player has no rights, and is required to “buy” back their privileges to do certain things using points gained from contributions in the form of entitlement requests, such as lying down or walking more than five steps in their prison cell, customising their appearance, or having access to certain weapons; violating any restrictions results in a penalty of years being added to the player’s sentence. The Japanese and other Asian versions of the game utilise text-to-speech functionality to generate accessory voices triggered during the game which can be customised by the player.
Weapons are categorised into six groups, namely small swords, large swords, spears, personal firearms, multipurpose firearms, and squad support firearms. Hammer-type weapons and longswords also fall within the large sword category, sniper rifles, submachine guns and shotguns are included amongst personal firearms, whilst the squad support and multipurpose firearm categories include weapons such as gatling guns, laser guns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers and net guns. Weapons feature varying degrees of rarity, attributes and perks, and players are able to equip two simultaneously, whilst Accessories are able to equip one. Weapons can be collected off the field, or they can be crafted and enhanced. Consumable items vary from healing items to combat types such as grenades and land mines, and the player can equip boosters which provide in-combat modifiers. Production, modification and strengthening of weapons and consumable items takes up real-world time determined by the Vita’s system clock, gives outcomes that are randomised to some degree, and occurs at the weapons plant, medical supply plant, and auxiliary arms plant; resource accumulation and management is an important aspect of the game.
The game offers a selection of five different control schemes that cater to different players’ suitabilities; the default and dash types are suited to general players of third-person action games, the hunter type is suited to players who prefer the control layout of games such as Monster Hunter and Gods Eater Burst on the PlayStation Portable, which allows the player to control the camera via “finger clawing” the directional pad as an alternative to the right analog stick, the shooter type is suited to players of third-person shooting games who prefer shooting firearms via the shoulder keys, and the technical type allows the player to switch between actions that bind to the right shoulder key. All control schemes are compatible with DualShock 3 andDualShock 4 controllers, for players using a PlayStation Vita TV.
Freedom Wars takes place on Earth, in the year 102014. The world surface lies in ruins and is no longer capable of supporting life. As such, humans live in underground cities called “Panopticons“, where they struggle to research how to be able to live on the surface once more. A Panopticon functions as an artificial nation in the form of a city state that provides security for its inhabitants, in exchange for contributions each inhabitant is obligated to make towards the state. This system forms the overall societal structure of each separate Panopticon, which were created following the disintegration and demise of countries. Due to lack of resources, each Panopticon has developed conflicts with others, and large portions of the populace are forced into serving sentences in order for these cities to maintain effective control. All inhabitants of a Panopticon are constantly watched by the state to ensure they abide by the draconian laws put into place, essentially forming a collective of dystopian surveillance societies at war with one another.
Criminals serving sentences are forced into providing labor for the state, in the form of participation in war as “volunteers”, in order to regain their freedom. Overpopulation has become such an issue that the Panopticons have implemented a drastic measure: anyone arrested for any crime is found guilty, regardless of whether or not they actually are. Based on the philosophy that newborns waste resources, the very existence of a person is a crime; more than 100 million people serve as criminals throughout the world. Criminals are forced to battle giant monsters called “Abductors” as punishment. Defeating the Abductors, which are known to capture civilians, reduces the Criminals’ sentences, which start at 1,000,000 years. Criminals are placed under constant surveillance and have their rights stripped; personal rights can only be gradually regained through labor. Surveillance of criminals occurs in the form of dual-purpose androids known as Accessories, which watch over criminals whilst serving as partners to them during combat.