Freespace - The Spaceships Go Boom

Freespace - The Spaceships Go Boom

Freespace is a bit lacking in the story department but delivers some of the best battles in the space flight sim genre.

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I also didn't play Freespace or the sequel back in the day. Only much later did I check it out, and while it has a good simulation element, I lose interest 5 or 6 missions into the game. I think the problem for me is that the very first space simulators I played where X-Wing and TIE-Fighter, which are so good at so many different levels, other space sims have always paled in comparison.
On one extreme we had Wing Commander, which had an excellent plot and storytelling, but the simulation element just plain sucked. On the other extreme there are the likes of Freespace, which have a great simulation element, but the rest of the game feels shallow and abandoned. X-Wing and TIE Fighter just got both sides right and then even put the incredibly sophisticated missions on top, and TIE Fighter just went above and beyond by adding the secret objectives and more poweful targeting controls, making it almost the perfect space simulator.

After TIE Fighter, you just can't go back anymore.

Tiamat666:
I also didn't play Freespace or the sequel back in the day. Only much later did I check it out, and while it has a good simulation element, I lose interest 5 or 6 missions into the game. I think the problem for me is that the very first space simulators I played where X-Wing and TIE-Fighter, which are so good at so many different levels, other space sims have always paled in comparison.
On one extreme we had Wing Commander, which had an excellent plot and storytelling, but the simulation element just plain sucked. On the other extreme there are the likes of Freespace, which have a great simulation element, but the rest of the game feels shallow and abandoned. X-Wing and TIE Fighter just got both sides right and then even put the incredibly sophisticated missions on top, and TIE Fighter just went above and beyond by adding the secret objectives and more poweful targeting controls, making it almost the perfect space simulator.

After TIE Fighter, you just can't go back anymore.

I was left feeling much the same way. I loved the actual gameplay in Freespace, but at the end of the day it just felt like I blasting generic aliens for no particular reason. Weighed against waging war with the Kilrathi or duking it out with a squadron of TIEs it just wasn't as good.

Still a lot of fun though!

One minor quibble: it's Vasudan, not Vesudan. One not-so-minor niggle: did you miss the big "Skip Tutorial" button in the tutorial mission briefings? They're not unskippable at all. And while I'd argue that Freespace is actually an example of masterfully done minimalist storytelling, that really comes across better in the sequel. Most of the story unfolds in-game; you just need to stop looking for humans and realize that is this series, the characters are ships. As you noted, this isn't Wing Commander- no characters that feel like people (then again, no dogfighting four Jalkehis in a minefield in a freaking Broadsword, either); but they're there if you look.

Also, if you can, dig out a Force Feedback stick. It really gives you an appropriate sense of scale when a ship is so big that just flying past it makes your joystick rattle.

Really? I felt the missions did a pretty good job of showing how imposing a threat the Shivans were.

Freespace 2 is dated today, but for me it is still the best game for space combat. The battles were so hectic and you really felt like a tiny pawn in a grand battle plan between carriers and dreadnoughts with loads of squadrons running aroumd.

I wish someone would pick up the IP and make it for the new generation.

Recusant:
One minor quibble: it's Vasudan, not Vesudan. One not-so-minor niggle: did you miss the big "Skip Tutorial" button in the tutorial mission briefings? They're not unskippable at all. And while I'd argue that Freespace is actually an example of masterfully done minimalist storytelling, that really comes across better in the sequel. Most of the story unfolds in-game; you just need to stop looking for humans and realize that is this series, the characters are ships. As you noted, this isn't Wing Commander- no characters that feel like people (then again, no dogfighting four Jalkehis in a minefield in a freaking Broadsword, either); but they're there if you look.

Also, if you can, dig out a Force Feedback stick. It really gives you an appropriate sense of scale when a ship is so big that just flying past it makes your joystick rattle.

Thanks for catching the spelling on that. And yes, I apparently completely missed the skip tutorial button. Rather annoyed about that as I hated the tutorials, as you can tell. Will adjust the review when I get a chance this evening.

Recusant:
One not-so-minor niggle: did you miss the big "Skip Tutorial" button in the tutorial mission briefings? They're not unskippable at all.

They're not all that unskippable if you don't know how to play. Also they're quite dull, unlike, say, the TIE Fighter tutorials, which play like actual fun missions.

Tiamat666:
X-Wing and TIE Fighter just got both sides right and then even put the incredibly sophisticated missions on top, and TIE Fighter just went above and beyond by adding the secret objectives and more poweful targeting controls, making it almost the perfect space simulator.

Am I doing something wrong then? Because the TIE Fighter and X-Wing missions left me absolutely dizzy. The game is pretty poor with features that let me assess a situation and know how well a mission is going. No Wingmen status indicator, no escort list, and the game lacks the holy grail of targeting features: target-under-reticule. It's hard to be a good Alpha 1 when Alpha 1 gets hopelessly confused in the middle of every mission.

Kajin:
Really? I felt the missions did a pretty good job of showing how imposing a threat the Shivans were.

Yes there was a fair bit of showing between the initial encounter, cargo scanning sequence, Galatea destruction, Lucy, etc. Problem is, the displays of Shivan power and terror were dispersed by many moments of Shivans sending waves of mooks and giant mooks to be blown up by the silent hero and his array of expendable wingmen. The actual threatening moments and tales of Shivan conquest start to feel very scripted and contrived when you keep blowing up waves and waves of them.

endtherapture:
I wish someone would pick up the IP and make it for the new generation.

If it's any consolidation, we do have FreeSpace Open with some glorious mods and modern enhancements in it.

Alcom1:

Tiamat666:
X-Wing and TIE Fighter just got both sides right and then even put the incredibly sophisticated missions on top, and TIE Fighter just went above and beyond by adding the secret objectives and more poweful targeting controls, making it almost the perfect space simulator.

Am I doing something wrong then? Because the TIE Fighter and X-Wing missions left me absolutely dizzy. The game is pretty poor with features that let me assess a situation and know how well a mission is going. No Wingmen status indicator, no escort list, and the game lacks the holy grail of targeting features: target-under-reticule. It's hard to be a good Alpha 1 when Alpha 1 gets hopelessly confused in the middle of every mission.

Hmm, maybe you are doing something wrong. First you have the map feature, that shows you the positions of all spacecraft. You have a status indicator in your hud, showing you the shields and hull damage (only rough info in X-Wing, detailed status in TIE Fighter). In TIE Fighter you can even bring up the dedicated status info screen which shows you almost everything about a specific craft including its current orders. You have the memory slots to save specific targets, shortcuts for friendly, enemy and mission critical ships (latter only in TIE). And yes, there is also a "target-under-reticule" shortcut. I use it all the time and in my case it is mapped to one of the joystick buttons (really have to play with a joystick!). In TIE you have the super important feature of targeting the spacecraft that is attacking your current target, which I miss in almost all other space sims.

And if all of this isn't enough, you have the in-flight recorder that you can watch afterwards to see what everyone has been doing.

Tiamat666:
really have to play with a joystick!

I never leave home without mine.

Anyways, I'll try TIE Fighter again with all that in mind. Thanks for the advice.

Alcom1:

Kajin:
Really? I felt the missions did a pretty good job of showing how imposing a threat the Shivans were.

Yes there was a fair bit of showing between the initial encounter, cargo scanning sequence, Galatea destruction, Lucy, etc. Problem is, the displays of Shivan power and terror were dispersed by many moments of Shivans sending waves of mooks and giant mooks to be blown up by the silent hero and his array of expendable wingmen. The actual threatening moments and tales of Shivan conquest start to feel very scripted and contrived when you keep blowing up waves and waves of them..

I always figured that was more because they were The Swarm and could afford such staggering losses since they always had expendable reserves to throw at you. Just because you, personally, are doing pretty alright against them doesn't mean everyone else in the Terran-Vasudan Alliance is doing all that hot.

EDIT
Crap, got the quote wrong. Should be fixed, now.

Kajin:
I always figured that was more because they were The Swarm and could afford such staggering losses since they always had expendable reserves to throw at you. Just because you, personally, are doing pretty alright against them doesn't mean everyone else in the Terran-Vasudan Alliance is doing all that hot.

It would have been nice to see more of the Terran-Vasudan alliance not doing so hot. There's lots of tell and little show until Lucy takes center stage and starts breaking things in plain sight.

I agree with the idea of an unstoppable enemy that you can manage to destroy hundreds of being lacklustre. It is a problem with a lot of space sims which constantly tell you that your side is getting wrecked, but you seem to mangle everything that comes your way. Starlancer also had this problem.

I think a good solution to letting the player feel like they were awesome at blowing up ships, while still getting the feeling that you were losing the war would be to have missions where you are swarmed with such a large force that even though you kill ten fighters, you can't complete most of the objectives, and then needing to retreat. At least for the portion of the game where you are on the run of course.

Another way to show this would to successfully complete a mission, have one of your wing-men talk about how strange it was to find such easy targets, and then jump back to a your home base which you find to be blown to shit by the real main force.

Alcom1:

Tiamat666:
really have to play with a joystick!

I never leave home without mine.

Anyways, I'll try TIE Fighter again with all that in mind. Thanks for the advice.

You're welcome rookie. Don't get yourself killed out there.

:)

I see other Freespace geeks already corrected some things in the review so I won't give my fanboy rant on my favorite space sim ever made. Anyway one of favorite things about the game is the scale between the fighters and capital ships, especially the Shivan capital ships with all the giant parts jutting out. It's really cool to have a dog fight right next to a gigantic ship and be weaving around all the ships part trying to fight, maneuver, and not crash.

Freespace has always been my favorite space si, I enjoyed the xwing and tie fighter series, loved WC but for some reason Freespace took the cake. I think it was because of the scale, having capital ships that felt like real capital ships and the gameplay that ensured was like nothing else. I also enjoyed the shivan story but I've also played the sequel which expands apron it alot more, playing FS2 first seems to have helped in the story regard.

Kajin:

Alcom1:

Kajin:
Really? I felt the missions did a pretty good job of showing how imposing a threat the Shivans were.

Yes there was a fair bit of showing between the initial encounter, cargo scanning sequence, Galatea destruction, Lucy, etc. Problem is, the displays of Shivan power and terror were dispersed by many moments of Shivans sending waves of mooks and giant mooks to be blown up by the silent hero and his array of expendable wingmen. The actual threatening moments and tales of Shivan conquest start to feel very scripted and contrived when you keep blowing up waves and waves of them..

I always figured that was more because they were The Swarm and could afford such staggering losses since they always had expendable reserves to throw at you. Just because you, personally, are doing pretty alright against them doesn't mean everyone else in the Terran-Vasudan Alliance is doing all that hot.

That's true of pretty much all video games though. There's this unstoppable Empire/monster/whatever that's steamrolling over everybody that opposes them with hardly a challenge, then the player shows up and starts slaughtering this "invincible" force by the hundreds like it was nothing before long, despite in most cases being no better equipped to face that enemy than anyone else that's ever gone up against them.

In fact, the protagonist being this nigh unbeatable badass while everybody else is criminally incompetent and completely ineffective is really a standard thing in most of fiction.

PSA: If you'd like to play FS1/2 here's some ways to make it look and play better:

1. Download the mod launcher for FS2
2. Get FSPORT for FS1 ported to FS2 engine
3. Get High-res media VPs for high res textures on FS2

Enjoy! You can find all this stuff through Google pretty easily.

Source: Me. I play FSPORT and FS2 once a year every year. My favorite games of all time. ALL TIME.

Silvianoshei:
PSA: If you'd like to play FS1/2 here's some ways to make it look and play better:

1. Download the mod launcher for FS2
2. Get FSPORT for FS1 ported to FS2 engine
3. Get High-res media VPs for high res textures on FS2

Enjoy! You can find all this stuff through Google pretty easily.

Source: Me. I play FSPORT and FS2 once a year every year. My favorite games of all time. ALL TIME.

Just to elaborate on the above for those that don't know, you can get Freespace Source Code Project for Freespace 2 and use its launcher to run the FS1 port. I highly recommend this. Makes the game look like it was released in the last year or so.

 

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