Freelancer Review – The Poor Man's MMORPG

Sick of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), with their problems and their subscription fees, I was happy to hear about Freelancer. I downloaded the demo and I was blown away. It reminded me of Earth and Beyond, but Freelancer was better. Not only did I not need a credit card to play, but I actually enjoyed combat. The action in Freelancer reminded me of WWII dog-fights. Skill matters, as you can be attacked from any direction. You also have to aim… a feature most MMORPGs overlook.

Although, the control is somewhat unique. It’s almost entirely mouse driven. Shooting, changing direction, changing speed… it can all be done from the mouse. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with this type of control. While it was new to me, I adapted to it quickly. I was gunning down pirates in my very first flight out… and it felt good!

What’s good about Freelancer is that you’re free to do whatever you want. You can be a pirate, a space cop, a trader, a miner or all of the above. There is an intricate faction system, What you do in the world effects how other characters will react to you. If you’re a pirate, the police will hunt you down. If you’re a trader, pirates will attack you on the trade lanes.

The interaction with Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) is truly epic. They seem to have a life of their own. You can hail friendly ships and they’ll tell you where they’re going. You can even follow them to make sure they get there. When I say “tell you”, I mean that literally. It’s not text on the screen, NPCs actually speak to you. This also adds to combat, as your enemies communicate with you as well. At first they start off acting all arrogant. They’ll even talk trash to you. Once you blast a few holes in their hull, they’ll start crying about not being able to breath.

While combat is a large part of the game, it’s not the only thing . You can do trade runs, or you can mine for valuable materials. Mining is like playing a 3D version of asteroids. When you shoot the little rocks in mining areas, they occasionally drop loot. This is not the most advanced mining system ever invented for a video game, but I do find it rather relaxing. That is until the stupid pirates find me and they ruin my fun.

While I found the single player missions entertaining, it was the Multiplayer that impressed me. Freelancer lets you host your own games – WITH UP TO 128 PLAYERS! Imagine how cool EverQuest, Earth & Beyond or Dark Age of Camelot would be if you could run your own server… with your own rules… and no monthly fees! Now while some may not consider Freelancer a Massively Multiplayer game, 128 people is a lot! The potential to build your own community for your Freelancer buddies is there.

Side Note: I am concerned about one thing. I didn’t see how to directly connect to an Internet server, not without accessing the Freelancer Global Server first. What happens if you can’t access the server list? Does that mean you can’t play Internet games? I don’t know.

Finding a good server is important, as you’ll probably want to play on one that is dedicated 24/7. In multiplayer games, your character is not stored on your hard drive. It’s stored on the server. This cuts down on cheating. It also adds an addiction factor, as there’s always something alluring about having the highest level. Freelancer shows that you don’t need to spend $12.95 a month to experience addicting level-grinding game play.