Freelancer – Part 9

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The last mission I received in part 8 was to liberate an alien power supply. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the alien structure it’s housed in but it looks a little like a monumental satellite dish when it looms out of the nebula. This structure is supposed to be dead but that would be too simple and it springs into life shielding the entrance just before we arrive.

I have to take down several shield generators dotted around the exterior. The fighters more or less leave me alone while I do this but I do have to cope with turrets on the structure itself. My initial thought is to take these out first but they appear to be invulnerable scuppering that plan. With some trial and error I find there is always a spot where I’m relatively safe to sit still and keep firing.

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Once I’ve destroyed all the generators, the shield drops and I fly through the entrance. It’s not a smooth transition from exterior to interior and clearly loads up like a new level but it’s a minor complaint and I wasn’t expecting to get to fly around inside things in the first place. The ship interior looks great but there is no fighting to be done. I have to negotiate my way through a giant rotating fan trying not to get sliced, then tractor in the power source and fly out through another exit at the back.

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Once out I make a run for the jump point mostly on afterburners and this part of the plan really wasn’t too hard for a suicide mission. The tricky bit is on the other side of the jump where we have to take down swarms of Nomad fighters. Individually these aren’t especially tough as they have no shields but there are loads of them and their alien guns sting. Getting through this battle took numerous attempts.

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When I’ve managed to survive this battle, I can at long last we can find out what the artefact does at The Order’s secret base. It turns out to be a map, which is a little dull after so much build up but it does show the location of the alien’s system of warp gates which speed people over far greater distances than our own jump gates. In turn this reveals how to get to the alien homeworld and the artefact will act as a key for these gates once we get it powered up.

I also learn that the Nomad’s are effectively just caretakers left behind by the long disappeared alien race. During part of the exposition we form a plan to get rid of the Nomad’s by turning on the warp gate system at the alien homeworld, which will somehow take power away from the Nomads and get rid of them. I may have not been paying enough attention when this was explained but this didn’t make any sense to me at the time or now I come to type it in. Maybe the guide will have some answers when I get to reading it.

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The Nomads choose this moment to attack and we all run for our ships. There is always time for shopping however, so I stroll off to the ship dealers who are all but giving away The Order’s standard equipment. I get myself a new ship, guns and everything else that is going cheap. This is the first ship where I can mount a turret which should help keep off some of the cover fighters.

Even with my new ship, this next mission still isn’t easy and I have to take down some Nomad capships more or less single-handed. There is an infinite supply of fighters so the best strategy here appeared to be to thin their number and try to get some capship hits in before the rest were killed off and a new wave spawned.

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After enough kills, I’m called back to base for a final briefing. We have the artefact up and running and are reading to head off to the warp gate. We soon outrun the battle with the Nomads, power up the alien gate and I fly through.

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On the other side I’m greeted with an extremely unusual sight for a space sim of a never-ending plain in front of me. There is an obvious a gate in the middle which I head for but another shield pops up just like on the power cell mission. I have to take out more shield generators in each corner of the square trench surrounding it before I can fly though the gate.

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Once inside we learn that this is in fact a Dyson sphere, and if you don’t know what that is then you’ve watched less Star Trek than I have. Floating in the middle not far away is the complex that powers the alien warp gate system. I head straight for it only to be greeted with yet another shield. The final battle of the game involves taking down 2 of the generators which float around the complex. I didn’t find anywhere safe to sit and shoot for this one and it took several attempts. When I do manage it, I’ve only taken down one generator myself and can only assume my wingmen must have been responsible for the other.

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In the games climactic cutscene, the artefact powers up the gates when I approach and the remaining Nomad fighters are seemingly sucked into the vortex that this creates.

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I return to Manhattan to end the game, where Orillion tells me that this has only bought some time. He offers me the chance to continue to be his eyes and ears in this system, walks off before I can either accept or turn him down, and that ends the story missions. I can continue to take jobs but doing so from Manhattan wouldn’t be the best spot as it’s still offering me nothing but level 1 missions.

It wasn’t the greatest from a storyline point of view but Freelancer’s final missions were strong on spectacle and it was a fitting conclusion to what has been a decent game. I did fly around some unexplored systems after this but there doesn’t appear to be much incentive to carry on playing at this point.

After some misgivings early on, I’ve ended up liking Freelancer a whole lot more than I expected to. The visuals still hold up well, it has a fun plot and once it gets going the combat is relatively intense and compelling. For the money you can pick this up for these days, it’s easily worth the price of admission for these story missions. As an open-universe space sim, it suffers horribly through a lack of variety. There is nothing compelling enough about the gameplay or the universe to make me want to carry on playing this now the story has finished.

Outside of the main plot missions, Freelancer is a game that comes across to some extent as unfinished which can all be explained by its troubled development and the dropping of numerous features in order to get it released. Given all this it still turned out pretty well but the fact is that it’s outshone by Privateer 1 & 2, both of which had more complexity to their gameplay. This should be unforgivable in a game nearly a decade newer but space sims are few and far between and it’s still got enough of the original vision to be worthwhile. It’s easy to see what Robert’s was aiming for and this could have been something very special if development had gone more smoothly and all the initial promise fulfilled. I’d like to think this is where Star Citizen comes in which can do all that and more if it lives up to expectation. We’ll have to wait and see on that one, but right now I’m looking forward to it more than ever having finished this.

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