It’s easy to focus on the newest shiny consoles and games, but there’s plenty of merit in old games too! Decade Old Games will look to dig up and polish up some of these gems to see how they’re holding up!
Having just had its 16th birthday, FreeSpace 2 is still one of the stand out titles in the space-sim genre; a genre which has been monstrously under-represented in the past few years with one notable exception. It’s a sequel to the original Descent: FreeSpace and directly continues the story. The reason for reviewing the second game – rather than the first – is that I think it’s far superior, which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the first also.
How was it received at the time?
Commercially, FreeSpace 2 sold poorly and was something of a flop. Despite receiving critical acclaim for the ambition and scope of the project, it never sold well enough to make a further title in the series a viable option. It was particularly praised for the quality of its graphics as well as its well thought out, acted and executed story.
FreeSpace 2 is a fantastic game. First and foremost it’s a space shooter and the mechanics involved in piloting your ship are great. Flying around space feels amazing and this is helped by the fact that the game holds up graphically.
In its natural state, FreeSpace 2 looks fine. For a 16 year old game, it’s quite surprising how good everything actually looks and this is helped by the sense of scale which the game achieves. Some of the capital ships are several kilometres long and flying along them takes longer than you might think. When a full scale battle is raging and there are fighters dueling with bombers while capital ships tear into each other with their main beams, it’s easy to forget the true age of this title. This is helped massively by the support of the FreeSpace community. The source code of the game is readily available and there are a number of mods out there to augment the FreeSpace experience. One of the most popular of these is a big boost to the visuals, which really make the game stand out.
Storyline and gameplay
The pacing of the game is great and you have to be one impatient gamer to get bored with this one. As you progress as as pilot, options will open up to you in terms of your career path; do you want to stay with your current squadron or do you want to accept the offer from the elite squadron who have come to you? (answer: yes). After a few missions, new ships and weapons will start to open up to you and you will be able to select the loadout of your ship based on your own preferences and flying style. You will also be given command options, allowing you to instruct your teammates to completely ignore that cruiser you’re supposed to be protecting and allow it to be completely destroyed (mwahahaha).
FreeSpace 2 has been furnished with a great storyline full of intrigue, suspicion and betrayal. Now allied to their previous foes, the Vasudans, the game starts with humanity still coming to terms and ironing out the problems raised in the first game. The arrival of a formidable foe, however, throws something of a spanner in the works.
While the ending is perhaps a little abrupt, the story has enough twists and turns and variety of missions to put it up there with some of the best you get today. Considering you are always confined to the cockpit and never see the face of another pilot (except on the comm channel), the game does a good job of making sure you care about the cold, heartless, metal machines which you are sharing space with. As well as this the aforementioned community made mods which which extend the story, or pitch in with entirely new ones of their own. It really helps the longevity of the game when you know that.
Where is it now?
Chances were given a small boost in the last couple of years with the news that Interplay have reacquired the IP rights for a packet of peanuts and a half eaten KitKat. It’s interesting, but ultimately unlikely to bear fruit, as – now a very different beast – Interplay haven’t released a game for roughly a million years. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the game did not do well and so a follow up is unlikely. While the idea of a community lead sequel has been kicked about, there is a general agreement that this is unlikely due to the time required and the fact that a consensus on key points like ‘story’ and ‘direction’ would not be reached. Mentioning the idea in one of the numerous FreeSpace forums is in fact likely to get you shouted at and may induce digital nerd rage like you’ve never seen before. Shame.
I want it! Where can I get it?
You should! It’s good.
FreeSpace 2 is, unsurprisingly given its age, very well priced and available at the excellent gog.com for just shy of 10 bucks (that’s about £6.50 in proper money). As with all the games reviewed as part of Decade Old Games, I’m not going to go into minimum specs because, well, you can run it.