Commercial RPG Maker games have become exceedingly ubiquitous these days. I’ve played so many of them that it feels like if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all. This is why any RPGM game released nowadays has to stand out both in terms of originality and refinement. Unfortunately, Freedom Cry, the latest offering from Warfare Studios, not only falls flat in both of those areas, but also earns the dubious honor of being one of the WORST games I’ve played since I started writing for RPGFan. Considering that I have a morbid fascination with playing and reviewing bad games (some of which were actually not so bad), this is a very strong statement coming from me.
When I look at Freedom Cry, I see just another RPGM game. Sure there are some original cutscene stills, a decent-looking overworld, and some sprites and tiles that aren’t stock, but the visuals generally don’t transcend their humble and oft-maligned roots. The sprites and tiles that do attempt to transcend their RPG Maker roots are either recycled elements from previous Warfare games or pooled from the free-to-use resources seen in other RPGM games like Lilly and Sasha: Curse of the Immortals or Deadly Sin: Shining Faith. The portrait art, while original, lacks personality, and I found some of it ugly. The font is plain, the interface is stock, and, during battles, the white font color in the status screen fades into the portrait art, making it unreadable. There is also inconsistency in battle environments. For example, I was going through a mine dungeon, but the battle screen showed a cottage in the woods. How did such a major oversight make it into the final product? In a nutshell, Freedom Cry looks cheap and amateurish compared to beautiful and refined RPGM offerings like Rainblood: Town of Death or Sweet Lily Dreams.
The story is a pathetic example of the typical RPG tale about a nondescript kid from the sticks fated to be the salvation of a dying world. I know a lot of RPGs follow this trope, and I’ve enjoyed plenty of them. So why didn’t I enjoy this one? Simple. The characters are thinner than paper dolls, the dialogue has no spark, both the tale itself and the storytelling are boring, and the pacing is dreadfully slow. There are attempts to write dialects for some denizens, but these are overdone and painful to read. It takes a dexterous hand to write dialects, and this is ham-fisted at best. It also doesn’t help that the distribution and usage of dialect is inconsistent. For example, I’d expect everyone in a podunk town cut off from civilization to speak similarly, but only two or three speak in dialect and the other townspeople speak standard English. I also didn’t care for the use of modern day slang (i.e. “epic fail”) and silly pop-culture references in a medieval fantasy game, but that’s something I’ve never particularly cared for in the first place. I felt that the dialects, pop culture references, and sorry attempts at humor were awkwardly shoehorned in. Another thing that struck me as odd is that the protagonist is supposed to be 20 or 21, if I did the math in the beginning sequence correctly, yet she and her similarly-aged companions are treated like children.
There are also a lot of typos in the script that a simple click of the Spell Checker could have caught. The worst offense is seeing many words with transposed letters (i.e. “wrold” instead of “world”) in the intro sequence where the mustard-yellow font is big, bright, and bold. Another glaring instance is on the overworld, where the map says the main town is Gydanhil, but the dialogue box and all the people say Gydandil. There is also an instance in which a mysterious character reveals his name, yet his dialogue boxes still reads, “???” afterward. There are also quite a few grammar and syntax errors throughout the text. I understand that English is not the developer’s first language, and I was forgiving of that for early RPG Maker games. Nowadays, with independent and homebrewed games approaching professional or near-professional quality, I will not put up with a shoddy effort in the editing and proofreading departments. The technical errors littered throughout the text are unacceptable, even by doujin/indie/homebrew standards.
The gameplay isn’t that great either. It’s a Japanese style turn-based RPG in which you select your party members’ classes, purchase their skills, choose the guild your party aligns to, and all that good stuff. Enemies can be seen beforehand, and though most dungeons have fairly low encounter rates, a few have annoyingly high encounter rates. Battles themselves feel longer than usual because characters’ attacks miss often and some enemies have high HP. In addition, although most enemies move slowly so you can step away from them after engaging the “escape” command, some move very quickly and remain in your face, leaving you no margin for escape. Speaking of movement, I would have liked a dash button in the game. Other RPGM games have that option or at least a faster default walking speed, so why not this one? And though most dungeons warp you to the entrance after completion, a few make you hoof it back yourself, which is always a nuisance.
There are also some odd worldbuilding choices that did not quite work for me. For example, early on I had to go to the “Westside” district of town by going EAST of “The Commons.” How counterintuitive is that? In general, I found the town and dungeon layouts disagreeable to me, and I never wanted to spend more than 30 seconds in either environment. I can’t quite put a finger on why I was put off; all I know is that I was put off. I also disliked having no say in how my protagonist’s house was decorated. I merely paid money to some lady and *boom* decorations were done… in her style. When I play a game with the promise of building my headquarters, I want to be able to choose my decor and make home base look the way I want it to, like I did in the Aveyond games.
Besides a few branching pathways in the main quest, there are a lot of sidequests that can influence minor details of the story. For example, if you take Person A’s quest, it could close out Person B’s quest because Person B dislikes Person A. That’s a nice enough mechanic, but the quests themselves are not always smoothly incorporated, while being glitchy besides. For example, one early sidequest tasked me to go to a church to find the shut-in archbishop to ease the final moments of a sick girl. That area was closed off to me. Once that area opened up, I found the church completely empty and with NO hints as to where the archbishop might be. And in the meantime, the quest was somehow magically deleted from my mission log, so even though the people still spoke to me like I was on the job, the game itself stonewalled me. But I’m not done yet. I returned to the church after doing a main plot event and found the archbishop, but he just spouted a generic line. There was no dialogue about the sick girl! So I went to the girl’s house and everything was rewound as if the quest was never initiated, though the townie who first gave me the quest acted like it still was. This kind of slipshod and glitchy event scripting is unacceptable, especially when it’s part of the gameplay’s major selling point.
The glitches don’t stop there, though. There are wall and building glitches where the player, and NPCs, can magically walk through buildings and on roofs like they aren’t even there. This was most annoying in one dungeon with lots of stairs and balconies. I would be on a lower level, but monsters on a higher level balcony were somehow able to touch me and initiate battle. Maybe I’m nitpicking on the glitches; after all, even big name games have them, but I still don’t like seeing them in my finished product. It’s like getting a fly in my soup at a nice restaurant. Call me old fashioned, but I would like games to work properly right out of the box, because I dislike paying for other peoples’ mistakes. On the other hand, I actually kept my fingers crossed for a game-breaking glitch every time I booted up so I wouldn’t have to play this worthless game any more. (And I almost did, about 3 hours in. I got locked into an infinite loop of dialogue but, sadly, I managed to escape it. Too bad.)
Fortunately, the soundtrack is completely original, save for the stock victory theme. Unfortunately, the music is about as interesting as watching paint dry. I have nothing more to say beyond that. A crummy soundtrack does nothing more than add insult to the injury that this game is.
At the end of the day, Freedom Cry is a terrible game. I love indie gaming scenes and championing the little guy, but I’m not going to like everything presented to me, and quite frankly, I absolutely hate Freedom Cry. Although I pride myself on my perseverance with abhorrent games (I saw InuYasha: Secret of the Divine Jewel to the bitter end, for crying out loud!), Freedom Cry not only tested, but bested my patience and tolerance to the point where I threw in the towel prematurely. I had to force myself to slog through the 12 hours I sank into this game. I obviously did not finish the game, I do not care to finish the game, and I will not apologize for saying “to hell with this crap, I quit!” My free time is precious and valuable, so why should I waste it enduring something that makes a root canal seem like fun? That a perseverant gamer like myself tapped out early is a sure sign that a game REALLY sucks, and I am glad to wash my hands clean of it.