Responsible for Strike Commander, four Wing Commander games and another four spin-off titles (Privateer 2 being the best), Digital Anvil's Chris Roberts has become to space-combat games what John Carmack is to first-person action. Previously at Origin, he more than any other games designer has shaped the genre as it stands today, transforming its cult status image into mass-market acceptance.
With the Wing Commander saga now essentially over, on PC at least, Roberts has begun afresh on not one, but two new space games. The first next spring, is the mission-based Starlancer. The second and far more ambitious game, is Freelancer. Little has been seen or heard of Freelancer, but like most cutting-edge games, little ever is. However, from a couple of brief encounters with early code in darkened rooms earlier in the year, we reckon Freelancer is going to be one of the few must-have games of Y2K, or Y2K+1 if it (inevitably) slips. And now screenshots have started appearing, we can all see why.
Rather than continue the mission-based script set out in Starlancer, Freelancer, as its name suggests is a lot more freeform in nature. Comparisons with Elite and Privateer 2 are obvious, however Freelancer will have a lot more in common with traditional troll-infested RPGs, with skills available to buy, steal or upgrade.
You start, predictably enough, as a fresh-faced mercenary, your economic aims short term and the means to achieve them meagre. By aligning yourself with various clans, or 'Houses', you are given greater scope for opportunity, the cost of which could put you at the top of an enemy's most wanted list. Being one of those 'persistent world' games, war, peace, disease and disaster will all be dynamic - sometimes random - events, dependent not only on your actions but also on those of the hundreds of AI players.
Perhaps more revolutionary is the control method. Entirely mouse-driven, ship maneuvers are depended on a NeuroNet, an on-board set of programs that constitute the RPG side of the game. Graphically too, Freelancer is light years ahead of the competition. The detail and the size of the ships dwarfs anything that is currently available. Highly realistic light-sourcing can cast you into relative darkness the further from a distant sun you travel. It looks great.
As to an accurate release date, we were told in May that Freelancer was 18 months to two years from completion, which considering how amazing it was back then, makes the wait all the more unbearable. Now with screenshots released to tease us, we can only hope it will arrive soon.
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Freelancer Screenshots and Media
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