By Cheng Kai . February 24, 2014 . 5:33pm
Before you learn how to fully utilize the Ibara whip, Freedom Wars plays quite similarly to other games of its ilk. I was certainly getting a God Eater vibe when I went hands-on with an English demo build of Freedom Wars. In both games you always have access to a melee weapon (a machete, in the demo) as well as a ranged option (sniper rifle).
When you’ve got the melee weapon equipped, square and triangle are your light and heavy attack buttons, respectively. Similar to Dynasty Warriors, the triangle button heavy attack changes depending on how many square button attacks you perform prior to hitting triangle. For instance, after performing four quick slashes with the square button, hitting triangle will activate an attack that looks similar in spirit to Ken’s Shinryuken in Street Fighter.
In the demo, the sniper rifle provided can be fired in a zoom scope mode or in third-person view simply by hold the L button to lock on to an enemy. It did not appear there was any way to tell if the Abductor took more damage if you aimed for its head or other weak spots. You can switch between melee and ranged weapons by hitting up or down on the d-pad. The left and right d-pad buttons let you scroll through your inventory of items — medpacks, magnetic mines, grenades — which you then use by hitting the circle button.
When an Abductor is defeated, it will drop capsule-like items near its unmoving carcass. These capsules are materials you can collect for forging weapons and other equipment, and they can be picked up by hitting the circle button when you’re standing close to the capsule. One time, when I tried picking up loot while running past a downed Abductor, I accidentally used up a medpack instead of picking up my reward. I hope the developers will remap this function to the square or triangle button instead — Monster Hunter players, remind me, did the button used for "carving" overlap with the item use command? Holding down the X button lets you run faster, and tapping it while the left stick is held in a direction performs an evasive roll. Last but not least, the R button allows you to fire the Ibara hookshot at a nearby surface in the environment.
Once the hookshot latches on to something, hitting the R button again will reel yourself in towards that structure, where you’ll stay latched on to (you’ll be able to attack with a ranged or melee weapon while latched on) until you hit the R button a third time to kick off the surface and jump away. While in mid-air during the jump, you can fire off the Ibara hookshot again and the cycle continues. Once mastered, this manoeuvre instantly makes the action feel much speedier.
How so? The Ibara hookshot can pretty much latch on to almost anything in the environment, as long as it’s within range. Not only will you be able to swing from building to next by firing the Ibara hookshot at high-rise structures. Even if there aren’t any such structures, you can actually fire the hookshot at the ground, reel yourself in, jump, and fire the hookshot at the ground again which will allow you to traverse across the terrain faster than running.
The Ibara also changes the way you approach enemies. Prior to discovering all the ways I could use the Ibara hookshot in, for the most part I just ran over to the Abductors and started hacking and slashing away, occasionally hitting the X button to roll away whenever I sensed an attack coming. That did not appear to be a very wise strategy, as I got hit fairly often when the Abductor attacked. The only reason I wasn’t wiped out and killed was because the Abductors featured in this demo are fairly low-level cronies, and did not attack very often.
Some of the Abductors’ attacks simply had too wide an effective range for me to roll away to safety That’s where the Ibara comes in. The Abductors’ attacks — claw swipes, tail sweeps, and stomping around with its feet — were usually aimed at the ground. So if you were to fire the Ibara hookshot at the Abductor’s torso to escape into the skies, then more often than not, you could dodge an incoming attack.
When the Ibara hookshot latches onto an Abductor, apart from hitting the R button to reel yourself in up close, you also have access to a few more attack options. Hitting circle in that state will allow you to restrain the Abductor. What happens is that your character will start tugging on the Ibara and the game will ask you to hit the circle button repeatedly. If you manage to fill up a radial meter while doing so, the Abductor will fall to the ground, allowing your entire team to pounce on it without fear of retaliation. I found disabling the Abductor in this manner was incredibly difficult to pull off. I tapped the circle button repeatedly and as fiercely as I could, but I could never muster more than 1/4th of the radial meter. You’d probably have to seek the co-operation of your entire team to successfully pull this off. As my Player Character was tugging on the Ibara, attempting to bring down the Abductor, my target inched ever closer to me, and eventually hit me with a sweep attack. That’s the risk of attempting to restrain the Abductor; there is no way to dodge or escape incoming strikes.
The more useful attack option to consider, after you’ve fired the hookshot at an enemy, is to hit the triangle button which will reel you in for a quick strike to your target. Unlike the R button command which leaves you latched on to the target sends you flying away using the inertia from the entire manoeuvre. What I found most interesting about this move is that when you lock on to the Abductor beforehand, regardless of which direction your Player Character is actually facing, he or she will always fire the hookshoot at your target. So while locked on, you can hit R to fire the hookshot at an Abductor, then hit triangle to close in for a quick swipe attack, and — as you’re sent flying off into the distance due to the momentum — hit the R button again to instantly turn around and fire the hookshot at the same Abductor who is now behind you
Unfortunately, we did not manage to capture that manoeuvre in our video hands-on. As you could tell, the player on the PS Vita TV is not particularly skilled. Besides, in the first place, in the demo it was never explained that you could pull this off by simply locking on to the enemy and hitting the R and triangle buttons over and over.
But as you might imagine, it looks incredibly cool, and is a heck of a rush to perform. I felt as if I was one of the members of the Scouting Legion in the Attack on Titan anime series. The downside of performing this quick manoeuvre is that you’re ultimately not doing as much damage as you could be doing if you’re simply hacking and slashing away at the Abductor.
Ideally want to do is to use the hookshot to get in close, start hacking-and-slashing on the ground, and switch to the Attack on Titan style neck swipes only when the Abductor is about to attack. This would let you safely deal damage without getting hit. Abductors do have means to attack players in the air as well, which I found out the hard way. When that happened, what I found effective was to — after hitting R and then triangle for a quick swipe attack — switch to my ranged weapon to attack safely from a distance, waiting till the Abductor focuses on assaulting another player, before I closed in on it again by using the hookshot and switching back to my machete.
Freedom Wars for the PlayStation Vita launches in Japan and Asia sometime in summer 2014. A Western release for the title is planned, but not yet announced.