Videogame (2002). Irrational Games (IG). Designed by Robb Waters, Ken Levine. Platforms: Mac, Win.
Freedom Force is a Computer Role Playing Game which emphasizes tactical combat, set in the 1962 of Silver Age Superhero Comics. The tone is knowing and self aware; it is not so much a game based on 1960s comics as a game about them. The linear plot (see Interactive Narrative) begins with the alien Mentor fleeing to our world from another dimension. Lord Dominion, ruler of a multitude of Parallel Worlds, has decided that rather than conquer Earth he will bestow the powers of "Energy X" on the worst humans he can find, expecting that mankind will then destroy itself. Mentor, however, has stolen the canisters of Energy X, which are scattered across Patriot City after Lord Dominion destroys Mentor's ship. A variety of individuals, both good and evil, come into contact with the mysterious energy, developing superpowers related to their essential natures and the circumstances in which they were affected. The player must control a growing group of these individuals, first to bring the newly created supervillains under control and then to fight off Lord Dominion himself.
Structurally, the game is split into a series of missions, between which characters' powers can be improved and new abilities chosen. The missions feature a wide range of enemies, from Robots originating in an alternate future to the Great God Pan, whose power transforms women into nymphs. Gameplay is focused on combat between small groups, displayed in a three-dimensional overhead view. The interface design is centred on objects in the environment rather than the heroes' abilities, allowing players to perform such actions as throwing cars and wielding lamp posts. The result is a system which allows a wide range of options in most situations, though the environment remains largely unaffected by players' actions. Freedom Force contains many appealing characters influenced by classic comics archetypes; indirectly participating in their arguments and romantic entanglements is one of the chief pleasures of the game. The final impression is of a loving pastiche of the world of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, similar to Alan Moore's 1963 (1993), but without its air of slightly savage irony.
Related works: Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich (2005 IG, Win) is a sequel, similar in tone and gameplay. The plot traps the heroes from the first game in an alternate 1963 where the Nazis won World War Two (see Hitler Wins). The player must take their characters back in time to the 1940s, where they can team up with Golden Age Superheroes and repair world history (see Time Travel). Part of the story echoes the "Dark Phoenix" sequence from The X-Men, one of the most famous and melodramatic of Silver Age comic book tragedies. Freedom Force (2005) is a six-issue Comic series which retells the story of the first game, written by Eric Dieter and drawn by Tom Scioli. [NT]
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