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Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2003). Digital Anvil (DA). Designed by Chris Roberts. Platforms: Win.

Freelancer is a three-dimensional Space Sim which combines the open exploratory gameplay of Elite (1984) with an integrated linear plot (see Interactive Narrative). The player character is Edison Trent, a down on his luck "freelancer" who needs a new ship. Soon the player is involved with a secret alien invasion, searching for a mysterious artefact that can eventually be used to help save humanity. The setting is a Space Opera universe in which different solar systems have been settled by particular nation states from Earth, leading to a range of somewhat stereotyped future cultures. Many different factions inhabit Freelancer's universe, including pirates, corporations and naval forces; the player can decide which to ally with or oppose. While not participating in plot developments, players can choose to mine asteroids, salvage wrecked ships, trade or go on bounty-hunting missions. After the story has concluded, they can continue with these activities, wandering freely through space.

Space itself is very crowded in Freelancer. In contrast to the realistic The X Series (1999), distance and time scales are manipulated to ensure that the player's environment is always interesting and involving. Combat resembles aerial dogfighting, as in Star Wars: X-Wing (1993), with an interface which emphasizes ease of use. While the story lacks a certain degree of credibility and the free-roaming gameplay can become repetitive, Freelancer is an entirely competent example of its form. It has proved popular as a multiplayer game, where many players share a single persistent Online World, trading, fighting and cooperating with each other and with computer controlled characters.

Related works: Starlancer (2000 DA / Warthog, DC, Win) designed by Erin Roberts is a combat-based Space Sim, strongly influenced by the early Wing Commander (1990) games. It is set in a future version of the solar system which has been extensively colonized, during a war which broadly recapitulates the East versus West standoff of the late twentieth century. In Starlancer, however, the war has turned hot, and the player, as a starfighter pilot for the (Western) Alliance, appears to be on the losing side. The linear story is effectively integrated into the player's complexly designed missions. The game also serves as a prequel to Freelancer, whose interstellar colonies are said to have been founded by refugees from the defeated Alliance. [NT]

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