Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.
Videogame series (from 1998). Volition.
Descent: Freespace – The Great War (1998 Volition, Win, 2001 Amiga, vt Conflict: Freespace – The Great War in Europe) is a combat-based Space Sim in which the player pilots a single-seat starfighter, a descendant of Star Wars: X-Wing (1993) and Wing Commander (1990). Conflict: Freespace was released almost twenty years after the first such game, Star Raiders (1979), and the gameplay is an extremely refined version of the essential mix of real-time tactical choices and first-person dogfights in space. The game is interesting for the air of desperation which pervades its essentially linear story (see Interactive Narrative). It begins with humanity involved in a pointless war with the alien Vasudans. Without warning, both sides are attacked by an unknown enemy, the technologically superior Shivans. The plot then follows the increasingly hopeless attempts of the now allied humans and Vasudans to survive against overwhelming force; in the end, the Shivans are defeated but Earth is lost. Descent: Freespace: Silent Threat (1998 Volition, Win, vt Conflict: Freespace: Silent Threat) is an expansion pack, dealing with the attempt of a rogue human intelligence unit to destabilize the new alliance between humans and Vasudans.
Freespace 2 (1999 Volition, Win) is a sequel, set thirty years after the first game, when a human rebellion and the return of the Shivans confront the alliance with a war on two fronts. Again, the player is on the losing side; this time, the game ends with the Shivans abandoning the war on the brink of victory. Throughout the series the enemy remains unknowable and their motives unexplained, though it is suggested that they have exterminated other species in the past. Aspects of the Freespace universe are reminiscent of Babylon 5 (1993-1998), notably the impressive space battle scenes and the alien races; Vasudans have something in common with Minbari, and Shivans with Shadows. The series ended with Freespace 2 for business reasons, after which Volition released the Freespace 2 software for non-commercial use. An improved version, Freespace Open, is available for public download. [NT]
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