Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade
As someone who only has a cursory knowledge of Warhammer, I didn’t know what Freeblade was until I looked it up in a wiki. A Freeblade is like a mounted medieval knight who has forsaken their house and wanders freely giving service to others. In the case of Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade, you lost your house when enemy forces attack shortly after you become a knight so you’re effectively adopted by another Space Marines chapter.
At its core, Freeblade is a rail shooter. You don’t control the movement of your knight nor do you even control where the knight is facing. Enemies will pop up and you use your finger to touch and drag your gatling gun whereas a two finger swipe will fire the secondary weapon. Double tapping will fire missiles. As each weapon has a reload or overheat period you have to balance between all three weapons against the multiple targets that show up on your screen. Eventually you’ll get a shield that only applies against the targets you tap on in the game. Melee is a timed challenge where you have to tap based on a countdown timer. Melee ended up being the easiest part of the game unless you’re playing on a bumpy subway or bus.
In the beginning of the game, combat is relatively easy as you’re mostly up against infantry and the odd armoured vehicle. Missions are no more than a few minutes in duration and then you’re shuttled back up to space to reload and refit. You’re effectively pulled off the front line as often as players are in a hockey game. As the campaign progresses, things get progressively more difficult. The Orks will swarm you with tiny buggies and switch it up with heavier weapons and some melee robotically enhanced Orks. There is never a dull moment in the game.
As a free to play game, Freeblade begins bogging down when the usual free to play mechanics show up. After the tutorial, I made great progress in the first handful of missions getting to the point where I was a known VIP to be targeted by the enemy. I felt like the rise of a great war hero on the front lines. At the conclusion of each mission, you salvage ore and weapons that can be used to upgrade yours or mixed together in a forge to produce better items. Thankfully, the developers have some auto-equip and auto-forge buttons that do the thinking for you. However, as the game progresses, you salvage more and more common items that produce weapons that are less effective. When I finally hit my wall, I had to chip in gold that I didn’t have to produce something satisfactory that would allow me to get past the next campaign mission.
The developers of Freeblade obviously planned for this so there are a few ways to increase your chances at getting enough resources and material to proceed: side missions, bonuses from watching video advertisements, salvage runs, and finally spending hard earned money for in game gold and items. Daily and weekly missions are offered outside of the campaign. The hope is that you get through these missions without too much wear and tear so your loot will equip you better for the main campaign. These missions fall outside of the storyline and are typically generic patrols where you kill everything on sight.
You can watch video advertisements at the head of a battle to get more bonuses. For example, a bonus may increase your chances at collecting rare loot. Periodically each real world day, you get to do a salvage run on the planet that will open a crate full of weapons or ore you can use. For me, even the extra missions weren’t allowing me to make a profit in my salvage to get me past the campaign. The video advertisements ended up being more annoying than anything. There’s one advertisement that is thirty seconds long for a patrol mission that could have been no longer than two minutes. The payoff simply wasn’t there and I ended up just waiting for the real world clock to advance so I can try my luck at a new salvage run.
Of course, all of this frustration is mitigated by spending money in the game. From a technical standpoint, Freeblade is impressive. The mechanics of the rail shooter, though simplistic, work well and fit a pick up and play motif. You can play it in short spurts and I can see someone trying to do this on a mobile phone even if I was reviewing on an iPad. It’s worth spending some money, and I found myself wondering what Freeblade would be like as an actual paid product. Tragically named, Freeblade proves the old adage that no iTunes or Google Play app is truly free. You’ll need the starter pack if you want to make serious head way into the campaign.
Reviewed By: Lawrence Wong
Publisher: Pixel Toys
This review is based on a digital copy of Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade for the iPad from the iTunes App Store.