All right, I've griped about the stuff that gave me a hard time. Now I want to call out all the good experiences I had, focusing on gameplay since this is the balance thread (though wanted to note that the technical implementation, narrative, and art direction have been consistently fantastic throughout the entire series).Everything is Permitted
Holy ****. This has got to be one of the tensest missions I've ever flown -- hell, one of the tensest experiences in a game ever
. The tactical options available are fantastic, too. I didn't try all of them, but I found lots of success with a combination. The only issue I had was trying to use a Mjolnir to kill the transport -- I had one fire, but it didn't destroy (or even hit) the transport, and I think another Mjolnir actually took out my hacked one shortly after I powered it up. Then I got splashed because I was confused by the lack of transport destruction and scrambled to take it out myself, but obviously failed
Everything from the very beginning of the mission right to the supercharged action sequence (which only lasts about 10 seconds if you do it right) is a nail-biter beyond belief. I loved sneaking around at Artemis station and checking out things I could hack, and figuring out which transport is your target is an interesting mechanic too. All the decoy traffic chatter is believable, and I like how it's even subtly relevant. All the other ships in the area make the station feel more lifelike, too, like the drydocked Deimos and the transports and stuff.
I really like how the enemy patrols were implemented. They can see you, and if they do, the mission is over... but you get so much more warning and capability to evade than similar missions, like that goddamn scouting mission in Freespace 1 where you fly the Dragon. Ugh, I HATED that! This one takes the same style of gameplay and actually makes it a whole lot of fun instead of a frustrating scan fest where missing a single target = failure. BTW, I loved the reference to that FS1 mission later on in the Dreamscape. Got a huge laugh out of me.
Probably the best part, though, is when you know your target, you've deployed your beacon, and now are just trying to decide -- under extreme pressure -- when to open Pandora's box. Nerves, nerves, nerve, my god. As soon as you fire that EMP missile, it is ON. I end up deploying the transport just a bit before I fire, letting the escort go after the suicide, then close in and hammer the **** out of the transport before activating the sensor scrambler, burning like hell, and jumping. I never tried to power down or attack the AWACS, since I figured those would be suicidal unless you did things REALLY carefully!
Just a fantastic, well-made mission with extremely unconventional (and highly satisfying) gameplay. Solid work.Her Finest Hour
Who hasn't raved about this one? One of the most epic engagements in Freespace by far, and there's a lot of epic battles to choose from. The mission is balls-hard if you are reckless, and yet, still offers enough wiggle room to allow for diverse tactics. Player agency is at its maximum here. Being able to control every aspect of the tactical battlescape is intimidating at first, but immensely satisfying when you start to see your decisions playing out successfully. And I loved the music choice for when you declare the attack. That + watching your artillery frigates pounding away on the damaged-but-still-formidable destroyer is one hell of an experience.
Being able to accept the Carthage's surrender was a welcome surprise, too. As a Freespace player who remembers the Carthage and Dashor mission, and who was moved by the description of Admiral Lopez' care for her crew, I never wanted to destroy it, even though I could see why the character I'm playing might. So it was nice to be able to take that route. I only wish there was more direct reference to the actual choice you made in the following narrative rather than generalized "I did what I had to do, now let's not think about it anymore" stuff, though I can imagine writing tons of branching dialogue is a giant pain in the ass and there was already a lot of good stuff for the Gef colony. Which brings me to...One Future
When I first played BP and WiH, I was playing on Medium. It was hard, but definitely survivable. This was the first mission where I realized, OK, I need to tone things down, because I got my ASS kicked multiple times in a row. I chalk that up to unfamiliarity with the capship battle controls. I fled immediately to the reactor core, took out the colony, and bailed. The haunting debrief made me feel genuinely chilled, so I decided to refly and Do Better(TM). I also had the two Gef cruisers to deal with due to my mercy-weakness in the first Fedayeen mission
Nice touch! I eventually managed to win the "good" way.
On my second run though WiH, I kept the difficulty at Medium, and this time, I was the one who kicked some serious ass, and it was amazing
. Flying that cruiser has to be one of the coolest things I've seen done in this engine. The mission went a lot better the second time around since I'd gotten the hang of targeting, swapping missiles, gliding, and smarter tactical usage of the shield boost / self-repair system. I also didn't have the extra Gef cruisers to contend with since I'd popped off the Gef survivor in Mission 1, knowing what would happen later if I didn't. That definitely made duking it out with the MacDuff a lot less difficult, but still not a cakewalk!
Taking down the fighter wings was an interesting tactical shift, too, after the MacDuff went down. I liked being able to unload on slow bombers with CAPSHIP WEAPONS, which made me feel just immensely powerful in a hilarious kind of way. Though it was still tense clearing a path for the transport, since if you wait too long to deploy it, you're screwed. Fortunately, the enemy fighters and sentry guns seem content to focus on the big bad rather than the marine dropship sneaking in to their base.
Love, love, love this mission. Great music for it, too, as usual.The Great Preservers and Keepers of Hell
FIGHTER-MOUNTED BEAMS AND STUPID-FAST FLAK GUNS. You had me at hello. And then we also get subspace missiles and those flechette things?! God damn, flying Vishnan fighters is satisfying as all hell. Pulping Nahemas in milliseconds is something I never expected to see in Freespace, but here we are!
This mission is no walk in the park, either. If you don't make good use of your wing...things, and take care to nullify warship beams, your Keeper is going down. Bat**** crazy powerful weapons can't be used all over the battlefield all at the same time, so you have to think and act carefully despite the overwhelming firepower and agility you're given. It's a great combination.Universal Truth
This was one hell of an epic firestorm of a battle. Escort missions usually irk me, but the sheer amount of ordnance on display, the high-stakes narrative, the two superjuggernauts slugging it out ahead, and the massive waves of Shivan fighters and bombers made it into the best kind of escort. I didn't have a lot of trouble keeping ships alive, either. There's not a lot of complexity to this mission, but it's a blast to play through. Really makes you feel like you're fighting for something so, so much bigger than yourself.Eyes in the Storm
Can't not mention this one for the sheer novelty of a tower defense mission in Freespace 2, of all things! It was well-executed for what could have been an unplayably buggy mess, too. It's tense at times, but compared to the other missions, felt a bit too easy, and it also seems like the turrets sometimes don't deploy reliably or open fire when you'd expect them to, and I never got the rearm to work. But otherwise, it's a hell of a great experience. The atmospheric setting looks awesome, and the inbound Supernova strike was really terrifying as well.
I only wish you had a few more waves to fight off and there was greater emphasis on the turrets you place. Being able to fly an Uriel was an immensely welcome change of pace, though. Definitely my favorite UEF ship (so far)! I also like how you can swap the Archer out for a UX Accelerator. I tried out some Warhammers last time, but it doesn't seem like they did as much damage as I thought they would. Darts seem more effective. Also, is it just me, or does anyone else think "User Experience
Accelerator" when they see that weapon? Pawns on a Board of Bone and Delenda Est
I really enjoyed these from a gameplay perspective mainly because they introduce the Uriel's utter badassery. Being able to snipe off capital ship turrets at long range is immensely satisfying, and then having the capability to absolutely wreck
any fighters that dare close in with six (!) Rapiers is amazing, not to mention the two Gattlers which are also incredibly satisfying to fire. Having a turret seems almost like overkill on these beasts. And when you use Slammers to annihilate entire wings at long range... holy hell. Raw power.
Overall, the unconventional missions have been the most entertaining so far (i.e. pretty much all of the WiH 2 missions trump WiH 1 and AoA), though there are definitely some great brawlers in the mix with straightforward goals. I hope to see some more AoA-esque major engagements with Shivans in subsequent campaigns, especially using UEF assets. Uriels vs. Ravanas would be pretty interesting, if hilariously easy for the Uriels... unless the Shivans deploy like 10 wings, which certainly seems likely given the numbers seen in AoA. Good stuff. Can't wait to see what crazy Fredding you guys pull off for the final chapters.