Freeman: Guerilla Warfare is an unusual game from KK Game Studio, being at once a first-person shooter, role playing and real time strategy game with a modern combat theme. The biggest influences are pretty clearly tactical shooters like Arma, and Mount & Blade. The game was recently released on Steam Early Access and is planned to remain in that form until the end of 2018, adding features and polish throughout that period.
There are two main parts of the game: the strategic map and the tactical map. On the strategic layer you move your party around the region and manage the party, your inventory and your skills. Just like in Mount & Blade movement is handled with the mouse and your party is represented by a single figure with a flag. Most of the time you will either be heading towards towns or other groups also represented with single figures with the appropriate flag; group strength is shown with a number on both these groups and your own. Your party is made up of a number of squads which level up individually and can be upgraded from fresh volunteers up to specialists like MG or sniper teams. In the current version of the game experience is awarded only from kills, to whichever unit gets the kill, including the player.
As experience is accrued by the player points will be accumulated to increase one of the three primary statistics (constitution, dexterity and intelligence), and a number of secondary statistics like leadership, first aid or running. This gives you some agency to select how you want to play, and how much focus you want to put on improving yourself or your troops. In addition to levelling you will also be accumulating progressively better weaponry and equipment for yourself, with your choice of weapon in particular impacting your gameplay pretty significantly as one would expect.
Once you reach an enemy town or group you’ll head into the tactical layer of gameplay, initially being presented with a top-down 3D map of the battle area showing your deployment zone and a circle representing where the enemy are likely to be. Here you can choose which of your units to deploy; the number you can field at a time is determined by your skills and so can be upgraded as you increase your skills. Each unit can then be ordered around individually, selecting where you want them to go and whether you want them to charge in or move slowly. It’s also possible to have units retreat or simply follow you around as well.
After initial unit orders are set pressing the ‘deploy all’ button puts them on the field and starts the game, so you will start to see your units move on the map. It’s possible to play out the engagement purely from the map, ordering your troops around if you so wish. Leaving it all up to your troops though hardly seems fair, and generally results in quite a long battle as the AI shoots at each other with perhaps not quite the same lethality as a player can manage. Pressing ‘m’ will take you out of the tactical map then and into the battle. Pressing ‘m’ again will take you back to it, so you can update orders or bring in reinforcements as you take casualties.
Once on the field the movement and gun-play has a fairly realistic feel, if not to quite the level of Arma. Most engagements are in fairly open terrain with shallow hills and light woodland, so combat is for the most part conducted firing from prone at targets doing the same. As such spotting targets is one of the hardest parts of combat, making zoomed weapon optics extremely valuable. Without an optic this can suck some of the fun out of what is an otherwise pretty well implemented first person shooter experience. The Arma series uses a zoom feature to reduce this effect, which is a result of the inherently reduced visibility of looking at a monitor rather than the real world, and I hope that the developers think about adding a similar feature to Freeman during development.
The biggest problem with the tactical combat though is the AI – both allied and hostile troops seem painfully inaccurate and the enemy needs to be on the whole significantly more aggressive. Once you have acquired some of the better weapons the combat can start to feel like a shooting range, particularly with long rifles. The upside to this is that you can reasonably expect to win battles where you are terribly outnumbered by doing much of the work yourself, as one of the screenshots here shows.
All in all, Freeman: Guerilla Warfare in its current state is a fun if somewhat shallow game, but is rapidly developing from its initial early access release. Already a day/night cycle has been added along with the ability to take prisoners and determine their fate. The developers have stated a number of further features they want to add, like generic missions and more tactical maps, so the future is looking bright for the game and I will certainly be keeping an eye on it going forwards.
[Editor’s Note: Freeman: Guerilla Warfare was provided to us for the preview.]