Friday, 13 July 2018 18:16

The Free Ones

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Farsky Interactive’s The Free Ones has all the ingredients of a tremendous platforming adventure, but its lackluster polish and omission of key gaming elements makes it difficult to thoroughly enjoy. It’s a grappling escapade that takes you both soaring into and plummeting from dizzying heights, promising a thrilling ride that ultimately doesn’t deliver.


The Free Ones wants to tell a tale of imprisonment and subsequent liberation on an island, carrying you along the journey of escape into the delicious beyond. Play as Theo, the nondescript prisoner of equally non-descript slave mines. While following a bird that managed to make its way to the mines’ interior, Theo stumbles upon a grappling hook — and thus, your quest for freedom begins.

The plot does well on paper, but in execution there’s genuinely little more to say about it. The Free Ones skimps on all of the wonderful little details we’ve come to expect from titles that want to tell a vague story simply. There’s nothing in the world surrounding that helps you understand who Theo is, where he is, or what he’s been doing. You’re forced to rely exclusively on snippets of monologue (and later, dialogue) to know what’s going on, and even then you’ll be silently asked to fill in all of the blanks with your imagination.


Utilizing the grapple to traverse the island and its mines has its moments of glory. Your grapple can lock onto anything made out of wood, and when you jump while grappling you’ll be hurled past that surface a staggering distance away. You also have your standard run, sprint, and jump, but you’ll primarily be hooking yourself from platform to platform. You’re eventually limited to just three hooks before you have to touch a surface again, a mechanic similar to the block-creation in Light Fall.

A neat idea, but one that only works if you willingly suspend your disbelief and forgive the many issues that The Free Ones’ respawns and puzzles have. The grapple and your chasm-swallowing leaps defy all physical logic, and sometimes the solution to progressing makes such little real-world sense that you’ll be stuck until you shrug and give it a go. If you’re lucky, you might even respawn further than where you were originally, or you might be able to accidentally cling to a rocky surface and smash the jump button enough times to clamber your way back up.


The Free Ones severs its lines of credibility further by providing little to no background noises, definable soundtrack, or interactive objects and interesting collectibles. It’s a quiet title, but eerily so — and not in an intentional way. It feels quite empty, and often the next objective isn’t obvious simply because everything looks the same. There is a scroll collectible that you’ll find few and far between puzzling sections, but its purpose is initially unclear and therefore forgettable.

Puzzling sections are often broken by long stretches of sprinting across bridges, possibly so that players can pause and appreciate the scenery laid out before them. While there are some vistas in The Free Ones that are worth drinking in, the vast majority of them are bland and repetitive, making it difficult to want to continue your journey across an expanse that doesn’t capture your attention, neither visually nor intellectually.


At the end of the day, The Free Ones still tastes like an Early Access treat. Farsky Interactive’s indie platformer sits on a trove of interesting ideas, but many of them have yet to be fleshed out or made complex enough to truly capture a platforming gamer’s attention. With more time spent on polish, it’s possible that The Free Ones will one day emerge as glamorous as it intended to be at the first, and become a truly freeing experience.


The Verdict: Flawed

Indie platformer The Free Ones currently struggles with the absence of simply too many game essentials to be forgiven. Its fast-paced grappling action does lend a touch of excitement to its otherwise stagnant gameplay, and its potential, while imprisoned now, could be unleashed with future developer updates.

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Taryn Ziegler

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.


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