Are you ready to strap on your army boots, don the uniform, grab a rifle and some extra ammo and go into a hotly contested area, where you’ll be fighting a 5 v 5 deathmatch alongside a team of real players? Forces of Freedom is the new multiplayer mobile game that puts you exactly in this situation! This third-person military shooter will have you trying to outmaneuver your opposition and help your team survive to the end of each 4-minute match filled with explosive action and cunning tactics.
Bravocompany, the London-based studio developing this game, are looking to (brace yourselves!) create a mobile eSports title, played the world over and in many tournaments, with international pros coming together to compete! I realize how this sounds, and so do they – mobile games have largely been, and still are considered, a casual and relaxing hobby instead of the serious, skill-intensive competition one would expect from an eSports game. Be that as it may, Bravocompany seems to be off to a good start with Forces of Freedom. Even though the game is still in early access and most of its features are locked (only one era of soldiers is available, as well as just one mode of gameplay), there are still more than 2 million organic downloads of the game, and the number is steadily rising. Even the developers themselves are slightly surprised by the game’s rapidly growing success.
Part of the reason behind this seemingly unexplainably fast growth has got to be the developers’ orientation towards a completely free-to-play system and a seriously loose monetization policy – even if you want to, you can’t yet spend money on the game. Sure, there are 2 currencies inside the game, gems and dollars, but if you try to click on these icons to the top of the screen, or if you’d like to visit the shop, you’re reminded the game is still in early access and that these features will be made available once it’s fully launched. So far, the game’s producers would like to offer a complete product and grow their player base without trying to reach inside your pocket and make you pay for any base parts of the game, like the ability to join more matches or anything to that effect. There are no ads, even. Some of the philosophy behind this was borrowed from League of Legends, Florian Stronk, CEO of Bravocompany claims. LoL followed a similar method of maximizing the playability and enjoyability of their product before presuming to ask for any money: even when they did put things up for sale, those were skins and various light bonuses to make the game less grindy (even though it wasn’t very grindy in the first place), and not something that affected gameplay significantly, or made players chant “pay to win” at their enemies upon losing a match.
It would appear Forces of Freedom (even the name of the game seems like a nod towards League of Legends, if you think about it) will follow this same style of monetization, much to the excitement of its players. I’m expecting the shop to be filled with various uniforms, differently styled soldiers, perhaps some custom game sounds or radio messages for the in-game chat, and various paraphernalia.
That’s great, you say, but what about the gameplay? Gameplay makes or breaks multiplayer games, after all, and no type of monetization policy will even make players wince if the game being offered just doesn’t work well and isn’t fun. Well, Forces of Freedom has this going for it as well, as the gameplay is immersive, gripping, and will make you queue up again and again, even if you don’t do well in your previous match (or, maybe, especially then!). Being a mobile shooter, Forces of Freedom already has the odds stacked up against it – shooters have traditionally been most suited to PCs with their keyboard and mouse setups, and even console gamers had a hard time accepting this style of games because of the rigidity of the controls when using a controller. One step further down are mobile shooters, with the same style of controls as a console controller, but with the added negative of the buttons being virtual, touch screen buttons.
Forces of Freedom takes all of these concerns into consideration but manages to create an interface which is fully intuitive and operable. You can click with your left thumb and anchor it, creating a virtual joypad which moves your soldier. On the left side, as well, are the aim and shoot button, as well as the special ability button, which are all fixed. Clicking your right thumb and dragging moves the camera, and to the right you have a button with which you can change your stance – lying prone, crouching or standing.
The controls are very easy to get used to, but sometimes they do tend to feel a bit clunky. Changing between aim and look mode can prove challenging and you can easily miss your window when an enemy trooper quickly runs off in the distance. The movement virtual joypad can sometimes be a bit unresponsive and it’s not that hard to hit another button instead of just walking. To be fair, these could all be due to my personal lack of skills rather than the game’s difficulty, but they are just things I noticed. Other than that, the gameplay is interesting and very rewarding once you get the hang of it – it’s very satisfying when you manage to rush and dismantle that camping sniper, or steady your aim to pop someone’s head off their shoulders from half the map away when playing as a sniper yourself.
So far there are 3 types of soldiers available, and these are the American or Soviet/Russian Rifleman and Sniper, as well as the Chinese Scout. You’re prompted to pick one of these three countries, and then one of the available soldiers, as well as an era of combat. Right now, only the 1960’s are available, but the full game will have all succeeding decades as far as the 2010’s. It will be interesting to see how the game changes with every new era, as well as whether any new soldier types will be added. As for game modes, the currently available one is king of the hill, with a central flag objective up for the taking, but the game mostly plays like a team deathmatch with players more concerned about killing the other team than taking the flag. Both ways grant victory. In the future, we could be seeing a number of different modes, like single deathmatch, capture the flag, zone defense and maybe even battle royale.
So far, Forces of Freedom is proving a rather interesting addition to the world of mobile shooters, and a popular one, at that. There were nearly 2000 players in the game lobby while I was playing, and as many as 100 searching for a match at any given time, so the game seems to be living up to the developers’ expectations. The gameplay is fun, and the quick format proves useful for people that only have a couple of minutes to spare. Will it continue to grow and become the world’s first mobile eSports game? It sounds unlikely, and not because of the game itself, but rather how eSports are currently set up. It remains to be seen, though, and if Forces of Freedom does manage to become the mobile Call of Duty, it will be one hell of a win!