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No, I'm not trying to be a snob about this. This is actually a very honest question. I have played Descent Freespace and thought it was pretty darn good. I keep hearing though, that Freespace 2 is the best that Space Combat has to offer. So, I ask what is it that sets it so high above all the rest? What makes this game so good, that Gamespot has put it on their list of best games of all times?

Again, this is an honest question from someone who is genuinely interested, and has a strong fondness for Space Combat games.
You could always play it to find out. :P

But in seriousness, I won't argue whether or not Freespace 2 is the best space combat game of all time; I'll merely state what I like about it. These are in no particular order:

1. Mission Design - okay so there is no random campaign generator which I love from my flight slims, but the missions are, by and large, very well constructed - intense (with multiple, changing objectives in mission), feasible (always important), and logical (they fit well into the story).

2. Story Elements - Voice acting, writing, atmosphere, and story structure are all very well done. The story is dark and gritty with twists which never feel too gimmicky. Admiral Bosch, Petrarch, and Commander Snipes are all memorable characters. The atmosphere is perfect for a military space sim with a pervading sense of doom and a dash of hope and wonder. The developers tread the line between giving the pilot a nice feeling of importance, but also of being a "cog in the wheel". This goes hand-in-hand with Mission Design and Gameplay elements. Personally I would have gone for more of the cog-in-the-wheel approach with a random campaign generator, but that wasn't the modus operandi for military space sims (and still isn't). I think there was something ineffable about the story, especially with some of its unanswered questions, that keeps it alive with people making mods. Freespace 1 and 2 together told a grand, almost mythic space opera and story of survival against the odds to which a lot of people connected.

3. Gameplay elements - Scale. Much more so than in Freespace 1, you and the rest of your fellow fighters will be scurrying underfoot while behemoths bludgeon each other. It makes for a very intense battlefield. Other than that the gameplay elements are very similar to Freespace 1, except more polished in areas that needed it. The Freespace Open Source engine keeps them up-to-date and polishes them further. The visuals in the FSO engine are really quite spectacular and just beautiful. The open source engine and FRED tools have also kept the game alive with new fan-created mods and an engine that refresh the game and improve its performance on modern systems.

I don't think Freespace 2 brought anything truly unique to the table (that crown goes to Independence War 1 for bringing in Newtonian physics around the same time as FS2), except perhaps the aforementioned sense of scale, but it does everything it does do very, very well. It learned from its predecessors and improved upon them. Now whether or not Freespace 2 was the best of the 90's space sims or of any of the space sims, I'll leave to the judgement of history because it has some pretty tough competition. However, I think that for the reasons stated, Freespace 2 should indeed be held in high regard as a classic of the genre for the quality of its craftsmanship. Most importantly: It's just a lot of fun. :)
Post edited August 01, 2011 by crazy_dave
I have not played Freespace 1, and my experience with space sims is limited, but my answer to your question is that


They're so rich and immersive and detailed. When I play Freespace 2, I am absolutely convinced that I am a talented pilot in the middle of a big space war.

I don't think there's any other factor that's particularly special. The controls are really detailed, but the combat ultimately feels about as deep as Starfox. The difference is that in Freespace 2, you're completely invested in it, because it feels like your mission is hella important.
Post edited August 22, 2011 by fjdgshdkeavd
Things I dig:

* Variable mission outcomes - don't wanna spoil this for you, but the missions are full of surprises!

* Persistent profile - When you've finished a campaign, you can use the same profile to stary another... without emptying your medal cabinet. Hoarders rejoice!

* Satisfying weapons and flight mechanics.

* Capital ship warfare is insanely cool. Those beam weapons! Dodging the gunfire between 2 cap ships is an amazing experience.

* Funky mission briefings, and deep targeting controls. You can assign hotkeys to all the critical units in a battle, so you don't get that 'lost' feeling like in wing commander.

* Nebula missions - space combat never looked so pretty.

The only downside (for me) was the plot - pretty thin, and not very memorable. Just the usual 'theres an evil alien, better kill it' nonsense. But hey, you can ignore it anyway. This is the only thing Wing Commander did better IMO.