Why is Freelancer still the best?

I was playing some Everspace 2 and while it sure is pretty and feels pretty good there was something lacking that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’m only 20 hours or so into it but I just felt like it wasn’t quite living up to my memories of Freelancer.

Now I last played Freelancer over 15 years ago so I was sure that I was just seeing this through a heavy mist of nostalgia, so I reinstalled the old game, installed the HD mod and a few other user made tweaks and loaded it up. The opening scenes were definitely nostalgic but once I started to fly missions properly again it became crystal clear, nope Freelancer still kicks the shit out of every other space game I’ve ever played since.

Elite Dangerous, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, Everspace 2, Spacebourne 2, EVE Online, (edit adding more I’ve played here: Chorus, Star Citizen, No Mans Sky) they all have strengths but nothing feels as good as the grand daddy Freelancer.

dorkian-gray, (edited )

Can I offer you some Star Sector (https://fractalsoftworks.com) in these trying times? It's a top-down view with more real-time strategy and RPG to it than first person space sim, but the exploration component is there in spades and scavenging ships to add them to your fleet is pretty fun and satisfying. I've been playing it obsessively the last few weeks.

I didn't know about the secret exploration stuff in Freelancer, I never found wormholes or what have you. Might have to load it back up! Or the FOSS version "LibreLancer", thanks to all who commented so far for mentioning that 😊


"Freelancer 2" C_C

Sordid, (edited )
Sordid avatar

Eh, Starsector is a very different kind of game. And I don't just mean the fact that it's top-down 2D, it's much more of a management game. Freelancer is very aptly named - you're just one guy in one space fighter doing your thing. It's a space shooter first and foremost. If you try to play Starsector that way, you're going to hit an impenetrable wall very quickly. You need a fleet, and the larger your fleet, the less significant your own personal contributions in battle. But the game also limits your ability to command your fleet pretty severely, so the further you progress, the more your agency shrinks to just moving around on the map between combat encounters that mostly play themselves. I can't recommend Starsector to Freelancer fans or, well, anyone at all, to be honest.

skulblaka avatar

Luckily, anyone who might be interested can try it for free and buy it if they like it.



The player ship is by far the most effective ship in combat - trying to go full hands of doesn't work either. It's basically Mount and Blade in space. The end result is you get to take part in large space battles pretty consistently where you're the star.

Sordid, (edited )
Sordid avatar

Kinda but not really. M&B gives you a lot more freedom in how you play, from soloing entire armies as a horse archer to standing back and commanding your army without lifting a finger yourself. Starsector has mechanics specifically designed to make both of those playstyles non-viable (combat readiness, which is effectively a time limit on the battle that prevents you from endlessly kiting, and command points, which limit the number of commands you can give to your ships). The dev has a very specific playstyle in mind, which he enforces rather rigidly. You have to fight and you have to command, but there are hard limits that prevent you from being too effective at either of those roles. If you happen to like the exact balance the dev enforces between the roles, the game's great. If you'd prefer to veer a bit more to one side or the other, too bad, the game's just an endless series of frustrations specifically designed to prevent you from doing that. And you'd better hope you love piloting the slowest and most boring ships in the game (i.e. those with the longest duration of combat readiness), because you need those in your fleet, and leaving them in the hands of the AI means it'll just suicide them straight into the enemy fleet (just like it does smaller ships, but those are easier to replace).


I think for my money the X series of games (X3: Albion Prelude and X4: Foundations) are some of the best singleplayer space empire-building games out there. They've definitely got their faults, but they're highly moddable and people make some overhaul mods that let you have more or less the exact sort of experience you want to have in those games.


Played X4 on launch and didn't get super into it.. Need to go back and see how they've smoothed things out.

Absolutely LOVED the X3 games, spent so much time in Albion Prelude.

I recommend the X series to anyone that mentions they enjoy space sims, oddly very few have ever heard of it.


Definitely check it out, 100% a different game. Especially carrier combat, they've added some special commands that deploy the squads in an area and it works really well.


I don't have the answer to your question, but I 100% agree. The best space shooter campaign game to date. The creator's latest (Chorus) had a FEEL of Freelander, but it felt really shallow, despite ostensibly being more mechanically complex. And the story was decidedly not compelling.

I dunno why no one, even the creator, can recreate the magic. But I guess that's just a testament to how good the magic was.

EnigmaNL avatar

Freelancer just nailed everything. The looks, the sounds, the world, and the story/atmosphere. On top of that it was great fun in multiplayer.

It wasn't very realistic but it didn't need to be. It was fun and easy to play. It also wasn't filled with overly complicated crafting systems or complex economy simulations.

That's one thing I really dislike about many modern games, why do they always need to have a crafting system? Take Elite Dangerous, a game I really love, even that has crafting in the form of Engineering. It's just too much hassle and it takes away the fun for me. It feels like a job.

@CurlyWurlies4All@slrpnk.net avatar

I’ve sunk about 180 hours into Elite Dangerous. I do genuinely enjoy it and the passive MMO stuff. It’s a cool community but for me the space exploration is too much of a sim to really fall in love with, and I hate that the story as much as there is one with the Thargoids etc, is so passive. But it’s so big and ambitious and deep that it’s really impressive. I’m sure I’d give Star Citizen a chance if there was anything to play through but it seems even more empty than Elite.

ivanafterall avatar

I haven't tried it, but SpaceBourne 2 looks pretty promising. The reviews are mostly glowing and the developer seems engaged. I plan to grab it soon.


It was solid, some bugs, but considering its still an alpha it was decent. They are constantly doing updates too, I haven't played it in months and the entire game is different now.

It has dog fighting, ground combat, space stations/player owned stations. faction combat, etc. Think capital ships were recently added to the roadmap too, which is something I find missing in most modern space sims.

Big fan, and it has lots of potential.

Ashtear avatar

Freelancer and Freespace 2 were also peak space sim for me.

Getting about 10 hours in before dropping it, I had two big issues with Everspace 2: experience level progression and immersion.

Once I got to a new system, everything was high level, and in ES2, the level scaling means it's more of a wall than a slaughter. There's also no experience point rubber banding to make it worth your while.

I really enjoyed the story so far, more than Freelancer (not exactly a high bar), but I'm at a point now where I have to grind levels to continue. The above already makes me not want to, and then there are immersion problems on top of that.

In Freelancer, the whole system was loading screen free as long as I wasn't docking. I don't think I realized how big a deal that was until now. The transitions in and out of "jump drive space" in ES2 are a stark reminder that you're flying from node to node, and not cruising through a star system. Other little things when off the main questline like lack of radio chatter, no consequences for looting stations, and low traffic add to the immersion problem.

I'll probably come back to it eventually as it's good enough, but that's only because virtually no one is making this kind of game anymore. It feels like it wouldn't much to surpass this game.


Freelancer just got everything right. First and foremost are the controls. Combat is just so much fun because of it. It might not be the most strategic combat system, it might not be the most realistic, but boy is it fun. It's responsive and immersive, the weapons feel great to shoot and sound amazing. The only other game that came close was Aquanox in this regard.

It's not trying to be too much, most of the game is rather simple but to the point. The UI gives you all the information you need but doesn't overload you.

The progression was spot on. You spent enough time in each area to get familiar with it but you moved on before it had a chance to get boring. Same with your ship progression. You got new ships at a decent rate. The mix between free exploration time and furthering the story was right. The spacing between points of interest was just right, big enough that you could feel the vastness of space but not too wide to spend endless time traveling. Especially the difference between traveling amongst established lines and going "offroad" was right.

Freelancer just focused on what is important and delivered on it. There are a few areas it could have been more. Especially faction diplomacy and economy is an area that in a game released today would feel too shallow. But it didn't matter for Freelancer because it delivered where it matters and that was a fun space shooter game.

Rottcodd avatar

I love the entire game, but there's one part that stands out for me, and that I always look forward to - the flight through the asteroid field with Juni when you first arrive in Kyushu. It's just this beautiful, tranquil interlude in the middle of all the danger and drama.

To me, the thing with the game is that it's just quality all the way through - the story, the characters, the mechanics, the graphics, the controls, the gameplay, the combat, everything.

There are so many places to go and things to see snd so many different ways to approach it. And it's all balanced so well - there's a constant calculation of risk vs. reward.

The only thing I don't really like about it is that there are so many mooks. It gets tedious when I'm trying to explore or trade and some scrubby ships pick a fight that they're absolutely guaranteed to lose. There's no risk and no challenge - all it is is an interruption. But I can put up with it - all the rest of the game makes it worth it.


I enjoyed some of the bugs...like freighters veering off their pathfinding into minefields and spilling their cargo everywhere. And there were wrecks and wormholes to find that made exploration potentially very lucrative.

Rottcodd avatar

One of the things I love about finding wrecks is that you generally don't know what you recover from them until you check your hold. Is it a bunch of mediocre weapons? A couple of awesome weapons? Contraband?

It's generally always worthwhile, but situationally some things are much better than others.


I really liked both Freespace games and also played FSO. 🥰 Too bad there's no FS3. 😭🤧😢

Elite Dangerous has nice graphics and fantastic sound but I find it boring. 😪

X4 is less of a space shooter and more of a economy simulator. 🤑


The X games have always been heavy on the economy sim.. But the scope of the games were insane.. I felt X4 was pretty gimped in that respect, that I couldn't take over the economy, build massive fleets, and take out entire sectors with my massive wave of ships.

I haven't checked out X4 since launch though, things may have improved.

buddwm avatar

I think it comes down to exploration.

What I mean by this is that Freelancer incorporates the ring tunnel system to allow you to quickly travel between points of interest - you can easily go from one planet to another by traveling in these tunnels. What was amazing about this is that at any time you could "leave" the tunnel and go off on your own. It felt like it was something you shouldn't really do, but if you did it, and you went far enough out where there wasn't much civilization, you could encounter stuff like a wormhole by chance and suddenly end up in a completely different solar system.

That exploration is what is missing in Everspace 2 in my opinion. Everything in Everspace 2 boils down to these small areas that you fast travel in-between.

It's like if you took the original Legend of Zelda and just had fast travel between the underground dungeons without the over-world exploration. At least that's how I see it.

@Moneymunkie@beehaw.org avatar

Not only does this apply to trade lanes but with regards to where you could go via jump gates or with jump holes.

You could think of jump gates like a space highway, often placed at the edges of systems connected to the rest of the important spots (or at least the important/civilized/non-criminal locations) in a system with trade lanes. Want to go to another system? You used the jump gates to do so.

This works fine for a good majority of accessing the systems in the game, but once you start getting to the more undeveloped, frontier systems, your ability to travel is also affected, like if you had to drive down a rough, dirt road as opposed to a tarmac highway.

You may have to forgo the use of trade lanes entirely in some places that don’t have them and some systems are not accessible via jump gates either, with you needing to find jump holes instead to reach them. In fact, to get some of the best ships in the game you’d have to access the Outcasts factions home planet which you can only do via said jump holes.

I thought it was really cool how they did that, was an effective little change in gameplay to show the development of a location and made exploring and going off the beaten track super rewarding!


I don't think Everspace 2 is as expansive as Freelancer 2 was; for that time, that was a pretty big game.

E:D more than matches that but I think the problem is that its always-online massively multiplayer angle means that there's just no bones to build a strong single-player narrative and progression.


Freelancer 2

We can only dream of Freelancer 2


Sorry, too many 2s there!

lemmyvore, (edited )

Everspace 1 & 2 are rogue-likes if I’m not mistaken? Which would explain why they aren’t as large as Freelancer, since the game loop is supposed to be much shorter. I think a better comparison for Everspace would be Risk of Rain 2.


I think only Everspace 1 is a rouge-like. I just started playing Everspace 2 a few days ago and they seem to have removed the rogue-like game loop sadly.

lemmyvore, (edited )

Oh they switched genre? That’s good to know. I liked Everspace 1 precisely because it was a rogue. I was considering picking up Everspace 2 during a sale but was not aware it’s different, thanks.


Definitely try the open source version of Freespace (2)

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