Anyone for free games? That is the question Freeloader.com have been asking for a while now, and not just the same old and tired shareware games. Perhaps you have heard of GTA and its add-on pack GTA London 1969, or what about Hidden & Dangerous? Okay so they are not brand spanking new but they are good games and are completely free for download. Games that should be hitting the shareware shelves for £10 plus! All paid for buy the ol' advert banner; notice the site is wrapped up in them.
However the latest release from Freeloader is a little more exciting. It comes in the form of Halcyon Sun, a 'what looks like' normal enough combat space fighter. But there is a little twist. Developed by Kuju Entertainment exclusively for Freeloader, it is only for download and again its completely free. The game is not available in the shops at all. That's not all though as Halcyon Sun is a relatively new breed of game, termed as a Episodic Internet Game. This basically means the game has been split up into different episodes released individually over a certain period of time. Here there are twelve episodes split over a twenty four week period. Episode 1 and 2 were released on 3rd November and every second Friday after that the subsequent episode will be made available.
This sort of thing has been done before but Halcyon Sun is perhaps the most advanced effort so far. The game is basically an interactive movie (read: lengthy cut scenes) with a bucket load of characters, history and storyline as well as a web page with additional coverage and content. This story is the usual space sim yarn, where you play as a young hotshot pilot leading a talented crew in the last days of a space war. I won't mention any more as the storyline is really the whole point but in each episode you will learn a little bit more. The overall result is something like a TV soap. Of course this title is not a mega budget type affair and though the cutscene animations and voice acting (there are separate voice packs available to keep the download size smaller) are a little ropey the result was quite impressive. I was expecting a lot lot worse :)
In-between these vids is a pretty safe space combat game. The missions are fairly simple with the usual goals like 'get to the waypoint', 'destroy all the enemy' or 'protect a convoy'. The controls are also pretty easy with a single fire button, keys to cycle through targets and additional keys to fire off decoys or afterburners. It has all been done before and will be done again I'm sure but the truth is, it's all uncomplicated fun. If you have ever played the early Wing Commander games you will be home territory.
One thing that quite surprised me was the quality of the in-game graphics. Again its no big budget title but Halcyon Sun is rather pleasing on the eye. The ships are nicely detailed and the background space environment is filled with stars and colourful Nebulas. Its no Homeworld, but for a game that will hardly raise temperature on your graphics card it is all very impressive.
For a game where the first two episodes weighs in at only 12MB, with an extra 8MB for the voice and completely free I don't really see how I can give it a bad review. Sure the sound effects are a little below par, there is only a few hours of action in these first two episodes and the gameplay is nothing new but the overall experience is a positive one. The storyline is involving and the fighting sequences have a reassuringly arcade-y feel. Jump on over to Freeloader.com and get downloading.