About 30 years after Midwinter Island has been liberated from General Masters' troops, things don't look to bright once again. In fact, the island itself has been swallowed by the sea as a climate change has caused the ice to melt. Its former inhabitants have been relocated to another island (called Agora) and a new state has been formed. In the meantime, however, the evil Saharan Empire has conquered all of the archipelago apart from Agora. It has become clear these freedom-loving people will be their next target.
The usual options of such a situation apply. Your countries military (who really rule the country - so much for 'freedom', I'd call it a police state) has decided not just to sit back and wait, but to undermine the Saharan power base on the other 41 islands before the real invasion will begin. The more islands can be liberated before the Saharan army starts moving the better the chances of defeating it in the end.
Each island represents one mission in game terminology. To break Saharan control over it, there are always a few objectives to fulfil. These range from destroying a building and assassinating a Saharan commander to enlisting the help of key people of the local resistence or stealing important documents. Of course, some missions are harder than others, depending on the strategical importance of the island.
The key difference compared to Midwinter is that you only ever control one single character. This character can be created and heavily customised at the beginning of the game. Other characters still play an important role, but never as true protagonists anymore. Instead, they just have to be convinced to help you - and there are many ways to achieve this (e.g. reasoning, bribing or threatening), not all of which will work on everybody and the effectiveness of which strongly depends on your own character's abilities.
Apart from that restriction, Flames of Freedom basically goes off into the 'more of everything' direction. More characters, more weapons, more vehicles and obviously more islands. Interestingly enough, most of these elements have been embedded into the three-dimensional surroundings, i.e. you can now see the characters standing around in the landscape or the vehicles driving / flying and interact with them in that graphical mode.
All these new features do a wonders for diversity. Whether to fly around with a plane or a zeppelin has obvious implications on your ability to properly defend yourself. On land, there are (amongst others) jeeps, trains, trucks and you're also moving on and under water (and don't expect find peace and quiet just by diving...). The only downside here is that the handling of all these vehicles is pretty much the same - the difference exists mostly on the graphical surface.
Of course, it's still not a perfect simulation of a real world. Some suspension of disbelief is required for some gameplay-related actions. Jumping into a flying helicopter? And how exactly will just convincing the wife of the head of police to join your cause overthrow the whole island government? All of this stays at an acceptable level, though.
On a positive note, one great improvement is the automatic travel mode. On the map, you can plot your route and then (as long as no threat occurs) speed up time as your character moves automatically. So no tediously long journeys in 3D mode anymore - unless you specifically ask for it.
From a technical point of view, there are unfortunately a few complaints to be made. The first and foremost is loading times. The game lacks a regular hard drive installation routine (though these days, there is WHDLoad, of course) and it constantly needs to access the disks in a really disturbing fashion. The other is that the polygonial 3D graphics are a little on the slow and jerky side on standard Amiga models of the time (chances are, of course, you won't have any problems with your current equipment, of course).
Talking about graphics, they haven't improved much since the first part. While the vast emptiness of the icy plains fit perfectly there, it is a little strange in these new tropical surroundings. Similarly, with the number of characters having been increased manyfold, some of them seem a little devoid of personality - faceless stereotypes.
Minor quibbles aside, Flames of Freedom retains Midwinter's main selling point: the freedom to do as you please. That freedom being translated to a truly massive scale with just the right amount of pre-defined structure. Obviously, this is not the right game to get into the series with, though - in spite of the perfect rating, it is definitely not recommended for people who haven't played and mastered Midwinter.
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