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FreeLancer: The Concluded Adventures of Team Rater
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Date: 08/24/04 10:08
Game Type: Starcraft
Labels:Image Heavy(1), Famous Reporter(1), Rare game(1), Gorgeous(1), Great Writing(1), Long(1), Funny(1), Series(1)
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Report Rating: 9.2, # of Ratings: 5, Max: 10, Min: 9
Lifetime Rating for |]agomar: 8.6667
Here we go again!

Part One
Part Two

Hello, and welcome. Before reading the massive report below, please take a while to browse parts one and two if you haven't already. They're listed above for your convenience and, since this is part three, it won't make a whole lot of sense without some background to it.

That said, let's have a little status report before we launch into the action. When we'd left off, the server had just crashed for a very anticlimactic conclusion to Dan's otherwise excellent br. Ironically, I've got that stroke of bad fortune to thank for making this third installment a whole lot more action packed than the first two. Mehdi and I quickly started anew in a far better server brimming with pubbies. Dan isn't around, and, sadly, we won't be seeing him in this br - I guess the allure of StarCraft was too strong for him. In any case, before long we'd accumulated a tidy little fortune - enough to buy our first new ship - and were actually a couple levels higher than we'd been when our earlier server bit the dust. In case you've forgotten, a pilot's level is determined solely by their financial assets - including the accumulated worth of their ship and its equipment. This means that you'll often find freighters of a far higher level than fighters - even though those fighters are vastly more powerful in combat - because money's just a whole lot easier to get when you've got a larger cargo hold. From now on, I'll be explaining the more technical elements of the game in faded italics below paragraphs describing in-game action. Those who've already played Freelancer might be well advised to go ahead and skip those.

Alright, that's enough of an intro for me. In this final installment we'll fall victim to pubbie pirates, bounty hunters and the worst the Freelancer universe has to offer, all while acquiring the best ships and weaponry money can buy - so let's get on with the action!

On with it!

We begin in Magellan, two jumpgates removed from New York and classified as an Independent System - that is, not held by one of the major governments in the game. It's right along the border of Liberty ( the Yanks, if you remember ) and Bretonnian ( British ) space, and about half of it is consumed by a large, hazy cloud of ice rocks. Somewhere in that mess lies a Lane Hacker base carved out of a hulking asteroid, and it's there that we're headed. You see, Lane Hackers are one of a truckload of criminal entities in the game, and they just happen to sell a very, very nice freighter indeed - the Dromedary. By the way, I've included an image of the entire Freelancer galaxy displaying Kusari ( Japanese ), Rheinland ( German ), Brettonian and Liberty spheres of influence, and highlighting the relative location of Magellan with a lens flare.

What's a battlereport without a bigass minimap?

A jumpgate, if you remember, is a large, manmade portal leading to the next starsystem. It's usually surrounded by the system's assortment of police and military elements, so if you're hostile to those you can always use a jumphole - a naturally forming portal often lost far from the inhabited regions of the system you're in.
As you can see, it's a really cool looking ride.
Before long the Lane Hacker base looms up out of the icy void, and I follow Mehdi into its cavernous hold. I quickly purchase the massive freighter and spend some time to equip it properly. The Dromedary is probably the first decent ship we've seen in these BRs. For a freighter, it's an excellent choice - the enormous cargo hold of 275 tons is the largest in the game, and even the ship's armour ( 3600 ) is respectable compared to what we've been flying before. What's more, the vessel can carry up to level 6 weaponry ( level 9 is the maximum purchasable in the game, though you can find level 10's scattered about the galaxy ), making it powerful enough to fend off most attacks by computer-controlled opponents. Of course, the only problem with that is that:

A) This server starts you off neutral with all factions, meaning you won't be attacked unless you attack, yourself.
B) Liberty and Brettonian space are the safest areas of the galaxy.
C) Most pubbie pirates have ships lightyears better than ours.

Ah well. When all's said and done the Dromedary is still a great buy, and we feel a whole lot better about our lot in life when we hurtle out from the Lanehacker base, three engines ablaze. It's time to do a little trading, get a lot of money, and buy a killer ship.

We make one run just fine, hauling boron from Newark station in the New York system to Sheffield in Manchestor, and taking polymers back. Midway through the second we lift off from Sheffield, with 275 tons of polymers a piece - yeah, that's alot. There's a shortcut from Magellan to New York that we decide to take, a jumpgate some distance off the beaten track - well, technically it's in an icefield about 15 clicks from the nearest interplanetary traderoute. The ring-like structure opens up to let us in, and we enter.

A traderoute is a series of rings from one destination to another in the system. If you enter any one of the rings it will take you to the final ring in the route at superluminal speeds, allowing for quick and efficient travel between planets or bases. However, if someone were to shoot a ring enough times, the traderoute is disrupted and you can't go through. It's a popular tactic for pirates ambushing freighters, for example, or to bar a fleeing foe's escape.

Mehdi and I travel through hyperspace for a few seconds before emerging in the badlands in the New York system, about eight kilometers from the Ithaca Research Station and the traderoute to Newark. Of course, there's a little problem. Another player, by the name of (Cobra)Night_Creeper, is lurking about the jumpgate - and he's got one of the best ships in the game. This wouldn't be such a big deal, normally, but then he's also a selfstyled pirate. Yeah - make that a big problem.

I make my way out of the jumpgate, calm and somewhat jovial, giving him a polite little "hey there." He responds in turn, and then promptly opens fire. For a split second I'm not quite sure what's going on, but then the second crimson shot tears through my ship, which decides it's had enough and explodes in a massive ball of fire. I'm dumbfounded, and look at the screen in shock. Mehdi, however, doesn't have that luxury. Creeper whirls about and sets his sights on my partner, but he's well ahead of the game. Hurtling through the asteroid-choked badlands of the New York sector at 300 meters a second in cruise mode is tricky business, but Mehdi manages to pull it off. Cobra's right behind him, however, and hitting even a single rock would mean falling right into the pirate's lap. There's only 4 kilometers left to the traderoute's first ring . . . then 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Mehdi slows down, his enemy not far behind. Slowly, his massive freighter eases in through the ring, and he's through!

We've described cruise mode twice in the previous reports, so why not try again? You can activate it at any time, though it takes your engines a while to energize, during which you're a sitting duck, dead in space, without so much as the ability to fire. When it's engaged at last, however, you can hurtle through space at 300 meters a second, a whole lot faster than your normal maximum of 80, and still substantially quicker than the afterburner's speed of 200. However, a cruise disrupter missile, fired at the right time, can, well, disrupt the charging process and foil your retreat.

Of course, there's still me. By this point I'm heading through the Magellan system again, while Mehdi's docking at Newark, having decisively shaken off his pursuer. I wait a while for my partner to check around to see if Cobra's still there, then realize that I better enter sooner rather than later, in case he's heading back from the chase. I go through and . . . there's nobody there. Whew. I meet up with Mehdi seconds later and enter formation with him. Before long we're heading through the traderoute to New York, yet simultaneously we realize from the player list that he's still in the same system . . . .

He's waiting around Newark. It's a close call, but we manage to avoid him again and dock at the station. I sell the cargo and atone for my earlier destruction, releasing a sigh of relief.

The player list is available in the chat window. It's just a list of all players on the server and the systems they're in.

Best moment I've had playing a videogame this year!

I probably released it a little soon. We wait a little while before taking off again, laden with Boron and hoping our assailant has left to find easier prey. Not surprisingly, considering a Dutchman's luck ( I mean, the whole thing with Belgium separating is just pure misfortune, if you ask me ) he's hovering about 300 meters away. Ready . . . set . . . GO!

He's after me first, but I'm not about to be taken in again. "Dago..." he begins, but I've just bought a new afterburner and am about 800 meters distant by now. When the gap stretches to 1k, he swears and mutters "ugh forget it."

Yeah, take that, bastard. I enter the traderoute and laugh a bit, gloating to Mehdi. There's no response. I say something else but, still no response. With a gulp I peer about my ship - still no sign of my partner. Suddenly, I hear Creeper say "nei" - Mehdi's AKA on the server. Turns out the pirating pubbie had fired on the trade ring, disrupting it just before our hero could enter. A single warning shot from one of the pirate's guns and Mehdi was forced to turn over half of his precious boron load. After the sinister transaction takes place he continues on his way with a little whimper, and soon enough we're on our way to Magellan once again. We definitely need a better ship, and fast!

The only people more unlucky than the Dutch? Try Iranian midgets.

On the trip back a little while later, the New York system is a mess. As we approach Newark we catch a glimpse of Zaxxon, a level 43 player with a very nice fighter, getting ready to duel our tormentor. Apparently Creeper's bit off more than he can swallow. The dogfight begins just as we enter range - needless to say, with so many searing energy beams sizzling all around our ships we're in quite the hurry to get out of there. Luckily, however, the whole thing's over very quickly - Zaxxon's shields dropped a smidgen, but Creeper's craft is a smoldering husk. I smirk, glad that justice was served, and pull into the Newark docking port. Both Mehdi and I have an enormous sum of money by now, and we agree that we should ditch our Dromedaries as fast as we possibly can.

How about that Diffuse Glow - can't get that with imagoweb!

We've each amassed some 450,000 credits by now - a tidy sum by any account. We're not exactly sure what it can get us, really, but we do know we'll soon be flying around in vessels a whole lot better than dromedaries. Of course, the question is where to go to get our fighters, which ones offer the best value for the money, and, well, if we can even make it there without being blown to pieces.

The plan is to go to Rheinland. I think I've already discussed this in my first report, but Rheinland's ships are the best you can buy from the major houses. Pirate and Independent systems sell the best fighters, but they're almost as dangerous as hell, and a whole lot harder to get to. In any case, we fly our way through the outskirts of Liberty space without incident, besides a couple players in freighters wishing us safe journey. Mehdi claims he knows of a great vessel - the Hammerhead - that he's seen a long time ago in singleplayer. He's got no clue where to find it though, so I guess that doesn't help us much. We enter New Berlin slightly thereafter.

Sadly, they don't have exactly what we're looking for right now. They do sell a few very nice vessels, however. We skim over the statistics greedily, like nerd in an Electronics Boutique store. We could buy the Humpback, for example, the most powerful freighter in the game by far, with 250 tons of cargo space, or the Banshee, perhaps the most mobile ship in the galaxy ( along with the Kusari Drake ) and Freelancer's best light fighter. Then there's the Valkyrie, the Rheinland heavy fighter. It looks gorgeous, holds 50 tons of cargo, has 5800 armour and wields up to level eight weaponry.

omg so easy to make round images now!
Nah. The valk costs only 200k, and, as Mehdi reminds me, we can afford to be very picky with the money we have. With some regret we press further South to where we suspect the pirate systems lurk, cautiously looking for pirate bases as the systems get darker and more dangerous. Eventually we end up at Omega-7, and you know it's got to be ominous when there's a Greek code name attached to it. Lost in the middle of an orange nebula, this is one gloomy place, and the ships we manage to scan are very, very tough. In the end we find a bounty hunter base, and slide in to dock.

They have the Hammerhead! It costs a ton - over 400k - so we'll be poor again soon. I smile and, with a final, deft touch of the mouse, purchase my new ship. Finally, for the first time since you've started reading about Freelancer we have a ship that can compete. The Hammerhead is a very heavy fighter, meaning it's got 70 tons for cargo - about as much as the Rhino freighter featured in the previous reports. Its 7900 armour is just . . . well . . . lovable, really, and it can carry up to level nine weaponry, which is just fine for now, but sadly inadequate when facing the toughest pubbies we'll encounter. Ah well. With kickass looks and the best specs our money can buy, this looks like a ship we'll have for a long time. Hence the gratuitous "omg I got a Hammerhead" image.

And you gotta love the name too.

Alright, it's that time again - let's have a quick status report before we head off to our next objective. We both have nice ships now, but what's needed to round off the package is some good weaponry - we're talking level 8 and 9. We ask some guy I met a couple days ago - who goes by the name of Casca - where to find guns of such a caliber, since we'd certainly rather find than buy. We meet up with him in Rheinland space, but he's suddenly got to go and can't show us where to travel. He does, however, bid us to find Omega-5, far into the South and well past Omega-7 ( where we'd just bought our Hammerheads ). Mehdi and I discuss this for a while, and in the end agree to try our luck there. Apparently there's a couple wrecks in the area loaded with decent weaponry, though there's some risk involved in obtaining it. Whatever. With resolate hearts we turn about and head back into the unknown.

Wrecks are derelict ships that float about in set places. Usually, the more dangerous and wayward the system, the better the weaponry held in those wrecks. Experienced players usually go from wreck to wreck in search of the best level 10 weaponry, since they're restocked whenever the server resets. Obviously, however, we're still not that experienced!

See that enormous orange nebula? It's there that we're headed.

The trip to Omega-5 is pretty standard - let's just say thank goodness that we're neutral with the pirate groups of the game right now. We stumble past a Corsair Centurion on our way South, and are quickly cowed by its impressive statistics. 9200 armour and a bit more maneuverability than our Hammerheads can muster - yeah, I'll take that any day. Either way, we enter the target system shortly thereafter, and quickly identify the wrecks Casca described. Engaging our cruise engines we power our way over as the game allows you to. Come to think of it, now would be a good time to start the second part of this long, long report!

The Corsairs are probably the most nefarious pirate group out there, with the possible exception of the outcasts, and certainly the most powerful. Their ships are among the best in the game, which is good for them, since their home systems are incredibly dangerous, packed with hoardes of bounty hunters, red hessians ( another pirate group hostile to the corsairs ) and the 'sairs themselves in their deadly fighters. No matter what your allegiances are in the game, there's lots of enemies out to kill you in the omega systems.

smooth metal baby, oh man photoshop is fun.

We've been traveling a good distance when I start to notice a couple cool looking crystals shimmering into view. They're still a long ways distant, but they sure do look nice, even from here. A couple more pop up, and still more - before long there's a veritable hoarde bearing down on us. We thunder closer, still impressed by the spectacle, and in seconds we're among them. Um . . . why did one just explode some hundred meters away? There goes another - that's weird - wait . . . .

Yeah, they're mines. A couple monstrous explosions later, and we're both very, very dead. Since Praetor will probably be reading this I won't swear too much, but just imagine a flurry of random expletives here please. Thanks.

Does anyone else remember praetor handing something a 7 for cursing? ;)

The next time around we're a little more cautious. Mehdi scouts out well ahead of me, and I follow sheepishly on afterburners. He manages to blaze a trail around the mines with me about 6k distant. Eventually he happens across what he describes as a "giant asteroid" - lo and behold, it's a frontier corsair base by the name of Cadiz. Since we're still a little squeamish about trying our luck with the mines again we decide to see if this base has the level nine weaponry we're hoping for. I think the next image describes the result rather nicely!

You gotta love that big skull on the opening porthole

We head towards the South some more, and, after passing a neutron star pulsing with radiation in Omega-41, find ourselves in Omicron Gamma, home system of the Corsairs. It's a dangerous, creepy place, but there's a hoarde of excellent weaponry awaiting us on the capital planet, Crete. The only problem ( yes, there's always a problem ) is that we have to be friendlier with the corsairs before they allow us to purchase some of their finer equipment. In short: we've got to kill bounty hunters, house police, house militaries, legitimate businesses and basically just about anyone else on the traditional "good" side of the spectrum. Or, we can do a whole lot of missions for the Corsairs - or hack our reputations, for that matter. Mehdi describes it very nicely indeed.

son_of_a_gun almost ruined this screenshot. Another reason for gun control.

There's a number of ways to improve your reputation in Freelancer, which I'll describe in some more detail here. You can target the ships of the factions the group you want to get friendlier with is hostile to, for instance. In the case of the corsairs, they're hostile to literally everyone, so that's easy to do. You can also take missions ( found in the Bar location on any base or planet ), which pay you a decent price for success and quite dramatically improve your reputation with the party who you do them for. Finally, you can hack your rep by talking to an NPC, usually found at one of the bases of the faction you're cozying up to. Depending on how friendly you already are with your target group, the price will either be higher or lower.

We decide on a mixture of both. We'll do a couple missions ( like we did in the first report ), and then hack our reputations when we're friendly enough with the corsairs for the price to be lower. Of course the missions at Crete are insanely difficult - by comparison, the tasks we performed in the first report were level 1 and 2, and right now we're getting ready to do a level 35. Naturally, the reward is a whole lot higher too - around 94k, thank you very much - so it's usually worth the risk.

Mehdi selects the mission and we meet up in orbit. Turns out we've got a swarm of bounty hunters to kill - in Hammerheads, too, for good measure - and an installation to vanquish. This should be tricky. We hurtle off into the sickly green Nebula surrounding Crete and find our quarry soon enough. The battle is intense, but a couple Corsair fighters show up and help us out in a big way. The installation goes down in seconds with a very satisfying eruption, and the bounty hunter ships follow after a winding, twirling dogfight that utterly exhausts me. Ah well - we're a couple pennies richer, and alot friendlier with the 'Sairs. After all's said and done I scan the ships that helped us, and once again find myself amazed by its size and power. These are Titans - the most heavily armoured vessels you can buy, with a whopping 12,800 units of protection surrounding their hulls. Yikes.

I cannot believe we're only on the tenth image or so!

Mehdi logs off for a while now, and when I enter the server the next day he's still not there. To give you some idea of how much time has passed, we're now a whopping ten hours or so into the game.

In any case, I'm now rich enough to hack my reputation with the Corsairs and buy a couple decent energy weapons, which I quickly do. Feeling very smug and sure of myself I zip through Crete's atmosphere and exit its orbit. As I rocket out of the Omicron Gamma system to explore around some more I get a curious message from a pubbie in the same system. Turns out he wants to duel. At first I decline, fearing he must have a much better ship than me, but he declares he's only got a Banshee. Well - I'm still dubious, I must admit. In the end he promises to help me pirate from some more pubbies up North, which sounds profitable enough for me to delay myself with another dogfight.

The Banshee roars into range and before long my opponent - going by the rather racist name of BlackArrow - lists the regulations. You'll find less in a NR 50 No Fyer BGH compstomp, but, hell, what does it matter - I agree to them. Turns out I'm not even allowed to use my shield batteries and nanobots ( which he refers to as regens ) - that's unfortunate, since I've just stocked up on them. We start at 2k apart and then . . . we're off!

I rocket towards him, afterburners ablaze, firing as soon as I enter range. He loses some shielding, but so do I ( though less than him ). Before long I'm on his tail, whirling about to get in a couple shots as the bleak, brown planet Crete loomed above us. Pretty soon it's obvious I'm winning. His shields are gone, and his armour's at 60%. With a smile I arc about for the kill - only to find his armour a bit higher. Must have been my eyes. It doesn't take long before we're in the same situation, once again with the same result. The third time, however, I smash his armour down to 40%, and he scampers off before my withering barrage of fire. With a couple deft twists he somehow contorts his ship to hover under Crete's docking ring - the structure you enter to "dock" with the planet and pass down towards its surface. I sure as hell have never seen that done before, and for some reason it feels like a violation of the rules. He waits a couple minutes as I try to find a way to fire at him but not the docking ring, which would surely trigger a hostile response on the part of the Corsairs. This happens a few more times, with me becoming increasingly agitated. Eventually I just line him up in front of me as he turns about to face me. We're both exchanging fire, and my weaponry is vastly superior on paper - so why am I the only one losing shields?

Turns out, my energy cannons don't work at close range. Go figure. My armour's down to about 20% before I desperately attempt to flee. He hits me a couple times as I retreat, knocking off a wing. Seconds later my ship explodes, respawning me back on Crete's surface. We exchange GG's, though I'm a little bitter and suspect he cheated. Ah well. As we swerve off to pirate together, however, he disconnects, and I'm back by myself.

I bet he had his maphack on

kinda like a wraith peeking up at a Battlecruiser, isn't it?
Anyway, partner or no partner I'm tired of hanging around a gloomy system like Omicron Gamma for over a day now. I set out through Brettonia with renewed fervor, and make it up to Magellan surprisingly quickly, thanks to a jumphole I discover in Omega-5 that leads straight to the Cambridge system, but a stone's throw from New London and pretty darn close to Liberty space. In the ice clouds of Magellan I lie in wait for a massive transport to pass me by, preferably laden with the sort of lucrative goods that'd make a killing in the New York system. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, by firing on transports I make the companies that own them increasingly hostile, thereby bettering my reputation with the Corsairs and the other criminal organizations of the game.

Before long a medium sized transport barrels by me, and I quickly match speeds while scanning its cargo hold. Hah - it's carrying luxury goods. Without a second thought I inch closer to the cargo holds latch on to its cavernous belly, and open fire. All hell breaks loose soon enough, as the leviathan's escorts quickly open fire. With this Hammerhead, however, I'm well equipped to deal with any computer-controlled enemy I'm likely to meet in the Brettonian or Liberty space. Minutes later the transport is a burning ruin and its escorts are scattered dust among the icy rocks. I engage by tractor beam and head to the closest base to sell my captured goods, before travelling to the Megellan to Manchester jumpgate in search of even more valuable loot.

I burst out of the last trade ring before the jumpgate a couple minutes later, only to find two pubbies racing towards me. I think about scampering back through the ring as fast as my engines can take me, but take the time to scan their ships first.

Well, well, well. What have we here? Two dromedaries headed my way. I feel a sudden rush of power, the kind Saddam Hussein probably felt when ordering around random lackeys. Luckily I didn't feel the accompanying urge to grow an ugly, bushy beard and wear military fatigues at odd hours of the night. I swerved around behind my probably nervous prey, and took the liberty of firing at the tradering they were about to enter. After a couple shots, just as the lead ship ( piloted by [RNC]-Dark_Star ) prepared to slip through. They were dead in the water, they were in my sights - they were mine.

I greeted them politely before asking for a measly 70 tons of the light arms they were carrying. As the next collage will tell you, they got a little flippant for my tastes, and promptly refused. Oh, that's just . . . too bad. With a couple quick blows I smashed through the armour of the lead Dromedary and blew it to a thousand pieces. I fired off a new Firestalker missile at the second ( a level nine weapon capable of tremendous damage ), yet a dodged it so artfully that I decided to give him a chance. Saying he was lucky I let him live I left [RNC]-Recruiter/Cargo ( what a nice name ) alone, and rolled back to dock with the jumpgate after collecting my loot and laughing a bit. Yup, this pirate life was the life for me!

Don't do that my ass, bahaha

I rubbed my hands as I tumbled through hyperspace and made my way to the New York system, still chuckling at what I'd just done. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be smiling for long. As you've probably noticed by now, these pubbies were both in a clan - in their case, a rather large and nasty clan as far as the Oregon server is concerned. Before long some level 41 guy ( I was around level 20 ) was speeding from system to system towards me, demanding that I pay a 300k bounty or die. That being an enormous sum - and me having preciously little - I declined and logged off for a while.

She kept talking about smoking her bong, too. Shoulda killed her....
When I got on later that night things were more relaxed, though Mehdi was still nowhere to be found. I did, however, meet up with some weird woman who termed herself "LadyLick" and did nothing else in the game than perform profitable trading runs from system to system. Sounds, um, a little unbalanced, I guess you could say. On the other hand, she agreed to hire me as an escort for her newest traderun. With 70 cargo space, plus her paying me for my services I'd soon amass quite a load of money. We met at the Rochester pirate base in the New York system and, with a quick charge of the motors, sped off as fast as our cruise engines could take us.

Unfortunately, the little matter of me brutalizing those two Dromedaries didn't escape old clan RNC that easily. I had the suspicion someone was following me long before I got to the California jumpgate, and even more so when a guy called InFlames barked "like to fire at freighters, eh?" just as I entering the tradelane from Westpoint Naval Academy to the jumpgate. Brushing it off as a pubbie talking to another pubbie, I kept on going. That is until the first shots blew through my shields while I was locked into docking mode with the gate. Um . . . might have made a little mistake trying to pirate before I was powerful enough to do so. Moments later my armour was gone and I died, again, with a very big bang!

There I was - respawned at Rochester, with LadyLick now off into California and InFlames calmly stating there was a price on my head of 123,000 credits. Well, I guess waiting had brought it down a bit. If you want a better idea of the geography of the New York system and where all this is taking place, go ahead and click here - it'll bring up a map showing a bright lens flare where I was killed, and a dimmer one near the Rochester station.

Needless to say, I wasn't too willing to pay off the massive sum. I waited a while inside the base, mocking my assailant while he hunted the system for my ship. Eventually his threats and stupidity get at everyone's nerves, and a kindly level 40 chap by the name of Smith ( yes, the guy from the Matrix ) casually blows him to smithereens as they orbit Planet Manhattan.

yeah, that was gay.

Sadly, about fifteen minutes later ( yep, it took him that long to struggle his way up through Rheinland space, where he respawned, back to the New York system ) InFlames is back and his demands haven't changed. However, I've been doing a couple runs with LadyLick in the meantime and now have more than enough money to keep him appeased. The transaction is grudgingly made, on my part, and I mutter some noxious words about wannabe bounty hunters under my breath. Mehdi now logs on, and Flames expresses his desire to do a couple more runs with us, so together the four of us smuggle drugs from the Cortez system through a myriad of police checkpoints and eventually to planet Manhattan itself. We're quite the ominous sight as we bear down upon the hapless pubbies in our path, and more than one logs off nervously at our approach!

Many thanks to microsoft for not having their 'turret mode' text screw up a screenshot for once.

Well, it doesn't take all that long before I have a really ridiculous amount of money in my wallet - we're talking somewhere on the order of 700,000 credits. In case you're wondering, yes, you can buy almost any ship in the game for that much, and I've got my eyes set on a Sabre - one of the most powerful fighters out there, with great looks to boot. Mehdi still has a ways to go before he can afford a truly elite vessel, so I bid him farewell and begin the long journey back to Dresden, and isolated Rheinland system to the extreme Southeast of the galactic map.
so many pirate bases are made out of asteroids you'd think they'd be endangered or something.
System after system and more than a few pubbies pass me by on my epic voyage, yet in the end I find myself in the really, really noxious place they call Dresden. That orange nebula is really thick here, and there's even a couple patches so dense sensor readings are limited to a single kilometer. Not to mention the intense radiation fields that dot my path. Add to that the fact that I've got to find Vogtlund base - a hidden pirate station carved out of another asteroid - and my task is a difficult one indeed. After about fifteen minutes of searching, and a hell of alot of hull damage, I manage to find my goal with a yelp of delight. Clouds of sulfurous orange gas waft past my Hammerhead as I ease its bulk through a docking port for the last time.

And there it is, folks - the Sabre. With 10,800 armour, the ability to use level 10 weaponry and shielding ( both maximums ), 70 tons of cargo space, decent maneuverability and a forward facing turret this fighter is just about the best there is. As you can see, it also boasts a menacing profile, which, to a Dutchman, is about as important as performance. Finally - finally! - I've got a ship that can compete with anything else out there, period . . . once I get it properly equipped, of course!

Most fighters have rear-facing turrets, meaning they can only bring a maximum of six weapons to bear on a target directly in front of them. The Sabre, however, can field 7 weapons, since its turret can face either direction. Most players don't consider a rear-facing turret to be a major impediment, since turret weaponry is less powerful, anyway, and can mess up your aim.

Now this picture is truly gratuitous. Gotta love getting new ships though!

Now that I've got the finest ship money can buy, I should probably head back to the New York system and meet up with Mehdi again, so we can hop off and get him the Titan he desires. It's never that easy in Freelancer. In fact, the journey back ends up being a ridiculously perilous affair. The problems begin straight away - a couple Red Hessians ( the pirate group I've just bought the Sabre from ) threaten to destroy me if I don't hand over the cardimine I've still got hanging around in my hold. Yeah - screw that. I refuse their demand, only to have them call a half dozen or so reinforcements from the boiling folds of the nebula. The battle is intense - mines explode in my face, energy weapons fire left and right. In the end, however, there's only me - and there's none of them. Buying a new ship does wonders for your piloting skill!

Putting that nastiness behind me I finally make it to the New York system - only to find a half dozen Nomads tearing up anything in Manhattan's orbit. Oh boy - this is bad. Nomads may well be the most dangerous things the computer can throw at you. They pilot organic ships, use devastating level 10 weaponry and always come at you in groups. On the flip side, when you kill them there's a chance they'll drop a level 10 gun or two, and they don't have an ounce of shielding. Mehdi's there, luckily, and he's already engaged in a furious dogfight with our adversaries, so I waste no time joining in. After another exhausting clash we manage to vanquish our opponents - and claim seven energy cannons and blasters in the process!

Nomads are aliens, I believe, who come from a very isolated and dangerous system on the outskirts of the galaxy. You can access it through the jumphole at Omicron Beta, if I remember correctly - the home system of the Outcasts and one of the best places to acquire weaponry ( we'll be visiting it later ). When destroyed, Nomads drop either Energy Blasters, or their more powerful cousins, Energy Cannons. For a full description of all level 10 weaponry in Freelancer, simply click here and go to "level 10 weapons."

When Nomads and Pirates attack - the new blockbuster by Steven Spielberg

Well, that's that - I'm down to a couple nanobots and all out of shield batteries; those Nomads sure know how to rip through your hull in no time. After stocking up Mehdi and I head South again to get him his dreamboat, although we're more than a little paranoid about pubbies blowing us to bits - neither of us have the best shielding ( not even me, yet ) and we're carrying a whole load of very desirable weapons. The whole situation isn't helped when I forget I set the "fire missile" command to a random key and end up hitting Mehdi square in the back with an extremely powerful ( and expensive ) firestalker warhead. Hey, just keeping him prepared and all.

Unequipped weapons - like the Nomad energy cannons Mehdi and I have with us - can be looted by other players if the ship holding them is destroyed. Hence, Mehdi and I are now the perfect prey for a couple pirates out for a profitable kill.

Hey, it's only a missile - it's not like I punched anybody or anything.

At last we arrive in Omicron Gamma. Our trip was uneventful enough - except for that missile, of course - and now, at last we're in a position to get Mehdi another one of the best ships in the game. We land at Crete excited, with Mehdi yelping something along the lines of "goodbye Hammerhead, hello Titan!" - yeah it might have been a touch less lame than that. Everything's ready to go, and - he doesn't have enough money. In fact, he's 200k short.

Time to rob a bank. That, or ask Dagomar for money, both work equally well. After transferring the totally ridiculous sum of 200k to my otherwise lovable partner he buys his enormous new vessel and lifts off from Crete's blasted surface. With 12,800 armour, another 70 tons of cargo space, and the capacity for level 10 shielding and weaponry the Titan is one deadly fighter. It's a little less maneuverable than my Sabre, and doesn't have that forward facing turret, but it's more than capable of taking on anything in the galaxy - pubbie or otherwise.

Dear fellow players - you will now die. Um, right after we get some good weapons and stuff. Yeah.

Asking a cheap Dutchman for money - the sheer horror!

Finally, then, we both have two of the best ships in the game - took us three long battlereports to get there, but we've done it nonetheless! After pirating a little in the Northern regions of the galaxy we soon have enough money to afford those level 10 shields we'd been craving. When that's done - and we're a whole lot more powerful - we raid a couple wrecks and acquire a few more level 10 weapons - GUARDIANS ( yes, since they're codenames, those caps are required ) and ARCHANGELS, respectively. Not exactly the best in the game, but more than good enough to kill anything in a few shots, if they aren't prepared. Nothing particularly intense or thrilling happens during our labours, and not a single pubbie bothers us, for once.

Alright, on that note we'll hurl ourselves into the third and final section of the third and final battlereport of the Freelancer saga! Are you excited? I sure am - I want to sleep.

Is this long or what?

In the end we find ourselves all the way back at Omicron Gamma once again. I just bought an excellent turret at Omega-41 ( that system with the neutron star and its radiation, located right beside Gamma ) and am rarring for a few more really challenging missions. Mehdi selects one at Crete, and I must admit I'm pretty stunned by both its difficulty level ( 42 ) and payoff ( 250,000 ). We do have the finest vessels in the game now, however, so you'd think we'd be able to pull off a victory.

Together we rocket off towards the dreary green reaches of the Gamma system, where radiation and bounty hunters abound. The battle is soon joined, and I'm immediately amazed at the quality of our opponents - each boasts a level 10 shield and enough level 9 weaponry to take down a bison at fifty paces. More than a few time I find my powerful force fields completely dissipated - and, yes, more than a few times it's Mehdi hitting the wrong guy. Ship after ship explode around me as mines and missiles nearly smash through my hull, yet eventually we gain the upper hand and obliterate those filthy bounty hunters to the man.

It's worth noting that this is the battle which decidedly places me in the hostile category with the bounty hunters, the kusari and brettonian police and military, and a couple random corporations. This will make the galaxy a whole lot more dangerous but, man, it took them long enough!

Nothing like bounty hunters for breakfast.

We join up with a pirate clan or something soon after the battle. Casca intends to form what he solemnly terms "the Brotherhood of the Coast" - yeah I really don't have any idea how that makes any form of sense in the futuristic Freelancer Universe, but then, I'm not a pubbie. In any case, joining a larger organization such as this will allow us to avoid being hunted to extermination by a swarm of angry clanners whenever we raid or destroy one of their ships. We don't use clan tags either - if we did, it'd be easier to identify our members for destruction.

I must say, though, picking on pubbies is fun. Some guy called Raven joins the glorious Brotherhood, and chats to me while he's on his "freighter account." He's flying with his partner, another freighter, delivering goods from one location to the next. As one of the mighty co-founders of our clan I quickly order him to target the other freighter and bring it to its knees, claiming that it doubtless has valuable unequipped guns in its cargo hold. Raven struggles at first, weighing the matter in his conscience, but eventually opens fire with a vengeance.

People far too obsessed with Freelancer will often have two accounts - a freighter account used to accumulate money, and a fighter account used for, well, everything else. Frankly I consider this to be lame and denigrating to the server - since then you never know who's more powerful than you are - but plenty of pubbies do it anyway.

The steadfast determination that is Raven.

The other freighter dies, surprise, surprise, but its pilot now logs into his fighter account. Raven, terrified, also logs into his own fighter account, and the two chase each other merrily across the entire northern half of the galaxy. Yeah, there's still nothing like taking good care of your clan members!

On a more sober note, perhaps, the next hour or so is completely ridiculous for me. Every other ship in the game is now my enemy, and just getting from one point to the next in the galaxy is extremely difficult. I find myself lurking in Liberty or Rheinland space most of the time, where the majority of vessels are still friendly or neutral with me, only to be ambushed repeatedly by swarms of Nomads. In one particularly brutal attack around Omicron Theta ( just North of Gamma, and a favourite hangout for bounty hunters ) I'm thrashed by over a dozen hammerheads. The asteroid fields are thick here, thankfully, so I dodge behind one, then the other in a frantic attempt to get away. Mehdi's still quite far away - he was checking one wreck while I was examining another - so it looks like I'll be on my own for now. Countless times my thick hull drops down below 50% - one time my ship literally burns, leaving a flaming trail in its wake. However, with Mehdi's timely intervention I come out on top, and even salvage a couple useful weapons from the mess.

In the collage below, you can see a number of close calls from across the Freelancer Universe. Sure, being a pirate is fun, but nobody ever said it was easy - just ask Black Beard. Or Johnny Depp.

And no, I did not enjoy pirates of the Carribean, though the ships looked cool.

If you want to see more of my various, um, "dialogue" during the whole escapade, you can go ahead and click here. Look how nice I'm being to the 56Ks out there! Those of you whose modems haven't already exploded should be very grateful.

In any case, Mehdi, myself and our various pirates now romp through the entire galaxy, looting and destroying at our own discretion. Mehdi and I raid the derelict wrecks in Omicron Beta ( yes, that Outcast home system and one with the Nomad jumphole ), finding the most powerful weapon in the game in the holds of one ruin: the CEREBRUS. Soon enough we're both equipped with the deadly guns, and though our energy consumption is extreme our firepower is even more lethal. Let me list the final tally for you, in my case at least:

Two CEREBRUS cannons ( level 10 ), two WILDFIREs ( level 10 ), a Nomad energy cannon ( level 10 ), a Sablanca turret ( level 10 ), a Firestalker missile launcher ( level 9, best in the game ), a Ripper mine layer ( also, level 9 and also the best ) and a Hornet Cruiser Disrupter for victims attempting to flee. Those who've played Freelancer may know what I'm talking about, those who've checked the level 10 weapon guide I linked above will have a vague notion, and those who haven't done either will probably still appreciate that it's a hell of a lot of firepower I'm talking about here.

I believe I've covered energy usage in the first br, but that was a long time ago so I'm giving it another shot. The energy bar is something that varies from ship to ship - larger and more powerful vessels, like the Titan or the Sabre, have a great deal of energy available, while less powerful ships such as the Dromedary and especially the StarTracker have relatively low reserves. Every weapon takes up a certain amount of energy when fired ( level 10 codename weapons take up the most, though Nomad cannons/blasters take none at all, making them a great choice on any ship ), and shields require a little energy boost to recharge when damaged. Thrusters also consume a form of energy, but they have an independent supply and so don't effect your energy bar. Wow, I feel like I'm talking about some granola snack or something.

Regardless, Mehdi and I find ourselves in Kusari space some hours later, accompanied by the very annoying Raven on his fighter aka, IceMan16 ( intimidating name, isn't it? ). All of us are in the mood for some pirating, and lo and behold, who should come by the New Tokyo system ( capitol of Kusari space ) but the ever lovable LadyLick. Iceman attempts to lure some of the other pubbies in the system to our location, but the attempt is clumsy and fails miserably ( as you can see in the collage ). Can someone please find me a more obvious "I'm going to get you here then blow you to bits" line than "I found something really cool that would work nice with your freighter"?

That leaves LadyLick. She's headed out of the system, but we can still catch her if we hurry. I spur on Iceman, but feel a pang of regret as we near her location. I've done quite a few trade runs with her, she's given me alot of money for being her escort . . . can I really just blow her out of server? Probably. But not before making things interesting. She passes into Honshu with us in hot pursuit as I quickly type her a message, followed by another, warning her of Iceman's approach.

Oh boy, this is getting complicated. Mehdi's up ahead by now, waiting to cut her off, but I quickly message him with a bold new plan. LadyLick now nears a base on Honshu, with her escort tagging along. We enter weapons range through a flurry of asteroids. Her escort bites the dust in seconds, leaving her perilously exposed. Suddenly, Mehdi and I shift our sights, and target Iceman. With a final squeal of rage his ship explodes in a ball of fire, and he's forced to respawn some distance away while we salvage anything he held in his cargo bay.

Insert evil laugh here.

Now, being a clueless little pirate Iceman chuckles a bit and wearily joins us again, still lusting to kill LadyLick. I leave him and Mehdi to do a rogue's dirty work, and travel on ahead to Omicron Beta to check out some more wrecks. Iceman's still chasing his prey but Mehdi's on his way towards me when I enter the system - only to find a pubbie by the name of =-{SE}-=Wizard waiting at the nearest wreck, cautiously firing at it in the hopes it will yield a level 10 codename. I'm not sure whether he already knew I was a pirate or not, but when he spots me he immediately opens fire.

Oh boy. I'm quite unprepared, having just eased out of a jumphole, and my shields immediately take a big hit. However, I remember the incidents with InFlames and Creeper, and I'm sure as hell not about to let a pubbie ruin my day a third time! Powering up my afterburner's a whirl behind my opponent's nimble Eagle ( another one of the most deadly ships in the game ), unleashing my full arsenal at his engines. He's an excellent pilot, though, and weaves up above me while I fire off a couple missiles. Soon enough my ship buffets with enemy fire - gosh, he is maneuverable. I have no choice but to twist around in a 180 degree angle and head back towards him. We both open up with everything we've got, and actually end up smashing into each other. The impact is too much. Wizard dies immediately, and I crash into an asteroid soon after in the confusion following the brilliant explosion. My ship crumples in a ball of plasma, and I'm second to the big scrapheap in the sky.

Yeah, that's a whole lotta text up there, but I hope it was worth it!

Things are a whole lot calmer when Mehdi finally joins me in Omicron Beta. I was extremely impressed by the Eagle in my previous duel, and we both resolve to get one at Malta, home planet of the Outcasts. Together we charge our cruise engines and thunder through space towards the golden planet - the ultimate source of all narcotics in the Freelancer Universe, as those who've played the game will know.

The Outcasts, perhaps the second largest pirate group behind the corsairs, live only on the planet Malta. Its mind-altering cardimine plants increase the human lifespan and mental capabilities but are hopelessly addictive - think the spice in the Dune novels. Hence, though they're the real lost settlers from the fifth sleeper ship that set off from Earth hundreds of years ago ( read the first report for more ), they haven't managed to expand into space, since they always need to be around their drug. They do, however, have an amazing array of weaponry and ships at Malta, which I suppose makes up for not getting out much.

The Eagle awaits us on the surface. Supposedly, it's a Liberty ship, and it sure as hell makes up for the weaker vessels you'd normally find behind Liberty's borders. It boasts a whopping 9900 armour, holds level 10 weaponry, of course, has a 70 ton cargo capacity ( standard for a very heavy strikecraft ) and - most importantly - handles like a ship half its size. With this thing, our journey from pathetic nobodies in the weakest ship of the game to feared pirates in deadly fighters is finally complete.

You have to admit, it does look cool. Not Beyonce cool, but still cool.

Well, that's that. It's been a long journey through three reports - a very long journey - but we got there in the end. We're both around level 32 and reside in a pirate clan, we've got the best weaponry, the best ships, and, hell, we even know how to dogfight now. We're a couple experienced pirates, and, frankly, there isn't much that can stop us.

The Freelancer saga is complete!

Well, time to wrap this thing up!

Alright, that's all. Thanks guys, for reading these reports - they were surprisingly fun to make, and probably even more enjoyable to play. I'm going to be heading back to University soon, so you probably won't be seeing many more solo reports from me for quite a little while. However, my Rook's corner interview has been completed, and I'll be making the images with Mattz for a massive FFA battlereport - not sure when it'll be out, but with Mattz writing you know it'll be good. In addition, fear not, my skills with photoshop have increased a whole lot since making this report, and Starcraft graphics are just fun to play around with, so you'll be seeing some decent images too!

With that, I'm out. Don't forget to check my website, I'm going to be redoing everything soon with my new photoshopping abilities. Gotta love plugs on battlereports.

adios, amigos! Don't forget to floss.

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