At first glance, Freeroam Construction Sandbox seems like any other Just Cause 2: Multiplayer server. Its small series of events fail to impose any meaningful structure, its airport is filled with a constant stream of exploding planes, and its chat is openly and bewilderingly hostile. It's all a ruse. Beneath the surface of the server, a surreal other world exists. Here, all-powerful god-players have shaped the land, utilising limited abilities and low attention spans to conjure a bizarre series of crude settlements and half-finished projects. It's JC2:MP's own private Twilight Zone.
If you explore this shadow Panau, you'll see physics-defying structures, complicated aerial transit networks, and boats placed where no boat should ever be. Here's my guide to some of the weirdest landmarks and strangest sights of the FCS server's build world.
I start my journey in the island's main airport, which doubles as the mod's main PvP arena. Given its popularity with players, it was inevitable that their creative efforts would take root here. Finding a spot on the tarmac, I enter construction mode by typing /BUILD.
Turns into this...
Buildings are scattered randomly throughout the terminal, on top and often inside of each other. The air is filled with boats, buildings and tree trunks, and in the distance, a segment of road points straight into the air.
Boats are a favoured feature of the Freeroam Construction Server. Over the course of my exploration, I see them suspended in the sky, embedded in the ground, and absent from the sea.
Not everything is a randomly placed mess of Dadaist geometry. The server's construction menu contains the majority of the game's assets, and lets players place, move and rotate them anywhere. Through these simple tools, some players have attempted ambitious, but crudely realised projects. Just next to the airport, someone has built an assault course of slanted buildings and curved helipads.
On the other side, above the airport's main building, is this:
From the ground, it's another bizarre assortment of crap. That's because the creators of Just Cause 2 never expected their players to see roads from below, and so their underside is transparent.
Viewed from above, it's... well, it's still a bizarre assortment of crap, but one shaped into a small hamlet of buildings and tarmac.
It even has its own villagers.
All across the server, it's the roads that provide some of the most fascinating expressions of creativity. They'll criss-cross, double-back, and ramp up and down. Sometimes they'll connect locations; more often they'll end in a long, deadly jump.
The next stop is Panau's infamous Mile High Club, the opulent party zone that's floating in the sky. It's been redecorated since I was last here. A stack of ornate brick towers have been balanced on its top blimp. Also, it has a top blimp.
Investigating this new addition, I inadvertently interrupt a naked aerobics class.
As with the airport, the surrounding area is filled with boats. They scatter the landscape like shoals of metallic sky whales, exuding an eerily confidence in their unlikely suspension.
The Mile High Club's centrepiece is a more ambitious construction. It's another sky road, but, unlike the airport's disparate system of dead ends, this is a full track that loops around and over itself like an ancient Scalextric.
I endeavour to drive around it.
Spawning a car, I slowly make my way around the twisty first section. This is harder than it looks. Guard rails are not a priority of the server's community, and neither is quality build construction. Regularly, as two segments meet, an imbalance will cause the car to flip off the edge of the track. Eventually, I pass the first few winding corners. This is where things get interesting.
The road stops being a road, and becomes a series of wide warehouses, buildings and bridges. At every spawned building, I expect the "track" to suddenly stop, sending me flying into the ground below. My fears are unfounded. There are plenty of steep ramps to navigate, but they've seemingly been placed to show off the island's spectacular views.
As I drive through a section filled with cherry blossoms and overlapping buildings, I start to contemplate the beauty at work inside of the random chaos...
Clearly, I'm starting to lose my mind. Not to worry, though, because the track ends with a fun jump that sends me crashing into the club's new castle extension. Video games!
I start flitting between the lesser visited spawns, to see what people have made in relative isolation. At the temple, I find another road network. It leads to some crates on top of a balloon, itself on top of a tower. Nice.
Elsewhere, there's a boat inside of a hotel. Cute.
A thing inside of a thing? Er...
It's around the time I reach "more things around some stuff" that I realise I've lost that initial amazement at the spectacle. I've become desensitised to the randomness. At each spawn, someone has inevitably placed something, but I can't see the purpose. Even the beautiful and chaotic ship graveyard barely raises a smile.
This is no good. I need something amazing; something built with care and attention to detail. I need to find this server's show-stopper construction.
Yeah, that'll do nicely.
It's called Sanctuary, and it's beautiful . It's also something of a secret. It's not listed on the teleportation command list, and has been placed so high in the atmosphere that planes can't reach it. I found it completely by chance, as I followed the trail of debris leading skyward from the airport. I made it just close enough to make out the /TP tag, and from there could warp up with ease.
The full structure is a coiling spring of rock, topped with cherry blossom, a few buildings, a statue and a hot-air balloon. Despite the rock placement making it hard to navigate, it feels far more authored than the insanity below.
And as for the views...
This is where my journey ends, but there's so much more to see. Weird things are hidden all around the server, from the popular spawns, to a player's private sanctuary. If you own Just Cause 2, you can explore it all with ease. Just download the free Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod from Steam, and, in the server browser, connect to Jman 100's Freeroam Construction Sandbox. It's highlighted at the moment, making it easy to find, but if you'd prefer to connect directly, the address is 22.214.171.124:7777.
As for me, there's really only one thing left to do.