Posted on August 24, 2010 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
The Last Remnant is a tactical RPG by Square-Enix and that comes with a weight of expectation. Last Remnant doesn’t disappoint on these stakes, though it is a little unpolished. Coming out of playing through Final Fantasy XIII this game feels like a dry run in many ways, the theme of powerful, unknowable machines and whether they’re being used or using the people around them and, system-wise, taking a great deal of control away from the player and putting it in the hands of automation.
The Last Remnant places you in a fantasy world of multiple human and non-human races and kingdoms whose power largely derives from rulers being bound to Remnants, powerful magical machines and talismans that grant powers, create art, can be used in war or bring prosperity and luck.
You enter the game in the role of Rush Sykes, son of famous Remnant scientists and brother to Irinia Sykes, inheritor of a special power that enables her to wrest control of Remnants and to control powerful ones that are beyond the capability of most. Irinia has been kidnapped as you begin to play and you are trying to find her and save her from whoever has taken her. In so doing you stumble into the middle of a battle and end up hooking up with Lord David Nassal (Dah-veed), the ruler of Athlum, a small but ambitious client state of the larger realm of Celapelais.
As the game continues you throw in your lot with Athlum and grow in friendship with David and his generals, ranging across the world to find and rescue Irinia while at the same time being drawn into Athlumian independence and the machinations of the council chairman, the God-Emperor, The Academy and the sinister warlord, The Conqueror.
The Last Remnant is unusual in that, rather than concentrating on the actions of individual characters, you form units of characters and, in effect, create small, skirmishing armies. You get very little direct control over the action save for particular special actions (summoning ally Remnants and using special, powerful magic or attacks), most of the time you can only select the broadest sort of action, accenting the unit on healing, attacking with combat skills or attacking with magical skills.
The secret to succeeding at the game is building effective units using the right leaders and the right soldiers. In the end it mostly comes down to hit-points though, so long as you can survive attacks from powerful enemies, you can pretty much guarantee a recovery.
Options are slow to build, army size increasing and combat power increasing two different ways, firstly in a more traditional ‘leveling’ manner, and the second coming from using your skills. The more you use combat or magical skills, the faster they advance and the more powerful they become. There’s also a power-building sub-game where you can build new weapons and equipment from monster parts and things dug up around the world. This isn’t complete to the extent that it could be but it does encourage you to roam around and explore, as do the guild missions – little tasks that unlock extra unit formations, money and other special rewards.
The game feels a little flat sometimes, the cities are rather static with people just standing around, the environments are pretty but don’t come alive, there’s no weather and they are a little plain. Rush is peculiar, a modern anachronism in a fantasy world which is explained, later, but is nonetheless jarring through much of the game.
Cut-scenes and in game graphics are mostly the same, though there’s a few cut-scenes which aren’t and in many of these the cut-scenes the animation is wooden, even if the dialogue isn’t. Overall while the game is good and the story is much more comprehensible and complete than many (FXIII *cough cough*) the game feels like it was developed for the previous generation of consoles and in this generation of consoles with our unforgiving expectations, that feels like a cop out and greatly reduces immersion.
The graphics are workmanlike and stylish but sluggish to load (Xbox 360) and not as good as one would expect, or hope for.
A huge problem on the Xbox 360 with this game was the loading from the disk. While this was alleviated somewhat by installing Disk 1, getting onto Disk 2 things slowed down immensely again and the Xbox sounded like it was preparing to take off like a jet constantly, meanwhile the game was stuttering and slowing down constantly with big pauses as parts of the game were loaded and unloaded.
In spite of these problems the game is interesting and gripping and, perhaps, better for those who prefer a more traditional, open-ended RPG to the linear railroad that FFXIII turned out to be! Worth picking up on a budget, but maybe for the PC or PS3.
Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough