Monday, April 13, 2009
The Last Remnant
Turn-based battles with real-time overland maps? Check! Emo hero with oversized weapon? Check! Huge story with long cutscenes? Check! Fantastic graphics with original monsters and exaggerated spell effects? Check! Made by Square Enix? Check! Chocobo? Nope, The Last Remnant is just a Chocobo away from being confused with a Final Fantasy game. Which is not a bad thing if you happen to like Final Fantasy games, because The Last Remnant runs on a PC, which few games of the Final Fantasy series do.
The Last Remnant takes you to a fantasy world full of magic and intrigue, with no orc nor elf involved. You control not just your hero, but his complete party, which is considerably larger than in other games. I'm still very much at the start after a full weekend of playing, and already control 12 units, and at the end of the game there will be 25 units under your command. Of course giving individual orders to 25 units in a battle would be far too slow. So your units are divided into up to 5 unions with up to 5 members each, and you give orders to the whole union. That is something that takes getting used to, not being able to tell specific units what they should do, but in general it works fine. The secret is your ability between battles to switch off certain spells and abilities for certain characters, if you want to micro-manage things. But the good thing is that if you don't want to micro-manage, things run quite well if you just tell your union whether to use combat arts or magic arts or healing.
The Last Remnant is working extremely well on my high-end Vista 64 PC, I haven't had a single crash yet, and no problems with low framerates even when the whole screen is exploding with spell effects. But be advised that this is on a computer I bought this year, with a GeForce 9800 GTX+ graphics card, and people report less good framerates on older machines. The only technical issue I had was that The Last Remnant refused to work with any of the 3 gamepads I had in the house. I had to go and buy a specific XBox 360 controller for Windows to play with a gamepad. Which is the way I prefer to play these games. Of course you can also play with the keyboard, but be advised that if you do that, you should go to the gamepad settings and select "keyboard" as your gamepad. If you don't do that, the keyboard still works, but the tutorial keeps showing you what gamepad button to press instead of teaching you keyboard commands.
The Last Remnant isn't exactly a casual game. It is huge, and the "tutorial" part at the start of the game only explains you the basics. It didn't help that the Steam version came without a manual. The good news is that you can totally play this game like that. But if you want to delve into the game's surprising strategic depths, and find out everything on how to gather tons of components to customize or create your own weapons and equipment, you'll need some guide or walkthrough. This is the type of game where even I consider buying a strategy guide, but the only printed strategy guide for The Last Remnant got very bad reviews on Amazon. So to look up who of my characters wants what weapon, I use the Last Remnant Wiki. Because again the game tries to keep equipping your troops simple, by not allowing you to do it. If you have some loot unequipped in your bag which one of your units need, they'll ask for it. They also ask for components during loot distribution, and upgrade their equipment themselves. So again you pretty much have the choice between just letting all this happen, or trying to micromanage by getting the right equipment.
I very much like The Last Remnant, especially in contrast to World of Warcraft, because it has all the things that WoW is missing: A story, and real tactical combat, where thinking is more important than fast reaction (there is a fast reaction combat option for critical hits, but you can turn that off and get the hits randomly). This game might already be too complicated for the average gamer, but if you happen to like this sort of game, I can very much recommend The Last Remnant.