Square Enix unleash a world fall of ancient relics, questionable hair styles, plucky attitudes and vein popping combat in The Last Remnant
The RPG having already released in November of 2008 arrives on desktops with a host of improvements to deliver a smoother ride. The game casts you as one Rush Sykes who, after being roughed up a little, witnesses the kidnapping of his younger sister by some evildoer with a flying remnant. These remnants are powerful relics that litter the world and can be used once they’ve been bound to an individual; in the opening sequence you get to see one of these remnants in action for yourself as it vaporises an entire army – nice.
You soon get introduced to the combat system in the game and it features heavily throughout, for new comers to the Japanese RPG it may be a little daunting at first but its nuances are easy to pickup. You explore the world as dungeons, or ‘instances’, meaning outside of cities and towns you’re fair game for monsters as you explore the points of note on the map. The battles are turn-based and you decide the tactics your side will use against foes, but things get a little more complicated soon enough. You don’t give commands to each person in your party but to ‘unions’ which act as squads, as you get later in the game you’ll end up with more of these under your direction with enemy encounters becoming ever more ferocious. You have to plan battles carefully as just throwing your guys forward can lead to some nasty consequences. You’ll be seeing a lot of ‘flank attack’ and ‘deadlock’ as you smash your way about the land.
Just like your local market, full of pushy fish-people.
The skill of your twitch can land you a critical.
As your unions tackle monster or enemy unions you’ll soon discover always being on the attack might not be the best tactic. There’s a choice between standard bashing with melee or flinging some magic, but you can opt to let them ‘play it by ear’ which effectively lets each of the units within a union make the choice themselves. All these choices will cost action points so if you know the battles going to be a long one then make sure you have big unions clash together, don’t waste valuable turns or kiss those enlistees goodbye; if a union leader is taken out then you won’t be able to give any more commands to the rest in his/her little group. You can recruit mercenaries in the towns which come with the advantage of being more useful in battles, otherwise you can eventually just fill your roster with soldiers for free but they’re nowhere near as deadly or armed.
Of course it wouldn’t be an RPG without levelling up, but The Last Remnant won’t be letting you mess around with any character stats or traits like most traditional RPGs. Instead as you win battles throughout the game you’ll start seeing units improve and gain talents or even receive a class promotion. Some of these don’t make any sense and leaves little rhyme or reason for the directions they take. Another staple of role playing is loot and here is where the game struggles, or I should say will prove a frustration for all but the most obsessive of player. You can buy, pick up, craft and even improve weaponry and other stuff but the interfaces dealing with all these are terrible when it comes to being clear and concise. What’s more alarming is realising how much of a pain it is to just manage your guy Rush, and then you think about all your companions gear.
In the beginning the main story will have you dancing to its tune regularly as it introduces the game worlds lore and important characters along the way. You soon befriend and enlist the help of a local Marquis and his generals who will join you frequently bolstering your little private army of unions. The theme of the world is medieval at its core mixed with fantasy, nothing says make believe like a bunch of giant fish people after all. Aside from the metro-sexual males that populate the game world, you can tell things aren’t quite distinctively western in origin. While the voiceovers themselves are pleasant enough to take in, the dialogue can at times prove a little jarring, wooden and even embarrassing. The plot itself isn’t anything unique when you break it down to its base elements and the inconsistent pacing of it all it makes it hard to empathise with your adventuring troupe.
Level ups are at times boggling, but it’s all good apparently.
The world of Last Remnants will be well travelled by the end.
Visually the game can pull out all the stops especially in its art style, though enjoying the higher graphics comes at a small price of texture popping – mainly when you first enter a new area. The problem with the console version was the frame rate hiccups it would experience but that isn’t an issue with the PC version, in fact it’s quite the opposite as there isn’t a v-sync option you may end up with screen tearing instead. Accompany the visual candy are well composed and interesting musical scores with each town playing its own theme tune, and battles livened up.
Not exactly a place you’d expect them but The Last Remnant has some quick-time events, called critical triggers, which are sprinkled into the battles. You can optionally choose to have them automatically addressed but this by no means guarantees success, you’re much better off manually completing them. They can happen randomly when you’re on either the offensive or defensive, you get a mere second to react before you miss the chance to land a heavier blow or strike. Should you react quickly enough and succeed when you’re the one being attacked then you basically earn a free stab at the enemy union.
After battles you’ll collect resources from the defeated monsters or units which can be kept for use later, given to comrades at their request or sold to shops around the game world. These raw materials can ultimately be used to modify or even making an entirely new weapon or item if you collect the right ingredients. To help you bolster that stockpile is Mr Diggs, a plucky little thing that shows up early in the game where you soon learn he just loves to, that’s right, dig for stuff. When you’re out and about in caves, woods or fields this little friend can burrow for materials but only so many times before you need to leave for the world map. As you keep using him he’ll grow in experience and then start to yield better harvests of herbs, metals or even dig deeper into hidden stashes – which are all represented by small sparkles. Shops can sell some ingredients but they can come at a hefty price, luckily you can sell captured monsters for some extra gold coins in your pocket which can also ‘unlock’ items that appear out of stock at first.
Grinding is the bread and butter of MMOGs and old style RPGs, The Last Remnant holds onto this concept with a vice like grip. Whether it’s because you need Mr Diggs to score you that last piece of rare ore or because your little army of unions crapped out against an epic battle makes little difference – you will be revisiting areas an awful lot. To help propel you up the ladder faster the game uses some time manipulation when your exploring the various dungeons and lands, it will only last for a small amount of time but lets you ‘link’ enemies up for bigger battles to earn bigger rewards. The downside is that if you push your luck a little too far you can easily find yourself ambushed and put at a distinct disadvantage; you could have also bitten of more than you can chew. You can also undertake side quests between main story events that’ll land you rewards like gold or even a new candidate to join your merry adventures.
THE LAST REMNANT VERDICT
The Last Remnant is an RPG in it for the long haul with hours upon hours of gameplay buried deep inside, providing you can overlook the occasionally queasy dialogue and confusing inventory interface. Square Enix deliver not the most original of plots but the world is chock full of vibrant art and superior visual effects on the PC, and such a thought provoking battle system that it’s hard not to enjoy it almost every step of the way. The casual player should avoid it like the plague, but for those who like to get down and dirty with an RPG and really slug it out then you may have found your next conquest.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The epic battles are such a turbulent and exciting clash it’s almost sad to see them go, if it wasn’t such a relief to survive the ordeal.