Strategy Informer gets its hands on SquareEnix's latest RPG. Surprises and disappointments alike await you in The Last Remnant
One of two original (J)RPG's that were released for the Xbox (Although this one will be making it's way to the PC and the PS3 at some point) The Last Remnant is SquareEnix's latest attempt to blend East and West in a game that's not Final Fantasy. In many ways better then Infinite Undiscovery, Remnant is unfortunately hampered by various design flaws and oddities, and like Undiscovery you can't help but feel reminded of Final Fantasy 12. Still, this game takes great strides to distance itself from the series, and the end result is still quite enjoyable.
Set in yet another fantasy realm filled with varying species (Humans aren't even called Humans, they're called Mitras), the game mainly revolves around a serious of ancient artefacts known as 'remnants' which in general hold great power. Remnants are always bound to a person who inhabits the world, and if they're not, then that's when the trouble starts – most of the monsters you can find around the world map are there because a Remnant is unbound. An easy enough concept to get to grips with, Remnants in some instances bare a resemblance to Aeons/Summons, although they are thankfully much more complex then that. However, in trying to make itself unique from other Square games, it is sometimes taken a tad too far. Even the 'item chests' of the game are remnants that are just waiting to be 'bound' so that someone can get at the contents inside. Whilst it fits in with the general theme of the game easier then a random chest would, for those that care over such things, the question as to why that remnant is there in the first place, and how 300 gold coins managed to get inside. A chest would a sufficed.
The event that launched a story...
True to form, The Last Remnant is filled with weird and wonderful creatures, most of which you have to beat to a bloody pulp...
The main protagonist of the game is Rush, an 18 year boy who's sister gets kidnapped right in front of him which sets him, and you as the player, onto the path that the game wants you to follow. The two siblings are the children of some prominent remnant researchers, and eventually you will discover just how rooted they are in all aspects of the game world. The game is actually spread across two discs, so expect another epic tale that has as many twists in it as it has characters, and thankfully Square have avoided adding in some form of twin dynamic.
Visually, you couldn't ask more from Remnant. The first ever Square title to use the Unreal 3 Engine, this is also the first time Square has had to adapt to new technologies. As such, whilst Remnant is visually stunning in both CG scenes and in game scenes, it does have the odd bug or frame-rate glitch, so don't expect perfection by any means. Still, it is probably one of the slickest titles Square has released so far, so there's no need to worry too much about it. On the other hand, the game feels a bit 'sparse' at times. You aren't required to physically 'walk' to a location like previous games, instead, you only have to do one or two short 'segments' – self contained levels that are representative of a journey. And once you've been to a location once, you can visit it at will using the world map. The segments them selves are challenging enough, but ultimately seem a bit repetitive as you progress through the game.
One of the main unique points about this game though is the combat system. Whilst it's not completely new, it's a different step in the right direction. Enemies are rendered on the map for you to see, however there is still a load screen for the encounter, a la Final Fantasy 12. It's a shame, because Final Fantasy did it better then this game does, as the loading screen in remnant are a throw back to the old Final Fantasy titles. However, you can appreciate why they did it when you get your first taste of the new combat dynamic. Taking things in a completely new direction, remnant focuses on multi-party tactical based combat. Instead of having that main party of 3 -4 people that we all remember having to customize, you know have multiple parties, populated with both 'Leader' characters, and regular troops. These parties are known as 'Unions', and they generally hold 5 'units'.
The unions form the basic combat unit of the game. The more people you have in it, the stronger you'll be...
The Unreal 3 Engine is used to generate some breathtaking vistas, although its practical application could have used some more work...
The battles themselves follow a set of very simple rules: when two unions come together, they are in a deadlock which only ends when one union is defeated. If a union attacks another union that is already in a deadlock, it is called a flank attack, which deals extra damage. Unions en route to a fight can be intercepted by another union, which simply creates another deadlock. There are a few others, but those are the basics that you get taught at the beginning of the game. As you can probably tell, it certainly is different, and the tactical thinking that is required is actually quite refreshing. Moves use up actions points, and each side has a Morale rating that affects how well they do on a battlefield.
Combat itself has also been streamlined and more emphasis has been put on more contextual actions. Depending on your union composition, you'll have the option to either attack conventionally, or use either combat or mystic 'arts' – basically special physical or magical attacks. 'Item arts' involve the use of items to perform support roles, generally healing or providing an AP boost. There are also context sensitive actions that depend on the situation, such as backing up another union, or trying to turn things around when you're on the back foot.
A lot of Remnants are used for fighting, and some can fight like a living being...
The big bosses are made all that more accessible with the Union system. Strength in numbers.
As mentioned before however, it isn't perfect. A lot of the features you take for granted in an average JRPG have actually been automated in this game, and the only customization you can apply to your character is to choose or upgrade weapons and a few accessories. You can't purchase Armour or clothing, and even your skill sets are automated, and based on your weapon/action choices. This makes the fact that there's money in the world seem a bit pointless, and the other items you can loot/harvest have little application. You can't affect characters in your party either, although the AI controlling them does take items that it may need for its own customization, which goes a fair way to make up for the fact. Still, micro-managing has been present in a lot of Square games, and I'm sure players could have lived with the effort in return for that extra degree of control.
At the end of the day, one has to give Kudos to Square for trying something genuinely different. Whilst Final Fantasy 12 and Infinite Undiscovery has taken some lengths to evolve the JRPG genre, The Last Remnant is the first to do something different, and not just new. Granted, it's execution could have been better, but provided Square learns from its lessons and improves on what could potentially be a winning formula, then the fans will forgive this title for its mistakes. All in all, a worthy addition to Square's portfolio – it's worth checking out at least.
THE LAST REMNANT VERDICT
At the end of the day, one has to give Kudos to Square for trying something genuinely different. Whilst Final Fantasy 12 and Infinite Undiscovery has taken some lengths to evolve the JRPG genre, The Last Remnant is the first to do something different, and not just new. Granted, it’s execution could have been better, but provided Square learns from its lessons and improves on what could potentially be a winning formula, then the fans will forgive this title for its mistakes. All in all, a worthy addition to Square’s portfolio – it’s worth checking out at least.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Having a full on melee fest with multiple unions at once. Can be quite pretty to watch barring the odd technical glitch.