THE LAST REMNANT (2008) – SQUARE ENIX
If I had to sum up my experience of The Last Remnant in one word, it would be ‘frustrating’. At the core, this has the potential to be a great little RPG, but there are some massive mistakes that prevent it from ever getting anywhere near excellence.
Example number one: the plot. The Last Remnant starts out pretty well, as you take control of Rush Sykes, a teen who gets caught in the middle of a battle while looking for his kidnapped sister. He survives, and befriends the leader of Athlum, Lord David (yep. Lord David. Although it is pronounced Da-veed to prevent him from being common), who promises to help Rush search for his sister if he helps investigate a local occurrence. The plot then spreads out onto a larger scale, and focuses on Rush and his compatriots attempts to stop The Conqueror (yep. The name of the villain is…The Conqueror) from taking control of the Remnants, massive structures that help to defend the cities. The problem with the plot is that after a quite solid opening hour or so, it suffers from great inconsistency: for example, you meet a mysterious figure early on of whom you know nothing about…and yet the very next cut scene Rush knows his name and his motives. And the supposed ‘twist’ in the plot becomes obvious before you even move onto the second disc. Its quite a poor narrative to be honest.
All of this pales however in comparison to the battle system. Square Enix tried something completely new for this game: instead of having a party of three or four individuals, you assign up to five leaders, and have them lead squads of varying sizes (for example, Rush and David can lead two groups of five, or you could have five leaders with one extra guy apiece). Then when it comes to battle, instead of the normal Attack/Defend/Magic/Run options, you are given random choices, which can lead to attacking one group, several groups, healing, special attacks and all sorts of stuff. On one hand Square Enix needs to be given credit for trying something new…but with the other hand they deserve a punch in the face. The battle system is diabolically bad. Having a system that doesn’t actually allow you to battle as you see fit is a complete no-no for an RPG. Let me give you an example: in one of the longer and harder battles in the game, I had three squads, one of them down, one of them doing the attacking with very little health left, and one squad away from the action. Now, what I wanted to do was heal with the full health squad, and get an attack in with the other. The only options I got were to attack from the flanks and head on. And the boss promptly wiped me out with an AOE attack. Fighting in this game is really hard work, and there’s little reward to doing it. There is no fun in the process, and that already kills the game stone dead.
But somehow, it gets worse. This game has a reward system for battling that unlike any other RPG ever made, PUNISHES YOU FOR BATTLING. I am serious, level up too quickly and you get crappy stats that makes you cannon fodder later on. The trick is to actually avoid every possible battle, and then grind like a motherf***er against some stupidly hard spawning enemies later on in the game. It just completely defies all known logic, and it fills me with rage for this game. Add to this some ridiculously overpowered bosses strewn throughout the game without much care or attention, and you have a system that makes you hate the game.
And it gets worse still. Outside of the main quest are various sidequests that can be completed for extra money and equipment (which incidentally, YOU CANT EQUIP YOURSELF). And my god, they are boring. One set of sidequests has you going to the same place three times in a very short space of time. Talk about originality. And the thing is, there is no sense of satisfaction or a sense that you are getting stronger by doing these sidequests. More to the point, you get the sense that you have wasted a large amount of time for nothing at all.
And the pain continues with the graphics. This game was the first time Square got their hands on the Unreal Engine, and their lack of knowledge with it shows up badly. In battle there are glitches and slow down every five seconds, the character models have no emotion or purpose, Rush runs like a tool, the cities are uninspiring, and it takes too long to load up battles. I’m sure people would have been perfectly happy to accept a delay just to get the game running alright.
But then finally, there is some reprisal for The Last Remnant. I actually quite like the sound element of the game. The music is memorable, some of the battle themes are really quite catchy, and the voice work, despite the crap plot, is very solid indeed (Johnny Yong Bosch and Christopher Sabat of anime dubbing fame bring a bit of class to proceedings as Rush and The Conqueror respectively). Some of the pre rendered FMV’s that occur in the story are wonderful to watch. And the best thing is, Square realised that there was nowhere good to grind your stats, so invented a place and gave it away as free DLC. It’s nowhere near enough to save the game, but it makes fighting the bigger enemies a damn sight easier. If you can be prepared to stand for 20 hours of non-stop grinding.
In the end though, The Last Remnant has a crap plot, a atrocious battle system, shoddy graphics and is no fun to play. Even hardcore RPG fans would be hard pressed to play this and find any positives. A grand dissapointment from Square Enix.