The Last Remnant Review

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The Last Remnant Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix


Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Rush Sykes, a young man raised on a backwater island, far from the political and military struggles of the world, rarely sees his parents, for they are the world's foremost researchers exploring "remnants." Remnants are ancient artifacts that, when bound to the life force of a person, can perform acts of magnificent power at the expense of that life force. Remnants are the key protectors of cities, and the crux of a struggle that threatens to throw the entire world into conflict. A conflict that Rush Sykes will find revolves around him and his family.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


I was willing to follow The Last Remnant to The Gates of Hell... and absolutely no further. Literally. When I began playing The Last Remnant, I was enthralled by Square Enix's typically spectacular graphics, epic storyline and seemingly engaging turn-based combat system. Then I killed thousands upon thousands of creatures in an endlessly repetitive style that grew mind-numbingly dull. By the time I had reached the extraordinarily difficult battle against a creature called "The Gates of Hell," I was done. I just didn't care enough to keep tweaking my party, enduring long battle after long battle, just to play dozens of further hours of the same repetitive game.

Tactical Turn-Based Combat


The Last Remnant absolutely hinges upon its combat system. When I began playing the game, I was positively enamored of what is an extremely clever combat system that (with a few tweaks) could have been the core of a spectacular game. The brilliance of combat is that while it manifests as a few choices made at the beginning of each turn-based round, there is incredible strategic depth available for those who want to pursue it. And for those who don't care, it is surpassingly simple to use.

During battle, you control up to five squads of up to five warriors each. Outside of battle, you determine who is in each squad and the formation the squads follow into combat. Unlike typical Japanese role-playing games, you don't have to micromanage the equipment for every individual soldier. If they notice that you have something better than what they are currently equipping, they'll simply ask to use it. However, it's important to know the individual skills of your combatants, ensuring that the right folks are in the right squads in the right formations.

A Cake-Walk With a Smattering of Brutal Walls


When you get into battle, you can (with certain limitations) decide which enemy group each squad will attack, and give them vague directions (such as attack normally, use advanced combat skills, use magic or heal while attacking). Because the position of units on the battlefield is important, and things like mobility, attack and defense are all affected by formations, there is a lot of sophisticated tactical maneuvering that can be done.

In most combats, that sophistication isn't necessary. In fact, I fought thousands of repetitive battles against the same small selection of enemies in a series of combats that I could have slept through. No strategy is really necessary for most of those battles, and even the most tactically-numb console gamer could breeze through such fights. Then, Square Enix slapped me with a monstrously difficult battle at a place called "The Eagle's Nest." Actually challenging battles in The Last Remnant are almost non-existent, but when they happen, all progress is stopped until that battle can be won. And winning these battles means playing them over and over, constantly reconfiguring squads and changing the order in which you engage enemies.

I Need a "Skip" Button


There are two huge problems with combat that ultimately undermine the game, making it frustrating, and (more damningly for a game) dull. Firstly, there really is a right and a wrong way to configure your squads. For most battles, it just doesn't matter, but for the few challenging battles, if you don't have the right people sufficiently leveled up, you don't stand a chance and will have to go back and engage in even more, repetitive monster-bashing. Also, there's not much solid feedback to let players know if squads are misconfigured or in the wrong formations, so one has to hope that logical thought will minimize the necessary trial and error. It usually doesn't.

The biggest problem is that you can't skip combat animations. Every soldier's swing and spell is lovingly shown in extraordinary detail and stellar graphics. That gets mind-numbingly boring. At first it was great to see formations wheel around one another, flanking and outflanking other units. It was tense to watch each swing, waiting to see if combat would hinge upon that one blow. After a few hours, it was dull. After dozens of battles, it was an irritation, knowing that a piddling random encounter would take another 20 minutes of play, and after dozens of hours I would give my units commands, and go make a sandwich or do chores between rounds.

A single button could fix much of what is wrong with The Last Remnant. That button only needs to allow players to skip combat animations, turning combats that actually take more than an hour into a matter of seconds or minutes. Then a random encounter wouldn't have cost me the bulk of an evening's play, and I could have resolved challenging boss fights in moments, rather than making one frustrating attempt per day.

Please, Not Another Quest!


Given how dull combat became, I had hoped that the story and exploration would redeem the game, but it turns out combat is pretty much everything there is to The Last Remnant. Occasionally, to further the story, I had to wander around three or four small city areas until I stumbled across the right character with whom to speak. The cut-scenes, when triggered, were gorgeous, and the scenery was spectacular. But city exploration was the same, old, limited region with a few vendors and a few passers-by with random lines of dialog. In the same way, dungeons (any area with enemies) were just confined paths with minimal puzzles filled with hostile encounters and chests (there are also points where you can dig for treasure, but because these are fixed (and glowing) points, they aren't different enough from chests to matter).

The dungeons were such thinly-veiled series of encounters that the running-around part seemed unnecessary, and would have been better presented as a list of battles. Worse yet were the side quests. Taverns in The Last Remnant are filled with people who need something done, usually requiring me to retread the same dungeon, fight the same monsters again to fetch something from a place I've already visited. Rarely, these were painful tasks, such as one that involved touching columns in an enormous desert in order. When these tasks required something beyond mindless slaying, they were typically made difficult only through a complete lack of hints. For example, a quest that required me to reach the bottom of a dungeon and then aggravate a large number of enemies only provided the hint to "keep an eye out for anything weird."

Despite the irritation, I did every available side quest merely to prepare for the difficult battles that blocked my way to the second disc of this game of combat, combat and more combat. That just added to my frustration in playing uncountable hours, most of which were spent watching soldiers that looked like amphibious rabbits and angry catfish swing pole-arms in repetitive combat. So, I made it far enough to battle against the Gates of Hell. Then I couldn't bring myself to care anymore.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 4, 2009 9:58 PM.

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