Wednesday, July 13, 2011

REVIEW: Fallout: The Last Remnant

"A Faulty Strategy Results in a Mediocre RPG"

It's been quite some time since the Japanese RPG creators are trying to reach to Western audience. The Last Remnant is the game which is supposed to open the doors of the western world to Square Enix, and this is evident in all the facts concerning the game: first of all the release dates were the same in all parts of the world; the gameplay is juiced, and the engine used is Unreal Engine 3. The goal was, let's make both the Easterners and Westerners like this game.

Well, when was the last time that some people tried to please certain audience and they failed? Every other time.

This is a faulty strategy, and it has been proven over and over. You can't sell Xbox360 with a little Blue Dragon and a blue bundle to the Japanese. But selling a console is far easier than selling a genre: If I'm not an RPG fan, I'm not. You better worry about the artistic integrity of your own work, rather than strip what you have down for commercial reasons. If someone is an FPS fan, there are always new FPS, if I like strategy, there is enough strategy. Square Enix must realize that it has a strong base among the hardcore RPG fans, and it also has a strong following among serious gamers who are not limited to a genre, and that it must always try not to disappoint the base, primarily, and the following, next. This must be your main goal.

What will happen if you don't? The Last Remnant will happen. Not that it's a bad game- no it's not. But it reminds you of that classmate of yours who had great ambitions and always wished to be a Harvard professor but ended up teaching in kindergarten. Not that you're a bad teacher, but you were shooting for Harvard, dude!

Here, at the heart of the game, the main problem lies. There are two parts to the gameplay: walking around and combat. There's not much to talk about the first part, but it's the latter we should talk about. Since there are no random encounters, you run to your enemy, try to start the fight, and then you start a turn-based battle. In the battle you and your enemies fight as unions, each union consisting of one to five individual fighters. You use different attacks and art (which consume AP) and you must always take a look at your morale which determines your effectiveness, and so on.

I can't really say that the gameplay fails- that's wrong. The gameplay is interesting, and I would recommend trying it, it's innovative in parts- when it comes to unions and Flank attacks and so on- but it's not as good as it could be, it doesn't fulfill its potential. The idea is great, the execution is mediocre.

There's no challenge or strategy involved in the battle. Although describing the battle may seem complex, the orders are actually simple. You always give general orders- "Attack", "Attack with Combat Arts", "Heal Others", etc, and then the characters work on their own: You spend most of your time watching, of course sometimes a prompt comes up and you can push a button to your advantage, which has nothing to do with a thoughtful fight. So, the combats are anything but deep, they are a shadow of an RPG combat; too easy, too linear.

It's even worse when it comes to character development- there is none. Some characters are more talented in a special art, and your level appears to go up, but real classes and upgrades are completely absent. Again, you won't face any real strategy or challenge. Even a game such as Fallout 3 which bridges RPGs to FPSs is more complex in character upgrade.

The final result is that you like and enjoy the game as you play, but you will never feel exalted or you won't have a great moment.

This is where the wrong idea behind the game becomes evident. In order to make the game appealing to non-RPG fans, they have designed a lame gameplay. A gameplay which easily could be better, but it's lame.

The story involves you- as Rush Sykes- seeing your little sister kidnapped, and then running into a noble family and realizing you're some sort of special person and it involves remnants that are some mysterious objects with a lot of power.

The story starts in quite a cliche way- find your missing sister, damsel in distress, emo teenager, the chosen one, really powerful McGuffins, the usual stuff. It gets more compelling and complex as it goes forward, plus the characters are plausible and well-developed. The story is similar to a good anime, but not a great one. But most importantly, the ending is really nice.

If you're the type of RPG player which only expects well-written lines, deep characters, complex plots and emotional and thought provoking aspects, this game is not for you. If you're satisfied with a pleasant story with a beautiful ending, this is not a bad game.

The setting looks nice enough, but there aren't many details outdoors. Within the cities the game looks its best. Models look good. Characters, NPCs, and monsters are well done. However, I have slight problems with animations. The characters walk in way as if they've done number 2 in their pants and now they have to walk. But these animations are really exciting when it comes to combat, at least until you watch them a hundred times.

Overall, the graphics are acceptable.

Great music! There are beautiful pieces throughout the game, accompanying you in all moments, all suit the mood (epic music in combat, sad music, soft music, etc), and there are so many pieces and they're so variable that you never get bored.

English Voices are really a disaster. The actors are reading their lines pretentiously and with a lot of exaggeration, as if they are preaching in a church. Thankfully you have access to the Japanese dubbing as well, and the Japanese actors are really great. (I realized some familiar voices from other games and anime as well). So, switch to the Japanese dialogues.

A sidenote: I'm not sure if this is my problem or it exists in all the copies of the game; but the game appears to be suffering from some major technical issues. It appears to be a poor, a very poor, port from the Xbox360 version. And by poor I mean "A Stupid Emulator Written by a Random Guy Could Do a Better Job" type of poor. Maybe this is limited to my copy (I do live in Iran after all) but if all the copies are the same, good luck connecting a stinking gamepad to your game, not being able to play in full screen mode and coping with a lot more of problems.

So, after all, do I recommend this game? I don't say I don't, but not very heartily. I can understand why no one would like to play this game: Non-RPG fans are busy playing Call of Duty, RPG fans are busy playing Final Fantasy.

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