I have been anticipating the release of The Last Remnant for a while now, and I finally got to buy and play the XBox RPG this weekend. I was offered a free poster with my purchase, but told the girl at GameStop that she could keep it. “Why?’ she asked. “Because I’m 30 years old,” I replied. She didn’t argue.
The Last Remnant doesn’t have a mind-blowing introduction or a gorgeous opening cinematic before the title screen, and it takes a little bit for the game to get going. There’s a ton of load screens, but the load time isn’t very long; after a while you hardly notice. So, how does The Last Remnant play? Keep reading the journal to find out:
You play the game as Rush Sykes, an 18-year old whose parents are away doing research for the mysterious Academy. Rush’s sister is kidnapped, and Rush goes off looking for her. Pretty straightforward, right? I don’t like that you can’t change the name or appearance of your character, but Rush isn’t so bad.
The battle system is pretty unique and take a little while to get used to. It’s turn-based, but you command unions, instead of party members, which make up the unions. By issuing a command to a particular union, you can see what actions each member of that union (called units) will perform. At first, I thought this would limit your options in battle, but it really doesn’t. The A.I. of your fellow party members and unions is pretty good, so giving general orders isn’t a problem. You can also mix and match the members in any given union, as well as change around their formations during battle. I didn’t realize it until after playing for a while, but the assignment of units to unions is very important as the battles increase in difficulty. Visually, the game is adequate. The cut scenes aren’t particularly impressive, but the battle cinematics are smooth and colorful, often showing spurting blood from attacks. Blood is always good; everyone knows that.
The Last Remnant differs from most RPGs in ways aside from the battle system. Party members have hit points (HP), and unions have HP that are the aggregate of the HP of its members. Seems simple, but no party members are killed until all the union HP are diminished to zero. For example, if you have a union comprised of Unit A (let’s say, 100 HP), Unit B (150 HP), and Unit C (150 HP), your union will have 400 HP. If a member of that union – say, Unit A – is attacked and suffers 200 HP worth of damage, he will still have a turn to act, as the union HP total is 200. So really, it’s only the total HP in any given union that matters. This becomes important to keep in mind as you assign units to battle, and the battles can become truly massive in scale. Next, there’s no XP system. Instead, your characters grow stronger simply by using “arts” (either combat or mystic) in battle. The more you use arts, the stronger the arts become.
So what have I done so far? Well, to make sure that Rush and his boys are the good guys and there’s no confusion on this, the first two missions presented were killing anti-Remnant terrorists and slave traders. I found my sister and killed a giant plant to save her, but she was subsequently taken away by some effeminate dude who wore all white and flashed around a fan every other sentence. I can’t wait to give him his comeuppance. The story is still taking shape, but I like where it’s going: certain beings can bind their souls to Remnants (which can be weapons, creatures, and maybe some things I haven’t seen yet), and Remnants have become the center of a type of science-based religion. As far as RPG stories go, this has the potential to be pretty cool. I’m optimistic.