Having a new RPG on box 360 from SquareEnix is almost like Christmas and this time it just happens to also be around that time that we are given The Last Remnant. Its a shame that this offering is one of those gifts that you have to force yourself to smile and say Thank You even though it really isnt what you wanted. It feels like they have tried to go against the grain with every design choice to try and be different but its so different from what most people will be used to it might be hard to swallow.
Within minutes of starting the game you are pushed into battle to get things moving with a bang, but you will also instantly see the games biggest downfall; the technical issues. Should you be able to look past and get through the technical embarrassment, you will most likely enjoy the offering from its beautiful art and graphics (technicalities aside) to its wonderful music and somewhat engrossing story. You just need to look hard and learn to enjoy its underlying features, but for most it will probably be too hard to swallow and just bring dir name is Rush and you are chasing after your kidnapped sister. The rest of this plotline that follows suit is cliché, but when you start learning about Remnants and the Conqueror, things do start to pick up and the story becomes more engrossing. The only problem is that it does take awhile to get to the deeper plot and most people will most likely be put off by all the technical flaws that I dont see many forcing a sit through to overcome the issues just to get a decent story half way through.
Because the games battles are a much larger scale than the few person parties were accustomed to, the focus of the game seems to be the battles and more than half of your play time will be on the battlefield clearing a path to your next destination to hopefully progress the story. It feels the games length was basically doubled just due to all the combat throughout the journey.
SquareEnix has opted to use the Unreal 3 Engine for this title and it clearly shows from the first few minutes of gameplay that they did not know how to use or at least polish it. Because battlefields can have dozens of enemies on the screen at once, slowdown is not only quite frequent but sometimes to the point of the game looking like a slideshow. Having the game installed on my hard drive did improve things slightly but its still quite embarrassing and doesnt look finished in any form at all. Its not just bad, its simply broken and I dont know how this was released with this subpar of quality, especially coming from SquareEnix.
To keep you engaged in battle after giving your commands to your leaders, there is a random chance of getting a critical attack or block that is done by hitting the correct corresponding button that flashes on the screen. In idea this works great, but when the framerate dips to the point of being unable to hit the button at the proper timing, you will want to turn the critical to automatic. Interestingly enough you are still able to get the achievement for doing a certain about of perfect critical hits this way.
Battle framerate isnt the only issue that plagues this title though; cutscenes also have very poor load times and the pop in is in full effect. More so that the normal one or two seconds weve seen in other games, sometimes taking up to six seconds. Its also not only limited to the textures on characters, but even floors, walls, and other objects and just takes down the whole immersion even more.
Another issue that occurs almost every fight is problems with the camera. It will swing around in a fashion to show you up close battles between characters, but when it does it will also sometimes render your troops invisible or even have objects on the field like boulders seem invisible until the camera moves and you notice there was actually an object there. Sometimes this camera shifting also seems to make characters warp from different sides of objects or enemies and seems to make no sense and only add more confusion where its not needed.
Save points are a thing of the past in Last Remnant and one would assume this would be a good choice since you are now able to save basically anywhere you want. The issue with this change is that there are no checkpoints of any kind. So if you forget to save for quite some time and then die, youve lost all that work, so hope that you save often. I found myself saving quite often as you never knew what was going to be behind the door or if youll survive the upcoming boss battle. Ive never died nearly as much as I have while playing Last Remnant, so its made me save after every few battles just in case. It really slows down the pace and its difficult to become immersed in a story when you keep wondering when the last time you saved was.
Since you are eventually able to control around 18 party members in battle, having to do all their equipment would be quite tedious and confusing so you are only in control of Rushs equipment. All other party members (even the key plot leaders) can only be given items, equipment, and components when they ask for them after battles or on map screens. So even if you are holding onto a decent weapon that you just upgraded from, it will sit in your bag doing nothing unless someone happens to specifically ask for it. It feels as if you dont have much control over your other party leaders and you will have to settle for only customizing Rush.
You dont level up normally like in other RPGs either. Your whole party gets an overall Battle Rank and it will rise the more you fight and battle, so there still is a grind factor. Battle difficulty stays the same for enemies, but I found boss battles seemed to scale up in accordance to the Battle Rank. So if you are stuck in a dungeon or on normal enemies it means you need to level up your Battle Rank, but it also means the boss fights will scale as well and be just as difficult.
Keeping with the against the grain trend, even going from area to area in a city isnt done the normal way either. Whenever you hit a zone line, you are pushed back out to the map screen and can pick anywhere in the city or world map to go to instantly. While it is quite convenient by being able to warp anywhere you want to instantly and not having to get lost in large cities, it also made it completely useless to walk around cities (since the map screen shows you what shops are in what areas) and exploring.
Side quests are available through the pubs in cities and do offer rewards such as money, items, or even new leaders for your squads. There is no way to tell how difficult each quest is though until you get to the area and give it a try. Sometimes you will just have to give up and put it on hold until you come back later when your Battle Rank is much higher.
Guilds also offer passive quests that will reward you once you fill the prerequisites of each one such as killing a certain amount of enemies or collecting certain items. Some quests are also quite detailed and have you killing a certain type of enemy but only in one exact area. You can collect these rewards at any time once completed so you usually wont need to drop by the guild unless you need to hire some leaders for your union.
The voice acting from the main characters do an adequate job but any supporting characters or other voicing is mediocre at best and usually very cliché. Even with the decent voicing done by Rush and other main characters, its sometimes hard to not snicker at with the obvious lines and odd slang that seems forced.
When playing Last Remnant for more than 30+ hours, you will become quite sick of hearing Rush say Lets do this at the start of every battle or Sweet whenever he gained a new skill. Every member says the same thing every time and it becomes thin and annoying very quickly. Its a shame since you want to like the characters, but hearing them repeat the same catch phrases each time will have you cringing by the time you get to the second disc.
Groups or parties are called Unions and unions are consisted of up to 5 people. In a union all party members share one life bar, so in a way its almost like only having to worry about one character (as a union) from dying. So regardless of who gets hit in a union, the life bar as a whole will go down collectively even if different people are getting attacked. Having different formations for your unions will play on characters strengths and weaknesses and can definitely compliment each others unions.
As long as Rushs union doesnt die, you can continue to fight in battle, but when playing certain missions where Rush has to be alone, (thus having a very low hit points) it can be near impossible to survive even simple battles. Surviving some battles can simply come down to a lucky dodge or block and seems to happen more often than it should. It can be very discouraging early on when you are finding yourself dying quite often because you have to hope you can survive the enemies first attack so that your other unions can save you. Luckily after every single battle, all your stats and health are refreshed to full, so no needing to heal up after battles; you just need to make sure you survive.
When choosing your unions turn of commands like attack or magic (called Arts) or combat skills, you are only choosing a larger blanket of options. For example, if you choose Arts to do some magic, you dont get to pick what skill to use if you have multiple, so it can sometimes be guesswork of what skills will actually be used. You have no direct control over what exact skills or attacks are used, though Ive not found it something thats held me back from winning a battle or not; it just feels like you dont have much control over your party members. While putting in all unions commands, characters and enemies will fight each other and clash swords but its just graphical and doesnt affect any of your stats since its for show. Its a nice touch that makes these battles seem more alive when even just putting in your commands and is better than just seeing your characters standing there waiting for the battle to start.
Last Remnant is very confusing overall, but if you enjoy the combat mechanics and dont mind some grinding to level up then it is worth a try. Since half your time will be in battle; alf your time will also be trying to ignore the technical issues that come with it.
Its hard to judge Last Remnant as it does have quite the amount of flaws, but underneath all of the problems, there is an interesting story and new gameplay. The fact remains that I cant foresee the average person forcing themselves to sit through all the issues and problems just to hopefully have it get better.
Many fans have wanted more SquareEnix titles on the 360 for quite awhile, but lets hope next time its a much better experience and not shoveled out the door before its even near complete and polished.
Suggestions: Last Remnant needs polish. I don't mean would look better with it, I mean NEED. It's quite an embarassment to have framerates this poor and I hope more testing is done before launching other titles.