The Last Remnant on PC is an enhanced port of the identically titled Xbox 360 game released in November 2008, which follows the efforts of Rush Sykes, son of world famous researchers John and Marina Sykes, to rescue his kidnapped 14-year old sister Irina, who was captured by a flying beast shortly after the siblings were instructed to move to Elysion.
The plot is carried mainly by dialogue and cutscenes; the latter are fully-voiced by actors that can be described as decent at best. The stiff and emotionless character animation ruins the atmosphere this acting could otherwise generate, while in-game dialogue is not voiced at all, simply appearing on the screen in traditional dialogue box format. This makes the game fall-back onto its musical score to keep your sense of hearing occupied. Tsuyoshi Sekito, perhaps one of Square Enix’s lesser known composers, takes the helm in this department, reutnring after having scored significant parts of some entries in Square’s Final Fantasy franchise and Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 2. The score is suitably epic and full of cues, moulding the music to the action. The real bulk of the game, however, is not dialogue or cutscenes, but combat.
The emphasis is clearly on battles, with the game sporting a unique strategy-based battle system. The player commands several units, which are grouped together to form “Unions”, which can be commanded to heal themselves, attack a specific enemy Union using magic or traditional weapons, or simply back up another player Union. When a Union is in close quarters combat with an enemy Union, it is known as Deadlock. When a Union attacks a Deadlocked Union, it is known as a Flank Attack and gives the offensive Union a slight advantage. When a Union attempts to Deadlock another Union, but is caught in Deadlock by another Union instead, it is known as Interference; if it is a player’s Union which has interfered, it is known as Interception.
While this is slightly less confusing in practice than it sounds, it is still somewhat convoluted and it’s hard to feel in control when there’s such a long break in between giving commands. It can also become quite confusing when you have a number of Unions in a small space; a small map in the top right corner of the screen displays the location of your and enemy Unions, but it doesn’t help much when you’re in the heat of battle and surrounded by enemy Unions and can’t interpret the map correctly.
There is also a bar at the top of the screen measuring morale. You or your enemy’s morale is affected by your performance in battle. The stronger your morale, the more motivated your unions are and the more effective your attacks are. However, if your morale is weaker, your unions will be less motivated and your attacks will not be as powerful.
In a typical role playing game, a flawed battle system is a nuisance, but in a game like The Last Remnant where there is a strong focus on combat and strategy, it is a disaster. On the plus side, however, the game does not use a random encounter system as many other games do. Enemies can be seen on the overworld and players can choose to either avoid the enemy or launch a pre-emptive strike for an advantage in-battle. It’s worth mentioning that Unreal Engine 3, the same technology behind such gaming sensations as Gears of War and BioShock, was licensed for use in the game. Unfortunately, the game appears to suffer from frame rate issues and texture lag even on powerful machines, although not as severely as the Xbox 360 version of the game. All of the in-game cutscenes are rendered in real time, but don’t seem to suffer from the same frame rate issues, most likely as a result of them being scripted and tested beforehand and gameplay being more impromptu.
Overall, The Last Remnant is an interesting and original role playing game, and a much-appreciated break from the stereotypical Final Fantasy gameplay and universe, but the technical issues plaguing gameplay and the complex battle system mean average gamers will find very little merit in it and makes the game of value to hardcore gamer audiences only.