….How does this game have good scores? No, I’m being serious here. Even Blistered Thumbs, the main gaming site I follow for reviews, praised this game! To be fair, the same reviewer liked Final Fantasy XIII, but that doesn’t really matter when I consider FFXIII to actually be SUPERIOR than The Last Story, and I hate FFXIII! We all know how much of a disappointment the Final Fantasy game was, and this is worse? How is that possible!?
Okay, I’m being a bit unfair here and being overly angry. I’m just stunned, but the point of this review isn’t to make you feel bad if you do like it. If you manage to love either game, that’s fine. After thinking it over, yeah, even some of the worst and critically panned games can actually have fans. Hell, I know people that downright hate Chrono Cross, and I love that game to death; don’t worry, we’ll get to a brutally honest review of that eventually if people think I over praise the games I love too much. And even horrible games can be fun with multiplayer so long as you have friends and can make fun of it. So far that reason, if you like The Last Story, that is perfectly fine.
I however don’t, and this is just a review. It’s taken awhile, but I think I can handle this without a bias opinion, unlike with most Capcom games these days, hence why I doubt I can review DmC fairly.
The Last Story is directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who is responsible for the earliest of Final Fantasy games and other titles and this was during the time when Square was desperate to survive and Final Fantasy saved their asses, and developed by Mistwalker (responsible for Blue Dragon) and AQ Interactive (responsible for publishing…Bullet Witch). A good director combined with questionable developers is a risky factor, mainly because while I like Blue Dragon, Awakened Shadow was just downright insulting with the overall story. My fault for not noticing this earlier, but you can’t judge developers based on just one or two games.
I can now judge them because of this game though. But I’ll focus on what’s actually good about this game.
So what’s good about it? Well, the presentation isn’t half bad, as the world is actually filled with life within cities and the castle. The city and castle are just about the biggest places in the game, and they are filled with life, with people chatting in some spots, animals lounging about, people walking through the streets as if everything is normal. It was actually pretty damn impressive with just how much life there was. They even react when you walk into them and bump into them, usually giving different reactions. And the graphics kinda help compliment this as well, giving some detail and not bad to look at in all honesty, save for character models outside of cut-scenes.
And I just ran out of good things to say, at least without whining about something else. At best, I can talk about the music, as it did have some decent tracks. The sad thing is though, I didn’t really care enough to pay attention to it that much. Like I said though, it definitely didn’t make me want to use my mp3 at least. I’ll admit, this was a bit unfair for me to notice, but it does signify one of the problems about this game: I did not care. The game did not engage me at all, unless you count yelling at the stupidity of it all as if I was Spoony, picking apart all the logical problems. After playing this game, I honestly hope he tries to review this game in the future.
The reason I didn’t care was because the characters and story were well…stupid, cliché, and the combination hurt me. Keep in mind that I like Final Fantasy X and could not point out every flaw, or just buried it with some weak explanation (like Sin’s magic fart/toxin teleporting the team to the desert), and there are a bunch of other games I like with stories that are downright confusing. Resonance of Fate for instance has a pretty complicated story I could not fully follow. The difference here?
Well, in The Last Story, I was able to predict nearly everything, and as stated before, the clichés hurt. Evil eye-patch and beard guy? Check. Stupidly evil fiancé who is evil out of stupid motives? Check. Flirty guy? Check. Drunken girl? Check. And moronic protagonist? Check plus. There was no one really interesting, and Zael had to be one of the dumbest protagonists in history, constantly getting his team in trouble, not telling the higher-ups of potential threats, being inactive when fellow soldiers are acting like greedy bastards, and overall just not thinking like he should.
And people have said they are glad to be playing as an experienced mercenary as opposed to some shmuck that is powerful because he is the main hero. Admittedly, I do like having heroes that actually have training, or learn how to be a better fighter as time goes on in the story. However, this has been done before in not only action games, but RPGs too. Commander Shepard from Mass Effect was a trained soldier who earned a reputation, Serge from Chrono Cross was trained by Radius in Arni and apparently was skilled enough to go hunting solo, and Gwendolyn from Odin Sphere was Odin’s daughter and clearly a capable fighter as she was a part of the military. A minor thing, but this is common sense to those that have played many RPGs. Even Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles knew how to fight, admittedly not as well as others, but he learned as he went, gaining new abilities.
Zael is a trained fighter, but he couldn’t hold a candle to other RPG heroes. The way he swings his sword is awkward, as if he is flailing it around. There’s no style or skill to it, and instead, he has to rely more on head-on attacks like rushing in. Admittedly, he does have a crossbow, but that’s about it aside from the crowd control power. Moreover, his personality just isn’t interesting, along with everyone else. Why? We don’t see their motivations. We see a goal out of all of them, to become knights, but what is the motivation behind it? Aside from Zael and Dagram, no one else seems all that hype or care for it. Yeah, they are mercenaries and are mostly in it for cash I assume, but if that’s it, I don’t really care. And then there’s change, character development, which barely here. Even those that get it are in the end hurt because I just don’t care. How many times can I say that to get my point across?
So if there character’s don’t really care, why should I? And even when they care, there is a mountain of stupidity that awaits me, mainly revolving around Zael who, while he does have some genuine good scenes and moments, the rest are either him constantly making things worse, or not doing a damn thing! There’s one instance when he is inflicted with a temporary poison by the fiancé. I say temporary because it lasts for one fight and then it vanishes. So what does he do afterwards? NOTHING! NOT. A. THING. High-grade fiancé momma’s boy or not, I think there is someone higher up that would listen to you, especially when it was informed that the fiancé would not be needed. I’m sorry for ranting so much, and it’s even harder to prove my point without spoiling too much, so I may save it for another article in the future.
The side-quests are at least some exception, but don’t tell me much else. The only character I really care for is Yurick. He’s a bit cliché, sure, but he also has a better story to him, a guy whose father left him to save him, a powerful mage, and shows he has problems around others because of that. He seemed the more realistic and relatable out of all the characters, and I enjoyed his scenes later in the game because he seemed like one of the most capable out of all the characters, and even had an arc to him. At the end though, trust me, there is a turn that flat out confused me and made me say two things.
1. Why is this guy not the main character?
2. Why was what he did not explained in the entire game ever?
The world itself, while seemingly interesting, doesn’t have much to it. In other RPGs, we got to the other side of conflicts, seeing what they were doing or what other factions were being affected by war. More cliché, sure, but it helped make you care about the world. Here, you have to go to a library to learn more. Usually, this isn’t bad if you want extra knowledge, but this is supposed to be pretty common. The only other explanations are given by the useless narrator in each chapter, who describes things characters can do in a single second. It feels out of place. Things like that are more reserved for the characters themselves, when they think over a situation, or tell their story to someone who doesn’t know. Here, it’s completely unnecessary. Kyle Hebert this guy is not.
Then there’s the combat, which is a mixed bag. At times, I will admit to it being fun, but at other times…ugh. Character AI is smart enough to keep themselves alive sometimes, but when enemies start absorbing their magic spells, they are dumb enough to keep attacking. Or when an enemy needs to be lured away from a location to stop being invincible, they will keep attacking it. And you can only order your team when a certain gauge is fully filled, not just partial. This is something that should have to be done, as AI can be fixed to do that. God Eater Burst has far superior AI which knows how to heal, revive, and even switch tactics; I daresay they are better than me. And the tactics aren’t really varied. Either use one spell or the other, draw enemy attention which Zael can already do, or eventually use a special ability, similar to a finishing move. Admittedly, these aren’t half bad to look at least, and are useful in turning the tide of the fight.
Magic circles are an interesting twist, adding elements to attacks, granting bonuses like healing, or they can be dispelled with Zael’s Gale in order to deal more damage/have a wide effect of bonuses. Not bad and can turn the tide of the fight, and is even necessary for all battles. Sadly, the magic visuals can be frustrating, as it can sometimes blind your view. If you aren’t holding the block button, you are going to get hit, a lot. Speaking of which, the block button is basically your friend and serves as the closest thing to a lock-on. Naturally, if you have that pressed, you can’t attack. And I found the dodge roll mostly useless, as no matter what, I still end up getting hit even when I roll out of the way. Good news is that the game gives you five lives in a battle. Use them all up though, that character is down for good for the rest of the fight. This does make quite a lot of fights seem easier and more forgiving though.
Treasure is a bit difficult to explain, but at the same time, not so. It does appear easily enough when foes are defeated or chests, but it’s also randomized. Usually, you can see what you might get. When you touch it with a question mark, it will roll like a roulette and your item is decided for you, with some choices already present of course. Still, it didn’t seem set on one specific item, and some items can even boost your stats. The game also tries to be interactive, giving you the ability to forsee surprise attacks through a first person mode. Interesting idea, but again, I find it a bit irritating. But some of the failed scenes made me smile, when they shouldn’t hit. Heh, falling chandeliers.
And as for your personal methods of attack, it’s either run up to an enemy and your character will automatically wail on them with their sword with little skill and sometimes maybe be able to climb over them to deal a critical, or attack from afar with your crossbow. The lack of freedom irked me with this, but I had more fun with the crossbow. There’s also a stealth element as you are supposed to take advantage of the area to launch sneak strikes for bonus damage, and this isn’t so bad. Naturally, for bosses, this is next to useless, especially when alone. It all ends up boring in the long-run and not well executed. At the very least, you can use bombs or the environment like lamps to gain a better advantage, though I find using them to be annoying, and wonder who placed the bombs there in the first place; they are oddly convenient too.
Leveling up doesn’t seem to be as important as actual gear. As a test, I fought in the Arena in town, and enemies were at least twice my level. My superior gear though through upgrades made quick work of them though. And the customization itself is absurdly weak. It’s a simple matter of finding materials that are scripted. For instance, you won’t get gold something’s until way late into the game. And armor doesn’t seem as important, as some sets seem better than others, just with different looks. The one real exception is the hidden dragon armor set, though that one is positively ugly. The one good side is that the armor sets can evolve into some different, adding new additions like coats, armor plates, etc. But there’s not much else to it. Everything is limited to either level 5 or 9, and not a lot of room for it.
As for the rest of the design of the game, it feels cramped. Do you remember the dreaded hallway from Final Fantasy XIII? It’s in full force here! The exception is maybe the town at best, and there are optional areas to explore, which basically boil down to you repeating certain sections to gain items, and only items. Experience points are only available in the chapters, and the Arena, which grants you gold and items too. Those same chapters also have spawning points in case you want to level up too, or gain more gear. I like the options, but at the same time, the game tries to push this idea of freedom, and it doesn’t resonate at all when the game is so damn cramped, everything so linear. You literally walk in a straight line and fight! That is it! Some might say that older games do this too, but here’s the thing: this is 2012 people. Think more outside the box! And moreover, those older games made me care about the characters! And with a story this bad and predictable, it hurts it all.
Some say the game does get better like 10 hours into it. That is not a good thing first of all. A game shouldn’t have to take that long to get good. An hour or two, maybe, especially if they are trying to use a tutorial or setting up the story. This game wasn’t. And second, it does get better, but all the problems with the gameplay hammer down on it, and the story still doesn’t make me care. They also keep doing stupid things again and again. When characters die, I just breathe a sigh of relief. I shouldn’t be doing that!
As for the visuals of the game, they are pretty, but sometimes, it just doesn’t look right, as if someone rubbed vesoline on the lense. Not sure if that’s just me though. But I will admit that the opening screen changing depending on what chapter you are up to is a damn cool idea. Online mode, I can’t comment on though, since I couldn’t find a single match at all. Impossible, yes, but I was just focusing more on single player so I could stop playing.
Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I hate this game. The amount of problems I have with it are numerous, and stem from the fact that I just couldn’t care about it. The only real positive I can say about it is the fast forward button it has, and it’s also a short game, having finished it at 35 hours with most of the side-quest material. I’ll eventually try to talk about the dumbest moments that stuck with me, but for now, this is about the game, and I don’t want to spoil too much of the story for those that actually enjoy this game, or are curious. May want to avoid the next article on Last Story if you want to dodge spoilers.
That said, the game is at least functional. There are good ideas in the gameplay, but poorly executed in the long run. Had the story been done better, I might have actually liked it. Sadly, it’s so cliché and fails to capture my interest with so many clichés. Games like Dragon Quest can conquer this weakness, but not this game. Since it is still playable, and gameplay is still an important factor of a game, The Last Story barely earns a 2 out of 5, and that is being generous.
Ugh. Next time, we’ll have a special treat here, as I review the infamous Tsukihime anime!
…My friends are right. I am a masochist.