Review: The Last Remnant (PC)

The Last Remnant
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Role Playing
Release Date: 03/24/09


Towards the end of last year, RPG mega giant Square Enix released the wonderfully inspired, but technically flawed game The Last Remnant on the Xbox 360 console. Suffering from ridiculous texture draw in and frame rate issues that effected gameplay, the 360 variant of The Last Remnant was a bit disappointing, especially since it was quite easy to see that the game could have been something special.

Now several months later, Square Enix has decided to give The Last Remnant a spin on the PC platform. It’s apparent that the developer believes (as many of us do) that there is an RPG worth saving despite the botched execution of the 360 original. Though promising nothing more than corrections to the issues inherent in the 360 release, I was glad to hear Square Enix was willing to give this title another go, and was hopeful that the assumed enhanced performance would finally allow The Last Remnant to shine.

As most components of this game are identical to the 360 version, from this point on, the new content for this review will be italicized, while the original content will not.

Story:

Like most JRPGs, The Last Remnant takes place in a world of fantasy not our own. You assume the role of the young protagonist Rush Sykes, a smart tongued, relatively down to earth guy, who cares greatly for his younger sister Irina. Behind the scenes of The Last Remnant’s picturesque world, there is a power struggle brewing. Remnants, magical artifacts which come in sizes as small as a ring box and as large as a building and are products of great power and unknown origin, are being sought out by a man only known as “The Conqueror”, who has the unique ability to command all existing Remnants. Conflicts between citizens who embrace the Remnants’ power and those who oppose it catch fire, and it’s not long after you start your adventure in Square Enix’s elaborate new fantasy world that young Rush finds himself neck deep in ancient prophecies, mysterious powers, and giant, full scale battles.

The Last Remnant certainly is an interesting take on your traditional JRPG. Much of the plot development is of a smart, political nature, and the story unfolds itself with great pacing and flow. The story has a wonderful way of weaving its initial mysteries together piece by piece that really compliments the existence of the Remnants, and the purposes of individual characters involved with them. The story begins by detailing the Sykes family and Rush’s parents’ involvement with the organization known as “The Academy”, a collective of scientist types who are dedicated to studying and understanding the strange remnants that exist in the world. Later, Irina, Rush’s sister, is captured by The Conqueror’s henchman, which leads young Rush into the service of the David, the Marquis of Athlum, and he as well as his four respected generals are fleshed out well over the course of the next several game chapters.

In later scenarios, which are perhaps the most interesting scenarios to be told in regards to The Last Remnant’s exposition, are when the story weaves itself around the powerful warlord “The Conqueror”, who is written and executed quite effectively as a villainous character. With the exception of the somewhat loathsome “skater dude” personality attached to the main character, Rush Sykes, most of the characters, especially The Conqueror, are effectively written and portrayed in the story with their own personalities. Some of the concepts and dialog pieces are a bit clichéd here and there, but The Last Remnant succeeds mostly in enveloping the player in a rich, epic, and considerably unique fantasy setting. This is easily among the game’s best features.

Story Rating: Classic

Graphics:

As mentioned earlier, the 360 version of The Last Remnant suffered from some truly maddening and experience ruining issues in its visual presentation. I am happy to report that these issues have almost been entirely addressed and corrected in the PC release of the title, which improves the experience significantly. One of the most annoying blemishes on The Last Remnant’s solid and imaginative art direction was the texture draw-in the visuals were constantly under attack from. In the PC release, these issues have been almost entirely alleviated, allowing one to finally admire the fantastic architecture and character designs as they are intended to be seen. Running the game at the highest graphic settings, the texture draw-in was only noticeable at great distances on small details, rendering it virtually unnoticeable.

Another notable problem in the 360 version was the frame rate issues that were particularly annoying during the game’s large scale battles. Context sensitive button presses were required to execute enhanced attacks and abilities, but the timing of these were thrown off completely by the odd jitters in the frame rate. Much like the texture drawn-in, the frame rate issues have been remedied in the PC release of The Last Remnant. The frame rate stuttered only briefly a mere handful of times during some of the most epic battles to be found in the game, while the rest of the time, at the highest graphic settings, the battles unfolded without a hitch or a hiccup. Again, the unhindered portrayal of the visuals allows one to fully realize the fascinating and beautifully crafted world The Last Remnant hoped to originally offer. The improved frame rate enhances the truly unique and epic nature of the game’s large scale turn based battles, and both improvements allow one to execute those once pesky button commands without a hitch.

In general, the PC version of The Last Remnant looks terrific on the default graphic settings, and looks as good as the 360 version on the higher settings.

Graphics Rating: Classic

Sound:

The voice work in The Last Remnant is of considerable quality. Many of the character voiceovers effectively reflect their personalities, which unfortunately includes the at times obnoxious Rush Sykes. The soundtrack is very well composed, and explores several different music styles while usually always maintaining the appropriate tone to compliment the mood of the current situation and location. Some score pieces might be a little too epic for the locations in which they’re played, however, which comes off as a tad odd, but the score collectively features a good variety of music, and each piece does, in fact, sound different from one another. I can’t say it would be something you’d necessarily want to listen to outside of playing the game, but it’s a quality score that does its job.

Sound Rating: Good

Gameplay:

Square, Enix, and to no surprise Square-Enix, have always been known to make their RPG game experiences something all their own by incorporating unique gameplay elements into the usually traditionally structured formulas. The Last Remnant is no exception to this, as the experience, for all intents and purposes, mimics the standard JRPG we’ve come to know over the years at its core. However, attempts to offer something unlike the genre has ever seen with its giant, full-scale battles which unfold in a particularly streamlined, yet substantially in depth fashion that is both unique and interesting to behold. The battles in The Last Remnant can contain quite a many dozens of characters and enemies. These individual units are controlled as unions, which share hit and skill points, and carry out orders as a collective. Statistically, this works in practice much like a conventional turn based RPG experience that has you issuing command to individual characters, but war strategies such as flanking and charges are incorporated, which make the experience more than it first seems.

As any given battle sways in favor of one side or the other, a morale meter at the top of the screen will reflect this. In successive turns, a wealth of commands may be available for you to issue to your unions, such as assisting an adjacent union or healing via items or skills. Though at times the game seems to randomly make certain battle commands available and others not. This can put a damper on your battle strategies, taking the battles on in The Last Remnant as you would a traditional turn based experience will usually garner successful results. What is different is the dramatic, full scale execution presented in the actual act of the battle. Later in the game, battles can wage on for a good number of turns. Victory, however, is usually based on properly setting up your individual unions with the right recruits. This makes new strategies and skills available, and give you the edge on the battle field, no matter the force. Even with the unfortunate visual issues that diminish the awe-inspiring experience to be had with the battles, one cannot deny that what is done with the product in this regard is its best feature, and a clever one it certainly is. Seeing the individual members of your unions taking actions amidst the cluttered battlefield is very satisfying, and the general execution of combat is bold, in your face, and very exciting.

Instead of the typical grinding of experience points to achieve a higher overall level that many RPG’s force upon you, The Last Remnant takes an approach similar to that seen in the second Final Fantasy, which instead features your characters getting better via the commands and skills they use in battle. Upgrading your weapon is done by collecting an assortment of needed items to forge at the workshop. These items can be obtained by beating monsters and enemies, or by utilized “Mr. Diggs”, a mining contraption that will allow you to use its ability a certain number of times at dig points in any given dungeon. The amount of items necessary to upgrade becomes a bit outlandish towards later portions of the game. One can very well see the player doing some long grinding sessions just to get the required components. Between storyline segments, you can also partake in a series of random quests from citizens in the tavern, or attempt to thin out the laundry list of in-game achievements (which are different from the actual Xbox gamer point achievements) at the guild desk. Doing so will grant you access to some incredibly tough battles that offer great rewards for your victory. Though these elements are a bit lazy and mundane in the way they’re implemented, they work well enough as a way in which to collect gold, components, and levels for your characters.

It should be noted that the PC version of The Last Remnant is fully functional with your Xbox 360 controller as well as the typical keyboard/mouse configuration. Given the exploration elements of the game, context button commands, and real-time preemptive strikes that allow you to act first when engaging an enemy, I found the 360 Controller is the best way to play The Last Remnant on the PC, but both control styles worked well enough throughout the game.

Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability:

Once you make your way through The Last Remnant’s sixty plus hours of story driven gameplay, which spans two discs, there is little to return for save to finish up whatever quests or guild tasks you might have left uncompleted, or to upgrade you characters’ weapons. For the most part, traditional RPGs with little to no replay value isn’t an unheard of thing, and it’s hard to put strikes against Square-Enix for not giving one much reason to return to the product after it’s been completed, but a multi-player skirmish mode would have been a nice touch.

Replayability Rating: MEDIOCRE

Balance:

Usually,The Last Remnant flows at a great pace, with little to no mandatory grinding required to strengthen your characters for any particular scenario. During some of the longer multi-segmented battles that arise later in the game, failure during any of the battle’s several tiers will see you kicked back to the start of the circuit, however. This can be frustrating, even considering the entertaining nature of the product’s battle system, as losing halfway through one of these monster sized faceoffs could have you repeating an hour or more of progress. A simple auto save would have been appreciated, and I believe should have been incorporated into the game, if only to alleviate such frustration.

Balance Rating: Mediocre

Originality:

Though much of its groundwork is of a tried and true standard JRPG nature, The Last Remnant effectively engulfs you in a fascinating story that comes off aesthetically familiar on one hand, and strangely mysterious and unique on another. The strong political undertone of the game’s plot is delivered to a degree rarely seen in most RPG’s, especially in those that come from our friends in Japan (Final Fantasy Tactics notwithstanding). The characters and locations have a distinctive flavoring that works very well with presented mystery. The battle system is by far the game’s most creative draw, as nothing quite like it has been done before, and especially not in the way it actually works as a gameplay mechanic.

Originality Rating: Great

Addictiveness:

With considerable technical improvements across the board, The PC release of The Last Remnant is a dramatically improved product. The game itself remains a unique and interesting RPG experience through both its gameplay and story telling elements. The sixty plus hours required to see the game to its end are indeed worthy of your time investment, at least if one is playing the PC version, as the game is a good bit more enjoyable in this iteration.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

Appeal Factor:

Even released at a discounted price, and finally presented in the true glory it should have originally been seen in with the initial 360 release, the expected appeal of The Last Remnant on the PC is somewhat questionable. Though PC RPG enthusiasts might pick this up, as well those willing to shell out an additional $40 to play an improved game they’ve already paid $60 for, at this time, regardless of the considerable improvements, it’s possible that The Last Remnant’s prime time has passed. It also doesn’t help that this sort of game isn’t exactly the sort of game PC players tend to go for, so unless you’re a console gamer with a tricked-out PC, you may well not find much to do with the game regardless.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

Miscellaneous:

The PC version of The Last Remnant is immensely improved over the original release on the 360. The game runs great and looks just as good, and without being marred by the hard-to-swallow technical issues, The Last Remnant finally gets its chance to be the interesting and unique RPG it hinted at being in its 360 variant. I’m pleased Square-Enix gave this game the treatment it deserved in the corrected PC release, but I’m also hoping that they consider a downloadable patch, if such a thing is possible, for owners of the inferior 360 version in the near future. The Last Remnant is a great RPG, and those who purchased the original version of the game more than deserve to experience it as it is on the PC, without having to drop another $40 into it.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

The Scores:
Story: CLASSIC
Graphics: CLASSIC
Sound: GOOD
Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: MEDIOCRE
Balance: MEDIOCRE
Originality: GREAT
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal Factor: POOR
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary:

PC owners can finally see the lush and interesting world of The Last Remnant as it was intended, as this new edition almost entirely corrects the issues which diminished the 360 version so greatly. If you were interested in what the game had to offer, but passed on the 360 version of the game because of its technical problems, place the PC version of The Last Remnant on the top of your “must play now” list. For those who already purchased the 360 version, your interest may vary. $40 to play the game as it was meant to be played may be too much to ask for those who initially purchased the 360 version upon its release, but at the same time, it’s perfectly reasonable to justify the extra $40 and experience a truly unique and beautiful RPG.