Parent Talk: The Last Story has some mild profanity and sexual innuendo, but there is no explicit gore or sexual activity to worry about. Like most role-playing games, the content is tame enough for most audiences to handle. Younger children may have a more difficult time playing just because of the game mechanics, the lengthy amount of text, and figuring out the finer points of the battle system.
Plays Like: A hybrid of various game mechanics, including third-person action/hack-n-slash, menu-driven combat, and even stealth and shooting elements. Gamers familiar with action RPGs and typical hack-n-slash adventures may be able to slip into the battle system comfortably, it has a definite learning curve and necessary level of strategy required to tackle the battles.
Review Basis: Completed the game and played for about 30 hours.
*NOTE: As of writing this review, I did not have any experience with the online multiplayer.
The Great: A rich and rewarding combat system. Every character is important and indispensable in battle. Smart AI, varied and interactive environments, and a swath of gameplay features makes every battle unique and interesting. Like stated above, The Last Story has a real-time combat system that most may mistake for a simple hack-n-slash game at first glance. The truth is there is far much more to discover. The lead character, Zael, can bring attention to himself using his unique “Gathering” ability, which may sound familiar as a genre trait for experienced MMO players. Zael can not only attract enemy attention, but he can engage in combat with his sword, strike enemies from a distance with a bow, or issue out orders.
While in sword-based combat, everything feels comfortable and familiar. Controls and mechanics are easy to learn. The game subtly adds new features to make things more interesting though. Zael can charge his sword attack to use a powerful “Gale” move. This move is also capable of diffusing magic circles, which can be cast by your teammates. Basically, teammates cast magic spells that affect a limited area. By striking these magic circles, Zael can spread the effect to the whole field, whether it’s a spell intended to heal your allies or something meant to hurt enemies. This adds a profound layer of depth to the game.
Zael can also strike enemies from a distance with his bow, hide behind cover, and sneak around terrain to maintain a strategic advantage. The terrain also plays another role in combat—it can be used to hurt enemies. Enemies can sometimes hide in strategic locations, like in towers or on bridges. Zael can order the party mages to shoot magic spells at these places, causing them to crumble and fall. Sometimes crumbling terrain can be used to quickly dispatch hordes of enemies. A battle system with this much ingenuity is really something worth treasuring. As a quick note, it is recommended that you change the game to “MANUAL.” The default setting is on “AUTO,” which means that Zael will automatically swing his sword when an enemy is in range. This can get frustrating quickly, but switching to manual should alleviate these problems.
+ A great cast of characters. Zael and his companions (Lowell, Mirania, Yurick, Dagran, Syrenne, and Lisa) are a surprisingly likable bunch. There are no “joke” characters or throwaways here. While the narrative doesn’t delve too deeply into all of the characters or spend time in developing all of them, they work so well together. I had legitimately enjoyed the character cutscenes. Yurick’s backstory was something I had not expected and I was glad that the game provided more depth beyond what I had expected. Again, the game does not spend an excessive amount of time exploring the personal motivations for each and every character, but enough time and effort was spent into making them distinct, interesting, and dynamic. Characters have a wonderful level of interaction. The English localization is charming and I found myself really attached to the English dub. I was a bit disappointed to see that there was no option to hear the original Japanese voices, but the cast did such an admirable job that I don’t think I could hear the game any other way.
+The romance between Zael and Callista (Lisa) was something I felt honestly attached to. A romance between main characters is not uncommon in role-playing games, but few games get you to care very much about the romantic relationships therein. The Last Story managed to spend suitable time in developing Zael and Callista’s encounters, making them grow individually as characters and then later as a couple.
+ Wonderful visual style. The best word for this game would be “focused.” The Last Story certainly doesn’t have the huge, sweeping environments from epic role-playing games like Xenoblade, but it doesn’t feel any less compelling. The narrative and the gameplay is more concerned with smaller, more defined, more detailed spaces and environments. Most of the game is set on Lazulis Island. The city that the characters inhabit is richly detailed and filled with life. I was surprised to see the level of detail on the buildings in the city. The colors are more muted and reserved than the typical JRPG, but there’s something calming and refreshing to have a RPG focused more on a single, more familiar location. The battle fields and environments don’t offer much to explore, but they boast the same level of attention and detail as the main hub. What’s important is that everything feels like they belong to a living, breathing, interactive world. The characters look great and are animated well, and the huge bosses are a spectacle.
+ Varied stages. While the game does not have an overworld map or large environments to explore, the stages are quite diverse. Players will see a main, sprawling city, a castle, a vast network of caves, underwater caverns, forested areas, and tombs. The color is lacking, but the stages manage to be distinct regardless.
+ The soundtrack is excellent and the voice work is far better than expected. The English localization is admirable, with plenty of excellent performances for all of the main characters.
+Character customization. Characters can be outfitted with a large variety of weapons and equipment. This is standard fare for most role-playing games, but it’s nice that the characters’ appearance actually changes with respect to what equipment is used. It adds a personal touch to the experience. Equipment can also be upgraded at shops in the game, which not only provide a boost in statistics, but also further change the appearance of the gear. The colors can be customized further, based on player preferences (though this has no impact on statistics obviously). Equipment can be purchased from stores and taken from fallen enemies and chests.
+ Quests. There is always a lot to see and do in Lazulis Island. Many characters have requests to make, some of which can be completed for benefits. Some of the quests can be completed multiple times, such as one of the challenge matches. These quests help pad out the game and give the player a chance to become better prepared for future battles.
+ No grinding. The Last Story is not designed around the idea that battles are separate from the game. Most RPGs treat battles like something that happens sporadically, usually asking the player to grind and level up to reach the next narrative segment. Here, each battle is an important segment, so the game is designed in a way so that the player doesn’t need to grind away on pointless battles to prepare for future challenges. The difficulty progresses at a nice, steady pace, gradually getting more difficult as battles get more complex.
+ It takes about 25 hours to complete the game. Last Story also offers a New Game + option as well as online multiplayer.
+/- The story treads some familiar conventions: the orphaned hero, the ragtag group of friends, the “save the kingdom” plot. Some of the elements come off as cliché, but may be more endearing to some players.
-Some of the environments aren’t as interactive as you would believe. There are plenty of “invisible walls” in the game’s design, but there is still much to explore.
-The game stops too soon. After learning more about the characters, powering everyone up, and getting acquainted to the town, it comes to an end. 25 hours is nothing shabby (and that’s 25 hours of solid gameplay, not watching cutscenes unfold), but the game certainly lacks the longevity of Xenoblade Chronicles. It would have been nice to have more quests, more story elements, and more content to pad out the adventure. While it certainly isn’t fun to have a bloated, overinflated adventure filled with pointless activity, it can be frustrating to have a good thing end far too soon.
-The framerate drops during some of the more hectic battles. Also, when pushing up against objects and walls, I have noticed clipping. The visual problems are only slight though.
The Last Story is an engaging, robust role-playing game with endearing characters and a fantastic combat system. Its greatest sin is that it ends too soon once it gets going, but the adventure is well worth the price of admission.