Hello and welcome to a new segment where I’ll be talking about my favorite games, shows and movies! I’ll be doing my best to discuss the elements of the media rather than simply gushing over them, but you should still be prepared for emotions to come out! We’re kicking this off not with my number one favorite game (which we’ll get to next week), but rather a game I believe is severely under the radar of most people. It’s a refreshing twist on the traditional RPG genre that’s added so many new and cool ideas and one that desperately needs a sequel or spiritual successor. I know suspense isn’t exactly possible when you’ve read the title before coming here, but nevertheless the ‘mystery’ game is The Last Remnant (which will be henceforth be abbreviated to TLR). So what makes this game so great? I’ll be separating this into three major categories: Uniqueness, Quality, and Depth.
First off lets talk about uniqueness. This game is extremely unique in several categories. Most notably its gameplay mechanics that it employs, setting and world design. TLR falls under the category of Tactical Action RPG, but it has such a unique formula and chassis that it almost feels entirely like its own subgenre. Most games in this genre like the Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger and even Blue Dragon, you can control up to three characters at a time in combat. They have predetermined ‘classes’ but you are able to fully customize their loadouts and skills, and in combat give all of them exact commands. It’s a tried and true formula. Often times though I’ll get 10 cool companions in an RPG and wish I could use them all, but have to settle on two instead.
In TLR you command squads of troops called unions that will average 3-5 units per union, commanding up to a maximum of 18 units at once in battle. Rather than have you give each of the 18 units individual commands, each union has a list of commands you can give them each turn that determines what they will do. For example, if you have a union full of magic units it is guaranteed that one of the commands to pop up will be “Attack with Mystic Arts”. It’s an extremely streamlined and easy to understand system but for players that really wanna min/max their unions there’s hidden complexity to how the game determines what actions become available. I love that I can use all my favorite characters at once in this system and how you can create squads precisely how you want them to that can excel in the exact way you need.
The main character that the player takes control of, Rush Sykes, is fully customizable. Like your standard RPG you can change his gear and dictate what Arts he will focus on. Where things differ is that the rest of the cast functions differently. Rather than equipping weapons and accessories on them, they start out with their own weapons and will seek materials to upgrade them, naturally bettering their gear as you find the parts for them. When you have extra weapons and accessories in your inventory that are better than the gear they currently use, they’ll ask you if they can use it (and you’re free to say no). They’ll also occasionally ask you whether they should focus on Combat, Magic or Both. Depending on the answer you give, I will change what types of gear they will look for and how they will upgrade their weapons.
Another awesome mechanic unique to this game is its leveling system. Rather than each individual character having a level like ‘Rush is level 70, Pagus is level 62’ it instead uses Battle Rank (BR). BR is a measure of how strong and experienced your units are and goes up after fights steadily throughout the game. What’s really unique about this is that enemies will scale right alongside you, ensuring that important fights are never a cakewalk and that you will always be given a reasonable challenge. The way it works is that enemies will have baseline stats that are their bare minimum and a base BR. As your BR climbs enemies will get access to better stats, new moves and tactics. This solves a big issue I have with a lot of games in this genre, where you can just grind for an hour or two and then be ahead of the curve for the rest of the game and breeze through the story. It ensures you can play the game the way you want to and always expect a challenge. Whether you’re just interested in the story and have a low BR because of it or want to do absolutely all the side quests and get your people as badass as possible, ending with a really high BR, you can feel confident knowing that the game will always provide you with a fun and rewarding experience.
Lastly we’ll discuss the uniqueness of the setting itself. It takes place in a fantasy setting filled with powerful artifacts called ‘Remnants’. They can range massively in what they do from being simple containers that function like treasure chests to massive cannons that can wipe out armies, the world is deeply entrenched in the use of these Remnants. Towns and cities are given status based on their usefulness, majesty or power of the Remnants that reside within their borders. A lot of the monsters you fight in this game end up being sentient Remnants with really strange designs and I love the look of them all. They allow a massive array of different and wonderful biomes that are entirely self-sustained, which we’ll show some examples of in the next section. The world is made up of four races: humans (called Mitra), large hulking fish-like people called Yama, a 4 armed ageless race of powerful cat-like people called Sovani, and a small race of floppy eared rabbit/frog people called Qsiti. They’re as strange as they sound and I love them all, but am especially fond of the adorable Qsiti.
Next up is Quality and this game has plenty. We’ll start with the art style. Even though this game came out in 2008, the style of this game is absolutely wonderful and still holds up today. The art for the cities is spectacular and you can see how the Remnants have been directly incorporated into the design of the towns, which really adds a nice layer of worldbuilding harmony. Cities thrive in otherwise inhospitable locations and the landscape seems to shape itself around some of these powerful Remnants.
While we’re on the subject of art, the monster designs are another thing I want to highlight. Many of the monsters just look really unique and cool. Remnant enemies like ‘The Fallen’, ‘The Charged Idol’, ‘Lob Omen’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’ have such an imposing and strange design to them that really stands out. Even several of the ‘normal’ enemies have some really cool designs too. I’m especially fond of the ‘Demons’ and ‘Spiritlords’ from an aesthetic standpoint, and you can’t go wrong with a good Dragon.
The sound design is also extremely polished. The sound effects are crunchy and sound like you’d want them to. While some of the voice over lines can be cheesy (The main character legitimately says “Come on, let’s kick some A!”) the voice acting is great to. There are even some big names you might recognize like Travis Willingham, Chris Sabat, and Johnny Yong Bosch. The music is great too, with every track immediately recognizable, catchy, and not to mention captures the scene perfectly.
The animations in this game are quite polished too. All of the physical attacks (except perhaps Rift Cleaver) are grounded in reality with enough flair to make them look spectacular. They have a punch to them and many of them just feel good to use. There are also a lot of cool animations for the magic attacks and many of the enemies have really cool looking moves too. There are also some Remnants that can be used in combat that have really awesome attacks that do an amazing job selling just how powerful Remnants really are, the first of which you get to see in the very first fight of the game as it wipes out an entire group of monsters.
Last up is Depth. You can dive super deep into this game if you really want to. Not only is it one of the most difficult RPGs you’ll find but the amount of sheer content in the game is massive. There are loads of uber bosses, challenges, special gear and secrets to find and a ton of unlockables. There are tons of side quests to do that have various rewards, many of which can carry over into your new game+ playthroughs.
The combat systems in place are extremely deep too, so much so that I’m still finding new things out after over 400 hours of playing the game. For players that really wanna take a deep dive there are a ton of considerations when building your characters, creating your unions, selecting gear to use, deciding the best union leader and deciding what formation to put your union in. Having the right type of unions in a specific formation unlocks even stronger variants of it like going from ‘Cascade’ to ‘Avalanche’. You can also unlock super badass and powerful Weapon Arts and special Arcanas by setting up your characters and squads properly to look amazing and deal a ton of damage. Morale is also a mechanic the game heavily stresses. You have morale for your individual unions and morale for your forces as a whole. This’ll affect the type of moves you’ll be able to do and have a huge impact on how much damage you receive and take. It also increases your chance for critical hits and Critical Offense and Defense procs.
The class system is also quite complex if you want to really optimize it. Characters will automatically change their class over time as they qualify for new ones. There are tons of qualifiers: the highest rank mystic or item art, how high their combat arts are, what their highest stat is, whether or not their mystic arts is stronger than their item arts and the type of weapon they use. They give a lot of passive bonuses and many of them give your unions access to new commands, so getting into the best class for the type of build you want to do can be super important if you wanna tackle the extremely challenging extra content in the game.
And… that’s a wrap! I hope I’ve convinced you to give The Last Remnant a try, it’s a seriously under appreciated gem from the early era of the Xbox 360/PS3. I’ve never played a game quite like it and I doubt I ever will again. I also hope you liked this topic! I know it wasn’t my usual tabletop type article, but I’ve really been enjoying playing through this game for the fourth time recently and felt it would make a fun topic to write about. Join me next week where I’ll talk about my favorite video game! What could it be?? Thank you guys so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed, make sure you take care of yourselves, and stay healthy!