The Last Remnant PC DVD
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Whilst console gaming has become more popular over the last five years or so it's still the case that there are those who prefer to play their games on the PC. It's been rather pleasing then to see games which at one time would have never arrived on the PC now being released. Japanese RPG's have certainly been few and far between for PC only gamers and it's certainly welcome news indeed that Square Enix have bought The Last Remnant to the PC. In truth it's not one of Square Enix's finest efforts but it's a game that succeeds at being both original and an improvement on the Xbox 360 version of the game that we reviewed last year.
In The Last Remnant you'll play as Rush Sykes whose sole aim is to rescue his sister, Irina, who is kidnapped at the beginning of the game by some strange looking soldiers. Rush and Irina are children of two scientists who have been researching Remnants, mysterious artefacts which hold great power. Rush is aided in his quest to find his sister by the Marquis of Athlum, David Nassau, and his forces. The game's storyline is about much more than Rush rescuing his sister however and Rush soon finds himself getting entangled with other events, and a man that he is somehow connected to, known only as the Conqueror, who is attempting to seize the various Remnants in the land.
There are quite a few original elements in The Last Remnant. A lot of the time you have the freedom to save when and where you want. This might not seem like much but it's far less annoying than having to search for a save point, especially when you're playing the game in the small hours of the morning or at a time when you can only play for a short while. Instead of controlling individual characters in battle you'll control squads and the battle system, whilst being turn-based, is much more complex than usual. There aren't any random battles and you can see, and sometimes avoid if you choose, your enemies on the map. Your characters' health will automatically replenish after each fight. The importance of your troops' morale during a battle cannot be overstated and this is something you don't usually have to consider in a Japanese RPG.
The battle system in The Last Remnant is quite unlike anything I've experienced in an RPG to date. Essentially you give a general order to a squad such as 'attack with mystic arts,' 'attack with combat arts,' 'charge' or 'recover HP.' There is a feeling like you're not in total control at times and that the whole thing is running on auto-pilot. You'll also find that you can't access your inventory during battle which seems a little strange. Initially battles can feel like a hands off experience with only the occasional quick-time event style button press being required. Eventually you do get a good idea of what's going on but initially it's all very confusing seeing words such as Deadlock and Raidlock appearing on screen. Perhaps more perplexing is the way the game doesn't give you any control over recruiting party members, constructing your squads or changing your tactics until you're a good few hours into the game. The game feels as though it's determined to hold your hand for the first few hours and this is a little off-putting. Persevere past this stage and you'll find the battle system does open up and become more involving, enjoyable and you really begin to appreciate what an original and rewarding battle system it can be. It is a little strange how you only have control over Rush's equipment however. Other party members look after themselves. They will make a claim for the share of the spoils after a battle has finished however.
After the early, almost tutorial-like, stage of the game you're free to do as you please. It's around this time that you'll be able to take on side-quests and deviate from the main storyline and it's also at this point that you'll begin to appreciate what the game has to offer. Overall the side quests are quite good but there are some which require hardly any action on your part. For instance, the first side-quest you'll undertake is to deliver a letter. You'll get the letter and automatically be transported to the location you have to go to. You'll then simply walk Rush up to the Yama you need to deliver the letter to and then you'll be transported back to the woman who issued the side-quest to get your reward. This isn't the only short side-quest you'll encounter. I'm all for side-quests that don't take a few hours but having ones that are over in hardly any time at all is taking it a little too far.
On the Xbox 360 the game had its fair share of problems. Without installing the game the load times were pretty long and the game suffered, as all Unreal Engine games do, from texture pop-in. The PC version of the game still suffers from texture pop-in (in other words there's a minor delay with the textures appearing on objects) but it's nowhere near as noticeable. There are also some very minor load times, which are no more than a few seconds, when going into battle and this is also a big improvement on the Xbox 360 version. Of course, with this being the PC version of The Last Remnant there's the question of the control scheme. The game fully supports the Xbox 360 controller and it's definitely the best control scheme on offer here. You can opt to use the keyboard and mouse to play the game with and it works quite will but it's just not as intuitive as using a gamepad. It should also be noted that, by default, the game's tutorial control messages are set to show the Xbox 360 controls so you might want to change this setting before starting a game using the keyboard and mouse controls.
On the whole The Last Remnant is a fine looking RPG. The character designs are some of the most original I've seen in an RPG over the last few years. The character models also look very good but the numerous locations in the game are what really catch the eye. The battles look quite impressive too and it's good to see battles on such a large scale in an RPG. As per usual for a Square Enix title, the cutscenes are superb. The frame rate problems the 360 version had aren't a problem, as long as your PC is of a good enough specification. The game does suffer from screen tearing issues however and the option to enable v-sync should have been included.
Before beginning a new game, you're given access to the game's options and the chance to enable subtitles before the game begins. The game's cutscenes are subtitled with a bold white font which makes it easy to see at all times. There are no character names or portraits to accompany the cutscene dialogue but this doesn't cause any problems. The in-game dialogue does display the speaker's name above the dialogue so you'll always be aware of who is saying what here. Tutorial messages are shown in text, which is important as the battle system is quite complicated and takes some getting used to. You can't recall the tutorial messages however, which is unfortunate, and the game doesn't have a log or glossary to enable you to read up on events that have happened in the game and locations you've visited. Non-essential comments made by the characters during a battle are not subtitled, which is unfortunate. The game makes great use of icons to convey information and the game manual does a good job of describing what they all mean.
There are plenty of complaints when games don't offer an ounce of originality so it's only fair to praise The Last Remnant for having a unique battle system and a different feel to most Japanese RPG's. Naturally there will be those RPG enthusiasts who are open minded and will take the time to learn the battle system and fully appreciate what the game has to offer and likewise there will be those who were looking for a classic Japanese RPG game that haven't got the patience to get their heads around the unique features of the game. The PC version, whilst essentially the same game that appeared on the Xbox 360 last year, is the best version of the game that you can currently purchase and those that have the patience to get their head around the game's unique concepts will find it a refreshing RPG experience even though it's probably never going to be regarded as one of Square Enix's finest games.