Originally released worldwide back in 2009 for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC later that same year, The Last Remnant is a stand-alone title from Square Enix with unique gameplay elements, large scale battles and charming characters. The game follows the story of a young man named Rush Sykes, who desperately searches for his sister in a world on the border of full scale war over the control of ancient, magical artifacts known as Remnants.
I didn’t have the chance to play The Last Remnant during its initial run on the Xbox and PC, but had occasionally heard some good things about the game, which piqued my curiosity and interest. When Square Enix announced that they were removing the Steam edition to release a remastered version for the PlayStation 4, I thought it was probably high time I tried this game out for myself for the first time.
The game begins with Rush frantically running through a forest in search of his missing sister Irina, and he accidentally stumbles upon a massive battle between a bunch of monsters and the military forces Athlum; a city that later becomes one of the main quest hubs for the player. This opening cutscene is rather quick, and gameplay begins immediately with a simple tutorial explaining the mechanics of the game by granting you brief control over the Athlum soldiers. After succeeding in the battle, you are finally given control of Rush.
Straight away it is made clear that The Last Remnant Remastered has a lot of mechanics to unpack, even when it seems like things are relatively simple on the surface. The gameplay is layered and, at times, very complex, and you’re always going to learn or discover something new each time to play or look up strategies. It is a rather intense tactical RPG that heavily encourages trial-and-error and experimentation when it comes to skill choice and party setup.
The party system is just one of the many complex and in-depth aspects of the game, more so than most standard JRPGs. As the player, you are in command of groups called Unions and each Union can be filled with five units. Each individual unit provides their own unique set of skills, magic and stats to their designated Union, ultimately affecting your overall success in battle. Each Union also has a Formation, which will not only affect their position in battle, but will also add stat benefits and possible penalties.
The feature of having to recruit, care for and command multiple units at one time really cements the idea that you are taking part in a war, and I thought it was definitely one of the great things about this game. I really enjoyed that building an army actually felt like building an army, and that it was possible to recruit units from pretty much anywhere; from soldiers of Athlum to mercenaries from the various major cities. Though as diverse and as interesting as the Union system is, I was a little disappointed to learn I couldn’t offer gear or items manually to my squadron, and instead had to hope that some of the items they needed for upgrades would drop off monsters or they would ask for my unused gear on the overworld map.
The unique Turn-Based Command System ensures that the battles that take place between these multiple groups of soldiers and monsters proceed as smoothly and somewhat quickly as possible; though the mechanics are a lot to take in all at once. At the top of every round of combat, each Union group is provided a set of commands that are prompted based on the situation of your Morale Bar, party members, health status and items held in your inventory. You can only issue out a single command to each Union per combat round, which results in a new level of difficulty, as you have very little in the way of preemptively preparing for a rough attack that could lower a Union’s health significantly, especially when the Morale Bar–which determines how much damage you give or receive–is less in your favor at the start of the battle.
I was certainly overwhelmed and very confused by the overall battle system at first. The game does a decent job at explaining the basics of combat, but once the tutorial phase concludes, the rest is up to the player to figure out–or google search, in my case. For instance, the game doesn’t inform you that party members will not use revival spells if the required reagents in your inventory are a low, resulting in the lack of proper revival prompts in combat. Having restocked my supplies with a significantly high amount of reagents as other players suggested, the prompts reappeared. Coming from simpler RPG mechanics, my confusion over the revival spell stemmed from a lack of understanding how items worked, and it took an outside source to explain the situation.
With how complicated and difficult The Last Remnant Remastered can get, especially later in the game, I was a little surprised to find that there was no real manual in the game for quick refreshers or explanations on topics the tutorials did not cover. And though it certainly brings a community together to discuss the game on social media platforms, I feel as though there should have been a quick help menu for new players who are hopelessly lost or are easily confused.
I also found that this game can be quite the grind-fest sometimes. There is an abundant of side quests you can get from NPCs all around the world map, and squadron members will often ask for assistance with crafting, leaving a player with plenty of things to collect and do. The quests can get rather repetitive, as you do go to the same areas over and over, but I do feel like this game can be an absolute paradise for players who love spending an evening farming monsters to strengthen skills or to obtain rare crafting materials.
The graphical updates to this remastered version are lovely, the details on clothing and armor are crisp and the environments are clean and bright. The light sources are wonderfully done and the world itself is pretty and fun to explore. The game does an excellent job at making zones feel very open and large, especially when you see the Remnants lording over their cities. Their sizes and designs are impressive, and gave me a sense of wonder alongside worry. I felt so small compared to them!
One of the more major issues I had with the game was the storytelling. The Last Remnant Remastered flashes through cutscenes rather fast, and I noticed that the story felt a little jumbled and was somewhat hard to follow because of it. By no means is The Last Remnant lacking in fascinating characters and lore; I found a lot of the characters to be very likable and the lore of the world and the idea of Remnants to be very interesting. But because the cutscenes felt like they’re gone through so quickly, there was very little time to watch characters grow and develop, or for scenes to flow naturally. It felt almost rushed in some spots, resulting in moments of confusion or misunderstanding of the story’s intention.
Major decisions are seemingly made without much thought by the character themselves, and events where you are meant to feel emotionally attached to characters aren’t as effective as they could be. We’re never really given a chance to learn about the prominent characters in the main story, and what glimpses into their personal lives we do get are gone in the blink of an eye. The Last Remnant Remastered has much potential in the way of excellent storytelling, and I feel it would have surpassed and excelled at it, had the game slowed down just enough to let the player catch up to develop those attachment to these wonderful characters, and to give the world a chance to blossom into something truly rich.
Overall I had a good time with The Last Remnant Remastered despite the confusion and struggles I had with the game. I was strangely charmed by it and continuously kept going back to play more; it was fun and enjoyable in a lot of ways. I liked a lot of the characters, with my personal favorite being Baulson the mercenary. The world felt vast and was beautiful to run around in and explore, the designs and artwork were incredible. It was just a good ol’ fashioned fantasy game.
So for those players seeking an RPG with brief cutscenes, layers of mechanics and monsters that can get pretty difficult if one’s not careful, The Last Remnant Remastered might be just the thing you’re looking for. But for players looking for something a little less intense and something more story driven, then this game might not be for you.
The Last Remnant Remastered is available now on PlayStation 4 for $19.99.
Disclaimer: A review copy of The Last Remnant Remastered (PS4) was provided to Nova Crystallis by Square Enix, the publisher.