By Marisa Alexander / August 1st, 2018
|Release Date||May 8th, 2018|
|Age Rating||None Provided|
One of the more common plot threads in sci-fi is humanity nearing extinction. In individual works, reasons why can range from lack of resources, to disease, to first hostile alien contact. Last Encounter, developed by Exordium Games, is one such work where humanity met hostile extraterrestrials and was unable to fight back. Humanity is virtually destroyed save for one lone space colony. With the ability to transplant a person’s memories and personality into a new body, the player is sent out to investigate what happened to a fleet that was sent to close the warp portal the aliens used to invade from another galaxy. The game itself is a twin-stick shooter with rogue-like elements where galaxy layouts are randomized and upon death, one must restart from the beginning. Can you find out what happened to the fleet and save humanity?
Overall, the plot is exceptionally bare-bones and serves more as a motivation for your adventure and why you can restart anew upon death. Your main guide is Dr. Daniel Connor, who despite his position as a scientist is exceptionally informal in his speech and attempts to make fun of the aliens. As such, the tone is meant to be light overall, though there is juxtaposition with Captain Lea. Captain Lea leaves prerecorded messages detailing the fleet’s fate and the dire situation. These moments are exceptionally serious in contrast to Dr. Connor on his lonesome. As such, the game’s writing feels a tad inconsistent on what it wants to be.
Thankfully, this isn’t a game about its plot but rather its gameplay. For the most part, the game plays like an average twin-stick shooter. Before you begin proper, you choose a pilot that influences the statistics of each ship, where each ship has an unique special ability like buffing allies, turning invisible, and destroying the ship’s shield to inflict damage. After that, one can purchase weapon components with credits, the game’s currency. To start with, there are only the three basic shot types but more components can be unlocked via finding them in the game proper. However, these components then must be researched by either finding and using them or using credits. Otherwise one can’t purchase them and in the field, they break after using them for some time.
After that, the player sets out through the portal and begins exploring each galaxy. As players explore each galaxy, one can find a multitude of passive and permanent upgrades. These range from health and shield increases, to a laser sight, to the ability to regain health upon a kill by chance. Most of these upgrades are very minor, nothing truly drastic or necessary in order to smoothly explore each galaxy. What are far more important are components. To start with, the three basic shot types are pathetically weak. They can’t even destroy the weakest of enemy ships in one shot. However, components can make shots ricochet, have a triple barrel, and so on. There are even alternative shot types like missiles.
Since the basic shots are extremely weak, one might find themselves making no substantial progress after the first galaxy until they can unlock other components. This is an issue mainly due to how sturdy enemy ships can be as well as how many of them there can be. This is an issue amplified when there are multiple ships that simply ram into the player’s ship, especially since they are difficult to avoid. Another common obstacle are ships or structures that spawns more enemies, rapidly making a swarm of enemies seemingly endless. Overall, one must do multiple minor runs in order to have a more comfortable time making progress.
With that in mind, it feels like the game is tailored for co-op. The game sports local co-op, even on PC, so one can gather a group of friends to play together. I never got a chance to test it personally, but the game certainly feels made for co-op. This would explain the large amount of ships one can encounter as well as their health pools. Perhaps if the game simply scaled in accordance to how many players there were, this wouldn’t be an issue. Getting players to play locally on PC tends to be a rarity though, so it is strange that there is no online aspect to the game.
As a rogue-like, the game does a surprisingly good job. While there are certain formations that are indeed similar or exactly the same, the overall layout in each sector of each galaxy feels relatively different. The game also keeps it so that you must go through each galaxy in order outside of the ability to skip one at points. As such, each faction of aliens are met in the same order. It is simply power-ups, layouts, components, and even finding a boss battle which are random. This is fine; the game has a logical progression in tandem with the rogue-like elements.
With regards to presentation, the game is pretty good admittedly. The game looks fairly nice even on low settings where each galaxy truly is quite unique visually. The soundtrack, while it isn’t my particular taste, does a good job for both ambience and combat encounters. While merely exploring, the game relies on electronic and synth whereas for combat it is something akin to electronic or electronic rock. The sound department, however, could be better. Most shot types don’t have enough impact behind them and explosions are typically simple and don’t feel like they are fitting in a sci-fi setting. Not to mention it is hard to tell if you get hit via audio cues.
In the end, Last Encounter is an alright game. It isn’t bad, not exactly great, but it does what it sets out to do decently enough. If the game’s sense of scaling were better, this would be a better title for sure. Exordium Games however do provide weekly patches to the game, so it should be noted that a couple of scaling issues could be addressed by the time of this writing. For about $15, I would advise waiting for a price drop but otherwise this is still a decent purchase. I played about three and a half hours with seven runs, with the first surprisingly good in hindsight. The game can be fun at points but also relatively annoying at others. It merely depends on if one can get a couple friends and just casually enjoy the game for what it is.
Review copy provided by the publisher
co-opExordium GamesLast EncounterPCPS4twinstick shooter