The Last Story and the Illusion of Choice

I finally got around to playing The Last Story, a game I had heard good things about from Cary of Recollections of Play and fellow admin over at UWG, and it is thanks to her that I decided to pick it up and check it out for myself. I ended up really enjoying the game, but I have often written reviews for games, only for them to turn out boring. (Frankly, reviews for bad games are far more interesting.) There’s only so many ways you can say the plot is good and the characters were interesting, so I’ll try to keep all of that out of this post and focus on the details unique to this game.

Ahem, this game took me 25 hours to beat, which is quite good, though it’s certainly not the longest RPG out there. Nevertheless, I really liked the fact that this game gets straight to the point, and 44 chapters was more than enough, even if some were pretty short. Those 25 hours were packed with plot and character development rather than mindless exploring and grinding, so you don’t really feel like any of that time is wasted, except for the half a dozen times they make you revisit the Reptid Cave.

Anyway, yeah, it’s a good game, but what I’d really like to focus on for the remainder of this post are my top pros and cons. What I think stood out most of all for me was the battle system, which I think is one of the best I’ve ever seen. This game is fought in real-time, which I prefer, except for the fact that this also means you must sacrifice control of your team members. Unless you’re playing The Last Story, that is, where you control Zael and give out orders to your comrades whenever you see fit. You have several commands you can give each of your allies, including yourself, such as different spells, retreat, and such. Occasionally, characters can also use attacks or spells akin to the limit breaks from Final Fantasy, such as Zael’s accelerate ability, which makes him run and attack faster or Mirania’s super useful revive ability, which replenishes all health and one life for each character (every character gets five lives per battle, which makes it seem like the game would be too easy, but there are times you really need those lives). You have some other moves, as well, such as Zael’s ability to dispel spell circles, but that’s the gist of it, really.

It took me some time to get used to the battle system, and I even put very serious consideration into giving up because certain boss battles were just too difficult, but after the rage died down and I finally managed to progress through the game with little further trouble, I had a great time with it, and in the end, I only had one complaint about the game (aside from the upsetting amount of skin some characters showed, mainly Dagran, forcing me to change his clothes regardless of the stats just to see less of his dude-thighs), and while I’m not sure if this is a real complaint or not, I still think it needs mentioning. Because I promised you my top cons, and I’m not a liar.

You see, there are certain points in the game where they give you the illusion of choice. I‘ve often heard it discussed that we gamers wish our decisions had a greater impact on the outcome of our games, an opinion I agree with wholeheartedly, and at first, I really thought this game would be one of those. Several times, they ask Zael to make an important decision (I won’t say what they were to avoid spoilers), and, taking them seriously, I put deep thought into these choices before I eventually made them. But, then a point came where I made a decision the game didn’t want me to make, causing Zael to state that he needed to rethink things, only to give me the same choices again, and I was forced to choose the other option to continue.

Needless to say, this was a letdown. It appeared the decisions I made previously only were allowed because they were the correct decisions, but once I strayed from that, the game had to put me back on track, and I no longer put any thought into the choices given to us in the game because I knew it would make no difference. It’s one thing when a game lets you choose between lesser important options (a recent example was when a mole asked me to keep a secret in Skyward Sword, to which I replied I wouldn’t, because he made me mad). It’s a bit pointless, I admit, but it’s nice being given the option to somewhat steer the conversation. But, when a game sets before you major decisions, only to take it back, I just don’t think we should be asked in the first place. I mean, why bother? It’s apparently not my decision to make anyway. It’s the game developers’.

Anyway, The Last Story is a good game and great for anyone who likes RPG’s, but doesn’t have the time for turn-based battling, grinding, or tedious exploration. I was just disappointed when I believed at first that it would be a game that actually gave its players the ability to make major decisions, only to find that it’s like going to a restaurant, ordering from a menu, and then being told you’re getting what the chef decides for you. You want chicken? Too bad, you’re getting beef. Yes, this is the case for nearly all games out there, but I just felt a bit…taunted. At least they kind of let you dress your character however you want. I had fun making everyone more modest. I’m weird like that.

The Last Duck; I’m Endangered

First published on United We Game on March 10, 2015

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4 thoughts on “The Last Story and the Illusion of Choice

  1. The problem with choice in video games is always the degree to which its implemented. The Last Story’s decisions clearly aren’t decisions at all, but even the more celebrated examples of choice in gaming still suffer from pointless decisions. Just take Mass Effect for example. It gives you choices on who will live and who will die, but none of them affect the overall plot. Worlds don’t change, events don’t change, missions don’t change, your own options haven’t changed. All that’s changed is whether or not a particular character is alive. That’s it. It’s definitely a consequence, just not the game-changing decision that we thought it was going to be.

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    1. I would love more games where our decisions affect the plot. I think the best example I can think of is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. At least, I heard that you can affect the plot by choosing between the dark side and the good side, but I only played the game once, so I’m not sure how different the game would be if I chose a different path next time.

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      1. I’ve played that game a couple of times through, and the notable changes are in how the ending plays out. Some characters can die if Revan becomes a Sith again and at least one boss fight becomes optional rather than mandatory.

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      2. Hmm, doesn’t sound like choices make too many changes in the plot, but I should try playing the game again and see what happens. I could never get to one side or another in terms of good and dark sides. My intentions were always good, but the game kept putting me on the dark side for mistakes, and I ended up pretty much neutral. in the end How boring.

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