The Last Remnant: Now Loading Battles

By Louise Yang . December 16, 2008 . 12:45pm

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The Last Remnant feels like a run-of-the-mill PS2 RPG dressed up with eye-popping Xbox 360 textures and graphics. Its load times are atrocious when playing the game off the disc; it takes a few seconds to load each battle as well as a few seconds to load the interior of buildings and different parts of town. Its story is a generic mix of fantasy and technology. Despite these flaws, The Last Remnant delivers on what it boasts of: a unique battle system that lets you command more characters (up to 25?) than ever before in previous RPGs.

 

Unions, small parties made up of a leader and a few soldiers, are the core of The Last Remnant’s battle mechanics. During battles, unions take turns attacking each other. Even though they’re made up of separate party members whom you can move and switch around, once a union is formed, its HP and SP becomes one. Knocking down the leader, or whittling the union’s HP down to 0 makes it ineffective for that fight. But don’t despair, unions regain full health after a fight has ended.

 

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If the idea of commanding 25 people sounds like a lot of tedious micromanagement, don’t worry, it’s not. The game does a great job of giving players general commands they can order their unions to follow such as attack the boss, use a regular attack, attack with combat arts (physical skills), attack with mystic arts (magic skills), heal, heal and attack, or defend. When these commands are dished out, different members of the union will carry out the command to the best of their abilities. If you command a union to attack using mystic arts, only the members of the union who have mystic arts will use them while the rest will use a regular attack.

 

Issuing a single command for a group of members is a lot more manageable than having to command them separately. Most of the battles went like this: I fired off commands to each of my unions and then sat back and watched the gorgeous graphics on the screen carry out my actions. Attack animations are long and there is a lot of sitting back and watching in the game. Because I was not directly giving orders to each member of the party, I felt distanced from what was happening on screen. I felt like a general watching a monitor from a safe base. If you’re more of a hands-on type of person who always has to be pressing buttons, The Last Remnant may become boring.

 

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Unions can be customized not only by who you choose to lead the union, but also which party members to include in the union. I had a pretty weak magic character that I wanted to level up, so I put him in the middle of a Union with a lot of strong melee characters. Union formation can also be customized. Different forms of unions get unlocked later in the game, but the basic idea is: keep your physical and melee characters on the outside and your magic casting characters on the inside. The option to customize the union formation is a nice addition, but I never came to a point where my formation was crucial to winning a fight.

 

The Last Remnant also features different dynamics between the union doing the attacking and the union being attacked. If a union is being attacked by another one, the two unions become locked together, which means they can’t attack other unions. This sets the attacked union up to be flanked by another union (since they can’t defend against another union). Flanking unions deal out additional damage. Likewise, a union flanked on both sides, and then attacked from the rear take on even more damage. Because of these dynamics, it’s typically a good idea to command your unions to attack the same union if it’s a strong one.

 

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If The Last Remnant didn’t suffer from frame rate issues when there’s too much action on the screen, annoying loading times, and very noticeable texture pop-ups, I would have enjoyed the experience more. The battle system made every fight feel epic, but the delay between them made me wish the game were a tactical RPG instead. I just wanted to fight, not go through one long cut scene after another interspersed with loading screens.

 

The Last Remnant is a game with lofty goals plagued with less than stellar execution.

 

Images courtesy of Square Enix.


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  • Mazen

    Yes the texture loading always happen in western games Gears1,2 ,Mass Effect, Bio Shock, Fallout, Fable 2,this the first time I’ve seen it in a Japanese game.
    also these games have bugs, freezing, weird glitches and almost each one of them have more than 1 patch released to fix them (most doesn’t work)not to mention the tearing everywhere,

    yet everyone slam this game technical it doesn’t have any bugs or glitches just slowdowns in few places and loading that can be fixed by installing, Great game.

  • HeeroYhui

    Agree. I really like this game, feels like old times.
    By the other hand I don’t like to suffer so I play the game from the HD, and everything is perfect.

  • http://www.8wayrun.com/ Jaxel

    I’ve been so disappointed with S-E this generation. It seems that with all these “360 Exclusives”, Microsoft has been pushing them to release their games as fast as possible. Which of course means that these games are unfinished, buggy and simply need a few more passes. Remember when S-E would hold a game back for years while they got it perfect? I miss those days.

  • Vagiel

    Last remnant is actually a continuation to the SaGa series. Playing it you realize that most of the mechanics are there, Sparkling although there is no light bulb yet it has the same function, learning skill in the midst of battle. Gaining attributes not from leveling but at the end of each battle. Many characters different weapon types and skills accompanying them. And many other aspects make it a new SaGa game. Of course that is no coincidence since it is made by Akitoshi Kawazu the main director of the series. So anyone who enjoyed saga frontier for ps1 or more recently romancing saga for ps2 ought to give last remnant a chance.

  • jarrod

    The technical issues (loading, pop in, slowdown, etc) do reduce with HD installing thankfully. And yeah, I do think it’s bizarre that this game gets crucified by almost every outlet for bugginess and technical issues when basically every 360 WRPG (Oblivion, Mass Effect, Fallout 3, Fable II, etc) is just as bad or worse in that regard. Not speaking so much towards dedicated enthusiast sides like siliconera, but it’s something I’ve noticed with the “mainstream” gaming media especially. :/

  • http://www.nakedsushi.net Louise

    @jarrod: It’s good news that HD installing almost eliminates the loading issue, but one of the main reason I got a console to play games on is so that I don’t have to go to the trouble of installing it like I would on a PC. Having to install the entire game onto my HD just so that it can be enjoyable without loading screens is just bad engineering. What about people like me with the 20gb HD model of the Xbox? Or the people with no HD at all?

    I think @Jaxel touched on a good point: S-E needs to stand up to Microsoft and just say, “Hey, we just need more time to work out some kinks” in some of their 360 games. I think MS just cares about getting S-E to churn out games for the 360 period to tap into the Japanese market, but S-E needs to put more weight on polishing the game.

    Also, while Fallout 3 did have load screens, it was hardly to the point of a load screen for each battle.

  • jarrod

    Loading’s not as bad in Fallout 3, but it’s much buggier overall. Then again, it’s really focusing on different things versus The Last Remnant…. still, it just seems to me a lot of media seem to be holding games to different standards depending on which continent they happen to made on. TLR was routinely docked points and given huge negative emphasis due to it’s “bugs” (which were often the lead in any review), while all most high profile WRPGs seem to get is usually a passing mention, if that. Mass Effect was a technical mess, even by comparison to TLR , and it sailed by comparably unscathed critically.

    As far as Microsoft being the one rushing these games… I doubt it. I don’t think Microsoft’s really in much position to put pressure on Square Enix either way.

  • http://www.nakedsushi.net Louise

    @jarrod You’re right, I wouldn’t go as far as call TLR buggy. There aren’t any game-breaking bugs at all that I’ve seen.

  • wario4ever

    my 2 cents: it’s because it was square-enix first time using the unreal engine
    at least the game isn’t broken like sonic 2006 uggh!

  • jarrod

    Off-topic but Sonic 2006 used Renderware, strangely enough. So did Sonic & the Secret Rings.

  • wario4ever

    i own both sonics and Sonic & the Secret Rings. plays better. how sad
    oh well. back to adventure i mean topic.

  • G

    This reminds me of the framerate and loading times problems with lost odyssey (Unreal engine)…

    Anyways, when I buy this game after x-mas, I’ll be installing this game on my 20GB HDD… and after a while, deinstalling it (so I can install something else, or for more arcade titles, etc.)

  • MissaGauzeMacabreKisou

    @Jaxel

    “I’ve been so disappointed with S-E this generation. It seems that with all these “360 Exclusives”, Microsoft has been pushing them to release their games as fast as possible. Which of course means that these games are unfinished, buggy and simply need a few more passes. Remember when S-E would hold a game back for years while they got it perfect? I miss those days.”

    Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII all say, HI! (Long development time)

  • jarrod

    Secret of Mana is buggier than The Last Remnant. Revisionist History sucks.

  • Aoshi00

    While the technical hiccups are no way game breaking, they do take away the overall experience and chips points off the overall presentation.

    I only played Last Remnant off of the HDD from the beginning, load time btwn screens is down to 1-2 secs, but textures still take 2 seconds to kick in which can look pretty awkward. Frame-rate further slow down the alrdy long battle sequences. One way to be more engaging in the fights though is the timed btn press for critical hits, unfortunately it’s not nearly as fun as Shadow Heart’s judgment ring or the same in Lost Odyssey, so it’s not worth it and the computer does it tons better netting you consecutive attacks.

    I can imagine how bad it is w/o the install. For those who only have the 20gb, chances are they need to install disc 1, finish it, uninstall it, then make room for disc 2. While each install takes no more than 6-7 mins, it’s still a hassle for say Lost Odyssey which has 4 discs. I have a 120 gb and it’s down to 20 now because I install all the games I’m currently playing, drive is silent and system doesn’t overheat.. So it’s good at least we are given this option (most new PS3 games now have mandatory installs too)

    Lost Odyssey is one of my favorite recent RPGs, it’s old school to the max w/ a great story and good chars, but I would be lying if I say the frequent load times didn’t irk me, testing even the most patient, just imagine if they’re not there. But the game is so good I could overlook all of that. And it’s certainly unfair WRPGs and JRPGs are held to diff standards since the latter seems to be becoming less and less popular on this side of the Pacific.

    Overall, I enjoy greatly Last Remnant’s battle system, but the story leaves a little to be desired (I’m only at the beginning of disc 2 though..) The thing I would remember the most from this game? Rush’s “Let’s kick some A!” :)

  • JeremyR

    You did hear a lot of complaining about the loading and texture pop-in in Mass Effect, but they never seemed to affect review scores.

  • Li

    ^mass effect was garbage. it was such a boring game.

  • Mangledmon

    I think the thing is that we’re used to the kind of ‘perfection’ normally attributed to really good JRPGs (or just Japanese games in general), hence why Last Remnant’s getting picked on. Though with the use of Western game engines, it’s not surprising that the games are buggy as hell, with lotsa slow-down, glitches, bad loading times and so forth. I miss the days where Japanese studios could make good current-gen games in-house without having to bolt them onto rubbish western game engines. Program to the machine dammit, and we’ll get a much better experience. I’m sick of frame rate drops in the current gen, if I wanted to experience that I’d be playing on a PC :P

  • Jay

    Hopefully SE will fix the problems for the pc and ps3 versions

  • Mazen

    To the people say this game is buggy, Do you know what buggy mean?
    this game have zero bugs and glitches as far as I seen but it has some technical issues in loading times and textures,
    bugs are like the freezing that happen in Fable 2 (write Fable 2 and freezing in google to see how wide spread it is) or the random lock ups (as Bethesda themself call them) that happen in fallout also various weird glitches with items and NPCs. also there is GTA4 that gets 10s from everyone that game breaks consoles.

    These are bugs this game have zero bugs and glitches and I think that Iam near the end of the game.

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