When exploring the unknown fear is cast aside. After learning what lies in the shadows there may be no turning back, and precautions must be taken when exploring the arcane knowledge of destruction and creation. When entering the fantastic realm of magic and sorcery, the opportunities for a great destructive error increases. Just as words cannot be unspoken, some spells cannot be un-cast. In The Last Spell, the survival of civilization depends on one final spell to dissolve all magic and undo the damage caused by its misuse.
The Last spell is a turn based strategy game that combines RPG style characters and combat with rogue-like siege defense. The use of magic has crippled most of mankind and unleashed massive hordes of undead upon the human realm. In order to undo this grievous magical error, the world’s remaining spellcasters prepare one final incantation to remove magic from all of existence. To complete the spell, the mages will have to rely on the abilities of a randomly generated squad of heroes to keep the army of evil at bay long enough. Stopping the endless waves of the undead is a challenging journey as the resulting battles are a tense onslaught of strategic destruction while those who remain fight for the survival of the human race.
Like any magic spell there is some preparation involved. Stages consist of defending some of the last standing cities while mages prepare their final spell to end all magic. It has not been revealed how many stages make the entire game, but the first stage itself takes hours to complete. The introduction to combat begins at the first night as a wave of undead descend upon the city for the heroes to defeat. If they manage to survive then the next day is spent building in preparation for the following night’s attack until The Last Spell can put an end to the hordes. Any heroes lost to the hordes are not replaceable as there is no reviving them in combat, but there’s plenty of strategies for keeping them alive by expanding their abilities.
Bolstering humanity’s last defense means equipping better gear and learning new skills. The break of day also allows a dwindling workforce to scavenge resources for the construction of buildings and barricades. While a dense fog prevents you from knowing the enemy’s strength and numbers, you can tell the incoming direction of the horde and are given the day to prepare upgrades and defensive barricades. It can take up to ten cycles of day and night to complete the first stage alone, and the challenge only increases from there.
Acclimating with the phases of day and night is made simple. While building by day, following the menu’s checklist makes sure you’ve used all the appropriate actions. When the undead attack at night helpful alerts also advise if there’s still room to maneuver so players can be sure they’ve made the most of each turn. Mouse controls are similar to real-time strategy games, and the way the left hand keyboard shortcuts are assigned feels natural as making decisions on the battlefield quickly becomes intuitive.
Rouge-like features create a variety of obstacles and advantages with each play. Each town’s ruinous layout is randomized as well as heroes and their abilities. Gaining levels for each hero grants a random selection of common, uncommon, and rare ability upgrades with the option to re-roll choices twice, with fewer options to choose from after each re-roll. Items can be bought with gold or earned through skilled play but are drawn by luck as well.
The Last Spell is designed to create a formidable challenge for players. Surviving the undead siege is not meant to be an easy task and requires careful coordination of the heroes and village’s upgrades. There is room for only one iron man style save file, so abandoning the save means drawing new characters and resetting any ability progress. Each stage is highly replayable because there are permanent benefits to being defeated. There are merciful gods who can upgrade available sets of gear and skills by spending tainted essence earned by playing. New structures are unlocked through achievements like distance traveled and enemies killed, which feels like climbing the game’s tech tree even after losing. If players find the difficulty too overwhelming, there’s a short list of options to adjust the difficulty by lowering material costs, or starting with more at your disposal. The difficulty presented in the base game however, is a tension-filled struggle that matches it’s challenge with equal excitement.
The overall experience is enhanced by an experimental electronic industrial metal artist The Algorithm. This is an artist who is well versed in creating dark and aggressive music who has lent their dystopian sound palette to envelope you the tension and dread of each phase of the game. The moods created by the over-driven synths served over a bed of distorted guitars is all too fitting for the grim situation the party of heroes face. The cascading arpeggios and occasional heavy metal breakdown create a soundtrack worth owning all on its own.
While the mechanics run as deep as a grand strategy or city building game, they are made captivating and easy to understand. The heads up display and menu locations are not only accessible but are brought to attention seamlessly throughout each phase of day or night. It’s never a mystery as to which decisions you should be making, even when returning to the game after a break. While characters and their progression is random, each instance feels fairly balanced. There are plenty of strategies for players to develop using the skills and perks available. Party abilities have great synergy when used properly and can take out lots of enemies if you can set up combinations correctly. The only things missing from this still developing title might be a way to prevent buildings and objects from camera blocking characters while being selected on the field.
Playing The Last Spell is like experiencing your very own siege of the dead. While still a turn based game, the swelling feeling of being overrun by relentless armies of flesh eating monsters is like living a pixel art portrayal of Army of Darkness or Night of the Living Dead. While you may have time to choose and prepare, the atmosphere established is dense with fear as if each decision could mean the end of humanity. There’s a lot of rewarding fun to experience for anyone who can survive long enough to cast The Last Spell.
– Role playing combat and siege defense combined seamlessly
– Tons of combos and strategies to explore
– Simple and addictive gameplay loop
– Amazing soundtrack by The Algorithm
– Buildings and objects can camera block characters
4 out of 5
PC review code provided by Tinsely PR. Check out The Last Spell’s Early Access release on Steam!