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Last Encounter

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Exordium Games
Release Date: Feb. 21, 2020

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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Switch Review - 'Last Encounter'

by Joseph Doyle on April 2, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Last Encounter is an intergalactic roguelike twin-stick shooter with extensive weapon customization.

The depths of space are an intellectual and scientific pursuit for decades. Radio telescopes, the Mars rover, and Voyager are just a few examples of how we've pursued the knowledge of the planets, stars, and vast nothingness around us. Last Encounter launches us into the Star Trek future with far-reaching space stations and teleportation technology, but instead of being the "ambassadors of peace and goodwill," you blast alien ships. Last Encounter takes the middle road of little definition and intrigue to create a palatable but blasé experience.

Last Encounter begins with a tour of the dying world, where humanity is on the ropes. As the oily slideshow of space, ships and death moves glacially across the screen, you're told by a female AI voice that Earth has been destroyed by an incredibly hostile alien civilization. You're on a space station that's focused on regenerating humans and their bodies, and you're tasked with following a crew that went through an interstellar portal to pursue the intergalactic interlopers. All the while, the text in the subtitles is completely and glaringly different at points, stating that your mission is to "save the survivors," while the voice tells you to "accomplish their mission."

While nothing is technically wrong with the game's narrative, too many details surrounding it are unclear and uninteresting. Some names in the story are worth remembering, but most aren't. Some have personality and defining characteristics, but others don't endear themselves to the player. The first few characters I chose from are predominately people of color, and that representation is integral to the experience so players can see themselves in the characters.

After customizing your stats with the selected player and ship, you head into the tutorial, where you learn about the layout of the game. You warp from zone to zone, kill the enemy hordes of ships, and collect money for upgrades and keys to reach the next area. From here on out, you forge ahead into the unknowns of space with teleporters and warping. You're out to defeat a hostile enemy, which is manifested by purple and green ships, and you battle a plethora of mines and ominous red gates.

While the generic nature of the enemies and arenas is frustrating, it pales in comparison to issues created by the screen size. Your ship is almost a blip on the screen, and you fight other blips on the screen as you try to avoid blips that will explode and kill you (not as bad as Mugsters, but I digress). To add to the chaos of deciphering what's occurring on-screen, the perspective increases the difficulty. While this jump in difficulty is frustrating, it's compounded by the hardware limitations that are the Switch's Joy-Cons, leading the player to paw on both analog sticks on the controller, which creates a stiff and uncomfortable hand position. To be fair, this is alleviated while using a Pro Controller in docked mode, but there's absolutely no reason the game should be this difficult to enjoy while playing in a standard console mode. The less interesting aspects of the gameplay are excusable, but what's not excusable is the decrease in fun due to incompatible perspectives and controllers.

That general feeling of disinterest also bleeds into the visuals of Last Encounter. My description of the ships and environments is as about as compelling as the game gets. Bright colors can only dazzle for so long, especially when they're painted on top of incredibly flat-appearing assets. Vibrant purples are splashed around the screen as the setting and the background, and it's peppered with neon blues, reds and yellows — reminiscent of older, campy science fiction. The designs of the levels, power-ups, ships and UI just feel so cookie-cutter. It almost appears to be a well-designed Flash game that someone would be playing in the background of a television show from the mid-aughts. The saving graces are the cut scenes and character design, which exhibit more distinct styles and convey more than the game does to channel oil portraits. It's not enough to save the game when the lion's share of the aesthetics are simply too mundane to be noteworthy.

Sadly, the music falls into the same category. Synthesizers tread lightly in a spooky tremolo as guitars crunch through with bravado as you fight off the enemy ships. Enigmatic piano riffs will play over slow, spacy string chords. To the music's credit, the tone matches the scenes. The music will dip down in energy mid-dogfight, but this isn't terribly distracting. While I do love to hear the whirring of engines, the explosions of enemy ships, and the collection of money, those sounds shouldn't completely eclipse the soundtrack and take away any passing escapism I may have felt for a few seconds.

Despite everything you just read, Last Encounter is not a bad game. It looks decent, it plays decently, and it sounds decent. That's all it is, though: a relatively inoffensive twin-stick shooter. Since it glosses over the woes concerning design, perspective, and heck even gameplay, but this title is pretty functional. If "functional" is the kindest word that can be mustered for this flat and frustrating game, then I wouldn't necessarily call it good, either.

Score: 5.0/10

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