Switch version tested
Review code provided
You can’t go wrong with a classic shooter. Whether it be a horizontal or vertical scroller, or perhaps a top-down view, you know where you stand and what to expect. Some newer titles pay homage to the classic shoot ’em up with traditional mechanics, but through in a few extras like an almost RPG element to keep you going. Well, Last Encounter, is one of those titles that take a classic model and adds to it.
Last Encounter is a top-down, twin-stick shooter. Take command of your spaceship with the left stick, and aim with the right. The first thing to say is it’s very similar to Super Stardust, but I’d say it’s more like Asteroids, only a lot of the floating debris is static and plays out more like Gauntlet, only in space.
The story in the game is a bit of a mainstay with sci-fi based games. Humanity has all but been wiped out and a select through remain. To keep humanity alive, scientists have found a way to replicate alien technology in the form of warp drives. With these, the aim is to find uncharted locations to rebuild civilisation once more, and in the game, you collect more and more parts to create a new network of travel.
At the start of the game, you have the option to choose a pilot and a suitable spaceship. With each choice comes a perk. For example, one pilot may be weak when it comes to speed but excels at damage dealing. Likewise, you could choose a ship that hacks it around the arena like a gazelle in heat with a weak attack, but with their unparalleled manoeuvrability and the available power-ups from each of the procedurally generated maps, you can swiftly turn any weakness into a strength.
Last Encounter is a rogue-like, so is it safe to assume that it’s difficult? Absolutely. From my perspective, Last Encounter is one of the least hectic shoot ’em ups I’ve played of late, but it’s still pretty darn hard. I didn’t die as much as I had expected, and that’s not because I’m an elite player – far from it, but it’s more the hit and run plan of attack and using the environment to your advantage. That’s the key to surviving this game.
Instead of a flurry of bullets, plasma and missiles heading your way, you can lure out individual ships and pick them off one by one to make it more manageable. However, in most of the areas, they will respawn from a factory-type building, so you need to get in and destroy those pronto. It’s here where it can get a little crazy, but not overwhelming. There can be a dozen or so ships about, and while you should be able to dodge the projectiles and read where they are heading, it’s the laser tripwires, indestructible asteroids that stay in place or the mines you have to avoid. Death is imminent.
Take, for example, some of the goals; take out a large ship which is sandwiched between a series of rocks, but it won’t leave the area. That means you have to get in and attack while some of the plankton-like smaller vessels attack you like wasps armed with lasers. You can take them out instead so that you can concentrate on the objective once more, but you’ll note that their shield starts to recharge. Last Encounter doesn’t have the same urgency as most shooters, but to survive, you need to be quick and have a strategy.
Other than the in-game power-ups to see you through, you can also collect credits each time you destroy an enemy or destructible asset. Be mindful that they disappear after a short space of time so depending on what ship you have, you have to collect them quickly. This can be a bit of a pig to control as the credits are quite small and you need to be accurate with your flying. Also, if you die, you lose the credits you collected. Marvellous.
What happens with all these credits then? Spaceship bling. You can power-up your existing arsenal with a variety of destructive gadgets, but my tip would be to go for the laser. That’s by far the best and most consistent weapon in the game. Not only does it do enough damage, but it’s also accurate too as you get to see your line of attack and ‘steer’ it with the right stick. The standard bullet method looks good, but I found with this weapon I was shooting like a stormtrooper who was due an optician’s appointment.
If you’re one of those show-offs who have friends, you can easily rope one or up to three others in to play a co-op game. Surprisingly, it’s not that confusing to have everyone playing at the same time, and if you do have the luxury of having people desperate to play with you, a four-player game would be ace. I could only rope one other player in, and that’s not to disguise not having any friends, but I find fans of these games to be those types who played them in the 16-bit era or have a penchant for retro gaming. It goes without saying: this has to be played in docked mode when in multiplayer as the ships on-screen are tiny.
Replayability is mostly down to whether or not you like the base game. As the maps are procedurally generated, the options are pretty much limitless, but the way a level will play out can either be fairly easy or stupidly hard. There’s not always the best balance. However, if you enjoy the mechanics of a rogue-like and get a grasp on how to the variety of ways to play Last Encounter, you could end up playing this for a very long time. There are more than enough characters and vehicles to use, plus with all the power-ups, it’s pretty limitless. It’s just a little inconsistent in terms of the playthroughs.
Last Encounter offers a bit more depth to the average shooter once you learn what style of play works best for you; do you opt for a swift run and gun approach, or pick off enemies with a behemoth spaceship that would have issues bending down to tie its laces, let alone do a 100m dash? Those things are slow. Last Encounter doesn’t feel like a bullet-hell type game, but it certainly provides enough challenge for the shoot ’em up veterans out there.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 21/02/2020
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Shooter, shoot ’em up, rogue-like
Developer: Exordium Games
Publisher: Silesia Games
Download link: eShop