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The Last Federation – First Impressions

By on April 23rd, 2014 10:00 am

The Last Federation | A Space Grand Strategy and Turn Based Tactical Combat Game by Arcen Games

Last week on April 18th 2014, Arcen Games released The Last Federation, their most recent indie title. Arcen Games is known for releasing games that tend to be a little outside of the box when it comes to traditional conventions and the Last Federation is no exception. The studio is probably better known for their release of AI War: Fleet Command.

The Last Federation puts you in the role of a mercenary captain, the last of his kind, who has set out to unite a fractured star system to form a united Federation, the first and the last federation to exist. The game mixes several genres together: it uses a unique form of turn-based combat that is not seen often in games, and mixes elements of the space genre and grand strategy together as well.

The story is straight-forward, you are the last of the Hydral, a space-faring race that kept the other races of their star system oppressed. Unlike other space strategy games, this one limits all the action to one star system, where each planet is inhabited by a different race. The Hydral rule came to end when their race got ‘de-populated’ by the probes of one of the other races, and in the final attempt to assert their dominance yet another race strapped rockets onto a moon and finished off your race once and for all. However, despite all these hardship you have not changed your mind that to prevent the destruction of all life in the star system a Federation needs to be formed and being the last of your kind hasn’t put a dent in your plan.

TLF | The Lone Star System

This basic prelude sets the stage to the game’s overall gameplay features. You are a lone ship, one man (well Hydral, a sea serpent with 4 heads) guided by the advice of your somewhat overly sarcastic and sometimes cynical computer. Though you do not command any fleet or lead any race. You scheme behind the scenes to manipulate the races to fulfilling your end goal. On the basic level you will perform both hostile and friendly actions to the races in the system. This will include stealing their technology and giving it to others, helping them in developing regions of their economy and planet, or destroying and stealing such improvements, while the whole time increasing your own power so that when you need to use gun based diplomacy, you can.

In this regard the games follows in the footsteps of your typical Grand Strategy games, as you scheme and perform both benign and cruel acts to get your end goal. However, forming a multi-racial Federation requires more than just being a petty mercenary, and this is where your hard earned influence and cash goes to good use. You can influence the politics of each race, telling them with who to trade, trade tech with, and even go to war with. However, getting them to do what you want might require a bit of elbow grease which can be achieved by performing more actions for or against each race, even directly influencing their politics by getting the right leader into power.

TLF | Plotting Actions

This is where most of the game’s interaction shines, as you will be always thinking how to achieve a given goal as each race tends to have certain abilities to influence the overall outcome of the game. One race has the ability to convince other races that likes them (but hates you) to still join your Federation, another can cause relations between other races to improve or worsen. Other races have different capabilities that you can utilize depending on which party is in power. Some races have completely unique ways to interact with. One race requires the use of bribes and actions to gain leverage over their leaders, another grants you votes which you can spend to influence them, while other races are immune to the criminal underworld limiting what sort of under-the-table action you can perform against them.

It should be noted you can do a lot: unleash a bio-attack to worsen an existing plague, or sabotage the race’s defense and ship building capability before a member of your Federation invades, setting up trade routes, trading tech, and declaring war or making peace deals. But you have to do so from behind the scene.

TLF | Politics

For fans of the TV series Babylon 5, if you ever wondered what being a Shadow or a Vorlon would be like; this game lets you do that. However, be warned races also take notice of your meddling in the affairs of others (positively or negatively depending on the circumstances); making you weight carefully when you will raid another race’s trade convoy or not.

Naturally not everything is done via scheming and diplomacy. Many times you have to take your highly advanced flagship and get your fins dirty. The combat is turn-based but as mentioned earlier, you are just one ship. You may have allies, but for the most part you have to do all the work yourself. Many times your purpose is not to kill everything present, sometimes you might just need to dock with a space station to get the schematics, and other times you may only need to destroy a few specific things. It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed in some of these battles.

The combat mechanic seems to be a mixture of a top down space shooter as you have to navigate your vessel to avoid enemy attacks as the screen is filled with stray bullets. You also have sets of special abilities which you can use, these usually clear out the space around your vessel as they offer special effects like: launching support crafts, intercepting all missiles launched close to you, to powerful effects like nukes, jammers, and cloaks.

TLF | Space Combat

The system involves you mapping out your ship’s movement for the next 2.5 seconds, selecting which weapon to use, and then selecting a target (or leaving it on auto-target). Then you observe the 2.5 second turn-time lapse before you get to the next turn and select your following turn’s actions.

The game uses a very retro feel to graphics and music. The catchy music is reminiscent to old style space games of yore while the game seems to be in 2D, using sprite based graphics and visual art straight inside the game while using parallax scrolling to create the illusion of depth. The visuals and art are definitely nice but are still very retro, and you will spend most of your time looking at menus and reading text.

Difficulty can be set separately for space battles and the strategy map, you can also choose which race starts off as spacefaring, and can also set the player’s mortality in combat and even enable an Ironman mode.

TLF | First Encounter

The game is overall addictive and for those who don’t mind its style might find a very interesting game under the covers. However, this game might not be for everyone with its retro look and somewhat unconventional approach to gameplay. Another downside is that the space battles can sometimes get repetitive, especially if you do a few in a row along the same missions. However, Arcen Games do support their games and have already released a patch that contained a new option in game which goes with their plan to have one new gameplay feature or element added every week based on customer’s feedback to improve the game for their fan base. The first patch has even addressed one of my complaints about the game.

The Last Federation was released on GOG, Humble Store, Steam and GamersGate on April 18, 2014. A 25% off deal is available till April 25, 2014 which brings the game to $14.99 USD. After that it will be sold at its final price of $19.99. The game is available on Windows PC, Mac, and Linux. We will have a review in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Edward Varfalvy has been gaming since the early days of the Atari 2600. He started playing strategy games on his NES with Romance of Three Kingdoms, but soon graduated to playing on the PC with titles such as Civilization and Master of Orion. He loves sci-fi and fantasy, as well as historical strategy games, be it turn-based or an RTS. His true love is the 4X genre. Interested in covering these titles he hopes to bring reviews, previews, and news updates for the site.

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  1. Axiom says:

    The developer is going to release a new patch every day of the work week this week, so hopefully after this week you can give it a Full Review!

    “Today continues our releasing at least one new free feature (or in this case three) everyday of the work week , thanks to the overwhelming support this game has had. Seriously, this is now our best launch ever, and that gap keeps widening by surprising degrees. We’re extremely grateful to our ever-growing community for their support, as well as to the press for taking the time out to look at our stuff. You guys are all awesome!

    After this week, we’ll continue putting out at least one new free feature every week for at least a few months, if not longer. A quest, a new weapon or ability, a new ship, a new action… something. We’ll vary it up, and make it fun. I’m really excited about expanding the game even further, as large as it already is. Right now we’re doing that very fast in response to all the huge numbers of new players and all the things that a larger audience is bound to dig up in a game of this scope and complexity; once that settles down, we’ll make it less intensive but still ongoing.”

  2. Evil Azrael says:

    Buying via the Humble Bundle Store may be even cheaper. At least in Germany the Steam sale price is 14.99€ and in the humble bundle store the price is 10.99€. And you get a DRM free copy in addition to the Steam key.

    Due to the stupid steam pricing the prices may vary for your country. Compare the prices before buying.

  3. Jeff P says:

    I’m glad to see a new quality space-themed game. Unfortunately, I found AI Command to be too esoteric, and Last Federation sounds even more bizarre. I guess I’m too much of a traditionalist when it comes to gaming; I’ll pass.

  4. Gunlord says:

    That’s a very weird battle system…IMO it sounds similar to games like Faselei and Carnage Heart, where you “program” your units’ actions rather than controlling them immediately and directly.

    • Happy Corner says:

      If anything, the battle system is much more like Space Rangers 2, though Last Federation battles have more of a “bullet hell” feel.

      Similar to SR2, you just have your one ship to worry about. You give it a movement order and a target every turn, and it then executes the two as best it can. Sometimes you have allied ships, but (unlike SR2) you don’t control them, even indirectly. They’re just doing their own thing while you’re doing yours.

  5. SQW says:

    The combat graphic is like playing Raiden. =)

    I’d have given it a shot if the combat isn’t so arcade-like. Something like Starfarer or Gratuitous Space Battles. Love the fact the game is about influencing others rather than just conquest.

    • Evil Azrael says:

      The combat is turn based. You plan your movement, then your shooting and then the turn is executed. Instead of these two actions you can use your special abilities instead.

  6. ashbery76 says:

    I wish space 4x games had some of the imagination that this design does.Well worth buying.

  7. Keith Turner says:

    Very interesting design and original concept. My major concern is the potentially repetitive nature of the space battles, especially since this type of combat system doesn’t interest me very much. I tried and failed to really enjoy Space Rangers 2, which also had a very original concept and combat I just couldn’t enjoy.

    I see that they are planning to release an auto-resolve system very soon though (tomorrow perhaps?). I will be watching and waiting.

    • Evil Azrael says:

      It depends on the actual combat setting. It’s always a little bit different in what additional buildings and defense systems are placed on the map.

      Currently only two combat situations are boring for me, fighting a burlust warlord which is currently reduced to 150 turns of circling around him and two missions which are easiest solved by afterburning out of reach and then afterburning back to the target from which you lured the defenders away. Stupid loophole.

      Oh, and unluckily you never know what are you fighting before you enter combat.

  8. Axiom says:

    There is a new Auto Resolve system coming tommorrow if you don’t like the combat.

  9. cem şancı says:

    it looks like “Space Rangers” with deeper strategic details. Anyone remember space rangers and space rangers 2?

  10. Zapture says:

    The game is extremely addictive. If anything, the combat reminds me of Leviathan Warships.

  11. Phandaal says:

    I’ve put about 20 hours into this.

    What at first blush seems like a fresh and innovative take on the space empires genre, is in fact a dull and shallow experience.

    This isn’t even a game, more like a tech demo or an early “proof of concept” mock up.

    Comparing this to a game of the scope of depth of Space Rangers is an insult.

    • Mark says:

      I wanted to like this game but – sadly – I’m going to have to agree with you, the more time I spend with it, the more bored I get.

  12. stormcloud says:

    It’s Drox Operative and Space Ranger concepts mixed together. There’s a faint whiff of EVE as well. The turn based space battle is just an implementation of the mechanics from Space Ranger. Done and proven to work, nothing exotic nor experimental.

    The depth perception is somewhat deceptive. It’s more of an optional flavor than having any real impact to the core gameplay. You can generally complete a normal difficulty game in around 8-10 years game time (without even trying too hard), by just manipulating the standings alone. Of course if you drag the game longer, then you may see an impact … but delaying has a cost. All standings decay by a notch every month. Keeping multiple races standings up is grind work if you plan to create a 7-8 race federation.

    Overall, it’s a bit too shallow at this point for an original $20 price tag. More like a $10-15 game. There isn’t much replayability imo, once you’ve grasped the basic concepts on how standings work for each of the races, opportunity costs and credit farming. Whats left is a grindy game for the biggest scam of all … achievement badges :)

  13. JD says:

    Folks I am reading a lot of incorrect comparisons with other games.

    If you really want to know the gist of this game, watch Total Biscuits WTF of The Last Federation on youtube:

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Post category: Game First Impressions, Game Previews