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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Subscribe RSS
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