I have got to stop trying to convince myself that just because something is in a different package it’s a different thing. There are always going to be some genres in gaming that we’re just not very good at. No amount of people telling us how to get better at these titles makes any difference because we’re simply not wired this way. I, for instance, very much fall into the, “a bit crap,” camp when it comes to Soulslikes. No matter how much I’d like to think I could just push some magic button and change this I can’t. Unfortunately, this has made my time with The Last Hero of Nostalgaia somewhat irksome. The game is brilliant, I just wish I was too.
I can’t really tell you a vast amount about the story of this game. This is because it’s a mix of narration, item lore, and the sort of thing you get from talking to NPCs. As such, you’re given more as you go. This being said, you need to be able to achieve a certain amount of progression to have any real idea of what’s going on. I actually love the narrator, he’s sarcastic and a little bit mean, but in my opinion, all the best characters are so we’re good.
Having spent some time in the character creator altering sliders and perfecting facial features, your STICK FIGURE is dropped unceremoniously into the tutorial. The tutorial you have to figure out by yourself because if you can’t be bothered putting any effort in why should the narrator? I’m not going to tell you how the tutorial plays out for fear of spoilers. What I will say though, is that you should watch out for some familiar nods to a certain other franchise.
Gameplay wise The Last Hero of Nostalgaia feels a bit like Nioh and I’m assuming the Soulsborne games. I say assume because it’s a third-person slash-em-up with combat that’s hard as nails and because I played a couple of hours of Nioh and haven’t played any of the Soulsbourne titles because I value my sanity. I have played several other Soulslikes though and, therefore, have a pretty good knowledge of the genre and what makes it good. This is going to be a case of if you know you know. If you don’t know I pity you and am thrilled for you in equal measure. If you can get these mechanics down you’re in for a treat.
So, is The Last Hero of Nostalgaia going to tick the boxes for Soulslike fans amongst you looking for a new challenge, while not wanting to stray too far from the path? Well, first off you’ll die a lot so that’s the big one ticked. I know how much you all love games that are hard as balls. As a little note about this coming from someone who sucks at these games, the difficulty is tempered to still feel fair so don’t give up if you’re struggling, you’ll get there. I certainly did.
The next thing we would expect from a true Soulslike is a decent level of exploration. This is definitely present even in the tutorial. I’m not going to spoil things for you but don’t leave the library without finding a key first. As with all of these games the obvious path might not be the best one for you. Next, we need firm but fair combat which as I’ve just mentioned is definitely there with all the stamina bars and slightly awkward feeling lock-on mechanics that you guys n’ gals adore.
Lastly, you want a great story, (very well written and voiced so far,) and a shit ton of item lore. This is there too but you have to find the lore after you find the item. This is another important mechanic I’m not going into but let’s just say information is a powerful thing. Then you need to have to go and collect your things every time you die and that’s there too. So yes, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is pretty faithful to the tenants we expect really.
So, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is hitting the mark when it comes to being a faithful member of the Soulslike family; but is it fun? In my particular case, this is very much a question of your definition of fun. I like the game and I’m enjoying experiencing what it has to offer. In this particular case, I’m getting pulled back and I think I’ll probably want to try and complete this title and see all it has in store.
This is a massive amount of praise when I’ve barely dented other games in this genre and put my controller down with frustration. I’m not entirely sure I’m having fun exactly but the gameplay is enthralling and exciting. I’m just not sure whether the feeling of my heart beating out of my chest as I barely escape all the things wanting to smash me to bits is something I’d call a good time.
Coming back to the narrator, without giving too much away in the process, there’s a very Stanley Parable feel to this character. I love fourth-wall-breaking storytelling and there’s a lot of this here. You get that feeling that you’re being talked about as much as you are being guided. You also get the feeling that you aren’t welcome in the game and that the narrator is working as much against you as he is telling your story. I’ve circled back to this point because there are some important links between the story that’s being told and the art direction that’s being used.
The art, by the way, is something that you’ll have to experience yourself because there are some really cool switches in aesthetics going on that I’d like you to see rather than just describe. There are some brilliant in-jokes that I think fans of the genre will really appreciate too. All-round you can see the devs really love this style of play and all that it entails.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia probably isn’t the hardest Soulslike to pick up for newcomers to the genre. I usually get absolutely beasted by even the most basic enemies in these games and mobs are always a headache for me because I struggle with lock-on mechanics. I didn’t die in the first five seconds here and made it to the first sub-boss on my second or third attempt. I got eaten in under a minute, but still, for me, this isn’t bad going.
I didn’t feel like this NPC was too hard, just that I wasn’t quick enough and this made me go back in for another try. With this in mind, this isn’t a game that’s been made for those of you that can run Dark Souls blindfolded and the fact that the rest of us can have a fair chance is a real bonus. Nothing feels cheap so props have to be given here.
All in all, this is a very faithful love letter to the Soulslike genre with nice mechanics, smooth gameplay, and a very well-thought-out story. If you’re a fan of this style of play I think you’d be really remiss not to give The Last Hero of Nostalgaia a run-through. Those of us that are new to the genre and those of us that have had less than stellar experiences with other games in it should still be tempted to give this title a try. It has to be remembered, though, that the punishing difficulty level is still present, it’s just not quite as savage. If you want a game that’ll go easy on you this isn’t going to be a sensible choice, it’s still a Soulslike after all.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A game with some serious soul.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is a love letter to the Soulslike genre. This title will tick all the boxes for those of you that love a hard time but is different enough to give you a world worth exploring. Clever writing and art direction and a savagely dark brand of humor make this a title worth spending time with. The usual warning has to be made for those of you that don’t like high difficulty levels in games or struggle with Soulslike mechanics. If you really can’t get to grips with this style of play, you’re not going to have a lot of fun here.