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The Last Spell Review

The Last Spell Review

The Last Spell is a roguelike isometric, turn-based, RPG tower defence developed by Ishtar Games and published by The Arcade Crew. My expectations of the storyline when I heard it was a dark fantasy was it would be generic. Like all dark fantasy stories, an endless war has ravaged the lands of a nameless world and it’s up to you to find peace. Only, The Last Spell’s writers have broken the generic tropes by absolutely rocking the kasbah with themes of total annihilation and the hope of destroying the things that led to said destruction in the game’s premise.

An unhinged archmage with the dumbest name I’ve heard — Heronymous Teller — decides the war has gone on for too long and learns how to cast a purple nuke blast. Picking a town that surprisingly had the entire royal family residing in, except for the king, it’s obliterated within seconds. The tragedy leads to The Cataclysm, a short period where mages from other regions — with orders from the king — learnt the spell to destroy literally every settlement in the land.

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A drawback to LARPing as an evil Oppenheimer, a gaseous fog which harbours monsters has covered the land, threatening the lives of all left standing. Playing as the last bastion of hope, The Commander (you) and an assortment of heroes must protect the only mages — who developed a form of survivor’s guilt — as they attempt to expel the fog and all magic from the world, calling the ordeal The Last Spell.

The gameplay of The Last Spell is broken up into three stages: the production, deployment, and night/horde stage.

The production stage has you construct and repair barricades with materials — including currency used in shops to equip your heroes with better gear as well as levelling up your heroes with experience — found or rewarded to you after wiping out a horde. Barricades are used to hinder the horde of — again with the dumb names — “Clawers” from getting to the mage and stopping the ritual. Materials can also be used to build structures designed to help residents during the night stage from panicking too quickly. Every night, the surviving town’s folk will become panicked if the horde gets too close to the mage via a “panic meter”. I’m not sure what it does, but I got an achievement for surviving a night while the meter was at its highest level.

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The deployment stage is where you place your heroes in the direction the horde will come and hope your prep was enough. While this stage is necessary, the mechanic of only positioning the heroes and not barricades blind-sides the player in the previous stage from knowing where the attacks are coming from. A better option is to have the player deploy with the structures built and heroes with a few seconds to prepare.

Finally, the horde/night stage is the meatiest part of The Last Spell as it tests your set-up by moshing enemies together for easy killing. After a few nights, you fight that town’s boss accompanied by the largest horde for the map. Once defeated, you then travel to the next town with a higher difficulty of enemies, and do it all again. What makes The Last Spell different to other tower defence games I’ve played (guiltily, old flash games like Age of War) is the ability to move the heroes around the map in square increments. All heroes have health and mana bars alongside the ability to equip various weapons, but your heroes will start the first night on the map with a hammer and shield, bow and arrow, and a wand. Each has their own arsenal based attacks and special abilities that are used on large clumps of Clawers.

If you fail to protect the mage, don’t fret too much. You still gain some tainted essence for fighting, but you’ll return to the town with a fresh slate on your defences and your heroes, meaning you start at square one with every failed ritual.

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After the tutorial, you meet the two deities watching over the land. One being the spirit of hope that grants you rewards for completing tasks with items, and the other (I guess from their colour) is the being whose power created the magical blast and the fog. This shadow god uses the tainted essence you gain in exchange for “Omens”. On each map, Omens give your heroes buffs like additional health, however it will only last on that particular map.

The Last Spell has a detailed but pixelated art style similar to — and possibly inspired by — Blasphemous, as the dark and warm colours complement the little liveliness of the world to create a sense of realism to the stakes The Cataclysm plunged it into has been plunged into, almost making the post-apocalyptic somewhat survivable for the survivors. The opening cutscene best represents this as the contrast of lighting and repetitive use of dark purple for shadows travels throughout the game. Each hero has their own name, stats, and appearance, with some having battle scars and past vocations. A hero I was given had what appeared to be third-degree burns on half of their body. Being the first town after the tutorial is Gildenberg, ground zero of the first blast, it mirrors the reality of diabolical weaponry has on populations as well as my favourite aspect of storytelling, world building.

The Algorithm helms the soundtrack for The Last Spell. From research, they’re a two-man band that mixes heavy metal with synths. To describe their sound, it’s like if Doom and System Shock opened up a Matrix-themed nightclub. Whether you like them or not (or this the first time you’ve heard of a band that named themselves after the thing all YouTubers systematically hate), the decision to have the band score The Last Spell amplifies what is already an excellent game. Synth represents the art style and graphics while the heavy metal chords and drums are fantastical and sinister.

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The best way to describe The Last Spell is a mystical black elephant that emits a dark aura that you as the commander must take bites out of with each wave, death and triumph until the elephant is devoured whole. I only hope that my last bite is as remarkable and succulent as the first.

9.50/10 9½

The Last Spell (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

A roguelike tower defence game that doesn’t throw any punches in relation to its story, pixelated graphics and killer soundtrack. I’m sure you’ll have a blast on the pursuit to banish all magic with The Last Spell.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Bennett Perry

Bennett Perry

Staff Writer

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