Bullet hell roguelike chaos.
Humanity is near extinction, pushed to the brink by an alien race loaded with superior technology. The last few pilots left to Earth and humanity, upon discovering new cloning technology, give the remnants hope. In order to survive, these pilots and their clones must battle through waves of aliens. With dwindling resources and a seemingly endless amount of space to cover, the task is daunting.
This is the scenario presented to the player as he/she loads up Last Encounter, the twin stick, roguelike bullet hell shooter from Exordium Games. The premise is a fairly familiar one with the cloning caveat, but it’s perfect for the roguelike genre it’s presented in. How else can you die a thousand times and continue on? From the first moments of the game, where the player selects his/her pilot and vessel, to the first pieces of dialogue, displayed, as is the current norm, as two images talking to each other, the impending sense of doom and the tiny glimmer of hope permeate the experience.
The setup of Last Encounter is pretty cool. There’s an overlay map that shows your location, and it shows all of the areas you can travel to (they’re all hexagon shapes that connect to each other in separate segments). Each area consists of two or more attached zones where you’ll fly through a barrage of alien lasers, AoE attacks, and hazards. In order to proceed, you need to collect items to advance to the next areas and clear out enemies. It’s a pretty typical approach to the roguelike genre, but it’s executed well and provides a sound challenge to overcome.
Gameplay in Last Encounter is your standard twin stick affair. I used a mouse and keyboard with my Steam key, and I imagine the gameplay would be a tad easier with a controller. In any case, the gameplay was smooth and worked as intended even with a mouse and keyboard and my wonky 4k setup, so I have little to complain about there. Speed plays a factor, which is why I’d prefer a controller, as you’ll need to maneuver around and through various assortments of alien assaults in order to blast them away. It can become tricky the further you progress, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you accomplish your mission. As you journey through the waves of aliens, you’ll find new weapons and upgrades in order to come back stronger on your next playthrough. You’re also able to unlock more pilots and ships to complete your arsenal, so the amount of gameplay offered in this little package adds up.
Last Encounter features some debatable visuals. They’re not bad; they’re pretty typical for over the top twin stick shooters. Battle and ship effects are shiny and effervescent, but the initial eye show eventually dulls, as most good and overused things do. Still, they’re passable and sometimes commendable. When it comes to sound, however, Last Encounter fails to leave a memorable mark. The sounds of battle and ships is nifty, but I can’t recall any awesome tunes that you blast away to. In fact, if I sat and thought about it, I don’t know if I could say I even noticed. On the whole, the lack of an excellent soundtrack doesn’t take away from the overall gameplay experience. It’s just one of those personal pet peeves.
When I sit back and think about my time with Last Encounter, I remember a fast paced experience littered with enough challenges to sate my appetite. The concept, while not particularly original, holds fast and strong as it builds, and it turns into something that keeps you wanting to play. Humanity is in your hands! The amount of gameplay and variations on ship and pilots should give you ample value for your buck, and with tight controls and a chaotic factor to boot, you’re looking at a challenging but rewarding experience.