/The new Zombie RPG combines a ton of great games into one I can’t stop playing

The new Zombie RPG combines a ton of great games into one I can’t stop playing

Key art shows characters from The Last Spell.

Image: Ishtar Games

the second i saw the last spell‘s first trailer in 2021, I knew I had to play it. A city builder with Dungeons and Dragonsstyle units in an isometric battlefield where giant hordes of zombies are dispatched in turn-based tactical combat? And staged to a throbbing metal soundtrack? It seemed like an ingenious recipe, and after playing a lot of the last spell over the weekend, I’m happy to report that it’s the real deal.

After completely disappearing from my radar when it entered Early Access on Steam a couple of years ago, I recently fell deeply in love with it. the last spell Rabbit Hole following its 1.0 release on PC, PlayStation, and Switch last week. This included a couple of nights of booting up the game on PS5 at a reasonable hour only to look back a few moments later and realize it was already 1:00 a.m. Even sleep was inescapable, the music still reverberating through my ears. dreams.

The map in one of the cities in The Last Spell shows where the zombie horde will attack from.

Screenshot: Ishtar / Kotaku Games

Developed by independent French studio Ishtar Games, the last spellThe loosely defined premise has you guarding a mystical crystal while a wizard tries to break the seal, banish the magic, and make an army of zombies and other demonic enemies disappear in the process. During the day, you upgrade buildings, build defenses, and fine-tune your party. At night, your handful of heroes shoot, slice, and smash their way through dozens upon dozens of enemies, gaining experience and resources even as your health, mana, and walls run low.

A early preview by stone paper shotgun described the formula as a zombie real-time strategy hit are billions meets classic tactical RPG final fantasy tactics. I would also shoot loop hero for good measure another indie bestseller that blended roguelite city-building with grim mystical horror to great effect. I have only played the last spell for about five hours so far, but its successful “one more turn” approach to progression and combat already has me wanting to play 10 more.

gif: Ishtar / Kotaku Games

Part of that is due to combining a bunch of interesting systems and mechanics without them being too complicated to start with or letting them get in the way of each other. Three main resources govern the construction section of the city: gold, materials, and workers. Gold can be used to buy better equipment or build new buildings. The materials are only used to make walls and city weapons such as crossbows. Workers can salvage material from destroyed buildings or the remains of enemy corpses, or get to work making building perks like restoring mana and health between fights more potent.

On the unity side, characters choose from randomly dropped stat upgrades each level and gain buff points that can be invested in various active and passive abilities. Outside of his basic stat rolls, his class is completely dependent on equipment. Do you want an archer? Bow down to someone. Do you want a hand-to-hand combat maniac? Give them a hammer and some armor and watch them break through the enemy lines.

A stat sheet shows randomly dropped power-ups.

Screenshot: Ishtar Games

the last spellThe real innovation, though, is the way it rebalances the usual turn-based strategy combat to take into account that it’s just a few heroes against a giant army of the undead. Units have action points, movement points, and ability cooldowns that can be used in any order without penalty. Instead of just moving and attacking, as would be the case in a game like final fantasy tacticsyou can attack, attack, move, attack, move, move and attack again.

The result is that while everything is turn-based, you can chain together many actions, including freely swapping weapons and their corresponding abilities, at will. It’s extremely satisfying to watch someone unload on a squad of squishy, ​​crunchy undead and it also adds a whole new set of options to try and maximize your zombie-smashing efficiency every round.

He roguelite structure, meanwhile, helps ease the pain of inevitable defeats. You collect zombie essence with each run which can then be used to unlock better gear that can be spawned in shops, higher base stats for units, and new buildings to build. At least so far, it’s made every run feel meaningful and beneficial, even when an attempt was painfully cut short. Time will tell if the rest of the game feels as generous or starts to get too heavy as I go up the difficulty ladder. For now the last spell It is a pleasant surprise that I did not expect.