I’ll preface this review by admitting I’m a lifelong fan of janky mid-tier games – especially RPGs from developers like Cyanide Studio and Spiders – willing to trade production values for complex systems or divergent narratives. As such, I found The Last Oricru – a non-linear, choice-driven RPG from developer GoldKnights – packed with neat narrative ideas that reveal their depth over time, but the gameplay and presentation are rough, and first impressions are awful.
Could someone just tell me what’s going on?
The Last Oricru’s opening is as confusing as the protagonist’s inconsistent personality. After waking up in a cryopod and being lethally stabbed in the crotch – which could just have been an animation alignment issue – he’s revived in a monastery, dubbed “Silver” by the leader of “The Keepers”, and soon discovers that he – along with three other human survivors of a spaceship crash – are functionally immortal thanks to their snazzy belts that revive them upon death. It’s a luxury that makes them perfect pawns for the major factions and sub-factions competing to control Wardenia. It’s also an interesting premise squandered by a bland tutorial that involves little more than slogging through too much dialogue, running back and forth across a tiny map, engaging in some floaty combat, and even engaging with a rudimentary stealth system never used again.
On the upside – though you might not realise it at the time – the tutorial already offers up several decisions that can shift your relationship with the two major factions and, in turn, significantly change the end of the tutorial and the start of the next chapter. In one playthrough, you might be sneaking into a fortress through the sewers to overthrow its defenders; in another, you’ll be helping the desperate defenders retake their city by clearing the streets and defeating an enemy champion. That’s just a simple example as The Last Oricru lets you push back and forth throughout your playthrough, introduces power struggles within each faction, and slowly reveals the original mission of the human crew and their spaceship AI. There are moments when you have to serve the interests of a faction leader to progress, but you can frequently ignore them outright and squabble with everyone for long stretches, or even fall during certain boss battles to shift the balance.
Is there no one nice on this damned planet?
To The Last Oricru’s credit, picking a side is tough. The planet of Wardenia was a terraforming project, every faction is a colonizer of some sort, and none of them get a free pass. Your spaceship AI seems a little too fond of putting the mission to recover an artefact known as the “cradle” above the lives of the crew. The Naboru Empire are technophobic slavers, only interested in protecting their medieval hierarchy and keeping the nobility intact. The Naboru Keepers are arrogant and elitist tech-hoarding scholars, trying to manipulate events from the shadows for undisclosed “masters”. The Ratkin are the most sympathetic, having been enslaved by the Naboru, but the dominant faction is simply fighting for supremacy and would do the same to the others if given the chance. Your surviving crew have their allegiances split, so they’re not reliable allies either. Most factions are gleefully bloodthirsty and deeply unlikeable, so decision-making is never straightforward and the outcomes are rarely predictable.
My disdain for most of the factions was thanks to some truly awful writing – which I hope was intentional – coupled with enthusiastic voice work. Most characters are staggeringly self-centred; several heavy topics are handled with zero sensitivity; Silver is incessantly snarky irrespective of the situation; and the emotive animations and lip-syncing feel so dated – yet somehow it manages to come across as hilarious rather than terrible, well most of the time. This had me rooting for no one, not even the protagonist, and the unintended benefit was that making life-and-death decisions for the inhabitants of Wardenia was that much easier when I cared little for their fates! It encouraged me to be far more reckless than my typical “lawful good” disposition typically allows in many RPGs with a binary morality system.
The gamified element of the narrative is represented by reputation bars. You’ll be constantly shifting these numbers between the two major factions by making both large-scale choices about your present loyalty, and deciding on which of the sub-factions to support. It’s not as clear-cut as the numbers suggest, as they can swing wildly in a single decision and don’t necessarily dictate the ending variations – but it will affect who’s trying to kill you in any given location. It’s not perfectly balanced either, as there are a handful of more binary decisions that clearly send you on the path towards a maniacally evil overlord or towards the messiah that brings peace and balance to Wardenia. It can be a little weird to you butcher your way through an army to talk to their leader, decide to ally with them, and the next thing you know they’re praising you as you walk among the survivors – but with the stakes are kept high by a constant autosave, the narrative permutations and zone transformations are worth it.
Oh look, another ‘Souls-like!
The immortality aspect is prime ‘Souls-like territory and The Last Oricru does little to deviate from the classic template, providing a predominantly melee-centric combat system that is… fine. Functional but lacking impact, with the usual assortment of light and heavy attacks, coupled with a block, dodge, and roll. If you’re after ranged attacks, a staff-wielding mage is an option but feels poorly balanced for some encounters and fights often deteriorate into circle-strafing around pillars while occasionally flinging a fire or lightning orb. On the upside, even traditional fighters can invest a few points to make use of magical item abilities to buff their damage or heal themselves. Your nanotechnology belt allows you to absorb “essence” from creatures you slay to improve your attributes at ship beacons which, in turn, allow you to use gear efficiently. Gear comes in different sets and can, of course, be upgraded through multiple tiers using crafting material. Using a beacon restores your supply of healing vials and respawns non-boss enemies. It’s as traditional as they come.
Thankfully, The Last Oricru still works as a choice-driven RPG despite as it’s rarely that tough – at least most of the time. Enemies have enough attack variations or evasion moves to keep engaged, but it’s a Souls-like that you can play safe – drawing out single foes, keeping your distance, and only striking during obvious openings to whittle away their health. During a few difficulty spikes – almost always involving a cutscene ending with enemies surrounding you – I enjoyed the option to switch to “Story” difficulty briefly. It slows enemy animations by about half, yet doesn’t reduce damage taken or dished out. Sure, it could look odd at times, but it provides a great way to practice before cranking it back up to “Dark” difficulty. You get more time to observe and respond to telegraphed attacks, and longer openings to strike back or interrupt. However, getting sloppy, surrounded, or hit by a massive charge attack, you’ll still see your health bar shredded.
There are, however, several things that bugged me about The Last Oricru the longer I played. The biggest issue is that while the combat, levelling, and gear systems are functional, they feel perfunctory and underutilised. As The Last Oricru is designed around a divergent narrative and replayability, a single playthrough is maybe 15 or so hours and doesn’t give some of these systems time to breathe. Another potential issue is that fact not all areas are made equally, nor to the same scale, so you can find yourself pressing forward for ages without finding a beacon, or looping through an area with terrible signposting and no map. My final gripe is that the co-op mode, in which you’re supposedly enabling a “hard-light” AI companion, is local only – a mode I always support – though usually in addition to online functionality.
Go big… and hope no one notices the rest!
When it comes to the presentation, The Last Oricru is not a modern or particularly striking-looking game by any means and typically feels like an up-rezzed last-gen game – well, maybe last, last-gen if you consider the character models and animations. Where it can impress with its sense of scale and potential transformations to each zone based on your narrative choices. The interconnected world is made up of discrete zones but has a massive draw distance so you can see armies milling around or engaging across the map, while you’ll see prominent structures or landmarks in the distance to orient you. It has a chunky and exaggerated aesthetic, with the low-poly terrain and low-res textures clearly less important than a world that simply feels big and epic; a sensation amplified by a grandiose orchestral soundtrack that always enjoyed. It’s one of those games that can look and sound great in the right moment, ugly in others, and just alright for most of the experience.
Consequences be damned!
As much as I enjoyed it in the long run, The Last Oricru is not the easiest game to recommend – especially not to a broader audience expecting next-gen production values in a game released in 2022. However, if you’ve ever enjoyed any eurojank RPGs that offer narrative complexity over audiovisual spectacle, The Last Oricru will scratch the same itch. If you can look past the last-gen elements and push through the opening, you’ll discover brisk pacing, a divergent narrative with a ton of permutations, and often hilarious writing that just edges The Last Oricru into the “so bad it’s good” zone.
A review code for The Last Oricru was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
The Last Oricru (Xbox Series) ReviewThe Last Oricru (Xbox Series) Review
- Frequent divergence points in the story
- An impressive number of narrative permutations and evolving environments
- Smart implementation of an easier difficulty mode
- Writing and voice acting so bad it’s good
- Terrible first impressions
- Perfunctory Souls-like gameplay
- Audiovisual quality is all over the place