When I first read the description for Last Word, I had no idea how such a game could work. Essentially, you play as Whitty Gawship, a photographer attending a small gathering of hoity-toity individuals that love to talk. In this world, anyone who gets the last word in a conversation, or wins an argument, achieves power over others. It’s a clever concept and makes way for a gratuitous amount of puns and silly references. I can honestly say that Last Word is unlike any RPG, or game in general for that matter, that I’ve played before – and that’s mostly a good thing.
The game starts as you’re entering the party and you observe two individuals engaged in conversation: “After you!…” “Oh, but please go ahead…” “No, you first!…” and on and on it goes. Once inside, it turns into more of an exploration-based adventure game, as it’s more about investigating areas and uncovering clues than it is about intense battles and leveling up your character, although it has that too.
When you explore the environment you can interact with objects and speak with people to unlock new conversation topics and clues. The most successful aspect of Last Word is how successfully it ties all aspects together into a seamless thematic package. There are no elements that feel out of place in the world and everything from the names of gameplay mechanics to the controls themselves fit together perfectly.
That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand – Last Word features one of the most confusing and poorly explained combat systems I’ve ever seen in an RPG. In theory, it makes sense. You’re in an argument with someone and it’s all about balancing your state (staying calm and collected is important, you don’t want to get upset!) by using a combination of disruptive, submissive, or aggressive arguments. Depending on the severity of what you use, it will build your Power or Tact, and will move the slider in your favor at different amounts. It becomes a case of juggling when and how to build each resource and attacking your opponent in various ways.
If you’re anything like me, then that was probably super confusing. You also gain experience that upgrades your different skills and abilities, although it’s a bit unclear why a leveling system exists. All it does is force you to grind, because if you’re not of a high enough level, you literally cannot beat the more difficult adversaries. Thus, you must engage other people to build up your level to tackle the tougher people. Of course all RPGs have this type of grind in some way, but other games have systems in place that make it more rewarding beyond just being able to take down tougher enemies. In Last Word, the entire system is both complex in design, but simplistic in concept to the point that it gets boring very quickly.
Which is a shame, because the core ideas here have a lot of potential. The colorful character art work is well done, but the in-game sprites are too abstract and boring. The writing is great, but for a game that supposedly is all about getting the last word and fighting with words, actual ‘combat’ features none of that writing. It’s just menus. The music is unique and catchy at first, but the repetitive sound effects and pitchy tunes start to dig into your nerves after a while.
Last Word is a flawed but unique experience that has no peer. I can’t really compare it to anything else because it’s such an original and clever concept, but some of those ideas try so hard to flesh out the game, that it ends up feeling diluted and unclear. You can download Last Word for PC on Steam right now.
This review of Last Word is based on a digital copy for the PC which was provided by DegiGames.