GAME: LAST WORD BY MERLANDESE
Summary: While it has a steep learning curve, Last Word is a very enjoyable game with fantastic twists on RPG conventions.
2014 IGMC Winner – Best RPG (2nd Place – also received Celebrity Judge’s Choice Award!)
Calvin: When a person pauses in mid-sentence to choose a word, that’s a perfect time to jump in and change the subject! It’s like an interception in football. You grab the other guy’s idea and run the other way with it! The more sentences you complete, the higher your score. The idea is to block the other guy’s thoughts and express your own! That’s how you win!
Hobbes: Conversations aren’t contests!
Calvin: Okay, a point for you but I’m still ahead.
-Calvin and Hobbes
Conversations are contests in Last Word, a clever and well-executed game where you battle opponents not with weapons but with logic and reason. You play as Whitty Gawhip, one of several guests to a mysterious gathering hosted by the enigmatic Professor Chatters. Not long after everyone arrives, Chatters reveals that nobody will leave until he completes a strange experiment – one that could give him an unstoppable power of persuasion. To foil his plot, Whitty needs to pry information about the upper-crust guests and argue her way to freedom.
When someone busts out a scoff, you know it’s gotten real.
Characters are all color-coded, which is not only an ingenious way to lessen the art needs for a project that had to be completed in a month, but also ends up having plot implications. The color of each character represents their allegiance to Game of Thrones style houses. The whole thing can sometimes feel very abstract, but it can also feel grounded if you’ve been to a stuffy gathering like this where people seem to be jockeying for superiority under the guise of small talk.
The structure of the game is a series of information-gathering objectives leading up to a climactic debate with one of the guests. You pick the topic you want to talk about and when you find the right person, the topic levels up and allows you to proceed further. It can feel a little obtuse at the beginning when you have no clue what’s going on but once you’re more familiar with the NPCs, you have a better idea of where to get the information you want. If you get bored of idle chatter, you can always “grind” by engaging the guests in “discourse.”
When I get through with you, your GRANDCHILDREN are gonna be speechless!
Speaking of the battles, there’s a steep learning curve. There is a tutorial early on, but honestly it felt like way too much information at once. The best way to figure out the system was just practice. Thankfully, there are no game overs and you even gain some experience and money from the arguments that you lose. It’s hard to summarize just how this works, but it more or less revolves around the strategic use of disruptive and submissive statements to build up power before damaging your enemy with aggressive commentary. Once you are in the zone, it’s fun and satisfying, especially if you’re able to raise some money to afford some excellent character upgrades that turn the debates further in your favor. It also helps that the interface looks great, with everything clearly marked.
I should note that the game crashed for me during the final boss fight. I suspect this was a freak incident, since if the judges had hit this bug, the game wouldn’t have made it very far in the competition. Last Word certainly deserves the acclaim its earned, check it out for a creative and challenging take on RPG mechanics.
Has anyone else played this one? What did you think of its complex battle system? Are there other possible ways to translate the back and forth of debate into game mechanics? Tell us in the comments!