I can’t put down a Zombie RPG that mixes so many great games together

picture: Ishtar games

The second I saw it The last spell‘s First trailer In 2021, I knew I had to play it. City builder with Dungeons & DragonsModel units on an isometric battlefield where giant hordes of zombies are dispatched Turn-based combat tactics? And staged on a pulsating metal soundtrack? Seemed like an ingenious recipe, after playing a lot of The last spell Over the weekend, I’m happy to report that it’s the real deal.

After completely falling off my radar when Early Access hit Steam a couple of years ago, I’ve recently fallen head over heels for myself The last spell rabbit hole after its 1.0 release across PC, PlayStation, and Switch last week. This included a few nights of starting the game on PS5 at a reasonable hour only to look back a few moments later and realize it was already 1:00am.

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

screenshot: Ishtar Games / Kotaku

Developed by French independent studio Ashtar Games, The last spellThe loose definition premise has you protecting a mystical crystal while a wizard attempts to break the seal, banish magic, and make an army of zombies and other demonic foes disappear in the process. During the day you upgrade buildings, build defenses and adjust your deck. At night, a handful of your heroes shoot, slash, and smash their way through dozens and dozens of enemies, gaining experience and resources even as your health, mana, and walls deplete.

that Early preview by Rock Paper Gun He described the formula as a real-time zombie strategy hit They are billions Tactical RPG meets classic Final Fantasy Tactics. I’m going to throw it in too hero ring For good measure, another indie best seller that combines roguelite city building and dark mystical dread to great effect. I just played The last spell Its been about five hours now, but its successful “one more turn” approach to progression and combat has already made me hungry to play 10 more times.

GIF: Ishtar Games / Kotaku

Part of that is due to mixing up a bunch of interesting systems and mechanics without making them too complex to start out with or letting them get in the way of each other. There are three main sources that govern the city building department: gold, materials, and workers. Gold can be used to buy better equipment or construct new buildings. Materials are only used to craft walls and city weapons such as projectiles. Workers can salvage materials from destroyed buildings or enemy remains, or work to make building perks like restoring mana and health between battles more effective.

On the unit side of things, characters choose between randomly rolling stat upgrades each level up, gaining perk points that can be invested in various active and passive skills. Outside of their basic rosters, their class is entirely gear-based. Want an archer? Give someone a bow. Want a close-up fighting maniac? Give them a hammer and some shields and watch them tear through enemy lines.

The stat sheet displays the power units rolled at random.

screenshot: Ishtar games

The last spellIts real innovation, however, is the way it rebalances the usual turn-based combat strategy to take into account that it’s just a few heroes versus a giant undead army. Units contain action points, movement points, and ability slots that can be used in any order without penalty. Instead of just moving and attacking, like in a game like Final Fantasy TacticsYou can attack, attack, move, attack, move, move, and attack again.

The upshot is that while everything is turn-based, you can piece together a lot of actions, including freely swapping weapons and their corresponding abilities, at will. It’s a lot of fun watching someone dump a load on a bunch of crunchy zombies, and it also adds a whole new set of options to try and maximize your zombie-smashing efficiency each round.

the roguelite structureIn the meantime, it helps ease the pain of inevitable defeats. You collect zombie essence with each run which can then be used to unlock better equipment that can spawn in shops, higher base stats for units, and new buildings to be constructed. So far at least, it’s made every run feel wholesome and meaningful, even when the attempt has been cut short painfully. Time will tell if the rest of the game seems generous or starts to fidget as I make my way up the difficulty ladder. for now The last spell It is a pleasant surprise that I did not expect.

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