Review: Last Word, a Conversation-Based JRPG

Last Word game screenshot, combat
Review: Last Word, a Conversation-Based JRPG

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Last Word

Publisher: Digica

Developer: Twelve Tiles

Genre: Adventure, RPG

Release Date: May 8th, 2015

Last Word – What We Think

Developed by Lannie Neely III (perhaps best known for his work on the award-winning To the Moon) and winner of several awards—Second Place and Judges’ Choice—at the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest, Last Word is an adventure/RPG hybrid with a unique combat conceit. Set entirely within an Edwardian, slightly steampunk-ish dinner party, the game creates an entire battle system out of witty conversation.

Last Word: verbal combat
Last Word: screenshot courtesy of Steam

Repartee Party

Much of the game’s charm comes from its characters and setting. Despite the painful puns of its character names (Whitty Gawship, Seymore Saymore), Last Word goes for cleverness rather than broad humor, and that extends to nearly every element, from optional achievements gained by tasting various wines to Harper, the posh-looking house cat that fills the position occupied by the shopkeeper in conventional fantasy RPGs.

The sound design is also top-notch; instead of voice acting, each character’s text dialogue is accompanied by a series of unique grunts, sighs and harrumphs.

Last Word: discovering a new wine label
Last Word: screenshot courtesy of Steam

Wars of Words

The combat system is Last Word’s claim to fame, and it really is a smart way to model repartee; your character’s standing within a given conversation (or combat instance) is indicated on a sort of peg board, and you and your foe take turns lobbing phrases at each other. Attacks depend on two different factors—Power and Tact—and three different approaches, each with three separate tones, can be used to move your peg across the board and build up your Power and Tact.

Last Word: a war of words
Last Word: screenshot courtesy of Steam

Additional modifiers include your Composure—the more of that you lose, the more devastating your opponent’s attacks—and various skills that can be purchased and equipped. It’s a very well thought-out system, and goes a lot further than simply taking typical JRPG mechanics and renaming them after elements of speech.

Last Word: equipping skills (and bowties)
Last Word: screenshot courtesy of Steam

You Can Say That Again…and Again

Smart as it is, though, the combat can sometimes get in the way of enjoying the game itself. There are mandatory “fights” that are required to progress through each level, but if you haven’t been grinding regularly, you might find yourself stuck for a long while trying to level up enough to hold your own against a “boss.” If you’re more interested in simply moving the story along and learning more about the characters, the switch to repetitive combat can feel jarring.

That minor quibble aside, Last Word is a surprisingly deep little game with a rich back story and a lot of subtle humor. It’s also perhaps the first game to employ wine labels and bow ties as indicators of character progress.

Get Last Word on Steam

[xrr rating=”4/5″]

Watch the trailer for Last Word below:

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