The Last Survey by Nicholas O’Brien
In this, the year that feels like a decade, 2020, there’s no shortage of information on what a precarious position the Earth is in. As a pandemic sweeps the world and entire countrysides are on fire, it becomes all the easier to feel like things are just going from bad to worse and that there’s no solution in sight.
In short, it’s the kind of climate that’s bound to produce experiences like The Last Survey.
Shock to the System
The Last Survey is an interactive story in which you take on the role of a mining surveyor. Your research all points to one thing: the company that hired you’s practices are anything but sustainable, and things are looking grim. Your goal? Get the CEO of the company to enact company-wide change.
Sound like an easy task to you? Yeah, me neither.
Much of the game consists of reading your character’s inner monologue while a constantly shifting canvas of black and white sketches set the scene. While definitely simple, the presentation of the game is positively gorgeous. The chalk drawings are vivid and evocative and – coupled with composer Lewis Kopenhafer’s score – do a fantastic job of drawing you in.
Settle for Nothing
All of this would be moot if the story, a self-described interactive visual essay, wasn’t well-written. Thankfully, creator Nicholas O’Brien’s prose is phenomenal and really makes you feel the crushing weight of the challenge you’re faced with. I felt as nervous just having a conversation with a corporate giant as I normally do facing a Dark Souls boss, if not moreso.
In terms of actual gameplay, there isn’t much to be found here, though your decisions in the game do create some branching moments. I even experienced some altered moments on repeat play-throughs, making this a visual novel you don’t just want to click through as fast as possible.
In fact, the game actually includes a mechanic for preventing you from doing just that, though I’ll let you find it for yourself.
The System Has Failed
Visual novels have been going through something of a renaissance in the last few years. Experiences like Doki Doki Literature Club have shown that there’s plenty of subversion to be done with this type of game, and while The Last Survey doesn’t quite do that, it’s significant in that it shows the capacity for games as a means of enacting change.
To talk about its story any more would be to spoil things, and I don’t want to do that for this kind of experience. Despite the game’s simple gameplay and incredibly short runtime, this is easily worth the $5 purchase. It’s a story of grim realities, harsh life lessons, and occasionally, of the hope for something better.
The Last Survey is available via Steam and Itch.io.
Check out the official trailer for The Last Survey below: