Here's a cocktail as explosive as a firecracker: take three parts SRPG, one part roguelike and a final dash of spicy musou, and you've got a mix that bangs. The Last Spell, which dropped a demo on Steam earlier this month, is proof of that - it's a sparky little mess of influences that shows some serious promise.
The isometric perspective and pixel-art - absolutely gorgeous, exquisitely detailed pixel-art, it should be pointed out - are reminiscent of SRPG staples like Final Fantasy Tactics, and the set-up's much the same: take charge of a small party of warriors and indulge in some turn-based combat on an isometric map. There's a twist - actually, there's a few - in that you're working on a single map, defending the circle of magic at the centre of your base.
So yes, on top of being a roguelike with your party and quarters procedurally generated, there's also base defence factored in, with The Last Spell split into three easy to parse sections - by night you're deploying your team, before engaging the hordes of undead that attack until dawn, and by day you're spending the resources acquired on tooling up your team (in a nice touch - actually, the most important touch - the gear you equip is visible on your avatars).
It's a well-established loop that works wonders here, but what's really won me over about The Last Spell is its style. It's not just the artwork, although I'm a fan of its detailing and downbeat dark fantasy stylings - it's in the soundtrack too, evil synths driving home that dread atmosphere and knowingly reminiscent of John Carpenter's scores, as well as those of countless scratchy 80s horrors. There's an edge to the combat phase, too, with The Last Spell happily throwing hordes of enemies at you, and giving you more than ample tools to fight back - the damage you deal quickly escalates, area of effect attacks taking down whole crowds as swiftly as if you were slicing your way through a Dynasty Warriors game.
The Last Spell isn't the finished article just yet, and there's some way to go with it all - the balance isn't quite there, the fates you're left to at the start of any particular run often making a playthrough too easy or too damn hard, but it's early days for developer CCCP here, with the intention to keep on building upon the foundations as the team reacts to player feedback. There's pep and promise here, though, that makes me eager to see how The Last Spell push on through, and to see quite where this one ends up.
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