I don't know about you, but no amount of watching gameplay footage and looking at screen shots of The Last Remnant really gave me a good idea of exactly how this game plays. Thankfully, a little hands-on time has helped give a bit greater understanding of the fundamentals of the combat system. Instead of focusing on the story of The Last Remnant in this impression, I feel it is best to let you know how it plays. You can get to know Rush better next week, when the game releases. I'll just say that he's a laid back young man who thinks things are "ace" and calls Marquis David "Dave" within moments of meeting him.
"This is one of the deepest combat systems that I've dealt with in some time..."
First and foremost, battles are all turn-based and encounters are not random; this is the easy part to understand. All enemies can be seen on-screen and can be avoided if you desire. When your character moves within the enemies range, most will become aggressive and attempt to come after you. Players can also take the initiative and taunt enemies by pressing the right trigger button. Doing this grabs enemy attention and has them chase after you. If you bump into an enemy, whether you meant to or not, the enemies get the advantage in combat. In order to get the jump on enemies, players have to press the right trigger again when the thought box over the enemy is red. When players press the trigger button, a shockwave-style encounter circle expands out from Rush and brings all enemies within range into combat. Confused yet? I hope not, because we're not even fighting yet.
Before I jump into combat, it helps to define units and unions. A unit is a character and a union is a grouping of units. Early on in the game, grouping and union organization are handled for you in order to slowly help you build up your understanding of the system. For this example, we will have two unions: one consisting of Rush and a generic soldier, and the second consisting of General Emma and a generic soldier. Once combat begins, players get to issue commands to unions or the groups as a whole, so here we will issue commands to two groups. For Rush's union I select that I want to use combat arts, and for Emma's group I want use mystic arts. In this battle, I'm facing two enemy unions (A & B), so I have Rush attack A and Emma attack B. On Rush's turn, his generic soldier does a basic attack and Rush performs a special attack based on his equipped weapon type. When Emma attacks, her generic soldier will attack an enemy in union B, and Emma will follow up with a magic spell.
Even though each union has multiple characters in them, they are treated as a whole instead of individuals. They share HP and AP, and live or die as a whole, so basically each union can be treated as you would treat a single character in any other RPG. To say this is all there is to the combat system wouldn't be fair. Union organization, deadlocks, interventions, trigger timing attacks, and character stats and equipment all come into play. This is one of the deepest combat systems that I've dealt with in some time, but it is surprisingly easy to use, though difficult to understand.
The story so far is standard RPG fare and the voice acting is decent, though not outstanding. Graphically, the game does suffer from slowdown, especially in combat. There are some texture issues as well, with quite a few times where it looked as if the characters' faces weren't quite filled in completely for a few seconds. The soundtrack is pleasant, but nothing extraordinary at this point. As the game ramps up, I'm sure there will be more to talk about. Oh, and don't be afraid if you are completely confused in the opening battle. They do just toss you in for a quick battle before stepping back and explaining everything later on.