You’re a giant, multi-headed space hydra who used to rule the galaxy with an iron fist alongside your evil dragon-thingy kinfolk. Then the other races revolted. They got into your base. Killed your dudes. Now you’re the only one left.
As the last of your kind, you were taken prisoner. And while you could have easily killed all your captors in awesome space hydra fury, you didn’t. Instead you waited. Plotted.
But contrary to the Conan the Barbarian rampage you’d expect from a space hydra who just got taken prisoner after having its entire race killed off, you’ve seen enough of war. What you really want all these weird races to just get along.
Then one day you saw an opportunity, seized a ship, and made a break for it. So begins your quest for galactic peace. And so begins the latest game from Arcen Games, The Last Federation.
The Last Federation is a game with the level of creativity you should expect from Arcen Games. These are the developers who made AI Wars, A Valley Without Wind, and Shattered Haven. They like to take entirely new approaches to some of the best genres out there.
Last Federation is kind of a 4X Strategy with turn-based combat. The macro level of the game has you playing as a kind of free agent who travels between the game’s eight races, taking up jobs and helping out, or sabotaging things and starting rebellions. It’s really up to you.
But whether you’re helping with medical research or sponsoring a bio-terrorism attack on a world of giant sentient lizards, you always need to keep in mind your ultimate goal of forming an intergalactic federation where everyone becomes friends.
Much of the game is dedicated towards making other races like you and like each other, while trying to avoid making them not like you and kill each other. This usually entails traveling between planets and dedicating your choice of time towards helping with something locally. This could include helping develop the planetary real estate market or helping destroy a local pirate base.
The only jobs you participate in directly are those related to combat or smuggling (which we’ll get into in a bit). As for the rest, you get a text update with the effects your work has had and the changes that took place elsewhere in the meantime.
You’ll also need to keep in mind the characteristics of each race to know which ones are easily won over as friends, and which are likely to snap and start killing everyone.
I made the mistake of helping build up one race too much. I dedicated time towards helping them build moon bases and improving their relations with a few other races. Then they started taking over the galaxy. So I went to one of the races who didn’t like them and started helping them build an armada of ships. Then they started taking over the galaxy. Then I started sponsoring local saboteurs to blow up some of the local assets, only to have the next race become to powerful and start taking over the galaxy.
Finding the right balance is where the challenge is.
The micro level of the game is top-down, turn-based space combat. You need to adjust your ship’s powers between guns, shields, and engines to decide whether it’s the right time to gun, or if it’s the right time to run.
Your initial choice of race at the beginning of the game effects which type of ship you’ll be using for the rest of the game, as well as the weapons you’ll have. My first playthrough gave me a powerful energy beam. My second playthrough gave me the ability to unleash swarms of smaller ships.
The combat in The Last Federation is unlike anything I’ve played elsewhere. It’s somewhat reminiscent of combat in the Star Control series, only with turn-based combat, way more ships on screen at once, and with the ability to allocate your ship’s power.
And that’s really The Last Federation in a nutshell. It’s unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. But it’s also challenging and fun.
It’s also a very complex game, yet the developers do a great job with optional tutorials to slowly introduce you to the mechanics.
I’d recommend The Last Federation to anyone who is a fan of 4X space strategy games—especially fans of classics like Masters of Orion—but who may feel the genre is growing stale. It also takes someone who doesn’t mind playing a complex game where the action is sporadic, and most time is spent on managing relations with different alien races.
The charm of The Last Federation is in watching a space opera unfold. It even has a mode where you can just sit back and watch as the different races rise and fall. It’s a game that’s meant to tell a story, a story you have the ability to alter in significant ways, and a story that changes every time you play.