Have you ever wished to feel what it was like to be in a horror movie? Have you ever wondered, what exactly does it feel like to be the survivor? What it was like to be the killer?
These questions were the catalyst that began the survival horror multi-player genre. A craze that burned itself into the history of horror games as we know them. The concept was simple, create a horror game and put players behind the wheel. From Dead By Daylight to Friday the 13th, each game has tested the bounds of this concept in their own ways.
Bringing new mechanics, new ideas, new killers to the table. And despite the overall base game design concept being overly linear, the genre stands the test of time, mostly. Dead by Daylight being one of the most popular, thousands of persons gather every day learn more about bad credit loans here for to kill or survive against one another in the market.
Personally, I never had that spark of interest in the genre. I played Dead by Daylight extensively. I played Friday the 13th quite extensively as well. And while I could see the draw towards the design, it just never rang interesting to me. That was until the day I saw Last Year for the first time. It promised a much more methodical style of gameplay, pitting players up against the killer in a proverbial game of 4D chess. Finally, a game where the killer was at a disadvantage to the survivors. A game where setting up kills methodically was advantageous. Divide and Conquer was the name of the game. Or so the trailers would have us believe.
I followed the game through its alpha process, buying in the same day it was available to play. Something about the game skewed feelings among the community in all directions. Some people loved mechanics, others not so much. Most people loved the team-based survivor gameplay, but most players also felt off about the killer gameplay. Balancing was not perfect, as it never will be, but out-thinking and out-playing the survivors was so satisfying. And same went for working as a team and taking down the killer together. I felt playing as a survivor was just as much fun as playing as the killer, more so even. And it was the only game in the genre I felt pulled that off. Unfortunately, the long list of issues with the game was its downfall.
The largest of the issues was the time spent finding a game for most people. The fans met elastic games choice to go with the yet unproven discord store for the launch with mixed emotions. And more likely than not, their choice had a drastic effect on who was exposed to the game and who bought and played the game early on. Without the support of steam exposure, it seemed that the only people playing the game were those who were already following it before launch. With very few new players coming in, the player base dwindled slowly as people lost interest. And with no new updates or content coming out in a timely manner, this happened quickly. Within a few months, I could not find a game at all outside of physically going to the discord channel and setting up a game with others. The matchmaking was dead and with it, the game as a whole it seemed.
Confusion and Disarray-
To make matters worse, they shrouded the entire developer cycle in a dense cloud of confusion. The community of the game began to spread rumors of it being forgotten, abandoned by its developer team. “Dead on arrival” were the words that came off some lips. And while researching this game, I found that most of the information about the game came from unsubstantiated claims and rumors. Claims and rumors that were both toxic very difficult to pin down as such. Rumors such as Elastic games Studio going out of business became rampant and without a voice out there to refute these claims, they seemed very factual.
Because I could trust very little out there, I decided that my first state of affairs should be to clear the air around the game and bring it all out into the open. To dig up the truth about the game, the studio, their situation, their history and what is to come in the future. In this effort, I pushed to meet directly with the developers, hoping to get an interview with them. Through discord, I could get a direct line in with the developers to ask the important questions and help, even if only minutely, with the growing toxicity surrounding the game. If you have no interest in this interview, please skip ahead to the main portions of the review. However, I suggest reading this. As it may lend some credence to the game, the developers and their mission.
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Developer Interview- 12/11/2019
1. What can you tell me about the history of the Last Year and the move from Discord to Steam?
2. Do you think the release to the discord store was a mistake?
3. Was the choice to go with the discord store part of the reason it went stagnant?
4. How did the discord store shutdown affect your development process?
5. There was a large shroud of confusion and misinformation surrounding the entire game. Is there anything you care to point out specifically about the history of the game that is incorrect?
6. Do you consider this a full game reboot or an update? And why?
7. The game and its history seems very shrouded in confusion and hurtful rumors. Is there anything in particular you would care to explain or refute?
8. Looking to the future, do you believe that the game will be in a better position than it was in the past?
1. What would you consider the largest change in gameplay from Nightmare to AfterDark?
2. In the current state of the game, are you happy with it’s balancing?
3. With the game now being out on steam, Are you happy with the current number of players in the community?
4. What do you intend to do going forward to keep the games player base consistent?
5. Can you give us any ideas of what future content will entail?
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Last Year: AfterDark review
With all the out of game business out of the way, I will begin doing what I came here to do. Reviewing the game. I will start by explaining what the game is, it’s mechanics and gameplay. Then I will dissect the gameplay down to its bare mechanics and expose it for what it is. So, without further talking, let us begin.
Last Year is a game of the asymmetric horror multi-player genre. It pits players against a single killer player who has access to a treasure trove of different characters with unique and interesting gameplay mechanics. While the survivors move across the map, completing objectives to move towards the escape, the killer is attempting to use their assets to kill them. And that is basically the entire concept behind the game. Things get interesting when you realize that the students are not defenseless, however. As the survivors, you have access to several classes and tools to fight back against the killers onslaught. Through the use of scrap that can be found in the world, the survivors can arm themselves with interesting devices to combat the killer directly. From shotguns to baseball bats, each class has its own methods of combating the killer.
Needless to say, the idea behind the game is solid. However, in practice the gameplay is less interesting than it likely should be. There are many issues with the gameplay that the community have made note of, however very few people have spoken about what the real issue with the game is. Perhaps this is because it is being overshadowed by bugs and the history of the game. After playing the game for several hours, 15 to be exact, the bugs and issues with the game gave way to the real issues with the game structure as a whole. It is a combination of a few factors, the games meta compounded on how linear the gameplay is.
From the very beginning, Last Year comes off extremely linear in design. Every map, although different, follows similar design beats for the survivors. This made me immediately worried about just how much fun I could get out of each map. And, like I had thought, they bored me within about ten hours. However, this is not inherently a problem so long as the gameplay itself is invested and fun. That is when things really started to fall apart. While I was no longer paying attention to the game progress as a whole, I began to realize that there were serious issues with how the game is played from all sides. Simply put, How much fun you have in this game directly depends on the other players and the killer.
To me, this is a serious issue because as the survivor you very quickly come to expect exactly when the killer will be around. And as the killer, you’re basically just playing a game of objectives. You know exactly where all the main objectives are, so if your smart you will just spam traps around the objectives and ambush the players once they get there. But the bigger problem is, even when you do win as the survivors, it’s just not very satisfying. These things could have been fixed easily as well if they designed the maps to give you random escape objectives in each game. It would have been far more interesting and far less predictable. However, I believe that this problem stems from the base concept of the game as a whole, which I will talk about later.
Metagaming is more of an issue in most games than people realise. Especially in horror games. The reality of the situation is, ninety percent of the time Last Year is devoid of horror aspects even from the beginning. One of the biggest issues I came across was the fact that they gave the killer the ability to get out of any and all situations he may find himself in, just by executing a single player. And so, they do. In fact, it’s basically the only mechanic in the game now you see from the killer players. Over and over and over, they spawn and down someone, execute them and simply poof out of existence, even if they were completely surrounded and in a terrible spot they got themselves into. Because of this system set in place, the killer can simply spawn in and kill one person after another with almost zero repercussions or thought put into it at all. It just becomes way too monotonous way too fast. And to be frank, it’s not how the game was originally portrayed.
The design portrayed in the original gameplay teaser trailer makes the game seem as if it is more advantageous to play as if the game is a board game. calculating movements, pieces on the board and finally striking. And much to their benefit, the original game design from discord played like this the vast majority of the time. However, small changes and system tweaks have made it far more advantageous to play the game at breakneck speed, with little regard to any repercussions. While I fully support the devs being able to change what they want about the game, I mean it is their game; I believe that this change only weakened the game as a whole and turn it into a more casual, far more frustrating experience for the survivors. Not to mention, a far less interesting and easier time as the killer.
The characters are, well, just that. Characters. The survivors, although are voice acted pretty well, don’t really do much to influence the game. However, these survivors are not the stars of the show. The true stars are the killers and it shows. While playing as the killer, you can choose between a roster of interesting killers to get the job done.