The AA space remains an interesting spot in the video game industry. Not exactly on the indie level, nor does it feature the budget and production level of the AAA space. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for AA games because they often harken back to a time when games were just games, and did not try to nickel and dime you into buying skins and battle passes. AA games are often simply content-complete games from start to finish. And that is something I appreciate.
Enter The Last Oricru, an action RPG that takes inspiration from other Souls-like titles, but with its own narrative twist. Developed by GoldenKnights and published by Prime Matter, the game takes place in a sci-fi/fantasy world known as Wardenia that is engulfed in civil war. Despite its rough edges, what distinguishes The Last Oricru the most is its intricate branching narrative system that rewards player agency.
A Compelling Story
At its core, The Last Oricru is a story about war and deception. Wardenia is engulfed in a chaotic civil war between the Ratkin and Naboru factions. Players take control of Silver, a human stranded in the middle of this engrossing conflict. Silver dons a belt that serves as the tool of his constant resurrections. In itself, the belt is a prison binding Silver to Wardenia, where he has to carefully navigate between the warring factions.
Your ship’s AI, Aida, is in constant contact with you and other human survivors during your time on the wretched planet. Aida tasks you with retrieving a device known as the Cradle in order to escape Wardenia for good.
From the get-go, the game catches you up on the ongoing conflict, but as you progress, the deception and storyline are revealed like layers of an onion slowly being peeled. I felt that the game’s narrative was engaging and well-paced. At no point did any particular segment drag on more than it should. Perhaps it is due to House of the Dragon still being in the zeitgeist, but I thoroughly enjoyed the politicking between the factions. Though I do not sympathize with one faction over the other, the fact that you can alter the state of the narrative in a meaningful way intrigued me.
Your Choices Matter in The Last Oricru
Many games will tout that that player’s decisions impact narratives. Usually, these decisions are pitted as benevolent or evil choices. However, many fall short of their promises, as the intended consequence is met regardless of what players choose. The same cannot be said about The Last Oricru.
Because the game is set during a devastating war on Wardenia, clear-cut choices are out of the window. There are no “good” or “bad” choices for players to make, only choices with different outcomes. And yes, they do impact the story and your standing with the three factions available in the game.
I tried my best to maintain cordial relations with the different factions, but I could only keep the plates spinning for so long. Eventually, even the most minuscule of choices impacted my standing with one of the factions. And since the game ditches manual saves entirely, you cannot simply reload to see a different narrative branch. I’ll be honest, this bugged me at first. But then I felt it just added to the game’s immersion. Eventually, I learned to live with the consequences of my choices. Regardless, I absolutely felt engrossed in the narrative as a result.
It is truly refreshing to see such impactful and meaningful player agency in a game. Admittedly, The Last Oricru’s branching narrative system spoiled me, and it will definitely be a benchmark for future marketing slogans that promise “your choices impact the story”.
The Last Oricru employs a familiar Souls-like combat system. The typical light and heavy attacks are all present. Naturally, they are determined by a stamina bar that is quite generous as it depletes modestly. On top of that, there are skills and magic players can unleash if the right piece of gear is equipped.
Although described as challenging, personally, I found the fights to be fair for the most part. Most of the frustrating combat encounters from my playthrough were typically me being too greedy and trying to dish out successive attacks. Or when taking on multiple enemies at one time.
However, one should keep their expectations in check when it comes to the animation department. Although, The Last Oricru’s combat animations are more than serviceable, do not expect a multitude of intricate move sets to unleash on your enemies. The game has a more modest offering in that regard. But again, that perhaps is not in the game’s scope, and what it offers more than suffices.
Controls Could be Better
The Last Oricru’s controls could have been tighter. Camera movement felt floaty and overly sensitive, even when tuning it down a bit. Being an older gamer, I default to inverted controls. Shockingly, the option was not available in the game’s settings on the Xbox Series X version I reviewed. Though it was available on the Steam version.
Having recently completed the seminal Elden Ring, I was very fond of the game’s jump attacks. To my surprise, The Last Oricru also featured a jump button and jump attacks were my favorite form of attack as they were quite satisfying to pull off. However, I noticed that normal follow-up attacks would not register. I noticed this early on and trained myself to double hit after I pulled off a jump attack. It was a nuisance but it is worth mentioning.
Terminals function similarly to Dark Souls’ bonfires. They recover your health, mana, and reset enemies. Terminals also happen to be the point where co-op is initiated (more on this below). The only difference is terminals are quite large and vibrant and not inconspicuous like bonfires or sites of grace. Also, unlike bonfires, terminals do not save progress and provide audio captain’s logs that fill in the game’s lore, which is quite enjoyable to listen to.
Similar to other Souls-like, The Last Oricru employs essence as its souls/runes experience currency. Of course, if you die, you can retrieve your lost essence. Players use essence to level their character across different stats. However, despite it being generous, for some reason, stamina could not be upgraded through leveling up. However, players can adjust stamina through gear, providing bonus stamina attributes.
Co-op is a Bunch of Fun
The Last Oricru provided both local and online co-op modes. However, the latter will only be available when the game launches. The local co-op was a blast to play through. Player 2 assumes the role of a hologram of Silver. Best of all, the hologram player receives all of the same equipment and experience points as Player 1 and is free to redistribute the skills points to their liking, which is a nice touch.
The combat became quite hectic with two players but in a good way. Luckily, the performance was also maintained for the most part, with a few more dips than usual compared to the single-player experience. Fortunately, the co-op performance held up to its single-player counterpart, and it is a great way to play the game.
The Last Oricru Graphics
Developed using Unreal Engine, The Last Oricru sports decent graphics as a whole. I previewed the game in 2021, and I must say the game’s visuals have improved considerably. A lot of work went into reanimating Silver’s face during dialogue scenes and its shows. However, some of the other characters’ facial expressions do not receive the same love and attention as Silver, but overall they do their parts well enough.
Though not necessarily an issue exclusive to The Last Oricru, hair, in general, looks awkward. Especially facial hair since it looks pasted on a character’s face. But again, this is a common issue across the industry as a whole. On another note, the character design of the rat race, known as the Ratkins, also has a very polygonal look to them. As if it came from PS3/Xbox 360 era graphical style.
Despite these small nitpicks, overall the game looks decent, especially being the maiden title from a smaller studio. It appears that the decision to use Unreal Engine was a smart one to help propel the game’s graphics.
I initially thought that the sci-fi/fantasy setting might be off-putting and create a graphical identity crisis. But alas, I was mistaken. The Last Oricru managed to marry both art styles seamlessly without any awkward “well that doesn’t seem to fit” moments worth noting. Kudos to the artists and other developers involved in bringing a unique setting to life.
Souls-like Level Design in The Last Oricru
Similar to other Souls-like titles, The Last Oricu’s game world is comprised of interlinked zones. Each zone has a unique look and theme, such as the different factional cities and the massive bridge that links them together. The bridge area, in particular, stands out as it is undergoing an immense siege and standoff between the warring factions. I appreciated that far away areas were usually visible on the horizon, showing you a glimpse of where you could go next. It was a nice reminder of how interlinked the game world is.
However, I really wished there was a map as sometimes I would get lost. This was particularly frustrating when I had to backtrack to areas to complete side quests. But in the end, I learned the areas and eventually found my way. I felt that the terminals could have been used as a fast travel point but unfortunately, that was not the case.
Voice Acting and Audio Design
The Last Oricru’s voice acting is up to par, but nothing spectacular. Line delivery is good enough. However, I felt some of the dialogue lasted too long on many occasions without providing additional characterization. For instance, conversations would regularly drag on, and it would do little to add to Silver personally or to the other characters he was conversing with. Perhaps that is mainly due to the scriptwriting, but I felt conversations could have ended sooner than they did.
I also enjoyed that the dialogue did not take itself too seriously, and Silver would regularly crack a joke or a pop-culture reference. I felt it was off-putting at first, but by the end of the game, it grew on me and I enjoyed Silver’s sarcastic demeanor.
During my playthrough, there were some noticeable audio glitches. For instance, in the mine area, Silver can travel around in a mine cart. Yet if one of the gates on the rail track is closed and you crash into it, no sound effect was produced. Perhaps this can be remedied with a day-one patch.
When it comes to the game’s soundtrack, an orchestral track was predominantly used. For the most part, the soundtrack acts as a supporting role without ever taking the front stage. But it does its purpose decently enough, albeit with being forgettable.
Overall, The Last Oricru performed well on the Xbox Series X. Though I must note that I tested it on an OLED TV with VRR activated, so perhaps that helped stabilize performance. Even testing it on the PC, there was a stark improvement in the performance compared to the preview build I tested a year prior.
During the preview build, I noted that the framerate would tank during chaotic combat segments that involved multiple enemies. Luckily, in the review build, performance was much more stable.
Though one of the issues that is common with the Unreal Engine is texture pop-in, which also reared its ugly head in The Last Oricru. Luckily, the texture pop-ins were few and far between and did not detract from my time with the game. There were also other performance oddities such as characters continuously walking into walls that were quite comical. But again, it hardly detracted from the overall experience.
Final Thoughts on The Last Oricru
Although rough around the edges, The Last Oricru delivered on what it intended to do. The game provided a decent Souls-like experience, with fun combat, great co-op, and an engaging premise. Best of all, this was baked on top of a satisfying branching narrative system that truly delivers on player agency. The Last Oricru will likely surprise players, but expectations should be kept in check.
Note – The publisher provided an Xbox Series X key for the purpose of this review.