Pages: 1 2 3
Graphics: The visuals in Last Kingdom go beyond being merely mediocre. The character animations remind me of the Charlie Brown Christmas specials, where the characters go caroling and the animators use two frames — one of an open mouth, the other closed. NetAmin uses a similar technique here with each of the characters having a very limited number of animation frames, making the walking and attacking look almost absurdly unrealistic. On top of this, the characters and creatures have almost no variety or unique attributes, leaving many battles quite monotonous and requiring you to move your cursor over the target to discover its identity. There are no adjustments available for the graphics subsystem, with even the resolution being fixed. The feel of the game’s visuals fails to compare even to the long running Ultima Online, which was released back in 1997.
Interface: Everything you could ever need regarding your character’s statistics, inventory, and spell book is all readily accessible from the in-game interface. Almost every function has a hotkey assigned as well to save you the time of searching out the appropriate menu-bar button; most of the informative parts of the screen can be minimized to give you more viewing room. The biggest disappointment with the interface is the low quality of the associated artwork. The included manual could also stand to be sent off to an editor for basic corrections: The fact that the final version of the User Menu includes a letter that is supposed to be from Merlin — as stated by the game’s website — yet is addressed from “Merlot,” speaks volumes about the type of care taken to ensure excellence in this product.
Gameplay: The one thing that Last Kingdom really had going for it was the integration of a semi-historical storyline, and using characters already quite popular in our cultural mythos is a brilliant idea if done correctly. Unfortunately, the developers seem to have suffered from some of the same problems that plague console ports from Japan, in that the language used in the telling of the story has grievous structural and grammatical errors running throughout its entirety. This has the obvious effect of disrupting continuity and making the storyline more difficult to follow and enjoy.
Multiplayer games are about the interaction with other players more than graphics, sound, or any other feature. As with any other such title, it is the people that make the experience count one way or another. The crowd in Last Kingdom is ever changing, making a direct value judgment virtually impossible. What does happen to be evident is the fact that, like any other online-RPG, there is a great diverse mix of people, some who focus on role-playing, others who just want to have a good time, and the darker ones who prey upon the weaker characters. In my first ten minutes of gameplay a vicious dark knight walked up and hacked away futilely at me for some reason I could not fathom. It was quite fortunate for me that the system only allows player-killing to occur after a certain level.
Overall, the gameplay is decently amusing, but ends up being bogged down by the low quality graphics and somewhat quirky interface. Using the Arthurian mythos was a great idea, and only time will tell how NetAmin decides to use it in the context of the storyline.
Multiplayer: In Last Kingdom, lag is public enemy number one with long delays between the death of monsters and the point at which they actually disappear from the screen. Some of the problems I had with lag are classic cases of why massively multiplayer simply cannot work effectively without good Internet connections. I would oft-times be attacking a minor monster in town only to see the monster vanish without giving me a single point of experience. Two seconds later I would see the culprit (the player who was unfairly slaying monsters in the area) cast a fireball spell at the location where the monster had previously stood. Another more dangerous example is when you are fighting a difficult enemy and decide that retreat would be wise due to your low hit points. I was fighting a rabid dog with my weak level four character when my health went below what I consider dangerous, and decided that a retreat was in order. I managed to escape from the brute, but noticed that my health was still going down as though I was continuing to be hit. The frantic decreasing stopped just shy of killing my character outright, proving to me that I would need to take the slow nature of my net-connection into consideration for future battles.
Sound FX: The sound effects throughout Last Kingdom seem unequivocally rushed in most places, with the attack noises often being cut off in mid-swing, and the spell effects not lasting more than a half-second. Even though Last Kingdom is a constant work in progress, the utter lack of polish in the sound is quite evident the first time you hear a high level spell going off. The effects are simply unimpressive and fail to create any sort of layer for the atmosphere of the game. The final nail in the coffin of this area was the fact that every time I start up Last Kingdom, the sound is switched off by default, and I am forced to spend a moment enabling it. Perhaps I am being unfair in making this assessment, but I believe that when designers put the effort into making one of the features that is considered a basic tenet of a game, that the component in question shouldn’t need to be turned on manually, it should come enabled. For example, you would never expect to be required to self-initialize the keyboard input subsystem in a FPS title before you head out for some fragging.
Musical Score: The music in Last Kingdom is appropriate to the medieval atmosphere and serves to help create the fantasy mood intended by the designers. The melodies include several phases of varying styles that repeat at acceptable intervals without very noticeable repetition. The point at which this rule becomes excepted is when you have spent too much time in town hunting down and killing the basic early level monsters. The theme music begins to ingrain itself into the mind of the listener and almost becomes infuriating. One other problem I found with the music is that like the sound, it defaulted to being turned off when the game started. Most titles out on the market today want players to enjoy the full experience from the outset, which includes the music.
Intelligence & Difficulty: Last Kingdom isn’t difficult to play by any standard. The controls are relatively straightforward and help is readily available by way of the concise user manual or by calling NetAmin’s tech support. There are really no options to adjust as far as difficulty goes, leaving players to find a trustworthy friend or to join one of the guilds — once they open. The enemy intelligence is virtually nonexistent with the monsters running up to attack you on sight, and following you so long as they can keep a line-of-sight established. With the plethora of good following scripts implemented in other RPGs both on and offline, there is no excuse for reverting back to the old line-of-sight format. Though dismay would be the appropriate reaction to seeing a storm-dragon follow you for several miles through forests and hills, giving some type of territorial instinct to the monsters at least makes the hunts interesting, while relying on the old proximity attacks is justifiably considered yesterday’s news.
Overall: Sometimes there are games created by upstart development firms that break all the right rules and do something truly innovative — or at least with higher quality than the competition. One example of this would be Jumpgate, a superior product from a company that hadn’t even fully secured its production rights. Last Kingdom is also developed by one of these promising new startups, but misses its mark by about three years. Had it been released before Ultima Online, the graphics would have blown Meridian 59 clear out of the water and set a new standard for excellence. As it stands, though, the sub-par animation and lackluster gameplay leave me hanging on, wishing for more. Even King Arthur returning from the mystical isle of Avalon with Excalibur at his side can’t save Last Kingdom from being swallowed up by the forces of mediocrity.
Pages: 1 2 3