The Last Stand: Aftermath is the latest roguelike game to hit digital marketplaces but has a few differences that separate it from the other dozen rogue titles released this week. (It seems every game is a rogue these days.)
First difference is the isometric perspective with 3D models. Unfortunately, the bland browns and grays provide a muted experience throughout and sometime there are framerate stutters. I originally thought the grainy visuals were there to provide a horror effect but winds up looking a little drab as this is not a scary game. But the long perspective has its advantages by giving the player the space and opportunity to plan each approach.
The other major difference comes from the rogue mechanics and how they are built directly into the narrative, gameplay, and level progression. Playing as an infected survivor, it is your job to journey as far as you can away from the safe house, trying to pave the way for the next journeyman. Each time you die, and die you will, you restart at the camp as a new survivor but with some knowledge gained from the previous run. Thanks to branching paths, the player is given many options regarding where to go. That next destination might only take 1 unit of gas but could be more dangerous than that spot that will take a couple units of gas but leave you empty. Since each playable character is always infected, time is of the essence. The player is rewarded with longer runs if you can find medicine to temporarily delay the inevitable so exploration can yield powerful rewards. Of course there are ways to modify your stats and there is a crafting system in place.
Each area encourages exploration. Entering a house, for example, might require a higher amount of time or could make noise which could attract the horde. Stealth also plays a role for those wanting to sneak around or try to run away when ammo reserves are low. Although melee weapons are available, there is an emphasis placed on ranged weaponry, making this game feel like a shooter at times. Each area though usually has a critical item, like finding gas to fill your tank so you can escape. Some spots are bigger than others too, so you never really know what you are going to find, see, or fight. Yes, this is roguelike after all because finding stuff this run could influence the next one or obtaining that one new item could drastically shift gameplay in your favor.
Musically, there actually isn’t much happening as it seems to be going for a scary, alone, vibe but there are no jump scares since the player can see so much of the play field due to the isometric perspective. There is a cool highlight when the player walks behind solid objects though. There is voice acting but hearing the same quips each time you restart in town can be a little tiresome with longer runs.
It took me a couple runs before I really started to understand this zombie roguelike. Once this initial learning curve has been overcome, it is easy to see this is one of the better, recently released rogue titles to hit the market even with just a few rough spots. That is, until the next batch of rogue games get released next week.
Also available on PS4/5 and PC.