Game Review: The Last Federation

I had expected a fairly simple top-down space shooter, something like Space Pirates and Zombies.

While there was certainly action, The Last Federation has an impressive amount of depth. It’s a turn-based shooter, sure, but it’s also a world-building and political strategy game as well, but done in a way I haven’t seen before.

And it’s wonderfully addictive.

The backstory of The Last Federation is that you’re the last of an advanced space-faring species. Your planet wiped out, your hope and goal is to unite the species of your solar system.

You have one ship, some advanced knowledge, and that’s pretty much it.

TLF is really two games in one (well, arguably more, but basically). On one level is the action part. That’s easy to describe.

You control your ship in a turn based fashion. You can give it a direction or maneuver, tell it where or who to shoot at, and then for a few seconds it and the AI duke it out. Unlike most turn-based games (which I don’t typically like), there’s little downtime. You watch the action unfold, there’s no waiting for the AI to do their moves. It’s not like chess, or it would be if in chess you could wait to plan your move for as long as you want, but as soon as you move your opponent moves at the same time.

I’d play that chess. Sounds combative.

You can vary your energy levels, and use a selection of limited-use special weapons (that you choose and unlock as the game goes on). It’s all fast paced and fun.

The other part of the game is basically a multi-(multi-multi-)layered political strategy game, but it’s far more interesting than it sounds. The eight planets/races of the solar system all have their own strengths, weaknesses, and temperaments. Since your goal is to unite all the planets, you have to get everyone to like you, then like each other, neither of which is easy. You can bribe them with technology, help them build things, offer medical or other assistance (in a supervisory role, I mentioned you’re uber-advanced, right?), and so on. Sometimes a race will come to you with a special mission, and if you succeed they might really like you.

You probably can’t get everyone to like you, especially when everyone gets space technology, and start warring with each other.

So then you can take sides, if you want, sabotaging a society, stealing their tech, and so on.

There charts and graphs galore to help you keep track of it all. The best part is how it eases you into the game. If this all sounds daunting, it’s not. Each layer of complexity is only revealed after you’ve had a chance to understand and get used to the previous layer.

Perhaps most impressively, I thought I was doing well, playing for about 4 hours. I had outfitted my ship really well and several of the planets really liked me (one really didn’t, but we were all destroying them). What I didn’t realize is that while I was getting them all to like me, they were liking each other more, and all of a sudden they created their own alliance and wiped out me and the remaining planet.

Hey! I thought we were friends!!!

The beauty of the game is that the next time I play (unless I reload from an earlier save game - save often!), is that the game will play out completely differently. While the backstory, setting, and goals remain the same, the rest is generated fresh. You’ll get a whole new game each time.

The graphics are good, though not as flashy as SPaZ and some other recent 2D games, but honestly, that doesn’t matter. It’s the gameplay that matters.

The music, by composer Pablo Vega, is great. It fits and mood and tone of the game, while adding an old-school electronic feel to it. Intentional or not, I was reminded of Star Control II, but not for any specific reason I could place.

Bottom Line

The Last Federation is available now on Steam. It’s only $20 ($15 as I write this). If this genre interests you, or you’re looking for something a little different, definitely check it out.