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GOL Cast: Uniting Planets In The Last Federation

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Once again I'd like to apologize for my absence during the past weeks. I've been sick and overly busy but I'm back in business and I bring you my thoughts on The Last Federation and the Betrayed Hope expansion.

The Last Federation is an interesting strategy game made by Arcen Games, the people who made AI War, in which you play as the last surviving member of your species after an interplanetary conflict destroyed your home world along with nearly everyone living on it. Your mission is to try and prevent the history from repeating itself by forming a federation between the remaining sentient species by any means necessary. You will need to please the races and play by their political systems and also prevent them from jumping at each others' throats. Sometimes you might also have to fight against some of them to maintain the balance of power or to eliminate the races that are unsuited for the federation.

The people at Arcen Games surely know how to create unique strategy games. With AI War they set the player(s) in a very asymmetric situation where the AI had overwhelming fleet and the only thing that prevented you from getting destroyed was the AI behavior meter around which you needed to form your strategy. Here you essentially play a 4X game as an outsider. You don't have planets or fleets of your own. You have a single ship with some deployable escort ships, some credits and your wits. Thus you mostly just try to influence the races in various ways and try to get them to work according to your goals instead of trying to change things directly.

The game starts of with you crash landing on one of the planets in the system and getting captured by the locals until they develop spacefaring technology. Your mission starts as that race creates a prototype ship, which you then steal and take into the space. After that everything is pretty much up to you. In the standard game mode everyone except the race onto whose backyard you crashed starts without spacefaring technology, meaning that they are not able to create ships or have contact to the other races. You can smuggle tech to the races in order to get them to space or you can wait for them to figure the art of spaceflight on their own. From this point on you need to start thinking how you want to go about creating your federation. Which of the races are worth getting into space? Who is it worth being friends with? How will those races react towards each other?

Each of the races behaves a bit differently and making deals with them require different sorts of things. A couple of the races have democratic political systems in place, where their race's willingness towards different deals is governed by their dominant parties. Another one, the Thoraxians, have a queen and her mood swings affect their actions. Often you can change things up a bit by spending some of your credits but that is not always the case, especially with Peltians and the Burlusts. Peltians live in a communist society so your money is worhless to them. Instead you need to gain political power by gaining voting proxies by doing things for them (or by bribing them). Burlusts on the other hand are a very warlike and they only care about honour gained in combat (Klingons, anybody?). The only way to get them to work the way you want to is to challenge their leaders into duel with your spaceship to gain political leverage over them. You need to take into account these differences between the races in order to get them together into the same table.

Sometimes words are not enough for you to advance in the game and you need to arm your weapons, raise your shields and get down and dirty with some old fashioned combat. Space combat in The Last Federation is a mix of turn-based strategy and shoot 'em up. During each turn you decide how you are going to spend the next couple of seconds in the battle, you can redirect power to your subsystems (weapons, shields, engines), move around the battlefield, fire at enemies using different kinds of weapons or use special abilities such as cloaking fields, viruses and powerful anti-capital ship or anti-interceptor weaponry. Even with just a single ship under your control it requires tactical thinking and skill to be able to prevent damage to your ship and to complete the objectives that are given to you. The system works really nicely and gives you some action between the various political dispatches.

It's also worth talking about the expansion now that we've had the change to test it out. The expansion doesn't change the base game, but it gives you two new game modes: Betrayal and Invasion. In Betrayal instead of forming a federation you decide to wipe out every single race from the system and in order to do that you infect one of the races with a virus that gives you control over the inhabitants of their world. Here the game becomes more like a traditional 4X game. Raw resources to improve your own planet and to research tech to make your world more powerful and then you take on the other races. You can still conduct diplomacy with the other races but your ultimate goal is to destroy them all, so forming a federation is out of the question. Temporary alliances however are possible and you can still cause all kinds of havoc to get the races fighting against each other. You still don't control your fleets directly but instead you can plant attack flags on planets and your armadas are going to start moving there when they are available. To me that makes the game mode feel a bit clumsy and in all honesty I prefer the original idea to Betrayal.

Invasion is a different story. Here a powerful alien lifeform called the Obscura has attacked your solar system and conquered one of the planets. Your job is to unite the races to fight against this new threat and wipe it out completely. The Obscura controls huge armadas though and they aren't completely incompetent on the ground either, so you need the combined armadas of most of the races to penetrate their defences and bomb them out of existence from surface. This game mode I liked more than Betrayal due to its unique setting and the requirements it sets onto you. The mood and the setting appealed to me and I felt like a hero of some scifi movie who unites the races to save the galaxy from a severe threat. Just awesome.

So overall, should you get The Last Federation? Absolutely. It's a fantastic strategy game that is also very different to the ones you are probably used to. Your role as a sole spaceship roaming around the galaxy on a mission of diplomacy creates interesting situations and obstacles that you need to get over or around. It's also an experience that will always be a bit different so it bears multiple playthroughs. The Betrayed Hope expansion is also something that's worth thinking about but the Betrayal game mode didn't really cut it for me. Of course picking it up in a sale could be worth it for the Invasion game mode.

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About the author -
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I'm a Linux gamer from Finland. I like reading, long walks on the beach, dying repeatedly in roguelikes and ripping and tearing in FPS games. I also sometimes write code and sometimes that includes hobbyist game development.
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1 comment

Segata Sanshiro 1 Dec, 2014
I'd seen this game around a few times but never realised it was so good! I think I might get it, been looking for a game like this that I can really get into :).

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