PixParticipantPodcasterJuly 4, 2022 at 8:17 am #6251
I stumbled to the end of The Last Express over the weekend, decided I didn’t entirely understand the events and played through it again. It all came together on the second playthrough, picking up all the little clues I should have discovered the first time around. I have to say, I absolutely love this game. It falls under the interactive movie genre to me (which I always have enjoyed despite the negative press). I love the way you are completely free to follow everyone around, and view all the events from every different angle. The fact that everyone actually speaks their own language and you get subtitles for the ones you understand. Also, the way it doesn’t stick to a rigid timeline but gives some leeway to set events off when you are in range and still manages to keep it all together. The plot is unusually intelligent with rounded characters and makes me feel like I need to know more about the origins of the first world war to really understand it. There is a piece in the strategy guide penned by Jordan Mechner’s school history teacher about the war which I’ll have to read during the month.
There aren’t a huge number of puzzles, it’s more about soaking in the atmosphere and figuring out all the characters and their motivations. The clues for the puzzles are all quite subtle, you have to be paying attention right from the start but I suppose that is where the rewind comes in. I possibly should have made more use of that. It’s not the longest game. I still took a while to play it the second time but I certainly expect to see everyone finishing it this month.
I’m quite impressed by the tech to pull all this off. It’s effectively layering FMV to get all the characters moving around at the same time but all runs smoothly off a CD. Possibly a reason for the reduced frame rate at times.
As far as downsides, it would have been nice if the animation would have been smooth throughout. You get used to it after a while so it’s not a real problem – all this rotoscoping must have been incredibly time consuming as it was. I’m not so sure about the “supernatural” element that comes in at the end – it possibly feels a bit out of place in such a historically grounded story but I suppose if Indiana Jones can get away with it.
I had played this before years ago but don’t think I really fully appreciated it until going back this month. It’s definitely been one of my favourite DGC games so far. Curious to know if everyone else will like it as much.
TijnKeymasterPodcasterJuly 10, 2022 at 9:00 pm #6266
I’m glad it’s mostly about taking in the vibe, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing so far. I’m on my first playthrough and don’t really understand what’s going on exactly, but I seem to be progressing regardless, so I’m just going along for the ride haha
firefyteParticipantPodcasterJuly 19, 2022 at 11:27 am #6326
Oh boy was that a train ride!
I am wondering why I never played this title, maybe it was just not a title I was looking into then, but it sure took me on a ride this time.
Music is fantastic as well as the audio direction. There is obviously a lot going on and you can sort of learn all the details of everyone, and read more into the lore.
Some sections feel extremely time-critical, and I found multiple ways of doing things, and lingering about on the longer segments, and getting a bad ending or seven along the way. This also ended up as a really stressful towards the end, not knowing if I have enough time to get stuff done, or if I forgot something and then I would have to go back 2h.
Even still, the story was compelling and it does warrant a playthrough or three. I did end up standing around and waiting sometimes, which was a bit frustrating, didn’t find a mechanism to speed up time (even for a bit), but I did like the double-click move and rewind mechanics, although sometimes it is unclear what you actually should do, requiring a bad ending or two or a full location rewind to experience what you wanted.
The game is very interesting on how it accomplishes much in such small (physical) space. I didn’t mind or care for the rotoscoping style, at some places it was really nice, others it was more meh.
As pix says, there is a lot of soaking in the atmosphere, and some of the characters are blatantly obvious as to who they are.
I can’t wait for the discussion of this, also need to check the other threads for more opinions &c. I can also see why this has been top on many adventure game rankings.
TijnKeymasterPodcasterJuly 25, 2022 at 10:52 pm #6333
Ok, I just finished the game. I was kind of into it from the start, but only slightly really, as I found it all quite confusing.
But the 2nd half of the game, from Vienna and beyond, has me absolutely blown away. The game just builds and builds as you get deeper into it, and where I found all the characters to be quite confusing at first, it all fell into place as the story progressed.
By the time the finale is over and ending credits scroll by, I was really moved by this incredible game. What a story, what a production, truly remarkable.
I strongly urge anyone playing this to try and make it all the way to the end. What a game.
rnlfKeymasterPodcasterAugust 6, 2022 at 7:54 pm #6384
I finally finished it, too.
Overall, it’s a brilliant movie with (some) very clever puzzles. The atmosphere is great, music, art direction everything just perfect.
Sadly, the gameplay itself was frustrating at times for me. I also hit a bug when transitioning from part 2 to part 3. First time I didn’t meet Kahina after steeling the briefcase from Kronos, so I didn’t get the scene with Kronos where he takes the scarf. Somehow that kept the things after Vienna from properly unfold. Neither did Tatiana come to my compartment to ask for help with her Alexei problem, nor did the conductor make my bed (he entered, stayed for a couple seconds and returned without doing anything). So I couldn’t get the dream that foreshadows Alexei’s death.
Second time, I had the briefcase with me while arriving at Vienna. While everything worked as expected (Tatiana came and I could go sleep), I couldn’t put the briefcase away anymore, which meant I couldn’t equip the master key to get into Alexei’s compartment and find the detonator.
I had to replay from all the way back from the beginning of the concert several times to get it working. I had to consult a walk through to understand what was missing and try and fix it.
Anyway, some of the puzzles do not give proper feedback, which is sad. Figuring out how to get past Vienna in the first place was problematic, with so many things that need to be done in a short amount of time.
I also have some open questions regarding the story: Why didn’t I just give the firebird to Kronos? Except for the story to proceed past Belgrade, there was no reason not to, as far as I can tell? Also, how did Kronos and Kahina get back onto the train? How did they outrun it to be in Ottoman Empire before the train got there?
Also, what did I miss about Robert and Anna? Where did that love story come from all of a sudden? In my playthrough, they only talked like two or three times before getting to Budapest.
Anyway, all in all I’m glad I finally tried the game. It does have some nasty issues in game play, but that’s easily made up for by the brilliant writing (except for my two questions above, which are probably explained somewhere) and atmosphere. Clearly a work of art and directed by someone who’s clearly interested in making movies more than games.
copypaperParticipantAugust 25, 2022 at 4:57 pm #6421
My experience replaying it mirrors rnlf. There are segments that basically seem impossible without significant trial and error, which is very frustrating.
Back when I played it the first time closer to release, I was willing to troubleshoot through some of the more obtuse puzzles. I had a lot more patience and time back then. Also, I agree that it seems like you can wind up on paths that basically make it impossible to finish without going way back.
But two things still stand out. The research and world building of the characters, train, and time period are still second to none. Compared to anything else FMV from the time, it’s actually great writing and acting. I know many of the characters are real people that were extensively researched, which comes through in the game. Nobody even tries to make experiences like this now.
Second, the concept of a realtime adventure game is still pretty wild to me. I can’t think of anything else that lets you walk around what feels like a movie set in normal time, playing an adventure game. It is this premise that I think causes many of the gameplay issues later on, but if you forget the game’s puzzles and issues, and just wander for a while and imagine you’re on the train in the time period, there is nothing else quite like The Last Express.
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