Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier Preview
The recent Planet of the Apes films collectively make what I believe to be one of the finest trilogies of the last decade. Intelligent stories containing deep, flawed characters that evoke emotion while facing morally ambiguous circumstances are a rarity these days; much less stories that span across three critically acclaimed films. War for the Planet of the Apes released over the summer and concluded the tale of one of cinema’s most well-developed characters in Caesar, portrayed by the great Andy Serkis. If you’re mourning the end of the trilogy like I am, I have news that’ll make you go bananas. The Apes are making their way into video games in Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier from developer Imaginati Studios. I had the chance to speak with the founder of Imaginati, Martin Alltimes, and go hands-on with the game at PAX West 2017. I’m happy to say that the developers have crafted a cinematic, thought-provoking narrative that fits beautifully within the Apes trilogy.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is an interactive drama in which players determine the fate of both apes and humans alike as their worlds collide. Players make decisions that heavily impact the outcome of the story as they control both sides over the span of a two-hour experience. Whether you’re in control of the apes or humans, many conflicts are morally ambiguous. It’s up to you as the player to decide the course of action.
The story of Last Frontier takes place between Dawn and War for the Planet of the Apes. The group of apes you follow have split from Caesar’s tribe and have relocated to a network of caves within the Rocky Mountains. Both the apes and humans are simply attempting to get by. A series of events lead to their initial contact which initiates an unavoidable conflict. The characters on both sides are imperfect. Their inherent flaws are what conceive the dramatic narrative.
“The performances were incredibly engaging and making a decision was both difficult and exhilarating.”
During my hands-on time with the game, I played cooperatively with the founder of Imaginati Studios, Martin Alltimes, and one of his colleagues. Instead of using PS4 controllers, we utilized a Sony mobile app that enabled us to make decisions for our characters with our phones. When moments to decide arrived, we were given time to cast our votes on which choice we believed should be made. During the demo we played as the apes as they analyzed a human farm from afar. The main choice to be made was whether or not we were going to steal their horses. The night was quiet, we were armed, and we potentially outnumbered the humans. I believed we should leave the horses alone but was sadly outvoted. Throughout the entire scene we frequently chose between various dialogue options. Similar to Telltale games, the characters you interact with are effected by your actions and the way you speak to them. One event led to another and the humans managed to escape on the horses we intended to obtain.
We later determined the outcome of a scene involving humans who were holding an ape as a prisoner. They were in the process of beating him to death in order to gain information on the whereabouts of the remaining apes. I obviously want to avoid spoilers, so I won’t share the specific narrative beats of the scene. What I will say is that there was much more depth to the scene than I expected. The motivations of each side had their pros and cons, and it was up to us to decide who was ultimately right. The performances were incredibly engaging and making a decision was both difficult and exhilarating.
What’s interesting about Last Frontier is that you’re never in direct control of any characters. The game is purely cinematic as you exclusively make decisions for each side of the conflict. Depending on your actions, every character can die, they can all survive, or a combination in-between, providing plenty of replayability. The game can last anywhere between 2-3 hours in length depending on the path you choose to follow. As a fan of the films, I’m thrilled that Last Frontier is considered to be the fourth story in the Apes series. Imaginati Studios are in collaboration with Andy Serkis’ performance capture studio, Imaginarium, so, naturally, the game is beautifully animated. Due to the small taste I received at PAX West 2017, I can’t wait to alter the course of the story from beginning to end when Last Frontier launches this fall on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
For much more on Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, check out our interview with Martin Alltimes from Imaginati Studios above!