Four Last Things Review
Taking you from the Garden of Eden all the way to Hell itself, and everywhere in between, Four Last Things is a little indie game with Biblical ambitions. Starting as an entry into a contest in 2016, and then as a Kickstarter project, the game was made (incredibly) by a one-person development team – Joe Richardson. And it is a truly amazing achievement – full of humor, gorgeous iconic visuals, and clever puzzles, Four Last Things is a refreshing, cheeky delight, and one of the best point-and-click adventure games I have played in a long time.
You begin the game as an unnamed Medieval pilgrim; awaking from a disturbing dream, you seek to confess your sins and be absolved. The problem is, the local church won’t give you confession since your sins weren’t committed in their jurisdiction. So now, off you go on a quest to commit the 7 Deadly Sins (Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Greed, Lust, Envy, and Pride) all over again before they will see you. It’s a great, simple premise that is every bit as fun to play as it sounds.
From the beginning, Four Last Things shows itself to be clearly different from other point-and-click titles. That’s because the visuals – scenery, locations, and characters – are made entirely from Renaissance artworks, including your protagonist. There’s classic works by Bruegel (Elder and Younger), Van Eyck, Bosch and others that make this game a true Garden of Earthly Visual Delights. Four Last Things is as much a loving homage to Renaissance art as it is a game – how often do you hear that?
Richardson also animates parts of the paintings, à la Terry Gilliam, giving the game a fun, Monty Python-esque undertone of absurdity. Quartets play Baroque music from inside giant eggs floating in the sky. Lazy, overweight peasants carouse over ale in the town square. I found myself often just stopping and admiring the sublime scenery and quirky little details as I played, and I always looked forward to what treat awaited me with each new environment.
At the core of Four Last Things’ experience is, like other point-and-click games, puzzle solving. But again, the simple, accessible premise works better than in most titles I have played. You already know what you need to do – commit the aforementioned 7 Deadly Sins. The task is then to search for opportunities, as you make your way through the local town and countryside, to commit them. You will come upon a variety of situations, people and objects as you continue on your Pilgrim’s Progress. A yellow outline indicates which items or NPCs you can touch, look at, or speak to. How can you logically use what you encounter to achieve your sinful goals?
Four Last Things isn’t about random trial-and-error, picking up objects and putting them together hoping something will happen. Some of the puzzles are relatively easy, and some are challenging; but they are always fair. And make no mistake – a few of the sins will really test your abilities. But I found that the solution, once I did find it, made perfect sense and was totally fitting with the sin I was trying to commit. I loved the fact that each puzzle could be logically figured out, unlike in some games where you are forced to resort to endless guessing until you get lucky. Richardson has achieved an excellent balance, and I found that Four Last Things lets you use your intelligence, but demands your full attention to detail as well.
As with classic adventure titles like Monkey Island or Deponia, humor abounds in Four Last Things. Each NPC has his or her own personality – from the surly pipe-smoker in the town square to the “Pie King” you must defeat to achieve one of your sins. Dialogue, while certainly good, is one area that I actually felt could still use a bit of improvement; while characters’ responses were at times amusing, they were sometimes limited to a brief rebuff – “go way” or “no thanks,” for example. I wished Richardson could go even further, having them give more Monty Python-like ironic philosophical ramblings on the absurdity of life. Perhaps he will add more depth to dialogue with further updates.
And that brings us to the one possible shortcoming in this otherwise excellent game. This is not a game with a deep, engaging story. The fun in Four Last Things comes completely from committing your required sins, facing judgement, and going to either Heaven or Hell (depending on how you behaved throughout the game). All of the characters, places and other details you encounter, as interesting and entertaining as they may be, are merely vehicles for you to achieve this task. I must confess, I felt that an opportunity was lost somewhat here to satirize not just the Medieval world, but by extension our own. Or, given the eclectic group of Medieval characters Richardson has at his disposal, we could have deeper side-stories in the spirit of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The lighthearted, ironic atmosphere Richardson has so skillfully created in Four Last Things offers the perfect opportunity for deeper narrative experiences, and I would have liked to see even more of it in my time with the game.
Small quibbles aside, overall Four Last Things is a delightful romp through Medieval Europe, an art history lesson, and a mind-bending puzzler all rolled into one. I found it a thoroughly-enjoyable experience and a truly pleasant surprise. Its simple, accessible concept will pull you in right away, while its intelligent game design will keep you engaged for hours (depending on how long you spend admiring the artwork). As much as I loved playing it, it is short on both story and depth. I found myself wanting more, and I hope to see a sequel from Richardson in the future. With all of the positives this game has going for it, forgive me for saying that it would truly be a sin to miss it.
** A PC code was provided by the publisher **
- Gorgeous Renaissance art visuals
- Cool music
- Cheeky, clever premise
- Fun, well-made puzzles
- Story could be deeper