Last Train Home PC Review
A war torn blend of classic RTS and new aged management sim, Last Train Home is a fresh approach to the strategy genre. Not only is it a fresh take on a heavily populated genre, it is a challenging and rewarding adventure driven by an engaging narrative based around true events. Interestingly, the game provides a certain sense of humanization to its strategy mechanics. This sort of approach changes your soldiers from a faceless army of drones into real people making you feel responsible for every single loss. Of course, this is the trick of the game. It begins to deepen beyond a simple objective based strategy game, ensuring that players need to consider every single choice.
Leading a division of soldiers from the newly formed Czechoslovak Republic, players must aid these soldiers in crossing Russia in their armored train to get home. However, following the Great War, Russia has erupted into a civil war. Now, players must lead soldiers across the frozen wastes while a war rages, and they are no neutral party. Utilizing real-time strategy, players engage in battles with the Red and White armies, manage their food and supplies, and ensure the train survives.
Of course, commanding soldiers in battle is nothing new to the RTS genre. Yet, the combination of random narrative moments, in game conversations, and background characteristics, turn these soldiers into more living beings than NPCs. The game does a wonderful job of incorporating narrative into its unfolding, and increasingly difficult, trek across Russia. The combat is engaging and intense, and the management of supplies, moral, and more, feels dire and necessary. Despite a few clunks in commands, the game feels incredible.
Choice Within Dire Straits
The narrative style of Last Train Home allows players to follow the tracks of the story as they wish. A top-down strategy map dotted with villages, points of interest, and resource points, allows players to choose where they send squads to from the train. Of course, these squads are made up of named soldiers with diverse backgrounds that the player puts together themselves. The most interesting part of these optional objectives throughout the land is that one never knows what they may encounter.
For instance, sending a squad out to an abandoned or destroyed village may present players with a random encounter. Maybe this encounter is a wild vagrant willing to share a seemingly meaningless story for some food, or maybe it’s the Baba Yaga herself. Last Train Home keeps you on your toes. In addition, these random events are choices that one must consider carefully. Do you have the food to barter? Do your soldiers have the energy or morale to go out and get supplies?
It is between necessity and curiosity where the game gets its draw. An almost roguelike inclusion of randomness that has the capacity to change the journey for better or worse. Furthermore, the way the game allows players to explore the landscape and utilize the skills of individual soldiers allows for another layer of strategy to unfold in the way a player designs their squad specifically to increase the odds of gathering resources and the outcomes of random events.
Additionally, you never know when you’re going to run into the Red or White armies and be thrust into battle. It is the constant unknown variables that add more than the average strategy game. Especially once you are thrust into the heat of battle.
The battlefields players find themselves on in Last Train Home are diverse and interesting. They provide an RTS fan their dream of obstacles and useful points of interest while also proving challenging. If there is one thing about the game that sticks out is that it is hard. Reflecting the reality of post World War One, machine guns mow soldiers down in an instant, snipers can remove someone from the battlefield before they are a perceived threat, and grenades are an effective way to remove entrenched enemies. However, this remains true for both sides.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the game’s combat is how unforgiving it is. A single mistake in positioning, giving the wrong order, or any other choice that can go wrong on the battlefield is swiftly abused by the enemy. I remember panicking as I realized my soldiers were becoming surrounded, and my squads began taking losses. Of course, these are troops the player becomes attached to as they journey on their train. Losing them not only hurts your train’s efficiency, your ability to gather resources, and fight the enemy, it also hurts your feelings.
Like any RTS game, there are different classes of soldier, each with their own specialties. These troops can handle different things during a fight, but the interesting thing about Last Train home is that they also have different jobs when aboard the train. Keeping this in mind is a crucial part of the gameplay and I found it fun trying to balance my troops between joining a squad and fighting foes, or ensuring tasks on the train are properly handled. Double this with the fact that you don’t get soldiers back, and you have your moral questions dealt for you.
Last Train Home is a beautiful blend of action RTS and management sim. It is by far an easy game, in fact, it’s quite challenging for any fan of the genre. However, it makes up for it’s difficulty in the fact that it feels rewarding to overcome challenges. Additionally, it is a wonderful narrative based around true historical events that makes every character feel alive. Where an average RTS would hand you a band of soldiers and tell you complete your objective, Last Train Home brings the characters to life.
Every soldier aboard your train becomes your responsibility. This understanding adds another element missing from many strategy games, the desire to get your troops home. Furthermore, the game’s atmosphere and landscapes fit perfectly with the desperate struggle of the Czechoslovakian Legionnaires. The Russian Landscape feel desolate and hopeless amidst the fires of civil war. Yet, the train feels like a safe abode. Not to mention, the fantastic voice acting in the actual languages presented by the game, serves to add an astronomical level of immersion. If you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself trying to mimic Czechoslovakian phrases as you command your soldiers to sneak up on the enemy.
Overall, Last Train Home is a difficult, stressful, and wonderful experience. It is beautiful and brutal tale of perseverance and war that doubles as a strategy game. Aside from a few clunky feeling commands on the battlefield and the, easily circumvented, wait-time mechanic on the top-down map, there is really no issues with this gem. Despite the difficulty of the normal game mode, it would be a mistake to miss this train.
***PC code provided by the publisher***
- Fantastic Blend of RTS and Resource Management
- Diverse and tactical battles
- Immersive Narrative and Gameplay
- Great Voice Acting
- Can speed up the wait timing of map movement/tasks
- Occasionally clunky controls during battles
- The wait-time of tasks and movement can feel cumbersome