The term “interactive movie” has been thrown around from time to time in recent years when describing what it is like to play games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead and DONTNOD’s Life is Strange. While I wouldn't argue with someone if they were to describe those games in that way, I believe the term should be reserved for games made in the same vein as Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier. With an overall cinematic feel, and gameplay being limited purely to decision making, there is no other way to describe the experience. The lack of more “hands-on” gameplay could be a deal breaker for some, but Last Frontier excels at creating an atmosphere that sucks the player right into the game’s focal point: the narrative.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier has players following a story of conflict between an ape tribe and a human town. The events in the game take place within the same universe as the recent movies, and it is set in the year 2027. A group of apes has separated themselves from Caesar’s tribe in an attempt to start new lives and settle elsewhere. Trouble begins when the apes face starvation due to a lack of food in their new home. On the human side of things, townsfolk must deal with loss and a dwindling amount of supplies, among other issues. Without saying too much about the plot, the game does an excellent job of making you feel for both parties involved in the struggle. There are likable and relatable characters in both corners, which makes it difficult to definitively pick one side to root for. This decision is made even tougher thanks to the emotion brought forth through some admirable performances on both sides coupled with superb facial animation, especially for the apes.
Siding with one group over the other becomes more troublesome still because the game has you playing both sides of the tense situation between humans and apes. On the human side, you make decisions as Jess, the newly appointed leader of a human settlement. As an ape, you will make choices as Bryn, the second son of the tribe leader, Khan. The only interactivity in Last Frontier comes from choosing dialogue options, along with a few prompts here and there. There are only ever two dialogue options to choose from at once, but the game lets you know the emotion behind the words beforehand and gives you as much time as you need when choosing what to say. With that being the case, many choices you make will have real consequences that can affect a number of events story-wise. Even if you cannot see the immediate results of your actions, your relationships with other characters will change based on your interactions with them. At the end of each chapter, you are able to see your standing with each of the main characters, which can range from “great” to “awful.” Some choices can lead to similar short-term outcomes, but at the same time, affect character relationships differently. The most potential variation in the plot comes during the later moments in the game, and there are multiple ways that the story can end.
Whether you try to play peacefully or violently, the humans and the apes will come in contact with each other, for better or worse. Since the entire game is 100% story driven, it is difficult to go into specifics. These clashes are usually caused by the antagonistic personalities found in both camps, but their interactions with those who would rather have peace make for interesting situations in which you can see the reasons for their aggressive tendencies. Towing the line isn’t always an option either, and both apes and humans can suffer minimal or heavy losses depending on your actions. Characters will be sure to mention these losses, and use them as fuel for the conflict, which makes for believable and meaningful plot points.
Although the game’s narrative is a shining positive, I’m sure there are many gamers who will not be satisfied with the relatively simple gameplay experience provided. Additionally, even though the game does look very good graphically, it does get somewhat choppy from time to time. This can hurt the flow of certain scenes, and make the emotions that they try to convey fall flat in some instances. While the story is indeed strong, it does feel as though it should end with some sort of epilogue most times. The endings are by no means poor, but some could use one or two additional falling action scenes after the climactic moments.
Last Frontier’s achievements are easy enough to obtain because of the nature of the choice-based gameplay, but they are time-consuming to get to because you cannot skip scenes that you have already seen. This results in a large amount of time spent watching more than a few scenes that you have already sat through, especially in the earlier chapters. Thankfully, there is a chapter select feature, so in most cases, you are able to simply restart a chapter in order to make different decisions for the desired outcomes.
SummaryPlanet of the Apes: Last Frontier creates an engaging narrative that makes both the humans’ and apes’ predicaments and actions understandable, even when violence is involved. I truly cared about characters on both sides of the conflict, which made for some tough decisions when the two sides would clash. The occasional choppiness and short ending scenes are more minor issues, and they don't hamper the overall experience in any significant way. The game may lack what many would consider to be “real” gameplay, but the immersive storytelling and a few first-rate performances more than make up for such criticisms in a game such as this.
- Immersive storytelling
- Good amount of variation possible during later scenes
- Excellent facial animation allows for apes to believably convey emotion, even without speech
- A few great performances on both sides that make you care about characters
- Occasional choppiness hurts the flow of some scenes
- Endings could have benefitted from longer epilogues
This reviewer spent approximately 10 and a half hours playing both sides of an argument while managing to unlock 33 of 35 achievements. A download code was provided for the purpose of this review.
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