Title: Last Year: The Nightmare
Developer: Elastic Games
Publisher: Elastic Games
Genre: Survival Horror
Available On: Discord
Official Site: https://lastyearthegame.com/
Release Date: December 18th, 2018
Where to Buy it: Discord Store
It’s no secret that Discord wants to establish themselves as a gaming platform going forward. A serious competitor to Valve’s currently dominant Steam would be nice and it’s not necessarily out of the question that Discord could compete in the future. Right now though it’s pretty clear that Discord is not a platform I want to use for my game library. Some great games such as Warframe, Starbound, and Dead Cells are featured but platform exclusives are few and far between. If the topic of today’s discussion is anything to go by too, it’s probably best it stayed that way.
Last Year: The Nightmare has offered one of the least enjoyable review experiences I’ve ever had. Frustration lurks around every corner once you launch this game. Even when it finally offers some fun, there are so many overriding issues that hurt the overall experience. Let’s get some context out of the way first so it’s easier to understand exactly why Last Year is such a disappointing title.
Last Year: The Nightmare is a 5v1, online only zombie survival game. The five survivors have to use unique parts of each character’s kits to find ways to survive. Equally, there are three different killer classes that have their own unique abilities and kill methods. So far so good. The sub-genre of asymmetric survival horror that Last Year fills is desolate and crying out for some good games. Right now you basically have the choice of Dead By Daylight or Left 4 Dead 2. There are some niche games like Friday the 13th too but they’re just not ambitious enough titles to deliver what is needed.
So why can’t it be Last Year that fills that void? Well, the first problem is how they’ve chosen to handle killers. When stalking their prey, the killer can enter predator mode where they can place traps and have omniscient knowledge of every survivor’s location. It’s way too powerful. There’s very little counterplay to this beyond hoping the killer is bad at the game. I think the idea is that you communicate via the in-game Discord channel to let your teammates know where the killer is but it doesn’t work. The killer has so much mobility and options to close the gap to the survivors that any attempt to play even slightly risky is a very likely incoming death.
However, that’s not to say playing the killer is inherently fun even with all these tools. It’s certainly more fun than the survivors but even then the mechanics offered are hardly thrilling. For example, the slasher has a mechanic where you can skydive from the ceiling for an instakill. Sounds exciting right? Nope. The reality is that you either kill a noob who doesn’t know the map or get dodged every time by anyone who has played for more than 10 minutes against that particular killer. There’s this reoccurring theme of ambitious but poorly executed abilities for all of the killers.
Then there are the survivors which provide the driest experience of all. Let me summarise how playing a survivor goes. You start off by spamming your ability (barricading every door, setting turrets up to zone areas etc.), you walk around in a group to collect resources and then hope the stuff you’ve crafted with those resources is enough to stop the killer rolling your team. This alone sounds okay but when you consider the painfully slow gameplay that is at the core of everything it ends up feeling like a chore. I legitimately think I can walk quicker in real life than these kids sprint.
Of course, there are actual objectives the survivors have to do in order to create an escape route. They’re not interesting but functional I suppose. Working towards these as a team with some friends could be fun if the movement speed was tweaked and the survivors were given kits that are actually fun to use. Right now though my opinion is that the playing the killer is more fun but neither party gets sold a particularly appealing deal.
Okay, so the game design direction isn’t all that great. What about platform optimization? It’s a very mixed bag. On one hand, Last Year is a gorgeous game with really clean visuals. There’s some brilliant use of color and lighting which is nice as many horror games make the mistake of trying to be too gloomy and dark. I also played it on ultra with zero performance issues so that’s a huge plus. Getting a stable framerate out of Last Year is not difficult. Sadly, any positive regarding visuals are overshadowed by the game’s horribly low capped field of view.
Honestly, not having a field of view slider in 2019 is bad enough but to cap it at what I’d estimate to be 55 degrees is just laughable. Perhaps laughable isn’t the right word. Nauseating might work better. What’s particularly odd about the choice to not include a FOV slider is that this is usually a symptom of a bad PC port from a game designed for console. Last Year: The NIghtmare, however, is a PC exclusive so I can only guess they just didn’t bother to remember to include a feature of literally every good first-person PC game ever made.
At this point, you’re probably assuming that Last Year is a terrible game that you should never touch with a 10-foot pole. Whilst I’d agree it’s not worth buying right now, there is some potential deep down in its game code. I always encourage developers to support their games over time and to seek opportunities to improve what may have been released as a not so strong game. Just look at Ubisoft Montreal fantastic work on Rainbow Six Siege. At launch, that game was an absolute trainwreck yet now it’s arguably the best team based tactics FPS out there.
First of all, speed up the gameplay. It feels way too slow and rather than creating suspense or a feeling of vulnerability, it just kind of pisses me off how long it takes to get anywhere. The other option is to go in the complete opposite direction, slow it down and try to create an actual horror experience. Go all in on fast action or slow horror. Trying to do both is hurting the overall product. Follow that up by releasing a lot more content including maps and characters. The amount of content on display right now doesn’t justify the price. Also, try and make both the killers’ and survivors’ kits more involved and interesting. A couple generic abilities and trap spamming don’t make for a great experience.
My next suggestion isn’t exactly a change in design but just to highlight that its eventual Steam release is needed too. Nobody plays this game right now because nobody wants to use Discord Games in its current state. Getting lobbies consistently can be a little tricky. The Discord exclusivity is only timed though so this will hopefully not be a serious issue going forward.
Verdict: As things stand, I don’t find Last Year: The Nightmare very fun and I don’t think it’s a good game. There’s a lot of issues that Elastic Games will have to overcome if they want what they envisioned to become a reality. It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible that this game could perform a 180 and become something good. Unfortunately, I’m not psychic and it would be anti-consumer of me to suggest it on those terms. It’s going to be a recommendation to avoid without a heavy sale from me.
- Very impressive visually. The distinct art style and color usage are just perfect.
- Mostly well optimized with great performance delivery and an array of suitable options.
- There are enough fundamentals there for this to significantly improve long-term.
- Everything feels so slow. Movement is slow, combat is slow. This could work in a serious horror game but this is just a horror themed action game. It needs more pace and fluidity.
- Playing the killer can get boring. Playing the survivors is always boring.
- Predator mode is far too powerful. Even if the balance isn't the focus of this game, a level of balance is needed for it to be fun.
- Current lack of population due to Discord exclusivity. Would not expect this to be an issue once it launches on Steam.
- There's not enough content to keep me going for all that long. Extended sessions feel very repetitive.
- No FOV slider is just a joke. I thought we were past this by now.