As Elden Ring continues to dominate the Souls-like landscape, other games are beginning to appear on the outskirts, trying to bring something new to the experience. One such title is The Last Oricru, another Souls-like game, another action-RPG, but this time with a bit of an ace up its sleeve.
Coming from developers GoldKnights, The Last Oricru promises to bring a strong story, with meaningful choices to be made, all mixed up with a true cooperative experience. So, will it be enough to topple FromSoftware’s behemoth, or is it just another also ran? Let’s strap on a sword and find out.
The story found in The Last Oricru is up there as one of the best I’ve seen in a while. We play as a human, a human who has been sent to an alien world to see what is there; at least so it would appear. Now, as luck would have it, we are the last crew member to be thawed out, or reanimated, or whatever it is that happens to us, and so a lot of the work has already been done. And even more luckily, the captain who went before us had developed a belt that basically makes us immortal: should we die, we will simply respawn at the last terminal we visited (think Dark Souls bonfires).
With this belt under our, um, belt, we are free to explore, resurrected in a monastery, with no real idea of what to do or who to trust. The rest of the story is not only up to us to discover, but depending on who we speak to and the choices we make, the story will change.
Presentation wise and The Last Oricru is pretty good. It isn’t going to beat Elden Ring (but what could, that first view of the Erdtree is burnt into my gaming memory), but it is quite nice. The world seems to be comprised of a series of small areas; the likes of a monastery, a Castle, a city and so on, with no really masssive open worlds to explore.
However, whilst that is okay as it allows things to be concentrated on the strengths of the game, there are some very odd graphical effects to see, such as open doors that can be walked through at will, or the ability to attack – and be attacked by – enemies through seemingly solid walls. But it is all fairly reasonable. The sound is a lot better, with fully voiced cutscenes helping to flesh out the characters you meet, although if I hear “Respect the Ratvolution!” one more time I may pull my own ears off. Combat sounds are all nicely done, and so the presentation of The Last Oricru is all pretty good. Let’s just say there are a lot worse games to look at in this genre.
But an action RPG needs to nail both sides of the flipping coin: it needs to have a good enough RPG structure to make playing it rewarding, and the action has to be top notch too. Does The Last Oricru pull this tricky balancing act off? Well, very nearly. Let me explain.
Starting with the RPG side of things, as you’d expect from a Souls-like, there are “essences” that are collected from enemies that you defeat, be they humanoid or not. An explanation is given that this essence is used by the belt of immortality, as it isn’t called, to increase the cognitive rate of the wearer. What this translates into is the essences you collect can be used to level up your character; utilising a levelling mechanic which is again going to be familiar to veterans of the genre. You can choose to upgrade aspects of your character, such as health or dexterity, and using certain weapons requires you to meet the requirements in order to use them effectively. If you aren’t strong enough for a big sword, for instance, you can still use it, but slower and much more clumsily than if you had the right level of strength. Getting a build that works for your preferred style is quite interesting, as is stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying a magic build or a ranged build.
Of course, all the builds in the world won’t help if the combat is dull, and here the news is pretty good as well. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a Souls-lite, but that is pretty much what is on offer here – Darks Souls type action, but just a bit easier than you might be used to. You see, the first boss I came across was defeated in two attempts, which I have never done before in one of the mainstream games, and the rest of the foes all seem a bit squishy.
It’s probably helped by the fact that the staples are all there: fast, weak attack and strong, slower one, a dodge move, an item that can recover your health that is refilled at the terminals you find – it is all very familiar. As is the old insta-death falls and ambushes, so it is very much business as usual. One very big problem is the camera, especially in combat, as it swings around like a drunk in a hurricane, and the camera controls seem to be hyper sensitive too, even after turning the sensitivity down. That obviously makes it hard to play and trying to fight in a small space is a recipe for sea sickness…
The best feature of The Last Oricru is the ability to play the whole game, after the tutorial, in cooperative mode. Whether this be by inviting a friend from across the internet, or sitting down and playing the game in couch co-op mode, it is a real breath of fresh air; possibly the only way that Elden Ring could have been improved. The net code is good and up to the job, and while couch co-op does take some getting used (I won’t tell you how many times the split screen approach caused me to die by watching the wrong screen), it works very well.
So, in summary, The Last Oricru is a bit of a mixed bag, even if it is mostly one filled with goodies. What it does, it does pretty well, but basic things like a hysterical camera that is keen to show you anything except the bloke smacking you with a sword, do put a dent in the enjoyment. Playing cooperatively is a great idea, and having a friend along can make things better, but even then there are better entries in the action RPG genre. But consider that co-op move and throw in a genuinely interesting story with long lasting consequences and The Last Oricru does make for an interesting play.
The Last Oricru is on Xbox Store