Years ago, fans of giant robot and mecha-style games had quite a wide range of games to choose from. Times change, companies move on, and what was once popular fades to obscurity. While for some, this is a very good thing, for others it means that some of our favorite games seem like they will never be resurrected and returned to. At first, people were excited to hear that a spiritual successor to Front Mission, or at least a game set in the same universe, was in the works by the people who had worked on Armored Core. Unfortunately it seems as if maybe it would have been better if this franchise had been left to wallow in obscurity.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Playstation 4, Windows
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Players: 1 Player
Left Alive is, as mentioned, set in the same world as the previous Front Mission games from past generations, so fans will see a lot of similar names and designs from past entries. There are just so many issues with this newest installment of a once lauded franchise.
Graphically, Left Alive, while looking fairly good most of the time, really isn’t anything to write home about. Frankly, there are many times you’ll almost think you’re playing a PlayStation 2 or 3 game.
Even in the early chapters, you’ll go from sections that are actually really well done and well detailed, to fights with basically paper doll-like enemies you just mow down.
This is not what one would expect from such a world renowned publisher like SE. Though, I guess the biggest fault should lie with the developer, Ilinx. Even with the character designer, Yoji Shinkawa helping with the overall designs, there really is no saving this game.
There is no excuse for a game from designers and publishers of this caliber to suffer from such a wide swing when it comes to graphics. Really, the biggest compliment I can give Left Alive in this department is that when it looks good, it looks really good.
I even had issues at times running the game on a PlayStation 4 Pro. I’m not sure exactly why this would happen, as I’m not all that familiar with tech specs and the like, but I can only assume it has something to do with optimization of the game itself.
While I never experienced a crash or freeze, there are times where the game will just appear to chug along and I was able to notice a drop in frame rates, especially when your character is on foot and a large enemy Wanzer mech or two is on screen.
Speaking of Wanzers, gameplay is another section where the game is abysmal. While, like most people I would think, I’m getting fairly tired of the whole “barren open world” scene that most developers seem to love forcing upon every game that comes out, having just a bit more freedom in Left Alive would have been nice.
During gameplay, you will constantly come across small obstacles that your character is incapable of jumping or moving over. They’re just there in order to corral you into certain paths in most maps, even the more open-ish maps that are present, and with the movement options available to the player.
The game is designed around the fact that, during your first playthrough, you are as weak as a newborn kitten. Most ranged attacks will do almost nothing to most enemies you encounter.
Melee attacks will actually do more damage early on and the game expects you to constantly be building traps and homemade explosives to lure enemies in and take them out that way.
You will die, constantly, if you try to run and gun in your first playthrough of the game. You’re expected to ignore most of the side missions in the game and just run through the main story as quickly as possible.
Once you beat the game the first time, you will be given perks and ability-ups to make subsequent plays easier and quicker, allowing you to try out the sub-missions in a chapter as well as the other paths, in order to fully explore the story of the game.
Honestly, the gameplay wouldn’t be so bad if the player characters were just a bit stronger during your first playthrough. There were several times I tried to do a survivor rescue mission, only to have my rear end soundly handed to me because of the way battle mechanics actually work and I wasn’t able to properly set up prior to cutscene starting.
That’s another issue. The autosave feature. During those survivor missions, you will be put in to a cutscene and the game will autosave. Once you inevitably die, if you choose to start from the last autosave, you will be forced back in to an unwinnable situation. You will have to revert all the way back to a previous save, which are few and far between, in order to continue on with the mission.
I know it sounds like a minor issue, especially for older gamers, but seeing as you are woefully inadequate for most of the side missions during your first playthrough, and you are forced into the side missions if you get close enough, it really does become a hassle.
Simply speaking, the game takes place in a border city between two different nations. Early on in the game, one of the nations makes a surprise attack on the city in order to bring it in to the fold. Each of the different characters in the game is from different walks of life in or around the city.
One is a soldier who has more chances to pilot the giant mechs in the game. One is an ex-soldier turned police officer, and the last is an escaped convict. As the player progresses through the story, the reasons behind the invasion and how each character reacts and reaches the end is portrayed.
The story for Left Alive is probably the best part of the entire game; it just takes a long time and several playthroughs to actually get the full story and see it all.
You will *not * be able to get the full story with a single playthrough, which is a shame because the story itself is nothing all that fantastic, and fans of political intrigue might be looking for something more akin to a Metal Gear game, with all the politics and backstabbing.
The story takes place from the point of view from three different characters. None of the characters are all that different in terms of gameplay options, but their reactions to different events in the game will help define the story.
None of them are really all that likable, unfortunately. So while you will get to see how they react to different events, usually taking place at the same time or slightly before/after other characters, I don’t think most players will really connect to the different protagonists.
I really hate to say it, but for a game with so much hope riding on it, with a renowned publisher attached to it, and some really experienced names helping with it, Left Alive is a fairly big disappointment.
From a gameplay standpoint, from a story standpoint, even graphically, Left Alive just leaves a bad taste in the mouth all around. The main draw of the game, the giant mechs called Wanzers, never take center stage really outside of a few missions and the overarching story.
This isn’t the mech game that most were really hoping for, nor is it really a political war game. It’s just kinda there, never reaching its full potential. Really dear reader, with so much having just released and releasing here soon, I would recommend most buyers give this one a pass. You won’t be missing much.
Left Alive was reviewed on a PS4 Pro using a review copy provided by Square Enix. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.