Title: Last Year: The Nightmare
Developer: Elastic Games
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Elastic Games
Genre: Asymmetric Action Horror
When a genre becomes trendy, the industry finds a way to trench the market with as many titles as they can to get on board. In Elastic Games’ new survival title, Last Year: The Nightmare, the approach to the horror PVP genre sadly finds me wanting more in game’s progression. The game offers much to be able to slingshot it to being one of the best entries in the asymmetrical horror genre, but its lack of content and questionable mechanics make it a title that needs to evolve quickly or suffer the nightmare of being overshadowed by older titles.
Last Year: The Nightmare has a simple premise, a handful of teenagers are trying to escape an environment by completing a series of challenges. To do this, they must unlock a gate that leads to freedom. However, this is all done while a player controls various killers and monsters who must attempt to stop them by murdering the entire team. While the presentation of the game is fun due to its portrayal of the horror cliche of using teenagers paired with its great use of dialogue and sounds. Actually playing the title’s only gameplay mode is as limited and simple as the premise itself.
Last Year: The Nightmare has the player pick from one of four classes: Assault, Scout, Medic, and Technician. Each class has a few functions and shares little to no characteristics to each role making the characters each feel unique. The assault class is in charge of damaging the killers. Scouts have the ability to sense the killer’s proximity and blast a large flash to temporarily blind the enemy. The medic can heal themselves as well as others. While Technicians can set up blockades to doors and build turrets to pelt the monsters with small damage.
Each class also has the option to craft enhanced versions of their weapons, create bombs and even spawn a special shotgun that blasts away the enemy. The requirement to create these items is to collect scraps scattered throughout the map along with a crafting kit to enable the ability. Due to each class being limited to a few actions, it becomes necessary to team up and coordinate. There were particular moments when I was white knuckle gripping my mouse playing as a medic because I had no way to defend myself as a monster was hacking me to death and my teammate turned out to be halfway across the level. This is a bad situation to be in, so it’s definitely worth it to stick together in the game rather than venture off on your own and the game definitely encourages that.
The player who is controlling the killer can spawn as three different characters, each with different abilities that can really mess up the other team’s plans. Of the three killers, there’s the Giant, the Slasher and the Strangler. The Giant is a large brute that can charge his targets and throw them around the map. The strangler can unleash a chain that can reel in other players to slowly choke them out. Lastly, the Slasher is the typical machete-wielding psycho that hack at teenagers with horrifying speeds. All Killers also share a handful of abilities, such as laying down bear traps, hiding gas bombs, and respawning at will when out of sight.
While the killers have simple controls, it’s not entirely clear how to take full advantage of your options and loadout. My first playthrough had me walking around not knowing my limitation for setting traps, how many I could set, or if I’m at a disadvantage to using my abilities too much. These mechanics took me multiple attempts to get a feel for each killer since you could only spawn as one at a time until you are killed by the teens. Additionally, playing as the murder is based on random chance, if multiple players vote to be the killer, so I had to play many matches to get my chance to learn the rules.
Each map asks the player to complete a series of challenges all while trying to staying alive. Ranging from picking up disks and bringing them back to a computer to finding gas to fill up a motorized lift. The objectives have players running around the map to artificially creating a challenge, which extends the time the enemy player has to take out all five teenagers. I would have liked to see more challenges that were class driven to add purpose. Requiring the technician to repair the lift or have the assault class be required to bust down a door. This would have encouraged more team play while keeping up coordination to stay in areas for an extended period of time, to drive real tension.
I also had trouble seeing the challenge of collecting scraps. While it is a test in its own to collect scraps in low quantities and achieve powerful upgrades like the shotgun, doing so made me realize that my team can complete levels without spending a single point. Although this could be due to the killer player not being skilled, I found that pulling off runs without upgrades was simple if players can stick to the plan and protect each other. This was the same outcome no matter how many times I quit matches and joined a completely different party.
When teamwork is well addressed, matches are fun and satisfying. Beating down a creep strangler after a failed attempt to grapple a teammate can drive moments of achievement and celebration as the in-game character cheers on with you. The same can be said for the killer player. Teens that fail to help a fellow classmate and prompt said player to either panic or helplessly try to redeem the situation gets greeted by my weapon of choice and rewards me with a set of bloodbath trophies.
Unfortunately for Last Year: The Nightmare, the sense of success starts and ends at the results screen as the game does not feature any progression or XP systems. Not even a vanity icon next to your name. The closest thing to tracking your winnings are points for a leaderboard which is good for those who enjoy competing on the virtual world stage. As many corners of the multiplayer space can have varying opinions on the subject of character outfits or glitter firing out of weapons, the lack of options to show off in a genre as competitive as a group versus one seems like a missed opportunity.
As Elastic Games’ first attempt at a horror PVP game, there is plenty of room for improvement. But as it is now Last Year: The Nightmare can only stand on it’s presentation and nods to horror cliches. The gameplay doesn’t have enough polish and balance to have me play for more than a few matches and with no progression, I don’t have a reason to even load it back up. Making the true horror the fact that it’s taking up my hard drive space.
As I said, there’s plenty here to enjoy in terms of working as a team to take out killers and gaining a sense of accomplishment when things go your way, but sadly that celebration is cut short when the points add up and I don’t feel properly rewarded for completing the objective. Especially when the options for gameplay run out quickly. I have no doubt that Last Year: The Nightmare will become something more than it currently is over time, but as it stands right now, fans of the genre might run out of things to do a little too quickly.
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