It says a lot about a game when you spend over a dozen hours glued to the helm and still feel as if you’ve only scratched the surface. The Last Federation is one of those games. It’s an incredibly complex diplomacy simulator, in which the end goal is to unite 8 diverse alien races under a single Galactic Federation.
Oh, did I forget to mention that rather than controlling a massive empire of powerful tacticians, you control the sole survivor of a dictatorial alien race with only a single spaceship under your control? Yeah, that’s kind of an important detail. That and the fact that everyone in the galaxy initially hates your guts.
The Last Federation (PC)
Developer: Arcen Games, LLC
Publisher: Arcen Games, LLC
Released: April 18, 2014
The Last Federation begins right after the destruction of your home world, and you’re instantly thrown into a combat opportunity against the race responsible. This is also where you are presented with your first choice, which paves the way for things to come. You can either destroy the invaders or share your technology to appease them. This decision—like all choices in The Last Federation—can drastically alter the direction of your game. In my first campaign I fought them, made them an enemy, and then turned the entire solar system against them. In a second playthrough I tried a friendly approach, only to have them conquer half the galaxy in a matter of years.
Combat scenarios are turn-based affairs. You pick a movement, weapon, and a target, then you watch the action play out briefly before you regain control. In the early stages, when you’re more powerful than all the other races, going right in and attacking is a viable option, but in later scenarios you need to be more tactical. There is a multitude of weapons and special abilities available, in addition to power diversion methods. For example, if you don’t move during a turn, more power will be directed to guns and shields. After a while, unfortunately, these encounters all start to feel the same, but they’re short enough to disregard.
The real meat of The Last Federation is in forming alliances and enemies on the solar map. Since you are only an individual against the masses, you do not have many options to wage war, so you have to be more subversive in your actions. Among your options, you can replace government officials on planets to fit your agenda, broker trade deals between races, encourage warfare, and set infrastructure trends up and down. Of course, since each race’s government is different, a tactic used on one planet may be ineffective or impossible on another.
Naturally, you don’t have to fiddle with the more precise elements in the game. If micro-managing isn’t your style, you can always just focus on surface details like technology development, mobilization of armies, and dispatches. Doing so will probably give you less control over the events of the simulation, but it’s still a perfectly valid option. And if you are really having trouble grasping the mechanics, there is also an Observer Mode which can play out potential campaigns for you.
Still, there are some bugs and inconsistencies. The game claims that the Andors will never try to conquer planets, but in my playthrough they managed to capture two. Along those same lines, the Thoraxian race is built up to be the most dangerous force in the galaxy, but from my campaign, and most the testimonies of others, I gathered that they are almost always the first race wiped out.
The music is quite nice, if a bit repetitive, but the sound design for your ship’s sentient computer is absolutely piss-poor. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying half the time. It comes out sounding more like garbled baby talk than anything resembling structured language. But I digress—it doesn’t affect too much of the experience. The only game-altering problem I encountered was massive slowdown in the late stages of the game when the three remaining races had enormous armadas moving across the star map. Other than that, it was pretty seamless.
The Last Federation boasts a level of depth unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in a game before. It’s a package that isn’t at all inaccessible to players unfamiliar with the genre, but solid enough for veterans to fawn over. No two scenarios will ever be the same, so replay value is guaranteed. If you want a game that will stretch your mind and satisfy your inner control freak, you really can’t go wrong with The Last Federation.