The Last Oricru Hands-on Preview – A Gothic Soulslike

A little over one year ago, we saw the announcement of The Last Oricru alongside Koch Media's (now Plaion) new label, Prime Matter. Developed by Czech-based developer GoldKnights, we also found out at the beginning of Gamescom that Plaion and GoldKnights will release the game on the 13th of October. My interest was piqued back then, being a fan of traditional "eurojank" games. Once allowed to get hands-on at Gamescom, I jumped at the chance, and here are my impressions.

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Plaion and GoldKnights set up my time with The Last Oricru to highlight one of the few features you haven't often seen recently: co-op. Not online co-op, though that is an option; it's couch co-op in this case. My time with the game had me playing alongside one of the developers on a couch. However, I was quick to ask - and be reassured - that this would also be perfectly fine to play single-player - a good answer for somebody that doesn't like to associate with human beings. One nice little feature is that the co-op is hop-in and drop-out, not requiring long loading or separate modes.

One of the core elements of the game is a branching narrative, where your actions will have some consequences. The part I can talk about is where you'll be in the middle of an attack on a city. What side you're on will depend on the actions and choices you've made in the past. Are you on the side of the rat-people, attacking the city, or the strange elven-alien-human things defending? If the latter, when you beat the lead rat in combat, will you choose to spare its life or not? The developer told me the consequences of this latter decision and how it will impact the game later, but I won't spoil it here.

What you need to know is that it does. I'm not going to say that it has a branching narrative in the same sense as a Dark Pictures game. It doesn't. The Last Oricru is longer, predicted to be between 15 to 20 hours for a playthrough, and the dev told me that to get the three core stories, you could do three playthroughs. There are ways to move between them throughout the game, but if you think of them as three separate ones, it's easier. One important thing to note is that your co-op partner does not get to make decisions on your behalf, so you needn't worry about that.

Expect The Last Oricru to be a relatively narrative-heavy title. The developer told me that over 180,000 words make up the dialogue, with inspiration taken from titles like The Witcher, games developed by Spiders, and more. Though, granted, there is a more comical and less oppressive tone taken with some of the dialogue I've seen. It sat well enough with me, too many games are dour lately, and it didn't seem to go too far.

But what about combat? As mentioned, The Last Oricru is very soulslike but arguably more forgiving. From my hands-on experience, it's not easy - though there are settings to choose from, letting you make it easier and more accessible. You can also make it more challenging if you're masochistic. It's not wholly soulslike, though; it has some RPG sensibilities. You can jump, move a bit faster, and have a little more freedom. Don't get complacent, though. You will die.

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What is interesting about combat is how co-op has been well and truly pushed forward. There are two mechanics you will not find playing alone. The first of these mechanics is the ability to lock onto your co-op partner and then fire a spell - if you're a spellcaster - which will then deflect off them and hit the enemy they are targeting, doing more damage than it would typically do. The second is creating an energy link between the two of you, damaging any enemy it crosses, letting you run around and do a severe amount of damage to enemies you place between you.

Combined with the general difficulty, these mechanics will undoubtedly make playing with another person valuable - though again, GoldKnights and Plaion stressed that the game is more than capable of being played solo. Another aspect I should mention is that you need to be tactical with your use of magical abilities. From what I could tell, there are no mana potions. You can regain mana through a melee tool that harvests mana from your enemy, but you are vulnerable when using it. Make sure you're good at evasion.

My takeaway from The Last Oricru is one of interest. I'm glad to see a game that isn't in an open world, but even then, the areas look large enough and offer some exploration. More interesting are the narrative options provided to the player and how all of these will play out. It feels like a AA "eurojank" game, which often adds to the charm. Thirteenth of October, we don't have long to wait, with GoldKnights now polishing what is already there. As I expected I would, I want to play it.

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