Last Stop Review: Immersive Stories Hindered by Lackluster Decisions

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Last Stop does a superb job of subverting within the first few minutes pretty much any expectations one might hold about the game even if you’ve glimpsed some of the previews and trailers. While it does fall into some tropey tendencies from time to time, its three stories largely hold their own by being completely unique from one another with characters that’ll invoke a range of emotions from the player. Choices don’t always feel quite as meaningful as I would’ve liked, but redeeming conclusions did end up feeling like the culmination of the efforts put into those characters.

The setup of Last Stop puts players in the shoes of characters from three different stories: Domestic Affairs, Paper Dolls, and Stranger Danger. You’ll play as three different characters in those stories – four, technically, if you consider the body-swapping shenanigans of Paper Dolls – to examine firsthand the faults and aspirations of our protagonists.

Take Domestic Affairs for example, the story starring Meena, her husband Ben, and their 8-year-old son Dylan. Players discover right from the start that Meena’s putting both work and extramarital affairs before her family which immediately makes her out to be an unlikable character. You typically see these sorts of characters as components to stories and not the center of them which puts Last Stop players in a unique position. Do you guide her towards redemption with her dialogue options, or do you sabotage her further by acting accordingly based on her past patterns of behavior?

Those decisions provide a fun roleplaying element to Last Stop where you can really get into the heads of the characters to consider what choices they’d make before the dialogue timer runs out, but it seldom feels like those choices carry too much weight beyond your own outlook on the characters. The game only lasts about six hours in total and has repeatable chapters to explore more dialogue paths, but it felt like the game was always pushing players towards the same inevitable conclusion.

Last Stop
(Photo: Annapurna Interactive)

 

That’d be more of a grievance in other decision-heavy games, but somehow, Last Stop manages to make things work even while making players more of a co-pilot. After resigning myself to the fact that decisions probably wouldn’t shift the course of the entire game, the choices made still felt meaningful and worth consideration. I tried to get deep inside the head of one character to imagine what choices they’d make, had a redemption arc going for another character to correct past mistakes, and chose to let the third continue their destructive ways since there was little reason to believe they’d behave otherwise. Last Stop tricks you into roleplaying without even realizing that you’re doing it and manages to keep you invested in these characters’ stories throughout.

The stories vary in their degrees of believability and supernatural elements involved with Meena’s being the most grounded of them all. While you can indeed find tropes and cliches within the stories, their diversity makes them feel distinctly separate from one another to the point that you’ll have different states of mind going into each of their chapters. Last Stop makes you play as each character in each chapter, but you can choose the order to play them in which allows you to keep up the tempo of one story if you want or take a break from one character for a while if you’re feeling burnt out on their story.

Despite being so different from each other, it was neat to see how these characters’ lives intersected with each other. Everyone lives in the same general area within London in Last Stop, so you’ll often see cameos from minor and major characters. These intertwined narratives often lead to many “that’s so-and-so!” moments where you recognize characters to drive home the fact that each individual and family has their own sets of problems totally separate from the wants and needs of others. The touch-and-go crossovers were so sporadic and clever, but that in turn made it a bit disappointing whenever narratives eventually clashed together so abruptly as stories concluded.

If there were to be anything that’d break the immersion of the stories, it’d be the character’s movements and some of their dialogue options. “Choppy” is the word that first comes to mind when thinking of how the Last Stop characters explored the world around them. While the occasional quick-action button prompts that differ depending on who you’re playing as were welcome methods of breaking up the dialogue in the stories, the resulting actions never exactly felt smooth. One stealth scene that required multiple button presses and featured such an abrupt failure animation that it immediately pulled me out of any urgency the story had been building up. It was entertaining, but probably not the way it was intended to be.

Dialogue options similarly felt iffy at times where the characters’ responses weren’t always indicative of what the summarized options said. Your three dialogue options for most situations carry discernible tones to them, but I often found myself in situations where my character said something that seemed like it would’ve been connected to a dialogue option other than the one I picked. It didn’t happen too often in the context of how many dialogue decisions you make, but it happened often enough to notice the issue.

While decisions may not have always been as weighty as I would’ve liked and the marionette movements were often distracting, Last Stop, for the most part, succeeded where it needed to. It provided three distinct stories that were surprisingly deep considering it only took about six hours to tell them all and allowed players to feel like they were in control even if that might not have always been the case. I never felt like my time was wasted in Last Stop, but if the game ever gets a follow-up, it’ll have to be more polished with some meaningful changes to warrant a return to its stories.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Last Stop was reviewed on the PC with a code provided by the publisher.

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