Last Train Home – Review (PC and Steam Deck)

Within the domain of historical strategy games, discovering new and compelling narratives can prove to be quite a task. Yet, Last Train Home, a creation of Ashborne Games and brought to the public by THQ Nordic, succeeds in enthralling players through its distinctive portrayal of the Russian Civil War. This survival real-time strategy game unfolds amidst an overlooked episode of World War I, spotlighting the challenging expedition of the Czechoslovak Legion as they navigate through the tumultuous landscape of war-ravaged Russia. In the following assessment, we will delve into the nuances of Last Train Home, exploring its immersive gameplay, captivating storytelling, and the evocative construction of its world.

A Unique Perspective on War

Last Train Home distinguishes itself from other RTS games by placing players in the shoes of the Czechoslovak Legion, a group of soldiers caught in the midst of the Russian Civil War. Unlike the conventional approach of portraying Russian soldiers, Last Train Home explores the experiences of outsiders trying to navigate their way back home. This outsider perspective adds a layer of depth and intensity to the gameplay, as players are thrust into a war they have no direct stake in. The game effectively captures the desperation and chaos of the era, immersing players in a world on the brink of collapse.

Immersive Character Development

One of the standout features of Last Train Home is its focus on character development. Each member of the Czechoslovak Legion possesses a unique personality, traits, and skills that contribute to the overall gameplay experience. These characters feel like real people, with their own desires, fears, and motivations. As a player, you must make decisions that affect their well-being, constantly balancing their individual needs with the survival of the group. The game’s “immersive” dialogue setting, featuring characters speaking in their native languages, further enhances the sense of realism and connection with the protagonists.

A Delicate Balancing Act

Survival is a constant challenge in Last Train Home. Managing limited resources, such as food supplies, becomes a crucial aspect of gameplay. Rationing out supplies and deciding when to send troops on dangerous missions to gather more resources presents difficult choices that have far-reaching consequences. Every decision you make influences the morale and well-being of the characters under your command. The game excels at portraying the weight of responsibility, making you genuinely care about the lives of your soldiers. Their deaths are permanent, adding a sense of urgency and consequence to every action you take.

The Journey on Rails

The titular train serves as not only a means of transportation but also a gameplay mechanic in Last Train Home. As you traverse the war-torn landscapes of Russia, you must make strategic decisions about the train’s speed and prioritize repairs to ensure its functionality. The train becomes a lifeline for your squad, providing shelter, artillery support, and a means of transporting essential supplies. The level of control you have over the train adds another layer of immersion to the game, heightening the challenge and emphasizing the importance of effective management.

Thrilling Tactical Battles

Last Train Home features engaging real-time strategy battles that take place in various mission locations along the train route. Controlling squads of soldiers, you must strategically position them, utilize their unique abilities, and adapt to the ever-changing battlefield conditions. The combat mechanics strike a balance between tactical depth and accessibility, allowing players to plan their moves and execute strategies with precision. However, there are some instances where the combat can feel slightly janky, requiring careful maneuvering and occasional save scumming to overcome. Nonetheless, the intensity and satisfaction of a well-executed battle make up for these minor shortcomings.

A Glimpse into History

Last Train Home goes beyond being a mere game and serves as a window into the harrowing experiences of civilians caught in the crossfire of the Russian Civil War. The game’s attention to detail and atmospheric world-building evoke a sense of desperation and tragedy. From the haunting remains of burned-down homes to encounters with Russian soldiers, every aspect of the game design exudes historical authenticity. The dedication to capturing the emotional and visual aspects of the era elevates Last Train Home from a typical strategy game to a powerful storytelling experience.

Struggles of Survival

Survival elements play a significant role in Last Train Home, as players must scavenge for resources and upgrade their train to ensure the well-being of their squad. While the mechanics may not be overly complex, they fit seamlessly into the overall gameplay experience. Gathering food becomes a vital task, and the scarcity of resources in certain areas reflects the harsh realities of war. The game strikes a delicate balance between the strategic management of supplies and the thrill of tactical battles, providing a well-rounded and immersive gameplay experience.

Difficulty and Customization

Last Train Home offers a range of difficulty settings to cater to players of different skill levels. For those seeking a more relaxed experience, easier difficulties remove the need to worry about supplies, allowing for a focus on the core RTS gameplay. On the other hand, harder difficulties increase the importance of resource management and ramp up the challenge of battles. This flexibility ensures that players can tailor their experience to their preferred level of challenge, making Last Train Home accessible to both RTS veterans and newcomers to the genre.

Beautiful World

The visual and audio design of Last Train Home is a testament to the developers’ attention to detail and dedication to creating an immersive world. The mission locations are exquisitely crafted, capturing the devastation and beauty of war-torn landscapes. From crumbling buildings to snow-covered forests, each environment tells a story of its own. The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack further enhances the atmosphere, immersing players in the emotional journey of the Czechoslovak Legion. Last Train Home stands out as a visually stunning game that truly transports players to a bygone era.

Last Train Home on Steam Deck

In terms of performance, Last Train Home is demanding, pushing the Steam Deck to its limits. Recommended settings for optimal performance include setting most options to “Low,” keeping textures on “High,” and maintaining a resolution of 1280×800. The game operates at a semi 30 FPS on SteamOS, with occasional drops into the mid-20s during intensive moments. The GPU stress is notable, and the game places a substantial load on the CPU, impacting battery life. While the world map and resource management segments offer some relief, engaging in the RTS part leads to a significant battery drain, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 hours of playtime.

It is also worth mentioning that some subtitles are not very legible and there is no option in the options to change their size. In addition, the title does not have gamepad support, and the available layout needs some work to make it comfortable.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Last Train Home is a standout title that combines gripping storytelling, challenging gameplay, and immersive world-building. The game’s unique perspective on the Russian Civil War offers a fresh take on a well-explored historical period. The immersive character development, tactical battles, and survival mechanics create a multi-layered experience that keeps players engaged from start to finish. Despite some minor issues with combat mechanics, Last Train Home succeeds in delivering a memorable and emotionally impactful journey through history. Whether you are a fan of RTS games or a history enthusiast, Last Train Home is a must-play title that deserves recognition for its innovative approach to the genre.

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