For some reason Last Train Home project is compared to Frostpunk, but we would draw much more alternative parallels. In our opinion, the game is more like a kind of symbiosis of Company of Heroes, This War of Mine, a little bit of RimWorld and maybe something like The Banner Saga, and this symbiosis turned out to be surprisingly exciting.
- Developer: Ashborne Games
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release Date: November 28, 2023
The events of Last Train Home unfold during the end of World War I, which was accompanied by the beginning of the civil war, which was the result of the revolutionary crisis that unfolded in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the XX century.
The People’s Militia, known as the “Reds,” engaged in a bloody battle with the Bolshevik-denying army known as the “Whites,” while the Czechoslovak Legion, which had fought on the side of Russia during the Great War because it supported the independence of their republic, and which had not sworn allegiance to either of the now warring parties, found itself in a rather delicate position, and even on foreign soil.
We are introduced to one of the echelons of the Czechoslovak Army Corps, which had been ordered by the provisional government of the Republic to observe neutrality in the conditions of the escalating conflict and to leave Russia as soon as possible.
The problem was that the legion had no way to go westward, as the German-Austrian blockade remained in place. Therefore, the command decided to send the army to Vladivostok, so that later the soldiers could reach Europe by ship.
The story of Last Train Home is based on the records of a Czechoslovak Legion soldier, who turned out to be one of the crew members of an armored train that had to overcome the whole Siberia at the height of the Russian Civil War. And the players are offered the fateful role of the captain of his train.
The game offers five levels of difficulty – from the simplest “passenger” mode, through which users can control the exciting war world of the game, without worrying about resources and food for the fighters, to the “commander” mode, which, according to the authors, provides users with the game exactly exactly what they thought it would be – this is a big dilemma and complexity of resource management.
Conditional fifth level Allows you to manually configure the configuration using modifiers. Choose, for example, how quickly the train will wear out, how quickly fuel and food will be consumed, how often events on the roads will change.
So, on medium difficulty, soldiers can lose consciousness once. If he gets help, he will return to duty, but will die if he falls in battle again. On low difficulty, he can lose consciousness as many times as he wants and will not fall into the clutches of the bony one if his comrades take care of him. On high, he dies immediately, and fighters here are the most valuable resource, so thanks to Ashborne Games for saving us from having to play save/load.
The gameplay of Last Train Home is divided into travel mode and combat operations. In the first case, the player watches the movement of the train, manages it, explores the area and participates in text events; in the second, in real time he controls a detachment of military personnel, whom he himself recruits for sorties.
The main task is to drag your train with people from Moscow to Vladivostok along the huge Trans-Siberian Railway, collecting resources along the way, trading and producing consumables. Each leg of the journey, from one major city to another, is a massive map with many settlements and other points of interest, as well as story and random events.
In some episodes, players will even be given a choice of which route their squad will take. It will travel from Penza through Kazan and Tyumen, or you will get to Omsk through Chelyabinsk, Ufa and Samara.
On the travel screen, we watch the train from a bird’s eye view, admire the scenery and monitor the consumption of resources, some of which are needed for certain types of crafting, and some for repairing cars and tractors. The money is used for trade needs, fuel is used to maintain the armored train, food is used to feed the soldiers.
You can familiarize yourself with each element of the composition in more detail. Initially, you will get a simple locomotive with several carriages in which your people will rest, but over time, players will be able to replace both the train itself and the carriages, attach new ones, and improve existing ones.
There will be warehouse cars that can be equipped with shelves, barrels and boxes to expand the overall capacity. Infirmary cars will appear, where your doctors will help soldiers recover from injuries. An artillery carriage will appear, opening up gun crews and the ability to carry out artillery shelling during combat operations.
At the same time, in each of the cars, except for the warehouse and barracks, which are automatically filled with people and resources, you will have to place wards. The train will not run without drivers, but the driver will not be able to work around the clock; he needs a shift person for night duty. The same goes for the workers who are responsible for the firebox.
Doctors also cannot work around the clock. To create items, improve carriages, and even repair them, workers will be needed, and the player’s task is to ensure that the soldiers rest in a timely manner, including those military personnel whom he sends to reconnaissance or the battlefield. Sometimes they are the same people. During the day, a soldier works on a boiler, in the evening he goes to extract resources, and then he sleeps it off or even lies in the infirmary, because he was attacked by a herd of wild boars in the forest.
Roles are assigned for a reason; the game has combat and non-combat specializations. Combat roles include machine gunner, scout, orderly, grenadier and rifleman, while non-combat roles are filled by cooks, laborers, doctors and machinists. Each of your characters has one or more specializations, and due to certain circumstances, may have contraindications to certain jobs as a penalty.
Each fighter is assigned parameters, just like in a role-playing game. Thus, physical training affects the number of health points and damage in melee, and the time required to aim and reload depends on agility. In addition, each parameter (in addition to the above, there is also intelligence, will and charm) affects the effectiveness of non-combat work and some skills. For example, the level of intelligence will determine how quickly soldiers are treated by a field orderly and a doctor who works in a medical carriage.
The Last Train Home role-playing system is not limited to this. Each of the fighters is assigned several unique personal characteristics: character traits, beliefs and natural talents. The views and dispositions of fighters can be revealed during dialogue scenes, and the player takes their skills and weaknesses into account when assigning military personnel to certain roles. It is in this respect that the game resembles the aforementioned RimWorld. As in it, a fighter can receive some traits due to certain circumstances. For example, he will suffer a chronic injury in battle or as a result of illness.
By the way, so that the soldiers don’t get sick, over time we’ll have to start thinking about heating on the train, since it’s winter in Siberia. Coal is not infinite and, perhaps, at some point you will have to sacrifice something – either use fuel to get to the next destination faster, or properly heat the train and go slower, but then the cars will have to be repaired more often, and materials and provisions is also a finite resource.
By the way, Last Train Home also has a huge number of all kinds of consumables – from tranquilizers for quick rest and medicines for instant healing, to cigarettes and good old vodka, so that the mental health of the fighters is in order and they do not run away from you in an unknown direction.
Combat in the game takes place in real time with an active tactical pause, a stealth mode for silently eliminating enemies, and two types of cover for firefights. Last Train Home has fairly spontaneous AI, which can make the outcome of battles difficult to predict, which is generally interesting.
However, it’s disappointing that among the many commands that you can operate when communicating with your charges, for some reason the banal “don’t shoot” command is not provided, because ammunition in Last Train Home is also very limited. As we have already noted, the game has combat specializations, in which orderlies support soldiers, machine gunners conduct concentrated fire. The scout studies the situation and wields sniper rifles, while the grenadiers are useful for combat with enemy concentrations or equipment. By the way, you can also control the equipment if you find one and assign a fighter to it.
After completing combat missions, the player can award several fighters with medals, which give additional experience to their specializations and new ranks. With each level, the fighter becomes more expert in his specialization, unlocking new abilities, and receives stat points that the player can distribute himself.
And each new rank allows you to assign another specialization for a fighter, either combat or not. And in this way, each fighter will be able to master up to six specialties and become multi-class, using up to four skills at a time from different professions. True, with the condition that he chooses one as the main one and the skills from the others are suitable for it.
As a result, it will be possible to make a sniper who can move quietly and quickly and, for example, use a first aid kit like a medic. Or a shooter who will throw high-explosive and conventional grenades and rush at the enemy with a bayonet. Or a machine gunner, able to fire more accurately using recoil control and increase his damage due to the orderly’s dangerous mind skill. But all this requires long and painstaking leveling. Do you now understand why fighters are the most valuable resource here?
Last Train Home may seem a little overloaded with all sorts of interesting borrowings, but it is this abundance of possibilities that allowed Ashborne Games to implement a very pleasant long-playing progression that can maintain players’ interest in the project for quite a long time.
Yes, the combat system is not without flaws and there are complaints about optimization issues, but I found so many advantages in Last Train Home that the disadvantages seem so insignificant, to be honest.
- Nice picture and atmospheric gameplay
- Interesting set of mechanics
- Fun progression system
- There are problems with optimization
- There are questionable decisions in the combat system