The Last Spell is a tactical RPG roguelite by Ishtar Games in which you must protect derelict villages from hordes of monsters.
Each night, monsters stream in from one or more sides of the village, and you must use your handful of heroes to fight them. Each hero uses melee weapons, magic, or bows, and each comes with its own moveset, normally including single-target attacks and area attacks, which are important for fighting the huge swarms. This emphasis on controlling the large number of enemies makes combat feel distinct from other tactical roguelites, and it’s well tuned to make each attack feel impactful, but not so powerful you feel in control of the battlefield.
The morning after battle, you use the gold and materials you’ve earned to build buildings and fortifications, clear corpses, buy weapons or new heroes, and assign workers to make yourself ready for the next night. There are a variety of buildings that allow you to use slightly different strategies, and although some buildings are important for all strategies, there’s enough randomness that it doesn’t feel entirely rote.
The defensive structures and traps are varied, allowing for experimentation for the best way to spend your limited materials. You could buy two small ballistae, one catapult, or a handful of medium-strength walls, so it’s up to you which works best for your strategy. The choices are even more difficult when you’re being attacked from multiple sides, and have to decide whether to use cheap things widely or expensive ones in a targeted area.
Each hero has random traits that make them better suited for certain weapons, and when they level up you’re given a list of five random traits with random increases to them to encourage branching out in ways you didn’t expect. The weapons are all good at slightly different things, and you might find yourself needing to swap mid-run because the weapon quality is higher. Due to limited mana regeneration, it’s often cheaper to not use your best attacks if you can avoid it, which adds a little extra depth.
The story is mostly irrelevant except for some flavor in-between levels. There’s nothing wrong with it, and it adds a small mystery along with the theming. The metal music soundtrack is fun but, as with most games of this length, gets repetitive, and the pixel art is crisp and communicates the gameplay well.
The game’s balance is notably tight. While there are plenty of ways to become overpowered, it’s easy to fall behind the curve unexpectedly if you’re not optimizing things. You’ll rarely lose a run for a single bad mistake, but the game still feels tense. If it’s too easy for you, beating levels will unlock even harder difficulties.
After each night, you get currency for the game’s long-term upgrades, which can buff your heroes, give you better luck with items and upgrades, and increase the variety of weapons and buildings. The Last Spell is pretty hard, so the upgrades are a welcome way to increase your power if you keep losing.
There are a couple of blemishes, the most obvious being that a single run can take upwards of two hours. The game is gripping enough to get away with it, but when you lose a three-hour run, it feels devastating. There is a turbo speed button to speed up animations, at least. Most of the boss strategies are clear, but I ran into one boss whom I just didn’t understand and lost an entire run trying to figure out how to beat it.
But overall, The Last Spell is a compelling roguelite. If you don’t like long roguelite runs, this game will annoy you immensely. But if you like tactical roguelites, this game is an interesting and fun twist on the formula.
The Last Spell is out now on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch for $24.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for The Last Spell.