Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is a game at odds with itself that’s near-essential for fans of the film series but a snoozefest for anybody else. The FingerGuns Review;
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is a curious beast. On one hand it’s a flagship PlayLink title which means it can be played entirely from 1 to 4 mobile phones linked to the game and it has impressive production values. For fans of the Planet of the Apes series, it expands on the mythos and builds on that world. On the other hand, the game mechanics are severely limited because it caters for the PlayLink functionality and if you have little or no interest in Planet of the Apes, this game will offer little to you. It’s a game at odds with itself, attempting to be as interesting as possible while fighting its own self-imposed restrictions.
Set between the events of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes movies, Last Frontier tells the tale of a band of Apes and a town of survivalist humans whose worlds collide. You play as 2 characters – Jess, who recently inherited the leadership of her town and Bryn, the son of an alpha ape. The pair of protagonists are both trying to do the best for their respective families and friends and their fates are entwined, meaning decisions made by one character deeply affect the other. Forces both outside and close to home are attempting to start a war between the two factions and it’s the players decision to choose which race loses or to broker peace. It’s a derivative plot but it lends itself well to the Planet of the Apes mythos quite well.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt like more of a passenger while playing a game than when playing Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier. The players interactions with it is limited to regularly choosing between 2 dialogue options on screen or occasionally choosing to press or not press a button when prompted. Last Frontier is a Planet of the Apes choose-your-own-adventure book brought to life in a video game cutscene. To some, that’ll sound like a nightmare and to others that’ll sound interesting – if you’re part of the former group, you might as well close down this review now because Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier will not be for you. You’ll likely hate it. If, like me, you’re a fan of interactive stories and relaxed gameplay, there’s a leisurely story being told here.
The lack of interactivity here other than making regular choices left or right means that all of Last Frontiers most poignant moments pass by like any other. When characters are in danger, the lack of involvement in the events means it feels like watching a film rather than playing a game and the threat feels hollow. The writing doesn’t do a lot of help you care about the characters either. It’s all a little hammy and deliberate. This isn’t helped by the way the Apes communicate. Much like in the movies, many of their conversations are undertaken via hand signals and body language. Some of this really works (when an Ape gets all up in the face of another ape and you know it’s to show dominance, for example) but much of it doesn’t land and it means your just reading subtitles to understand what’s happening.
Then there’s the lack of real choice involved in the game. While you’re given a dialogue choice every minute or so, almost all of them have no bearing on the events of the game and often, then just change one line of dialogue. Sometimes, it only changes the tone in which the same line is delivered.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier has 3 endings and a few other events that can be determined before them based on your choices – the issue here is that all of the most interesting aspects happen in the last 2 of the game’s 5 chapters. There’s no way to rewind or start the game from a particular chapter start or branch of choices which means if you want to see everything the game has to offer, you’ll be replaying 3 chapters of same laid-back scene setting before getting to the meaty stuff again. This really limits replayability and the quality of life of the play.
Despite all these issues, for a Planet of the Apes fan like myself, Last Frontier is damn near essential. It might be slow and tedious at times but there are some moments when the lore (I know, so sue me) comes to the fore. The way the Apes talk to one another while making it difficult to relate too, can be fascinating. Because of this game, I know the Ape gestures for terms like “leader” and “peace”. There are a few subtle and not so subtle nods to the current run of films and the classics from the late 60’s and 70’s.
On top of this, the game has incredible production values. Visually, it’s often stunning and at its worst, it looks great. The fur on the Apes looks fantastic and many of the humans almost make it out of uncanny valley. Almost, but not quite. The voice work, while using an often cringeworthy script, is top quality too.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is a game at odds with itself. It’s a game that tailors for 4 player co-op play but lacks interactivity and the story will only really appeal to the die-hardest of Apes fans so unless you’ve got 3 pals who will scream “YOU BLEW IT UP!” in reply to “You Maniacs”, you’re probably best playing it alone. And it feels better that way – one ill-fated attempt with my wife who has little interested in Caesar and the Apes, I found myself playing it alone. It’s a game that has obviously had a lot of time spent making it look and sound genuine and interesting while the writing is often hamfisted and clumsy. Last Frontier is a game that will mildly entertain the biggest PotA fans but will put anyone else to sleep.
Developer: The Imaginati Studios
Pubslisher: FOXNEXT Games, The Imaginarium, Creative England
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is available now on PS4 (review version). An Xbox One and PC version have been announced but no release date has yet to be confirmed.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review copy from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.