Undertale is often hailed as revolutionary for how you don’t have to kill the monsters to advance in the game — you have the choice to befriend them, and the game builds on the tension created by trying to maintain a pacifist mindset in a world that has no problem murdering you. Last Word is most definitely not that. It’s an RPG where the option of killing anyone isn’t even on the table, because you do battle with words instead of weapons.
The setting feels like a mashup of Professor Layton and Clue, with a motley crew of color-coded individuals summoned to the mansion of a prominent researcher to see his newest invention. There’s loads of mystery and political intrigue in your fictional nation, which you uncover by snooping around the house and interviewing the other party-goers (including the cat) about a wide variety of subjects. To progress the story you must battle them with your wit.
However, the battles aren’t just standard RPG battles with less-violent names pasted over common functions like “fight” and “magic,” and hit point bars you must deplete. Instead, you have two energy bars marked “pow” and “tact” that represent how much conversational capital you’ve stocked up and how much damage your witty repartee will do to their ego — there’s even a meter that shows how angry they are, which can increase the impact of your attacks. And in lieu of HP, a meter at the bottom is nudged back and forth between you and your opponent, the loser being the one who gets it pushed all the way to their side.
There’s also a plethora of attack options which are also coded by type. It gets confusing pretty quickly and the tutorial does a poor job of explaining it well, to the point where I was almost done with the game before it actually clicked. You even gain experience points and level up, with additional abilities you can purchase to assist your verbal sparring.
When I played Undertale I was stymied by the bullet hell monster attacks, to the point where I needed to restart the entire game and never actually finished. In Last Word, the mechanics still manage to honor the more strategic and thoughtful turn-based menu systems I’ve come to appreciate (and rely on) in RPGs but yet feel incredibly new. The contemporary setting is also a nice change as well, and probably necessary, given that the debate-based battles mechanics are more at home in the parlor of a fine 20th century manor than they would be in a medieval castle.
It’s also blissfully short — only six hours — which means if you love RPGs but often find yourself shying away from them because you don’t have 60 hours of your life to waste away, Last Word is definitely worth checking out.