The Last Federation

WAR IS EASY, PEACE IS HARD

Strategy games have always been intimidating because of their overwhelmingly cerebral nature, and some people even avoid them on the ground of repetition. “How much can the idea change,” a cynic might ask, “when the gameplay is always a race to outpace and outmaneuver your opponent?” Some look at the idea of the strategy game, a game inherently based upon the ideas of imperialism, cold efficiency, and manipulation, as the same game played over and over: conquest by any means. Some cite the superiority of grand, turn-based strategy games that allow for peaceful alternative victories like the prestigious Civilization series as a break in the giant imperialism chain, but some others just call that conquest by another name.

The Last Federation takes a different approach. In this game you are not an empire, nor even the head of one. You are the sole surviving remnant of a powerful and technologically advanced alien species who has dedicated the rest of their life to interstellar peace. Rather than being one giant, yet equally powerful empire, you are one super-advanced individual. Rather than having dreams of conquest, your dream is unification. Unfortunately enough, as every player will learn, it’s easier to convince two species to kill one another than it is to make them cooperate.

The goal of the game overall is to unite all eight planets of the solar system, each with their own extremely different sapient species, into a new solar federation in which they will live in peace and cooperate with one another. That might not be so hard for the good natured, fluffy Peltians who just want to be loved, but what about the outrageously violent, power-obsessed Burlust? How can you play matchmaker between the taciturn, isolationist Boarine and the hard-to-please, honor bound meritocracy of the Skylaxian Senate? How can you reconcile the Andor’s utopian hatred of violence with the unthinking Thoraxian war machine? More than likely, you won’t, and war will break out. And if genocide wrecks the system, it’s not game over. In fact, it’s not game over until the player dies. If the solar system is united in peace only because there’s only one species left, then so be it. Of course, as many gamers know, the most difficult victory is the most rewarding, and the coveted diverse and unified eight-point alliance is not easy to achieve.

Getting them to cooperate at all takes a lot of work and even more thinking. The player will have to lie, steal, spread rumors, fight ships, bribe, gift, deliver speeches, sign bills, build, and destroy. They will have to hire mercenaries, assassins, engineers, spies, and scientists. They will pander to monarchs, duel warlords, manipulate political parties, and carefully track the hormonal shifts of the mighty Thoraxian Hive Queen. They will have to crash one economy and boom another, all to keep a delicate balance of peace and power in a complicated network of politics, murder, and let’s not forget public welfare. So much can be done to such diverse players that the game creates a unique and strange story every time.

The game is a fascinating and complex reinterpretation of the space strategy game, and should be played by anyone who thinks the genre’s gone stale. However, the game is difficult and, even on the lower difficulties, extremely complicated. Highly recommended for the veteran, but the casual gamer should look elsewhere.

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