Have you ever found yourself in a position where the world around you is beautiful and weird, and the people are friendly and welcoming? This place should make you feel safe, secure and at peace, but you can’t help but be uneasy, and desperate to find the answers to the questions that plague your mind. If you haven’t, you will when you play The Last Campfire. An exquisite and calm action-adventure game with puzzling elements. It has been published and developed by the creators of No Man’s Sky, Hello Games. Some of you may see that name, and want to give this title a miss. After all, their first dip into the murky waters of the gaming world was a marmite experience (you either loved it or you hated it). I loved it, so when I saw The Last Campfire advertised I grabbed my copy, and waited to play it with baited breath.
You control Ember, he’s an adorable being who becomes lost on his journey to the sacred campfire. Instead of joining the others, he travels on to an area known as the “Between” place. This is a strange and confusing land that throws up more questions the further you explore. As you begin your adventure to find your way home, you soon realise you are not the only one who resides in this unusual land. Others like you have ventured here, but they have been here for so long that they have lost their spark of hope, and have become “Forlorn”.
The main concept is to explore several areas, each with a unique look and its own interesting set of NPCs to interact with. At the centre of each zone is a cold and abandoned campfire. It is devoid of life and heat, and when stoked will provide sanctuary for all the forlorned beings that you rescue. A ghost guardian stands watch over this fire, and it will provide you with praise and hints to help you proceed. (Not that the difficulty of this title requires many pointers, but it was nice just in case you got stuck.)
The story presents itself as a free to roam adventure, where you have the choice of how you wish to tackle the problems in front of you. In reality, it follows a loose linear structure, and a lot of the action depends on you collecting a certain object, or completing a specific task before you can proceed. I really enjoyed how this was set up, it gave me the freedom of an open world title, but with a clear focus. With so many weird and wonderful things developing in front of you, it would have been easy to feel overwhelmed, and to get lost while exploring.
One of the game mechanics that gets used repeatedly is the simple puzzles that must be solved in order to gather the spark of hope for each of the forlorn. The challenge that you’ll face when trying to find a solution is minimal, and a gamer who has little to no logic skill, or spatial awareness will not struggle to succeed. Some players may find the simplistic style frustrating, as they fly through each one without batting an eyelid. But for me, I enjoyed the relaxed approach. Whether it was; moving cubes to hit switches, creating new paths to previously unobtainable collectibles, or tricking a hog into doing my bidding, I absolutely loved it. Each little victory brought a wry smile to my face, as I could just enjoy the narrative and plot of this wonderfully weird fairy tale world.
Now, I could rave about how much I adore this game. And how I believe you should play it. But, there is one mighty issue with The Last Campfire, and that’s as follows. No matter which platform you play this on, you are going to experience several technical issues all surrounding the visual aspect of the game. Ember ghosts through objects, clips walls, and snags himself on most environments. It isn’t game breaking, but it impedes your ability to stay in the moment. This also happens when interacting with NPCs. It causes the gameplay to pause and stutter as it catches up with the action. I lost count of the amount of times I exhaled a frustrated sigh. It was very disappointing.
The gaming world is such a beautiful thing to witness and explore, that it was a shame that it was being ruined by technical issues. If you place these problems to one side, you will find yourself in a vibrant and stunning area where the NPCs are varied and the landscapes are well designed. The puzzles, though simple, are good to look at, and do you keep interested. Though the graphics are light, cute, and fun. Yet, there are clearly dark undertones. The developers have been influenced by Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth. This was clear for me when you visit the bird people and the forest king. The character models are bright, creepy and scary. A perfect nod to the puppets in both films.
Every aspect of the audio is stunning. It sets the scene with its melancholy tones and brings a sense of joy with its jovial folksy sound. The sound effects bring the world to life with the rumble of crumbling paths, and the cracking of falling trees. The pièce de résistance though, has to be the Scandinavian voice-over work. This narrative gives The Last Campfire a Brothers Grimm feel, and screams fairy tale. All the dialogue for every character is delivered by our female narrator. The pace and emotional input are balanced to perfection. If you want an example of simple, yet brilliant audio, then look no further.
When you have a game that focuses on accuracy and puzzle solving, you hope the controls are responsive and easy to pick up. Mostly this is the case, but, as you delve deeper into the game, new mechanisms are added that take a bit of practise to master. Once you understand how they work, it really is a joy to play. It isn’t just a case of pressing a button, and watching objects in motion. No, it’s more than that, it’s tactile. You must move the levers, platforms, and turn the keys. It drags you into the action, and you can’t help but find yourself immersed in the scene.
Whenever I play an adventure game, I hope that there will be more to it than just the main story. I like to see that there is; an NG+ mode, side quests, or hidden collectibles. Each of these things increases the longevity and the replay value. The Last Campfire only has the latter option available in the form of an adventurer’s journal. Pages are hidden in stone chests, and finding these will give you hints, and an insight into areas of the world that you have yet to experience. The collectibles and achievements add a fair amount of replay value to the main story. That takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete, so with the extra tasks, you could easily sink around 12 hours into this title.
I wouldn’t come into this expecting a challenging puzzler because you will be left feeling frustrated and disappointed. This is an action-adventure title that has puzzle elements. It’s joy and beauty comes from the world that has been created and the fairy tale story. You can’t help but feel emotionally attached to Ember and the plight of his fellow beings. It’s a touching tale which will you suck you in, and will only spit you out once you’ve found your way home. Do I recommend that you play this? Yes, yes, yes! Other than its performance issues that I’m sure can be patched out, this game is stunning and one that you won’t want to miss. Can you help Ember to help the Forlorn and find his was way home? Remember, all you need is one small spark of hope to reignite that fire.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Last Campfire Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
When you lose your way, and everything appears pointless, just keep searching for that small spark of hope.
- Relaxing gameplay.
- A nice mix of game mechanics.
- Beautiful graphics.
- Stunning audio.
- Plenty of replay value.
- I wanted it to be longer.
- The puzzles may be too simple for some.
- Performance issues.