Last Year: The Nightmare

A solid asymmetrical survival-horror game that's light on content.

Asymmetrical multiplayer games have been going steady for the past few years now. Some of the biggest games in that particular genre include the long departed Evolve, the still ongoing Dead by Daylight, and even Friday the 13th if you're into that sort of thing. You can now add in Last Year: The Nightmare to the mix as it combines 5 versus 1 multiplayer with elements of survival-horror. As with those other titles, Last Year places one player in the shoes of a bloodthirsty murderer while the rest of the players play as one of five teenagers trying to survive and escape. What it delivers is a well-crafted gameplay experience that ultimately comes up short on content.

Last Year: The Nightmare relies on a number of tried and true horror movie clich├ęs. The group of teenagers include the nerdy kid, the popular girl, a stereotypical jock, and more. Each teen assumes one of a variety of roles. For example, someone playing as the Medic class is vital for dispensing some sweet relief to injured teammates. The Assault class can both tank additional damage and dish additional melee damage. Another example is someone that assumes the Technician role. Technicians can build turrets after collecting enough materials from around the environment. All on team teen must work together in order to escape from dying at the hands of one of three different villains. Each round is set within a set time limit that ensures progress continues at a smooth pace without ever feeling rushed. It also ensures that rounds never drag on for too long.

The villains (or killers if you prefer) number just three: Giant, Strangler, and Slasher. Just like the group of teens, the choice of villain dictates what you can and cannot do. For instance, the Slasher is similar to movie villains like Jason in that he moves at a decent pace and comes at you with an axe. The Strangler is the fastest of the three and relies on using chains to choke his victims. The Giant is the slowest of the bunch but can take a beating. Every villain has unique interactions with the environment that can result in some gnarly finishing moves on wayward teens. I have seen the Giant burst through walls for surprise attacks. I have seen the Strangler lynch teammates from skylights. This is complemented by over the top horrific screams plus all sorts of blood splatter.

Last Year: The Nightmare

Another tried and true trope borrowed for the game is the fact that it is possible to take down the killer, only to have them respawn later. The group of teens will need to work together to accomplish this brief period of relief. They can use the aforementioned turrets in combination with a variety of different melee weapons (bats, pipes, etc.) and attacks. The problem with the melee weapon offensive is the fact that the hits are usually fairly weak and melee combat just feels cumbersome at best. The best, and perhaps the only strategy for melee combat, is to go in for an attack, whack the killer, back up, repeat. There is very little in the way of strategy involved here. It does not help that there is not much in the way of visual feedback that your hits are actually being effective.

Playing as the killer offers up some interesting gameplay mechanics. Before spawning into the environment, the killer can place a variety of traps around the environment in an effort to slow down or injure the group of teens. This is called "Predator mode" and can also be triggered at any point by the killer in order to fast travel around the environment. The catch with this is that you cannot just spawn in clear view of the teens, making its use more strategic in nature. Though they have decent amounts of health and abilities, killers will still need to stay on their toes. They cannot expect to win against a group of five players if they go in to an open environment with chains and axes blazing against a group of five coordinated teens. In addition to a larger health pool, traps, and the element of surprise, the killers have the ability to see where their targets are, even through walls. This comes in quite handy for trying to locate a player that strayed from the herd for a quick and easy takedown.

Should you die, you will get a chance to respawn if the match is still going. This is true for both the teens and the killers. The killers do have a bit of a cooldown period, meaning that they cannot respawn immediately after "dying." The teens also have the ability to respawn, also only after a short period has elapsed. Even after this period is up, the teens must be "rescued" from a nearby room by one of their still living teammates. Think of it as the respawn system from games like the Left 4 Dead or Warhammer 40,000: Vermintide franchises. Just like in those games, if nobody is left alive to rescue you, that's the end of the round with the killer claims the victory. Both the killer and the teens have the ability to change their class while dead, which could be the key to securing victory if your team structure was lacking from the start.

Last Year: The Nightmare

Rounds aren't quite as simple as making it from point A to point B. Teens are typically tasked with completing a series of objectives to open up their escape route. This keeps the group constantly on the move as they explore their environment for items that they need or the location they need to reach. This is a great way to prevent camping in one spot and cheesing a win. For an easy comparison, each round plays out a bit like the finale events in a Left 4 Dead level but without additional enemies. The final push to freedom is where the tension really ramps up a few notches. The teens are madly sprinting towards their escape route while the killer makes use of whatever last ditch efforts they can to stop them. While it is possible to have an entire team escape, it is more likely that the killer will pick off a couple right before they make it to the end.

Technically, the game feels quite solid, even right at release. I cannot say that I encountered much in the way of glitches outside of some lag here and there. The game makes good use of Unreal Engine 4, and while the visual are not "jaw-dropping", they do suit the game's theme well. It also ran very well on my machine, but your mileage may vary depending on your own hardware setup. I will say that I did have some troubles initially downloading the game from the Discord launcher. Have I mentioned yet how this is a timed exclusive on the Discord Store? Last Year: The Nightmare is a timed exclusive on the Discord Store. It is only exclusive there for a period of 90 days, which, by the time you read this, leaves only about two months remaining on the exclusivity. Even with this exclusive Discord Store launch, wait times between rounds was not terrible. It will be a great thing when this hits other platforms though, because having an injection of new players certainly cannot hurt. My initial impressions of the Discord Store were actually rather negative. I do not fully understand why, but despite having a review code and instructions on how to download the game, it refused to download for me even right at release. At one point, the game even removed itself from my Discord Game Library. It came back, but only after a few restarts of the program. It took a bit more waiting and another restart (or more, I cannot remember exactly) before it finally allowed me to download the game. The download speeds were also a bit all over the place for most of the download period, making the initial download take a fair bit longer than it would have if my connection speed was maxed out for the duration of the process.

Last Year: The Nightmare

In the end, Last Year: The Nightmare is a well-built and fun game that just does not feel fully realized in its execution. It just does not have a hook that would keep players coming back for more. For example, Last Year lacks any sort of progression system similar to what one would find in Dead by Daylight. Sure, every game doesn't need to have a progression system, but having one would certainly help give this game some much stronger legs to keep it going. There are only three baddies to select from. In addition, despite the levels being of decent size, at the end of the day there are still only three of them in total. If developer Elastic expands upon this arguably strong base, they could end up with something truly special in due time.


Score


TGN score: 3 out of 5


Additional Information

Last Year: The Nightmare (Developed and published by Elastic Games)
Starting at $29.99 (USD) for PC (Discord exclusive for 90 days starting from December 18, 2018; Other PC retailers not yet announced)
Game was reviewed on: i7-6700K at 4.5GHz, 32GB DDR4-2666, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, Windows 10 64-bit Version 1809

System Requirements

Minimum
CPU: Intel Pentium G4500 / AMD A10-7870K
Memory: 6GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GT 630 or equivalent
Storage: 20GB

Recommended
CPU: Intel Core i3-4170 / AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
Memory: 8GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 or equivalent
Storage: 20GB


Additional Images

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This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.