You may think there can only be 3 endings to Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier; Apes win, Humans win or they live together in harmony. Well, I guess its how you win that matters. Because while there may only be 3 conclusions to the story, there are several ways in which you can reach them with multiple endings for each of these conclusions.
Decision-based games have evolved like the primates in this game (cringe); they have become more clever over time and are certainly now in a position where they could dominate. Can Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier lead them? Let’s find out…
Obviously there is high expectation when you see a blockbuster Hollywood franchise game release. No exceptions here: Planet of the apes: Last Frontier has been developed by Andy Serkis’ own production company Imaginarium Productions and FoxNext Games so there is alot of cinematic experience present. The trailers on the run up to its release have certainly looked impressive.
You control the fate of both humans and apes, mostly indirectly through your decisions. The ending to the game will depend on who lives and dies based on your decision-making. I love the idea already.
A tribe of apes have found refuge in the Rocky Mountains, away from the ongoing war between apes and humans. They seem to have sought solace with each other and have been managing to live peacefully. However, the Rocky Mountains hasn’t been renowned for its hospitality towards primates in the past, and it seems things haven’t changed; forced into finding food for the Winter, the apes descend into the human-owned valley.
When the release date was announced for the game, we were eagerly anticipating how the story might tie in with the films. Well I can reveal that its set around a year after the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the year 2027, which brings it in line with the setting for the film War of the Planet of the Apes.
The Prologue slowly builds the story up with plenty of split decisions the first of your characters, Bryn, must make, often between family. Bryn’s father, Khan, is the tribe’s leader who has led them away from the war to sanctuary. Bryn’s older brother Tola is the brawn of the tribe adament that killing humans is the only way forward. And with Bryn’s younger brother you have a vulnerable almost child-like character called Juno. We learn Bryn also has a family of his own, so he really is playing a character in the middle, torn between family members, his tribe, famine, peace and war. I found myself really thinking about the consequences my actions might have. A game like this can show you who you are as a person and how you may act in a crisis. Or you could just go to the extremes and see how it plays out.
Part way through the Prologue, you switch over to the human aspect (Jess) and discover the grass is not greener on the other side. They too are going through some pretty heavy times. Jess, by default, has become the leader of a group of humans living in Millerton, a makeshift village on the plains below the Rocky Mountains. Food supplies are running low and tension is building among them. The scene is set, both sides are hungry and at breaking point. In order to prolong survival surely something has to give?
While the decisions are plentiful throughout, ensuring you continually are engaging with the storyline, I felt myself questioning if they were having an effect on the way the plot was developing. It seemed there was always going to be a conflict no matter who you side with. And in many ways it seemed like the same conflict would have happened regardless of the decision I made, but I guess in a world where apes and humans are vying for power these things will happen.
The action points hold the key to changing the story. Action points are less prominant within the game, maybe one or two points per chapter, but they have more devestating impact than the other decisions and can change the dialogue of characters and the direction of the story. They decide who lives and dies from each side depending on whether an action took place or not.
For the gamers who love complex controls making use of every bit of your controller, those who love mastering a skill which others might find difficult in order to progress further; this game will not satisfy that urge. The analogue controls are used to make decisions and the X button is used as an action button to confirm if something happens or not e.g to take a shot or not. You do not control the action just whether it occurs. There is no exploration you will have control over.
I have no question that the graphics and attention to detail are first class. Given the experience of Imaginarium and 21st Century Fox with the on-screen productions in the film franchise, it can be noted they have successfully transferred this on to the videogame. There are moments where you can distinctly pinpoint individual whisps of hair from a gorilla’s back drifting in the wind or find yourself having to re-focus on what is being discussed because you catch a sparkle of light in the eye of a tribal ape geared for warfare. I probably should have been more concerned of the rifle!
The story is something you would expect from a producer with experience in Hollywood and the voice acting for the apes cannot be seperated from the films. These are both major plus points and some might argue the downfall of this game. Many videogames are ridiculed for a poor storyline and bad voice acting, and in most cases rightly so. However, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier may have developed itself into a movie which you can effect with your decisions. It’s all because of the sheer quality of the story, graphics, cinematic display and soundtrack, you can get lost in the screenplay and forget about the game. This is especially so during scenes focussing on the ape tribe which could be taken out of any one of the Planet of the Apes films. You only need to look at the screenshots to see the effort which has been put into developing these scenes. It’s only when there is a pause for you to interact that you are dragged back to reality.
I recall in my youth often sat in the cinema thinking to myself: “Wouldn’t it be great if they made a movie which I could interact with and the audience could decide the ending?”
Well, younger Matt, apes rule the earth and movies can be interactive. Especially with the PS4 PlayLink compatibility which allows multiple players to interact with thegame using their tablet. This is a game which could be thoroughly enjoyable with more people involved. Playing on your own it may seem like you are just directing a story. Within a group of people the dynamic shifts; the conflict you see on screen between characters could find itself in the room among you. You could genuinely have arguments over decisions which are made in the room, which could furthermore impact the ending of the story.
For the gamers who love seeing the development of complex relationships between characters, making key decisions and seeing how their decisions impact the game; this game will have features you enjoy. Seeing the reaction to your decisions play out as a stare from an angry ape or a shake of the head from one of the villagers all in a cinematic scene adds to the drama of the situation.
For those who love to antagonise people with decisions they make in game and effect the outcome in a way to antagonise others; I think you’ll love playing this on Multiplayer/PlayLink. Just make sure you get a good mix of personalities involved to make it even more interesting.