The Last Stand: Aftermath
This Is The Last Stand For My Sanity With Zombie Games
I'll be honest, upon receiving this game my eyes rolled to the back of my skull and that's not the worst part. What's sad is that it's not The Last Stand Aftermath's fault. The survival horror genre has been oversaturated for the past couple of years and this year was no exception. What's even worse is that most happened to center around zombies. If not zombies, then eldritch abominations, vampires, whatever works. This was what I feared, something that's more of the same and nothing else.
However, time and time again I learn not to judge a book by its cover. Rather than tell another story about surviving a zombie apocalypse, the game outright states your survival is null. The terms "roguelite" and "zombie apocalypse" are ones I never expected to see together, but it works out. Death in The Last Stand Aftermath is not the end. You get a little bit better each time you go at it again. This alone piqued my interest in how this game played. Despite its unique premise on a tired topic, can Aftermath provide a solid experience? Is it just another zombie cash-in?
You Will Not Survive The Apocalypse In The Last Stand Aftermath
This is the point that the game throws at you very early on in The Last Stand Aftermath. In the beginning, the player controls an unnamed protagonist who is forced to stop the car upon it failing. Being tasked to look for fuel, they come across a locked gate and a nearby generator. Unfortunately, activating the generator summons a near-endless zombie horde as they swarm the player, eventually killing them. While I'm unsure if it's possible to survive, I have a feeling that it's not the case at all. The player will eventually run out of bullets and out of ways to defend themselves.
Following the unfortunate death of your character, the player will spawn at a base camp known as The End, with a randomly generated character and loadout. It is here that the player will mount their base of operations and get to know the story. As the hope for a remedy to the virus remains uncertain, several infected volunteers offer themselves as tribute. Some out of the prospect of being the first to obtain treatment, others for wanting to be useful than rotting away to die. Regardless, each starting loadout is random yet progression and abilities learned are permanent. The game's NPCs even tell the player that their individual chance of survival is limited, for if the zombies don't kill you, the infection eventually will.
While Death Is Inevitable, Having Fun While Going Out Is Eternal
The infection is The Last Stand Aftermath's version of an in-game timer, draining the player's max HP until death. This means that players will need to watch for their sustainable wounds taken from traps, zombies, and carelessness. Scavenging for items is the name of the game as well as finding fuel for your car. These are important to progress further in Union City as well as bookmarking progress when the inevitable happens. Dealing with a terminal infection isn't all bad as there are benefits for surviving in the form of mutations."
A character's health bar is made up of 10 blocks, with each block meaning a new mutation earned. Each mutation is random, increasing movement speed, melee damage, increased stamina, and other buffs. These come at the cost of a lowered maximum HP yet some buffs are detrimental as well. An example is a mutation I had that increased the amount of melee damage I did to zombies. My hand-to-hand combat damage was also doubled at the expense of a lowered movement speed. This meant that essentially I was punching zombies in one hit without a care in the world.
The Sweet Embrace Of Death Means The More Powerful You Become
This seems like an oxymoron of sorts, where the purpose for The Last Stand Aftermath is to survive yet you become more powerful as you approach death. If you're going to go out, might as well go out with a bang yeah? It's morbid and you don't ever become too attached to your character due to this. Eventually, my boxing champion didn't make it to the last round, dying to a horde of zombies at the midpoint. Unfortunately, these fun moments are fleeting as the player will have to scavenge, craft, loot, and progress. It's only once the infection starts to ramp up does the fun perks come into play. Of course, when this already happens, you're already dead.
This makes The Last Stand: Aftermath a hard game to judge. When it's fun, it's a fun roguelike zombie game. The premise sets it apart from other zombie titles looked at in the past. It's a unique premise and mechanic that gives me Zombii vibes. Unfortunately, when it's dull, it's like watching paint dry. The gun aiming system is jank, only using a reticle instead of a laser sight, and fights are largely optional. The more you fight, the less health you'll walk away from when loot isn't guaranteed. There is a demo available to play for those curious, but ultimately it falls upon the player if this type of "slow burn" gameplay grows on them.
The Last Stand Aftermath is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PC.