This Survey Only Takes 30 Minutes!
HIGH The epic animation and graphic design.
LOW The incongruence between animation and textual progression.
WTF The anxiety induced by the patience indicator.
The Last Survey presents a highly provocative issue packed in the calming experience of a text-based choose-your-own-adventure title. The proposed issue? The unnamed geologist we control has surveyed the Earth’s rare metal reserves and finds that little of them remain to satisfy the increasing demands of humanity, and they must inform a mining company CEO of this very fact.
This isn’t merely a fictional narrative to fuel a political simulation, this is a reflection of our contemporary reality and the geoscience behind the premise is genuine. In reality, there aren’t enough rare metals left to continue producing according to humanity’s demand for solar panels, electric cars and even videogames. What is to be done? A healthy solution is to listen to science, which is exactly the challenge central to the The Last Survey.
We’ve become accustomed to the fact that corporate greed and hypercapitalism are the enemies of sustainable resolutions to the ecological crises central to our times, and in The Last Survey this is emphasized. The whole game revolves around a simple sequence of scenes where we enter a mining company’s headquarters, walk towards the CEO’s office, and try to convince them to make the right call — essentially, to get them to quit their excessive mining operations.
Obviously we are met with the CEO’s resistance, and the objective of the encounter is to employ corporate language in such a way as to not make the CEO dismiss the geologist and ignore the advice. We’ve got to get the urgency of the message across while still adhering to business etiquette. This is a challenge which accurately simulates frustration, and instinctive replies might result in a quick dismissal and game over. However, even in success, it’s not entirely clear whether anything is ‘won’ at the end of the day.
As a very short experience, there’s not much more than what I’ve described to The Last Survey. That said, its presentation deserves special praise. While we see text doing the work of narration, a smooth, black-and-white animation gives a real noir tone and background to the story, and helps envisioning terrifying details of the company building, the CEO, and his office. Yet, while these animations are totally awesome in their own right, their rapid succession does somewhat disturb the overall pace, and I couldn’t read while the animations played. It’s a shame that there’s no voiced narration, which would’ve been a productive solution for players able to hear.
As dialogue choices determine its ending, I recommend several replays of The Last Survey to try things out, even after a successful first run. Unfortunately, I did encounter a gimmick which hinders the joy of a replay. There’s a ‘patience indicator’ which can be overburdened by the player progressing too quickly through the dialogue, leading to the geologist turning away from the office in panic. While the function is understandable from a narrative perspective, it’s a real pain when skipping dialogue that’s already been seen several times before.
The annoyances I’ve listed make for an uneven experience in an already-short runtime, but the truth is that The Last Survey presents something more akin to critical commentary in game form than what might generally be considered a fully-realized game. In light of this, the faults are inoffensive and I find that I must recommend this title nonetheless.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Nicholas O’Brien. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 1 hour of play was devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed twice. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Strong Language. The animation is quite innocent, and I have not experienced severely strong language in the dialogue. However, the game’s themes are definitely mature, although I would consider them easily accessible to mature teens as well.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. (See examples above.) The game can easily be played without sound, there is no hindrance at all. I’d say it’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. Navigation of text and menu on the left stick or directional pad, A to select and continue text. + to pause the game.