The Last Hex is an intriguing mix of different game elements. It combines Deck building, Roguelike world and adventure generation, and the RPG aspects of equipping and improving your hero. It might seem like a lot of things for one game to juggle and get right, but thanks to some very solidly built systems and mechanics, The Last Hex works perfectly, creating an exciting and addictive gameplay loop that doesn’t feel like it’s Early Access.
Title: The Last Hex
Developer: That Indie Studio
Game Version: Early Access
Review Copy: Provided by the Developer
Interface: Mouse & Keyboard
Available on itch.io and Steam Early Access.
A deck-building RPG with roguelike elements. The dead arise and only you can stand against them. Travel the lands to slay monsters, acquire new cards, survive dangerous encounters and claim powerful equipment to enhance your deck. A final showdown with The Lost awaits you at…The Last Hex!
Note: This review is based on an early access version of the game.
The Last Hex is a game of systems and elements, all working together is a surprisingly superb balance. It’s in many ways like an old RPG Boardgame, where all the events, equipment and encounters are shuffled into separate “decks”, and each time you play the results are a little bit different. What is remarkable is how well the underlying rules and systems of the game hold everything together, and the choices you make really do effect the story you tell as you play.
The first choice you make in The Last Hex is which character class you’ll play. There are initially 3 classes available to you: The Warrior, The Wizard and The Thief. Each class has a distribution of stats favoring the most useful one to that class (Strength, Arcana and Skill respectively), and a starting purse of gold. Everyone also gets some pretty terrible starting equipment, and a starting deck of 9 cards, tailored to what each class does best.
I should not that these aren’t the only classes available in The Last Hex. One of the principle elements of the game is the fact that, as you play through events, encounters and enemies, you unlock more cards to be added to the library of possibilities. The classes are no exception, and after playing for about 4 hours, I unlocked the Barbarian, which has remained my favorite of the bunch.
After choosing your class, the world is created. Each game of The Last Hex takes place on a randomly generated world, but the goal is always the same, as are the pieces used to build it. Your goal is to traverse the board to the last hex (name drop) and defeat The Lost, an undead army heading from that end of the board toward the hex you started in. The game does a great job of keeping the pressure on, as many events and choices can slowly decrease the the count of how far away The Lost are, and I am fairly sure that every player will be surprised by The Lost the first time they face them.
The hex board is made up three different tiles, even if they have a huge variety of different coats of paint. These are Fight Tiles, Event Tiles and Town Tiles, and they represent the three main things that can happen to you as you play the game:
Combat is probably what you’ll be doing the most of, and the system in place in The Last Hex is simple but robust. After moving into a fight tile, You’ll encounter and enemy, and draw a hand of cards, each card representing an action or an attack. Each card has an energy cost and a base state, and you can only play cards if you’ve got the energy required to play them, and each cards damage or potency scales with your stat. There’s also tons of different status effects, a cornucopia of potions to collect and use, and class specific shenanigans to revel in. Suffice to say, the combat in The Last Hex is worth digging into.
Enemies on the other hand can only play a single card each turn, but in general their attacks and effects are a bit more potent individually than yours. When you reduce your enemies health to zero, you win the fight, get a gold reward and can chose from a set of three random cards to add to your deck.
There are some special fight tiles containing boss enemies which are significantly tougher than the normal enemies, but have much better loot, letting you choose any or all of the cards presented, increasing your max health and giving you a piece of powerful equipment. While these enemies are high risk, high reward encounters, they are well worth seeking out.
Event tiles are scattered throughout the map and are a bit of a coin flip. You’re given a short bit of narrative describing the situation, and a number of options to chose, somewhat akin to a choose your own adventure novel. Based on your choices and the specific nature of the event, you’ll find a bane or a boon for yourself.
The interesting thing about the events you encounter is that they are set interaction. As you play more and more of The Last Hex, you’re able to learn what each event might hold, and be able to start making calculated judgement calls. Is it worth fighting that wolf pack for the 300 gold you know you’ll get? Which rune give you the best superpowered one time use card for your current run? Is it ever worth taking a nap?
Town tiles are where you recover health, buy new cards, and equipment, but most importantly, where you train your hero. Every town tile you visit has a trainer that can increase one of your stats by one, or increase your max health by 30 for a good chunk of change. Each town will only ever let you train once, so it’s a bit of a decision determining if it’s better to have more health or grow more powerful.
If there is one thing I can suggest you do as a new player it’s train. Train often. Go out, kill some goblins for their loot, go to the next town over and train again. This is because the potency of all your cards scales with your stats, and this has a massive impact on your effectiveness in battle. Adding two points to your Strength can make a hug difference in the damage you do with a Vicious Strike, while dumping points into Arcana can make Mage Armor protect you from just about anything.
This really is a game all about playing with, collecting, and increasing stats, and it’s a very rewarding gameplay loop.
The art in The Last Hex is bright and colorful, full of generic Fantasy-land creatures and tropes. I felt a mix of nostalgia and coziness playing The Last Hex, and despite the brutal and unforgiving combat, it felt like the best kind of fantasy boardgame I might have played as a kid. Like I said, it’s all pretty generic, but it works as sort of homage to the fantasy adventure genre. The lovely soundtrack is also a perfect compliment to the art direction, and evokes those same feeling of nostalgia.
The Last Hex may be in early access, but it’s so well designed and so polished a game that it really doesn’t feel like it should be. This early access launch really just means that more cards and content are on the way, and I think that is more than enough reason to invest in the game now.
I have a feeling I’ll be playing The Last Hex for years to come.