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It’s a pretty big day for gaming, as the world-famous Magic: The Gathering is being relaunched as Magic: The Gathering Arena. I’ve been a long-time fan of the game, and didn’t get into it until the early 2000’s. I’ve played it since the first edition, and have moved from being a casual player to a more serious competitive player. For the last few years I have been playing the most recent edition of the game, and while I’ve enjoyed the game I’ve always felt it was missing something, something that made the game more fun to play, something that made it feel fresh.

Magic: The Gathering is one of the most popular trading card games in the world. There are more than 30 million cards in print, and the game is played by an estimated 10 million people worldwide. Despite its size and popularity, there is a vast lack of information on the game’s history. (Tend to be more of a history, or more of a info on it). So, I recently took it upon myself to track down as much information as I could on the game’s history. The results of my research are presented herein–in a series of articles–with the intent of shedding light on the game’s origins and development, as well as providing other details that have gone undiscovered.

There is no other quality mark that I trust as much as the Annapurna Interactive logo. No other publisher, in my opinion, produces such a consistently outstanding body of material at the pace that Annapurna does.

Variable for the Developer The long-awaited sequel to Virginia from 2016 maintains this industry-leading trend. In many respects, Last Stop resembles Annapurna: The Video Game. It has all of the characteristics of an arthouse film: a unique, winding plot, cinematic-quality original soundtrack, a cast of characters unlike anybody else in gaming, and so on.

All of this isn’t to suggest that Last Stop isn’t entertaining. It’s completely unexpected, and it’s fascinating enough to warrant a marathon session. That’s not to say that it’s a more believable story than the team’s debut. Variable State establishes itself as a name to watch with Last Stop, proving it isn’t a one-hit wonder.

Last Stop: At the Crossroads of Magic and the Ordinary

Last Stop is a collection of three anthologies set in modern-day London, although it begins with a deliberately perplexing flashback that hints at weird science fiction leanings. It promises that the human tragedies that would follow are just a twist away from becoming something completely different.

Themes of concealment and the masks worn by the game’s three main characters — John, a single parent with full-on dadbod; Meena, a cutthroat and unapologetic workaholic; and Donna, a self-liberated high schooler — are prominent throughout the game.

Within reason, players may select the sequence in which they reveal each character’s tale. Completing the first chapter of each character, for example, will unlock the trio of Chapter Twos, which may be played in any order. I found that playing them on the selection screen from left to right gave me the greatest enjoyment. The “Previously On” portions of the game have an exciting TV-style feel to them that I’ve enjoyed in games like Alan Wake before it. 

Despite the fact that the tale is advertised as an anthology, it doesn’t take long for the previously disjointed strands to entangle. This occurs in satisfyingly subtle ways at first — “wait, isn’t his neighbor also her coworker?” — before becoming entangled in a three-pronged narrative maelstrom that ends in a (probably) divisive conclusion.

For what it’s worth, I thought it was fantastic.

Meena, wearing a grey shirt, standing in a red room.

I think each tale is equally interesting, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be Meena’s, since her twin roles as a busy secret spy and a failing mom and wife combine for an intriguing mix of the ordinary and extraordinary. Meanwhile, John’s tale subverts a cinematic cliché by following a similar route to its end, although via the still-unique filter of the stories’ convergent overarching denouement. 

Each tale stands on its own, offering a distinct genre while focusing on very regular individuals who find themselves in unusual circumstances. The way things come to a head is thrilling, since although it’s clear early on that their different lives will eventually intersect, it’s how they get there and what happens afterwards that makes Last Stop worth discussing.

As is typical of such narrative-driven games, its qualities are determined by the quality of that tale, which is difficult to discuss without revealing things. Think of Last Stop as a cross between Crash and The Outer Limits, with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure. It’s unlike anything else you’ve seen in games, which is why story-oriented gamers should devote some time to it.

Donna, wearing a red vest and black pants, crouching behind pallets alongside another man and woman

Playing Last Stop feels like many a narrative adventure game from the past decade. Players will make frequent dialogue decisions, hastened by a timer, and interact with the world from an endless supply of cinematic camera angles, sometimes pouring cereal, other times pouring over files during a B&E.

You won’t have to make many decisions, since scenes will largely go where they’re supposed to go regardless of what you say – at least until you have to make some difficult final decisions. You might perhaps not respond at all in many instances, and the game would continue to play itself in between more experimental sequences.

It also looks great, with a stylish and mature Pixaresque mix of colors and smooth textures. Characters emote effectively enough to deliver their lines thanks to some hyperactive eyebrows, but their emotions and animations are a little wooden and hearken back to the days of Telltale’s flawed methods, which occasionally hinders Last Stop’s filmic ambitions.

The game’s soundtrack, which is simply fantastic in every aspect, is more of a saving grace. Even though none of the names in the credits are recognizable to me, Last Stop is skillfully spoken.

Lyndon Holland wrote the original music, and he previously scored Virginia to near-perfection. The influences are less apparent than Holland’s five-year-ago borrowing from Twin Peaks, but the consequences are no less fascinating. He’s a great composer who fits Variable State’s propensity for slow, dreamy strangeness perfectly.

Final Thoughts – The Bottom Line

John in khaki pants, blue blazer, and red tie standing in a lit elevator outside a dim room.

Pros

  • A delightful, diverse mix of anthology stories that come to a creative conclusion.
  • Excellent voice acting and music 
  • You’ll want to binge-watch all of the episodes in one sitting since they’re so well-paced.

Cons

  • Some of the game’s cinematic ambitions are betrayed by poor animations.
  • Some people rely on story clichés.

Last Stop seems like a more palatable follow-up to Variable State’s sluggish debut, but one that doesn’t sacrifice any of the tiny team’s growing trademark strangeness.

Though the narrative takes chances, it manages to keep them in check so that its characters aren’t drowned in metaphor, as the team appeared to be eager to do in 2016. Other mysteries are left unsolved, and some questions are left unaddressed, but overall, Last Stop is more popcorny than I anticipated, but no less enjoyable.

[Note: The copy of Last Stop used for this review was supplied by Variable State.] 

I’m a senior in high school. I used to be a gamer, but a lot of my friends lost interest and my social life took over. I have also been working a lot more recently and have been having trouble sleeping. Last week, I decided to give Magic: The Gathering a try. I had been interested in the game before, but I just didn’t have the time or money to get into it. Turns out, it’s a lot more fun than I thought. I’ve been playing online tournaments and getting better every day. I’ve also been trying to branch out and play with my friends at school, though it’s harder than it sounds. When I sit down and play with my friends, we tend to be fairly competitive.. Read more about last stop xbox and let us know what you think.

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