This upcoming narrative-driven VR game proves it’s one to watch out for at the Venice Film Festival. Read on for our The Last Worker preview!
The Last Worker stands apart from everything else in competition for this year’s Venice VR efforts. Unlike the many short films and experiences it’s battling against, this is just a taster of a wider narrative – more of an E3 demo than a finished whole. I don’t envy the judges that have to weigh this slice up against heavy hitters like the Tilda Swinton-narrated Goliath but, for what it’s worth, I think The Last Worker would get my vote.
The Last Worker Preview: Trailer
Precious little has been shared about this joint effort from Oiffy and Wolf & Wood outside of an ominous trailer and yesterday’s reveal of a voice cast that includes Jason Isaacs. And, while it’s still hard to pin down exactly what The Last Worker is, the demo peels back just a few layers of the overall package. You’re Kurt (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), a world-weary, long-serving worker for the Jungle corporation, which is an enormous and largely autonomous delivery outfit (and no, the real-life inspiration isn’t exactly ambiguous). When we open, it doesn’t look like things are going too well for our hero. To be specific, he’s rampaging through what looks like a warehouse in a giant mech, swatting drones and punching through walls. Not your average day at the office, then.
It’s a real record scratch “Yup, that’s me” moment before we’re whisked off to another segment that seems to form the bulk of the game. Here, Kurt meets a faulty Jungle companion bot, Skew (Isaacs), that insists on taking him through the first-day tutorial to operate the hovering craft he commandeers, even though it’s clear Kurt has been on the job a little too long.
That’s a whirlwind overview, but there’s a lot of elements within these 10 minutes that make The Last Worker one to watch in 2022. The game has an assured confidence to its storytelling and a high level of production that feels rare in VR right now. For starters, it straight up looks better than most games I’ve played on Oculus Quest (it’s coming to SteamVR and flatscreen too), even if that’s down to its handpainted art direction. It allows the teams to get far more out of the visuals than we’re used to seeing on Quest, from the exaggerated wrinkles lining Kurt’s forehead to the tiny details decorating his craft and making it feel like a real, lived-in vehicle.
It helps, too, that the game’s design is incredibly immersive. Controlling the craft from a seated perspective can be a little nausea-inducing (I had to turn the comfort settings to moderate), but helped me move through the environment convincingly, and the lonely halls of the Jungle depot provide great moments of awe-inspiring scale. Mostly, though, I’m interested to see where writer/director Jörg Tittel takes the game’s story. We’re only given hints, but The Last Worker seems to have the makings of something memorable, unafraid to switch up perspectives and deliver narrative sequences in new and unexpected ways that are unique to VR and all from inside a world I’m genuinely curious to explore.
I’m more cautious as to how The Last Worker will work as a game, though. The opening action segment, in which a weaponized mech mimics your arm movements, definitely works well but overstays its welcome after a few minutes. The second segment, meanwhile, doesn’t give much of a sense of what you’ll ‘do’ in the game. Controlling the crafts feels immersive and convincing, but will most of the game simply be about following Skew? Or are there more elements to it?
A lot of strands to follow, then, making it tough to say anything too definitive about The Last Worker as it stands. But the game’s decisive focus on narrative and immersion, mixed with top-notch production have me hopeful that the developers have something special on their hands. We’ll have to wait until next year to find out for sure.
The Last Worker arrives in 2022 for Oculus Quest, PC VR and flatscreen devices. What did you make of our The Last Worker preview? Let us know in the comments below!