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The Last Worker follows Kurt, the only human still working at a fulfilment centre that has become completely automated. The game represents the worst case scenarios of late stage capitalism, and what could happen if giant corporations continue to amass power at the current rate.
These tales of dystopian futures are becoming more, and more, commonplace in all forms of media, not just games. However, that doesn’t mean The Last Worker is late to the party, it’s merely just shining a different perspective on an increasingly likely reality.
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We get to see what this world is like from the perspective of someone who has no real interest in fighting it, has accepted this existence and just wants an easy life. Well that’s what we think at first anyway, naturally the peace doesn’t last long for Kurt.
We see the world from Kurts perspective, as he races around the facility on his WALL-E style glider – that comes equipped with all the tools he needs to complete his job. On his work station Kurt has a mirror too, so you can get a good look at him throughout the game, adding nuance to his performance.
Welcome to the Jüngle
The events of The Last Worker all take place in a giant fulfilment facility for a company called Jüngle (see what they did there), and it is only slightly smaller than Manhattan. The game is cel shaded, and sparks life into everything you look at despite the very clear absence of humanity throughout the game. Opting for this style also helps the game look better in VR. VR games still can’t capture realism quite as well as normal games, so opting for a different art style really helps The Last Worker look great regardless of how you play it.
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The Last Worker being in VR, helps capture the scale of the location, and Jüngles factory . Everywhere you look there are shelves, and worker bots milling away. The developers have done a great job of making this feel like a factory running constantly, yet there are no windows or outside light, once again highlighting Kurts grim situation and severity of this world he exists in.
Despite how well this world is built, with every word feeling like it further contextualises Kurt’s situation, some of the gameplay isn’t quite as inspired. As you progress through the story you unlock new attachments for your multitool, that Kurt also uses for his day job, and with this comes new mechanics gradually layered in. Things like hacking, or a tracker for example.
These are all good ideas and should help keep the gameplay varied, however it feels under utilised. The Last Worker isn’t very long, according to the time tracker on the PlayStation it took me around five hours to complete, so there is only so much you can do in that time but things like the tracker are introduced and barely used. A bit more variety throughout would’ve been welcome.
The Last Worker – “A Narrative Immersive Adventure”
All of the promotional material for The Last Worker sells this idea of a strong narrative, and fortunately that is where the game delivers. The story itself has a couple of twists and turns, nothing too unpredictable but the characters in The Last Worker are what really elevates it. Kurt feels like a real bloke, one who can’t really be arsed and is pretty done with everything, including his situation. Yet, it’s his relationships with the other characters in the game that will keep you hooked and engrossed throughout.
Watching Kurt interact with the only other sentient being in the facility, Skew, is always compelling but also highly amusing. Something games can often struggle with, and admittedly it’s very subjective, is humour. Yet, I found myself chuckling a few times throughout my five hours or so with The Last Worker. On top of that the emotional beats between Skew and Kurt in particular hit home, despite Skew being a bot that clearly something isn’t quite right with.
The characters help deliver the story, and what makes the characters so believable is the voice work done by a pretty stacked cast, as well as some stellar writing. You primarily interact with three characters including yourself, you play as Kurt (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), Skew who is Kurt’s only real company for years at this point is voiced by Jason Isaacs, whilst Hoverbird is voiced by Clare-Hope Ashitey, the activist who breaks into the facility to try and enact change. When these three characters interact with each other is when The Last Worker is at its best, and is what helps deliver the “immersive narrative” promised.
Time to Clock Off
There are multiple endings to The Last Worker, and I was pretty satisfied with mine. Despite the situation Kurt is in, despite how bad things seem and despite the oppressive tech companies control over this world. The Last Worker, in the end, is a game about people and compassion. The characters all rely on each other, get each other through in the end and show that there is still some hope that it isn’t all doom and gloom.
The gameplay may lack some variety at times, but the story of The Last Worker is truly thought provoking and very captivating. It is heightened by the voice cast, who all do a fantastic job, but Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s Kurt is the stand out performance here. It is his story after all, but there is a subtle charm and emotion to the way the role is delivered that helps make Kurt feel real.
The Last Worker is a grim take on what our reality could be, one I hope we can avoid but is a great narrative experience from the mind of Jörg Tittel, that questions where we are headed and reaffirms our need to stick together.