Last Train Home was provided by THQ Nordic for review. Thank you!
I'll be honest: I've generally avoided playing Real-Time Strategy games on my Steam Deck since I got it. I've always had this feeling of dread about having to use the trackpads to control a cursor in a fast-paced environment, which can feel worse compared to the traditional Keyboard and Mouse. Fortunately, Last Train Home might just be the right mix of RTS action and slow-paced, tactical combat that can work well in this format.
Last Train Home is an intriguing blend of tactical strategy and resource management, all taking place in real time. The objective is simple: get your soldiers out of Russia as it becomes embroiled in a civil war and return as many as you can safely back to Europe.
The gameplay revolves around a train carrying your soldiers home. With resources such as wood, food, ammo, and fuel to worry about, the game is very reminiscent of something akin to The Oregon Trail. This part of the game takes place on a world map, where you travel past key points of interest, where you can stop the train and send out expeditions to find resources or encounter enemies.
Whilst in these encounters, you switch to traditional RTS gameplay. The gameplay is reasonably slow-paced, focusing on making tactical decisions regarding cover and troop placement. As you control your infantry, you will be able to pause, known as "Tactical View," which allows you to gather your thoughts and consider your next actions. Troops can still accept orders in this mode so that you can plan out your onslaught and is a great feature on the Steam Deck where you might struggle to act quickly in a changing situation compared to using a Keyboard and Mouse.
All your troops have specializations, such as scout, sniper, medic, etc., with unique abilities, such as the medic being able to revive a downed soldier. If you assign crew to certain carriages of the train when you are in a battle encounter, you can use your train's abilities in combat, such as calling in an artillery strike from your artillery carriage.
The game has a variety of difficulty levels and game settings when you start your journey. This lets you decide what kind of experience you want from the game. With these, you can decide if resource management should be taken care of for you so you can focus mainly on the battles themselves, or if you want everything under your control. You can even scale how much resources are needed, allowing you to put yourself in a truly brutal situation.
Last Train Home is a fairly demanding title. But you're at least getting a nice-looking game with it! We have support for 16:10 resolutions, so we avoid black bars on the Steam Deck's screen. Sadly, some of the text in the game is very difficult to read, so you might want to use the Deck's magnifying feature (Steam Button + LB) to help out here since there's no setting to increase text size.
There is also no control layout here for the Deck either. The default layout that Steam chooses mostly does the job, but I recommend enabling your back grip buttons in the Steam controller settings and mapping 2 of them to Q and E, making it easier to rotate the camera. R5 can also be mapped to SPACE BAR to pause the game and give yourself time to think and issue orders. These were the two main issues for me, but the game is still perfectly playable in my opinion.
Last Train Home pushes the Deck to its limits, so we don't have a great deal of choice when it comes to what settings we can use.
Basically, we're setting everything to the "Low" setting here. With the exception of Textures, which we can keep on "High," and resolution we keep at 1280x800, given how small some elements of the game are.
In SteamOS, we're locking the FPS to 30, and we won't set a TDP limit.
With these settings, we're holding 30 FPS most of the time. Certain intensive moments (such as the artillery strike pictured earlier) can cause drops into the mid-20s, but given the nature of the game, this isn't a deal-breaker. The stress seems to be more on the CPU here, with the GPU not clocking as high as it could, but the wattage the CPU requires means we need to take it easy on the GPU.
I still think that the game looks pretty good, even on these lower settings, though.
As I said, the game does push the Steam Deck pretty hard. The world map and resource management parts of the game give the Deck a bit of a break, and therefore, it's hard to get a proper battery life estimate, with different parts getting massively different drainage. If you're in the RTS part of the game, expect a battery drain always in excess of 20W, and often close to 25W with temps of up to 90c. This means you should expect around 1.5 - 2 hours of battery life with a slightly toasty device.
When managing your train, the power draw is much less, with temperatures around 75c and battery life estimates staying above 2 hours. If you're playing through and switching between these modes, expect around 2 hours of battery life in total.
Sadly, accessibility isn't really on the menu with Last Train Home. There is an option to adjust the size of the cursor, although I found the default size to be okay. There are also subtitles that you can enable for voiced dialogue, but there are no options for UI Scaling, Font Size, or anything of that nature, which the game needs for smaller devices.
I enjoyed my time with Last Train Home, despite a few difficulties with playing it on the Steam Deck. This might be the first RTS game in a while that really grabbed my attention. It has a fascinating premise and storyline, solid tactical gameplay, and is backed up by deep gameplay mechanics. The fact that you can pause and think about your next move is pretty much why I would consider it playable on a handheld.
Is it the best experience on the Deck? Not exactly. The small text and short battery life make it hard to choose over a desktop experience, but if you can play this docked and hooked up to an external display, that would be the best way to go. If you can accept the small text and sometimes difficult-to-read UI elements, Last Train Home is one of the best RTS games I've played in recent memory and an easy recommendation.
Our review is based on the PC version of this game.
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Last Train Home might be one of the best RTS games I've played in recent memory. It does have a few issues on the Steam Deck, however.
No Forced Compatibility
Object Quality: Low
Foliage Quality: Low
Texture Quality: High
Shadow Quality: Low
Postprocessing Quality: Low
Visual Effects Quality: Low
Shading Quality: Low