The Last Spell Interview – Ishtar Games Working On Next Game Since 2023

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The Last Spell Has Evolved A Lot Since Its Debut!

Story Highlight
  • The Last Spell marks the third indie release from Ishtar Games.
  • We recently spoke to the game’s Creative Director and went over elements like future DLC, the team’s next project, and more.
  • The Last Spell is still going strong, with the first DLC arriving in late April.

The Last Spell presents a fascinating blend of tried and true gameplay formulas. A mix of strategy, RPG, and rogue-lite mechanics immediately pulls players in, and the high skill ceiling keeps them engaged for hundreds of hours.

The Last Spell first debuted as an early-access indie title three years ago. Since then, the team has made various changes to the game, added new content, and addressed the community feedback.

To discuss these elements and more, we recently spoke to Creative Director Matthieu Richez over an email interview. We also shed light on future plans, player reactions to the recent DLC, and more in this interview.

The Last Spell
The Last Spell’s Core Gameplay Loop Is Simple But Offers Plenty of Depth
Can you introduce yourself and briefly tell us about The Last Spell?

Matthieu Richez: Hi, I’m Matt, the creative director and co-founder of Ishtar Games. I was at the start of the project, which started in 2017, and my role was to provide support to the team to ensure the creative vision of the game was coherent and interesting for our players.

The Last Spell is the 3rd indie game of the studio – and our most successful one. It’s a rather deep tactical RPG with roguelike elements, made by a small but dedicated team. The idea is that you manage a group of heroes defending a town against hordes of monsters who come after you every night, so you have a day phase where you build defenses and gear up your team and a night phase where you are pitted against literally hundreds of enemies.

Between the RPG and strategy elements, the core gameplay loop is surprisingly deep. Was this depth something you always aimed for?

Matthieu Richez: Of course, that’s the kind of depth we like in other games, so it felt natural to aim for that kind of feeling.

I was personally very eager to bring to the table a very satisfying skill set for the attacks of the heroes; since the battle is asymmetric, our heroes needed the firepower to deal a lot of AOE damage, and I think it’s something that is kind of missing in a lot of T-RPGs, the patterns and mechanics of skills can be a bit boring sometimes.

And yeah, on top of that, we added many layers, which may not be ultra-complex each on their own, but everything combined makes the game deep enough to dive several hundreds of hours into.

To balance this level of complexity, did you add any mechanics or elements specifically to make the game more accessible?

Matthieu Richez: Yes, of course! We always aim for “complex to master, but easy to get into.” I think the basic mechanics are quite simple and industry standards: click to move until you have move points, select a skill, and target to launch it… And you can do anything in any order during your turn.

A lot of stuff happens with simple button clicks in UI, and we made it a point of honor to have the most extensive explanations in the tooltips on every UI item. All the info you need to understand the game mechanics is presented to you, so you can focus your mind only on making a good strategy to kill these nasty monsters and survive.

We also added a lot of difficulty parameters you can fiddle with: the game is meant to be very hard, but if you just want to casually decimate entire armies, you can access what we call the “boundless mode.”

The Last Spell’s major DLC was launched recently. How have players reacted to the new content?

Matthieu Richez: Pretty good! It’s always hard to satisfy newcomers and hardcore fans at the same time, but we tried to give a bit to chew for everyone. We have the chance to have a dedicated group of hardcore fans of the game who know the game even better than us (aha), so it was very interesting to let them playtest the DLC before release and adjust a few things.

All in all, with this first experience, we gathered a lot of feedback; we better see what works and what doesn’t as much as expected. I think it’s a very satisfying DLC for players who have a few hours in but didn’t fully complete the game – and, of course, for new players – so we’ll try to bring some more end-game content in the future.

You’ve focused on dwarves as a fantasy race for this DLC. Do you have plans to focus on any other races in the future?

Matthieu Richez: Aha, maybe 😉 We have a lot of options that are being talked about right now, and we still have to sort it all out. But you can expect something similar in terms of scope.

The Last Spell evolved quite a lot between early access and version 1.0. The 1.0 release has also been out for a whole year at this point. What major changes have been made to the game in this period?

Matthieu Richez: Everything changed… we entered Early Access with limited vision on what the final game would be. We wanted to see what players liked and didn’t like and build the final game while seeing people play it. We entered EA with one single map… Now we have 7 maps with the one included in the DLC.

We added a lot of content: enemy types, buildings, defenses, items… But we also revamped a lot of systems, notably the perks, the economy and the panic system, the meta, enemy elites… We added new mechanics like the omens and the corpses, and of course, a TON of quality of life features, my preferred being the so-called “turbo mode.”

You’ve discussed how games like Dynasty Warriors inspired parts of The Last Spell. Did you have any specific inspirations for the visual style?

Matthieu Richez: It’s not my field of expertise, but we clearly draw influences from games like FF Tactics, Ogre Tactics, and maybe Into the Breach for a more modern use of pixel art.

And we brought a lot of dark fantasy artists references; I always name Olivier Ledroit as a big influence, a French comic book artist whose work made a huge impact on people of my generation, as well as tremendous artists like John Howe or Mike Mignola.

Between games like Hades and even AAA-level releases like Returnal, what are your thoughts on the current popularity of roguelites?

Matthieu Richez: I think the roguelite elements can bring a clever design solution to a rising problem in our consumption of games: gamers grow older and have less and less time to play during large sessions of time, so having games divided into runs and clear “exit points” in the pacing can be really good, even for big AAA.

So yeah, in the end, you’ll find yourself playing as much as before to games, even more maybe, but in shorter time frames (shorter meaning sometimes 2-3 hours… but it’s relatively a short session considering an 80-hour-long JRPG, for example)

For us indies, it’s also a clever design choice to control the delirious amount of content to make a game: you make games that are less “large” but more “deep” in content.

Do you think the industry, including AAA teams, will continue to gravitate toward this genre moving forward?

Matthieu Richez: I don’t know much about AAA teams or projects; I reckon that I’m not really a big AAA game player… But why not? Roguelikes and lites are the strongest genres right now on PC!

You’ve also said that some members of Ishtar Games started considering a new project in 2023, apart from The Last Spell. Can you tell us anything about this project?

Matthieu Richez: I can’t tell you much for now, but yeah, as a studio, we have to continuously start new projects to keep the team active, and it can be a long time of work behind the scenes before we show anything publicly…

But yeah, towards the end of The Last Spell’s Early Access, I put some ideas on paper for several new projects, and we started working on one of them since last year. I can just tell you that it’s big for a team of our size and that it’s not The Last Spell 2, even if you will clearly see some heritage between the two on several levels.

Would you like to share any closing thoughts?

Matthieu Richez: Just still super excited to see what we will be able to bring to The Last Spell! Now that the project is mature, I have a more external position on the team, so I find myself in a position where I can almost enjoy playing the game like a “normal” player, and so I can’t wait to see what delicious dishes the team will cook 🙂

The Last Spell
The Last Spell Has Very Positive Reviews on Steam

Following its exit from early access, The Last Spell is even better today. Ishtar Games also seems to be planning its next project while supporting this game with more content. Overall, this is an excellent game to try for fans of RPGs and rogue-lites.

To conclude, we thank the team for conducting this interview and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

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