“Here they come,” I rumble before the first wave of brightly colored drones attack. Placing my arms into my mech’s gloves, I gain control of a massive sword of buzz saws on one hand and destructive robot claw on the other. It’s time to mess things up.
Sparing no automated lifeform and demolishing every inch of the sterile, tech-laden complex that gets in my way, I tear through a jungle of silicon hell. Finally, my eyes alight on a single flat screen. It dominates the room with a Big Brother-like image.
The man staring me down can’t hide the malicious look in his too-blue eyes behind his rainbow hair as he emerges from the screen like some neon-maned ghost. His threats aren’t supernatural. He is bent on cutting me off from making a living, and, despite my mechanical firepower, I resort to groveling to escape the fate.
I jolt awake. And though the dream sequence introduction to this preview for The Last Worker features very little dialogue, it’s made its point very well. The upcoming narrative adventure game is set to take on themes of man, machine, capitalism, and power.
My next trip is more mundane but arguably more powerful. I watch as Kurt, the hero of this story, views his own life pass before his eyes as though he were watching a training video. Now the only non-droid employee for Jüngle — a massive global retailer with a marked resemblance to modern-day businesses — Kurt looks on as humanity gets ripped away from the company. Literally, robots are snatching the employees until just Kurt and a female co-worker remain. Through the chaos, the two begin a romance which ends after Kurt refuses to leave the corporation.
Now with nothing left but an old picture, a faded dog collar, and his job at Jüngle, the story begins. To his dismay, day 9125 on the job dawns with his long-time co-robot, Skew, malfunctioning. The enthusiastic drone thinks it’s Kurt’s first day on the job and he needs training. This helpful error teaches me how to locate packages with my multi-function levitation gun and send them to the customer or recycling.
After completing the training, my hovering partner is restored, trading his sunny optimism for language that would make a sailor blush. Every ounce of the story so far has brilliant shades of commentary mixed with humor that urge me to discover how day 9126 will unfold.
For a couple more days, my only objective is to race to my target product, retrieve it from a cubby, and drop it off to be delivered. The last moments of a work day brim with anxiety as the CEO’s over-cheerful voice prods workers to make “power hour” count as an alarming clock counts down in the background. Every shift is graded based on how many boxes I collected and whether those boxes made it to the correct destination.
But then one of my days ends in a surprise race for my job — an actual race where losing means getting fired. After this display of corporate heartlessness, I get the sense I won’t be blindly picking up boxes for long even though I win the rigged competition. An unexpected visit from an activist group member proves me right and plunges me into the depths of the facility, where Jüngle hides animal cruelty and an even darker cover-up.
The Last Worker looks like it’s firing on all cylinders, but it could still use some polish. In-game direction needs the most work, as I totally missed how to spin packages in order to check damage or instructions. My progress also ground to a halt several times because I was unsure how to proceed. One of these occasions left me sitting for an embarrassingly long time in front of a beam before I realized I could lift it out of the way, a skill I didn’t know I had.
I’m optimistic that these rough edges will be buffed out before launch, which the team recently announced. Players can look forward to becoming Jüngle explorers March 30.