The Last Leviathan isn't quite Besiege with boats, at least not yet

If you've heard of The Last Leviathan it's probably from within a sentence like "The Last Leviathan is Besiege with boats!" I've been playing it this week and, no, it's not quite at the level of that gloriously silly physics building game. But it might be! Someday.

Besiege, like The Last Leviathan, entered Early Access with only a sliver of game available to play. Thing is, Besiege's initial offering was incredibly polished. It was beautiful, it worked wonderfully, and it felt more like a demo of a complete game than a shard of Early Access.

The Last Leviathan isn't like that. It's more a smattering of features and modes with the promise of more to come. If you've seen the trailer, which features the titular sea monster, you've probably thought the idea of building your own pirate ship and sailing off to battle that beast sounds like fun. The leviathan isn't in the game yet, though. Multiplayer isn't in the game yet. A lot of things aren't in the game yet, and the developers, to their credit, are entirely up front about it (provided you actually read the Early Access section of their Steam page).

The good news is, The Last Leviathan is still plenty of fun. Construction of boats is Besiege-ish: you start with a single block, the ship's wheel, and start sticking other blocks onto it. There's hull and armor, sails and propellers, and weapons like cannons, ramming spikes, and flamethrowers. Building can take place anywhere, at any time, provided you're not in combat. So if you're slapping along the waves and want to make a quick adjustment you can pop into build mode, then plunk right back down into the water and keep going.

The contraptions aren't quite as intricate as Besiege—there aren't nearly as many parts and pieces available—and whatever you build has to at least be able to float without capsizing or sinking. The physics are, shall we say, quite silly. Even a smidge too much propulsion will launch your vessel right out of the water. Some players are using this to specifically create airborne vessels. I wound up doing it inadvertently.

In creative mode you just build, tinker, and sail. I'm not particularly good at any of those three activities, but with some experimentation I built a ship called The Barfboat, and within a few iterations I could actually steer it without flipping it over (provided I didn't go full speed). Weight distribution is important, and the whole enterprise is a literal balancing act. 

In battle mode, you can build or import ships (your own or those you've downloaded from the Steam Workshop) and pick fights with AI-controlled pirate ships, which is a lot of fun. While in combat you can jump into first-person mode to fire your cannons, which makes it much easier to aim though much harder to steer. The cannon physics are great, the battles are exciting and entertaining, and bobbing around in the water while trying to line up broadsides is a challenge, especially if your ship is a poorly-designed wobbly piece of garbage like mine is. 

Also, mind you don't hit land or you might lose a fairly critical piece of your ship.

In versus mode you can choose to fight AI-controlled versions of ships you've built or downloaded. I decided to fight the 5th iteration of my Barfboat, and the AI kicked the living crap out of me. Hey, at least someone is good at using my creations.

While I'm enjoying The Last Leviathan, it's hard to know what to expect from it in the coming months. The developers admit that multiplayer is a big task for them to tackle, and they're also planning to provide mod support and an adventure mode, fleet battles, racing challenges, weather systems, and more blocks and tools to use. There's plenty of ambition, but it's going to take a while to see if the game lives up to it.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.