The Last Federation: The Lost Technologies and the Politics of Leaving Politics Out of It

I enjoyed the hell out of The Last Federation when it first came out, and I thought that Betrayed Hope expanded on its core ideas and themes in ways far smatter than most so-called expansion packs. Arcen has now released a second expansion, and whereas Betrayed Hope was sort of about inverting the game’s core conventions—in this game about sensitive, multifarious political squabbling, what if that squabbling were disrupted by some grave, immanent existential threat?—The Lost Technologies focuses simply making this rich simulated galaxy even richer.

The differences between the planets and their races were never just superficial—the fact that each has a different form of government, and that these political vagaries have to be taken into account, remains especially impressive—but now each also has its own tree of potential technological developments. This fleshes out the mechanical flavor of each in-game world considerably in the main game, and also allows for a new mode, Tech Race, wherein technological superiority is the player’s sole aim.

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As per always, any federations that emerge outside your sphere of influence are a threat to the lastness of your own—but this time the measure of power is superior gadgetry, and that lends Tech Race an air of anaerobic Cold War paranoia: Just what exactly are you guys working on over there? Even when you’re focusing exclusively on tech, alliances and rivalries play a central role, and choosing to try and leave politics aside is a deeply political decision. What do you share? What don’t you share? What should you keep your enemies from having, even if it means markedly slowing your own ascendence?

You develop and recover simple technologies, and those lead to greater ones, and greater ones still, until the balance of power can rest on just one. It’s a model of military escalation, and also a love letter to the spirit of research and tinkering, what with the galaxy-conquering developments only being possible when one stands on the shoulders of humbler and less martial innovations.

Besides making the game that much deeper, then, The Lost Technologies serves as a fairly thorough examination of what technology means for a culture, and for its relationship to other cultures. Once again, here’s an expansion pack that genuinely expands the scope and resonance of its base game. Rather than simply providing something more, it allows for something greater.

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