NOTE: Since Laxius Force III: The Last Stand is the direct sequel to the prior Laxius Force games, this review may contain spoilers.
Laxius Force III is the third installment in Aldorlea's Laxius Force series and the seventh game in the entire Laxius saga. Compared to Aldorlea's more accessible, technically advanced, and forward-thinking titles such as Asguaard, Millennium, or Dreamscape, games in the Laxius Force series are more of an acquired taste. Compounding that, Laxius Force III looks, feels, and sounds dated compared to the current crop of commercial RPG Maker titles. However, the Laxius faithful don't play this series for innovation or production values; they play it for its story, and it's been a crazy ride so far.
What began as a simple story of Random and Sarah, two retired heroes venturing back into the outside world after a self-imposed exile, turned into a world-spanning journey to stop the nefarious machinations of the Grand Commendanter and his legion. Elsewhere, the sorceress Luciana, an old friend of Random and Sarah, left her own self-imposed exile in a desert oasis because the world needed her once again. Death has followed all the heroes like a shadow throughout both games as many important playable and non-playable characters have died off, often in gruesome ways. The status quo of the world and its inhabitants is the absolute worst it's ever been, the Grand Commendanter is more volatile than ever, and the heroes need to find their resolve once again.
Story-wise, Laxius Force III has the strongest writing in the series, showcasing Aldorlea's growing development in this area. Laxius Force did not have the strongest writing, but it certainly had a grand vision. Laxius Force 2 was much tighter in scope and the writing improved a lot, especially during the story arc revolving around the deadly fire monster Bang Burn. Laxius Force III's plot blows everything wide open and further develops some of the major characters.
For example, players don't control Random for the first chapters of the game. I found this refreshing, and enjoyed playing from the perspectives of independent adventurers, as well as various splinter squads in Random's party. Although the story's scope is wider than previous installment, dialogue was never overly wordy and the plot remained taut while still managing to effectively tackle some difficult themes. For example, the second chapter had a splinter group of heroes dealing with the dilemma of engaging in decidedly non-heroic – dare I even say evil – activities for the sake of the greater good. Would you contaminate a rival village's water supply on the dubious hunch that an underworld crime lord has inside information on the final boss? If your answer is, "No, I would never stoop that low!" then you probably shouldn't play this game.
In terms of gameplay, Laxius Force III is chock full of elements. The Laxius series has always had a wide scope and a complex world, and this iteration brings that to the next level. There are tons of quests to undertake (many of which carry over from prior games), loads of old and new places to explore, tons of turn-based battles to fight, and myriad new playable characters to recruit (the number of playable characters throughout the series could rival Chrono Cross or the Suikoden series). And since saves carry over from one Laxius Force game to the next, anything you wanted to hold on to from previous installments – such as items/equipment, money, and character levels – is fair game. While overall gameplay may be very traditional (think Dragon Quest), there are enough elements to keep players busy for a long time.
Music is another story, though. There aren't many tracks in the game, and save for the title theme, all are RPGM XP stock tunes. Similarly, graphics are mostly reused, save for some character and enemy art. In other words, the aesthetics are quite dated compared to what's out there in the scene. Most of Aldorlea's other titles leave this one in the dust with regard to production values, but, again, this is not a sore point for fans of the series. They're in it for the story, and the limited production values are a small trade-off for allowing the developers to devote resources to maintain cohesion in the game world throughout the series.
So in the end, Laxius Force III provides a satisfying conclusion to this epic trilogy, and fans of Aldorlea's grand-daddy series will certainly be hooked for days, weeks, maybe even months. Although the Laxius saga is not my favorite Aldorlea series, and while I think the developer has far better titles to offer gamers, Laxius holds an important place in Aldorlea's history that I certainly cannot deny. Overall, I liked Laxius Force III quite a bit, but it's for dedicated fans only.