In a world where AI technology and job automation seem to take priority over the livelihoods of human employees, Wolf & Wood’s The Last Worker feels incredibly poignant. Its depiction of a future in which capitalism reaches its logical conclusion is a cautionary tale that’s anchored by some stellar writing and performances.
Live to work
The Last Worker follows the story of Kurt, the last human employee at a fulfillment center for a company called Jüngle, which bares a striking resemblance to a certain real-world retail empire, down to the visual design of its CEO. After more than two decades at the Jüngle, Kurt tries to avoid being the final human worker to be cut from the company, as his streak of never making an error has kept his job safe. While Kurt was once surrounded by thousands of human co-workers, his colleagues have all been replaced by robotic workers that automate fulfillment tasks.
The Last Worker takes a few unexpected twists and turns, which all culminate in a third-act finale that’s determined by your decisions throughout the story. It was fascinating to look at the vastly different places that Kurt and Jüngle could end up at the story’s resolution.
As a narrative-driven game, The Last Worker succeeds at telling an impactful, gripping story. As job automation becomes an increasing concern in our real world, and multi-billion dollar companies constantly show that they value profit margins and shareholders over the human beings they employ, The Last Worker is an excellent (albeit sensational) look at the direction capitalism is driving us toward. It’s a game that has a lot to say, and I couldn’t help but think about its themes and ideas long after I stopped playing.
The Last Worker is able to deliver that sharp commentary thanks to stellar writing and performances. There’s a sizeable dose of dark humor, and countless references to politicians, companies, and major real-world events. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s performance as Kurt gives emotional weight to the story. A man whose life has been so dominated by the company he works for, he’s forgotten what the outside world looks like. Of course, Kurt isn’t entirely alone in the warehouse, as Skew, a chipper CoBot, accompanies him through his day-to-day tasks. Skew is voiced by the illustrious Jason Isaacs, whose talent is an improvement to every scene he’s in. Zelda Williams also pops up as a pivotal character early on, and delivers one of my favorite performances in The Last Worker.
The sound of productivity
The Jüngle fulfillment center, which is said to be the size of New York City, is a sprawling environment that’s fascinating to explore and look at. This is greatly in thanks to The Last Worker’s cell-shaded art style, which gives everything a graphic novel feel. This extends to the designs of the human characters and various robot models found throughout the facility.
I found that the sound design of The Last Jungle greatly contributed to my immersion while playing through the story. I became so accustomed to the sounds of flying scooters, robots, airlifts, and other miscellaneous warehouse noises that it felt eerie when I wasn’t around them. Oliver Kraus’ original score added to the cold, isolated feeling that’s ever-present in The Last Worker.
Welcome to the jungle
Kurt navigates the Manhattan-sized Jüngle fulfillment center on his JünglePod, a floating scooter with a warehouse loader attached. Gameplay in The Last Worker tasks you with solving puzzles, racing around the facility, and other challenges. This includes the monotonous job of retrieving packages from shelves, determining that they’re the proper size and weight, tagging them, and sending them to the appropriate location. You can also see the specific items that people ordered, and the game got a couple laughs out of me when I spotted a VR headset designed for babies, or a troll doll modeled after a certain controversial US President.
While the JüngleGun starts off as a tool to tag packages as damaged or incorrectly weighted, it evolves over the course of The Last Worker’s story, receiving upgrades that give it functionality outside of doing work.
The Last Worker is designed to be played in VR as well as standard mode, and I played a good bit of both during my time with the game. In VR, movement and puzzle-solving was far more immersive, as it felt like I was actually sitting in Kurt’s JünglePod, using my JüngleGun to interact with the environment. It was also really cool to look around the massive, seemingly endless warehouse in VR. Playing in standard mode, The Last Worker was still solid, but the controls felt less intuitive. I found that movement and aiming felt much better in VR than they did in standard mode.
Employee of the month
The Last Worker is an underdog story that feels incredibly timely, even more so now than it did a year ago when I first played the game at PAX East. Its themes of corporate corruption and commentary on capitalism are quite sharp, and the game manages to convey all of this without coming off as overly depressing or heavy-handed. Despite some iffy movements on controller, The Last Worker is sure to be one of the year’s best narratives.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. The Last Worker is available now on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and Meta Quest 2.
The Last Worker
- Excellent character writing
- Sharp commentary on capitalism and work culture
- A range of thought-provoking endings
- Intuitive VR design
- Stellar voice performances
- Controls don't feel as sharp on a controller