The Last Guardian was not an easy game to review. As I started the game, and the initial title screen with Fumito Ueda’s name splashed across it popped, I could only stare for a few moments, taking in the fact that after almost a decade The Last Guardian was finally more than just fairy dust. It was a real video game, that I could play on my PS4. And I couldn’t help but be appreciative of that fact. I had been eager to see what Team Ico had accomplished this time around. I am a big fan of Shadow Of The Colossus, and despite it’s flaws, it’s one of my favorite games till date.
And so as I sit to review The Last Guardian, I am biased, and I want to be. I want to give this a higher rating than this game deserves, and I want you to play it, in spite of the frustration I felt while playing the game myself. And so, for the ratings, I’ll be making some key changes. While I will describe in detail my qualms with the game, the rating system will be modified in order to reflect primarily the good about The Last Guardian.
You start the game and find yourself in a cave, alongside a beast, Trico, tethered by a chain. The beast is injured, and is not likely to let you near it, be it due to fear or anger. You then go on to gain Trico’s trust, and together you set out to make your way out of the cave, and eventually the whole valley the cave is in.
One of the first things that stands out about the game is how lifelike, and realistic the animations look. Both the boy movements, and Trico’s behaviour and feathers are beautifully animated. It’s clear where a major part of development effort went in. The boy does move and control like a young child, and stumbles around a lot. Climbing, jumping, carrying objects, and crawling around tight space all look and feel very natural. Trico’s animations are the real star of the show here. Every feather on the creature’s body is meticulously crafted and detailed, and he gives off the sense of being a lifelike creature, with emotions and animal instincts. Trico will chase after butterflies, roll around in puddles of water, while staying away from larger pools of it, pine after you as he grows more attached to you, and stubbornly refuses to budge when he’s hungry.
As you progress through the game, there’s a real sense of getting to know Trico and despite the frustrations in getting to control and direct him, you can’t help caring about him. Trico in turn shows a real affection for you, and every time you leave him behind, you can hear him calling out for you. Trico is one of the best characters I have had along for a video game adventure, and The Last Guardian is as much his tale as it is the young boy’s. There are moments throughout the game where Trico feels like an actual pet, and when he’s rattled or in danger, I felt an innate urgency to rush to his aid. It’s amazing how well emotions are conveyed between the boy and Trico, and while the overarching story is unknown for a major portion of the game, the journey that the two embark upon is awe-inspiring and extraordinary.
I can’t go into the story without spoiling things, and what little story there is, is told in small bits. Without going into too much detail, all I’ll say is that the story ends really strong, but it’s not the main strength of the game.
Now on to the main flaw with the game. The gameplay. The camera controls to be specific. It is bad, probably the worst I have seen in the last few years. This is clearly a Team Ico game, and it controls like it. The camera flies at the slightest flick of the stick, and navigating can get from confusing to outright horrendous quick. On many occasions it gets really tough getting the camera facing the way you want it to, and in a game that’s primarily about getting from place to place, you can imagine how frustrating that can get.
I’ve also heard many complains people have with directing Trico, and getting him to do what you want. Fortunately I had only minor troubles with that, and for the most part any annoyances I had with him could be passed up as behavioural quirks.
The world is fascinating and at times ominous to explore. The looming towers and gaping bridges instil you with a sense of awe that many other games fail to attain. there’s clearly a lot of love that has been put into making this game, and it shows throughout the game. Even at it’s most frustrating, you can’t help be enthralled by the magnificence of The Last Guardian. It is a deeply flawed game, and is definitely not a modern game. But you owe it to yourself to play this game. With gameplay being the biggest drawback of this game, go into The Last Guardian expecting more of an experience.