The Last Guardian – a name that has been known by many for years now. One that evokes emotions and sometime tears as the long-awaited release of this title has been one that people have longed for. Now in 2016 the legendary title which was feared to never actually release has done just that. With such a long development process and a wait years in the making how does The Last Guardian stand up in the sea of recent release that have made this year one to remember in gaming? Does the legacy of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus continue within The Last Guardian and is Trico a creature to love or fear?
The Last Guardian tells the tale of a young boy and the most unlikely of companions: Trico. Trico is a huge creature that is somewhere between a dog and a griffin. Awaking in a cave with no memory of how he got there, the player must take control of the boy and lead him and Trico out and into the world. But what becomes clear from the very start is that your trust with Trico is not given, but earned.
Bound in chains and wounded by spear the boy must aid Trico to earn that invaluable trust that will form the foundation of their relationship moving forward. This opening moments are beautiful and paced perfectly allowing The Last Guardian to set the tone and feel for the hours to come. Adventuring together through the large and mysterious world solving puzzles of all kinds to progress the story. The Last Guardian is a tale of communication and trust as two unlikely characters become two of the most likeable.
My biggest complaint with The Last Guardian is the control scheme and the camera, something that many have touched upon. You see, the trouble with The Last Guardian’s controls is that they feel slow and unresponsive. The player controlled boy never really reacts the way you want him to and at times can lead to mistakes. With a simply flick of the left analog stick he will move in an unpredictable way, be it a slow step forward or a quick dash ahead. There is never a sense of ownership behind his actions that can leave you feeling disconnected from the experience. It is not enough to ruin The Last Guardian as you become accustomed to his movements, even still, you will find moments of ragdoll physics that lead to raised eyebrows. The climbing on Trico is a perfect example of when you will become lost and confused in the way the boy moves.
What also puts a damper on the controls within The Last Guardian is the fact that actions are slow and sluggish. Now given the size of the boy and the size of world elements such as switches. The time it takes to perform the action of pulling the lever makes sense, but then why it takes so long to climb up a ledge or to just to get started moving is beyond me. The Last Guardian feels like you are playing a game that was not released in 2016 but rather released back on the PlayStation 2. It is a shame to find such flawed controls in The Last Guardian as they are what stopped me from spending long sessions with the game. Instead I found myself playing The Last Guardian in more of a pick up and go style of play. Also it is worth noting that the camera in The Last Guardian is just flawed throughout.
The complaints with the controls also extend to the way Trico behaves within the game world. You see Trico is a big creature, a living creature. Though AI, it never really feels like Trico is artificial but rather a living element of the world. Trico has emotion, feeling, and weight behind it’s actions. The design of Trico creates fear and mystery but also a sense of security and trust. You will find yourself keeping your distance at first but soon building up to spend time closer to Trico. That said though Trico can at times not respond to the player’s actions as you would hope. This leads to some frustrating moments where you are battling against Trico to overcome simple goals.
That said though it feels as if this is part of what makes Trico so great and life-like. As an artist choice this behaviour of obedience, or rather the lack there of, makes a strong impact. As a gameplay mechanic it simply presses all the wrong buttons.
Ultimately the story and the relationship within the The Last Guardian is the reason to play through this game. You see, it is about the relationship not just between the boy and Trico but also their relationship with the world. Through all the mystery and vague clues you find in the world of The Last Guardian you will find yourself engaged throughout.
Overlook the controls and camera and you will lose yourself in this world. With tall ruins filled with rich and interesting architecture to explore and a colour palette to match. The lonely but brightly coloured world of The Last Guardian is a relaxing if troubling one. The story is told through a voice over retelling the actions of the boy to the player and works as a hint system should you become stuck. Cutscenes will help to answer questions through the game but also create more questions for you to seek answer for. The discovery for both world and relationship between the boy and Trico are what drive you forward. Looking to uncover the truth behind so much that will see you engaged and invested by the end.
All of this is aided with The Last Guardian’s stunning visuals and art direction. The world of The Last Guardian is full of closed in ruined areas and vast outdoor environments. From the design of the world to the colours and lighting. Every aspect of the environment is breathtaking and a treat for the eyes to witness.
Once more the beauty continues into the dangers you and Trico will experience during your journey. From falling platforms and bridges that you must avoid to the way Trico’s own movement through the world is a force of destruction. This beauty continues into the sound design and soundtrack.
The Last Guardian makes use of silence in a way that is powerful and brilliant but when it delivers music it does so with strength and emotion. Though a beautiful game The Last Guardian suffers from some troubling performance issues. On the PlayStation 4 the frame rate is victim to be hit by some serious drops. The problem is this happens during some of the more open areas in The Last Guardian and these are normally the most beautiful. The Last Guardian remains playable but the tanked frame rate is a noticeable eye score at the best of times.
The Last Guardian is a game that is filled with highs and lows. From the chaos of the flawed gameplay and poor frame rate to the stunning design and engaging story. The Last Guardian is a game that may not be the most impressive but it is one that will be the remembered for years to come. It might be flawed and it might not be perfect but it is a game that is worth picking up and playing. To experience the relationship and bond between Trico and the boy. To explore the world that is mysterious yet inviting. The Last Guardian is a game that is beauty with chaos and honestly that is okay. If nothing else The Last Guardian is a charming experience that beyond all it’s headaches will warm your heart.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the product purchased by the reviewer.