The day has finally come. The day that I get to write the review for a game I have been anticipating for a decade, a game that I bought a PS3 for! Former developers Team ICO, now known as genSTUDIO released The Last Guardian on to a crowd of rabid, hungry fans who have their expectations set through the roof for a title that can realistically only disappoint, but does it?
You control an unnamed young boy who awakens beside a large injured beast. He has no idea how he got there, and where the mysterious tattoos that cover his body and arms came from. This initial scene sets the tone and is the beginning of a relationship that strengthens over time. As the player you are hesitant to get close to this towering and terrifying beast that could kill you in one blow, and repeatedly knocks you out while you try and free it from its shackles.
The colossal beast, Trico, can’t be controlled directly but is paramount to your survival and traversal of the lost city inside the volcano where the game takes place. You know little of the location or any of its history. Much of the back story has to be surmised and it is never definitively covered in the arc of the journey.
The game has the classic bleached look of ICO, and it looks amazing. The exterior scenes coupled with the lighting effects on Trico’s feathers are superb. I was looking out for flickering shadows but never saw them! No texture pop in or other graphical glitches. This really draws you into the world and you are excited to learn more.
Apart from the traversal, feeding Trico is a large part of the game. He gains your trust this way and will help you fight the enemy when you are in trouble. These mysterious suits of armour that come to life have little back story, but have been put there for a reason. You feed Trico barrels, and there are occasions when he is hurt, and that it is the only way for you to progress. Searching for them are puzzles in and of themselves, but then you must find your way back to Trico and a whole new puzzle arises. They are simply flawless, because they require only the player’s direct control on the boy, and not Trico.
Trico can be frustrating at times; you start off with a basic call command, and soon discover 4 commands that simplify things. These range from jump, sit, attack and to call his (it is never made clear what the gender is) attention. Sometimes I knew what to do, but getting Trico to do it took several minutes. If you play games causally, this may not be an issue, and to make the animal feel life-like it makes sense, but it is a tough sell for a game, and I have to admit I didn’t like that. It almost feels like the AI of the game is halting your progress or the game isn’t working properly, rather than an animal not understanding you.
The problems don’t stop there. The camera issues that plagued Shadow of the Colossus are magnified here; it is too close to the boy and moves a bit slow. Many times I found myself wrestling with it in the interior portions of the game. There were also camera cuts on occasion that were quite jarring when the game would take the control of the camera and blink to another angle without warning. It also doesn’t focus on Trico but about halfway through the game I found out that the L1 button does that, something the game doesn’t tell you.
Frame-rate is also a bug bear, it is fine for the most part, but on some occasions it stutters. However I have reports stating this is drastically improved on the PS4 Pro and with the more recent patches.
By far the best parts of this game are the puzzles, and they are ingenious, nothing feels rote or scripted, and many of the enjoyable ones incorporate physics. For example throwing a barrel across a gap onto a sloped surface and jumping across to catch it before it rolls off the edge. In most games this would be frustrating, but you can tell it was play-tested thoroughly to keep it entertaining.
I spent a lot of time focusing on the flaws, and was feeling negatively about the experience. But I waited a day before I wrote this review, and my thoughts completely changed. There were so many memorable moments, some great puzzles, and I wanted to spend more time with Trico, so I started the game again; something I rarely do these days. There is so much to this game, and a lot I am trying to avoid spoiling, abilities, encounters, story points; these are things you need to experience for yourself, and are some of the stronger points of the game.
The Last Guardian is unlike any game you have played, and likely unlike anything to come. It blends the art style and companionship of ICO with the scale and majesty of the beasts from Shadow of the Colossus to produce one of the most compelling journeys to grace a video game console. I won’t be forgetting this game in a very long time, and I believe this game will be one many of us will still be talking about in the future. A diamond, albeit a flawed one.
- Replay Value