The Last Guardian has been in development for nearly a decade now. It has gone through some very tough times in its development cycle. It has gone from being highly hyped, to being one of the most awaited games, from being cancelled, to being pushed back, to console changes and so forth. So how did Japan Studio (or Team Ico if you prefer) do with their latest installment? Does it follow the classic games of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus? Or does The Last Guardian needs its own guardian? Let’s take a look and see how this game turned out.
If you have played the previous two games from Japan Studio, then you will have a good indication on how this game feels and controls. Controlling the little boy (no he does not have an actual name in the game) can be a love or hate relationship. He is very responsive and will respond to the input you use on the controller. Having him climb things can be a little more challenging. You will be doing a lot of climbing in this game, especially on Trico. For example, trying to get him to start walking along rock edges can be a challenge. He doesn’t always just lay up against the wall and shimmy across. Most of the time you will have to get him to start walking off the edge and then his feet will grab on and jerk him over. It can be a little frighting at times.
Climbing Trico can be very hit or miss as well. Most of the time you will struggle on trying to climb Trico. It’s not that he is hard to climb, it’s that he is awkward to climb. One of the hardest parts of climbing Trico is the camera angels. The camera will auto spin around at times and will make you lose sight of the little boy. I have come across numerous times when I was climbing Trico and then the camera shifted on me. Once I got the camera back to where I wanted it I was on the other side of Trico climbing up on the exact opposite side of where I was at.
Since we are on the camera subject. I have to go over how dread awful it can really be. This is the worst part of the game by far. There are a few other little niches that I will go over but the camera work can get you very frustrated. Besides the issues with Trico, there are a ton of other issues the camera presents itself with.
The camera will actually cause you to die at times. You’ll be scaling a wall and then the camera will auto change and go behind a wall not allowing you to see what you are trying to jump to. When you pull it out it will zoom in on his feet and cut off the top part of his body. Other times you’ll be in a tight area with Trico and the camera will be totally blocked by either the wall or Trico himself. You literally can’t see where you are going or what is in front of you. I had a few times during my playthroughs where the camera literally went black. By the time I manually moved the camera and had it refocus on the little boy, one of the armored guys would have picked me up and started to carry me away. For a game this long in development they could have spent a lot more time on the camera angels and work. It’s some of the worst I have seen in a very long time.
Moving boxes in this game can be a frustrating process as well. In some games once you grab onto a box you can slide it and maneuver it around any way you want. In this game you can either go frontwards or backwards. If you try to slide it from side to side the little boy will actually turn the box and start moving it any way he choices.
During parts of the game Trico will lay down and not be able to go any further. This is where you will need to start finding some barrels to feed him with. Luckily finding these barrels is pretty easy. For some you will need a shield that you pick up towards the beginning stages of the game. This shield draws power from Trico in the form of lighting from his tail. In the beginning it’s a continuous stream of lighting. Later on in the game Trico somehow upgrades his tail and shoots out small quick busts of lighting. The game never really goes into saying why this happens, it just does. My theory is Trico is finally back up to strength from the weakened state you originally find him in.
At the very beginning of the game you have no control of Trico. It isn’t until a little further into it that he will “bond” with you and then he will start to listen to the commands you can give him. One you learn how to command him, you will spend a lot of time commanding Trico to do different moves. The most common one is telling him to go to someplace. This can take several attempts as Trico will look around the area first and then act like he never heard you. Standing on his head or neck is one of the worst places to try and command him. I have found out that by standing between his wings, or just behind them, he will act to your commands the most.
While the game will not blow you away graphically, it does have some of its good moments. For one the scale of the surrounding environments is outstanding. From the tall cliff sides and towers to the detail on Trico, there is a lot of good things to look at.
Trico himself is very well detailed. His feathers move individually in the wind. When he gets upset they actually rise up on his body. When he calms down they lay back down. One of the cool things that I actually found by accident is when Trico gets hurt his feathers will turn red to indicate that he was bleeding. If you rub those red feathers they will go back to their normal color as an indication he was healed. Feathers will fly off of Trico during certain parts of the game. The bad side is they will just absorb when they hit the ground. As the game starts the horns on Trico are broken and short. When you are progressing through the game his horns will actually start to regrow and become fully grown at the end of the game. Another nice touch that was added is when Trico rolls around in water his feather will turn a darker color to emphasize they are wet. He will then shake and the water will fly off his body and his feathers will turn back to their normal color. You can tell that the developers spend a lot of time on Trico and the small details incorporated in him.
What surprises me the most is the actual little boy in the game. He looks like someone just drew an outline of a body and click “auto fill in” with light brown and called it done. He is very bland and somewhat blurry looking. The tattoos that are all over his body are badly designed and unacceptably out of focus. He looks like something that would come from the PS2 era. His clothes, while they do blow in the breeze, are just as bad. I just don’t understand with how well detailed Trico is the little boy seemed to have gotten no time in development. This game does not push the PS4 architecture at all. So there is no reason at all why he looks this bland and unimpressive. On the redeeming side, like Trico, when he gets in the water, his clothes will turn a dark grey color. Over a minute or so, when he is out of the water, his clothes will dry off and go back to their normal color.
There are a couple of little odds and ends that I have seen as well throughout my playthroughs. Most of them are due to collision detection. For example you are swinging on a broken cable and part of the cable goes through the wall and comes back out. Trico himself, while standing next to a wall, will turn his head and his entire head will disappear inside of a wall. Once he sat down inside a tower and his butt and tail showed up on the outside of that tower. None of these are game breaking by any means. With a game that was in development for so long you think these would be cleaned up, or at least improved.
Normally I don’t write about the trophies in games. They really don’t add anything and are more of just a “pat on the back” acknowledgement that you did something cool. There are two in the game that I would like to point out. One is hilarious and the other was nerve racking.
The one that was hilarious is titled, The Call of Nature. Basically what you have to do is to catch Trico pooping. I know it sounds weird but is very different and comical. I didn’t catch him until my third playthrough. He does do it just not a lot.
The one that was nerve racking is called, All Talked Out. The object of this is to hear every hint. To do that you have to basically play like you have never play a game before. Just stand around and let the game give you hints on what to do. Sounds easy enough but it really isn’t. Some of these hints can take hours for them to pop up. There was a few that I had to let the game run for over 24 hours before it popped. This really drags the game down to the point you don’t even want to play it anymore. Hopefully Japan Studio will release a patch out to correct this issue.
So after nearly a decade of being on and off again in development, how did The Last Guardian do, mediocre. If the major camera angels where fixed and some of the controls tightened up, this game would have been a classic.
There are a lot of instances where this game will wow you. From the environments, the art style and the attachment you can get to Trico, I would easily recommend this game at full price. Unfortunately, due to some of the technical problems, I wouldn’t pay no more than $45 for it. Give this game a few months and it will receive a price drop.
My final score for The Last Guardian, 7.5 out of 10.