The Last Guardian is one of the most anticipated games I can ever remember. It has been created by the team over at Team Ico who have previously created 2 masterpieces. Ico being their first game that put them on the map and Shadow of the Colossus which took the map and completely redrew it, SotC is heralded by many as the greatest game of all time. So it is fair to say that the staff at Team Ico had their work cut out to create something to even match their previous exploits. From early on their early massive success seemed to become a problem for the company’s future in the video game industry.
From start to finish The Last Guardian was in production for almost a decade and it was officially announced to the public over 7 years ago (usually a company will announce new games about 12-18 months before its proposed release date to start generating the hype around it). There were times, throughout the moments of silence, when questions were raised over whether it had been scrapped as it was originally scheduled for release on Playstation 3 but as that console was coming to the end of its life, The Last Guardian was nowhere to be seen. It was stuck in development hell.
Development hell is a phrase used in the creation/production phase that means that due to several different reasons, or one big reason, a game remains frozen in Limbo. A lot of the time the work on them is completely stopped or slowed down but the title is not officially cancelled. For The Last Guardian the issues began as creative differences between Team Ico and Sony, then as it was pushed back for a few months Sony started to realise that as the PS4 would be coming out soon, it would be better to have it release on that console rather than the dated PS3 as the game could hype the console and vice versa. I don’t imagine that the staff at Team Ico were too impressed with this but they eventually did agree on a PS4 release. The problem at that point in time was that the game’s engine had to be reworked to fully optimise it for the new console which lead to even more delays. But finally in June 2015, The Last Guardian was reannounced as a PS4 title and in December of 2016 it was released for public distribution. Much to the delight of the fans.
So now we come to the game. What’s it about? Is it any good? Was it worth the wait? Well let’s find out.
The Story (spoiler free)
The story of The Last Guardian follows the journey of a young boy and his “pet” dog, cat, bird hybrid named Trico. You control the young boy who wakes up in a cave facing a shackled Trico and it’s up to you to form a bond with your soon to be faithful companion and try and escape from the anonymous place that you find yourself in. What begins as an untrustful encounter soon develops into a real world bond that you feel between yourself (the player) and Trico. When you free Trico from his chains, attempt to heal his injuries and shower him with food he soon starts to see you as a companion rather than an enemy and right off the bat I have to say that the level of AI far exceeds any other companion AI I’ve ever experienced in other games.
During your escape you will come across many puzzles, fights and moments of calm where you can just sit back with your new buddy and take in the beautiful world that surrounds you. That to me is the theme of this game, it’s just a beautiful, unspoken friendship.
There are moments where I laughed, moments where I smiled and even moments where I cried (basically all through the last 20 minutes of the game).
I will start off by saying, there are hundred, if not thousands of games that play better than TLG. When you are outside running around in a wide open space it’s fine but when you move indoors or into an area that’s cramped or narrow, you will just be constantly irritated by the shoddy camera and overly complex controls. I like the fact that you don’t have complete control over Trico as he is a beast with his own mind, but when you know how to solve a puzzle and it takes you 20 minutes to get Trico to do something very simple it can really make your blood boil. I personally think Shadow of the Colossus plays better and that’s an 11 year old game.
The next issue is the framerate issue that I seemed to get when I entered an area for the first time, particularly if that area had any kind of smoke effects or lots of interact able objects. It does soon correct itself, it usually takes 10 seconds or so, but with the power of the Playstation 4 surely it shouldn’t be too hard to pre-render in some objects to avoid this.
Would I recommend it?
To put it simply, yes. If not for the game, for the story element of it. I’m usually a terrible backseat gamer (I’m not good when it comes to watching other people play games) but with The Last Guardian I would be able to. You will get so immersed in the bond between your character and Trico that you will soon forget about the annoying game play aspects. However I will say that I don’t want to replay it. It may be a game that I play again in a year or two but right now I don’t think I could do it. If you allow yourself to fully put yourself in the shoes of the boy, you will understand what I mean. This is the kind of game that stays with you.
Overall, despite its shortfalls, The Last Guardian will be a game that lives in my memory for as long as my brain works. Even though it isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
I wanted to score it higher but I also know it wouldn’t be accurate if I did. Even if you hear some people say it is terrible, I would recommend you try it for yourself.
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