Released in late 2016, The Last Guardian was developed by the same company responsible for Ico and Shadows of the Colossus. This team appears to believe full-heartedly in the maxim “quality over quantity”, as they have only three (highly acclaimed) games to their credit over a span of fifteen years.
The Last Guardian itself was a long time coming, being conceptualized in 2007 and getting its first trailer in 2009. Though it didn’t reach Duke Nukem Forever status, the game was almost forgotten until final trailers were released to much public hype.
In this game, you play as a boy who is trying to find his way home after waking up in a strange cave, which turns out to be a part of a large temple/dungeon. Your companion is a half-dog-half-bird beast named Trico, who happens to be fifty times your size. This review will be spoiler-free.
As a concept the game’s premise is what drew me to it. The idea of playing as a helpless boy who commands a giant beast to do your bidding was, and is, quite novel. Its execution, while not perfect, is completely serviceable.
Some critics of the game complain that Trico rarely does what you want it to do, but those claims often feel exaggerated. While I too had some frustrating moments, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the game. In fact, the game director addressed this in an interview; they had deliberately made Trico’s AI less than perfect, in order to simulate what having a pet, or a living breathing thing under your control, felt like. Animals don’t always do what you tell them to, and I completely agree with that design philosophy. Because Trico doesn’t automatically do what you want, or go to where you point, he feels alive with an independent brain and personality.
You spend most of your time trying to solve puzzles in order to proceed to the next room. This involves finding out where Trico can go and what he can do, or getting barrels of food safely back to him. It’s a simple concept that works. Action sequences are interspersed throughout the journey, providing a welcome lapse from the peaceful and quiet segments.
Overall, the game succeeds in creating an interesting dynamic between Trico and the boy, the former being the muscle, and the latter being the one to crawl through small spaces and climb up tall heights. The relationship you have with Trico becomes more tangible as the adventure goes on; by the end I was seriously angry and pissed at anything that hurt Trico. It is likely you too will be emotionally invested after all the things you go through together in your eight-to-twelve hour playthrough.
The Mundane Landscape
Despite having nice setpieces and a good variety of enemies, the game does feel repetitive at certain points, though these moments are few and far between. This isn’t helped, however, by the lack of change in atmosphere. It is only near the end that we find ourselves in a place that isn’t a cave or ruined temple, though the passing of time in the game world does help a little.
This is a nitpick, however, as the game is gorgeous to look at for the most part. One could also argue that the vast emptiness helps to emphasize the dependence you and Trico have on each other.
One final note: this game is a pain in the ass to platinum. The worst trophy is the one requiring you to listen to every hint spoken in the game. You can tell by the description alone how annoying it is. Fitting for what they are, hints are only given after you spend a certain amount of time in an area without progressing, and sometimes you have to do something wrong continuously in order to trigger a hint. There is no conceivable world where rewarding a player with a trophy for failing is a good idea. It forces trophy-hunters to do menial things and waste time in order to get the hint.
Wait. Maybe in order to “take a hint” we need to realize trophies are worth jack. Damn. I always knew Team Ico went deep with their games.
Play it! Unless you’re a Call of Duty fanatic who needs constant action. This game is good in segments, played every now and then after a long and stressful day. It’s a calm and relaxing game, and Trico’s charm is a big part of the game’s atmosphere. It’s already dropped in price since the initial release, and I expect it to go further down. Perhaps then it’ll be worth it for the casual gamer. What you’ll get is a gorgeous game that offers an interesting and different gameplay experience.
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.