The Last Guardian Review

After almost ten years in development, The Last Guardian has finally been released on the PlayStation 4. Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and developed by genDESIGN and SIE Japan Studio, Fumito Ueda has returned to direct another title which includes similar gameplay and themes from his previous titles, 'Ico' and 'Shadow of the Colossus'.

The Last Guardian is a tale of a young boy who awakes to find himself trapped in the heart of ancient ruins, with mysterious markings all over his body. However, the boy is not alone and sharing this prison, is a gigantic creature that appears to be a cross between a big cat, a dog and a bird. Initially the two characters are fearful of each other, but after a few short minutes, the fear evaporates away to curiosity and the beginning of a game long friendship. The bond between the two characters forms the backdrop of the game much akin to a child with a pet dog or kitten. Seeing no way out of the ancient prison, the boy and the creature, which is given the name Trico, must work together in order to escape.

Initially Trico is wary of the boy, and acts much like any wild animal would shackled and injured, and lashes out if the boy goes near, however after finding food for the creature and removing spears from its body, the boy slowly gains Trico’s trust.

Early on Trico is frustrating and uncontrollable, and at times whilst wanting the beast to climb up onto a platform, rather it goes to sleep or wanders off in the opposite direction you wish to go. There are no indications for which way you must go in order to move onto the next area and this combined with the unpredictable actions of Trico are some of the irritations of the game. As the game progresses, the bond between the boy and Trico grows stronger and this unlocks actions which allow you to command the creature to jump, climb and follow you. At times you will need to utilise Trico’s size and ability to jump and climb to places inaccessible for the boy alone, and other times you will need to complete puzzles to unlock doors so that Trico can keep up.

Essentially The Last Guardian is an action adventure platformer, in which you control the boy in order to navigate your way through the ancient ruins, with Trico following along. Shown from a third person perspective, the right thumbstick allows you to control the camera to take in the whole area and at times this can zoom in and you’ll find yourself with a close up of Trico or a wall. This adds to the frustrations and flaws that the game places in front of you.

The other main frustration with The Last Guardian is the story itself. There is no explanation as to why you are in the ancient ruins, who put you there or who the strange stone guards are that you will come across from time to time. If they manage to capture you and carry you to a blue highlighted door, it's game over, whilst the boy has no weapons, Trico will act to protect you and attack the guards. The story that does exist is in the form of hints told from the boy’s point of view as an old man talking in flashbacks recalling the events.

The star of the Last Guardian is Trico, and the creature acts much like any animal in reality would act. It is obvious that a lot of research and programming has gone into bringing the creature to life, as it acts very much like a puppy or kitten. It has a mind of its own at times which can be frustrating and irritating. In times of distress the creature will need to be petted to calm down, be fed when hungry and also when you want it to follow you or climb onto a higher platform it will go to sleep.

The Last Guardian has been in development since 2007, and has been showcased at E3 several times before being delayed time and time again, to the point where one would not have expected it to ever be released. As a result The Last Guardian is a new title that feels like a ten year old game which sadly has had to wait for the latest technology in order to bring Trico to life. The background graphics and visuals are stunning and the detail into how Trico acts and interacts with the boy is something never seen before in a video game. At times it can be frustrating navigating through puzzles and areas which offer no indication to show you which way to go, but whilst the game has its issues The Last Guardian is more like a flawed masterpiece of art, rather than a video game flop.  

Score: 7/10

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developers: genDESIGN and SIE Japan Studios
Ship Date: December 7th 2016
Category: Action - Adventure
Platform: Playstation 4

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