The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian
 
 

The Last Guardian is a bad game – at least, by every metric we use to talk about things in this medium. Its design is dated, it’s a technical mess, and the controls are sluggish and unresponsive. And yet despite all that, one thing kept coming to the surface in my time with it; the touching relationship between two friends, and the journey they share.

The game follows a young boy and a beast named Trico. Brought together through extraordinary circumstances, they must navigate an extensive stretch of dilapidated ruins. In-between them and their freedom are puzzles, dangerous walkways to navigate, and malevolent suits of armour given life. While The Last Guardian is light on moment-to-moment plot points – much like the creator’s previous efforts Ico and Shadow of the Colossus – the themes of friendship are the main hook, and they are constantly at the forefront.

 
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Gameplay is sparse. In the broadest and most reductive terms, The Last Guardian is a platformer with light puzzle solving elements. Navigation is handled in two ways: through simple jumps and climbing, and by interacting with Trico. The former is completely forgettable and boring, but the latter is where the game shines – giving your four-legged friend a chance to build a character all its own.

Trico is a wild animal. When you first meet it, it’s temperament is unpredictable. As you progress, the orders that you can issue will increase in complexity, mirroring the emotional growth of your relationship. You’ll start with simple calls, but that will soon graduate to smashing objects, slamming paws down on the ground, and standing on hind legs. While these don’t sound thrilling, even the most mundane command feels a lot more impressive given Trico’s size, and the time investment required to gain access to them.

Despite how simplistic and dated a lot of the gameplay is, using it to command and control Trico conjures up powerful emotions. Every time I urged the beast to make an impossibly large jump, I didn’t fear for my character’s life; I feared for Trico’s. Your feathered-beast might just be a confluence of artificial intelligence and scripting, but his appearance and demeanour make him so much more than bits on a disc.

Combat plays a minor role, although you’re delegated to a passive observer. You’re powerless against the sentient suits of armours, and are often tasked with keeping them at bay until you can re-join Trico. Even though battles have a shaky foundation, they’re used to great effect in building your relationship. Upon a battle’s conclusion, you play the role of a caretaker, soothing Trico’s anger and combing his body for wounds.

There are parts of The Last Guardian that look dated. While it’s washed out-colour palette and heavy reliance on bloom create scenes that pop, level geometry is simple and flat. Particle effects that add light to these maps – like sconces and torches – are similarly mundane, and look a little more at home on a PlayStation 3 than current architecture.

But again, the real star of the game is Trico. Your furry friend – who is a mixture of dog, cat, and bird – is covered in feathers that rustle and move in the breeze. There are some breath-taking moments that look right out of a picture book, as some striking rim lighting cuts the beast’s figure out of the horizon. That attention to detail trickles down to Trico’s movement, as it apprehensively darts its head around corners and tentatively approaches new sights.

Despite all this, there are some technical shortcomings that are harder to forgive. We’ll never know how far along in development the PlayStation 3 version was, but it’s clear that the game’s lengthy development cycle has had an impact. Performance is a constant concern, with the framerate struggling to keep up with even the most static of scenes – sitting anywhere between the low 20s and teens. Controls are sluggish and unresponsive too, and at the worst of times won’t register your inputs – leaving you curse the hardware, instead of Trico’s mercurial nature.

The Last Guardian does show the battle scars of its long and troubled development. It has problems maintaining a stable framerate, and the controls can be stiff and unrelenting. But the game also shares a warming, heartfelt tale of friendship. A tale so strong and confident in its telling, that most of its negative elements fade away.


Keith received a physical copy of The Last Guardian from PlayStation NZ for review.


The Last Guardian
"A heartfelt journey that’s much more than the sum of its parts."
- The Last Guardian
9.0
Excellent
 
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min


 

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Comments Comments (25)

 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 6:03 AM
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Good review - I think I've got enough games for now this will have to wait until a price drop.
 
 
 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 6:03 AM
1
Oh and I can't believe it's finally out. What, 10 years later?! Is this real!?
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 6:13 AM
3
Wow that many flaws and still rated that highly. I'm really looking forward to the story if it can look past those flaws.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 6:58 AM
-2
6 December 2016, 06:13 AM Reply to drunk_monk
Wow that many flaws and still rated that highly. I'm really looking forward to the story if it can look past those flaws.
Yeah the score doesn't seem to mesh with the overall tone of the review, and it's things like this that really make me have to wonder if the advertising has anything to do with it. I know I'll get alot of hate for saying so, but it's not the first time I've noticed something odd with a review when the game in question is being advertised on a massive pop up ad you have to close when you visit the site.
 
 
 
oconnomiyaki
Posted by oconnomiyaki
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:25 AM
6
6 December 2016, 06:58 AM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Yeah the score doesn't seem to mesh with the overall tone of the review, and it's things like this that really make me have to wonder if the advertising has anything to do with it. I know I'll get alot of hate for saying so, but it's not the first time I've noticed something odd with a review when the game in question is being advertised on a massive pop up ad you have to close when you visit the site.
Or it's just a case of the overall feeling of the game not being limited by those flaws.

Shadow of the Colossus was the same. That game really struggled to run on a PS2 and had a framerate that literally made me nauseous back in the day. But it's always been well loved and highly regarded because the sensation it brings of being in that lonely world still hasn't been matched to this day.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:33 AM
2
6 December 2016, 06:58 AM Reply to Nick2016NZ
Yeah the score doesn't seem to mesh with the overall tone of the review, and it's things like this that really make me have to wonder if the advertising has anything to do with it. I know I'll get alot of hate for saying so, but it's not the first time I've noticed something odd with a review when the game in question is being advertised on a massive pop up ad you have to close when you visit the site.
No that's not what I'm saying.

Just because the review takes the time to point out all the flaws that doesn't make the game crap. As the review says despite those unforgivable flaws the story is clearly that outstanding to the reviewer.

If the review was bought I'd be surprised to see that many criticisms.
 
 
 
Posted by jtbthatsme
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:50 AM
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It sounded like a 7 or so. Still a game I'd like to try out but I doubt I'd pay full price & if there are issues like those being mentioned it'll probably drop in price quite quickly.
 
 
 
Posted by ChieftaiNZ
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:59 AM
3
I've been looking at other reviews. They all mimic this one. Technical mess with horrid controls, but the Bird/Dog thing made the experience really great.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 8:59 AM
3
Reading that I was shocked to see a 9.0 at the bottom? Didn't read anything like it.
Sounds like a 9.0 if it was released early in the PS3 lifecycle. Reads like a 7.0 on the PS4.

I think you just know early on whether its something you'll want to play and this is something I want to have a crack at, but as I thought it'll probably be a sale item or rental.
 
 
 
Posted by Coddfish
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 9:21 AM
4
I think the review makes it pretty clear that it's a fantastic game despite its flaws. Scores aren't aren't a game of deducting points for each perceived "bad" quality; a game can be really uneven and still get a great score when the good parts outweight the bad.

"A tale so strong and confident in its telling, that most of its negative elements fade away."
"A heartfelt journey that’s much more than the sum of its parts."

9 is a fitting score.
 
 
 
Posted by AdamC
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 10:14 AM
-
that's certainly an interesting read. Then you see the score...
It's like one of those crap movies but you get hooked by the twist at the end and need to rewatch it.
 
 
 
Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 10:21 AM
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Watching the reviews roll in they are all pretty high.

I'm impressed that with its flaws it's still scoring well, I expected it to do a duke nukes forever.
 
 
 
Posted by Zolen
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 11:05 AM
1
Great review - I am interested in the replayability of this game - do you think that it would be one of those game you come back to .. or never touch it after completion ?
 
 
 
Posted by Jono91
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 11:24 AM
3
Sigh..... another added to the ever-growing list of games to play. Any jobs going at NZG where I can be paid to just play games? Even short term? Just so I can catch up on the massive backlog!
 
 
 
Posted by supabowl
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 11:33 AM
1
Wow was interested to see how this would turn out. MIght have to pick up at some stage with that score!
 
 
 
Posted by Tin-Automaton
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 11:35 AM
2
6 December 2016, 11:05 AM Reply to Zolen
Great review - I am interested in the replayability of this game - do you think that it would be one of those game you come back to .. or never touch it after completion ?
You probably couldn't come back to it right away, but for me I imagine it will be the type of game I pull out every couple of years to play through.
 
 
 
Posted by siamese
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 12:20 PM
-
In the "wait for a price drop" pile for now.
 
 
 
Posted by CloudAxel16
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 4:22 PM
1
I might rent it. Seems like an awesome game but probably not worth full price.
 
 
 
Posted by Paorio
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:14 PM
-
6 December 2016, 12:20 PM Reply to siamese
In the "wait for a price drop" pile for now.
Another 10 year wait, no I'm just kidding :)
 
 
 
Posted by Kyimo
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 7:35 PM
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can't wait till i have the $ to get a copy, waited 10years for this and screwed up my budgeting lol
 
 
 
Posted by Outlaw213
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 10:17 PM
1
6 December 2016, 12:20 PM Reply to siamese
In the "wait for a price drop" pile for now.
Price drop has been delayed. Sorry
 
 
 
Posted by polarbear
On Tuesday 6 Dec 2016 10:27 PM
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Yeah surprised at the 9.0. The experience of the relationship with Trico must damn well make up for those flaws. Cause to have such technical issues and still receieve a good score is impressive.
 
 
 
Posted by captain X nz
On Wednesday 7 Dec 2016 12:00 AM
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6 December 2016, 07:25 AM Reply to oconnomiyaki
Or it's just a case of the overall feeling of the game not being limited by those flaws.

Shadow of the Colossus was the same. That game really struggled to run on a PS2 and had a framerate that literally made me nauseous back in the day. But it's always been well loved and highly regarded because the sensation it brings of being in that lonely world still hasn't been matched to this day.
It's the tone of the Team Ico games that have captured imaginations, I've waited long and hard for this on the basis that the original leak showed such promise of being able to care about Trico, because it was an amalgamation of every pet you ever loved.

When Molyenuex promised a dog we would love he never really delivered, finally playing this is almost an opus moment and will certainly wind up 2016 on a high.

Also, hoping that having the word oconnomiyaki in my post gets me around 6 instant upvotes.
 
 
 
Posted by robz
On Friday 9 Dec 2016 10:19 PM
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sounds like an emotional journey great review
 
 
 
Posted by maxnaughty
On Monday 12 Dec 2016 6:01 PM
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Sounds good...