The Last Guardian was a game nine years in the making. Initially anounced for the PlayStation 3 system in 2009, The Last Guardian – then referred to simply as “Project Trico” – was actually in development since 2007. Although it was set to be released on the PS3 in 2011, it never materaliased.
Then The Last Guardian was announced yet again at E3 2015 as a PlayStation 4 title, and despite being delayed a little bit, the game is now finally released on the PS4. After various setbacks and delays, is The Last Guardian still a game worth its hype?
It definitely is, but the game’s age does show.
The Last Guardian has an amazing storyline despite its limited narrative, which is really in the style of this game’s developer, Team Ico. In a nutshell, this game tells the story of an unnamed boy who is partnered up with a cat-bird hybrid beast named “Trico,” and what a companion it is.
In The Last Guardian, players will definitely see how the bond between the boy and Trico grow and mature as they progress through the game. The crazy thing here is, Trico doesn’t strike me as another NPC or a means to an end: I genuinely cared for this large furball by the end of the game. Trico would also occasionally cuddle me – well, the boy – and purr after I’ve done something for the beast, and these instances are insanely satisfying to watch.
And that really is the essence of The Last Guardian: the tale of a boy’s bond with Trico. While the majority of the game involves getting from one point to another, the cutscenes and narratives – which are sparse – are very well done. These two elements are really the driving force for me to finish the game, which really made getting through the many tedious puzzles and platforming in the game worth it.
Of course, this review is meant to be spoiler-free, and without revealing any key storyline to The Last Guardian, I will only say this: this game has one of the best endings I have ever seen.
At first, I was a little apprehensive of how The Last Guardian’s graphics looked, but after progressing through the game further and seeing more of the game’s environment, it’s definitely a beautiful game. Trico’s feathers are detailed (I can even groom and clean blood stains off of them. How cool is that?), the lighting looks great, and I can really feel the vastness of the game. Trico also looks and acts like a real animal: its ears would perk up when I call it, and the way it moves is really lifelike.
However, I played The Last Guardian on the regular PlayStation 4 system, and there were very noticeable frame drops; this was especially prevalent when the game had to render many elements in the vast environment at once. Although this performance issue only happened in certain areas, it occurred enough times that these instances detract from the whole experience of the game.
Thankfully, the same issue does not happen on the PlayStation 4 Pro – well, not entirely, that is. As DigitalFoundry pointed out, the only way to get a stable 30 frames per second in The Last Guardian is to play the game on the PS4 Pro in 1080p; playing in 4K – while possible – results in inconsistent frame rates.
If you want the best possible experience playing The Last Guardian, it may be worthwhile to pick up a PS4 Pro system, especially if you’re not an existing PS4 owner.
This is the biggest weakness of The Last Guardian. As a game that has been in development for nine years now – with various setbacks, delays and a platform change – there are several glaring technical issues with the game. The camera angles, for one, can get really awkward, and this happens quite frequently. This is especially an issue in tight spaces; the problem is amplified when I’m clinging on Trico’s back too.
Other than that, whenever I want to control the camera to an appropriate angle, it feels as if I’m fighting with the camera. It’s not very responsive – which may be attributed to the inconsistent frame rate – and for some reason, the game would take control of the camera at times. I find myself just letting the game control the camera most of the time, which doesn’t always work out very well.
Aside from the awkward camera system, the controls are downright frustating. Take Shadow of the Colossus – Team Ico’s previous game – as an example. In that game, there is actually a grab button players can use, which is a godsend for a game of its kind. In The Last Guardian, however, there’s no such button: players will have to pray and hope the boy grabs onto Trico – or ledges – whenever the need arises. In fact, I actually died a few times in the game because the game refused to let me grab onto Trico.
As a whole, it’s just…really difficult to effortlessly control and navigate the boy in The Last Guardian. I can almost never get down from Trico without awkwardly planting my face on the floor, and the same goes for climbing up the beast. However, the controls work just fine in the platforming aspect of the game: things just get a lot more complicated when Trico is involved.
The Last Guardian is a game that – to me – lived up to its hype, and despite its clunky camera and controls, I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. Trico felt like a real live animal with a mind of its own, which can prove to be quite a bit of a pain to work with, but that’s what makes it such a great game. When Trico actually does what I asked of it, it’s a great feeling.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a game with a great story, The Last Guardian is really a game you should pick up. Yes, its controls and camera angles are not perfect, but honestly, the genuinely compelling storyline and having Trico as a giant companion make The Last Guardian a worthwhile experience.