The Last Guardian has been in development for years, and many fans of Team Ico’s previous works, ICO (PS2, 2001) and Shadow of The Colossus (PS2, 2005), have been anticipating the best game from the studio yet. The goal of the creators is clearly to tell a story through interactivity instead of directly through writing or speech. The goal is to tell the story visually and through the input of the player, an interesting idea that is usually omitted from other works in the video game industry. However to accomplish this, the gameplay would have to contain a minimal quality so to keep the player engrossed in the mechanics and immersed in the world. Let us break down the game and why this adventure either succeeds or fails in its intended goal
Gameplay in the last guardian may be one of the biggest pitfalls and most disappointing aspects of the game. Trico, the dog-like creature, and the main protagonist both have roles to play. From climbing hazards, to using team work to get around obstacles and to help each other escape from their captors, the game does a decent job at times showing the bond between the two, but the gameplay has many issues that hurt the experience
The nameless boys movement on the ground could be equated to a boat, with more finicky climbing controls then seen in the first Assassins Creed game back in 2007 (Ubisoft, 2007). The worst part about it is that he will latch onto things you don’t want him to automatically sometimes. The camera randomly shakes to make this worse, especially in small areas. The camera seems to either try to create a cinematic scene in small enclosed spaces, which is a terrible idea, or always tries to, no matter where your position is, to move to also capture Trico in the shot. This is seen in some of the “cut-scenes” in the game as well, where one example they have the boy do an action, then they flip the camera behind Trico in a scene where it’s too close to see what is going in. This makes me realize some of these camera issues are indeed on purpose, created intentionally by the designers to keep you in the experience, but with the opposite effect happening as a result in some occasions.
This makes puzzles and bonding tasks, such as helping remove weapons off of Tricos body, become tedious. A lot of the gameplay presented in this title relies on two things, the controls of the boy, and the commands given to Trico, as well as being able to see both of them, and this large issue goes right into the Story of the game.
The story begins with the a boy whom I do not recall ever being named, helping Trico, the Dog-like mystical creature scene throughout the games development, break free, and both run away from their captors. It seems shallow on the surface but the games goal is to tell the story visually and, primarily, through its gameplay. The bond between the two grows as you play the game, as well as the unstable camera controls, but when you give commands to Trico and he ends up being an annoyance or not following your commands correctly, that also hurts the story. Especially in a game were the story is told through the players input.
Getting on or off the creature is often annoying, commands will either have him not obey or comply but become more of an irritation than a help. There doesn’t seem to be a clear way to control him the way you want to or consistently, and that’s not a good thing in a game were the controls feel like they are broken and the camera is the main antagonist.
The issue with this along with other elements make it hard to be engrossed in the world that is presented to us, and instead i’m left trying to hurry and end the game.
The graphics in this game are mixed, sometimes, when the camera allows it, you get decent views of the game world that look rather nice. Other times you see PS2-like textures, especially in darker areas. The frame-rate is inconsistent on the base PS4, though better on the PS4 PRO. However, it doesn’t remove the other issues with the textures and the image quality on numerous objects and environments in the world.
The game doesn’t look bad, however, it doesn’t really look great either. The graphic quality is inconsistent, sometimes the clothes the boy wears seems to be randomly blooming for no reason in certain areas, Trico looks like PSX feathers under certain conditions, and the camera makes sure you see that as it loves centering around him/it. You can tell that there were different design ideas used throughout the games development, but I feel as if they had not integrated it well. I feel like the game was made with four people fighting on how to make it, and decided to combine their mechanics into one game with no integration.
The Last Guardian should have, in this writers opinion, been revamped after its first delay, keeping what had been completed as a base, instead, it seems to be a mishmash of ideas that have bad execution. Inconsistent graphics, bad controls, mechanics that don’t work well that are NEEDED to be engrossed in the games interactive story, forgotten sound, etc, and all of this gets worse the more you play.
The game tries to create a cinematic adventure with a bond between the boy and Trico, and yes, a few times they do a great job with this. It’s also a unique choice to “try” to tell a story through interactivity. But when I am constantly fighting the game 95% of the time and getting frustrated, that almost gets wiped out from memory. I’d say if you are a fan of other Team ICO games, then I would still suggest caution. It’s not exactly a bad game, but it has too many problems to ignore. I have tried to get into the relationship building presented in the game multiple times, but instead I end up shaking my head at the next puzzle, or hoping to move as quick as possible towards the games ending.
“It’s controls, inconsistent graphics, rough performance, and fight with the games main antagonist, the camera, completely block the small glimmers of light that shows an epic adventure showing a Bond between an Boy and a Mystical creature” – Verzu Chase