Gameplay

The Last Guardian Review: An Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

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The Last Guardian is a puzzle platformer adventure game from developer Gen Design. Saying the game is simply about that is a huge understatement on what the whole experience feels like. The game is an emotional rollercoaster ride with a lot of highs and lows. Most of all, the big reveals at the end and how the plot comes to a full circle doesn’t only tug one’s heartstrings, but it also leaves a lasting impression.

Development for the game started back in 2007 and it was formally announced in 2009 for the PS3 via a trailer at E3. Obviously, the development team met issues as it was delayed numerous times until it finally landed at retailers on December 6, 2016 exclusively for the PS4. Despite all of these, The Last Guardian still feels like the same game everyone was shown back in 2009. While the game might seem outdated due to the game being developed for quite a while already, the polished attention to detail in animations, unique art style, and well-executed gameplay can stand the test of time.

The Last Guardian Review

The main highlight of this game is the gigantic griffin-like creature named Trico and the little boy. You’ll spend the entirety of the game with these two characters as both of them try to navigate through a mysterious area.

Unlike most other great games that thrive on having an intelligent AI, The Last Guardian makes Trico feel like a real animal by making it behave like one. You don’t get to control Trico directly and while you can issue commands to Trico, it feels more like a suggestion. This can lead to frustrating moments and you’ll feel like you’re often wrestling with his AI.

Trico doesn’t always listen to you when you command it to jump. It won’t follow your exact instructions. Trico sometimes takes a helluva long time before it responds to you. All of these things doesn’t actually feel like bad programming as it creates an illusion that Trico is a disobedient pet. Despite all of these things, you still won’t feel like a smartass.

Trico is just too cute sometimes

A Wiser Animal

There are times when Trico was actually smarter than me as I was stuck and clueless on where I should go next. Oftentimes, I would spend several minutes in one area thinking I needed to do something there to progress, but Trico would growl and call my attention, but I wouldn’t listen to him. When I decided to jump on his back, he would raise his head up high and jump far into the next area in the complete opposite direction from where I was, making me feel like an idiot.

It truly feels like you’re both working together. You’ll also have to observe his behavior. Trico will sometimes look high up in the sky, and it’s a clear indication that it might be where you need to go. You’ll really need to cooperate with the creature and trust him, exactly like what Trico does to you.

However, encountering stone guard enemies will bring out Trico’s animalistic side. During these encounters, your main contribution to the fight is distracting enemies to bide time for Trico to pound them. There are quite a few of these battle scenes and it helps break the monotony of puzzle solving and platforming.

Attention To Detail

The realistic attention to detail to Trico’s appearance also helped in creating that fake impression that it is a real creature. Trico’s feathers alone is impressive to look at, especially when his body gets backlit by the bright sunlight.

The ancient and other-worldly setting of the game also feels distinct. The barrels you use to feed Trico, the weird stone guard enemies, and other items in the area breathe life into the game’s lore.

As for the boy, it’s weird that it actually feels like you’re controlling a real kid. It’s not just the animations that helps create this illusion but also the wonky controls. When it comes to gameplay, climbing platforms and moving through steep ledges feels unsafe as it feels like your character can fall down at any moment. Being atop Trico while you’re hundreds of feet below the ground also doesn’t feel safe as there’s a possibility that you could be flung due to his sudden movements.

Sense Of Achievement

Everything comes together during those big but simple moments in the game. Each progress you make feels substantial, and successfully making huge leap from one building to another often brings a sense of achievement unlike other games where it feels like a scripted moment that was solely made to invoke a wow impression to the player.

There’s surprisingly so few parts you can’t control the young boy in the game to the point that the entire experience feels like one big cutscene. What’s great is that you can still control the boy even when the view gets framed in those cutscene-like moments. Sadly, some enthralling moments get hampered by technical issues.

Even if you don’t control Trico at all, making a huge jump always felt risky.

Cons And Technical Issues

Oftentimes, the view would turn pitch-black and the game would frame to a different angle whenever the camera gets stuck in tight corners. There are also times that Trico’s entire body would obstruct my view.

There are also a lot of times that the frame-rate would quickly drop in certain parts of the game, and it’s disappointing to see this happen during those times where the developers were probably trying to wow gamers. I still can’t forget the first time I got introduced to a lush area with dozens of birds flying into the distance where I was trying my best to admire the scenery, but the bad frame-rate tried to discourage me from doing so.

With regards to playing the game, there are times when the experience can get dragging as the game barely spices things up. Memorable cutscenes, set-pieces, intense action scenes, plot reveals, and emotional events are also too spread out.

All of these issues didn’t fully kill my enjoyment from The Last Guardian as I felt invested already in the game. The pros far outweighed the cons and seeing Trico cutely react is enough to keep me from feeling too mad for my inability to solve a puzzle.

The Tale

Without spoiling too much of the game’s plot, The Last Guardian actually tells a great story. Even if there are a lot of things that are left to the player’s interpretation, there’s a comprehensive story that isn’t simply about the bond of Trico and the young boy. Also, while there are moments in the game that suddenly felt too violent, they did not feel like a cheap bait to bring out some emotions.

The Last Guardian certainly feels like a masterpiece that will gamers will look back to. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a unique game that that everyone should try to experience.

Final Score: 9/10

Note: This game was played on a standard PS4. Copy of the game was purchased by the author. All images used in the article were captured in-game.

The Bitbag is a contributor for OpenCritic, one of the leading games-only aggregate site in the industry. A pool of other The Last Guardian reviewscan be seen here.

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