Late To The Party: The Last Guardian

E3 2015 will remain in gaming folklore due to the magnitude of announcements and reveals from Sony. Seen as the E3 of dreams, Sony started their show with the re-reveal of the mythical The Last Guardian. The biggest crowd pop from this opening beautiful trailer however came at the end when the year 2016 appeared on the screen. The infamous Last Guardian which had seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth, that many thought would inevitably be cancelled was actually finally coming out, and in just 1 year.

Sony true to their word did release The Last Guardian in 2016, although it did suffer one more delay from October to December. But the gaming world had been waiting that long for it, what’s 2 more months going to hurt if it results in ensuring the game is at its best.

Unfortunately, as you may have seen from the late to the party features, I struggle at getting games on their initial releases, I must juggle what I pick up, and I didn’t get The Last Guardian at launch. I eventually got it over a year later for Christmas 2017. And 2 weeks into 2018 finally made a start.

I’d read that this game has kind of split option. Some saying it was worth the wait, others feeling disappointed by the final release. Most of the criticism that caused a lot of the negativity was due to the clumsiness of the controls, and as is tradition with Team ICO projects, the awkward camera angles. It pains me to say it but I can fully understand these complaints.

The opening stages of the game see you as The Boy first encounter a scared, wounded and volatile Trico in a deep cave. No recollection of how The Boy arrived here, he just wakes up to see this magnificent beast panting and clearly in distress. The initial tasking you have is to find food for Trico to help him heal and to gain his trust. These opening moments of the game are fine; the camera doesn’t seem all that jolty and it’s a very simple introduction to the control schemes. There were occasions later in the game though that controlling The Boy did frustrate me a tad. The game essentially wants you and Trico to scale the tallest tower in site, so you are always going to be climbing and scaling various environments. On occasions, you would need to drop down a few levels from platforms to move across to other areas to climb, these sometimes did wind me up as The Boy would let go, then when pressing circle to grab the platform as falling, he just wouldn’t do it. So, a few deaths from trying to progress did occur.

However, it isn’t until you can command Trico that the real frustration occurs. As much as I loved Trico in the game, my goodness there were moments that I cursed at him. The AI in The Last Guardian is actually for the most part incredible. To be able to control Trico and point at a direction and him to scale it in a method that suits him best was brilliant. Pressing the jump button (triangle) while on Trico’s back and then watching him jump platforms again in the best way he feels he can do to scale heights is again a great example of the smart AI in play here. But there were occasions while on Trico’s back I’d point say to the left. But instead of pointing direct left in a straight line, The Boy’s arm would be pointed downward and left. Trico of course is only doing what he is told would then begin to climb back down from where we started our ascent. This did happen quite a bit. Other times you’d point where you’d want him to go, or press the jump button in the hope he’d see the platform you want him to jump up on, and he’d just look around and howl not recognising your command. Again, something that did occur a fair few times. But as mentioned, for the most part Trico did respond to the commands and progress the upward climb without many hitches.

While you are in command of Trico, these were the times that the camera did play up. When trying to climb Trico, the camera angle would automatically change to what it felt suited the best view, but by doing this you might lose site of The Boy amidst the fur and feathers of Trico and while you’ve been holding the upward direction on the analogue stick wanting The Boy to climb high onto Trico’s back, due to the camera change by pressing up, it would mean The Boy would start climbing down and off Trico. WHY!!  A few of the puzzles required you to climb Trico and jump from his head or neck onto a platform in a certain amount of time. One example being pushing a minecart out of the way, running back to Trico and climbing him and jumping from him to a platform because with the minecart out of the way Trico can get close to this platform. Well it took me a fair few attempts to do this as I’d begin climbing up Trico, for the camera to move trying to follow my movements and I’d end up facing sideways and instead of climbing up onto Trico’s back, would be climbing sideways from his butt to his front legs. It just took a while to get this.

But, the minor frustrations aside The Last Guardian is stunning. While this game started life as a PS3 game, there are the odd hints of its initial development in the visuals. It’s certainly not the level of Horizon Zero Dawn or The Order 1886 visually, but it is still very much a good looking PS4 game. And the true selling point of this game is the story.

You play as The Boy, who wakes up next to the injured Trico with no recollection of what happened or why you are here. You then hear the voice of a narrator who kind of guides you initially on what to do. You later find out that the narrator is telling the story of The Boy as he is The Boy some years later, and he’s telling this epic tale of his bond and journey with Trico.

And of course, the main event of this game is Trico himself. Pet owners will seriously instantly fall in love with Trico. There are games where you can become attached to characters and are invested in them, in my case The Last of Us and Life is Strange, but Trico was another level up again. There was a part in the game where you are in a large outside area which is sunny and full of trees and an area that’s filled with water. Just leaving the controller alone for a few minutes and Trico goes off wandering, then you see him following and playing with butterflies, then splashing in these puddles and rolling around in them. He becomes playful like a cat would be that spots a butterfly in the garden (I can certainly confirm that my cats go nuts for butterflies in our back garden). The level of detail in Trico’s movements and mannerisms as a larger pet are brilliant. And this is what grabs you the most. You and your ‘pet’ go through so much in this adventure together, the bond that gets built is stunning. When you are in danger and being attacked if Trico cannot get to you to help you he’s panicked and howling and scurrying at the gates and walls in a desperate attempt to help you. On parts where you must leave him behind only for minutes as you scale a part of a tower Trico can’t climb, he again misses you and howls. Once you create a way for him to join you he sprints towards you with joy to be back with you. You can pet him and stroke him and he purrs and rolls his head around in blissful content. He plays with you and ‘pushes’ you away but then will put his head right back into your face for more petting. It’s adorable.

And that right there is what grabs you. As the final chapters of the game playout and The Boy and Trico must help one another you fear for the worst before and after every cut scene that happens. The ending phases and cut scenes of the game were a damn roller-coaster of emotions. I’ve become upset at game endings before, laugh all you will but Final Fantasy X destroyed me and Life is Strange required me to take breaks between chapters to compose myself. The Last Guardian is right up there for me with those games. The ending phase of that game were at times unbearable but not because the game was bad, but just fear of what was going to happen. The sign of a truly great game if you ask me?

Now, seriously, where can I get The Last Guardian merchandise from?

 – Murr

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