In 2009, Team Ico announced The Last Guardian at E3, accompanied by a video. I’d played Shadow of the Colossus and was very excited. It looked gorgeous and Shadow of the Colossus was awesome. I finally played it on the PS5 recently.
Development of the Last Guardian did not go as planned. It turns out that the demo at E3 was created at half speed (meaning it was half as taxing on the system) and then sped up to appear as it did. So marketing people could claim it was running on a PS3 while it was – in fact – unplayable.
Eventually, after a very long development cycle, the game came out for the Playstation 4 in 2016. Since I skipped the Playstation 4, I only played it recently, on my Playstation 5. And, on a Playstation 5, the game does look as cool as those 2009 demos. The only thing is, that was over twelve years ago, the graphics are not as breathtaking now as they were then. So, the question is: does the Last Guardian bring anything else to the table.
The main character of the game is a young boy, who wakes up in a cave next to a chained and wounded beast.
And that’s all the explanation you get as a player.
It soon turns out you can free the beast, heal it, and feed it blue-glowing caskets. You’re stuck inside some kind of ancient broken city in a dormant volcano, and the beast seeks to reach the highest spire of the city. The boy, having little choice, accompanies the beast, which he starts referring to as ‘Trico’.
You control the boy, and can climb and jump, and pull levers. You cannot control Trico, though. After you free Trico, you can climb up its feathery fur, and later shout commands, but, well… Trico does not always listen.
The fact that you cannot control Trico makes the game very frustrating at times. I spent a lot of time shouting at the screen for Trico to do what I wanted. On the other hand, the gameplay is pretty unique. Well, reasonably unique. It’s a kind of puzzle platformer where you have to solve environmental puzzles using the boy and Trico.
The game is really driven by three things: the atmosphere, the reward of slowly climbing higher and higher atop the vast city, and the way the game makes you feel for Trico. If you hate animals, you might not appreciate this game. If you like cats (like most people on social media, apparently) or dogs, you’ll probably like the antics of Trico. It’s clever how the developers managed to combine the adorable face of a dog, with the grace of a feline, and the attachment a dog can show.
That said, Team Ico is very good at storytelling. The mystery of the ancient city is a strong driver to continue, and over time you feel a growing attachment to both the boy and the beast. When they do finally reach the top of the tower… well, holy shit. The ending is pretty incredible.
This isn’t the best game ever, but it is something else.
The Last Guardian manages to craft a very exciting journey, and I loved playing it. And the ending of the game is really phenomenal. I have to say the climax is also pretty horrible and gut-wrenching, but damn, what an ending.
All in all, if you like puzzle platformers, and you like animals, you’ll probably love this game. If you hate those, you might still like the game, but I’d recommend a Let’s Play or Twitch stream to watch it.