It was thanks to a simple advertisement inside the case of Uncharted 4 that I first learned about The Last Guardian. It was the majestic form of the massive beast called Trico that got my attention, and it was for that reason that I got the game some while later for the Christmas of 2017. Much of the time, my expectations for a game are not indicative of the real experience. Strangely enough, however, this time, I think I was fairly spot on.
The Last Guardian is…an interesting game about a nameless boy and a huge creature quite similar to a griffin, if griffins have the face of a dog and the grace of a cat. You spend the entire game traversing ruins and solving puzzles with the assistance of your newfound companion, and I think the entire experience can be divided into two very distinct parts, the gameplay itself and the bond you form with Trico.
I want to start by saying that the gameplay can be summarized in one general term: tedious. The game is pretty slow-paced, which I kind of expected, even if I didn’t exactly enjoy spending so much time slowly climbing around on ledges and chains…or slowly carrying barrels around…or, well, all manner of slow things. Furthermore, while some puzzles were actually quite good, much of the time, there was no clear indication of what to do or the controls just didn’t work. Honestly, this game’s controls left a lot to be desired. Just a suggestion: maybe a single button shouldn’t have several different purposes. I press Circle in order to grip a box I want to push, only for the boy to run right past the box and pick up a nearby barrel. And why do we need to button mash the controller every time you get a game over or you get grabbed by an enemy?
Equally as bothersome is the fact that you must rely on Trico in order to progress through the game and solve certain puzzles, and a lot of the time, he just won’t listen to what I say. Eventually, you can start giving Trico commands, like asking him to jump or attack, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal if he didn’t take his sweet time making decisions. One time, I needed Trico to drop his tail down so I could climb it and escape the watery pit I had found myself in. I spent ten minutes calling to him from different spots before he finally decided to do what I needed. I understand that they were trying to make a realistic creature, and by golly, they certainly did. You should see how slow my cat is when it comes to making decisions. But in the context of a game, our companion should not be an obstacle to our goals. Trico, I know this is a game, and I know that you know which ledge to jump to next. So just do it already!
To be honest, I found much of the game to be rather boring, though I would be doing the game a great disservice if I failed to talk about Trico himself. While I was not entirely happy with the gameplay, I have to say that I grew very attached to Trico, who is probably the most realistic AI I have ever encountered. The way our big feathery pal moves, the way he hops around in agitation, or scratches at an itch, or sneezes, or watches me intently like he’s afraid of what might happen if he loses sight of me…all of these things made it easy to forget that Trico was not real. He felt like a living, breathing creature, who I grew to love despite how annoying he could be when I needed him to listen to what I was telling him. It distressed me greatly whenever I had to pull spears from his sides. And it seriously angered me any time those stupid suits of armor dared attack him. By the end of the game, I was driven to a rage any time anyone attempted to harm my pal, and I would do anything I could to prevent another spear from being lodged into his side, to the point that I would fling myself at enemies in utter desperation without any care for my own safety.
That’s why the ending of the game, well, to put things lightly…it ticked me off. I expected a sad ending. I think everyone did. And we got one. But not in the way I expected. I like sad endings. I like stories that make me cry. They’re quite often my favorite. But the ending of The Last Guardian…just made me so angry. It was not just sad, but violent, and it made me sick. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t go into detail. I just have to say that…no one wants to play an entire game where the only real highlight was the creature we inevitably formed a deep attachment to, only to see the poor thing treated in that way.
The Last Guardian is, I must admit, a unique experience. Though I felt like a good portion of the gameplay was not all that exciting, I suppose it is in those slower, less eventful moments that the focus is all the more on the boy and Trico, and I can’t deny that Team Ico did a brilliant job on the massive feathered beast. I cared about the characters. The story is interesting, if vague, but at least that leaves room for speculation. I just didn’t find the game to be terribly fun to play, and I didn’t like the way the ending was handled. In the end, it’s rather hard to say if the game was a good one or not. I only feel like I can warn you that, if you choose to play the game, you will be spending a lot of time feeling frustrated, and there’s a good chance you will be as upset by the ending as I was.
For those of you who have played The Last Guardian, what are your thoughts? How did you feel about the ending? And did you find the gameplay to be as tedious as I did? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Now Who Wants to Play a Game Where You’re Followed Around by a Giant Duck?
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on 1/23/18.