Review by NellytheHoof
Has its charm, but far too tedious
There’s something there with The Last Guardian. I can’t say it came as close as it should have to achieving it, but I certainly saw the potential. Unfortunately, it fails with the bare basics and ultimately becomes a very frustrating experience.
‘Tedious’, is perhaps the word that sums it up best. Every single thing The Last Guardian asks you to do seems far more complicated and drawn-out than it needs to be. The premise of the game is that you play as a young boy who forges a connection with a mythical, large beast called Trico. Together, you solve puzzles, fight enemies, and traverse your way through the game world.
I can acknowledge that commanding Trico should be something that takes time and needs perseverance, as you’re teaching him new tricks and it also helps to establish that bond when he finally achieves something – both between the boy and Trico, but also between you the player and Trico. But when Trico is still struggling to understand the same commands a good six hours into the game, it just becomes frustrating. You can point where you want him to go, but be prepared to wait a fair while before he actually does it. And you can throw barrels (his food) his way, but there was one time where he pawed around with it, pecked at it, and just blatantly ignored it, until after a full three minutes (I timed) he finally ate it.
But tighten all that up, and I see the logic. Trico’s expressions are extremely well done, and seeing his confusion when you first instruct him to slam down on something, his anger when he encounters enemies, his pain when you remove arrows from his skin, and his love when you calm him down and pet him, all do help you care for the creature. If he got better at the things you taught him over time, and had a bit more common sense about him (for gameplay purposes, if nothing else) so he had some idea of what you were likely to ask him to do, the pay-off would be the same but with a much smoother ride.
However, controlling the boy feels equally like instructing someone to do something who doesn’t quite understand what you’re asking. He jumps like he’s got a ball and chain attached to his leg, he often just falls over for no reason, and he’ll decide the best way to climb Trico is to go upside-down on him and reverse his way up. My whole playthrough felt like I was guiding the boy rather than controlling him.
Add to that that the only real gameplay elements are poorly implemented, and it just becomes a very dissatisfying game to play. The platforming is clunky and inconsistent, with marginal errors being punished and a lack of clarity in what you can and can’t do, the combat is simply directing Trico’s ranged attack (which stems from his tail, meaning Trico himself often gets in the way), and the puzzles are unimaginative.
The story is vague, but I did enjoy it for what was there. No doubt, the connection with Trico is what makes this game what it is, and though he did frustrate me to the point where the game simply could not be considered fun, I did keep coming back with the sensation of forgiving your pet who had torn up your newspaper. In that sense, The Last Guardian achieves something pretty impressive for a video-game. This isn’t a relatable human character we’re bonding with, or even an animal we’re accustomed to. It’s a creature we know nothing about, but over the 6-7 hour journey of the game, come to care about and treat like our best friend.
It’s such a shame that nothing else in the game can match up to this. I’m usually the type of gamer who is happy to compensate and accept under-par gameplay for unique and imaginative story-telling. But The Last Guardian asks for too much leeway, and the awkward, disjointed controls, the terrible camera, and the irritatingly slow progression make it very difficult to recommend.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: The Last Guardian (EU, 12/09/16)
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