The Last Guardian – Review

2016 is the year of games that have been in the oven for quite too long. After Mighty No. 9 and Final Fantasy XV, it’s now time for The Last Guardian to show if it was worth all the hype. Can the unofficial third part of Ueda’s trilogy build on the success of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus?

A hairy companion

If you’re familiar with the two previous games of Fumito Ueda, you probably know that this man doesn’t need many words to tell a story. Without further introduction, you are thrown into a bright and wonderful world. You play as a young boy waking up right next to a giant trapped bird-dog, which first doesn’t seem to like making your acquaintance. After helping the creature out of its misery, it becomes you friend and follows you everywhere. Trico is a really interesting companion, as it’s not controllable by the player, which is exactly the opposite of ICO‘s approach of persistently guiding an NPC. Due to its natural reactions and moves, it almost feels like a real pet with an own will, which can be a gift and a curse at the same time.

Being your biggest enemy

Together with your new friend, you are now bound to explore your surroundings with no distinct goal in mind. You jump and climb your way through dangerous passages to find food for Trico, whereas you completely rely on him in terms of combat and opening up new paths. This interdependence is what makes The Last Guardian special, and you immediately feel this bond without being provided a greater narrative. Since this game has been dragged from console to console over the course of its exceedingly long development time, controls and mechanics feel really outdated. The little boy’s movements are flimsy and slippery and the faulty camera will transform almost every action into a tedious chore. Most of the time, you will try to find your character into a pile of feathers during hairy – no pun intended – platforming and puzzle sections, which caused several rage quits in my twelve hours with the game. At points, The Last Guardian is dramatically close to being unplayable, which shouldn’t be the case with an anticipated triple-A exclusive.

Better go pro

As if the gruesome camera and controls haven’t been enough, The Last Guardian also deals with severe frame-rate problems. On average it isn’t even close at delivering consistent 30 frames, but rather near the low twenties. The only way you can avoid this technical mess is to use the 1080p mode on PlayStation 4 Pro, which nets you a steady 30 frames per second – a performance that shouldn’t require a brand-new console, especially since the graphical details and animations are kept within reasonable limits.

Death on arrival

The Last Guardian tells a wonderful story about friendship and companionship. If it wasn’t for the technical difficulties, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to everyone who appreciates an emotional video game that relies on subtle and nuanced story-telling. This way however, I’m not sure how many people will withstand the tedious gameplay to finally witness the epic conclusion of this artistically outstanding title. Given the long development time, this was to expect, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is an undeserved fortune for such a sophisticated project.

What we liked:

  • Gorgeous art style
  • Absorbing and heartfelt narrative
  • Believable behaviour of Trico
  • Brilliant score

What we didn’t like:

  • Disastrous performance on PS4
  • Horrible controls
  • Trico’s own will

Shinigaming

This review was written using a PlayStation 4 review copy provided by Sony PlayStation. How long did you anticipate the launch of this game? What’s your favourite title of the Ueda trilogy? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

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