January 19, 2020 at 6:14 PM #824
The Last Guardian
Rating: 1.5 – Bad
Great game if you want to fall asleep
Oh boy. The Lasts Guardian. I was admittedly very excited to play my first Ueda game after hearing great things about Shadows of the Colossus and ICO. Several delays and years later, I finally got to play it. And wow, is it boring. I mean, there’s no game here. I know the game style was supposed to be niche, but even niche games I don’t like, nay, I despise, I can see why people may find it enjoyable, even if it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t personally like Monster Hunter, but I can see the appeal of scavenging for resources and fine tuning your equipment just right so you have a fighting chance against the next ravaging beast. Persona? Very meh, but there is a charm in building friendships and combining demons to get more abilities. But I have no idea who is supposed to like TLG. It just sucks. Just a disclaimer, I never finished this game and I have zero incentive to ever go back to it. I got a few hours in and eventually gave up: the game is a real test, not of wits but of pure tolerance before you go insane.
You start out as a young boy in a cave with a giant cat-like animal named Trico. After befriending him, you two go on an adventure to escape….actually, I don’t know what you’re escaping. The game never makes it clear. This is one of those "deep and meaningful" games which never explains anything and you’re left to speculate. Maybe the game explains things at the end, but I have no idea. The story pacing is very poor–you’re drip-fed very small plot chunks throughout the game hours at a time, and even the plot advances are mysterious. The main focus on the game is the relationship between the main character and Trico, which is done actually somewhat OK from what I saw, and you gradually gain more control and trust over Trico as the game progresses.
The gameplay is where the game really drops the ball. The game goes like this: you and (usually) Trico are in a room with seemingly no exit. After finding a secret hole or passageway, you pull a lever and go to the next area. Again, and again, and again. This is the entire game from what I played. It’s mind-numbing and provides no entertainment whatsoever. They rarely if ever try to mix things up, and the "puzzles" that involve Trico are mostly just having him jump up to higher ground while you climb on top of him. I mean, you have this giant acrobatic animal that can do all sorts of things, and the best they could come up with is having him be a glorified stepladder? Oh, occasionally he destroys enemies too. The enemies in this game are all the same, just generic metal armored soldiers that you watch Trico kill for you while you do nothing. I mean, it is possible to kill them yourself, but the process is so obscure and difficult that it’s not worth it.
This is all theoretical, mind you, because actually getting Trico to do what you want is nigh impossible. The developers actually did an impressive job making Trico look and act like a real animal. But for gameplay purposes this is a nightmare, as when you need Trico to jump or come towards you, he sometimes will delay or just not come at all. Some of the game’s "puzzles" involve getting Trico to jump to higher ground. You get a command to make Trico jump (with absolutely no indication of how to do it, mind you; unless you look up a walkthrough, you’re screwed) around midway through the game, but before that, you just have to wander around the cave enough until Trico decides he wants you to move onto the next cave and jumps up to the next platform. What the hell kind of design is this? There’s no indication when or where Trico can jump.
I’ve heard the argument that the gameplay isn’t the focus, and that watching Trico and the boy’s bond is the game’s strength. But the gameplay really was bad enough to deter me from finishing the game and the story wasn’t interesting enough for me to continue. I mean, take a game like Resident Evil; the mechanics are pretty bad and the puzzles are dumb, but the focus is on the horror, inventory management, story files, and exploration. The gameplay is tolerable but more importantly, actually exists. With TLG, sure, there’s lots of questions I still have: what is Trico? who is the boy? why were they imprisoned and by whom? But I doubt slogging through the game will answer these questions in adequate depth, as it is typical for games like these to be "open to interpretation", i.e. the developers couldn’t make a cohesive story worth a damn so they just put a lot of mysterious-looking characters doing mysterious things and called it a day. The game also wastes a lot of moments for the boy and Trico to bond; you can choose to feed Trico with barrels you find through the game, or don’t; nothing good or bad happens regardless of your actions so why bother? Some might say it’s to immerse yourself in the action of feeding your animal companion; that’s all fine and well, but how about some gameplay incentives? I saw the animation of Trico eating once, why do it again if I don’t have to? Why put collectables in a game and not do anything with them? There’s so much of TLG that exists for the sake of existing: platforms that lead to nowhere, giant empty rooms, and the ability for the boy to pick up all sorts of random useless garbage lying on the floor.
The game is also not very good looking. The graphics are very generic and last-gen; I know it started out as a PS3 game, but the game just looks poor and there’s huge framerate spikes whenever the game transitions to an outdoor level. It doesn’t even make sense, the PS4 is more powerful and the outdoor areas are actually very small with nothing in them besides the boy and Trico. As mentioned earlier, every place looks like either a cave or green outdoors, and in both cases the game fails to impress. The only thing that looks nice in the game is Trico; the attention to detail he got is marvelous.
Talk about wasted potential. Last Guardian is so disappointing to me because the concept of a protagonist and his animal companion and the bond between them is a breath of fresh air in-between multiple action-packed AAA releases. But there is absolutely no gameplay nor real story to goad you along to want to see the relationship bloom. The best thing I can say about TLG is that there is a sense of immersion because of how boring the game is: it’s like if you actually had to traverse a series of cliffs and caves, this is what it would be like. The design flaws in The Last Guardian are so numerous and it goes against every intuition you would have as a gamer. Even though I feel bad for wasting $20 on this, I feel even worse for Mr. Ueda who spent 9 years of his life to make this garbage. My mind is thoroughly boggled as to why anyone likes this game. Please shoot me a PM and explain it to my thick brain fully, because even after reading most positive reviews, I have no idea how anyone tolerates this crap, let alone played it start to finish.
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