“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” -Albert Camus
Friendship is a very powerful bond some declare it to be stronger than love. Having a friend isn’t only about having someone to talk to and share moments with, but it is also someone dear to you that helps you find your way when you are lost. In certain cases, strong friendships change a person and can tilt from bad to good, or the other way around.
Albert Camus’ quote fits The Last Guardian like a glove mainly due to the general theme of friendship being developed in the game. The bond between the nameless boy and the creature, Trico, is strong and true, but at the same time, very fragile and uneasy. It is a friendship that develops over time and becomes a lot more understandable and clear as you progress through the game. As you play the nameless boy, you must work alongside Trico to escape.
The Last Guardian is in a fact the spiritual successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. From the get go, you are thrown into an unknown world full of mysteries and symbols where your imagination and interpretation go crazy – and that is a good thing. The journey lasts somewhere around 12 hours. The beauty lies in many elements of the game, especially the innocence of the puzzles. Unfortunately, those are very dependent on the behavior of the AI. Designing puzzles that way is counter-productive – players want to feel as though they are completing the mystery.
Joining you in this ‘spiritual’ quest are two important characters. The first is a little boy who had no name. He is the lead in the title – you control him around. The second is Trico, a dogbird-like feathered creature that acts as your companion. Unlike certain titles where you can switch between character, you can’t take over Trico. Basically, you order him around with commands prompting it to jump, swipe, go in a general direction, and a couple of others. These commands can be exploited while you are mounted on its feathery back.
The Last Guardian sets the tone quickly and delicately. The visuals and audio exploited are as beautiful as a colorful painting on a pure white wall. The elegance puts you, the player, at ease and gets you attached to both characters. The elements synchronize together like a salmon swimming across a running river – everything about the game is beautiful and feels fragile.
When first gameplay trailers where unveiled, they focused on the outside world, and with reason. This is where most of the magic happens. However, indoors are synonym to cramped area. You do have a huge feathery companion with you, and sometimes, its body can be in the way. The various puzzles you face should be satisfying, but you quickly find out one of the major flaws in the game. As it turns out, most of the work is done by Trico. However, the beast is difficult to control – Trico often acts on its own and decided to refuse your commands. On certain occasion, it decides to complete a task without you even asking it too. That cause way too much inconsistency!
While you contemplate the game’s exquisite beauty, you will encounter further frustrating passages where the camera doesn’t work in your favor. It is unfortunate to say, but some third-person titles out there have a lot of trouble with backside camera schemes. In The Last Guardian’s case, it greatly break the synergy created by the audio-visuals and the emotional moments, and turns them into a mad galore. Fortunately, every frustrating moment balances out by a strong and very powerful scene that touches the deep cavities of your inner soul. In the end, those pesky breaks in the game aren’t so bad!
Set aside the gorgeous storyline and impeccable audio-visuals, there isn’t much to do post game. The Last Guardian is like a one-time deal, where you could grab the cherry off the cake in a single turn. It takes time to complete and even more as you admire every corner of it. The Last Guardian is a journey first and a game second. Seeing it otherwise can alter your perception of the title and maybe, just maybe, ruin it for you.
The Last Guardian is a wonderful experience powered by a strong emotional story. The main team is friendship, whereas both the main character, a nameless boy, and his feathery companion Trico share moments together and strengthen the seemingly fragile bond. It is a quest not only to discover the mysteries behind the game, but also helps you reflect upon your own. Friendship is a powerful thing as long as both implicated parties are side by side and on the same page, as Albert Camus (quote above) puts it.
Playing The Last Guardian was a bizarre experience for me. Yes, I must admit that the game looks outstanding and beautiful, but for reasons that might be obvious, I wasn’t as pleased.
First and foremost, the game was hyped for so long. I usually don’t follow those trains, but for this specific case, I was sort of forced into joining the hype. It is a spiritual successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus…cool! It looks crazy gorgeous…cool! The gameplay seemed to be solid as well. Now when you compared all the hype and everything you might have seen during E3 and other reveals, well it is normal to feel a little bad. The game is frustrating first and gorgeous second, in my opinion. There is a limit to how far a camera problem and unresponsive commands can go.
Besides those troublesome issues, I take nothing from the game. While many praise it, I believe that the development team had well enough time to gather feedback and ensure that the game deliver a better overall performance.