5.6 tech score Overall, The Last Guardians has all the makings of a decent game. However slow frame rates, poor camera systems and an overall lack of charm/uniqueness means it doesn't meet to the standards of which we have come to expect from Japan Studio and especially Team Ico. For someone who waited almost 10 years to play this game the only way I can describe it is heartbreak on a compact disk. It is also hard to say this game is innovative. If it had came out on the PS3 looking similarly to how it does, not matter the frame range I would have gave it a 10/10, however I feel for the time they spent working on it there are still probably better looking games overall, such as Final Fantasy XV as well as possibly Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Since it was announced I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Team ICO’s The Last Guardian. I remember telling my friends as a child about how each feather on (the then unknown) Trico is its own independently moving model, rather than just clever texturing. After making undeniably two of the best games ever made, and having almost 10 years of development, The Last Guardian should be an absolute blockbuster. Yet I struggle to talk positively about it.
I was among the masses of Shadow of Colossus and Ico fans who pre-ordered The Last Guardian way back, as at the time it seemed like an obvious investment, and in all honesty, as much as it pains me, I actually somewhat regret it. Now before I talk about the negatives I just want to say The Last Guardian is not totally a bad game. The graphics are stunning, the model for Trico is everything I had imagined, and his animations were some of the most real I have seen in a game. In essence the game is almost a carbon copy of ICO with the main difference being it is you who is helpless and needs defending, whereas ICO is vice versa with you protecting Ico, beyond this the key mechanics are very similar in that you are scaling/descending a tower, have enemies carry you/ICO away, and it has a lot of puzzle/platforming elements. So with it being so similar to one of my all-time favourite games, how can I talk negatively of it? Well that is actually one of my issues.
Both ICO and Shadow of The Colossus were extremely unique experiences, with still to this day nothing being able to capture the essence of what made Shadow of the Colossus so great (some may argue that Dark souls offers the same experience however it feels more like a rhythm game that the more natural feeling of Shadow of Colossus). The Last Guardian however feels like a merging of both of these games, with the Scale and climbing of SotC and the puzzle/platforming nature of ICO, yet it just seems to fall flat. One example I give for this is the enemies. The enemies in ICO are stylised shadows that very much so work to the art style of the game, and adds to its charm. The enemies in The Last Guardian seem to be animated Jade statues/samurai and they just feel much more throw away/generic, although they do fit the game’s aesthetic.
Beyond just how the game looks and feels, it simply isn’t playable to my standards. The camera is one vital point that they just don’t seem to have paid much care to. When the camera swings it will occasionally clip through a wall or a tree etc. and in practically any other game this would result in one of two things, the camera simply clips through the object and make the object/wall invisible so that you can still see the screen, or the game will halt the camera, only allowing for angles that mean the camera doesn’t clip through anything, which can help with immersion. The Last Guardian however tries something completely different in that the camera can clip through the environment, but if it does the screen will fade to black. Personally I genuinely cannot make sense of this choice, as for quite a large chunk of the game you are inside and/or in tight space, so this happens quite often, and is actually what led me to putting the game down. If that wasn’t the reason I’m sure the disgusting Frame rate would have been eventually.
Although the game has absolutely beautiful graphics, and Trico’s model is truly a thing of beauty, all that basically goes down the drain if the game plays between 10-25fps. Coming from someone who played through Alien Isolation without a GPU (using an AMD A8-6600K), this game is genuinely unplayable. It may be a pre-baked misconception from growing up on Nintendo consoles, but when I pick up a game on console, frame rate should not be in my mind, and I struggle to blame Team Ico for the tech not being able to handle the game, however with the time they’ve had, surely another few months of optimization wouldn’t of hurt.
Overall The Last Guardian really should be the beautiful game it was supposed to be, however with a combination of the low frame rate, and poor cameras the game overall just simply doesn’t have the charm of either of the previous Team Ico classics, and unless you have a PS4 Pro, I simply cannot recommend it.