The Last Guardian Review

“Press any key to continue”.

After inserting the disk in the console, running the installation and downloading the usual patch, The Last Guardian proposes one of the most classic messages on the screen, asking the player to make a gesture that he has already performed many more times before (and will do many more times in the future), but which in this context has all the connotations of an act of faith. Because inevitably there are two The Last Guardians, as on the other hand it always happens when it comes to experiences that have to be waited for for years. The first is the child of the sensations that ICO e Shadow of the Colossus they left to those who wield the controller, expectations skyrocketed and during obstacle course that, rumor after rumor, they wanted the third child of Smoking Ueda present on the stage of the PlayStation event on duty, then ended up at E3 last year. The second, on the other hand, is what Ueda e GenDesign, a team in which the arms and minds behind the two titles came together ICO team, they actually managed to hack Blu-Ray and deliver to the shelf. And as far as we are concerned, if you have already peeked into the bottom (and we cannot blame you, mindful of the years spent in spasmodic waiting), for better or for worse these two The Last Guardian are superimposed; they concretize fears that we hoped the last postponement had at least filed away, but at the same time they offer an experience completely in line with the developer's curriculum, so short but at the same time so heavy. If you want to continue reading, the next lines will go into more detail, trying to tell (without revealing too much) what The Last Guardian is and what we felt during this last journey by Fumito Ueda.

And the journey begins like this.
The Last Guardian wants to tell the journey of Trico and the boy (without a name) and their escape from the Nest

After the message we were talking about at the beginning and a short loading in which, on the screen, the pages of what seems to be an illustrated collection of animal species appear, we find ourselves immersed in the darkness of a cave in the role of the boy, the protagonist " nominal ”of the experience while remaining nameless. And the boy doesn't know why he wakes up in that cave, he doesn't know why his body is strewn with strange symbols and at first he doesn't even know if he's still sleeping or not: he just knows that Trico is in front of him, exemplar of a race of man-eating beasts that until then were only part of the legends he had heard. Yet the beast is really there, wounded and with broken wings, and to be able to return home he will soon discover that he needs his help: the couple is in fact in the Nest, and the only way to exit or to return from that place is to fly. This, in broad terms, is the beginning of the experience, which will then develop over the course of the adventure (it took us about ten hours to complete the title on the first attempt) and will begin to outline an environment after the other, introducing some new elements and raising some questions, but also giving all the answers to the questions that, in the end, the boy was asking himself when it all started in the cave. A real journey, where there is no shortage of some truly inspired ideas (visual, conceptual and, as we will see later, playful) and during which the main theme is undoubtedly that of collaboration. As it was in ICO, but in several respects in a diametrically opposite way to what was seen at the time: also in this case the one on the screen is a quasi-symbiotic relationship, where the boy needs Trico and Trico needs the boy, but the dynamics compared to the progenitor of Ueda's triptych of experiences are subverted. The player is no longer projected into the shoes of the "strong" character and indeed, without the creature nearby, defend himself when the enemies on duty arrive more or less suddenly (although it is possible to cope with the threat in more ways than one) it becomes a decidedly complex undertaking. And where it was Yorda who was brought, literally, by the hand during the escape from the Castle, here it is Trico who leads the game. In short, if the boy, as we said, is the "official" protagonist, in fact the star of the production is this hybrid between the house cat and a griffin, over which there is only indirect control, made up of a few essential commands which the creature interprets and executes in its own way. Or, especially at the beginning when the relationship of mutual trust is still a bit limp, he ignores, preferring to play for a few moments with some elements of the scenario (especially if it is about bodies of water) before continuing.

Trico's AI passes the test and is done great

It was the dynamic that we feared the most, but which instead goes beyond expectations: it happened to us (and it will happen to you too, if and when you play the title) to give Trico some command that the beast then misinterpreted, perhaps going back some platform, or to use some attempts to understand how to make him do what is necessary to move forward, but, apart from a couple of circumstances, discouragement makes it difficult to make his voice heard, and instead the satisfaction, when you manage to make Trico make that particular jump or that dive that you need to continue, arrives immediately and loudly. Especially since as mentioned the relationship between the two grows over the course of the experience, enriching himself and making Trico more receptive to the player's inputs (it becomes, among other things, even easier to feed him the barrels that meet. on the road, the game collectibles). Growth of affinity that then erupts in the second half of the game, where the pace accelerates and The Last Guardian allows himself some more frenetic moments and some pieces of platform that vaguely winks at Uncharted, going to take advantage of some mechanics of the relationship between Trico and the boy that make different sections more exciting.

But The Last Guardian is not only the son of ICO:
Ueda confirms that he learned a lot after ICO: The Last Guardian does not forget that it is a video game and offers almost unsuspected mechanics

While the approach tends to be very reminiscent of the 2001 title, Ueda, as seen in Shadow of the Colossus, had already refined his design technique by subtraction. In ICO he had perhaps cut too much, making it more like an interactive fairy tale than a video game in the traditional sense. The Last Guardian does not fall into the trap and, if on the one hand, however, we do not find aspects that are now found more and more frequently in contemporary products (online components, cooperative modes and the like) and we do not resort to extras that could please fans but in fact do not add anything ( and here we mention above all the Photo Mode), on the other hand we do not forget the playful component, which does not live only in the platform phases glimpsed above or the resolution of (to be honest, always quite simple) environmental puzzles to be solved to move forward . Trico will also be the "substantive" protagonist of the trip, but the boy, net of the commands he can give him, has a certain autonomy and, with the limits of the case, can also defend himself alone. It is up to the player to grasp the message inherent in the mechanics that the title displays, which are essentially used with a purpose but can - even if nobody says so on the screen, and part of the charm is here too - be used outside their context.

In short, the substance, from a playful point of view, is not lacking when you go looking for it, and it can be witnessed in the game clips in which the boy is forced by chance and coincidences to have to get by on his own, but also by some of the trophies inserted by the developers, for all those willing to go hunting for Platinum. From this point of view, however, the intent to return to a more minimalist product after Shadow of the Colossus appears clear, and in fact the game interface for long stretches is absent and merely suggests how to perform some actions, perhaps realized in a way. a bit atypical but with their own logic. For example, you jump using the triangle key instead of using the evergreen X (to which the crouching and descent functions are dedicated instead), but precisely because the position of the key, which is the highest of the front ones, recalls this use. Other mechanics, on the other hand, rhyme with the approach already seen in ICO, where the player does not have to limit himself to pressing a button and observing a scripted behavior, but is involved in all the action: to pull a lever you have to grab it (Circle key) , but also move the left stick down, keeping it pressed until the boy manages to lower it using his weight as ballast. On balance, an attention to detail emerges that increases the level of immersion (especially because it is with these same mechanics that you then "converse" with Trico, but we prefer to remain vague) with the result of inviting the player to think when he acts, going to reconnect with what we saw a little while ago about some mechanics deliberately silenced .

Immersion that also passes through images.
The artistic part of the journey is suspended between lights and shadows ...

And from this point of view we need to open a long parenthesis with regard to the technical aspects of the title. GenDesign has, without the slightest doubt, done a lot of work on the animations, whether it's about the boy or about Trico. If you fall from a high ledge (provided that the fall is not fatal) for a few moments the protagonist is in pain, drags the leg and fully transmits the sensation of pain. If the fall is particularly ruinous, it also happens that before reaching this "limp phase" one has to stop for a few moments lying on the ground, holding the limb. Trico returns the same level of care, enriched by a polygonal model undeniably much more detailed and refined than that of the boy, which highlights different details related to the feathers he has along his body and to some of the elements that make up his face, succeeding also to communicate through a sort of color code according to the tone that his eyes (usually completely black) take on. The response and the behavior of the creature, however, are always convincing and give a certain three-dimensionality to Trico, which can only make fun given the emotional cut with which the developers have packaged everything. The two fit into a context that, artistically speaking, it is difficult to question, not only as regards the rendering of the image in and of itself but because here too you can often and willingly breathe attention to detail in every corner, every secondary branch and every dead end that you take. On the other hand, however, when you get close to some elements, the magic is cracked, and under these (however small and tolerable) stretch marks we can glimpse a development that had begun on PlayStation 3, a machine with certainly lower computational capabilities and an architecture fundamentally different from that of PlayStation 4.

Fegatelli, borrowing a term from the world of directing, especially when it comes to the two big (unique, as we see it, but still big) problems of The Last Guardian: frame-rate and camera. The number of frames per second is in fact very unstable, and if in quiet situations it remains around the threshold of 30 fps, it often happens (especially in the change of location) that it collapses in an evident way, and more than sometimes it takes even a few moments to get back into the race. Risking a comparison, the problem has proportions similar to those seen in Assassin's Creed Unity at launch: nothing tragic and, for the most part, largely within the limits of the playable, but a pity that inevitably goes to stain a canvas up to this moment with well few spots. The camera on the other hand, without gilding the pill too much, works badly, especially when you play "in the strait" and the space available is scarce. Camera changes a little too frequent (in this, certainly not helped by Trico, who even when he stands still tends to move his head or other parts of his body) and a certain tendency to show the black screen when between the boy and him. screen stands in the way of an obstacle they are going to hit the experience harder than you'd expect since by its very nature The Last Guardian is a title that often and willingly creates situations of this type.

… But The Last Guardian is loved (or hated) regardless of the frame-rate

Let's be clear: anyone who says that the title does not deserve to be played for the flaws listed in this last paragraph is wrong, from our point of view (it is legitimate instead to fold if you believe that overall the game is not for you, especially if ICO and Shadow of the Colossus have not managed to enchant you), but they are still tangible problems that cannot be hidden and annoy, also and above all because the picture below these is certainly worth the price of the ticket. We close by spending a few words on the audio component of the title: and it is no coincidence that we talked about the audio component, rather than the soundtrack, since the experience tends to leave the burden of acoustic accompaniment to the sounds and noises that make the Nest alive, while still going to carefully insert some orchestral pieces when it is necessary to underline, also from the point of view of mood, some moments in which the pathos becomes more palpable.

Verdict 8.5 / 10 Every now and then it's worth the wait Comment Just as before pressing start at start, only two The Last Guardians can remain after the experience, and it's up to the player to decide which one is "his". The first is the son of Fumito Ueda's two previous titles, without too many frills (but this time without exaggerating with the design by subtraction) and capable of speaking directly to the heart of those who play, of telling a story by making him become attached to Trico and deluding him of basically he is the boy who accompanies him. The other is The Last Guardian of visual compromises, fluctuating textures and unstable frame rates, where these limitations prevent the production from finally taking flight and are the equivalent of Trico's broken wings. For our part, however, The Last Guardian is a title to play regardless of these problems, unless you have already tried to get to know Ueda through ICO and / or Shadow of the Colossus and have not been able to enjoy the two titles. It will not have the same impact (and it could not have, in a market that has learned that lesson), but it remains in any case a sui generis and almost formative experience. Pros and cons Trico's AI is phenomenal
It is 100% Ueda's game
Artistically inspired ... x ... But not without technical flaws
x Camera to be reviewed
x Not a title for everyone

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