THE LAST GUARDIAN






The Last Guardian Made by Team ICO, the same people who brought you Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian is a game with compelling storytelling, amazing graphics and incredible AI. It tells the tale of a nameless child escaping from a world of ruin with the help of his giant cat bird companion to find his way back home. Throughout their journey, the two develop trust, compassion, and communication, and the bond they form is unlike any other. The game is a wonderful experience, and is a great addition to the list of indie games of 2016. But in this week's ICO, we'll be looking at the game's core mechanic, Trico, what's good about it and what isn't, and some things the game could have worked on.


Trico is an incredibly developed AI, responding to player controls and moving in such a way that is almost animal-like. As the player starts of the game, climbing and scaling buildings to figure out the right way to go, they realize his capabilities and what Trico can do. He can be used to navigate, as a combat tool, or a way to get from one place to another. One example would be a sequence in which Trico can't fit through a doorway entirely and gets stuck, but the player can make use of his head to jump up to reach a higher platform to progress with the story. This makes use of Trico's body size and bodily features such as his tail to help you, the boy, to scale heights that you could never reach on your own. Another example would be Trico taking down moving suits of armor, which are the enemies of this game. Initially, The boy cannot directly attack these enemies, and so it is left to Trico to take care of them for you. If the suits of armor are holding up shields (which then cause Trico to be scared and not attack) however, the boy has the ability to shove the suits so they drop their shields, which then allow Trico to punch and jump at them. Using Trico as a stepping stone, a living weapon and for other functions is an extremely intriguing game design choice. This core mechanic has multiple purposes and uses for it, and the game progresses smoothly with this. It really allows the player to help contribute to occuring events in a smaller way, and make it seem as though they were a part of something much, much bigger. And besides, riding on the back of Trico only just makes things seem a little less big and overwhelming compared to journeying on your own.


However, there are some downsides to Trico, some of which are reasons why some players don't finish the game. Team ICO's games have several aesthetics put into their games, and one of them (though not the most obvious, but definitely noticeable) being puzzles. These puzzles usually require the boy to pull a level, or to push a barrel or cart, but some of these puzzles require Trico to aid the boy in, and this is where players find difficulty and frustration. There are times, especially early in the game, where Trico would ignore the boy's instructions, or not go the direction the player wants him to. It's unclear whether Ueda-san had made this specifically as part of Trico's design and personality, but it does show that Trico has to be in the perfect position to execute a command, and that this design choice ruins the overall game experience for some. On the topic of player experience, the Last Guardian has two main issues which players can get easily frustrated about - clunky controls and a wonky camera. Having the same button be several commands for a character makes performing a desired action difficult, among other things. The camera doesn't quite work with the player either, which in some cases loses sight of the player, or gets blocked by objects in front of it. These issues are more than enough to make someone rage quit over the Last Guardian, even with its stunning visuals.


Visually and storywise, this game is great, and Ueda-san and the rest of Team ICO did an amazing job bringing the tale of Trico and the nameless protagonist to fans and new players alike. Though there are some areas that can be improved on, the Last Guardian is an extremely fascinating game that just needs a little polishing to become a truly amazing experience.



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