Hands on with The Last Guardian
It was arguably the star of Sony’s 2015 E3 presentation and has come along way since then. The Last Guardian is one of Sony’s highly anticipated PS4 exclusives and like a high school girl attending her first ball I was super excited to get my first hands on experience with The Last Guardian at E3 2016.
The demo that was available to play was the opening to the game where our young hero wakes up in a cave, startled by the presence of an injured and chained giant feathery bird like creature who we know as Trico. For the next half hour I was taken into the world and set about building trust with Trico, freeing him and trying to escape from the mysterious environment that I awoke in. The game is voiced in Japanese with english subtitles and gives very little away.
Right from the outset there is little in the way of tutorials. The Last Guardian is very much a game that requires the player to interpret what they are seeing and relies more on the player figuring out what to do rather than overly coaching them through the sequences. As you go up to Trico or objects around the environment, the game will prompt you with the button presses required to interact but other than that it’s up to the player to look around and figure out what to do. If you’re not used to this style of gameplay it will take a bit of getting used to but once you’ve adapted to it it is very rewarding to advance based on your ability to problem solve rather than the game doing it for you. Overall the control scheme is pretty solid, relying on only a couple of buttons during the demo. It could expand as the game progresses but the simplicity fit the beautiful style of the game and lending itself to creating a more immersive experience. With minimal buttons to think about it leads to the gameplay and story taking centre stage which is exactly what we want from The Last Guardian.
The Last Guardian is a highly emotional experience and the start of the game if very much about building trust with your feathered companion. Trico is injured and chained, we don’t know how this came to be and Trico is understandably wary of our young character. It’s immediately evident that Trico will need to have spears removed from him but startling him and approaching too fast will result in him getting distressed and rebuffing you. After finding some food for our soon to be giant friend he is much more receptive to being approached and will allow you to help him. Once free it’s time to get out of there but finding your way out is not as straight forward as it seems. Going forward often involves back tracking in order to continue building that trust with Trico so that he can help you get free. A couple of times I must admit I needed the assistance of the PR guy to help me, most notably when I missed an opportunity to climb up on Trico before he jumped up to an out of reach ledge but after coaxing him back down I was on my way again. Before I knew it I’d been playing for half an hour, had escaped the confines of the cave and the demo closed as it teased the start of the adventure that lay ahead of the unlikely companions.
Such is the emotional roller coaster and immersive nature of The Last Guardian, you’ll find that time goes by very quickly. Come release day I can easily see hours going by in the blink of an eye. The visual presentation is well put together, it wasn’t without a few stutters but this is an early build and is common in early hands on demos so I don’t take those hiccups too seriously. For the most part The Last Guardian was smooth. What struck me most was how quickly I became emotionally invested in the game. Even in those early scenes with the injured Trico, I quickly became invested in helping him and in the moments where I wandered away from him I found myself wanting to get back to him. As that trust continues to be built the emotional quality to the gameplay only gets deeper and it’s clear that a strong bond between boy and creature is going to be developed as the game progresses.
Unfortunately we were unable to capture footage or take photos of the demo but it is shaping up as one of the strongest emotion driven stories to come to the PS4. The wonderful visuals, mixed with simple control scheme and sheer immersion factor has The Last Guardian shaping up as a must play title on the PS4.