The Last Guardian has had a development cycle that can only be described as unique. Since the game’s initial reveal at E3 2009, the loyal fans of Team ICO’s previous releases had waited patiently and had never given up hope that the game would eventually release, even after media surrounding the game went totally quiet. These fans were rewarded with the reintroduction of the game at E3 2015. Without their support, it is likely the game may have been shelved owning to the difficulties in development.

Now, The Last Guardian is here and it delivers the gripping, emotional story that everyone expected, albeit with a few tolerable flaws. Let’s start with a quick summary of the back story. The Last Guardian is the story of a young boy who is taken away from his village and wakes up in mysterious ruins alongside a winged beast named Trico. While Trico appears hostile at first, he will quickly become your greatest friend and ally in navigating the traps, puzzles and enemies present within the ruins.

Once you begin the game, you will meet both the boy, who you will play as for the duration of the game, and Trico immediately. The introduction occurs with hardly any narrative, intelligible speech or explanation. The Last Guardian’s most impressive aspect is that it excels at creating a story and a deep bond between the boy and Trico with no dialogue. The game will draw you in and make you care about both of these characters without explaining who they are, where they are and why they are there.

One of the first things that you will notice is that the game does not give you any direction as to what to do or where to go. Initially, upon meeting him, Trico will be hostile towards you due to being injured. However, once you release him and remove the spear from his back, he will begin to show affection. You will then be tasked with locating barrels of food in order to drive up Trico’s energy levels. This initial nursing of Trico immediately forms a strong bond between the characters and indeed between the player and the game.

The Last Guardian leaves it to the player to discover what they should do in order to progress. Trico is a very large animal and can leap over huge obstacles that would otherwise be insurmountable by the boy. However, you can climb upon Trico’s back and you will be able to pass over it in a few mere moments. On the other hand, many nooks and crannies in the world are too small for Trico to pass through. This is where the boy is necessary in order to pass to the next area. Solving the puzzles often involves the use of the strengths of both characters and initially, this is why Trico and the boy work alongside each other. However, you can very rapidly sense a loving relationship developing between these two unique characters, like the relationship between a pet and their carer. It is an incredible feat that the game manages to flesh out this relationship without the use of any dialogue (save for a rare bit of narration near the start of the game) or even an insight into the thoughts of either the boy or Trico.

Throughout the entire game, you will have very little control of Trico’s behaviour, apart from calling him to a certain position. While this is positive in the sense that it adds to the realism of the pet-owner relationship between Trico and the boy, it also introduces a few issues which can lead to frustration. Lack of control over Trico means that you will need to trust the obedience but also the intuition of Trico through the game. For example, at times, Trico will refuse to move from a particular position to the position which you are calling him to. Often, this means that the game is giving you a hint as to what you should do next. Unfortunately, it is almost equally likely that the game is not being entirely responsive and that you need to call at a slightly difference position in order to get him to move. This somewhat regular issue can be frustrating, especially if you are unsure as to what your next action should be.

Due to these issues, we could conclude the AI for Trico is flawed. Overall, however, Trico had been crafted in such an intricate and detailed way that he is the most realistically created animal that I have ever experienced in a video game. A lot of work has been devoted to developing his facial expressions, subtle movements and deep eyes to convey a sense that this animal is experiencing true emotion. When Trico is harmed in a fight, you can see the animal feel the pain and it evokes sympathy within the player. When Trico encounters something which is unknown to him, you cannot help but notice the sense of wonder in his face. Due to this fact, I was more than prepared to overlook the sometimes frustrating AI behavioural issues.

Despite the graphics being relatively simple, it is the lighting engine of The Last Guardian which truly impresses. The simplistic textures and models come to life with some of the best lighting effects which I have ever seen in a video game in order to create a vibrant, breathtaking world for the game. The most exciting moment was when I reached the first outdoor environment of The Last Guardian, where the sky, foliage and distant structures look stunning. The art style employed is very similar to that of the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, based on gameplay footage released thus far.

The Last Guardian ends in a way that will leave you feeling emotional but also extremely grateful that this beautiful, gripping story was finally told. The game takes about twelve hours to complete and unfolds at a perfect pace, while remaining challenging and requiring attention and an observational eye throughout. Apart from the slightly buggy AI of Trico and some odd controls, the gameplay, story and beautiful world combine to produce a meticulously crafted work of art which fills you with joy throughout. If you are looking for a game with a deep, immersive and emotional plot, The Last Guardian could not be more of a perfect fit for you.

NOTES: Despite the minor flaws in the game, due to the incredible experience which the game created through the story, the wonderful characters and the beautiful environments I have decided to award The Last Guardian a perfect score.

This game was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 Pro console, using both the 4K and 1080P modes. Framerate performance was improved by using the 1080P mode, however, major dips in framerate below 30FPS on the 4K mode were not incredibly frequent or noticeable so I would recommend this mode due to the graphical enhancements.

I also tested the game on the standard PS4 where it does suffer from some frame rate issues, however, I found that they did not effect the game noticeably or frequently enough to detract from my enjoyment of the game.