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The Last Guardian early copy impressions thread

Some people on GAF and elsewhere have already gotten the game early or will have it this weekend, so I figured it would be worth having a thread to share non-spoilery impressions

I had been waiting for this game ten years. Got it yesterday, five hours in.

Coming from a long-standing Ueda fan, I honestly couldn't be happier. Toriko has such lifelike behaviour it's unbelievable.
Simon Parkin said:
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/simon-parkin-best-video-games-2016-witcher-watch-dogs-2-dishonored-2-the-last-guardian
But the standout game of 2016 will be The Last Guardian, a Japanese-made buddy game about a young boy and a hulking, dog-like creature who together must escape a tumbledown castle. In the pair’s movements the game has all the masterly animation of a Studio Ghibli film, but The Last Guardian’s true power comes from the way in which a story of trust, companionship and restoration (Trico, as the creature is called, has clearly suffered much abuse at the hands of his captors) is told not through cinematic scenes, but through the game’s tactile interactions. If ever there was a story to salve the wounds inflicted by this dark year, this is it.
I took notes as I played...I guess I played about 4 hours or so? I played up until just after the part they showed at E3 2015, which, by the way, is really quite fun in the game. And, as you know, I'm pro. Anyway, there is a lot going on here that Ueda and team are doing and I didn't want to forget any of it.

First, technicals for people who want it: the game itself is seriously stunningly beautiful. The indoor areas are full of richly detailed textures and great lighting effects. On the Pro, IQ is absolutely pristine. HDR really helps sell the package and really helps sell the ethereal nature of the game. The sun glistening off blades of grass is a beautiful effect. Performance is fine but I think leaves something to be desired. It's not noticeably chuggy in any particular area, but it can feel sluggish in certain scenes (I can't find any commonality between them). The animation is out of this world. I don't think I need to elaborate. The Last Guardian is absolutely drop-dead shockingly beautiful and anyone who says otherwise is a troll.

The game immediately establishes not only the size and scale of Trico but the fragility of the boy. In the very first scene, Boy (I'll call him Boy) yanks a spear out of Trico. Trico kicks and hems and haws and knocks Boy into the wall, which knocks him out cold. The game absolutely sells at every opportunity the dichotomy between the two, which makes this a real role reversal from ICO. The player is the vulnerable one and the player is the one that is useless in combat. Combat is actually taken away from the player entirely (at least so far) and the player relies on Trico for support. And Trico does not screw around! Combat is not frustrating like ICO for this reason. There are also some neat role reversals from SotC. For example, the player completes the "reverse" action on Trico in this game with the spear pulls. Whereas previously you'd be climbing all over big monsters and stabbing them, now you are climbing all over a big monster and trying to help with stab wounds. There are lots of little things that animate similarly to Ueda's old games and remind me of them.

The game frames early puzzles for players through Man's narration. If you get lost, for example, Man will chime in describing the situation and telling players what the issue was or what he did. I think this is a really effective way of helping stuck players and I haven't seen this in another game. The game will say something like, "The beast immediately became pissed off, and I searched for a way to soothe him," or something like that, which gives you the hint.

The controls feel fine. They're almost exactly like they were in SotC, with real "weight" to them and definite acceleration and deceleration periods. I don't expect anyone to have a problem with them, though the camera is more frustrating. I played for a couple of hours at the default speed; I recommend immediately turning it up until you are comfortable. It makes the game feel considerably snappier and solves a lot of issues. Fundamentally the challenge the game is dealing with is not just small rooms + big beast but that the camera is working to cinematically frame both characters to the best of its ability in a way that maintains the scale differential. Often this means Trico's head will be out of the frame. This is unsettling to players so we're constantly fudging with the stick. The camera has a definite acceleration as well so you're going to overcompensate if you start fuddling with it. I'm sort of getting used to just leaving it be and it does a fine job.

The weight of the boy feels realistic but creates awkward animation situations sometimes. His butt ends up over his head catching ledges while falling, for example. It's not a big deal but it certainly does look funny.

I took hundreds of screenshots while playing, which I have never done before. Trico will make you love him; pet lovers will be done in instantly while non-pet people will have their attention earned. Every time I look at Trico I see my Boston Terrier Max. Here is my little Last Guardian:



Maybe it is his ears? Anyway, to call Trico lifelike is to undersell Trico's animation. He's not lifelike, he's...likeexactlylike. The way he navigates small spaces, claws at things he wants to eat, the way his ears react in the wind, the way he vocalizes and draws attention, and just the way he looks at you...it is an out of body experience to play this game if you have a pet. Max himself seemed fascinated by the game and sat on the ground watching Trico on screen.

The first time Trico comes to your rescue, you will just have your heart melt. Regardless of what you think of the game, the level at which Ueda and team have executed on their goal to build a lifelike animal creature is truly something special.

The satisfaction of "training" Trico is akin to getting a new dog or puppy to do a trick for the first time. Early in the game you get the ability to issue "commands" to Trico. They are basic and unidentified by the game. You can figure out they include jump, look, smash, etc. The first time you mount Trico and say "jump!" and he does, you will feel a rush of emotion as you can feel the bond between your characters forming. Or at least I did. Trico can't speak, and really neither can Boy since Trico can't understand him, but they don't need to. Trico doesn't call Boy and ask him if he wants to go look at some titties or tell him hoo-rah or say stay frosty, but the communication between these two is strong.

The game has a real Dark Souls vibe in terms of being able to "see" the upcoming game environments as you play earlier ones. For example, you can see the demo environment as you cross through the levels "underneath" it, which is a nice touch. The game itself has a real sense of place just like the two worlds Ueda and team built before this one. Logically things flow together and logistically you can believe that things connect to other things. Critically, puzzles are extremely organic and do not feel overwrought or "puzzley." They are satisfying and the game doles them out in well paced chunks. By the time you actually start really platforming through puzzle levels with Trico, you feel like you have earned it. And it really is fun to watch Trico jump from pillar to pillar...as you hold your breath and hope he makes it OK.

Animal logic works with him. He's self sufficient mostly, so you shouldn't spend time trying to micromanage him. In fact, I was surprised often by how he was able to follow me through small areas and into places I thought I'd have to ride him or tell him how to maneuver through. Perhaps this is one area players will be frustrated by him. If you need his attention, food really works! In fact, food seems to be one of his utmost priorities at all times. There is one very neat puzzle where you need to get him to stop doing something and get him to do something else. Guess what works! Food.

I have not found it to be the case that I had to be in a particular spot or have Trico be in a particular spot in order to progress through a level. If you've explored a room entirely and get stuck, I have found that watching and listening to Trico usually gives it away. You can also mount him and give him commands to effectively steer him to where you need to go. I really haven't found him very frustrating.

Trico's tail magic reminds me a LOT of Yorda's lightning.

The subtitle font is absolutely gorgeous. Wonderful kerning. Bold. Clear. Huge.

Anyway I think I want to go play more.
My second set of impressions is below. You can link these up with the first set if you want to get a sense of how I felt about the whole game. I thought about the game all night and really want to write this for the catharsis.

If ICO was about friendship and Shadow of the Colossus was about hope in the face of total hopelessness, The Last Guardian is about the satisfaction we get in seeing others succeed. What distinguishes Trico from Yorda is how Trico develops over the course of the game both physically and as a companion. While Yorda is clearly special from your first encounter and the game makes a note of her significance through cutscenes and dialogue, Trico becomes special because of how you help him and how that makes you feel. I completely reject the notion that the game could ever feel dated; Trico feels so far ahead of everything else in the field. His very being just seems groundbreaking to me. His animation and design are his character and they make it believable for you to believe in him.

The game makes Trico’s development (rather than Boy’s escape) the major progression markers in the story. While I always wanted the Boy to escape, I really wanted to see how Trico, the failed little man-eating monster who starts the game on death’s door, made out, and those scenes are the real heartrending pieces of the story. Players of Panzer Dragoon Zwei are really going to appreciate a dramatic scene where Trico finally regains his full physical abilities. You’ll pump your fist and feel a lump in your throat. The game’s filled with moments like these…not where you feel powerful because of something you did but powerful because of something Trico did that you made possible. Late in the game, as he becomes your protector, that connection feels palpably strong and human.

The plot of the game is not what you expect. After finishing it, there are a ton of unexplained elements I can’t wait to explore and discuss with other people online. Suffice it to say it has been well hidden over the past 7 years and you do not know what you think you do. I won’t comment on how it all wraps up expect to say the story is uplifting. After I finished it, I hugged my two dogs and they licked my face. One has really stinky breath so I can only imagine what Trico’s breath smells like.

Mechanically, the game really turns into a platformer late. I was surprised by this. There are a lot of sweaty-palms jumps you’ll make towards the end, and the scale of the game is simply huge. I have no idea how this was intended to run on a PS3 (it barely runs on a PS4). You’ll feel so, so high up! It makes every jump feel perilous. In this sense, late in the game, the game shifts from feeling a lot like ICO to feeling a lot like Shadow of the Colossus, where you start climbing massive structures and you just keep going higher and higher. Previously I mentioned how the game has a “Dark Souls” feel in that you can see places you’ll be going later as you play. The game also has a Dark Souls feel in that the environments end up looping around on themselves! It is a pleasant surprise because it further enhances the sense of place throughout the game. If this was one of your favorite elements of Shadow of the Colossus, you will really love this in the game.

Artistically, the game’s beauty is just incapable to describe. Expertly lit scenes and breathtaking views comprise the entire second half of the game. I know the performance is at best uneven but I thought it was so worth it (and 1900p is higher than I thought…this is almost 4K native!). I would have preferred if performance were perfect but it never impacted by ability to play (though it was definitely noticeable). I also noted the camera really struggled in some later-game scenes where you go into some mine-type environments and the ceiling gets very shallow. The game absolutely didn’t know what to do with itself here, and this was somewhat surprising they didn’t think to switch to a fixed camera or something similar. Still, didn’t care. Pimple on the nose of this game’s beautiful complexion.

The puzzles are really quite clever. There are a few that use physics (be they of mechanical objects or water) and will leave you impressed. The solutions are always simple, so usually it is a matter of finding what they are and not overthinking things. I feel for players that bump into bugs. I didn’t experience any, but they should definitely be fixed. The game can be oblique sometimes about where and what you should do or what you can climb on, and like I said before, there are some red herrings. There are no colored ledges or obvious cliffs to grab. Some of the things you’ll do you’ll be like, “I can’t believe this isn’t some sequence breaking glitch!” because of how adventurous and dangerous it feels. Something else the game has that Ueda games have not had historically are setpieces. One of them is so exhilarating that I called it my moment of the gen. The way the setpiece blends platforming puzzles with traversal and action and then ends the sequence with a straight up physics puzzle is truly genius and so Ueda. You’ll love it.

I didn’t take notes this time like I did last time so there may be more I remember later. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and can’t even imagine this game never making it out. At Chris Kohler’s suggestion, I watched the initial reveal trailer from 2009 after finishing the game. Things look a little different—HDR makes everything brighter and the graphics are obviously better—but the game is all there. There was no rewriting or reworking of the game. It is all there. It just didn’t work on the hardware. I think that’s the reason why this game is good. It doesn’t feel cobbled together or salvaged; it feels unique, like the singular vision of one guy and his team that they have slaved over for 5+ years. It doesn’t feel like it has been influenced by outside trends in gaming or whatever—I was blown away that there are no stupid collectables to collect or bars to fill just so you can feel better about yourself. There’s a secret garden thing you can find and it’s just this beautiful little garden where you can sit there and do nothing. You don’t get +50xp and the game doesn’t even tell you you did it.

At the end of the game, you’ll feel a tremendous sense of adventure. You’ll be sad it is over and you’ll be crushed that you won’t get to spend more time with your feathery friend. But you’ll feel good inside.
Ok for anyone interested. I've played for almost 4 hours. OG PS4 (not even slim). Key points:

- I love Trico. Genuinely even if he's a bit stubborn and probably smells, being that big, and moistured.
- Trico has had several puppy-like cute moments.
- Music appears and dissappears quite seamlessly, mostly it isn't there, but when it is it's very nice and film-like. Not Otani but very nice.
- The boy. Oh boy the boy. At first it was automatically worse than Wander because of being just a child but this cute little rascal has A LOT of personality, due to him being animated like only the gods can do, in every and each action he does.
- The game is pretty much Ico in another setting, with another story, etc. That means linear, mostly just puzzles, same base idea, similar execution, similar fortress-like place... but it feels easier. And more frustrating. Because of Trico not doing what I want, even when the game told me he should understand more things. I guess that's a matter of getting used to it and point the camera in the right place, I seem to be improving on giving him orders. Other times it may be me wanting to do something that I'm not supposed to do.
- A lot of indoors/outdoors/indoors/outdoors, always nice environments.
- Quite some ugly textures when zoomed, but it's not a problem, specially when you grasp the scale of the whole thing, which is barbaric, in the same way Ico was for ps1, with not a single loading screen.
- I've died. Several times. Mostly (always?) because I fell to my death.
- Easier than Ico I said: because so far the puzzles are more evident and less about tricky timed jumps or involve less thinking over various items, I repeat: for now (bit less than 4h).
- I feel like I'm still quite at the beginning.
- The game's annoying reminding me what the hell some buttons do repeated times over and over, with a quite big message.
- Frames do indeed drop. My theory: grass is the frame killer. It's got pretty bad in some spots, but the most I had to do in those was to make a pair of jumps and get to other place with better framerate. Mostly solid 30 everywhere else, some little stutter here and there for half a second, some other zones with prolongued 25-27 fps (the really bad zones must be like 20 or a bit less when real bad - whatever, I don't have a way to measure it but it's very noticeable). Never hurt the gameplay but I definitely noticed some input lag due to that in some places, which only really hurt my experience of moving the camera around.
- Ah, the camera is a bitch.

I regret a bit having rented it instead of buying it... because I see I could just fuck around for a lot of time. But I don't really know how much progress I've made and all that. Anyway I don't think it's very replayable, unless there's things later or after finishing once.

The story beats so far have been almost none. But there's a story there waiting to explode (I think... maybe not). There's more narrative than in previous games at this stage that feels like very early in the game still (or so I think). Still have to see things and decide if this time the story is more fleshed out or it's just... narrative... in a new approach. It's not even remotely bad. It's just less silent.

Some more things:
- The scenery is really nice. Beautiful game. Technically it's what you can see in trailers/gameplay, what you can reallistically expect. Beautiful.
- As a puzzle/adventure game, it can get tiring to some people. I'm eager to continue tomorrow and maybe do more than 4 hours at once.
- The game has a way of hinting you what to do. Sometimes it makes it obvious, other times very subtle. I imagine it would get totally subtle, if any, moving forward.
- I've recognized some little fellas from SotC. ^___^
- Climbing Trico can get awkward because of controls and strange poses like climbing up head down. Some clipping, etc, type glitches
Hell yeah! This is the first of Ueda's work where it genuinely feels like I'm playing a Ghibli movie. So refreshing to have this among the crop of shooters and other recent AAA games.
Alright so I'm about 3 or 4 hours into the game so far. Still think I'm pretty much at the beginning because I've taken it pretty slow. First off, the game is beautiful, Toriko moves amazingly, the boy does as well. I don't think I've ever seen ragdoll physics like this. I feel down a cliffside and the way the boy bounced around on the rocks was eerily realistic and a bit disturbing. Love the way Trico moves and acts like an animal. He is a bit stubborn, so you'll need a bit of patience with this game. The puzzles are also spectacular even at this early stage. Everything feels organic, like the solutions aren't spelled out to you and it feels less like a straight up puzzle-to-puzzle type game but something that flows way more naturally.

So generally positive so far. Feels like an Ueda game and the atmosphere is incredible. I'm a bit put off by the camera control, especially in tight areas. They seem to solve some of it by just making the screen fade to back if the camera goes awry, but moments like this are few and far between (so far). You can change the camera control speed in the options to help a bit, but it still feels off. The controls, as many would expect, are a bit janky. I've only really had some frustration at times with climbing Trico.

But yeah, from the first few hours, the game opens with a unique mechanic I haven't seen in any previews yet, and a bit more in-your-face storytelling than what I'm typically used to in an Ueda game (still subtle though). I can't wait to dive back in and keep going forward. Might take a bit because I love just petting Trico so much haha.

If anyone has any questions let me know. OH and also, there are, as of now, no ps4pro options in the menus that I can see. Might be automatic?
Played it for 2-3 hours, it's just as I hoped it to be. Intense and emotional.
Trico is loveable beyond expectations, controls are sometimes wonky, but got used to it after 20 mins.

Fantastic game.
I'm playing on a PS4 Pro, and it's smooth so far. Haven't seen it on a standard PS4, so I can't compare (but maybe the Pro isn't even supported yet, and it's the same on both). I'm not really good at estimating framerate, but it seems steady 30+ without noticeable hiccups.
Enjoyable. Wont say much more but ya enjoyable. Will drop review during normal embargo though.
Was the wait worth it ? that's the question
For a fan of Ueda's work? Absolutely. I can't say much about the expectations of people who've never played any of his titles and are jumping in without that prior experience, so that's harder to gauge.
Played just a bit so far. Only an hour. But I can say: Trico is a GOOD BOY.

Framerate does tank on ps4 normal in open spaces tho (anything with lot's of grasses) Thankfully no intense gameplay element happen so far in it so it's not too bad. Otherwise it's pretty good in any other dungeon like place.
Otherwise, it plays exactly like Ico and SotC. And it feels exactly like an Ico and SotC game, with the jank, but also the intense charm, and great music
Don't worry I won't post any spoilerish stuff for the story. Just talking gameplay.

- TLG feels like a combination between Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. There's gameplay elements from both games.
- It has some beautiful views and sceneries. I definitely recommend taking your time to look around every once and a while.

- The game feels pretty dated in a lot of spots. The controls are pretty terrible and I had a hard time controlling the kid. I got used to it in the end but adjust your expectations
- The frame rate is really, really, bad. Haven't played a game that stuttered this bad in a while.
- Trico is really slow to respond to your commands. It sometimes doesn't feel like he understands you at all. So you end up being frustrated a lot.

- Having said all that there is a certain something that only seems to be around in games from Team Ico. You'll grow attached to Trico real quick (like in the first 15 minutes) even though he can be really annoying. That is definitely something a lot of other developers should aspire to achieve. This weird creature has more personality than 99% of all main characters in video games.
 

ironcreed

Banned
Jun 4, 2011
30,337
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There is footage all over Youtube and it looks absolutely glorious. All it took was having the PS4 to realize the potential of what they were trying to do. I think I'll buy a physical copy of this one, as it is going to be something special. Sometimes you see a game and just know.
 

Hydrargyrus

Member
Feb 3, 2009
4,151
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Zaragoza, Spain
I hope it delivers.

I'm not really into the scores, but everything above 80 MC would be great. It would mean that, at least, the majority was satisfied with the game.
 
Mar 16, 2016
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Good to hear the positive early impressions.

Please please please PLEASE let this be the rare game that doesn't have positive early impressions only to be savaged by everyone here upon release.

I need this to be great!
 

ethomaz

Member
Mar 19, 2013
24,283
3,433
800
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Brazil
This is beautiful.

This game is like Remake for me... modern control makes the game shit so I will love more "clunky controls".
 

FonkyByNature

Member
Dec 13, 2012
3,388
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Montreal
Man the impressions and the little i saw from the game makes me super hyped !!

Already pre-ordered, can't wait for next week !!! I know this game will be special for me.
 

Infernostew

Member
Feb 5, 2014
5,916
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Wow. I was expecting somewhere around 4-6 hours. 12 is super surprising. Can't wait to play this when I get it for Christmas.
 

prwxv3

Member
Sep 7, 2011
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Good to hear the positive early impressions.

Please please please PLEASE let this be the rare game that doesn't have positive early impressions only to be savaged by everyone here upon release.

I need this to be great!
This is a niche game that will not resonate with everyone. And that is ok
 

iammeiam

Member
Dec 28, 2006
10,664
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12 hours seems a bit short for a game people were begging for for so long
I think the people begging for it are mostly familiar with the past games and are probably okay with, if not pleasantly surprised by ,12 hours.

Given the development history I was honestly expecting around 6, with lots of concepts that ended up dropped to finally get it out the door. That it's maybe actually all intact is a pleasant surprise.
 

Illucio

Banned
Oct 7, 2014
3,721
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Great impressions, the complaint about wonky controls is to be expected. Almost every Team Ico game has wonky controls. So really this isn't anything new.

So hyped for the game, will definitely be picking this up and taking a break from XV in order to finish this.