For PlayStation 3 owners, The Last Guardian is just one of those games. It’s a PS3 exclusive that should be an excellent addition to any library, and with Team ICO and respected designer Fumito Ueda behind the scenes, we’re expecting nothing less than an original, memorable experience. Ueda has often described the game and his artistic sensibilities usually shine through. For instance, various levels of distinct emotion will be found in this touching adventure, and that massive creature (named Torico) will be about as realistic as a fantasy creation can be. Fantasy is going to be a major theme in The Last Guardian; fantasy is something we feel transported by, it’s something almost intangible that puts us in touch with something deeper and more human. We felt this keenly in ICO and – perhaps to a lesser extent – in Shadow of the Colossus. In short, it’s about the entire experience.
Ueda has said he wants to “evoke feeling in a greater range of people,” which is part of the reason behind selecting an animal as one of the main characters. The team will also implement physiological features to launch the fantastical sensation of immersion into the stratosphere. You’ll not only command Torico, you’ll also be able to feed him and, for the most part, take care of him. The key is that the entire process is dynamic; i.e., you might not realize that what you’re feeding him he can’t eat, or that when trouble rears its ugly head, something unexpected may keep your protector from helping. It’s all about surveying the situation and your surroundings, and forging a bizarre sort of relationship between small boy and mammoth, mythical creature. Ueda wants people to realize that you can’t control everything; that we must leave some elements and facets up to natural uncertainty. This will also act as the root cause of any tension or urgency.
As for combat, it ought to be an interesting mix. The boy can’t physically take on the enemies; in this case, fully armored knights. He can run away from them and possibly lead them to their demise, but the boy can’t directly engage them and survive, which makes perfect sense. We’ve heard there will be some sort of paper-rock-scissors mechanic in place for the guards, Torico, and the boy…we’re not entirely sure how it’ll work just yet, but bear in mind that the devs haven’t yet nailed down all the control schemes. The bottom line is that if you wish to defeat the bad knights – who may be possessed by something – Torico will have to do the dirty work. Obviously, the big creature is capable of a great many things; it’s only a matter of issuing the right commands at the right time. Perhaps strangely, a lot of what we hear almost reminds us of the old Deception games on the original PlayStation, where you had to create elaborate traps for your pursuers…
The game’s environment and set designs will also be big highlights. According to a recent write-up in Famitsu, we should get some of the most meticulously designed set pieces seen to date. Even the tiniest elements, like moths and individual stones, have been carefully drawn. For past games, Ueda said a single artist would make an entire stage but with the added power of the PS3 and the option for much bigger spaces, quite a few artists and designers tackle individual elements. In fact, they say we’ll see exquisite detail everywhere, even in the places you can’t go. Ueda even hinted at one currently unseen stage where the scope and scale is so huge, people will be surprised the team was able to implement that much intricate detail. If you’re not intrigued by now, you haven’t an artistic bone in your body. The Last Guardian now has a vague release window of late 2011, which could translate to next year’s holiday season.