The Curse of the Last Guardian
Every game in one way or another is a representation of the era in which it was made, a relic of the past that can teaches us something about that time. Wolfenstein 3D look back to the times when their were real monsters in this world, while Doom looks forward to the monsters of our future. Mario and Sonic are symbols of a time when tribalism and ‘fanboyism’ were actively encouraged and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is about exerting american dominance over a post 9/11 world that rejects and hates it’s values. These are simplistic readings to be sure, but if you look closely at your favorite games and think about the time they came from, they most likely reflect the beliefs and sensibilities of the makers in the time period they were made. So what about games that are made now but reflect the past, what about the Last Guardian?
Since 2007, “Where is the Last Guardian” has been one of the gaming industries biggest questions (and punchlines) Announced for the PS3 by Team Ico (The team behind the legendary Shadow of the Colossus) The Last Guardian was set to be their first game for the console and a potential system seller for fans of SotC. But as time passed, rumors began circulating of it’s troubled development, followed by delays and then complete radio silence from ICO on the state of game. Fast forward to 2015 and the name Last Guardian had become synonymous with unobtainable goals and turbulent development. Then a few days before E3, the Guardian (Fittingly enough) announced that the game would be making an appearance at the Sony press conference for the PS4. Sure enough it was and we got to see the first new gameplay for the game since 2007, 8 years ago.
It’s a relic, an artifact of another era in gaming, that passed it by and has left it obsolete. Lets think about the last 8 years in gaming. Since 2008 we’ve seen the landscape of games change completely, with multi-player being the hot new thing, the rise of indies and even a whole new console generation emerging. It’s the second one of those points that I think is the nail in the Last Guardian’s coffin, indie games have supplanted what the last guardain was meant to be and left it in the dust. The likes of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Basition,, Limbo, Braid, Fez and Ori and the Blind Forest have all come and gone in that time.
Last Guardian was meant to be a breathe of fresh air in an era when such things emotional depth and bonding weren’t common across the triple-A market place. But now that gap has been filled with both Indies and Mainstream games, in a way making Last Guardian look archaic and old fashioned. 2007 was a time of great change in gaming, with Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, Portal, Mass Effect, Witcher and of course Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Each of these games lead the way to change the industry (For better or worse). If the Last Guardian came out in 2009 I’m fairly certain it would have been well received, maybe not sell gang busters but be a much loved game by those who played it. But now in 2015, i’m now so sure. As a lover of indie games, I’ve seen what LG was going for, I’ve heard those notes being played before and It’s a old tune now.
There is a part of me that sees this game as the Moby Dick of the gaming industry, that consumed a good team in their obsession to get this game done. It has to be released now, if only for the sanity of the developers. But as Melville taught us, obsession can sometimes do more harm than good.