The Last Guardian's reveal in 2009 was anything but ordinary. To many, it was the star of E3 2009, enough that it would give Sony a huge edge over Microsoft and Nintendo when comparisons were brought up. For the next several years it would be considered a major—and valid—reason to invest in the PS3. And so it would show up on top upcoming PS3 game lists year after year, serving as ammunition for anyone arguing on Sony's behalf.
Here we are seven years later and The Last Guardian is finally a commercial product. You'd think that after all this time PlayStation fans would do anything they can to get their hands on it, but that's actually very far from reality.
Reception for The Last Guardian has been largely unenthusiastic during the past week. Early reviews didn't do it any favors by painting a divisive game that excelled artistically, but fell well short of being a fun game to play. It currently stands at an 83 Metascore with 18 mixed reviews, several of which fall in the 60 to 65 range.
User reception has echoed the thoughts of many reviewers. Some have adored it, calling it yet another phenomenal creation by Team ICO (now genDESIGN). But many feel that it doesn't represent the studio's excellence in a way similar to its two prior projects. One thing that virtually everyone can agree on is that the final product represents its tumultuous development; it feels dated mechanically and visually. It relies heavily on its artistic delivery to carry the experience, something that resonates with a small subset of gamers.
The biggest problem is that The Last Guardian isn't selling all that well. It's currently not trending on top charts (including Amazon's) and early reports show that it's having a rough time. Though, this was to be expected by analysts who are aware of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus both struggling to surpass the one million sales mark—bizarre for such well-regarded games. Even then, an exclusive of this caliber should be performing better.
What hurts The Last Guardian more than anything is the expectation that has been built up over time. Despite its small team size, anything Team ICO/genDESIGN ever makes will be held to unbelievably high standards, but this is a particularly extreme case given the years of delays. These expectations were made unrealistic by the conditions, to a point of being unattainable.
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The greatest fear is that this will be enough to spell the end of the development studio, which already underwent a huge transformation in 2014 to what is now called genDESIGN. Many team members have remained through development, and clearly as a team they still have the unmistakable ability to create immersive worlds with subtle storytelling. The gaming industry needs the balance offered by games of this type, games that stray from the pack with emphasis on the qualities that are often underrepresented.
Have you played The Last Guardian? Let us know in the comments below what you think of the game and how it compares to your expectations.