The Last Guardian is a third-person perspective game that combines action-adventure and puzzle elements.
The player controls the unarmed boy who can run, jump, climb and perform other actions similar to the gameplay in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The player may also need to use the environment to silently move around or defeat shadow-being guards, though initially the boy is weaponless. The guards, although slow-moving, can capture the boy, and if the player is unable to free the character in time, the game will be over.
The player’s movements are augmented by interaction with Trico who the boy can climb upon and ride. As stated by Ueda, Trico is “driven by animal instincts”, and it is up to the player to guide the creature, “taking advantage of his natural behavior” to complete puzzles. For example, the player may have the boy throw a barrel that gains Trico’s interest, causing it to move to a specific location. The player may have to have the boy jump as to coerce Trico to jump across a large gap. The player may also need to find the way for Trico to sit still in order to allow the player to complete a section, while the natural tendency of the creature is to run ahead of the player. Trico is able to fire a stream of lightning from its tail, which work along with a mirrored shield that the boy picks up during the game to enable the player to redirect this stream to solve environmental puzzles or attack foes. Unlike typical sidekicks in video games, which immediately react to a player’s command, Trico will be difficult for the player to control, and may take several attempts to coerce the creature into performing a specific action. The player will have some idea of what Trico’s current mood not only by the motions of the creature, but by the color of its eyes, ranging from yellow for a cautious mood to purple representing anger and disgust.
The player will also have to care for the creature, either by feeding it or removing spears and arrows that are stuck in its body. Through the course of the game, the player will gain better command of the creature, an aspect Ueda considered equivalent to training a pet; initially in the game, the creature may wander off to explore something that interests it more than the boy, refuse to eat food it thinks smells badly, or choose to go to sleep when it wants to. By performing certain tasks, the player will be able to come to control Trico better, and Ueda believes “each player will have a different Trico to work with depending on how he or she chooses to interact with him”. However, the player may still want to take advantage of the creature’s natural habits; the game includes sections where by letting Trico roam free, new areas for exploration may open up.
The Last Guardian was reintroduced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015, and will be released worldwide on December 6th 2016.