The Last Guardian's Trico Isn't Trying to be a Jerk
It's really no secret that AI in most video games is just terrible. Our least favorite quests are of the escort variety, our least favorite levels are the ones that require keeping an AI companion alive and, when storage is allowed, they turn into nothing more than glorified pack mules. It can be infuriating being even temporarily saddled with a computer sidekick. I'll ask you to keep these fond memories in the back of your mind as we consider The Last Guardian's heroic attempt at a computer controlled, progress essential, gloriously feathered game partner.
The Last Guardian is a beautiful game for patient people. The gameplay centers around puzzle solving and the style is heavily influenced by Studio Ico's previous two games, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. While the game struggled with a lengthy production, the finished product is polished and stunning. The driving mechanic is the relationship your player controlled character, "the boy", forms with his giant dog/bird creature, Trico.
The puzzles exist in two scales: player sized and Trico sized. Previous games depended on simple AI partner abilities to progress, while The Last Guardian accomplishes a more natural approach. The game instead focuses on the size and requirements of the world around you, and requires constant interaction with the computer-controlled beast. This requires Trico to have a subtle intelligence and eventually the ability to follow commands. Simultaneously Trico is meant to be obstinate at times, which adds a layer of complexity.
The side effect of these two factors combined is that Trico comes off as a real jerk sometimes. Trico has a very delayed (for video game standards) response time, ambles around seemingly aimlessly and, every once in awhile, ignores you all together. This has come under some heavy fire by more impatient players, but the argument here is that both the intended and unintended frustration is a valuable and core mechanic of the game.
Not only do these inconveniences help to forge a bond between you and the creature (or adversely an undying hatred), they force the player to pay attention to their AI counterpart. Trico is meant to help guide the player, as well as follow, and it's easy to get frustrated if you ignore her clues. Patience is part of the process with any animal, and the fact that this AI design can mimic that experience is incredible.
Additionally, Trico's follow and catch AI never gets old. Leaping off buildings is as fun as a Leap of Faith, and finding different combinations to see if Trico will still catch you is highly entertaining. If you hadn't already formed a bond with your feather dog, executing some stunts is a fun way to do it.
So the next time you're irritated with Trico, see if they are trying to show you something, or enjoy watching their feather butt roll around in the grass for a few minutes.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no defense for the The Last Guardian's camera.
Did you experience a strained relationship with Trico? Did it get better as you played through, or worse? Let us know in the comment section below.