Back in June, I posted two polls asking readers of this blog to decided which two games I would play, after Biomutant, of which Shadow of the Colossus was one of the games chosen. At the weekend, I completed the game and I’m starting to think you guys just want to emotionally torture me. My emotionally suffering aside, I did enjoy my experience with the game and I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you today.
Let me start by saying, after playing Shadow of the Colossus, I can completely understand why it has the reputation, as a cult classic, that it has. It is a unique experience that, quite honestly, I haven’t really experienced before. In Shadow of the Colossus, you take on the role of Wander, a young man who travels to the Forbidden Valley in an attempt to resurrect the woman he loves. According to myth, the entity known as Dormin has the power to bring back someone from the dead. The catch? Dormin wants Wander to slay sixteen creatures, the Colossi, who reside within the Forbidden Valley.
And that is pretty much the game, you travel throughout the land, find the Colossus and slay it. The game has no side quests, a very small cast of characters and very little combat. Yet, Shadow of the Colossus is incredible.
Each Colossi is unique and whilst the way you kill each Colossi is the same, the tactics you use are completely different. You see, the Colossus are… well, colossal creatures. You can’t just simply run up to them and start hacking at their ankles with your sword. No, you must strike their vital points, which are often situated high up on the Colossi. The way you reach the vital points vary from each creature. For some, it is as simple as running up to them, jumping on and just climbing your way to the top. For others, you have to interact with the environment around you, in order to access those vital points. In some ways, Shadow of the Colossus feels more like a puzzle platformer than an action adventure game, as the real challenge of the game is working out how to climb the Colossus. Just this gameplay alone makes Shadow of the Colossus stand out. I mean, for the time, there weren’t many games where the actual slaying of a creature took a few swings of your sword, whilst reaching the creature was the true challenge.
I will say that the controls are not one of Shadow of the Colossus’ strong points. Don’t get me wrong, Bluepoint Games did a good job at giving players the option of using the classic controls or a more modern version. However, as I played through the game, I found the controls somewhat sluggish. For example, I was trying to climb the last Colossi and for some reason Wander decided rather than climb up, he would instead cling onto the Colossi’s hand and enjoy the view, despite me trying to encourage him to climb. And when you are only able to climb as long as you have stamina and when you have no stamina, you fall, this makes the experience both stressful and nerve wracking. Still, this issue with controls does not ruin the experience but it will frustrate some people, especially if they have not experienced the PS2 era of control schemes.
Onto a more positive thing, another aspect of the game I love is the music. Whilst you are travelling through the land, the background music is quite subdued and reflects the desolate landscape you are travelling through. However, once you encounter a Colossus, the music becomes incredibly epic and certainly makes the encounter so much grander. This is definitely an area that other developers could take notes from Shadow of the Colossus, as matching music to the moment is something that some games miss the mark with.
Something that is a bit unusual with Shadow of the Colossus is its story and pacing of that story. You don’t really know what happened that led up to Wander making his way into the Forbidden Valley and for much of the game, the only thing you know is Dormin will only restore your deceased friend if you slay the Colossi. For much of the game, that is pretty much all the plot you get. You get hints that there is something… off with the situation but nothing concrete. That is, until you have defeated the last Colossus. Then you are subjected to about fifteen-twenty minutes of plot. I personally prefer the storyline to be a little better paced, however this style of storytelling does suit Shadow of the Colossus, as it puts the player on the same level of understanding as Wander. All in all, the story reminds me of ancient myths and legends, which ultimately I love.
Overall, Shadow of the Colossus is a fantastic game that I highly recommend people try out at least once. It is a really unique experience, that does show its age at certain points, but the story it is telling is timeless. Shadow of the Colossus was an amazing experience and has definitely persuaded me to take a look at the other Team Ico games. So, if you are looking for a game that makes you feel like a giant slayer, then I highly recommend this game.