Well, folks, it’s been a good while, hasn’t it? The good news is, I’ve beaten a game recently (believe it or not), and it just so happened to make the cut for a WCG. On this dreary Sunday morning, I felt compelled to sit down at my newly beloved desk, and pour my heart out, as to why this game has made it into my top five games of all time. Ladies and gentleman, this…is Shadow Of The Colossus.
Before we jump in, I bought this game years ago. Well, a year or two ago. Either way, it’s been in my backlog for quite some time now, and after abandoning a game I wasn’t a huge fan of, I felt it was finally time to try SOTC out, once and for all. SOTC has been a very well received game for many, many years now. Originally a PS2 title, and then a remastered PS3 title, followed by the final remake by BluePoint Games. The Gods of remakes and remasters. Game reinstalled, I fired it up to see what all the fuss was about.
I did in fact play this remake before when I first purchased it, and like clockwork, I played it for an hour or so, if that, and said to myself, “This is cool. I’ll get to it later when I’ve completed XYZ.” Basically, just another excuse to not play a game that I knew I’d probably love. The battle of resistance continues to win, for now.
You play as a character named Wander, who on horseback, finds himself in a mysterious forbidden land. You travel across a vast, beautiful, untouched landscape, tasked with slaying sixteen Colossi, in order to restore the life of a girl named Mono. This simple plot is told, and brought forth in quite a vague way, leaving you standing in a Chapel of sorts, with your trusty steed Agro. I…guess I just jump on my horse and..find the first Colossi? Yep, pretty much. To some, this might sound boring and left wondering, where’s the incentive? Why is Wander willing to slay these giants for the restoration of a girl he..hardly knows?
You call for Agro, and it’s down the stairs we go. It’s time to set forth into forbidden lands to find the first Colossi. I guess we’ll find out the real reason later on. Immediately, you’re galloping across majestic, vast fields of open land as you raise your sword to the sky, William Wallace style, as the sun’s light reflects onto your sword’s iron to show you the way. This is how you navigate this massive landscape. Raise your sword to the sky and it will generate a light compass of sorts, and when faced in the correct direction of the Colossi, it narrows down to a blue light beam. It seems to slightly scorch the land if it’s beam grazes an object, similar to burning ants with a magnifying glass. No, I didn’t do that as a child.
The travel time from home base to finding the next Colossi is where I sort of fell in love with the game. With most games being chock-o-block full of tasks, enemies, npc’s, and other fluff to fill time, SOTC is filled with..well, nothing really. Land, butterflies, grass, flowers, mountains, waterfalls, bridges, architecture, and more land. There’s even deserts. I found it to be this wonderful escape from all this noise. An escape from a busy life. An escape from the avalanche of content we deal with on a day to day basis, thanks to technology. I felt my mind wandering, almost in a meditative state while making my journey to the next Colossi. Soaking in the desolate beauty around me. Often rotating the camera to make sure I wouldn’t miss a waterfall, or a mountain scape in the distance. There’s a camera mode too, for good reason. I most certainly took many breaks on my journey to snap photos, and record a couple videos of Agro’s perfectly animated gallop. How will I take down this next Colossi? Have we lost touched with nature? It’s important to find solitude on a daily basis in the maddening, complexities of life we live in. Oh crap, I’ve found it. This ones even bigger than before. Agro, wait here. *Raises sword*…
When encountering a Colossi, it’s best to raise your sword and shine it’s blue beam on the Colossi’s body to find it’s “Sigils”, or weak point(s). This will help you gauge how this fight is going to take place. Your next plan, is to figure out how to provoke it, and target it’s first Sigil. After you’ve targeted it’s first weak point with either your sword or bow and arrow, it’s time to climb. The majority of the Colossi in the game have this brown, “fur”, if you will, that you must climb to reach both, or sometimes just one, Sigil. Basically, your goal is to stab the Sigil’s repeatedly until you’ve slain the Colossi. Holding the attack button once gripped onto the Colossi raises the power of the stab, therefore taking down a significant amount of health on the Colossi. There were many times where I frankly just didn’t have the patience to wait for this charge up, so I would frantically stab, continue to hold on for dear life, and stab again. Sometimes making the entire cadence of the takedown much longer than it needed to be. All because the tension is paramount in this sequence. I just spent what felt like ten minutes climbing this skyscraper sized beast to get to the top of it’s head, all while my stamina gauge is depleting rapidly.
This is where the challenge comes in. It isn’t as simple as you’d like. Find the weak spots, climb the Colossi, and stab. Expect some of these battles to take anywhere from ten minutes to perhaps even twenty or more. It all depends on the Colossi’s behavior, and your intuition. Hmm, I wonder if these geyser’s will topple this guy? If your gut’s telling you yes, do it. More than often your intuition will be the reason why you’ve made progress. That leads me into climbing and the stamina gauge, in further detail. Your stamina gauge is only used when swimming under water, or primarily when climbing a Colossi. As soon as you’re on the fur, your heart rate will likely rapidly increase. As you climb, the Colossi tries to swing or shake you off, while Wander’s grip and balance is battle tested. With the constant fear of falling off and having to start the process all over again, you continue to grip R2 with your clammy index finger. I must make it. Stop. Shaking. Me. Off, you yell internally. You make it to the Sigil and more shaking from the beast. I just want to stab you and get this over with. You stab away and it’s health meter stops decreasing. What? There’s another Sigil. Falling to what seems like instant death, your lose a quarter of your health and you find yourself searching for the final Sigil.
Sounds tedious and maddening, right? It was at times. But nothing surpasses the thrill of it all. Like a puzzle, you run around with Agro, frantically trying to topple the giant, orchestrated with a game of observation, intuition, and a little common sense. You take down your fourth Colossi, and Wander wretches in, or out, a black fog. A sickness, almost. You are transported back to the Chapel via a dark portal. A voice above hints at the location of your next Colossi. Rinse and repeat in a lot of ways you might say. This is clear, but it doesn’t take long for that to become irrelevant. You only seem to care about your next journey. Where will the sword take me? Each and every time, you witness a new area of this wonderfully lonely, barren land. Feeling isolated with just you and Agro, you press on.
I must note that there is no music while traversing. Just the wonderful sound of Agro’s gallop, the mysterious other-worldly sounds of Wander’s sword beam, and the nature around you. The drone like hawk that occasionally seems to remind you that you are going the right way, the deafening sound of silence. When encountering a Colossi, or if a cutscene takes place, you are then greeted with a powerful score. Often regarded as having one of the best soundtracks in a video game, I would probably agree with that to an extent. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking in my opinion, but it was extremely fitting for the game’s premise. There’s a sort of sadness to it, but almost triumphant at times. For example, when you figure out where the final Sigil is and you’ve weakened the Colossi, the music changes, rewarding you with a sense of victory. It’s dynamic with your actions, and when it’s there, it makes sense. Packed with sweeping orchestral textures ranging from suspense, tension, and fear, you also will find beauty in it’s uplifting moments. There’s a story within the music, and that’s a rare and wonderful thing to capture.
Now, as far as the visuals are concerned, I’d argue that this is one of the best games, if not THE best looking game I’ve ever had to pleasure to play. BluePoint Games pulled off something spectacular here with this Remake, and even on my 1080p 120hz 2015 TV, it looks glorious. Thankfully, I do have a very good display, but even still, there were countless times where I could not imagine this at 4K 60FPS on a PS4 Pro. It’s just stunning, and at times, just looks plain, real. It was reminiscent of riding a horse through a beautiful painting. A 4K 60 painting. It’s one of those games you just have to witness in person to understand it’s breath taking qualities. Color me impressed, folks. I think every game should look as good as SOTC.
We’ve covered, sound, visuals, and gameplay. What’s left? Sure, I could talk about the ending, and more about the story, but I’d rather you play it for yourself. I wouldn’t want to tarnish the magic that happens when you play this game with a fresh, un-tarnished outlook. Is it a cool game? Yes. Absolutely it is. Is it still worth playing in 2020 with new consoles? YES. Will I cherish this game and now search the webs for art books and whatever else I can find. I will. I loved this game. I hope you find something special in your experience with it as I did.
Until next time, keep your games cool.