Shadow of the Colossus (SotC) begins as Wander (the main protagonist) enters the forbidden land with his horse, Agro. Ultimately Wander arrives at the Shrine of Worship (located at the center of the region), carrying a body wrapped in a cloak, which he lays upon an altar in the shrine. Removing the cloak, the body of a barefoot maiden named "Mono" is revealed. Soon the voice of an entity known as "Dormin" echoes from shrine. Wander requests that Dormin return Mono's soul to her body, which it states may be possible, but only if the sixteen idols or Colossi lining the temple's hall are destroyed. And so our quest begins....
To find each colossus, Wander must raise his sword while in a sunlit area and the resulting beam of light converges on the direction of the next Colossus. Most colossi are located in remote areas, such as atop cliffs or within ancient structures and the journey to each one is seldom straight forward.
I must start out by admiting I never played it when it was originally released on the PS2 but in the 6 years since it has gained a reputation as a classic and one of the best games of the last decade.
22 October 2011 - James Bridcut
Therefore seeing as i'd never heard a bad word about SotC I had incredibly high expectations for this game. For a game that was released in 2005 the game looks stunning, except for some long distance pop up, the game could pass as an early (albeit stylised) PS3 game and therefore its fair to say was visually ahead of its time when released on the PS2.
The simple premise and single goal of destroying the series of Colossi seems both novel and refreshing, especially today in a time where stories can be overly complicated and convoluted. While the basis for each colossi is the same (find it, mount it, kill it) the variation in the size, aggression and environment for each beast, means that there is a high level of intrigue with the discovery of each successive Colossi. As this is the main part to the game I can imagine some people may be put off at the thought of basically fighting one boss after another.
However I felt that all the colossi were wonderfully unique, which is something I didnt think i'd be saying after slaying the first 3 or so. Some of them are brilliantly ingenius and well thought out. For any reader who has played Mercury Steam's Castlevania, it's Titans are obviously heavily influenced by Wander and his battles with the Colossi. And while the Titans were bigger they were no where near as original or as mentally challenging as the colossi.
The beauty and epicness of the game didnt hit me until a few hours in and the awe of each Colossi, vastness of the expanses and down-beat feel to the game results in a bleak and yet very unique experience - I truly loved the look, atmosphere, feel and art design. The world is spookily desolate and the use of music is also brilliant (you could do worse than checking out the soundtrack).
While the game world in which you inhabit is barren and (pretty much) devoid of other humans there are still loads of places to explore. The 'forbidden lands' are strangely rich with lizards, fish, birds, fruit and hidden areas to find (including the legendary Forbidden Garden) as well as different ways to ride your horse, weapons and power-ups - none of which are obvious or apparent when you set out on your quest. All these elements combine to create a genuine air of mystery in the game. As there is very little in the way of back story to any of the characters you do start asking questions such as; "Who are you?", "Where did you come from?", "What are the Colossi?" and "Where is everyone else?" While some may find this annoying I found it just added to the wonder and mystery of the game and only some of these questions are answered by the time the credits roll.
I must admit that it did feel uncomfortable sometimes, that without question, you go around and violently slaugther these large, majestic, passive seeming beasts. There is a true morale conflict in the game (as well as an emotional story) that you very rarely experience in modern video games.
However there was one issue I had with the game and that surrounded controlling Agro. I found it could be a bit fiddly and frustrating at times and it took me a while to get use to it. The horse mechanics seems a tad dated compared to say Red Dead Redemption. The horse portion/mechanic was the one thing that really annoyed me - getting on Agro, controlling Agro, the camera etc. However that said the animation for Argo was really good.
Furthermore, I note that some people have stated that they didn't get on with the controls and by todays standards are archaic. While Initially I attended to agree that they felt dated, by the end I actually thought they were really good, albeit not perfect. The games lack of modern-day, 'intuitive' controls and movement may result in some frustrating passages of climbing and play but it does give you a real sense of freedom and that you can go and explore anywhere. There are never any bits where you jump and the game 'guides' you onto a ledge or rope etc, imediately indicating a certain path or passageway and therefore highlighting the (obvious) lack of freedom as there is only one predetermined way of scaling a rock face or buiding etc (in SotC there are no white glowing edges or ledges and you have to press R1 to grab onto things.....one missed
time 'grab' and you tumble to your death) By comparison, the platform elements of Enslaved can successfully be navigated by simply pushing forward and 'X' with no thought as the where you're going or any real skill! (is this yet more evidence of the dumbing down of games?!?) Therefore it's fair to say that ...Colossus is, in terms of controls and 'platforming' is the precursor to the likes of Assassins Creed.
While the game is not perfect and there are elements that some players may find frustrating and repetitive, it is one of the most unique (is it the ultimate platformer disquised as a adventure game?) and beautiful games I have ever played and a 'window' back to and age of gaming where players weren't spoon fed and games were genuinely on the whole harder. It might not be the all- conquering, '100%-er' of a game some people may lead you to believe, it is still an amazing, emotional, mysterious and orignal experience nonetheless which deserves its place in the upper tiers of the video gaming pantheon.