Hold on, we’re wandering into the Forbidden Lands of Shadow of the Colossus!
Shadow of the Colossus is an impressive PlayStation 4 game that is the true definition of a remake. The game takes place in The Forbidden lands, on the same storyline and general controls as its PlayStation 2 predecessor in 2005 (with a few things cleaned up). The intro scene beautifully sets up what is to come, as protagonist Wander takes a lifeless woman named Mono to a temple called the Shine of Worship, riding back on his trusty horse Agro. The grounds are marked with large statues of 16 colossi, and from there Wander is informed by an mystical voice named Dormin that Mono will be restored back to life if he kills them all.
And from there, a lot of the game is very straightforward. Your task is to kill 16 colossi, and each impending battle happens in succession without any funny business in between. This review comes from the point of view of a first-time player, and it was refreshing take on a linear core game loop. In fact, I would argue this might have been the simplest game I have ever played in terms of understanding what you are tasked. This is all purposefully done, because the real focus of the game is solving each colossi battle.
The biggest appeal to the game is that every colossus has a different strategy to defeating it. A colossus has a blue target on parts of their body, and Wander must find where these targets are located and stab it to demise. It is not a vicious battle (that is unless you’re being chased by a snake… but you’ll get to that), and a few colossi will never attack you. The solution involves many elements, a combination of climbing, bow and arrow shooting, sword fighting, Agro racing, environment and building utilizing, and most of all timing. I absolutely loved this, and it makes sense that fluff is taken out.
It goes without saying that Shadow of the Colossus is absolutely gorgeous, and Bluepoint Games did an excellent job remaking this game. The fields, the deserts, the lakes, every environment is vastly improved compared to its initial release. Even in the mundane task of riding Agro through an open field, the perspective pans with Wander and Agro moved to the side of the screen for full appreciation of the setting. The game’s graphics feel so real, I experienced vertigo many different times as I walked along the edge. Embrace it!
I almost wished I had a PS4 Pro to experience its 4K form. I did not try to Camera Mode personally, but I have seen many videos on it to capitalize on majestic settings.
Shadow of the Colossus‘ game controls and mechanics were difficult to handle in the beginning, and I cannot say I’ve truly mastered them even after finishing the game. The few creative iterative steps I enjoyed involve process to find the colossus. Wander raises his sword as the lights shine in the direction of your pending challenge. If you look up towards the sky, all 16 colossi are marked with a shining light to also guide you. I played the game on Normal mode so I am unsure if this holds in other difficulties, but continuously pressing “triangle” leads Agro into the forest with no steering required. The game also plays with you to see how long it takes to tame the beast. Time Attack can get you sweet trophies and a sense of accomplishment of finishing in the alloted amount of time. If you were unable to get the time the first time, Reminiscence Mode allows the player to replay each battle.
Shadow of the Colossus also has quite a few setbacks in gameplay, and while I overcame these issues they can be detrimental to experience and are fairly criticized. The most significant problem about this game are the unforgiving camera angles, which can suddenly veer off course when you’re in the middle of battle. The auto-focus button is helpful, but often it also completely fails the player as the cameras almost work on its own. Another issue is the difficulty triggering certain colossus moves. This was very prominent for me in Colossus 15, where Argus needed to make movement A for me to defeat it. For a good 15 minutes, all he was doing was making movement B. I tried every distance and location to enable movement A, and it should not have been this hard if this was the final blow.
The minimal plotline of Shadow of the Colossus was a big plus and a minor minus. The focus is mostly put on the player’s colossal-sized missions, but the few bits of storyline are sprinkled in the right places. The journey is concise and hard to miss, and there are no fillers to overcomplicate the already straightforward game.
An effect of the storyline delivery was a bigger impact of the climax, and as a first-time player it packed a big punch. The hero’s journey to save the girl takes an interesting turn and was a very welcomed surprise. My small complaint of the game was the ending: due to the narrative’s succinct nature, some characters are interspersed with no real explanation. This lead to the conclusion feeling like a deus ex machina. Although I was quite disappointed, it can also be taken as the player’s own interpretation. Overall, the faulty details I am willing to overlook.
The verdict? Shadow of the Colossus is great for people who want to fit in a short game with puzzle-like gameplay, but it is also a game that demands extreme patience. Players willing to give it that will have a great time.