In a previous post I wrote that I wanted to expand a bit on my blog. Whereas before I was mostly rambling about cosmetics, I have decided that from now on I'll write about whatever interests me. Which is - admittedly - also largely about cosmetics but I have other passions too! A huge one of them is playing video games (I don't follow a course in games design for poops and giggles!) so I thought about how I could incorporate that in my blog. I don't really fancy doing reviews or anything, I kind of just want to share my passion with you so that even if you're not a gamer yourself, after reading it you might understand why the medium captivates me so.
So here's a new addition to the blog! Every now and again I'll write about a game that has made an impact on me (good or bad!). I'd like to bring games to your attention that you might not have given a chance yet, but I also just love sharing things like this. This first one is about a game I love; a video game that was unlike any other when it first came out and remains unlike any other now, more than eight years after its release on the Playstation 2.
Today, I'm showing you Shadow Of The Colossus, which was developed by Team Ico.
The story of Shadow Of The Colossus is simple enough, almost like a fairytale of old, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of meaning and thought behind it. The story is about The Wanderer who wants to resurrect his loved one (because the characters don't really speak much it is uncertain whether the lady in question is his friend, sister or girlfriend, but most people presume the latter) and to do that he has to defeat the sixteen colossi that inhabit the strangely desolated land. Sounds straightforward enough, right? Kill the beasts, get the girl, save the day. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And before you know it, you're on your way into the wild.
You can go and explore the land on Aggro - your horse - as much as you want. The game actively encourages exploration by rewarding you with finding fruit and being able to hunt little creatures that will increase your health bar and stamina. The increased stamina will most definitely come in handy, since your stamina meter will run out many times sooner than you would like when you are hanging on for dear life as the colossus is trying to shake you off.
As you might have guessed already, battling the colossi involves a lot of climbing with the creatures being both truly magnificent and enormous in size. Each of them requires a different tactic as to how to defeat them and every colossus looks very distinct. They all seem to be made out of a combination of fur, flesh and even structures. Some of them are humanoid in form, while others are much more animal-like. You will be surprised to know that there are even flying colossi! The diversity in the creatures is fantastic. They all feel so very different to eachother and the fact that they all need different tactics to be defeated makes every battle unique and interesting. And also important, most of them are just peacefully minding their own business until you arrive to kill them.
The beauty of this game is not only in its amazing art style, which incidentally still holds up even after two console generations, or in the wonderful music. The beauty, for me, is in how it makes you think about your actions in the game.
When I saw the first colossus I was struck with awe and immediately wondered why I had to kill it. It felt like such a shame and although I was excited I was also reluctant to try and engage it in battle though when my sword had finally struck the creature down I felt immense satisfaction. I mean did you see the size of that thing? I couldn't believe I'd managed to take it down!
But then the music changed to a sad and ominous tune, and as the now dead colossus fell to the ground with a force that made the ground shake, I couldn't help but think to myself that I was the villain - and not the hero - of this story.
|Concept art of Colossi that didn't end up making it into the game.|
Shadow Of The Colossus feels like such a deliberate game. Everything in there is in it because it has to be there. For instance, you will fight no other creatures except for the colossi. There is simply no need to hack your way through hundreds of minions until the final boss shows up and so this game consists of only boss battles, if you wanted to oversimplify it.
The landscape feels desolate and although also achingly beautiful, almost lonely. Except for your trusty steed there isn't a single person or animal that you could consider a friend. You feel like an outsider, like you don't belong there and this is very important because that's the way you're supposed to feel.
The isolation and minimalism is key to the game and it shines through everything you encounter, you're supposed to feel like an outsider because you're tresspassing. You're supposed to feel a strange mixture of satisfaction and remorse when you kill a colossus because the game wants you to know that you've just killed something majestic that cannot be replaced. Maybe that's why some of the battles are such a struggle too, the game doesn't want it to be easy for you because doing something like that shouldn't ever be easy, even when you're doing it for a righteous cause.
It's the deliberate way that this game presents everything to you that sets the mood, that ties everything in together and it makes this game so unlike any other.
That said, the game wasn't developed just to make you feel bad about yourself. The battles against the colossi are truly enthralling and exciting. The environments are staggeringly beautiful and the music is fantastic. The story is minimalistic but very interesting, especially people who've played Ico will absolutely love the story because it ties in with Ico very nicely. That's all I can say storywise unfortunately, I wouldn't want to tell any spoilers.
Although Shadow Of The Colossus was highly praised, even won rewards and is widely critically acclaimed, it didn't sell a whole lot of copies back in the day. Maybe that's the price for making a game that was so different from anything else, but I hope that the HD re-release that came out a few years ago makes up for that. Shadow Of The Colossus is currently for sale on the Playstation Store and available on the Playstation 3 only, although if you happen to have a Playstation 2 you could try your luck and find the original on eBay. If you like playing games for their stories or for the atmosphere, you simply can't pass it up since it's one of the most pivotal examples of excellent storytelling and art direction in games.