Here's a little gallery/writeup on Shadow of the Colossus
, the PS+ free update on the PS2 classic. In case anyone's considering a playthrough, I start with a short summary of the gameplay then - with callouts - progress to show each colossus (gameplay spoilers) and finally wrap up with the ending (plot spoilers).
SotC has a fairly short playtime
, which is mostly why I decided I could squeeze it in my scarce solo gaming time. There's replay value with time attack and possibly some secrets, however as we'll see that really isn't for me.
As I mentioned, it's an update on a 20-year old title
. SotC is what I'd call a 'tight' game - it doesn't sprawl in size or depth like Skyrim or Divinity - it gives the player a simple, direct experience. It's sort of like The Last of Us
but replaces character development and shooting with silent mystery and a sword. Both can be completed in under ten hours, both are on rails but don't feel like it.
The plot arrives lightly in the beginning and heavily after you fell the last colossus. The intro sequence shows our hero racing to a forbidden land to ask a higher power to save his girl
. That's it. It's a tale as old as Atari.
The diety promises to bring her back if the hero defeats sixteen colossi. From here until the end, it's all gameplay.
The gameplay is pretty straightfoward, but not easy. Foreach(colossus):
Your sword reflects sunlight (if present) toward the next colossus. This mechanic is pretty good; it's more atmospheric than a map marker, but makes finding most colossi reasonably straightforward
Using your sword-compass, you ride Agro across a beautiful open world whose diameter is probably 10-15 minutes of continuous riding. Agro is a well-animated, reliable steed
who always answers your whistle and sticks around when things get dangerous. He does, however, like slowing down when you gently nudge the reigns to turn him. This isn't great on a map that is very open but has small obstacles scattered everywhere.
SotC only has bosses. The ride between colossi is just to let a little air out of the tires between battles.
Eventually you enter a colossus's domain. After a short intro sequence, you must devise a way to fell the creature
. That intro scene is actually quite important; if you fall off of something before you actually get to the colossus you're returned to the temple at the center of the map.
Each colossus must be stabbed a few times in one or more achilles heels. Since these heels are typically around their head, you must use the game's main mechanic: climbing
. In games that followed the original SotC release, climbing has been both a neat way to add map verticality and a horrible mechanic that slows gameplay and brings many, many insta-deaths. Climbing sequences in SotC are generally brief and rarely lethal, but they are somewhat clumsy. The clumisness is is derived from a few things:
- The controls are somewhat awkward (not very awkard, just somewhat).
- As you might imagine, you sometimes need to jump between moving objects (colossus limbs) using hold-then-leap. Combine that with a moving colossus and moving camera, I was clocking in at maybe 25% success rate.
- You have a grip meter (as you should) that the colossus will deplete by trying to buck you off. While the game thankfully never requires you to take the meter to its limit to accomplish something, you'll run it out simply by trying to ride the colossus long enough to get the maximum number of stabs in.
So what's the bottom line here? Execution of the climbing mechanic is maybe a 7/10
, even when gauged against modern games like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry
. The mechicanic enables the unique playstyle that SotC offers. It is, however, sometimes frustrating and not overwhelmingly gratifying.
Climbing the colossus is more than a matter of walking up to it and pressing X. Each boss is unique and must be conquered in a different way
using some combination of climbing, your weapons, the terrain, and its behavior. The strategy for each colossus can be subtle and require a gamefaq.
Each plunge of your sword takes the colossus's health down. He may toss you off or change the location of his weak spot. Eventually, he falls.
The colossi (gameplay spoilers)
The third colossus was my first stumble. Either it hadn't been explained or I ignored the fact that holding X to vault was a thing. Tapping it put me in the water under the left stairway until I looked it up online.
The first winged colossus was a fun ride. Wind resistance came into play but wasn't OP.
A water colossus, whaaa?
The first AoE attack colossus got me a couple times.
Turtle colossus really didn't like walking over the geysers. This wasn't a short battle.
The sandworm battle felt like it could have been frustrating
but actually went very well. Agro did a good job keeping pace and letting me aim.
Colossus eleven had me close to ragequitting
. I got the dude to charge the fire pedestals, pretty sure I was on the right track.
The faq told me I needed to pick up a torch and wave it at him. This was weird, I'd never picked anything up. I walked over what looked like the torch and mashed various possible buttons. I put away my sword. Nothing. The faq assured me circle would execute the pick up.
I eventually cycled through the control scheme and found that the 'classic' controls had an action button not present in the default 'modern' mappings
With that worked out, I scared the colossus off the cliff and exposed his weak point...
... he promptly rammed me through a hole in the map.
Twelve had some difficult jumps but wasn't nearly as frustrating.
Fifteen's unique mechanic of stomping a ramp into the terrain eluded me until I looked it up.
I hoped for a challenge with sixteen and I got it.
Dodging fireballs wasn't too bad, my own impatience had me not timing them well.
The climb to his head took me at least a dozen frustrating attempts
. The grab-lunges and camera angles made it very tough. Luckily once I had reached his head I didn't fall off and get fireballed.
While mechanically it's just filler, the scenery of SotC makes the journey to each colossus rather pleasant. The redwoods, especially.
Ending (plot spoilers)
Something seemed a little off about the black smoke that overtakes you
after defeating each colossus. Black smoke is rarely good.
In a rare camera cut to other people, some knights seem to have taken notice.
I was more fond of Agro than the girl based on screen time and utility. This was the most heartbreaking moment of the game.
Eventually things come to a head as the knight dudes arrive in the forbidden land.
Oh yeah, I guess the diety was playing me...
... to create a colossus voltron. But the knights prevail and seal our hero to the temple lake thing
Leaving the reanimation wish to, for some reason, still be fulfilled and a limping Agro to happily return.