hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Those About to Die: Colossi!

7:00 PM on 04.14.2009 // shinryu

[It's time for another Monthly Musing -- the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. -- CTZ]

Most games put the player in a position of power. It's a time-tested tradition to simply help us out and make the game more, well, fun. Typically, games exploit the plight of heavily outnumbered heroes in hostile environments. When handing a player such a daunting challenge, it seems only fair to give him a few breaks. If every single enemy in Half-Life were as smart, well-equipped, dexterous and resilient as Gordon Freeman, even the steadiest FPS veterans would have trouble advancing past the first chapter. Similarly, Mario gets fireballs and invulnerability stars, and Final Fantasy heroes get stashes of Phoenix Downs. Setting aside the strictly in-game rule sets, saving and continues are enormous advantages. Even the notoriously abused Contra marines start off with three lives -0 ask their real-life counterparts how much they'd like that.

The most notable exception to this rule is the boss battle. After plodding through armies of brainless, suicidal dummies, the player gets a taste of his own medicine against someone who's even cheaper than he is. The baddest bosses remind the player that he's not in control -- the game is. Take Silent Hill's Pyramid Head, BioShock's Big Daddies, Resident Evil's various Tyrant incarnations. They are the guys that always seem to show up at the worst possible times; the ones you save that handful of Magnum rounds for. The guys that make you go "oh, shit".

They never feel like "those about to die". They make you feel like you are the one about to die. 


Shadow of the Colossus
goes for a similar effect, by means of a thoroughly different structure. There are no hordes of fodder baddies to wade through; the game is, quite simply, a string of boss battles (against the eponymous Colossi) interspersed with exploration sequences. It is also a mind-blowing experience, among the most unforgettable in the history of the gaming medium.

The player's first encounter with a Colossus is usually followed by a predictable reaction: "I have to kill that?". Wander, the main character, is a skinny guy wearing light clothes. He doesn't have any discernible powers. He doesn't even look like a warrior, and his swordplay is suspiciously awkward. In the opposite corner we have the first Colossus, Valus, a fifty-foot walking stone titan and one of the smallest among his peers. Who ya got?

And yet, against all odds, Wander prevails. In the process, the player learns that Wander's sword has the power to reveal the Colossi's weak spots and inflict harm on them. As he progresses through the game, facing bigger and badder Colossi, more aspects of the game's system are revealed: Wander's health regenerates, for instance, if he stays out of harm's way for a while. He can survive impossible falls. He can increase his grip strength to superhuman levels. And still, the feeling of shock and awe before every new Colossus stays the same.

In this respect, Shadow of the Colossus is a great example of difficulty calibration not getting in the way of the experience. If Wander died at every fall, and the player had to repeat the same parts over and over, it would be tedious. If he didn't have his magic sword, we wouldn't even have a game. On the other hand, if Wander were a Kratos-like demigod with comic book physical abilities, this would be a very different game and an altogether different experience. Instead, Wander has exactly the right attributes that allow the player to thoroughly enjoy the game while still coming across as a regular guy performing impossible feats.


This leaves the player to focus on developing an actual strategy instead of simply mastering a control scheme and learning to react to the boss's pattern. The controls are simple and intuitive, and soon become second nature, to the point that many weak spots and strategies are discovered instinctively. The game gives away very little in the form of explicit hints, but it manages to lead the player the right way. So that many jaw-dropping moments are experienced first-hand and not mired in repetition.

One of my personal favourites is the battle against Avion, the fifth Colossus. After Wander hits it with an arrow, it flies right at him, and as suicidal as it may sound Wander can only grab its wing and hang on as it shoots through the air at insane speed.

The game relies strongly on a stunning atmosphere and design. Wander's pain and fatigue during the battles are almost tangible. Despite framerate issues and occasionally clumsy controls, the feeling of immersion is stronger than that of most current-gen titles.

While "conventional" games try to keep the player on edge by threatening his progress or testing his or her skills with a controller, Shadow of the Colossus challenges the wits while rousing emotions that used to seem unsuited to something as trivial as a video game. One of the Colossi doesn't even try to attack the player, and that battle stands one of the most memorable things I've ever seen in a game. How many other games can claim to have something like that?



shinryu,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
One glorious Japanese twitter user made a custom LBX of one of my favorite Kamen Riders: [img]http://i.imgur.com/yp1oraHm.jpg[/img] It's like getting peanut butter in chocolate but with small robots and spandex banana men!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I feel terrible for not reading most of you beautiful people's blogs. Let's just say my passion is writing, not reading :s
techsupport avatartechsupport
People can debate GOTY all they want, but the real question is: D-Horse or Roach?
Mr Knives avatarMr Knives
I'm dragging myself away from my PS4 long enough to say that MGS V is pretty darn awesome so far.
Myles Cox avatarMyles Cox
Down with that PAX Pox. Auhhhghghghhhh
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV: Sneaking into a heavily guarded Russian military base in Afghanistan at night, slashing throats while listening to this. [youtube]https://youtu.be/-hWZqllm3mQ[/youtube] Comes off like a perfectly planned scene in a Scorsese movie or something.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Tortilla chips: The only food I know and love to betray me by deciding to flip to a bad angle and stab me in the gums.
IDrawOnTape avatarIDrawOnTape
I'm ok with Namco shutting down Soul Calibur: Lost Souls, as long as they keep Ace Combat:Infinity running. Love that game and just hit 3 million credits.
ScreamAid avatarScreamAid
Holy fuck I feel new again. I've been on hiatus for a while and haven't been up to writing. I might just jump back into things after I relearn things here. Does anyone even remember me? Like damn it's been a while.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
In MGS5: The Phantom Pain, Solid Snake dies from lung cancer from all those years of smoking. #FakeSpoilers
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
[youtube]http://youtu.be/FDSHslyrxkM[/youtube] If you don't know the truth, you don't know the score. The end is coming near. MAJOR SPOILERS!
Paul S avatarPaul S
Wow, it's really easy to get people upset over video games.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
I hope MGS V is living up to everyone's expectations. I can't get enough.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I dislike the idea of intentionally reinforcing the notions that either race or gender are character traits, and those that don't match your own are completely unrelatable.
Shinta avatarShinta
Who's your favorite female black writer on Destructoid's staff? Post a comment below with your votes.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I'm ok if someone chooses a character's ethnicity in a story with the intent of being more representative, as long as the story is good. And if even SOME people feel like it helps them relate, then good! Don't bother me none.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
OK. So the Mad Max game is basically the combat from the Batman games, the driving bits from Rage and the taking over the outposts bits from Far Cry 3 and 4. I guess what I'm saying is that it's super fun and I'm really, really enjoying it.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
@Jed Whitaker I might be missing something, but does the race of the characters really matter? I'm white and if every VG character was black I wouldn't care. It's skin color... that's it. I guess others care more than me about this stuff though.
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Who is your favorite Jewish game character? I'm pretty sure BJ Blaskowicz is (right?), so I'm going with him.
gajknight avatargajknight
Interview tomorrow! Little apprehensive, I really want this job. Working with adults and children with learning disabilities, perfect experience and a worthwhile job. We'll see how it goes! :D
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -