I don’t go into hyped games expecting to be underwhelmed, since stepping into the PS3/360 era I’ve learned not to automatically turn my nose up at what’s popular all the time. There’s a lot to like about Shadow of the Colossus, but I didn’t want to cram *even more words* into my already over wordy strip. For starters the basic control scheme is terriffic, not too complex, but not too simplistic so you have the same button doing too many things at once (I had the worst time getting back on the horse after hopping off for a while, though.) I get that they were portraying the hero not as some mighty, practiced warrior, too, but I found it utterly INFURIATING how the game has Wander make his sword thrusts into this slow, dramatic rise-then-thrust. I kept expecting an Uedaglish version of “IS THIS A DAGGER I SEE BEFORE ME?” to come out of his mouth every time he slowly raised the blade only to have his animation interrupted and reset because the Colossus jiggled slightly. The Colossus battles were mostly pretty cool, I like that no two play out exactly the same, but at the same time I hated it when I had the boss all planned out, then would proceed to use up my whole Grip meter hanging on for dear life on a not-especially-daunting looking part of the beast. It was like fighting the controls, not the monster, and even when that sort of thing is done for “immersion’s” sake, I don’t really think it’s a good trade off.
I guess I just didn’t click with the game on the same level as some others do. I kept hearing things like “I actually felt bad when I killed X Colossus!” and “I loved that horse so much!” and all I really felt for either was “Well, I’m glad that’s over,” and “What a relief this rock formation keeps me from having to rely on the horse for this fight.”
When I beat the game, I did some poking around online afterwards and confirmed my suspicions- SotC went through a lot of changes and cuts during development. I do understand what they were going for, artistically, in the final product, but the absence of any especially dangerous terrain in between you and the colossi as you ride across the countryside to take them down was something I found more boring than drawing me in. Sure, there are extras, lizards you can shoot, fruit to gather, but for the most part there’s not much to see, but scenery. I’m usually a sucker for well designed worlds, even. I loved that in Dark Souls, you could draw all sorts of conclusions just looking at the way certain walls had caved in, or tree roots from one area snake into the depths of another.
Granted, Shadows is an older game, and at the time, definitely ground breaking. It’s no slouch today, either. Just saying maybe it’s not fair I want to draw comparisons to Dark Souls, another game that says more without words than it tells you in cutscenes, but came out years later.
[Advance spoilers: I like Ico more than Shadow of the Colossus. It feels done, for one thing.]