Sunday, November 1, 2020

Shadow of the Colossus

 Shadow of the Colossus Box Front

Colossal Frustration

I’ve been trying to branch out into games outside RPGs, and have attempted titles that have received favorable reception from both critics and fans. Thus, I purchased the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection to continue giving life to my PlayStation 3, but I found the former game a frustrating experience that further dashed my trust in mainstream game journalism. Regardless, and given my duty to make my unique voice heard, I played Ico’s successor Shadow of the Colossus, although the experience wasn’t any better, and far from that which mainstream game critics had.

The game focuses on a rather blank-slate protagonist named Wander who aims to resurrect the sleeping beauty Mono by defeating sixteen colossi. While cutscenes regularly occur in between colossus battles, have a cinematic feel, and generally don’t drag on, the story’s idea of waking an unconscious damsel has been done to death, and many sequences come across as cryptic. The translation is probably one of the strongest aspects of the game, with legible dialogue and a lack of spelling and grammar errors, but isn’t overly memorable and scarcely redeems the lackluster narrative experience.

The gameplay experience doesn’t fare better, Wander tasked with slaying sixteen colossi, and can raise his sword to get a good approximation of which direction to travel in to reach the next boss. There are no enemy encounters other than the colossi, and while the player can bring up a map of the world any time, a mini-map on the main gameplay screen would have been welcome, given the labyrinthine nature of many areas to which Wander travels on horseback, and while the gaming physics are realistic, this works to the game’s detriment, and the camera is one of the worst among videogames.

Drawing near one of the colossi begins a battle, with Wander needing to stab their hidden weak points (which the player can reveal through the illumination of his sword) to drain their health in order to defeat them. Wander can grab onto hairy portions of the colossi’s bodies and climb towards said weak points, although the stone giants will constantly try to shake him off, with stamina gradually diminishing the longer he holds on. Getting to the weak points in the first place can be difficult even with a guide, and there is almost no room for error in colossus battles.

Wander has a health meter that gradually recovers as he avoids damage, and in my playthrough, death was fairly uncommon. In addition to his sword, he has a bow that is sometimes necessary to get the attention of colossi or expose weak points. Despite being an action game with alleged fast-paced gameplay, colossus battles can at times take more than an hour, given the time necessary to get onto the giants and stab their weak points. Some of the fights are moderately enjoyable, but overall, given the various issues such as the camera and loose control, more frustrating than not.

Control isn’t any better, aside from the ability to get a general direction on where to go next with Wander’s sword, and that the in-game clock factors in time wasted on battles, but there is the horrid camera and lack of a mini-map, alongside frustrating jumps and glitches when climbing. The ability to record progress in the middle of battle, given the length of some colossus fights, would have been welcome as well, and the system of save points is unnecessary (although the player gets the chance to save after beating colossi). Ultimately, the game doesn’t interact with players as well as it could have.

The soundtrack is passable, with decent orchestrated tracks during colossus battles, and both the sound effects and unique in-game language are good, but there are many points without music that rely too much on ambience, and the music is generally forgettable.

The “remastered” graphics are nothing to write home about, with Shadow of the Colossus still easily passing for a PlayStation 2 game. While the character models have fitting anatomy and look good, along with the colossus designs, the colors are dull, environments contain blurry and pixilated texturing, there’s some environmental popup during exploration, and the camera, as has been stated, doesn’t really help the visual experience. All in all, the visuals are a bit of an eyesore.

Finally, the game runs from eight to twelve hours long, with little to enhance replayability aside from a higher difficulty setting accessed when completing the game and trophies, though frankly, the game isn’t remotely enjoyable enough to warrant supplemental playtime.

In summation, despite the critical bootlicking, Shadow of the Colossus continues to lengthen my sizeable list of acclaimed disappointments, given its frustrating gameplay and controls, the unengaging narrative, the subpar visuals, and the torture of supplemental playtime. It does have some rare bright spots such as maybe a few of the colossus battles, the competent translation, and the half-decent soundtrack, but the game was far from the “masterpiece” mainstream videogame critics made it out to be, and like Ico before it calls into question the true integrity and objectivity of game journalism.

The Good:
+Some okay colossus battles.
+Competent localization.
+Music is half-decent.

The Bad:
-Not short enough.
-Frustrating gameplay and control.
-Cryptic, underdeveloped narrative.
-Soundtrack largely unmemorable.
-Subpar visuals.
-Not fun enough to replay.

The Bottom Line:
Another acclaimed disappointment.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 2.0/10
Controls: 2.5/10
Story: 2.0/10
Localization: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 5.0/10
Graphics: 2.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 0.5/10
Difficulty: Artificial
Playing Time: 8-12 Hours

Overall: 2.5/10

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