Thursday, 19 January 2012

My Review: Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a game developed by ‘Team Ico’ responsible for ‘Ico’ on the PS2 and the upcoming PS3 title ‘The Last Guardian’. In a nutshell, the game is an action adventure where you ride around a large map on your awkwardly controlled horse and slaying giant stone like creatures, which you track down using your special light guiding sword.

Wander battling a colossi
There is no explanation to the protagonist’s background and the beginning of the game consists of a young man (the player) with another person covered with a blanket, riding on a horse towards a large tower connected by a very long and high bridge. He enters from near the top of the tower and makes his way to the bottom and places the girl on the altar. He is attacked by shadowy humanoid creatures but upon drawing his sword, a mysterious voice calls off the attack and asks the protagonist what he wants.
Wander and Agro
You play as a young man called ‘Wander’ who is trying to save his (presumably dead) friend by striking a deal with a god in the forbidden valley, in exchange for slaying 16 colossuses. His only companion being his trusty horse ‘Agro’. As the game progresses, you discover more about the events prior to the current story.

There were a few things that drew me towards the game. First it was the battles with the colossus. It was something different to me at the time, figuring out how to defeat a giant creature using your brain wits other than the hacking and slashing mindlessly at the target. Another thing was the lush environments and the vast open map to explore and immerse myself into.

I have to say that I was expecting a lot more action when I first started that game, but this isn’t what this game is about. Most of the action would be with the colossi. There are 16 colossi to battle throughout the entire game. Some may think this is a relatively short amount to for the entire game. In my first play through, most of the colossi took me about 40 minutes to an hour or so to vanquish and then there is the exploration side of the game. As you head towards where the colossi’s habitats, a short cut scene will kick in with some nice music, indicating that you’re headed in the right direction.

Wander is the pixel on the bottom left :p
When traversing the land, the game has no music and will only have the ambient sounds of nature and Agro’s galloping. When fully immersed into the game’s atmosphere, you are made as the player to feel very lonely in a wide, isolated and unpopulated world. It made me really appreciate having Agro around not only for the long distance travelling, but also for her companionship!

The game features a type of lighting rendering technique which the developers refer to as ‘Psuedo HDR (High Dynamic Range)’. Typically, the game will re adjust the lighting and brightness and have lights ‘overflow’ during the post processing into the surrounding areas according to where you are. It’s also referred to as the ‘Blooming Effect’.

For example, if you were to stand inside the temple and you look out into the plains of the forbidden land, the lighting outside would be very bright, almost completely white. It’s as if your eyes have not adjusted to the light outside. Gradually, the brightness will change to its proper setting, etc. The eye keeps changing…
The HDR technique is something that the PS3 and Xbox can handle but is not generally possible with the PS2, and so for the developers to pull this off, they were a head of their time back then.
There are a few problems in this game that many people have gripes with however, some being the clunkyness of the control, the glitchiness of the game mechanic (at times) and the awkward camera angles.

At times when you would want to perform a manoeuvre such as jumping from one ledge to another, one or all of these problems can really screw you up. Though it’s not game breaking, it can be very frustrating. The horse controls can take a lot of getting used to as it’s like the classic Resident Evil styled turning with a racing game’s ‘X’ button to ‘accelerate’.

Dusteh stuff
Moving onto the colossi, which I’m sure you all know, are the (only) enemies of the game. Each battle with a colossus is pretty much a puzzle itself, making use of the environment around you and utilising the clumsiness of the colossus. To defeat a colossus the player must use his sword in the light to reveal his weakpoints on his body. The player must then find a way to scale the colossus and stab into them. Most colossi generally have more than one weakpoint. As mentioned before, camera angles and the odd game mechanic can make the battle much more difficult than you thought it would be, and with the combination of the colossi creating a lot of dust clouds and flying dirt, can really rage the player. The designs of the colossi vary in size and seem to represent a type of animal, if not a few (not so much the humanoid ones though). The general look is that they’re usually covered in stone, or/and fur that looks very grassy; suitable for the style and theme of the game
As I slayed the colossi one by one, I personally feel really bad as I’m killing something that is sacred, especially when the music plays after defeating one. But it must be done in order to save your loved one.

Battling the colossi isn’t the only single thing to do as like most other games with exploration, have secrets to find such as hunting white tailed lizards to increase the grip meter. Those who are confident in defeating colossi can unlock special items such as different swords, arrow types, a parachute, etc.
The special items are unlocked through time attack modes, which is where the extreme gaming rage kicks in. It has no impact on teh story whatsoever and it there for the replayability of the game. Adding these elements can be good fun taking down a colossus a different way (and to watch Wander parachute off cliffs :p). Different difficulties yield different rewards and special items for Time attack mode but unfortunately, cannot have both item sets on a single file.

                                                 Cloth of Desperation (Parachute)

A HD remastered version of the game has been released alongside Team Ico’s earlier title Ico. Looking at the gameplay videos, the game looks much smoother, as you would expect. I’m usually not too fussed with remastered version but this is a game that I’ll most likely pick up as I’m interested to see just how much the updated visuals and smoother gameplay will impact the overall experience of this beautiful game :).
                                                             HD Comparison

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