The best game to launch in 2018 thus far is a game from over 10 years ago.
That game, of course, is “Shadow of the Colossus” on the PlayStation 4.
When the game originally launched on PlayStation 2 way back in 2005, it endeared a legion of fans. That dedicated fanbase enabled Sony to successfully re-release “Shadow of the Colossus” on the PlayStation 3 in 2011.
And now, in 2018, “Shadow of the Colossus” is back once again – this time on the PlayStation 4. The latest iteration is a fully re-built game, with stunning 4K/HDR visuals. But what do you actually do in the game? What is it about? Here’s the deal!
“Shadow of the Colossus” is a <em>gorgeous</em>, third-person action game.
You play as a the boy seen above, who’s named Wander. The horse is named Agro, and together you’ve got a mission.
The game was originally developed by Sony’s Japan Studio, led by a man named Fumito Ueda. It’s part of a trilogy of games that are all exclusive to Sony’s game consoles.
The other games in the trilogy from Ueda are “Ico” and “The Last Guardian.” They’re not direct sequels to each other, but share common themes. Each game is set in the third-person, in a land shrouded in mystery, often filled with puzzles.
“Shadow of the Colossus” is exactly that: A third-person action game set in a mysterious place.
The main character’s clothing isn’t clearly referencing any particular culture or time period – same goes for the architecture or landscape of the world. It’s a bit medieval, and a bit fantastical, and a lot of other bits all mashed together into a kind of indiscernible world. There’s a real sense of place, but it’s no place I’ve ever seen.
The point of the game is straightforward: Hunt and kill sixteen “colossi.”
Colossi are massive creatures, sometimes carrying equally massive weapons. The colossus above, for instance, carries a large club.
There are no other enemies in “Shadow of the Colossus.” Despite its massive open world, this isn’t a game about constantly engaging in combat. Fighting is exclusive to the colossi battles, and even that isn’t a “fight” so much as a tactical murder. You’re playing as an assassin, essentially.
Each colossus is like a puzzle. You can climb on certain parts of each beast — the furry parts, usually:
As you can see here, I’m climbing the back of this massive colossus. The grip meter is the yellow circle in the lower right corner – the game’s user interface is blessedly minimalist. When it runs out, Wander falls off.
Some of its body is covered in fur, but much of it isn’t. As such, you have to carefully decide where you’re going on the colossi before jumping on.
Your grip won’t last forever, and – as you might imagine – the colossi is trying to get you off its back. This is the main “game” aspect of “Shadow of the Colossus,” outside of exploring the game’s vast world.
You’re looking for specific spots on the colossi that are glowing, and you need to stab them:
Each colossus is different, and must be “solved” (murdered) uniquely.
In this way, “Shadow of the Colossus” is more of an elaborate puzzle game with action elements rather than a straightforward action game. It’s more thoughtful, and slower, and more meditative than most action games. There are no fodder enemies to take down, no skills to level up (in the traditional sense), and few collectibles.
In fact, you can entirely eschew the collectibles in “Shadow of the Colossus” and you’ll be fine. The game doesn’t even explicitly tell you about them – and neither will I!
The <em>why</em> of taking down these colossi is another story, and it’s one I won’t ruin for you. Know that there’s a dead lady involved, and an attempt to resurrect her:
You’ve also got a horse for getting around:
Agro is mostly a means of getting around. You won’t be chased down by bandits, or engage in any combat on horseback.
He’s a bit finicky to control, but he’s reliable and relatively quick.
There’s a fast-travel system in the game as well, which enables you to select various places on the map and teleport there. That said, a main point of “Shadow of the Colossus” is exploration. You should spend time wandering around its massive landscape.
That’s how the game ends up playing out — horseback riding through majestic vistas as you hunt your next colossus.
Much of what makes “Shadow of the Colossus” such an excellent game is how natural it feels.
“Shadow of the Colossus” doesn’t always hold your hand, or tell you how things are working. There are collectibles in the game that are, more or less, never explained. The world is full of ruins that are clearly connected to something, but what that something is remains unclear.
So much of the thrill of “Shadow of the Colossus” is in its mystery, which makes its world feel all the more real.
The game encourages exploration and discovery in a way that few games do. So much of the world is a storytelling device unto itself. It’s this particular aspect of “Shadow of the Colossus” that feels so fresh, even in 2018.
The new version of the game adds a Photo Mode, which lets you position the camera, add filters, change depth, and all sorts of other stuff.
In fact, nearly every image in this piece was taken in the game’s Photo Mode!
More games should have a photo mode!
In “Shadow of the Colossus,” it’s amazingly easy to quickly tap down on the d-pad and take some incredible photos. Hopping in and out of Photo Mode takes no time at all, and controlling the camera is a snap.
I cannot say enough good things about the Photo Mode here – it’s an excellent addition to an already excellent game.