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SummaryAn interesting game that delivers on most of its promises
The GoodSpoilers ahead!
I never owned a PS2, so the original Shadow of the Colossus missed me. This remake seems like it sticks fairly closely to the original. The obvious difference is, of course, that the graphics have been completely recreated and the game runs at a high resolution and framerate, which is great because so much of this game is about the environment. I've read that some people dislike the differences in art style in SotC 2018, but I personally love it.
The world is large and empty, but the more you travel through it, the more it gets you thinking 'who might have lived here?', 'whose feet once walked these paths?' It's a game full of mysteries that remain obscure even as their physical evidence passes directly before you, and I think it's this that gives the game its charm and makes it unique. It reinforces the feeling of Wander being a strange interloper into ancient affairs beyond his real knowledge.
The colossi are beautiful, sad creatures, fantastical in their appearance but with a biology that almost makes sense. There's a verisimilitude about how they are constructed which is mirrored in the ecological consistency of the environments in game, as well as in the animations (and in the latter case, AI behaviour) of Wander and Agro. Agro's controls, while initially a bit of a PITA if I'm true, nevertheless serve well to build the idea of Agro as an independently-minded thing. Director Fumito Ueda said that players reported feeling a bond with Agro after playing SotC, something that influenced his design choices going into his next project The Last Guardian; to my surprise I related to this, although I was unmoved by the apparent death of Agro prior to the final colossus as I was already aware of her return at the end of the story.
The sound and music are gorgeous and well-executed. Especial credit goes to the environmental sound design, which is seamless.
The BadTo be honest, the gameplay loop is not as exciting as it seems to think it is. It gets a little tiresome navigating back from the Shrine of Worship after every colossus, and some of the colossi are quite finicky and annoying to complete.
For instance, to get on the back of Basaran, the ninth colosuss, you must lure the creature over one of the many geysers that are strewn around the battlefield, and keep them there until the geyser emits steam, which knows them over. This is an incredibly frustrating puzzle as Basaran will not move at all unless you're a considerable distance away, and what's more, they will only be knocked over for a comparatively short period of time. This eventuates into a stupid back and forth where Basaran appears to be above the geyser at a distance, but on drawing close it becomes apparent that they are not, and now you must either try to correct the alignment of the colossus at a distance, or give up and try to lure them to a different geyser. The sweet spot, or hitboxes, for getting Basaran to fall over are also quite precise - it has to be very close to the middle of the colossus' body, otherwise they will not be affected. As you might be able to tell, I really HATED this boss fight to the point where I almost gave up on the game, in spite of the fact that I enjoyed so many other elements of it.
A more minor problem with the two smaller colossi you encounter later in the game: their attacks can stunlock you, meaning one mistake right at the end of the fight can require a restart. This seems strange, as you would think it's something that would be picked up in playtesting, especially given this is the third iteration of this game.
The narrative is really interesting, but it builds too slowly (I think Emon should be shown heading towards the Forbidden Lands a bit earlier than he is) and has a few weak points. The most egregious of the latter is Emon's seal at the end of the game - why did the ancient people bother sealing the parts of Dormin into the colossi if all it took was a simple incantation and a sword in the pond? Further - what is so horrible about Dormin that they needed to be sealed away at all? We see no malignant manifestations of their power except for fighting against Emon and co., and even then, it's self defense.