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BrunoBRS Blog

Shadow of the Colossus: a Love Letter

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Shadow of the Colossus. It is not always that we get the chance to admire such a masterpiece, and while sales weren't exactly bad, they weren't amazing either. However, the critically acclaimed game sold enough units to convince Sony that it deserved a second chance.

Now I've wanted to talk about this game for quite a while, and with the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus collection coming out today in North America, it seems like the timing is perfect. Unfortunately, I haven't played Ico (yet), so I can't really talk about it. I have, however, played quite a bit of Shadow of the Colossus, so we'll be focusing on that. If you're here to know if the collection is worth the purchase, it is. If you want to know more about the game, I warn you, the best part of SotC is experiencing it yourself, immaculate from others' experiences, so I would be spoiling the game for you. This is a love letter from an aspiring game designer to what he believes is truly the greatest game of all time.

The altar where your loved one lies, inside an enormous temple.

Where do I even begin? The graphics? Sound? Gameplay? No, those concepts are too raw to begin describing the game. I'll start with the story, and build up from it.

You are Wander, a young lad who lost his loved one. In order to bring her back from the dead, he traverses to the forbidden land and seeks the help of a divine deity. The deity tells Wander that in order to bring his loved one back, he will have to destroy the 16 idols in the room, each of which represent a different Colossus. It also warns him that the price to bring his loved one back will be extremely high. Wander shrugs the warning, and so the game begins.

Shadow of the Colossus is a love story, of what limits can a man go for his loved one, but it is, most importantly, the tale of David and Goliath. The battle between raw strength against wit. While the game is story-heavy, it is told subtly, faintly, almost easy to ignore, but you know it's there, and it engages you, it gives you strength for the next challenge.

One of the most memorable battles is against Phalanx, where you must chase

the giant desert dragon with your horse and climb on the Colossus' wing.

Each Colossus is an entirely different challenge, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Armed only with your magic sword (that serves both as a compass and a tool to spot the weak points), a bow and arrow and your trusty horse Agro, you must find a way to climb onto the Colossus all the way to its weak points and stab them.

The visuals are beautiful and incredibly detailed. The Colossus' fur is eerily realistic, and you'll often find an arrow you threw long ago still stuck on its skin. But the most important part about the visuals is the atmosphere. Shadow of the Colossus has a very hazy atmosphere, which allows for a great light play. The sceneries where you fight the Colossi are mellow, with the architecture of the ruins bringing an air of despair and sadness.

A personal favorite of mine, you have to run on top of Gaius' sword after he misses you.

To go with the atmospheric ambient, you have the amazing soundtrack, which goes from mellow, to desperate, to a victorious theme once you finally reach the colossus, giving you courage (or, as the song name says, reviving your power). And when you finally take down the colossus, you would think you would get some sort of celebration fanfare, right? Wrong.

What follows is an incredibly sad scene of the Colossus falling to its death as an equally sad song plays. The sense of guilt is instantaneous. The creature never asked for this fight, but you came to it, with the sole purpose of murdering it, and you succeeded. To end the scene, the Colossus' vital energy "flies" out of it in the form of black tentacles and stab you in the chest, leaving you unconscious. You always have a feeling that it is probably not a good thing (most players just try to run away as fast as possible to see how long they can last before it reaches them), but you don't know until it's too late. During your unconscious moment, you hear your loved one's voice, and when you wake up, you are back in the temple, surrounded by the shadowy creatures, each one representing one Colossus you've killed. The more keen players might also notice that for each Colossus you kill, a dove appears near the altar where your loved one lays.

But it's not only of gargantuan creature murder that this game is about. To defeat the Colossi, you must first reach them. They are all scattered in an enormous world that you can explore at will, and that's where half of SotC's geniality is. The game isn't afraid to give you time to relax and admire its beauty. Across the world you'll find deserts, canyons, waterfalls, beaches, forests, ancient buildings and much more. The mesmerizing landscapes help you forget the task that is ahead and lets you enjoy peace, if only for some moments. This enormous world is also filled with temples where you can save your game, white-tailed lizards (which you can eat the tail from to raise your stamina) and fructiferous trees, where you can knock the fruits down and eat them for a health boost. There are also many other small creatures, like turtles, birds of various kinds and regular lizards, but those are all harmless and there just for the setting.

Some of the places you accidentally find are stunning.

Shadow of the Colossus is also a game about your own personal experience, like I've mentioned above. It plays with emotions in a way no other game has. Joy, admiration, sadness, fear, courage, triumph, guilt, those are all things you will feel as you play through it. The first time you see a Colossus, that humongous creature at least thirty times your size walk by you, is something that you will not forget easily.

To tell a personal story, I am very afraid of dark, deep waters. The idea of swimming without being able to see what awaits you below frightens me. And I was stunned for at least five minutes at the top of a tower, looking at the lake below, with some creature swimming in it. You couldn't see what it was, but you could see it was there, and it was big. Eventually, I would have to drop down. It was that or quitting. But I had gone too far to quit now. And I jumped. My adrenaline was high the entire battle, as I latched myself on the Colossus and it dragged me down, trying to drown me. Other water creatures would appear later, but while they still gave me that feel in my gut, I was able to overcome it much more easily the second time. This is only an example from me, but if you get your scare meter up when you're being chased (the Jurassic Park syndrome), or if you're afraid of heights, you'll understand what I mean as you play the game yourself.

You have to agree with me, throwing myself to that isn't exactly a good idea.

I could go on and on about it, but I'll stop here, because I know some of you who haven't played it will read this, and because I have already spoken quite a lot. Is Shadow of the Colossus for everyone? No, but then again art never is. Has it been topped? From a technical perspective, some of the graphics might feel dated, but I don't know a person alive who isn't stunned by the game. Should you at least try it? Definitely. Shadow of the Colossus is a unique experience, one that you will never see similar anywhere, no matter how much others try to mimic it.

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note: yes i am aware that both the girl and the deity have names, i chose not to bring them up.

i was interviewed!!!

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i... was?

well, sorta.

me, omega and flame (and later dahui) were talking about career and stuff, but at one point it kinda turned into a "they ask, i answer" thing, so i thought i should share it. (there was more than one discussion going on, so i had to cut parts of posts and stuff)

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Most of you must be college grads or must be doing college right? What did you guys pick? Science is out of the option.

OmegaAxl

computer engineer, on my third semester (5 year course).

Thanks for the info. Bruno! I might start researching on that field more once I'm done with my exams.

OmegaAxl

[note: i'm not sure if he meant computer engineering or voice acting (something else we were talking about) when he said "that field", but i still answered :P]

(...)

as for my "field", the bachellor in computer engineering is pretty much a wild card. you learn software, hardware, design (though nothing as fancy as what you'd learn at a design course), circuits, math, calculus, economy, philosophy (YES, EVEN THAT) and you finish the course with a great basis to get any other engineering degree you might be looking for.

i'm taking the course mostly because of the software side though. i'll take a game design course once i'm done.

For design program here I have to take philosphy and ethics as well. And a cIass or two on the buisness and boring side of things.. which Im not looking forward to. The trick with college to me is you gotta do what you want there.. Or it is freaking boring.Guest appearance - Bobakuzero

Game designing is a HUGE RISK isn't it? I mean you should have a backup plan of some sort. If being a develpoer doesn't work out. and What does philosophy have to do with..?

OmegaAxl

^ thing is, there's absolutely nothing i can think of doing aside from game designing. hell i spent about 1-2 hours every day walking to college and back, and most of the time i'm thinking about a game design. or something game related (like how i'm designing a real hidden blade... i just need the materials :P).

i read books, lots and lots of yahtzee (especially his tuesday articles, the guy is almost a bible of how to design something right), take my games critically, etc.

basically i've spent a whole lot of my past years making sure it'll work out. only reason i didn't go with game design right off the bat is because there aren't any (good) graduation courses here, and a degree is always nice.

oh and as for philosophy, it's more like those ethics thing... apparently the engineer is a leader, so he needs to learn a lot of this stuff.

What kind of books do you read?Flamesingh1

aside from novels, i read game design books. like books for people that are already in the market. one of my favorites is one that's actually about pen & paper RPG (and for hobbyists), but written by the big guys. amazing thing to read, i grab it every now and then. how to create a convincing villain, world, tackle unique ideas, character behavior, manipulating the player so they feel engaged and immersed, that kind of stuff.

also, a fun fact about pen & paper RPGs is that whenever i'd play with my friends, i always ended up being the game master... to the point i'd have to make an NPC so i could play as a player at the same time (cheating? NAAAAH :P).

Whoa..Your really passionate about this aren't you? Good luck dude. You can always earn easy cash by making apps for apple. My friend does that..OmegaAxl

actually apps has a lot to do with luck. team meat ellaborated better on it on an interview they gave once (amazing interview, some people didn't seem to like it though), [note: link to interview here] but basically if your high quality awesome thing releases together with a random funny app, you'll lose your first week.

and if you don't get popular on week 1, it's over, because you'll just be thrown in the "app list" on week 2. no spotlights for you, no "popular apps", no nothing.

What are your favorite novels and what is that game design book? Sounds interesting.Flamesingh1

well novels vary. it's more of an author thing. i really like neil gaiman (neverwhere is a jawdropping book, highly recommend it) and anything signed by philip pullman (but especially the golden compass and the other books. best trilogy i've ever read). i also really like the harry potter books and the dragonlance trilogy.

there's also bernard cornwell's "search of the grail" trilogy (hellequin, vagabond, heretic). tells the story of an english longbowman during the 100 year war.

i've also read T.H.White's "the one and only king" (aka king arthur), but never quite finished. stopped near the ending though. there's a fantasy series called "chronicles of the emerse world" and "wars of the emerse world" that i'm pretty sure didn't get an english version, but it's pretty good too. it's like dragonlance, but a bit more "single hero", and more romancey (due to young female leads, i guess).

there's a brazilian book series called "Ether Dragons", which is basically a huge clusterf*** of fairy tales, mashed into one persistent world and taken realistically (robert of locksley is a war prisoner, john and mary were victims of a black magic ritual where they were hipnotized into starvation and thinking a house was made of food, and almost got sacrificed, etc.)

last but not least, i find myself referencing douglas adams all the time, but i never got past the beginning of the third book. it got boring.

[note: HOLY CRAP HOW COULD I FORGET IT. one of my all time favorite books and the basis to all my social/sociological thoughts, Brave New World is a must-read for every single person alive.]

PHEW, that's a lot of text.

OHYEAH and game design books.

most of the stuff is local, but a book i really like about arts and videogames had the main reference source (or maybe the translation, since the title is the same, but it's not quite clear) in an english book, called "Videogame Art".

Why don't you give apps a shot then? You've got nothing to lose, if you get popular then your mega rich.

If your not..Keep working on your videogame thing.

OmegaAxl
i will... eventually.

i actually plan on learning to use microsoft's XNA at some point and maybe even make some XBLA/steam game, even if it's freeware.

Have you played Yahtzee's games Bruno?Flamesingh1

not really. kinda busy with all the stuff. hell took me a whole year to stop and download cave story (and way more years than i'd like to admit to finally play megaman legends 2).

and talking about yahtzee, Mogworld is on my "to buy" list... i just have to check if amazon doesn't charge absurd shipping prices for books too. (they charge $60 for shipping games to where i live).

So what type of games do you plan on making Bruno..? Any type of company you plan on applying for?OmegaAxl

game? whatever i feel like doing, but i found out i'm more prone to action games and RPGs. platformers require a level design skill i'm not fond of and i just suck at coming up with puzzles. i like story and new game mechanics. i actually had a design of an action turn based game (idea was to make the most action packed turn based game ever, inspired by skies of arcadia) and an MMO that would use the gameplay too that ended up being a pen & paper RPG. the site ran for about one year with just the "core" of my full idea. [note: for the two people who remember LegendaryMythril] right now guild wars 2 has all the concepts i had for said MMO, plus more than a few of their own and solutions to design problems i was facing :P

which reminds me, design ideas i have tend to later show up in real games not much after i think of them quite often (hell, i was working on something that played exactly like baten kaitos when the game was announced, the idea of a card-based RPG instead of weapons and spells always fascinated me... maybe i watched too much sakura card captors as a kid :P).

also, two things i've been reading a lot are guildwars2.com and the Devroom (megaman legends 3's community site where they release info on design progress and ask for your help designing major things in the game, like a boss and the armor design). the first is a really in-depth look at how a studio team works, while the latter has a lot of the non-design stuff being shown (recording sessions, character modelling, etc), and you get to see how the real devs make their picks from idea pools.

as for a company i'd like to apply for, arenanet by far. it's such a friendly, everyone-helps-everyone environment, and the guys are really passionate about what they do. they organize game nights of their own in-development games so they can see if the game is fun. they make a game they want to play, and they enjoy every second of the development process.

Man..your field sounds cooler and cooler the more you go into detail..!

I hope mine turns out to be fun as well..

OmegaAxl

Some of Yahtzees games are great, I love 7 Days a Skeptic and Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment, seriously epic games in different ways.

Oh and I'm also hoping to go into the game designing business lol. More on the programming side though as I imagine that would be less competitive.

dahui58

programming is fun sometimes, but i'm not very fond of it. i know how to program, but coding is boring so i usually team up with someone and tell them "do this and this and you'll get this"... in other words i design the program and someone writes for me :P
I enjoy coding in Computing, but I've barely scratched the surface and it's kind of tough to learn languages using internet tutorials and such. I'm looking forward to starting a uni course where I can learn it from the beginning and hopefully still enjoy it :Ddahui58
i hear you. i tried to learn flash and failed utterly. i hated programming until i got in college.

then you learn that it's basically a more math-oriented version of english and all you have to do is tell the PC to do stuff for you and it becomes pretty easy.

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aaaaaand that's it. it's a bit longer than i expected it to be, but hey, you can just look for the interesting questions you'd like answered :P

also, all of this discussion happened in the off topic lounge of the Mass Designers Lounge, which won not only one, but two union awards! (we won best visual union and most dedicated union :D) we even stayed in second place on a third category, but i can't really remember which.

It's a beautiful night outside. A short illustrated narrative.

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It's a beautiful night outside.

I sit on the floor to admire the starry sky. the gentle breeze embraces my hair. The cold light reflects on my face. On my blade.

Most people would lie down and admire the celestial spetacle until dawn arrives. Not me. I don't have such time. Soon, I'll be crossing the passage between the mountains and, in a few hours, I'll have arrived at my destiny.

Embrace the Night. for the next time the cold light of the stars find my blade, it will reflect red.

Indeed, it's a beautiful night outside.

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few people know that before i decided that game designing was my thing, i wanted to become a fantasy writer. hopefully i still get the chance of being involved in the story process as a designer.

The best interview ever.

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http://www.gamespot.com/news/6284734.html

don't dismiss it because of its size. the read is worth every second spent.

as a game designer wannabe (studying for it), these guys have become my gods. if i was a pre-teen girl, they'd be the equivalent of justin bieber.

they're really smart and really know what they're talking about. they're only two, have practically no funds and say what they want, all while not saying anything stupid. they developed, alone, the only game i think that can take super mario galaxy 2 for the title of "best platformer of 2010", and i reviewed galaxy 2 a perfect 10. they don't like the app store, but not for some stupid reason. they don't follow tendencies, they understand the importance of taking risks, and they show a passion for their work. the last paragraph, the teacher metaphor, it's just amazing.

when i finally get to design games professionally, i wish i can think like them, thus not being completely like them, but remembering to be unique and passionate about my work.

and for the record, i'm posting this as my blog on all communities i'm part of.

weekend at the beach!

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kinda late, but here it is. that's what you get for staying 8 hours stuck on traffic on your way back and having to catch up with college right after returning. oh and read the description :P

and before i forget to say (and before my comment counter drops to 3), i'm really sorry for not posting on everyone's blogs but i swear i do my best to read them all, i just don't always have the time or even a plausible motive (read: something to say) to comment on them.