The Morality of Shadow of the Colossus

The Morality of Shadow of the Colossus

all right how about this for something to talk about the morality of Shadow of the Colossus Shadow of the Colossus was originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005 and re-released in high-definition for the PlayStation 3 in 2011 serving as a loose prequel to 2001 s echo the game places the player in control of wander a young man who has brought the body of a young woman named mano to a temple in the far-off forbidden lands to petition an entity known as doorman to resurrect her doorman agrees to launders request but first tasks wander with destroying the sixteen colossi that hold the doorman captive and the rest of the game unfolds from there as the player first locates the various colossi figures out their weakness and slays them dicks Shadow of the Colossus has rightly received praise for many for its emotional complexity and moral nuance now it's important to remember going into this that as with all narratives our interests are instinctively aligned to those of the protagonist even when those goals are bad or evil we are emotionally predisposed to share the protagonists desire to achieve those goals so much of what we will focus on are the counter implications to the otherwise self-evident emotional value of fulfilling launders quest wanders goal is one that is entirely congruous with typical fantasy video game narratives essentially it's just a remix of slaying the dragon and rescuing the princess slay the colossi resurrect the doomed girl but this quest is tinged with uncertainty wanders superficially virtuous goal leading him to do things that are questionable the sixteen guardians of dormant power are hulking monsters of earth fur and masonry with a design aesthetic evocative of architecture a palette of materials and shapes that makes them look like some ancient forgotten Watchtower come to life they are fearsome imposing and often wrought on a scale that makes them difficult to comprehend well wander must mount or ride all of the colossi in order to slay them by a they're literally magical weakpoint most still fit into something approaching a human scale being the size of a large animal or a small house but a few are so large that they become terrain the game presents the colossi in conflicting emotional context of fear and empathy the first of these context fear is the easy one given their scale their alien composition their seeming indestructibility it is easy to frame the colossi as opponents to present them as adversaries to be vested in a contest of skill to show them as a hostile opposition to your protagonists entered righteousness they are large they wield weapons of massive proportions their silhouettes are frightening and jagged and many of them are outright deadly however with each one the designers have carefully crafted a story that begins here with fear and intimidation and progresses towards empathy and sadness more often than not this is a story told literally from bottom to top as the most common pattern for engaging with the various colossi is to approach from the ground find a way to climb onto the Colossus and then work your way to the head for the killing blow the story of each Colossus then is told from the feet to the face armored hooves stone spikes and wrought iron give way to leathery skin and fur that although just a digital simulacra one can't help but imagine as bristle Ian's not altogether unpleasant like a camel or a bear from there the player directs wander to the head where the camera swings around to frame wander along with a colossus face the eyes which look small beady and mildly sinister from the ground here look plaintive curious almost playful up close many of the colossi have faces that are more than a little silly and childlike a favorite of mine being the monkey like a Gaius from the ground Gaius is of menacing sting and unstable night on ball feet that tries to crush you with its massive stone sword until you climb to its round silly face and are expected to plunge your own sword in to attack the game however doesn't rub this in there is no grand moment of pathos a single peer in the range shot there is only your own self-doubt in the correctness of Dorman's quest your own sense of right and wrong debating if it's the right choice to destroy something as majestic as avión part of how the game sells this complexity is by not simply playing the same notes over and over this is to keep the gameplay feeling fresh keeping the puzzles from getting too repetitive and formulaic but it also serves to effectively muddy the moral waters some of the colossi are simply horrifying in their design unlovable bodies of menace and blades The Tortoise Vacheron is a literal ball of spikes and is highly aggressive seeding laundry with its projectile attacks Vacheron is as barren and unlovable as the blasted wasteland it lives in the sky serpent phalanx is impressive daunting but also utterly alien the water bound Pelagia has a crown of teeth ringing its head the three smallest colossi are also three of the most aggressive and deadly two of them celosia and shinobi a call on primal fears their design devoting a pastiche of lions and wolves ancient human predators however even then there are moments of humanity injected celosia fears of the fire and recoils when wander wields a torch in its face driving it backwards until it falls from a cliff shattering its armor and revealing its weak spots similarly the fight against the terrifying skeletal horse Phaedra is punctuated by a moment where wander must stab Phaedra in the back of the neck to make it seize up in pain so he can deliver the killing blow to its head all of these storytelling mechanisms are brought to a climax in the ultimate fight against the 16th colossus malice setting the stage for the encounter wander must travel to the far south leaping across the rickety bridge on the back of his horse aggro the bridge collapses wander is thrown from a grows back and a grove plummets into the ravine deprived of his last living companion wander must ascend to the top of the plateau to face his final challenge MELAS is enormous towering over the southern plateau malice is the tallest of the colossi by almost double it is also the deadliest of them all firing bolts of energy that home in on wander and sent him skittering across the ground the arena in which you engage malice is a battlefield littered with barricades and trenches almost as though whatever ancient people built malice found themselves laid siege by their own creation until they were able to bolt the Colossus feet to the ground leaving it abandoned and stationary at the edge of the world approaching malice feels like stepping into Armageddon a rain-soaked plateau still scarred from some ancient battle however even through all that as wander nears the end of the puzzle he has brought face to face with the final Colossus where he is inspected like an oddity malthus's I switched from the aggressive orange high alert state to the passive teal even this the final moments there is pause the approach to the final sigil could just as easily have been framed and executed as it so often is in the God of War series another set of games from the same era concerned with the main character crawling on gigantic opponents in order to slay them but no this was not a technological limitation the game is already full of so many impressive moments of transitions at this pause where wander stands and is inspected by the being he will soon kill is a conscious decision they had the power to do almost anything they imagined and they chose this wander is tasked by doorman with slaying sixteen beings none of which truly bear any ill will towards wander even as he poses a threat to their very existence beings who aren't mere automaton but inhabit some space in between construct and living thing they are stone and metal animated by magic but also flesh and fur and they cry out in pain when wander plunges his sword into them critical to building the complexity of the games emotional landscape is the composition of the end of each Colossus of life as wander climbs each Colossus and music swells in its heroic energy the kind of blood pumping soundtrack you would back to a company great piece but with that final blow the music turns fast grievin wander has his moments of heroic victory as the Colossus crumbles around him before the black tendrils of dormant power escape and surge into his body leaving him unconscious on the ground the answer for morph ization of the colossi the injection of human qualities to evoke empathy is played out in Reverse on wander with each Colossus he destroys his physical form degrades his humanity withering away until he is left a husk to be possessed by doorman it is not built to guilt the player but it is still made to feel tragic the game makes no commentary on choice however because at the end of the day while Shadow of the Colossus is a participatory experience it is not about that participation Shadow of the Colossus is definitively wanders story even though the game world is open with almost the entire area accessible from the very start the player is not given the opportunity to alter wanders ultimate path nor is the player impelled with the notion that they can make a different choice perhaps even the right choice by turning off the game or putting the controller down the players participation is not in complicity but in reenactment the story projected is amiss the game as retelling the player ultimately inhabits the role of wander in the same way an actor becomes Macbeth without assuming the guilt for Duncan's murder like a performer the player experiences the game simultaneously as participant and observer aware of the external context of the story even as their participation makes it real the brilliance of Shadow of the Colossus is emotional landscape doesn't truly come together until after the final showdown throughout wanders journey he is pursued by the shaman Iman and his entourage of soldiers who finally arrive in the Forbidden Land just in time to witness malice idol in the temple shattering with malice death there is a standoff between wandering iman that results in wanders body being fully possessed by doorman though only the masculine component of Dorman's voice remains iman flees casting a powerful binding spell that traps doormen long enough for Iman and his surviving soldiers to escape collapsing the bridge out of the Forbidden Land behind the doorman recedes leaving wander his body broken and frail to resist the spells pull but in the end it is irresistible and he is pulled into the void when the dust has finally settled mono the dead girl wakes up from the altar as a wounded aggro limps into the temple together they inspect the pool where the doorman possessed wander was entombed and find an infant boy with curious horns growing from his head asked shadowing the titular main character of the team's previous game eco the three of them silently wind their way to gather up the temple to a hidden garden doorman in all their ferocity and animosity towards the shaman through their manipulation of wander to their own ends is still a god of life doorman is caged because doorman is troublesome doorman complicates the hierarchy very little of their character is actually demonstrated and what is demonstrated always exists in duality as shadows gather around wander doves gather around mono what we are told of doorman comes almost entirely from a proven adversary Lord Iman a man who was himself willing to ritually sacrificed mono for unknown ends wanders actions are tragic lamentable even but the consequences of those actions are not nearly so clear-cut the final moments with mono in the garden are framed as peaceful serene a moments of hope and reverse what comes after that the threads that connect Shadow of the Colossus to eco are left largely to implication in innuendo mythical gaps to be filled by speculation but the one thing that is clear is that this is not the end Dorman's release does not trigger Armageddon by the time of eco things appear to be in disrepair but those events that world is separated from oh no in the garden by hundreds perhaps even thousands of years such is moral complexity events with upsides and downsides in both the present future and far future the ultimate judgment of wander is left to you the observer to decide based on your own values

You know what I love? The creepy ass game over screens. They just stare into your soul. Silent and judgeful almost as if saying: Is this worth it? We warned you.

"As with all narratives, our interests are instinctively aligned to those of the protagonist."

Man you and I approach video gaming very differently.

Fun fact! Ico is the game that inspired hidetaki miyazaki to go into game development. Basically you have Ico to thank for souls, bloodborne, and now sekiro.

I don't see any moral ambiguity in destroying the colossi, they are all parts of Dormin, meaning they belong to Dormin. Essentially they're his to do with as he sees fit and he wants Wander to kill them so he can restore himself. What if somebody broke your body into 16 parts and gave them an instinct for self-preservation. Would that suddenly mean you have no right to collect and re-integrate said body parts?

I played the PS2 version of this game when I was a kid and I had no idea what to do so I put it down and played something else. I finished the game on the PS4 a few months ago and the game is bad. We learn that dormin was split into multiple colossi and to free him you have to kill them. There’s two dumb things with that. The first one is: why are the colossi trying to kill you if they’re dormin and you’re trying to free him? The second one is: throughout the game I never felt empathy for them because when you go over to them they’re the ones who attack you first they don’t even know that you’re going to kill them so they’re not these sympathetic creatures people claim they are. They’re monsters, creatures of destruction. Also if no one was supposed to be able to get to that temple why was it so easy for a man carrying a dead woman to get there with nothing but a horse? The game is riddled with problems and I don’t see it as this “work of art” everyone calls it.

This guy realizes that many of the Colossi do try to kill you on sight..
.. he knows that right?

Oh wait I forgot, they bare no ill will towards us because saying enemies are really victims is the new hip shit. NEVERMIND!! ^_^

how about the morality of using a sound chip for HDR Lighting and yet still get the frame rate at 9 at best?

“They aren’t mere automatons”

hold up…


I see it in a simple matter – Dormin, besides being spelled "Nimrod" backwards, has a name associated with sleep (which is kind-of proven to us after Mono ressurects and meets a deer, suggesting nature didn't die there, just slept), states himself in the end he only borrowed Wander's body (reasonable, he likely needed to rest to fully materialize) and his last conscious act before being even more imprisoned than he was before was cleansing Wander's body to give him new life (plus horns) and ressurecting Mono – even as this deity knows he's screwed he decides to honor his promise.
Meanwhile humans come, attempt to kill Wander for whatever reason believing Dormin must be stopped (yeah, he stole a sword, big deal), leave Mono behind despite that in their knowledge there is next to no food out there and seal a deity which only real acts in story was self-defense from them, ressurecting Mono and making Wander reborn and leading Wander to destroy a few half sentient machines with promise (it's not manipulation as, to our knowledge, Dormin wanted to respect his side of bargain from the start) of ressurecting Mono…
He just had shitty PR as people judged him on looks.

I feel like Malus was never finished. I also believe the Colossi were meant to be able to be fought, hence the barricades.

wow. Last time I played I was 12 years old and this game didn't make any sense to me. All i knew back then is that there were TERRIFYING giants to kill all over the place. Im now 23 and I just bought the game for PS3. I'm glad to see there is a story and all this culture behind it. Thanks a lot for the sharing.

How is it a masterpiece? 😂😂😂😂 This game has the most garbage controls I've ever seen.

Do you want to know which Colossus makes me feel the worst and actually made me quit the game once?

Avion? No
Phalanx? Close
Hydrus then right? Very very close
Well it can't be Dirge, that guy is a tool. Actually yes, Dirge. First of all, Dirge has eyes, that can blink which is adorable, Dirge is a snake, I love snakes, and finally Dirge makes puppy whines, I have a puppy that makes that same noise when she wants popcorn. So I feel so f&%$ing horrible when I shoot Dirge straight in the eye, listening to him whine in pain as he violently crashes into a wall which then I proceed to stab him several times. This fight upset me so much that I had to delete my game, run upstairs and hug my pup and proceed to not play the game again for 3 years. Wander is an asshole.

Malus is literally just the word malice as in the desire to hurt someone thats why he is so aggresive and has so many attacks of blasts

I still have not played Shadow of the Colossus because I refuse to destroy such beautiful things. I regret that I will not experience the game, which I've heard is very good, but I stand by my decision.

I have been mentored in screenwriting for many years, and I am a big fan of the 'Shadow of the Colossus' videogame. However, in large part because I'm female, I'm having a lot of difficulty breaking in as a screenwriter. I couldn't help but to try my hand at my own feature adaptation of this game, especially after seeing everyone's unhappiness over the Justin Marks script. I combined aspects of all three of the Team Ico trilogy of games (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian) in my version.


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