It’s been a couple days since I've fully finished this game and I still have some mixed feelings about it. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of things that this game does incredibly well. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of things that this game does that I found downright infuriating at times. I'll talk a bit about what I liked about this, but I'll mostly be talking about what I didn't like as I feel there's already been so much said about what makes this great.
One of the first things that stuck out to me when playing this was the wonderfully fantastical world that these guys created. I mean everything about it looks so great. The ruins, the colossus, the forests, the deserts, you name it. I loved all those little ruins and man-made relics as they really inspire a sense of mystery and help to flush out this world as you’re made to wonder what these places are and who built them. As beautiful as this world looks though, it is painfully empty. It’s always a large, empty grass plain with a few cliffs or trees scattered about, or a large and empty desert populated by a few dunes. While I’d love to go out and explore this world more, there is really not much to find. Additionally, you have no incentive to explore, besides to find lizard tails and fruit to upgrade your health and stamina, which I found to be pointless after the first couple lizards. Towards the end of the game I found the journey to my next colossus to be more annoying than anything which is so unfortunate.
Getting to my gripes with the colossus fights--which are essentially puzzles. While I found most of the colossus a lot of fun to defeat, I also found that some of these fights were fairly unintuitive. A lot of these fights make you use the colossus to alter your environment in a way that you just don’t know is possible. For example, in one fight you have to get the colossus to stomp on the ground near a platform in order to knock it down, but it's just not something you would really think would be possible. Additionally, a lot of these fights are such a chore to complete if you end up falling off the giant, especially in the fights above water as the swimming speed is painfully slow. I actually ended up putting the game down after the early fight with that bird colossu, as every time you fall off you have to slowly swim all the way back to a platform. I also found that in some of the fights you get one opportunity to do something (usually to grab onto a spot on the giant), and if you miss that opportunity you’ll have to wait ages for the colossus to walk/fly/swim back around to you to be able to attempt it again. I also found that in some places it was not all too clear what was climbable and not, another thing that made some of these puzzles confusing to solve. While the hints that you get if you’re struggling are sometimes helpful, oftentimes they’re too vague to really help, or they give you some broad hint that you already know (“You need to get higher”).
There’s a general clunkiness to everything in here that can make traversing the world to get to the next colossus a real chore. The horse will randomly slow down if there's a change of slope in the terrain, the camera is disorienting and never shows you what you want to see, and the climbing controls aren’t always the most responsive. I found that the most irritating element of this clunkiness came with the horse. It seemed like I could never get that damn thing to do what I wanted, which sucked because it replaces your awe at taking in this world with annoyance as you try to navigate around a rock. I remember one time towards the end I kept trying to jump to a ledge that clearly looked grabable but ended up falling to my death, having to travel all the way back to where I died until I realized that I had to jump to it on my horse. Not gonna touch on this a lot but I just feel like this general clunkiness could have been a great thing to fix with this remaster and would have made this a lot more enjoyable to play.
The thing that shines here is the story. Specifically the minimalist approach to storytelling. They do a great job of subtly bringing you to the realization that everything is not as it seems and you may not be the hero of this story. Everything is shrouded in mystery, even the two main characters, a strategy which I found to be very effective in making you want to discover more. The fact that you can go back and see the decomposing corpses of the giants you’ve slaughtered further makes you feel as if you are trespassing in a land not meant for humans. By the end you come to expect that something is wrong, but nothing can prepare you for that incredible ending which surprisingly carries a lot of emotional weight considering you never get to know much about the character you play as.
While I have been critical about this, I do think it is a classic for a reason and it has a lot going for it. It’s got a brilliant sense of scale, beautiful graphics, some wonderful puzzles, and a brilliant story with some excellent lore. Unfortunately though, I felt it was all bogged down by just a few things that made the experience annoying and downright not fun at times. However, I would still recommend this as I feel the story and the puzzles that work more than make up for the times that they don’t.
If anyone reads this, thank you! And let me know what you think about this game or my writing, I'm always trying to improve in that regard!