I recently found myself recumbent, coffee in hand, musing and pondering how I could put my love for Shadow of the Colossus into mere mortal verse. It’s the game that swayed me into purchasing Sony’s second Playstation and to date the only software that I ever owned for the console. I’d never played anything like it before and I’ve certainly not played anything like it since. The empty, lonely and downright melancholic overtones of the narrative enforced a genuine compulsion to help the main character, Wander, succeed in his quest. And what a quest it was! Sixteen grandiose yet reticent enemies dotted around a technically titanic game-world, simply aching to be explored. But, putting down those rose-tinted bifocals for a second, my trip down memory lane was inspired by this year’s E3.
Several facets of the show made this romantic hopeless look back at Shadow of the Colossus with fond, teary eyes and weeping gland. The lack of Fumito Ueda’s promising yet fugacious The Last Guardian was a key factor. Whilst never really appearing as anything more than that stunningly beautiful concept video, this alone was enough to garner a fanatic following. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan has since gone on record to state that the title is very much still in development but facing ‘technical difficulties’. One can’t help but recall the story of Icarus.
Yet (and perhaps the prime motivator for my nostalgia) it was in fact the atrocious conferences held by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo this year that made me hark back to fonder times. These three giants in the business, or colossi if you will, have long seen fit to use their conferences as weapons to best the throes of the console war. Take E3 2011. Microsoft used Gears of War 3, and it was super effective. Nintendo demoed Zelda Wii U in HD. It critically hit for rapturous applause. Sony had Uncharted. I hear it’s good. But this year saw a shift. Arrogant preconceptions over Kinect, a frankly bizarre neglect of the Vita and mixed messages concerning the Wii U all fused together causing the internet hype machine to collapse in on itself, its own lack of contemporary relevance too much to bear. In the shadows lurked humble Ubisoft.
A highly respected publisher with some very successful franchises to its name but for the sake of this analogy, which to be honest was always clutching at straws, the lonely traveller. It knows what it must do to gain the power that it seeks but never expects to be victorious. In the one hand it has the most revered of tools, the brand-new IP, and in the other hand celebrity endorsement. Relevant celebrity endorsement. And in one fell, retrospective swoop, Ubisoft claims its place as subjugator, wearing the proud mantle of “best conference of E3”.
I’m not going to spoil the ending of Shadow of the Colossus, by the way. Anyone who has ever held a controller owes it to themselves to play it, and a HD remake has been available on Playstation 3 for some time.
Perhaps, though, one should pay heed to the price Ubisoft has paid for the attention it’s gained. WatchDogs can’t afford to be just another sandbox, Prototype or inFAMOUS by another name. The burden it now carries, to deliver a fresh spin on an ever expanding genre, has the potential to corrupt its name if not delivered.
Personally? I hope that I’m writing an article in a year or two’s time about how I’d not played anything like it before, and certainly nothing like it since.