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Number 4

Shadow of the Colossus

Some games hit you harder than you would expect. There are times when expectations are astronomical, almost unreasonable, and the product that you are given surpasses them so utterly and completely that you are made to reconsider how much you are willing to hope for in games.

Last generation, Shadow of the Colossus was that game for me. I knew what I wanted out of it based on its first trailer - to kill giant monsters. What I got was quite a bit more than that.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game built on moments, where the fights themselves are punctuation marks at the end of long and terrible sentences whose syllables are formed in the lonely silence of running through an empty, ruined world. It's easy to talk about the monsters, but the world is harder - how do you convey the power of silence? There is a sense of quiet that comes upon you as you break tree cover and come out into a spring, and there may be times when you do not want to hunt, when you wish to go out and explore the land for what it is rather than for what it contains. It is not an enormous world by today's standards, but it feels so huge, so yawning as you race across it on the back of your horse, swept up in a wind that carries the dust of ages long past.

There are moments in this game that are possessed of such power that trying to put them to word would merely trivialize them, because so many of them involve no words at all. Narrative is conveyed through the fact of control, hints at reality given by the very act of making the hero move, and that is as much as I can.

Yes, the game is wonderful, and beautiful, and beautifully composed, with the best boss fights in the medium set against the backdrop of a world that manages to be lush and barren all at once, but how do you communicate the power of its silence? When a colossus falls there is a great crash, like mountains grinding together, and then nothing, the enormity and monstrosity of your deed communicated in the yawning space where thundering footsteps used to be. And it is a monstrous thing as the game questions you, and so many players never realize they are supposed to answer, and even those of us who do struggle onward, not caring enough to tear our eyes away. What power!

And in the end there is silence, silence filling the whole world.