Many games feature huge, screen-filling bosses; ones that can murder us with ease and make the player feel powerless the first time they face off against them. Indeed, that’s a quality that all the greatest bosses should have, otherwise they wouldn’t be considered bosses and, even worse than that, they’d leave the player without a sense of triumph when they finally fall.
Shadow of the Colossus fulfils that role exactly 16 times over. It avoided the accepted norm of ‘Complete the level. Fight the boss’ and instead it made each boss a level in itself. Together with that, these bosses made the player feel properly small and flimsy. Even though they could all eventually be defeated, they could also toss Wander around like a rag doll. That’s just one of the reasons Team Ico‘s game will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time… There are more, but we’ll get into those as we go along.
Now, onto those fantastic beasts themselves!
The First Colossus – Valus
Valus is the first huge enemy you come across. Lumbering along a small valley, the minotaur-esque creature doesn’t even notice Wander for a long while. The first peaceful few moments really give you a chance to revel in how huge this beast is and wonder just how to cut him down to size.
Pulling out your bow and taking a pot shot at him from afar serves only to aggravate him and bring him charging over to Wander. Apart from that, it’s barely enough to put a ding in his health bar. Likewise for running around his legs and hacking away like an angry mouse with a kitchen knife; you might do something, but more than likely Valus is just gonna stomp you to death. In order to really bring the first Colossus down to size, you need to go full Cobra Kai, ‘Sweep the leg’.
At the back of Valus’ left leg is a small patch of hair that Wander can grab onto for a short time. While latched on, if he takes a stab at Valus’ leg, he can bring the giant down to a more manageable position. From the Colossus’ new, more horizontal outlook on life, Wander can bridge the gap from leg to lower back, taking refuge on a small platform there.
Why is there a platform built into his back? Who knows?! Maybe it was for transporting colossal amounts of wood to some colossal cabin of clay that colossal wattles made. I choose not to question it too much. Once on Valus’ back, Wander needs to carefully make his way up the giant beast’s back, all the while trying to avoid being shaken off. If he does shake you off, it’s back to the beginning, trying to dodge his massive mace and clamber back onto his legs. The endgame is to make it all the way to Valus’ head where he has a symbol indicating a weak point, one that all of the Colossi share. A few stabs up there and Valus will be vanquished.
One thing that you’ll rarely get the chance to do, but that should be taken advantage of if it comes by, is to just stand on top of Valus and take a look around below. The valley where you face off is quite desolate, but it’s nice to see just how far you’ve come.
The Second Colossus – Quadratus
So you thought Valus was huge? Well, Quadratus is put together like two of Valus carrying a bridge between them. To me, this Colossus always resembled a giant goat, though most people I’ve spoken to say he reminds them more of a mammoth. That’s probably because of his immense size. Also, in retrospect, the noises he makes are decidedly mammoth-like. Quadratus is indeed one of the largest Colossi in the game, both in terms of height and length, being outmatched by only one other creature in each of those dimensions.
Despite Quadratus’ size, and the fact that he is instantly hostile when encountered, he always struck me as one of the more docile Colossi. I got the feeling that if you weren’t around he would’ve been happy to lumber on his merry way along the water’s edge. Maybe it’s because of how the fight with Quadratus reminded me of Aesop’s fable about Androcles, but I always felt like I was putting a thorn in Quadratus’s paw, literally, because in order to bring the giant down to a manageable size you have to fire an arrow at the tender pads of his foot, causing the poor thing to fall over.
Once the fight was done with, and Quadratus lay dead, I had this sort of melancholy feeling, a real sense of remorse for what I’d just done. Why did I only consider this for Quadratus and not for Valus? There’s a good chance it was down to the fact that Quadratus is more animalistic than Valus, but it’s equally likely that Team Ico intended it to play out that way all along. Both the nature of Quadratus’ movements, and the mechanics used to defeat him seem to sell it that way. There’s also a seldom noticed feature wherein, if Wander falls off Quadratus’s back when he is low on health, the Colossi will try to run away.
Have you played these bosses? What do you think? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for more of the Colossi in future instalments of Boss Rush.