Brief Vanquish & Shadow of the Colossus Overview

What do you like gameplay wise about Vanquish?

It’s a third person cover shooter that actually takes advantage of being on console to use third person motion well, which is what the controller excels at where mouse and keyboard fall behind. They put a lot of work into making it so every part of the system has some function, many of them interrelated. Similar to FEAR, you can toss grenades, go into slo-mo and detonate them in the air. Grenades can be tossed from a rocket dash to get a lower angle. You can cancel reload animations by switching weapons. They have the cigarette to distract enemies and give you a chance to act out of cover. In general the game is really tuned around letting good players get out of cover, making cover more a crutch for players that let themselves get hit. The dodge function is brilliant at this, especially because you can dodge boost for more distance and staying mostly invincible. They let you jump out of cover, go into slo-mo to shoot while rocket boosting. The game really wants you to play the offensive.

The enemy designs are excellent in the way they’re tremendously varied and have a number of attack options. Even the basic enemies sometimes go into suicide mode to try to detonate on top of you if they’re low on life, which is an amazing behavior. They have bigger enemies and smaller enemies, some can fly, some roll around, some stand up and have weak points behind them. They have all different bosses that attack in different ways. Some literally unfold into mobile cover. The final boss battle has all this cover that comes out of the ground, and changes over the fight. They actually have good boss battles for a shooter game, which is rare by itself.

Beyond that, they actually offer a fair range of weapons with differentiation between them. Sure, the assault rifle, heavy machine gun, and boost machine gun overlap each other, but you also get the Shotgun, which rips apart anything at close range, the LFE, which is a slow moving orb of death which kills any lesser enemy, and stuns greater ones, rocket launcher, big damage, low ammo, disc launcher, has its own melee attack which doesn’t overhead you, can dismember multiple enemies close together, lock-on laser, can hit a bunch of targets at the same time, sniper rifle, snipes, Laser cannon, draws from the suit power for big damage, anti-armor pistol, slow accurate, low ammo, big damage, and the two types of grenades.

My only gripe is that there isn’t more vertical play. You can’t jump (except with the wallboost trick), can’t fall off ledges, don’t really have any air physics. It doesn’t need it, but it would be nice. Also melee attacks completely drain the suit’s power, leaving you close to enemies without much way to defend yourself. Would have been nicer to drain like half, or all of it without overheating.

Thoughts on shadow of the colossus?

I could have sworn I did in the past, but I can’t find anything on my blog?
I’m gonna be brief, sorry. The primary success of SotC in my opinion is the balance between grip versus the bucking of the bull. It’s like a bullriding simulator, except you need to climb across the surface of the bull between its buckling. Beyond that, the movements of the colossi can propel you forwards by holding and releasing at the correct times. I think the weaker sections of the game are the more puzzle oriented colossi, like the one in the lake, or the two tiger shaped ones.

I believe the presence of the time attack mode means that the developers knew there were more elegant ways to beat the various Colossi. That’s why the time attack mode is in Braid for example. I think in general the presence of a time-attack mode usually means that a game is either race oriented, or the developers want to push the players in trying for more elegant solutions, because they know there are easy and high affordance, but slow, solutions, and more elegant low affordance solutions which are faster.

I think the game took one of the most developed parts of Ico, the climbing and pendulum physics, and applied them in a context where there is genuine risk and reward for those things, making a rather static and dull type of action into a dynamic one. You can jump over the bodies of the colossi to avoid them shaking you, you can advance a bit further at the risk of being thrown, you can stab them to change up their AI cycles. You can climb up slowly at the expense of the grip meter, while playing it safe should the colossi try to buck you. You can lure them around, or use their own attempts to throw you off in order to propel yourself higher. Occasionally on a first or second playthrough, you’ll need to find the next weak point while standing atop them, adding more sources of risk to the challenge. It’s possible to jump stab them too, and charging to stab itself is a risk/reward thing. How much can you risk to charge before inflicting damage. You want as much damage as possible, but the whole time you charge you’re also losing grip, and the colossi could shake any moment. The grip jump works the same way.

A friend, Hamish Todd, wrote this for Kotaku (weird choice, I know, he said he wanted to get the information out there):

It helps show one of the elegant solutions the creators were probably intentionally pursuing with the game, and at minimum it’s something that can be learned from. Avion’s attempts to buck you by spinning in the air can itself be used as an opportunity to go from wing to wing because they’re so close together in that moment.
In short, cool game. Great experiment in use of physics to create risk and reward systems. Weird that it would come from the guys who made Ico.

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