It wasn't until I wrote down the title of this post that I realised how long the names of both these games were. Horizon: Zero Dawn and Shadow Of The Colossus (Remastered) are two games I started playing recently but haven't gotten anywhere near completing.
I started with Horizon first for a few hours and then got somewhat fatigued by the predictable nature of how things were proceeding. It's not a bad game - on the contrary it's extremely absorbing, cinematic and intuitive. My issue was with how it felt like the gameplay was going through the motions of every other sandbox adventure game that had come out in the past few years. Learn to move, learn to scavenge, craft upgrades for your weapons, assign skill points to gain new abilities, buy and sell all of the trinkets, etc etc. All elements that had been tried and tested several times before and had been proven to work, and engage the player and ensure a pleasurable experience.
The problem is that once you see the steps laid out before you, it sort of shatters the illusion. Knowing I would have to put in a certain number of hours, before I unlocked certain areas/missions, and saw more of the story, made me feel somewhat deflated. I realise this probably doesn't make a lot of sense, and I'm very likely doing a poor job of explaining all of this. But it's like the game was hollow - which probably isn't going to be a popular statement considering how loved this game is. It feels like the game includes all of this ancillary stuff because it's expected, not because it would be fun or unique or would add a new twist. As if it's just there to fill a quota.
So after having this minor existential crisis on behalf of the game, I decided to stop playing and loaded up another title - the remastered version of Shadow Of The Colossus (SOTC). I had never played the original but had seen the countless praises thrown its way over the years from even the most jaded games critics. And after the initial cinematic and story set up, I felt a refreshing wave of relief wash over me. The simplicity and minimalism was upfront and deliberate, and I realised I wouldn't have to jump through several sets of hoops to make progress.
Shadow Of The Colossus tasks the player with finding and destroying a several absolute units. Why? To bring your dead girlfriend back to life. How do you find them? Your sword points in the direction of the nearest colossus. How do you kill the colossi? With your sword (somehow). What happens after you kill a colossus? You move onto the next colossus via your horse. Simples.
Obviously this won't please everyone. For some people the set up and content might not have enough meat on it. Maybe they want more complexity or nuance in the "combat". Maybe they want more depth to the story, or want more lore from the world the game takes place in. People who want these things will not get them, and that may be a deal breaker. Fair enough.
But for me, it's exactly what I wanted. It is the polar opposite of the over stuffed, over burdened and over subscribed titles that dominate modern triple-A. It is a game I want to continue to work through, to see if the minimalist approach holds up over the entire run time.
I won't be able to do this any time soon however, as I have yet again moved to a new city, for a new job, and my poor PS4 has been left behind. But don't worry PS4, I'll be coming back for you soon.