How Shadow of the Colossus Taught me Empathy
Akshay Mathew relives a playthrough of Shadow of the Colossus that affected him so profoundly that he turned off the console before the last Colossus. Spoilers for Shadow of the Colossus.
The first colossus was a struggle to kill. It was near an hour before the monstrous creature fell dead onto the ground. I had succeeded and was one step closer to achieving my goal; only fifteen colossi remained before I would be once again reunited with Mono, my love.
Now that I understood the mechanics of these colossi the next ones became progressively easier to defeat. I was also getting used to my sword and had more success at holding onto the massive beasts. One by one I slayed them and by the eighth colossi I was exhausted. Dormin had told me that this would not be an easy task and there would be a great price for me to pay. I was already halfway met my goal; there was no point in quitting now.
I trekked across the empty forbidden land seeking my next victim. The vast barren space made me feel lonely. Aside from the colossi, Agro, my horse, was the only living creature within miles. I’d grown a deep attachment to Agro. He wasn’t always my horse; I had found him on my journey to the forbidden land. He was a loyal and obedient companion who always came to me when I called his name.
I continued killing colossi but as my blade pierced through their flesh I began to feel a morsel of guilt and pain. These magnificent beasts intended me no harm, yet I murdered each in cold blood. I quickly brushed the thought aside. I mustn’t lose focus. I’m doing this for Mono, the one I love. As the ninth colossus fell a dark shadow overtook me, my face grew pale and my hair darkened. I felt hollow inside as though I was losing a part of my soul. With each colossus that fell the darkness grew stronger and when I slayed the fifteenth I only had an ounce of strength remaining.
“Only one more left,” I said aloud. There was no one there to listen save Agro. He was a beautiful steed, faithful and tireless. Many a colossi I could not have beaten had he not been with me. Agro and I headed toward the sixteenth and final colossus. A bridge was all that stood between us and the colossus. Agro sauntered across the bridge, but halfway across the rope snapped. The bridge began to give way, I snapped the reigns but Agro was already in full sprint. I knew we weren’t quick enough to make it to the end. I prepared myself for the fall. The memories of the colossi flashed before my eyes. I felt sorry that I had killed them. Were they not creatures too? Do they not have a right to live as much as I or even Mono did? Agro reached the edge of the bridge, but it was too late. There wasn’t enough momentum to keep us from falling.
I felt a thrust my back. Agro used the last of his energy to fling me onto land. Agro fell into the canyon sacrificing his life so that I may live. I tumbled onto gravel and rocks, which scraped against my skin. I lay there for two or three minutes before I had the muscle to get up. I stood and looked over the edge of the canyon. Agro was nowhere to be found, the river had swept him away. Sadness filled me inside and I wept.
The final colossus stood a few hundred meters before me but I had no will to go on. Death and destruction was all that surrounded me. Everything I loved was taken from me and in return I sought justice by killing innocent beings. My selfishness and pride caused so much pain. It did not feel right to continue my journey any further. Dormin had told me from the beginning that the price for Mono’s life would be great. I did not know that the price would be my own soul and my humanity. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? I could go no further; this was the end. I turned off my PS2 and TV.
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