Sunday, July 31, 2011

15th Colossus

A giant has fallen into the valley... 
It acts as a sentry to a destroyed city...

Developer Name: Minotaur_C
Fan Name: Argus (Praesidium Vigilo) - The Sentinel
Location Name: Parthenon

Colossus 15 Hints
- A fight on the ground is unfavorable... Find a place where thou hast an advantage...
- Find much higher ground...
- Find its hidden vitals...

'A giant has fallen into the valley...' does this mean it was higher in the mountains and accidentally fell in, getting trapped for all time? Or was it thrown in by some greater force when it was created? Perhaps this means it fell from the long narrow area you fight Argus? This would make more sense, it was walking back and forth along the causeway or was battling an earlier intruder but accidentally fell into the valley at the end. Wander can fall into this valley, so why not Argus? Argus grabbed onto the cliff walls to avoid falling into the valley, and here it stayed frozen in time for eons... awaiting its next intruder.

The Desert Temple
The Desert Temple is one of my favourite areas in the game as it looks like a medieval castle, with its twin stone turrets, towers and arches. Definitely has the look of a castle built for defensive purposes. It's built into the surrounding cliffs so there is only one direction you can enter from, a classic stronghold design. At the front you can see how the desert sands have started to bury the structure, this shows us that it is an ancient structure that has been uninhabited for a long time.

Desert Temple from surrounding cliffs

The temple has castle type turrets and platforms, an ancient stronghold?

Wide shot of the Desert Temple - you can see Agro for scale

Point of View Mode (POV)
In the Preview version I can get the game into a POV mode by jumping off the cliff at the end of the arena until the camera goes into the death mode. Then before I hit the ground and die I use the gravity hack to bring Wander back up to ground level. The camera stays in death mode so you see everything from above. By holding X or L2 the camera pans down to ground level but is still panned out, so you can get some amazing views of the colossi and the surrounding lands. Once in POV mode you can go anywhere in the game like this but it only works in the Preview version, in the NTSC and PAL versions the camera returns to its normal mode after a short time.

Argus in POV mode

Argus Before Activation
Argus is found clinging to the cliff walls, its sword melted into the cliff face. As with most of the colossi it has no substance right now, but its sword/club is still solid. I can actually stand there with Wander, but there's just a tiny spot big enough to stand on.

This makes me wonder, why is the colossus frozen in this position? The only explanation I can come up with is that time in the forbidden lands is frozen. Ueda himself said as much in the official art book, which makes it canon. Speaking of the end cutscene Ueda states 'The bird takes flight, the weather turns to thunder, the moon comes out, and you’re returned to the opening movie. The ancient land’s seal has been broken by Wander’s coming, and time, once stopped, begins to flow again'. So we can imagine Argus leaving its cave (see below) and crawling up the cliff for some unknown reason... suddenly time stops and Argus is frozen in place until Wander triggers it to defend its territory.

My theory as to how time stopped is just a theory... but I think that when Dormin was about to be split in 16 parts it lashed out with one final, desperate surge of energy in the hopes of undoing the spell, this laid waste to the forbidden lands (that were once lush and fertile) and froze time as an after effect, possibly killing all humans in the lands, including the mages who were casting the spell. If the magical sword was used in the spell it would have fallen unharmed to the ground. Dormin was no longer a threat but if anyone survived they would have taken the sword with them when they left the now 'cursed' lands... and so the legend was born.

Argus clinging to the cliff wall

Argus' Cave
Below Argus on the cliff face is a large cave. If you jump off with the parachute in the game you can see it, but since the death camera kicks in you can't adjust the camera to get a better look, so you only get a glimpse of it. But it remains a strange thing to put in the game, and people have often speculated about what the cave's purpose was or is. Did Argus live in this cave? Does it mean it was supposed to crawl out and climb the cliff face when an intruder arrives? It's another one of those weird things Team ICO put in the game that seems to mean something, and yet can't be reached.

The most likely explanation I can come up with is that at one time the cutscene for Argus was different. In this cutscene you would see Argus wake up in the cave, then crawl up the cliffs to reach Wander, but later they decided to save time by simply attaching it to the wall. This would explain why Argus seems frozen in mid stride, they simply froze it here and removed those animations of it climbing out of the cave. It also explains why there is no access to this cave, it was never meant for Wander to visit, it was just part of an earlier cutscene for Argus.

Argus' cave - you can see it's a huge cave, large enough for the colossus

Inside the cave looking out

Argus at the edge of cave

Wander at the mouth of cave with Argus

Argus on Columns
Since I can move Argus around before it's activated, I moved it to the columns at the other end of the arena... for no reason other than to see what it looked like there ; )

Here is Argus at the bottom of the canyon

Argus climbing the mountains behind the valley

Ledge at G1
Just next to the Desert Temple is a grassy ledge that snakes along the cliffs. It stands out as it's green against the sandy desert background and leads to the north side of the temple. See my introduction post for more details about this area:

Path snakes along the cliffs

After Agro launching to the ledge you can follow it along to the temple

Arrival at the Desert Temple - the stone eyes keep watch

So you can get to the Desert Temple by this route as well (legitimately on in the NTSC version) which always made me wonder if this wasn't planned to be an area of importance at some stage. The whole front part of the temple has no substance (Pikol first found this) so Wander just falls through it, but even if it was solid all you could do is run around up there and explore before entering the battle arena.

In the PAL and PS3 versions this area is blocked by an invisible wall, so it's clear they didn't want you to get up there. So it was just an unintentional result of the programming it seems, never intended for any purpose.

Updated video here:

There's another higher grassy ledge in G4 right at the top of the mountains, it has no collisions but provides a nice view of the desert temple. I had to use the standing hack to take these shots.

Just another mysterious area with no purpose

I brought Agro along for this shot ; )

Rock ledge above the northern desert

Sealed Doors
Another mysterious door in the game. Many wondered that if you could open these doors it would lead to a secret, as they are doorways to a single room with doors on either side. One idea was to point your sword light directly east from a certain location at the door to open it, but sadly nothing worked. It's clear it's just decoration for the temple and there's nothing inside the room. If you hack Wander inside the room you can tell you are not meant to be there as the walls flick off and on, the textures don't render properly from the other side.

Mysterious stone door

Wander between the doors inside the sealed room - it's empty!

I made a video of what fans hoped to see concerning these doors, called 'Last big Secret Wish': Note: This is fake video hence the word 'Wish' in the tile. 

Argus In weird places
When WWWArea and I were first learning how to mod the colossi it became a competition as to who could find the next colossi codes first ; ) WWWArea found the first colossus ever (Malus) then Barba and others in quick succession. I don't remember who found Argus first but I think WWWArea found more colossi than I did xD. In any case I vividly remember finding Argus and then exploring what I could do with this new found technique. It was a lot of fun warping the colossus miles up into the air or slinging it out of its native area etc. Ah, such good times!

Some of the first tests of moving Argus outside its arena

I posted these shots on the Playstation forums but I was cheating! Although it looks like Argus is walking around beyond the large columns that keep it from leaving its lair, it was in fact falling into the ground, as outside its native arena the colossus just falls into the ground. So I warped Argus out past the columns then took snapshots as it was falling into the floor. The above images were taken just as the colossi's feet were touching the ground. You can see these are early shots (circa 2009) as the bloom effect is still present.

Some of the colossi have a gravity codes, that is you can move them around and keep them locked in one position outside their arenas. But they would still vibrate up and down, wobbling in a strange way. This was also true for Wander at the time. It wasn't until I found the 'stable' gravity code that this problem was solved. This stopped the colossus from falling into the ground but it there was still no way to control it, you were basically moving a frozen statue around as in the images below.

Sentinel guarding its city

Argus outside its area, Wander shouts 'You cannot pass!'

On top of temple

Front entrance

Mountains behind its area

Argus at the H0 beta mountains

Wander - the colossi killer
Eastern Mountains (H1)
After years of putting it off I finally got around to exploring the mountains on the other side of the chasm where Argus first appears. There is quite a lot of land to explore, deep valleys and high cliffs etc. and at the back of the mountains hidden from view is a large rocky plateau that I had never seen before, but there is no collision detection there or even sound effects (as you were never meant to go here), but I can run around on an invisible save stone platform. It was great exploring a new area after all this time, just as exciting as the old days ; ) Sadly I found nothing of significance but the landscapes were worth it.

The land and bushes are oversized as it only appears from a distance

View of the mountains from a high ledge

View from opposite cliff to the above image

What looks like a climbable texture on the cliff face

towering peaks topped with vegatation

One of the valleys snaking through the mountains

Dead trees inhabit some areas giving the mountains a desolate feel

Strange mottled texture on the cliff walls

An image to show the vast scale of the mountains compared to Wander

View of mountains from the highest peak

H1 plateau (right side) - Agro & Wander are the tiny white speck

H1 plateau and map reference - the farthest lands!

H1 plateau from Wander's perspective

You can actually see this plateau on the map in the all versions of the game, the land would have extended out eastwards towards the Dam. We can only speculate what the early builds of this area would have looked like, but from the map it seems like the mountains level out into more low lying lands, perhaps marshland or dry barren hills?

Dam in the distance from plateau (Photoshop montage)

See video of Agrus' mountains and plateau here:

I remember hearing a rumor that the symbols at #15's arena changed once you climbed to the secret garden, that is you would defeat the first 15 colossi, climb to the garden and then return to Argus' lair and see that the symbols around its area were changed. Of course this was totally false and it seems that the originator of this myth was just another faker looking for attention.
Argus's Death Screen
Image you see when Wander dies during the fight with Argus.