Before I really get into this, I’ll be giving a brief summary of the game’s plot.
Mono (the woman you’re on a quest to revive) was sacrificed by Lord Emon because she supposedly had a cursed fate. Wander watches this happen before his very eyes and is supposedly devastated. So much so, that he decides to steal the Ancient Sword and set off to find Dormin, the god of the forbidden land. He finally makes it to the shrine of worship and makes a deal with Dormin that if he can slay the 16 colossi, Mono will be revived… but at a cost. Wander agrees without a second thought and the journey begins. (Massive spoilers for the rest of the game in the following paragraphs)
One by one, Wander kills the 16 Colossi; each successive victory altering his appearance (Darkening hair, scars, scabs, dirt, whitening eyes, etc.). After defeating Colossi #16 and being sent back to the shrine of worship, Wander is greeted by Lord Emon and his soldiers. Wander tries to make his way towards Mono to hopefully see that she has been revived. After only a few steps, Wander is impaled and shot, bleeding to death on the floor. The last thing Wander sees is that Mono is still laying on the altar… dead (at least to his knowledge). Turns out that the “Cost” was the old thing “A life for a life” TADAAA! It’s pretty much over. There’s a little cutscene at the end, showing Mono wake up, Agro made it back and Wander was turned into a baby, but that’s got little to do with anything else in here.
The general consensus is that Wander is a heartless, selfish, moronic prick who is too stupid to understand the old phrase “There are plenty of fish in the sea”. He’s too immature to deal with the fact that he should just get over it and move on. He’s the villain because he killed these harmless, majestic beasts who did absolutely nothing wrong, so Wander deserved his fate. It makes a pretty good bit of sense, right? Well, that’s what I thought until just a few years ago, when I started my second playthrough.
As you should know by now, my view on the story is pretty much the complete opposite. In my eyes, Wander’s quest is the most honorable and heroic in almost all of fiction. His devotion to Mono is so strong that he’s willing to go against near-impossible odds to bring her back. Facing each Colossus; creatures that tower stories upon stories above him… it’s unbelievable. He was well aware that he’d pay a hefty price; he knew exactly what he was doing, but it didn’t phase him. He was going to bring Mono back, no matter what the cost may be. Why? Because in reality, Mono’s death was unfair and unjustified. She was even more innocent than any colossus in the game (At least she didn’t have a fragment of Dormin in her). Mono was accused of something that her people didn’t actually know to be true… and Wander’s loss of someone so precious to him… was almost too much to bear.
While my experience may not be entirely comparable to Wander’s, it’s close enough. On December 17, 2013, my grandfather passed away due to heart failure. Growing up, Pop (That’s what I call(ed) him, so you’ll be seeing that quite a bit) wasn’t just my grandfather, but he was also my best friend. In some ways, he was even more of a father figure than my actual father. I love him with all my heart and soul, and his death nearly killed me too. Why? Not just because he’s my grandfather, but because I was completely ashamed of myself. For the past few years (prior to his death), I didn’t spend nearly as much time with him as I should’ve. And when he was staying at our house for his final days, barely conscious... I was too scared to be by his side. I couldn’t let my last memory of him be the image of him in that state… so I never set foot into that room, and I never got to say goodbye or even tell him I loved him before it was too late. That old saying really is true; that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. And that moment is what made me realize just how lucky I was…. And several years later, I still can’t get over it, and I never will. Shortly after his passing, I went back and played shadow of the colossus again, and that’s when my entire perspective changed into what it is now.
That was just my grandfather. As close as Pop and I were… I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to lose your spouse- hell, even a girlfriend/boyfriend to MURDER! My experience may have scarred me, but Wander’s was likely even more traumatizing, depending on his relationship with her.
You know, I honestly think that most people who believe Wander is evil or idiotic probably haven’t been through something like he has. Sure, many of us have had our breakups, but most of us likely haven’t had a boyfriend or girlfriend die in front of us. That’s why people seem to think about Wander the way they do, because they assume that Mono's death is just the same as someone breaking up with you.
When and if you lose someone you love, whether that be a friend, a pet or family… odds are you think to yourself that you’d be willing to do anything to bring them back – to see them one last time. I know I did… but would you ACTUALLY be willing make the same deal Wander did, and see it through to the end? Probably not. I’m not saying that NOBODY would, and it is a large assumption, but I know for a fact that I would never be able to do it. But, I should. If I care about someone that much, I SHOULD be able to get past any of those mental barriers… but I can’t.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I believe Wander is a hero, not a villain. Wander DID go that extra mile. He did the impossible, because he was just that devoted to her. He loved and cared about her that much, putting her life above his own. He knew what he was getting into, and he still followed through anyway. Rather than bashing on Wander for being an “idiot”, we should instead look up to and learn from him. He shows just how much we should love and care about who and what we have… because in an instant, we could lose it all… and we’ll never be given the same opportunity. Even then, Wander still never got to see that he succeeded; he had died just moments before Mono came back. In a way, this is a parallel to what we go through in real life; No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to bring them back… so we have to make every second count.
Maybe killing the 16 colossi IS a tad bit... mean, but that doesn’t make him evil. Call me crazy, retarded, heartless, go all PETA on my ass, I don’t care. My experience with this game was different from yours, and that doesn’t make me evil either. I believe Wander is a hero, and I think there’s a lot we can learn from him.
Go ahead, internet, sue me.
In honor of John P. Arot