When I saw Castlevania: Lords of Shadow at E3 this summer I was extremely impressed. This sort of Castlevania hasn’t really been attempted since the somewhat ill-received Castlevania 64. With a game that looks this epic it is clear that Konami really set out to re-invent the wheel, unfortunately they didn’t quite get that far. Without going into spoiler detail you begin your adventure as Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of Light who is super pissed someone killed his woman and naturally; he wants her back. So he sets out on his quest to retrieve a super cool mask (the God mask, as it was cleverly named) to bring his lady friend back from the dead. He also gets to wreak some havoc on some bad guys on the way there, a whole boat load of them.
Oh, here’s a bonus I was excited about – his BFF is Patrick Stewart! Engage!
Immediately you will find the environment to be breath taking in Lords of Shadow. The amount of detail borders on obsessive compulsive on the part of the developers, but it is much appreciated. Unfortunately, some other guys decided to lock down the world so you can’t really immerse yourself too much in it with the invisible walls getting in your way. The camera can also be annoying at times as it fixes in awkward places, especially when you need to back track in a level. Aside from those minor disappointments, the game has an awesome look.
Once you start playing you may begin to think, “did I play this before?” – and the answer is yes, it was called God of War. The way the main weapon works is pretty much identical to the blades of chaos, right down to the button combo style. This isn’t really a bad thing, it just wasn’t that original. There are plenty of side weapons to pick up to shake things up a bit. Not to mention two types of magic to add some more flavor. Oooooh, magic. The game has the classic aspect of “find the upgrade go back to old levels and find the stuff you missed” thing going for it. I didn’t mind this, but I had a hard time keeping track of where every chest was that I couldn’t reach. Note to self: Invest in note pads, also pens.
Your run of the mill baddies really are nothing more than minor annoyances. They can be a pain in the ass if you try to whip them all to death, but once you realize you can just grab them and do a one button timed attack to kill them suddenly you can chew your way through levels a lot quicker. Again, not a bad thing really but it can be annoying being bombarded with these peon monsters when you really want to go beat up the big guy who rolls with their gang.
Next you’ve got your medium and large sized baddies, these ones require you to beat the living piss out of them for them to die. Luckily there is usually some strategy or trick involved into delivering the coup de grace a little quicker. Konami added some more depth by allowing you to mount the bigger baddies (no sexual innuendo present here) – and use their abilities to smash things, climb up things or jump over stuff. A habit I had to break was just mindlessly killing everything, often times if one of these large mountable baddies shows up it’s for a reason. If you kill them and you needed them to advance in the level they will just keep spawning, which can be a huge pain in the ass. The lesson to take from this portion is, DON’T KILL THE BIG GUYS YOU CAN RIDE! Sorry to yell. Whew.
Lastly we’ve got our epic bosses. The giants, titans, dark lords, vampires and so on look amazing. They are also re-goddamn-diculously frustrating sometimes. There are a lot of cheap shots by the bosses, even though they have their tells you will find yourself always being unable to avoid a few hits here and there and you will eventually die. I found this to be a common complaint amongst others who have played the game. I had to actually lower the difficulty for one of the bosses, it made me feel like a n00b but I was done after my seven hundred and eighty fifth attempt. You will also notice a tad of repetition in the boss battles and the ways in which you defeat them, again – not a bad thing, but not getting any originality points here either.
Other points worth mentioning are the awesome cut scenes in the game. Seriously they’re cool and by the way did I mention Patrick Stewart is in this game? There are plenty of games out there that massacre story lines, disrupt game play and are just completely annoying because of their stupid cut scenes – luckily Lords of Shadow is not one of them. The animations are also pretty cool, nothing is better than bloody explosions of bad guys. I almost wish every bad guy died that way, but that may be a tad excessive and I wouldn’t appreciate it quite as much.
Overall, Lords of Shadow is a title worthy of being added to anyone’s collection. Some people have complained that Lords of Shadow isn’t really a true Castlevania game, and I have to disagree. There are lots of new elements in the game, and of course its not a side scrolling platformer, but trying new things is always good in my book. As stated Konami didn’t re-invent the wheel with this game as a lot of the content has been done before, but it is still a damn fun game if not really frustrating at points. A solid showing and I look forward to seeing more Castlevania titles like this in the future, with some tweaking of course.
4 out of 5