“YOU’RE WRONG!” Konami’s Dave Cox and MercurySteam’s Enric Alvarez rebuked when I suggested it must be difficult having to appeal to the entirety of Castlevania’s splintered fan-base.
Castlevania has a long, long history you see. It started off as a more traditional sort of gothic hack-and-slash platformer, and those Classicvania games have their own fans. Koji Igarashi’s Symphony of the Night ushered in the Metroid-styled gameplay that many fans now associate with the series.
Lords of Shadow, the first really successful attempt at bringing the series in to a 3D perspective doesn’t really ascribe to either format – and while criticized by fans on both camps it has managed to build its own loyal and passionate fan base. In fact, Lords of Shadow is probably one of my favourite games from 2010. Its those fans that they’re appealing to with Lords of Shadow 2. So what is it that makes a good Lords of Shadow game? Mostly, it’s in the combat, Cox asserts – and that’s the biggest and most instantly noticeable change in Lords of Shadow 2. Saying anything about Lords of Shadow 2 by necessity spoils the first game- so if you’ve yet to play that and would like to, you might wish to stop reading.
Once again voiced by Robert Carlyle, we play as the fallen hero Gabriel Belmont. Tricked by fate, he’s no longer the man he was. In fact he’s no longer a man at all; he’s the enemy of the Brotherhood of Light he once championed; Dracula at the height of his vampiric prowess. We start with Dracula’s medieval castle, under siege by the Brotherhood for reasons unclear. No longer in possession of the Combat Cross, Dracula instead uses a magical blood whip; Blood Magic, as you’d expect, forms the basis of much of Dracula’s repertoire. and yes, that includes sucking the blood from hapless, nigh-vanquished foes.
This time out, instead of light and dark magic which could be applied to any of the game’s weapons, we have the Void Sword and Chaos Claws; colour-coded weapons that work similarly enough to the light and dark magic, but come with their own unique and necessary attributes. You’ll use the quick Void sword to suck the essence from the living, adding to your own life-meter at the expense of mana, and the Chaos Claws, great golden gloves that they are for stronger attacks and to rid pesky humans of their shields.
The siege, led by a flying, gold-armoured Paladin is made more immediate and terrifying by the fact that it’s being driven by a giant magically-powered colossus of a golem. Yes, like in the first game, it seems we’ll be fighting against, on top of, and inside Titans again much like we did in God of War – a game that Lords of Shadows just can’t avoid comparisons to .
Playing as Dracula in a Castlevania game doesn’t mean that it’s just all whipping and biting though; thanks in many ways to a new camera system that’ll allow you to actually control the thing, this sequel opens up and becomes more of a Darksiders-like open world adventure – set in modern times, apparently – with more puzzle solving and back-and-forth than the previous one. A little more like Symphony of the Night, in fact. So perhaps, despite insistence Konami is trying to appeal to more people.
Still, that Titan stood no chance. It was all a little too easy; Dracula is immensely quick and powerful – and as this is the beginning of the game, has me believing that it’ll ascribe to the common trope of taking all of the nice powers and abilities away from you and forcing you to collect them all again. And honestly, I have no problem with that if it’s fun. Right now, I really can’t tell. The demo I’ve been playing is just far too short to really tell. It seems like it builds upon everything established on the first game, but I worry that the new combat system might actually limit the combat options instead of expand upon them.
Still, I find myself getting rather excited at the prospect of more Lords of Shadow; where it excels, more than other games under the Castlevania banner, is in the narrative – and I’ve been waiting to find out exactly what happens to Gabriel for well over two years now.
Last Updated: August 12, 2013