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Castlevania is one of those franchises that have always just been there, and inspired many other titles over the years as well.

In true Castlevania style, we follow the story of one of those dashing Belmont fellas. Bubba, Bertha and Billy-Bob Belmont weren’t available for this new Castlevania, so they sent Gabriel instead. Even better, he brought a whole third dimension with him.

Hit the jump for our full review.

So what is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow? It’s definitely not one of those two-dimensional Castlevania games that you have seen around.

At a quick glance you will be fooled into thinking that Lords of Shadow is one of those typical blockbuster hack n’ slash action games like God of War or Dante’s Inferno. The truth is that it’s actually pretty far from it, but wait, because I haven’t said if it’s for a good or bad reason just yet.

The story in Lords of Shadow is a pretty basic, and has nothing to do with any other Castlevania games at all. In fact, its so separate from them that it could have almost gotten away with having a different title completely. The world is in peril, you are Gabriel Belmont, your wife just died, you are really pissed and you have been sent to save the day by taking out the Lords of Shadow and using their powers for good. Like I said, pretty straightforward.

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Lords of Shadow is a long game, especially for its genre. When I say long, I mean that you may get a shock when you are 10 hours in and expecting to see end credits rolling anytime soon, only to realise you hadn’t yet hit the halfway mark.

The great news is that unlike some other titles I have played, each level and quest in Lords of Shadow is completely different from the last and spoils you with unending variety to keep your interest piqued throughout the game. You will travel to many different locations and fight a wide variety of enemies and bosses, as well as climb a lot things and tackle some very decent puzzles.

That’s not to say that Castlevania doesn’t have some big issues as well. Lords of Shadow suffers from a wide range of issues at first that can only be blamed directly on some rough design choices. You will often find yourself completely lost in a level, with no idea of where to go and no way of getting a hint. This could have all been sorted out with a simple mini-map or better yet, a button that points you in the right direction a la Fable or Dead Space.

The camera has its moments too and often worsens the previous point to an even greater degree. Sometimes you will be required to run backwards towards the camera in order to find the storyline’s intended path, which goes against everything we know as it feels as if the camera is telling you that you should be moving in the other direction instead. I can understand that the camera often plays tricks on you to hide special items and so on, but when it makes some major pathways near invisible, it can be come very frustrating at times.

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The strange thing is that I found that over time, everything felt like it got better and better. I am not sure if it was me as a player getting more and more used to the game but I could swear it felt like the developers were getting smarter as they were making the game.

As with other games in the genre, you will unlock certain special items over the course of the game to help you out with your journey. You will often come across an area in the game that requires you to have an ability that you don’t have yet, in order to access a new area and will have to return at a later stage to get there. Some may call it re-playability while others will want to call it annoying, so that it depends on your play preference.

For the first few hours of gameplay I also found myself getting incredibly frustrated with the combat, but that brings me back to what I was saying about Lords of Shadow looking like some other titles you might know.

I can tell you that from my personal experience that assuming that Lords of Shadow is just a God of War clone is very big mistake to make.

Lords of Shadow wants a lot more from you than something like Dante’s Inferno or that really angry Greek guy. If I could make more of a comparison, I would say that it plays more on the Bayonetta / Ninja Gaiden side of things, just a little slower. This game will not hold your hand, it will not pat you on the back and it will make sure that once you start getting the combat right, it’s because you stopped moaning and complaining and just realised that you needed to step up your game.

Last Updated: October 20, 2010

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Summary
9.0

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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