When it was known that the Castlevania series was to get a console reboot in 2010 the news was met with some dissent from fans. The series is a hugely acclaimed and much loved one, so the idea of it being ‘dumbed down’ for modern audiences was abhorrent to some. Thankfully though Konami, and the team at Mercury Steam took great lengths to ensure that the game not only met expectations, but also surpassed them.
Now we have the sequel to that success, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. The game picks up shortly after the surprise ending to the original title. Gabriel Belmont is no more, all that remains of him is the Prince of Darkness, Dracula. He has survived for hundreds of years, and now lives in modern times, weak and hungry for release from his eternal life.
Zobek, Gabriel’s old ally, and also seemingly immortal, steps back into his life and offers him a deal. Help him defeat Satan, who is massing his minions to bring about the apocalypse, and Zobek will grant Dracula release from his never ending life.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 takes place both in the modern era, in Castlevania city which has been built upon the ruins of Dracula’s old castle, and also takes you back in time to when the castle still stood. You’ll encounter enemies at every step of the way, and have to navigate yourself around this open play area, with probable mixed consequences.
For the most part everything Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 tries to do it does well, but there are some things that don’t have that little bit of extra polish.
Combat is mostly the same as the previous game, and also if you’ve played a God of War title recently then you’ll know exactly what you are getting. The hack and slash style suits the gameplay, and the new weapons acquired help to keep things interesting. Dracula now has three new weapons, the Combat Cross from the first game is no longer your primary weapon. Instead, you have the Blood Whip, which is the main weapon. In addition to that, you also have the Void Sword, and the Chaos Claws. These two weapons replace the magic system from the previous game. The Void Sword drains life from enemies as you hit them, and also has the ability to freeze items and enemies with ice projectiles. The Chaos Claws, are your heavy weapon, and will deal heavy damage against enemies in thick armor or hiding behind shields, you can also throw mini bombs using the Chaos Claw projectiles. The three choices of weapons allow you to mix and match your combat skills, making sure that you are always paying attention to what the enemy is doing, and keeps things well paced.
In contrast the combat system, can be very confusing. It’s the same problem I had with the Devil May Cry reboot, mapping multiple actions to a button can make things very busy, and often combos were interrupted due to a slip of a finger and a swipe of the whip instead of a blade. The combat system has also been extensively upgraded and linked to the weapons, allowing you to master skills and then use that mastery to improve your weapons. While this does give you the chance to try out new skills, you will find that your mastery of the Void sword or Chaos Claws ultimately decides on how much ‘magic’ you have to be able to use them. Using the Bloody Whip comes at no expense and allows for damage to nearly all enemies.
For a first in the series, Lords of Shadow 2 offers players an open world to explore. Both the Castlevania city, and Draculas Castle, are open to you to adventure around, but as with previous Castlevania games there are places that will be closed off to you until you have the right equipment. Both the City and the Castle are typically gothic style, the city, especially blends the mixture of modern and gothic architecture to create a world that’s both expansive and foreboding. It is easy to get lost however, and even the addition of map rooms that plot the different areas don’t really help once you get a bit lost, you’ll just have to turn around and try and find your way back again.
Credit should also be given to the voice acting. Once again Robert Carlyle and Sir Patrick Stewart both return to voice Gabriel/Dracula and Zobek. Carlyle gives warm to Dracula and Stewart gives Zobek the gravitas that he deserves, even if some of the dialogue used is very clunky.
Castlevania 2: Lords of Shadow brings the saga to a satisfying conclusion that helped transition the series to a new audience. It can be difficult in bringing a much loved 2D title to a 3D world, just ask the creators of Mario 64, Metroid Prime, and Sonic the Hedgehog, but when care and attention is given, and a well-crafted story is developed, then the change feels natural. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, is despite its flaws, an evolution of the series, and while this particular story is now over, there’s hope that its legacy will continue to influence and expand the series.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will be released on PlayStation3, Xbox 360 and PC on February 28th