Out Of The Shadows
When Konami originally announced that MercurySteam was developing a new 3D Castlevania, more than a few people were sceptical of the potential outcome. The 2D Castlevania games are stellar additions to the franchise, but Konami hadn't had the best of luck transitioning the series to 3D. Outsourcing the game didn't seem like the best idea at the time, but with the release of the original Lords of Shadow, critics were silenced and it performed well enough that it spawned the Mirror of Fate spin-off and now the sequel, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
The best way to describe Lords of Shadow 2 is to call it the love child of classic Castlevania, Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Solid. Everything that makes a Castlevania game feel like a Castlevania game is present and accounted for, but the combat system is similar to Devil May Cry with fast action, plus the ability to change weapons on the fly to further add to the combat experience. Then you have the heavy narrative that weaves lengthy cut-scenes in-between the fast-paced battles.
Make It So
Unlike some other titles, the story elements of Lords of Shadow 2 are one of the game's best features. The tale of the Belmont family and how they become Dracula's clan will have you entertained to the end. If you played several of the previous Castlevanias, you'll hear about familiar characters such as Alucard and Simon Belmont. In fact, by the time you've completed Lords of Shadow 2, you'll probably want to go back and play Symphony of the Night and a few other classic Castlevania games.
The story is aided heavily by stellar voice acting. The big draw is Patrick Stewart, who voices Zobek, one of the main characters in the game. He is the primary narrator in Lords of Shadow 2, but he doesn't overpower the character. This isn't Captain Picard in a Castlevania game. Stewart's voice is clear and present, but he embodies the character to make it his own.
While the original Lords of Shadow game was linear, the sequel allows gamers to explore a bit and have more freedom where they wish to go. The beginning is still fairly linear, but after roughly an hour of play, you'll have far more freedom than what was seen in the first effort. In addition, Dracula's weapons can be levelled up, and there are multiple secondary weapons in addition to the main three.
High Stakes Combat
The combat system uses all of Dracula's weapons to great effect. It's easy to pick up and play, but the intricacies of the combat system will offer skilled players something to master. Between Dracula's blood whip, Void and Chaos weapons, you'll have to switch mid-combo to maximize their effectiveness. The whip has great range, while the Void Sword inflicts far less damage, but drains an enemy's life and gives it to Dracula. The Chaos Claws are Dracula's brute force weapon, which are used to break down enemies with shields and other defensive abilities.
In addition to Dracula's various weapons, there are also defensive actions he must take during battle. He has a traditional blocking ability, but when timed corrected, it stuns an opponent, leaving him open to a counterattack. However, not all attacks can be blocked. A unique visual indicator notes unblockable attacks. When this is seen, Dracula must use his dodging ability to get out of the way.
When an enemy's health is low, Dracula can finish them off and drain their blood to replenish his own, but he must be in close proximity. This delivers an additional challenge because the blood whip, his primary weapon, is a long-range tool. Shifting from long-range combat to close-range in order to drain an enemy's blood can be tricky, especially when you're fighting off multiple enemies at once.
King Of The Castle?
The only real issues with Lords of Shadow 2 are the camera and the graphics. There were times when the camera should zoom out. It's almost always positioned close to Dracula, which can make it difficult seeing everything. In addition, the graphics aren't the greatest, especially when you consider how late into this console generation Lords of Shadow 2 is. A few years ago, this would've been a good-looking game, but at this point, it's a bit lacklustre.
Thankfully, the issues with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 are minor. The good far outweighs the bad, and anyone who enjoys Castlevania lore or action-packed gaming should definitely look into Konami's latest. It's not the best Castlevania game, but it's hard to live up to the greats in the series. Lords of Shadow 2 is a quality finale to the trilogy, and to a franchise that should delve into the next generation of consoles.
GAME's Verdict: 8/10
- Action-packed gameplay
- Easy to pick-up, difficult to master
- Solid storyline with excellent voice acting
- Graphics are somewhat lacklustre.
- Camera issues here and there throughout.
- Why is this the last game in the trilogy?