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Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 Review


The Castlevania games have long been about the heroic exploits of the Belmont family and each members heroic quest as they negotiate Dracula's castle before taking on the big man himself; each release adding more to the lore and even more ideas in terms of gameplay, eventually coining the phrase “metroidvania”. Sadly with many producers moving away from 2D to the more visually appealing 3D games, Castlevania struggled to find a new audience, that was until the surprise hit of Lord of Shadow, a reboot of sorts to the Castlevania series, peaking with a real gut puncher of a finale (The next paragraph will mention that ending as this is what the game is based on).

A mere four years later on from the release of Lords of Shadow and we return to this new chapter in the Castlevania story, joining up with Gabriel Belmont, a man who was once a great monster slayer and battling the Forgotten One and now Dracula himself, taking on the vampyric visage how once despised. After being laid to rest some 1000 years prior Dracula is risen once again, awakened this time to assist in the battle against acolytes who are again about to resurrect Satan himself, in return, his benefactor has granted him a final true death.



Already my head spinning from these revelations, you do in fact get to play as Dracula for once, the ultimate baddie is now a kind of goodie, though even that is not so black and white as within the first few moments, this weakened Dracula is already having to feast on the innocent to regain some of his diminished powers, his painful regrets of past actions and his family heavily imprinted in the storyline. This weakened Dracula nicely sets up for what is now a classic in these sorts of games, starting off as an underpowered character, slowly building up powers which in turn allow you to navigate more of the surroundings and eventually taking on even more impressive enemies.

Having been asleep for so long, not only are his powers diminished but the world that Dracula once knew has changed beyond recognition, his castle now surrounded by a modern city that inhabits the very grounds of his once great home. With a very gothic London look (even red phone boxes), Dracula will find himself more often navigating the hallways of factories rather than using his whip to venture to higher plains. All is not lost with the castle however as Dracula will often find himself travelling back to its ruined state, slowly venturing through the once great halls and lands hidden within its mighty walls, gathering new weapons and abilities to further his quest.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 appears to try and take all of the positive elements of games like Batman Arkham Asylum and God of War and combine them into a sprawling action adventure game, allowing us to control Draculas powers first hand across an open world environment; sadly Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 does not achieve this straight away, with the underpowered Dracula initially being a real struggle to get any enjoyment from. Starting with just a trusty whip to take on enemies, Dracula is so underpowered that when coming across many of the larger enemies he will need to rely on other powers available. Aside from the blood sucking habits of the Lord of the Dead, Dracula is also known for other mysterious powers, like mind control and shape shifting, becoming other animals and also appearing as mist; here these powers are used in stealth and infiltration sections. This sounds fun but in execution these segments are very bland and linear, so linear that it will take a few attempts to do exactly what the game requires for you to progress, be it forming with the shadows and becoming a rat that can gnaw on electric cables, throw a mist full of bats at larger, undefeatable enemies to cause confusion and walk past them or take control of certain minds, controlling them direct to pull switches. Thankfully these elements are few and far between but still when they do crop up, you can hear the groans from miles away.

As you progress through the game you will slowly unlock more weapons, the main being the Void Sword and later the Chaos Claws. The Void Sword is crucial in restoring health, as with every hit you make it syphon’s of some health for your own use. On the other hand (literally) you have the Chaos Claws, a demonic red glove that is able to deal with even the most heavily armoured monsters. A combination of these two plus the whip is essential to progress, switching with ease and also ensuring g you keep them charged up by collecting blood orbs dropped when you hit a combo limit, the R3 or L3 buttons charging their respective weapons. These weapons also have other functions, the main being in opening up otherwise unreachable areas, with them being able to freeze running water to destroying weak walls, opening up the world map even further.

During the early half of the game the overall feel of the combat is something of a disappointment, with on screen prompts telling you how important blocking and countering is but a rather rigid system making it quite hard to pull off; it is only later in the game when you finally start to use the rather extensive upgrade system that you have more fun, allowing for more creative combos and counters and making it that little more fluid.



The game is also rather good at misleading in other ways, like a rather awkward to follow waypointing can also be at times very frustrating. With a little arrow pointing to your next objective, at times even that left me lost, wandering the many corridors and backtracking trying to find something to do. The game often flashes up tutorial items like press L2 to highlight grapple items, but this does not always work, with one area me spending two hours trying to get across a lava flow due to bad level signage and just in case you are also lost, use the chains. The platforming elements can also be a little underwhelming, the game attempting to show you each step with a light could of bats showing where to go next, however as mentioned earlier, this way-pointing does not always work in your favour resulting in endless deaths until you figure out there is another route not shown by the game, it should be one or the other, to change their minds at crucial times does get rather frustrating.

I come across a little hard and at times the game can really wind you up, it had a lot of promise but fails on more than a few basic fundamentals, however when it does hit its stride it can really be an entertaining title, especially with some of the more impressive boss battles.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 will take a long time to get to grips with, giving you some really painful scenarios to deal with before getting to the more enjoyable battles, made better with the weapon upgrades you earn along the way. It really tries to capture what made some of the older 2D games so memorable but most attempts fail, resulting in an overly long action game with only a few inspirational moments.

Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)

Pros

+ Some fantastic boss battles
+ Initiative weapon upgrade system

Cons

- The stealth sections
- Poor way-pointing
- The first half of the game really struggles

Edited On 25 Feb, 2014

Comments
( 2 )
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 3 years ago
Love me some Castlevania and Poor way-pointing
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 3 years ago
My second game of the week already paid for ,been playing the fist lords of shadow this week , they are always slow to start then pick up , looking forward to playing as dracula

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