Published on October 20th, 2010 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
Platforms: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PS3
It has finally come. The time for a brand new castlevania 3D style action platformer, on a next-gen console, and with HD graphics! Kojima is assisting on the production of the project and features a wide variety of awesome voice talent! This game can not go wrong, or can it? For starters, this game will not quench your thirst on the whole Castlevania lore, nor will it bring you into the mind set of it being a Castlevania game to begin with. So forget what you know about the beloved franchise and lets look at what this game is, title aside. LOS is a 3D “God of War” / “Devil May Cry” game from start to finish. You play as Gabriel, a knight in the ‘Brotherhood of Light’ who is hunting down the Lords of the Shadow in the hopes of bringing his wife back to life. You will fight from forests to iced mountains, fighting Colossus sized monsters-in the hopes of getting revenge for your wife’s death by killing the Dark Lord.
Getting the gist of the story seems like it could get difficult and sometimes boring, but the Patrick Stewart narration in between cut-scenes and levels makes it much easier to follow. The game takes you through the story progression by throwing you from one massive encounter to the next. Fighting on unlocks combos and different weapons for tokens, which are used to buy your upgrades. Think of the “God of War” leveling system and you will see just what I am talking about. The combat is also pretty straight forward. “X” is your lighter attacks, where as “Y” is your heavy attacks. Upgrading these give you more effective moves to use against enemies, one of which (my favorite), “The Buzzsaw” uses a Light attack (“X”), Heavy attack (“Y”) and another light attack (“X”) and hold to turn your cross into a giant vertical blade to cut your enemies down, and no they can not avoid it if they are close.
The game however is very rigorous. It will take you anywhere from 20 – 30 hours to complete, in a very aggressive style. Finding items and health through out the game is tough and will drive you crazy. This is especially so when you go into a big boss fight with only half a bar of health. If you die and have to restart the checkpoint over, they are nice enough to give you half a bar of health back, but if you go into that fight originally with a full bar, you better hope you win the fight, otherwise you will be less than fortunate on your next attempt. Some of the moves and techniques will come in handy through out the game, for instance, players should get a grasp on the dodge ability quickly. It will become your best friend as you progress. Also learn as many air attack combos as you can, as they will also become very useful.
The game does feature some of the best environments and variations of enemies I have ever seen. God of War looked great for what it was, but Castlevania is just down right gorgeous. Although I think with a combination of all the enemies on screen, lush environments, mixed with combo attacks, does lead to some slow down, but overall this game does visually impress. One other great thing I can say about the pacing that ties into the environments, is that you never feel like you are stuck in the same place level after level. The progression does good job of keeping you moving from one set piece to a completely new set piece. Bosses, although some can be looked at as being similar, fit within the elements well. Take for instance your first boss fight with the giant on the ice lake. Looking at the sheer detail they put into that environment, mixed with enemy design is remarkable. With all the lush visuals, I do hate the fact that this game does suffer from lack of exploration. It is a very linear path and the rest of the visual greatness is nothing more than a painting. Locations you cannot grasp or move towards.
The puzzles can also be a bit of a challenge as well. Although you can solve them without putting much effort into them. What I mean by that, is that the game features a mechanic that will show you the answer and how to solve the puzzles without you having to do it yourself. You loose some experience points for doing so, but if you can get past the puzzle without the game assistance, the reward of experience points is much greater. The game also features a fixed camera view that can be a bit disruptive, especially in some of the later puzzles, that makes you almost break your joystick, trying to turn the camera just enough. But it being fixed is just not going to happen. The game does also feature an autosave system that is very frequent and generous. If you find yourself falling off a ledge, trying to jump across a waterfall, and miss, you will re-spawn right at the jump.
Castlevania is a very solid game, fun and a fantastic piece of art to look at visually. It does feature some pretty big bugs and nuances that can be problematic to some people, but there is much to enjoy out of this $60 title. Is it high in the ranks of the 25 year history of this beloved franchise? Probably not. Is it the best 3D Castlevania to release? Absolutely! You will get plenty of enjoyment out of this game, and regardless if you’re a fan of the franchise or not, you will like the new approach. If you never played a Castlevania game, don’t fret as it seems that the tie in was a just a borrowing of the game title. However if you are a fan of the hack and slash, “God of War” style action games, you will enjoy Lords of Shadow.
+ Stunning Visuals
+ Solid Combat
+ Great Story (Ending is Fantastic)
+ Little repetition
– Fixed Camera
– Framerate problems
– Not a fan of the puzzle solving mechanic (Use your noggin to figure it out)