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Published on July 19th, 2010 | by Cameron Woolsey

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Preview

When Lords of Shadow was announced around two years ago, many speculated if it was a Castlevania game. After all, it was being published by Konami and featured a scowling man with a whip. What more evidence should there be? While speculation raged on, I, almost facetiously, felt the the biggest argument against it being a Castlevania is that it looked too damn good. Oh, come now, I realize that the Castlevania series is legendary and has produced many fine titles since its inception on the NES, but how many of those were in full 3D? How many of those were actually really good? OK, there are maybe (maybe) a couple on PS2 that were actually pretty decent, but it has been proven that the famous 2D series has been remarkably difficult to reproduce on a 3D plane. Some time has passed since the initial announcement and Castlevania: LoS has reached playable form and–feeling cautious optimism–I was able to finally try it out for myself. All I can say now is: Castlevania fans, have no fear.

Lords of Shadow is not a remake of a previous title, it’s purpose is to be a reboot to the franchise while standing on its own along the Castlevania timeline. And because it’s a Castlevania game, expect to see some whip-wielding, platforming, and all around good vampire-slaying fun in a medieval gothic setting. Making a return are secondary weapons like throwing knives, stakes, holy water, etc.–the stakes were available in the demo and man can they take down a werewolf.

Our hero this time is Gabriel Belmont and, yes, as a member of the Belmont clan he wields a whip (called “The Combat Cross”), the staple weapon of the series. The whip has many different uses. In combat, it can provide short or long attacks which can be strung together. It can also be used in platforming to attach to poles or other mounted objects in order to cover gaps. Expect to hear some great voice talent as well. Our friend Gabriel is being voiced by actor, Robert Carlyle of The Full Monte and 28 Weeks Later fame (it’s OK if you haven’t seen them) while Gabriel’s mentor is going to be voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart of “everything that is great” fame.

During the demo, while being ruthlessly assaulted by packs of werewolves, I noticed that the combat system felt vaguely familiar to other action games. Like ones about Gods. And war. Or maybe a mixture of both. OK, it’s like God of War. Those who have played the GoW series should be able to pick up on the fighting quickly and find themselves slaying legions of demons and undead in no time. Like I said above, the combat consists of long and short attacks, but also juggling and magic. Holding down the attack buttons during combos can also produce varied and powerful moves. You can also expect double jumping and rolling to avoid enemies. Yes, there have indeed been a few pages taken from the book of Kratos, but I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. The God of War series is famous for smooth and exciting combat and I’m happy to report that Lords of Shadow’s combat system is just as smooth and very fun to play.

Killing enemies will grant you experience points and you can use the points in many different areas. The Combat Cross whip can be upgraded and new moves can be purchased from an in-game book that you can access at any time. Wanting to get some bang for my buck I learned an attack move called the Guillotine Drop which, when in the air, spins Gabriel forward then drops the whip down vertically in front of him. The move was hard to master at first but soon proved to be devastating against groups of werewolves foolish enough to stand too close.

Like all good games with an action/combat foundation, LoS will feature huge boss fights and QTE combat. After killing what felt like dozens of werewolves, mommy decided to join in the fight. She was big, nasty, and a little pissed off. Could hardly see the reason why, surrounded by a dozen werewolf corpses riddled with stakes and whip slashes. And like most action games, expect to see a lot of bosses to fight. With the supernatural setting and history of Castlevania, large monsters from the depths of hell will be quite commonplace.

Mirroring the Pegasus flight from God of War II, the next section of the demo featured Gabe riding on a talking horse (what?) while being chased by wargs, vicious hyena-like mounts being ridden by orcs–something most of you have seen straight out of Lord of the Rings. While riding you are being assaulted on two sides by the wargs and you must fend yourself off by attacking an orc long enough before being prompted to leap onto the animal and dispatching the orc completely before jumping back to the horse. Simple, yes, and also sadly predictable. While I’m all for variety in gameplay, I really hope that we get to see more imaginative sequences than something ripped straight from other games. I’m sure there will be, but this maddeningly familiar segment–while still fun–just didn’t sit well with me. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is going to have to try different things to stand out; it cannot just rely on riding the Castlevania brand name all the way. Yet the series is nothing if not unique on terms of environmental design and incredible fights so I’m not too concerned. Plus the game has Hideo Kojima on site as executive producer and he is, if anything, a man who knows how to make a game… interesting.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is looking really great so far. I left the kiosk with a better understanding of how the game will be played out and I think it’s the best step the series can make. Action fans (Castlevania fans already have it preordered), if this game isn’t on your most anticipated list right now, then you better start making room. Lords of Shadow is bringing Castlevania back, and I, for one, cannot wait.

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About the Author

Video game journalist since 2006, and gaming since he was old enough to use an Atari joystick. Follow me: @Cam_is_16bit

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