Game: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Describe This Game in Three Words: Dracula May Cry
Plot: Gabriel Belmont has become Dracula, and now rises in the modern world in order to face the return of Satan. If he defeats the Prince of Darkness, he is promised release from his immortal torment.
Up, Up: I picked up the last Lords of Shadow title on a whim and was amazed at the level of storytelling that had come into the series. Though I would argue that the Nintendo DS titles are the true inheritors of the original spirit of the games there's no doubt that you get a much higher quality of cinematic brilliance in the PS3 and Box 360. It's not just the graphics and voice acting, it's the actual story.
That epic reach is what really sets Lords of Shadow 2 apart from other, let's admit it, God of War clones. I can honestly say that playing the game is like having control over a Guillermo Del Toro film, and that's always a good thing.
People expecting an never-ending bloodbath might be surprised at just how much brain power goes into the game play. Despite being, well, Dracula, your first opponents outside the opening will absolutely squash you like a bug. This leads to a level of problem solving often missing from games like this, and stretch your mind to come up with solutions. It was a nice change-up from just hacking away until the bleeding stops.
Down, Down: Even with more focus on puzzles and alternative gameplay there's no getting around that the game is just another God of War. Better in terms of story, no doubt, and all the more powerful for using the Castlevania setting, but the similarities just can't be ignored. I stopped playing the first Lords of Shadow because I felt like I was just playing parts of other games, and I fear I will eventually do the same with the sequel.
Timing is the key to battles, and you're not going to be able to just smash your way through in a war of attrition. While you might think thinks works well as a challenge factor the truth is the game is sort of enemy-light at times and you don't get the necessary practice. I reckon more than half of my experience points came form smashing random objects, not defeating monsters.
These console Castlevanias feel so much more like interactive movies that it makes me wonder why Konami just doesn't make their own damned film instead of letting the official adaptation rot in development hell.
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Left, Right, Left, Right: For the most part the controls follow the standard scheme, though there is a strange reliance on the thumbstick triggers that feels very awkward. Otherwise, Dracula dances well, though there still seems to be lacking refinement on the battle mechanics.
B, A: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is one of my favorite games of all time. I really can't tell you how much it bothers me that Lords of Shadow turned Trevor Belmont in Alucard at the end. Happy as I am to finally control Dracula himself, the damage done to the family tree I grew up with is hard to like.
Start?: The Lords of Shadow saga oft-times feels like a game developers dream of Hollywood more than play. There's little to set it apart from the reboot Devil May Cry or God of War: Ascension. More than almost any other series Castlevania suffers from a loss of direction in the modern era. While this latest entry is good, I hope for better as time goes on.