Written by Twisted Ideas
It has been four years since the first game of the Castlevania Reboot was released. After a 3DS tie-in bridging the two games, we finally get answers to the first game’s final scenes. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow received lots of mixed opinions. There was little doubt in my mind that Lords of Shadow 2 would be mixed as well. Does the Lords of Shadows series still have any fangs?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
What is it about?
The final scene of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow showed Gabriel Belmont being approached by Zobek whom we assumed dead. Emerging from the shadow, Gabriel was revealed to have become Dracula and they are now in modern times (via the DLC of LoS1)
What is a man?
Despite Gabriel being weak from his recent awakening, Zobek requires his help in order to stop Satan’s acolytes from summoning him from hell. Gabriel reluctantly agrees and throughout his mission he is confronted by memories from his past.
How does it play?
Lords of Shadow 2 is a 3rd person action game. Gabriel’s main weapon is his whip which has a long-range is average strength. He also wields the Void Sword which can restore health and freeze enemies and the Chaos Claws which destroys shielding and tosses fire. The Void Sword and Chaos Claws uses magic when landing hits or when casting magic. Blood Orbs which restore magic are dropped naturally by some enemies or when you fill your Concentration Bar. With your whip equipped, attacking enemies without being hit triggers Concentration and Blood Orbs drop with every subsequent hit.
If you block at the last second, Gabriel performs a synchronized block, quickly filling Concentration and leading to powerful counters. However, some attacks cannot be blocked. Gabriel has the ability to jump and dodge attacks as well.
You earn experience for killing enemies and obtaining skulls. Experience to learn new weapons skills and upgrading certain ones. Experience is also used to buy useful relics at the shop. If you use a skill enough, you will gain weapon mastery.
Traversal is a key component of the game. Gabriel can grab on to ledges and various hand holds to reach high areas or travel over pits and hazards. Each area is connected and can be revisited. Gabriel can travel between the modern world and his castle at a Wolf Alter and Map rooms are used to warp between areas in each world. Gabriel’s vampire abilities allows him to transform into rats, summon bats to distract people and change to mist. Turning to rats and mist allows you to reach new areas.
How does it look?
The game has great level design and character designs. The modern look of the characters and enemies are impressive and do stand out from many of the designs of the series, however there could have been more traditional creatures used.
Is that a full moon? Last thing I want to see is a werewolf.
The areas are well detailed and utilizes vertical space effectively. With the parkour climbing mechanics really shows of the levels. The modern world could have used more variety and portions of the castle could have had more focus.
The game has a lot of dark visual, even in well lit areas. Many areas in the modern world have distinct looks but the surrounding areas look very similar. The castle areas are the most diverse in the game but unfortunately you don’t spend much time there.
How does it sound?
The talented voice cast reprise their roles from the first game and deliver good performances all-around.
The game doesn’t have the iconic music the series had prior to the reboot. It has a lot of ambient music and heavily orchestrated music during battles. Not bad but doesn’t stand out either.
What do I think?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a mediocre action game that was badly paced but did get better overtime. Lords of Shadow 2 makes improvement in some areas but bad design choices bring it down.
The best part of the game is its plot. From the introduction after the tutorial to the developments and revelations throughout the game, LoS2 still manages to tell a simple but good and surprising story.
Before I go on, I just want to state that despite this game’s flaws I feel that it’s pretty good. I’m saying this now because the flaw are so glaring that if they would have been better tested, ironed out or whatever, the game could have been great. This is a game that starts off bad but slowly gets better. However, if you continue with any post game content, looking for secrets or do the challenges, all of the flaws really shine.
LoS2 likes to waste your time. Every tutorial needlessly stops gameplay to tell you about the controls. Traveling is terrible and there are several of transitional rooms that require you to flip switches to move on, when loading a rooms ahead of time would be sufficient. Some loading screens actually force you to walk to get out of them. For some reason the shop will only carry three of each relic but will instantly restock if you leave and reenter. The game is obsessed with slow motion where it’s confusing when it happens when you get max Concentration and is misleading whether or not a quick time event is actually going to happen.
Combat isn’t bad but there are several frustrating aspects. The weapon mastery is a good system for encouraging the use of different attacks. The amount of skills that are locked isn’t great. The idea is fine but you start with very little skills that it makes the gameplay feel shallow at the beginning. The experience points could have been more balance to make buying the very useful relics at the shop more appealing.
The stealth sections are terrible. Their very slow and occasionally don’t have an obvious solution. These guards are only used here and with how quickly they kill you it’s odd that they or their weapons aren’t used outside of the stealth sections. Possessing enemies forces you to slowly stumble across the room that seems even more suspicious than distracting enemies with bats.
The magic system is very poorly handled. The Void and Chaos weapons are great and much more useful than the whip so limited use makes sense. The problem is there’s no fast or reliable way to refill magic. Blood Orbs from Concentration or enemy drops is slow. Enemies can easily hit you out of combos or shoot you from a distance and many enemies love to run away from you. You can’t even guarantee that your magic will be full restored. Blood Orb stations are rare, unmarked on the map and aren’t placed near warp zones. The reason why this is so frustrating other than the Void healing is that the Chaos Claws are so important to combat. Beating enemies with shields almost require the Claws to be done reasonably. If you magic depletes because enemies keep hitting you or they run away before their defensive break it becomes very annoying. There is a relic that give unlimited magic for 45 seconds but it complete drain it after the fact. You can never really prepare for enemies ahead because of this.
If you attempt the Kleidos Challenges then you’ll discover that health only restores if you die and magic doesn’t at all. There are some challenge goals that require magic to some complete. Since magic doesn’t restore, you have to find somewhere to grind of it. There isn’t even a Blood Orb Station near the store where what could easily be considered to be the central area.
LoS2 forgoes the segmented level design for an open world. The problem is that the “open world” is an illusion Yes, the game is more or less connected in a Metroidvania style but everything is essentially linear. Areas divides themselves with so many building and tunnels that you get no real sense of the world. You may recognize areas but finding those areas or backtracking is a different story. Several areas have multiple branching paths and the lack of a full map is very frustrating.
Traveling is probably the worst part of the game if you ever decide to look for upgrades. Your map is only useful for following waypoints. The way the story handles traveling to Dracula’s castle makes it unclear that Wolf Alters also bring you there. There is only one Map room and Wolf Alter in each area but some areas are very large. depending where you are, reach either warp point can take well over 5 minutes, especially if fighting is involved. There also isn’t a useful item like the Library Card to take you to the shop instantly. The amount of times that you may visit there for Dodo Eggs (useful for finding upgrades and secrets) almost demands the need for a remote warp.
Should you get it?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has good game with a couple of rough patches. The game starts off slow with limited abilities and poor stealth sections but it eventually picks up the pace with a great story helping carry you through right up to the end (can’t say the same about the post game). The combat is simple yet fun when you learn how to play around the frustrating enemies. While the tone of the Castlevania reboot could lighten up, these have been entertaining games delivering simple but grander stories.