Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 PS3 Review

Publisher: Konami  Developer: MercurySteam  Genre: Action Adventure  Players: 1

Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox 360

As reboots go, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow did interesting things with Konami’s famous and much loved series, with developer MercurySteam crafting a game that was as much God of War as it was Castlevania, and it also featured a surprising conclusion that actually saw protagonist Gabriel Belmont transform into the series antagonist, the prince of darkness himself, Dracula.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 sees a weakened Dracula waking up a thousand years after the conclusion of the previous games and discovering that his lovely castle has been replaced by a less interesting city. He soon once again meets Zobek, who offers the vampire a release from his immortality in exchange for preventing that nasty Satan from being brought back, so whilst you take charge of Dracula, you’re still doing heroic things, like trying to saving the world. It’s a bit of a hit and miss narrative, that has strong and weak moments, but manages to largely remain engaging enough to want to know where things are going to lead.

The more modern setting is less interesting, and the problem is further accentuated by car parks, sewers and such that could easily have been lifted from any number of games, such is their level of blandness. Trips to Dracula’s castle are much less visually boring affairs, and it’s a shame the entire game isn’t so nice to look at as it can be so dreary looking that it conspires to drag the experience down somewhat. Platforming is simplistic and uninvolving, but visually pleasing and livened up somewhat by various hazards to avoid.

You’ll pick up new abilities along the way, such as a mist form that allows you to pass through gates and a double jump, which can then be used to get to previously unreachable areas, an element which had been a part of the series since fan favourite Symphony of the Night, of which had been largely absent in the original Lords of Shadow, but reintroduced in sequel Mirror of Fate.

This time around there are many secrets to uncover in such a fashion, though level layouts are confusing and not beautifully designed like they have been in the past meaning some people just won’t be bothered with all the backtracking for fear of getting lost, though those that do will be rewarded with not only upgrades for Dracula but a longer game that can easily last for over 20 hours.

There’s once again a heavy emphasis on combat, and the system is much the same as it was in the previous game which is no bad thing, so Dracula has a direct attack and a weaker area attack that allows you to deal damage to multiple enemies at once, and there’s a variety of monsters and people for him to sink his teeth into. The games take on QTEs remain as a nice alternative allowing you to see enemies off in grisly, often blood sucking fashion by waiting for two circles to overlap and then pressing any face button of your choosing.

Along with his whip, Dracula has a Void Sword that when every hit connects will replenish some of his health, and his Chaos Claws allow you to shatter the defences of enemies, and these two weapons each have their own movesets. These are tied in with the returning Light and Shadow magic, which essentially functions identically to what it previously did, with uninterrupted attack sequences and well timed blocks rewarding you with orbs which can be sucked up to provide energy for the desired magic.

There’s a new mastery system, which encourages exploration of the combat system, with common usage of Dracula’s skills, eventually mastering them and in turn allowing you to make your weapons more proficient. It’s a nice, sensible addition that makes the games satisfying fighting all the more so.

Stealth is a fresh facet of the game, forcing you at times to avoid enemies, use bats to distract them and possess rats, but they shouldn’t have bothered as it quite simply adds nothing but annoyance to the game and feels out of place for such a powerful character, not to forget that his former, weaker and mortal counterpart Gabriel never felt the need to sneak around. Mercifully, such sections aren’t common in comparison to the stronger exploration and combat that the game largely consists of, but they’re still badly designed and numerous enough to hurt the game.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 isn’t as accomplished a game as any of the previous games in the Lords of Shadow series with some pointless new additions and some regressions from what the previous games did so well, but it’s still a relatively strong, if not slightly disappointing conclusion to the series that should really have been more.