Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010)

Oblivium sempiternum daemonis

I felt that my October Horror-thon might run the risk of being lacking in the gaming reviews. Thankfully I had a game that would fit into this category that I had not yet played. That game is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. It’s technically an action-adventure, hack and slash type of game, but it contains ghouls, goblins, vampires, zombies, werewolves, and even a few Chupacabre to top it all off. And since I had already beaten both Dead Space games, I figured this one would suffice. I also see that I have Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill: Homecoming, Deadly Premonition, and Dead Rising 2 that may qualify and may make it up in time. But let us not ignore the present to focus on the future, let’s jump into Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, brought to us by MercurySteam, Kojima Productions, and Konami.

I would not dream of trying to recap the story of the previous Castlevania games before jumping into this one. Why? Because, by my count, this is Castlevania number 37. That is not a joke. This is the latest entry in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition’s “Most Games in an Action Adventure Series” winner. So we’ll be focusing only on this game, thankyouverymuch. You play as Gabriel Belmont, member of the group of holy knights known as the Brotherhood of Light. His wife, Marie, was recently murdered before the game started and that’s set him on his path. At first he’s looking for Pan, who can communicate with the dead. Marie tells him that the power of the Lords of Shadow will save the world. Gabriel meets another man from the Brotherhood of Light, a man named Zobek (Patrick Stewart), who also serves as the narrator. Gabriel finds out that the Lords of Shadow (The Lord of the Lycans, the Lord of the Vampires, and the Lord of the Dead) were actually the founders of the Brotherhood of Light who ascended into Heaven but left their dark sides behind. He must then defeat them for their powers and find out what’s going on.

This is a pretty solid game with a pretty solid story. It can get a little convoluted and confusing, but it’s a Japanese game so I kind of expect that. Gabriel is a little dramatic at times, but he does kill 2 women he didn’t intend to in the course of the game, so he can have a pass. And you can’t really go wrong with Patrick Stewart narrating your game. That man’s voice makes me wet … but perhaps I’ve said too much. I’m also seeing a bit of a strange trend to the games I’ve been playing recently though. There was a time when it was special to see a boob in a game. Now I can scarcely play video games without boobs in it. They need to space this out more. It’s just not special anymore. The only other problem with the story I can think of is that the last boss will not stop talking. And I’m talking about right before you fight him. He just goes on and on with this speech and I just wanted to lay the beating on him.

The gameplay and controls are solid. As with most hack and slash games, I tend to devolve into mainly just pressing X a lot. It has a blocking, counter-attacking, and dodging mechanic to it, but I couldn’t get the damn thing to work the way I wanted it to until about the end of the game. They had a nice, uncomplicated, magic system to the game. One bumper would turn you purple and heal you as you attacked, the other would turn you red and make your hits hurt more. Nice and easy. You had some items that you could use, such as a daggers, faeries, holy water, and a crystal thing, but I didn’t use them very often. The platforming was fine, and got better as you got the ability to do a double jump and sprint later in the game, but it could be a little delicate at times. There’s also the matter of the Chupacabre’s. These little creatures show up, steal your abilities, and make you find them to get them back. They were pointless and annoying. Some of the boss battles were swagger jacked straight from Shadow of the Colossus. You must try to climb around a gigantic enemy to smash certain weak spots on it, which is the exact thing that you do in the Shadow of the Colossus games. Not a problem (because I loved Shadow of the Colossus) but it’s a swagger jack. Just pointing it out. And the biggest annoyance I had, by far, was a problem I’ve had with other games I’ve reviewed. If you’re going to have things that can kill you in one hit, have a better checkpoint system or risk me putting my head through my TV. That’ll learn ya!

The level design is really good, but has a couple of negatives to point out. Most of them are epic and beautiful, capturing exactly the spirit they should be capturing. Either the bogs, the forest, the barren deserts, the haunted castles, all of them were perfectly put together. The problem I had with some of them isn’t technically a problem. I know most games are complained about for being too linear and just leading you straight through the game on a single path with brief points where you branch off to get a collectable and return to the path. This game has a more open scheme to their levels. That’s a good thing in some ways, but it makes it really hard to explore to find collectables. I can’t really tell which way I’ve looked or which way I need to go. The Necromancer’s Abyss level is gigantic and epic, but was not something I found annoying, probably because the scale was so visible and distracting with it’s awesome epicness. One of the level’s was a music box level that you’ve been shrunk down and put into, then you must collect different color notes and arrange them to reach certain places. This was a clever idea, but a really annoying level. And how is a game gonna have an Abbey Catacomb, an Abbey Library, an Abbey Tower, but you ain’t gonna have an Abbey Road? How are you gonna get to all those other Abbey places?

My minor complaints aside, this is a very solid game and should be enjoyable for anybody. And it’s good to see that they stopped making shitty Castlevania games, as they had been going downhill pretty hard for a while there. The end of the game also leaves us open for a solid looking sequel, so we’ll see how that goes when and if it comes out. It’s good for a rental, perhaps a purchase if you find it cheap enough. Not great for the achievements though. It involves a lot of repeat playing that the game doesn’t support with replay value. This game can have a “Make it so!” out of “ENGAGE!” Oh wait, those are Star Trek references …

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.