Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review

This month’s installment is Castlevania Lords of Shadows.  Konami describes the game as, “a reboot for the 25-year old franchise.”  In my personal opinion, it’s an unrelated game that simply borrows the Castlevania name.  None of the common gameplay elements you’d expect from the series can be found here, and the story isn’t even remotely reminiscent of the past.  The only loose connection is the presence of vampires, werewolves, and skeletons.  This action adventure game had me feeling as though I was playing some God of War rip-off rather than Castlevania.  From the very first moment you control protagonist Gabriel Belmont, all those residual combat skills you learned in the God of War series will flow right back to mind.  Yes, it’s obvious theft, but Spanish developer MercurySteam and Metal Gear Solid creators Kojima Productions were brilliant for lifting from the game that reinvented the hack and slash genre.  There is definitely fun to be had here, don’t get me wrong, and its landscaping is phenomenal at times, but all other Castlevania fans might be turned off.

The words “3D Exploration” is thrown around rather loosely when describing the gameplay here.  Instead of exploring one large castle, you proceed linearly from level to level (it is a MUST to backtrack to previously unreachable areas once you’ve upgraded your skills to get to hidden locations).  There is no map and very little in the ways of camera-angling during in-level questing. One thing that constantly aggravated me was the fact that you were always given two directions to go and by choosing one made me feel like I was missing finding a fallen soldier to search or a hidden pathway that I had to revisit and unlock with some new ability later on.  Also, certain boss battles, like the stone warrior that was surrounded by the flaming rocks, started you off having no idea what kind of strategy you were supposed to undertake until you ran to the opposite side of the landscape, only to be prompted by the temporary female companion.  She then only tells you, “Now’s your chance!” in which you enter into a Shadow of the Colossus-type fight that ended with me breathing a sigh of relief.  Other than the boss battles, I found the controls rather simple and the Light and Dark magic addition were pretty easy to use during low level fighting.  If your health was running low, you quickly turned on your Light magic and with every swing of your barbed chain that connected with fiends replenished it.  And if you encountered more stubborn to kill enemies, the Dark magic basically charged your attacks to strike even more crippling damage to the inhuman nasties.

Keep in mind I didn’t complete this game.  The reason being it started to become a frustrating experience, almost like getting up for work every day.  All the basics were there, don’t get me wrong: well scripted, voice acting (Patrick Stewart should narrate everything I do, every day PERIOD!) and the control mechanics in combat were simple enough, but they failed miserably on the fixed camera angles.  This, I call the “Konami Curse,” which has stricken the whole Devil May Cry series and ruined what could have been a good but not great few hours of exploration.  I don’t want to feel pressured to constantly replay a level hoping to MAYBE catch a slight glimpse of something that I know I missed and retrieve the item, whether it be a light or dark crystal shard or a weapon or health upgrade, all very dire to you survival.

In a nutshell, if there’s nothing else available on Gamefly to rent, put it on give it a shot.  I’m sorry to say I made my girlfriend waste $60 for a game that I had extremely high hopes for, but I will say it is 100x better than the Wii title, Castlevania Judgement.

Final Verdict for Medal of Honor Single Player:

3 out of 5