Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Game Review - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

The long running and beloved Castlevania series, stretching all the way back to the original Nintendo, now gives us a new console release with Lords of Shadow. This game is handled by a new team from the ones who handled the last few games, giving us a new timeline, rebooting the story. Does this help or hurt the game? Read on to find out. As usual, I am reviewing the Playstation 3 version of the game. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)


This game is probably the darkest of all the Castlevania games, by far. It is more like a dark fairy tale than a Vampire story. Set in 1047 AD, the hero of the game, Gabriel Belmont, is set into lands long forgotten by time, where the Old Gods still hold power, to seek out aid in speaking with the dead. In hopes of speaking with his recently slain love, Gabriel needs to find out why the heavens were blocked off from Earth and how to undo this, so the souls can move on to the afterlife.

As the game goes on, Gabriel must fight the three Lords of Shadow, claim their power, and the pieces of the God mask that they hold. Narration for the game is provided by Patrick Stewart who also voices the character Zobek. Through the game you will read various dropped travel scrolls who help to give information, trivia, and various other tid bits Alot of references to the classic series is in this game, my favorite being when Zobek talks of Gabriel going to fight the Vampiress, Carmilla. He laments how she will shead bloody tears, a references to the popular song of the series, and the fact that Carmilla's mask attacked by dripping bloody tears in the old games.

In the end, the mask if formed, and the final boss reveals himself, not the Lord of the Vampire, but the Lord of all evil, Satan. The final battle is great, and helps to properly set up the sequel, in which Satan is readying to return to Earth thanks to his followers. To stop this, Dracula is sought out by Zobek...and it is revealed that Gabriel himself is Dracula. The hook has caught me, I am ready for the next game. But to fully appreciate this game, you need to play it from start to finish.

Graphics: 5/5

This game is beautiful to see, especially considering it's a cross system game, so they couldn't focus solely on one platform to polish it to the max, but it's still beautiful. From the ancient ruins of a forgotten city, to the Castle of Carmilla, the game is beautiful, even more so in the castle when you see the Gothic architecture of the castle. The characters are well detailed, the magic effects, lighting, everything is extremely well done.

Music: 4/5

I love the score for this game, the music is wonderful, atmospheric, and gives that epic grandness that the game and it's story call for. I mark one point off mainly because I miss some of the classic tunes, and the compositions of Michiru Yamane are missed. However, while I do miss them, they do not make this game's score bad, in  fact, it's amazing. I do not think most of the old tracks done in their usual style would have fit this game. Though, for the sequel, I wouldn't mind seeing this game's composer try his hand at the classic tunes and make them fit the style of this new game story.

Gameplay: 5/5

The gameplay is called a God of War clone, and this is true, but let us not forget that Castlevania Lament of Innocence came out BEFORE God of War and had a similar combat system, thus this game in the end simply refines the combat of LoI. The combat is fast, responsive, and well done, with nice finishers and interactive moments that help keep you drawn into the game.

The magical items in the game are present, like the old games, and while there are only four magical weapons, they are still useful. The daggers and holy water return from the old series, with two new items, fairies that distract enemies, and crystals that are similar to the old 'item crash' abilities that kill everything on screen, this time when you crash the crystal, it summons a demon to wipe out everything.

And then there are the boss fights....this game has EPIC boss fights. The Lords of Shadow are great and memorable battles, but that's just small fries compared to the titan battles. If you ever played Shadow of the Colossus, you know where they got the idea for these fights from. They're pretty much the same thing, and that's not a bad thing. The titan battles are just epic and grand as you climb up and attack the giants as they attempt to crush you.

Finally there are the puzzles, and I love the puzzles in this game. Most of them require some trial and error, while others make you have to think a little, they're not frustrating and unbeatable, but they do require a little thought. My favorite being the music box level, as you use different cylinders to to operate different parts of the box as the music box tune plays (which happens to be the classic tune Vampire Killer).

Replayability: 4/5

While there isn't alot of exploration to this game as compared to the 2D Castlevanias that have been released since Symphony of the Night, it does have some areas you can explore when you return with skills you learn later in the game. The ability to replay chapters of the game is also a bonus as well. You can also try to get the trials they have (which means to complete certain conditions like beating a boss without using a magic type).

Overall: 4/5

In the end, this game serves as an excellent start to a new timeline for the series. The story is well told, the characters are well rounded. The music, setting, everything is just well crafted. If you are a fan of the original series, then you will love this reboot. I highly recommend this game, it has the flair an epic fantasy tale and you will love to banish the horrible night with the Vampire Killer.

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