Castlevania. This particular gaming series has been around since 1986 when the first game of the same name was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. With a very simple control scheme but a punishing difficulty to make even the most hardcore gamer run home to mommy, it was considered a cult classic. As time went on, the series would gain mutliple sequels, numerous spin-offs and several forays into the third dimension. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow takes everything you know and love about the series and throws it in the toilet; only to be rebooted into what the 3D series should have been a long time ago.
I will say that the only past references from previous Castlevania titles into the new one are very limited. Only a certain village name and the surname "Belmont" are present in Lords of Shadow.
Lords of Shadow takes place around the 11th century. The Lords of Shadow have their minions wrecking havoc among the population in Europe and a man, by the name of Gabriel Belmont, stands up to the plate to confront the menace that plagues the land.
First off, this game is beautiful! The lighting, graphic details and textures are so well done, I couldn't tell if I was looking at a video game version of a rock or the real thing. The environments you come across are stunning and full with detail. Stages comes in all sizes, mainly large, and they require you to keep a good eye for hidden items that will help you along your way.
Next is the combat. Similar to God of War, Lords of Shadow has a unique combat system in which Gabriel uses the Combat Cross. Think of it as Indiana Jones' whip on steriods. You have direct attacks performed by one button and area attacks by another button. Using both buttons in alternating sequences, as well as the timing, well get you far in the game. You can gain experience points from defeating enemies to learn new attacks as you progress thoughout the game. Gabriel can also grab his enemies to get up close in personal in combat and the attacks are different most nearly all enemies. Later in the game, Gabriel has access to Light and Shadow Magic. Light magic, when activated, will heal Gabriel when he successfully attacks enemies. Shadow magic will dish out more damage to enemies when activated. Because the game can be unforgiving at times, it's up to the player to utilize Light and Shadow magic in tandem to get through the game. Gabriel also can use sub weapons, a feature normally seen in previous Castlevania titles. he can collect upgrades to increase the capacity of his sub-weapons to get him out of a pinch. Also, Gabriel can dodge attacks to get out of the way. Staying alive in the game requires a balance of offense and defense.
The voice acting in the game is very well done. Robert Carlyle voices Gabriel Belmont and Sir Patrick Stewart from Star Trek and X-Men fame voices Zotek and the narrator of the game. Not once did I feel compelled to listen to cheesy one-liners; as there weren't any to begin with. It seems that Konami has fully invested their time and effort to obtain Hollywood talent and they have struck gold.
As much as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has going for it, it does have a few drawbacks. The evasion mechanic feels very cheap. I can honestly say that for as many times I get out of the way, I often get clobbered while I am still rolling away from danger. It is also slow to recover from the roll and that in itself requires you to forcably change your battle tactics. As soon as your roll is done, you can not block against attacks. You have to wait for the roll animation to completely finish to repel oncoming attacks. Also, you can not block in the air as well. That's pretty bad when you are attacking in the air, you see an attack coming and there's nothing you can do about it. Finally, you will die a lot due to platforming frustations and cheap deaths from enemies. There are several points in the game where are you just completely surrounded by enemies and 5 seconds later you're toast.
Despite these little quirks, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an Action/Adventure title not to be missed. The past 3D Castlevanias didn't fare well with the audience so Konami and Mercury Steam are now making up for lost time. Lords of Shadow is an excellent reboot of the series that does not disappoint and with the positive reviews it has received and a sequel already in the works, I am personally looking forward to the next chapter in the new direction of Castlevania.
Beautiful environments truly stand out. Combat is satisfying and rewarding. Using different combos and magic types to mix it up never gets old. Excellent storyline keeps you engaged. Game takes about 15+ hours to complete, not including the trials, obtaining all of the items and upgrades, etc. Reboot of the series draws in old Castlevania veterans and new players alike.
Cheap and frequent deaths will frustate players. Evasion mechanic needs to be tweaked up.
Platforms: PlayStation 3 & XBOX 360 Rating: Mature MSRP: $59.99 Estimated Time to Complete: 20+ Hours depending on difficulty, play style and achieving the highest completion percentage. Release Date: October 4th, 2010 Publisher: Konami Developer: Mercury Steam