"Lords of Shadow minus the Castlevania"

Introduction: Castlevania is, undeniably, one of the most memorable series in gaming history. Since debuting on Famicom back in September 1986, the Belmont clan has battled their way into the hearts of thousands of gamers. Though the general consensus is that 2D Castlevania is the premier platform for the series, developers have tried their best to enter into the 3D arena. Some versions have failed miserably, others became cult classics, and one failed to see the light of day. Most gamers were apprehensive about another attempt at 3D but MercurySteam's, in association with Kojima Productions, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow just might prove to change the dynamic of 3D Castlevanias forever.

Gameplay: For anyone who has played any of the popular action platformers this gen, Lords of Shadow will make you feel nostalgic after the first 15 minutes into the game. Drawing inspiration from popular titles such as God of War and Shadow of the Colossus, Lords of Shadow tries to make a solid foundation but ends up sitting in the shadows of other titles instead of its own brand. From battling beautifully drawn titans to much-too-often quick time events, Lords of Shadow really lacks originality but manages to combine enough borrowed material to make quite an entertaining game. MercurySteam abandoned a lot of what made other 3D Castlevanias horrible, along with what made them unique, but the game felt like it could have stood on its own without the Castlevania brand.

Borrowed elements aside, Lords of Shadow is a blast to play. Controls are simple and engaging and the difficulty pushes you beyond simple button mashing. Difficulty in Castlevania games have always been more about well placed actions than overwhelmingly cheat battles. All enemies have patterns you must master in order to defeat them and all can be simple yet challenging at the same time. Not quite reaching the difficulty of other action platformers, Lords of Shadow balances it in near perfection. At times, it didn't feel like I was playing a Castlevania game at all... but other times, Lords of Shadow is so fun that you really can't complain. - 7/10

Story:
Traditionally, Castlevania's story has been flat. Belmont clan assembles to thwart the arrival of Dracula who resides in the Castle. Vampire Killer vs. King of Vampires, simple enough I suppose. In Lords of Shadow, you play as Gabriel Belmont, a warrior in the Brotherhood of Light whose on a crusade to save the soul of his beloved wife Marie. In order to save her, Gabriel must battle and defeat the Lords of Shadow in hopes of bring his wife back to life.

As the story progresses, the name 'Belmont' will be the last remnant of Castlevania you'll experience in this game. Lords of Shadow pull together an interesting and compelling story of betrayal and redemption but neglects the simplicity of the Castlevania mythos thus making it feel less like a Castlevania and more like MercurySteam's Lords of Shadow. I know... it's supposed to be different, it's a reboot. Being a reboot, you have to expect a complete re-imagining but by the time I reached the epilogue, Castlevania was nowhere in sight. The final cut-scene made me feel like I was watching Devil May Cry. This is where labeling Lords of Shadow a reboot seems completely unjustified. It's a completely different game altogether. 4/10

Graphics/Sound:
First of all, the game is absolutely gorgeous and really brings inspiring horror to life. I really couldn't have asked for more as far as graphics go. The fixed camera helps bring a lot of atmosphere to the game but felt too restrictive at times. I found myself roaming outside of the camera's sights hoping it would follow me so I could check out every crevice this game had to offer.

Lord of Shadows' soundtrack is beautiful. It's not Castlevania, but it is beautiful. Some tracks fit perfectly with their respective levels, but none really draw you into the game like previous Castlevanias. None of the tracks seem memorable either, even the few that featured old Castlevania themes. I felt that if the soundtrack lacked the gothic themes Castlevania was known for and while I understand the need to start fresh, the music is something Castlevania has never failed until now. 7/10

Play Time/Replayability:
Oh man... this game is long. Playing through on Knight difficulty the first playthrough, it took me well over 25 hours to complete the game. I plan on replaying on Paladin, unlocking all trials and unlockables so I have to give Lords of Shadow its props for keeping me fully entralled. With the chapter select on World Map, the game is very easy to pick up and play a few levels then go on to something else. There's really no complaints with the game in this area. I have definitely got my money's worth. 9/10

Pros

- Easy to pick up and play
- Gorgeous graphics
- Very replayable
- Interesting storyline

Cons
- Lacks originality
- Doesn't feel like Castlevania at all
- Soundtrack just doesn't belong
- Fixed camera can be annoying

Final Recommendation: If you're thinking of purchasing this game because it's Castlevania, I'd advise you to rent it first or try the demo. If you're looking for a fun action platformer and couldn't care less about Castlevania, you should buy this game. All in all, it's hit or miss in the "Is this really Castlevania" debate but I really can't say I regret my purchase. I've had a lot of fun with Lords of Shadow. I'm interested in where MercurySteam will take the series though. If the ending of this game is any indication, I might pass on the next one in hopes of a more traditional Castlevania.

I give this game a 6 out of 10.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/10

Game Release: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Limited Edition) (US, 10/05/10)


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