Review by no2morro

"I'm actually very impressed by this game with all honesty. This is coming from a guy that has never enjoyed the game-play of this series. Perhaps I en"

I'm actually very impressed by this game with all honesty. This is coming from a guy that has never enjoyed the game-play of this series. Perhaps I enjoy it because it isn't consistent with the control scheme of the rest of it? It plays like a combination of God of War and Shadow of the Colossus. It also does a pretty good version of them, so what's not to like? All in all, there isn't much to dislike: the character designs are beautiful; it's easy to identify with the protagonist's motives; the controls are excellent; and for once, the world has a hack-and-slash game that lasts longer than 8 hours. This game is quite an accomplishment when you consider all that. It also helps that the lore is very in depth; it's all very engrossing.

Things aren't all wonderful though. Some major gripes I have with the game are in regard to:
- fixed camera (you can't rotate it to see what is happening around you - vital for finding treasures and the like)
- the camera angle feels off. In normal combat it's too far (you can often not see attacks and you get hit because you can't even see it coming - you adjust for it as you go through the game...but it gets annoying)
- the lack of a block cancel or dodge cancel to over-ride your attacks if you get a bit too into your button mashing
- a fairly long and boring tutorial level (practically all of chapter 1)
- the game often doesn't communicate what it wants you do (frustrating, as you are left wondering what's going on) - it's easy enough to figure out (if in doubt look for a flashing ledge), but it takes a while to clue in to that.

The fixed camera is the main problem though. Most modern games have implemented a rotating camera system (usually mapped to the right analog stick). It's almost astounding to see a game without it. Why it proves problematic is you can't actually see what is going on. A big example of this is in the chapter 2 boss battle. You can't actually see the rocks thrown at you until the very last moment. Why this proves a major problem is because you actually have to grab it and throw it back at the titan. My point here is: how can you throw something back if you can't even see it? It's a small problem in the scheme of things (as it's a wonderful game), but it does prove an annoyance.

Keep in mind though; there is a purpose for the camera as far as game mechanics are concerned. It's quite obvious that the creator did that to promote area exploration and the checking of every nook-and-cranny. While I understand why they made the camera the way they did, it makes it fairly awkward to endure.

Game-play/Controls - 8/10

While the controls are for the most part excellent (it plays like your typical hack-an-slash game), it does have some issues, especially when it comes to use of the cross-chain grappling and the platforming. Platforming is generally quite good, but there are times where you don't know where you are supposed to go. Sure you can find the first flashing ledge, but sometimes, because of the camera, you are left wondering where to go. You will likely plunge to your death many a time as you try to find what you are supposed to jump on to.

Similarly, when you are battling, some of the combos work very well, but again, there are problems. Because of the camera position, you often can't even see the enemy attacking you because it's too far back. You adjust for it by standing back more so the enemy can telegraph their attack, but it's still not that clear. Even at times when it isn't a problem, it can be frustrating, when you are wailing on one of your enemies, when you can see an attack coming at you, and you want to block, but because you have committed to the move, you can't. To be honest, it might just be input lag because there have been times when I haven't been attacking and I've blocked but it hasn't come up. It can be annoying.

The titan battles are done quite well (think Shadow of the Colossus), but again, because you can't rotate the camera, you are often left searching for the titan's weak spot. Most of the problems in the game are created by the camera to be quite honest.

Another interesting think about the controls is the interactive grab-and-throw attacks in boss battles. I loved it on the boomerang/blade boss in chapter 5. For all that everyone is commenting on the lack of originality, it does a lot of things that haven't been done before such as the rings (they will annoy you at first, but they are actually a nice addition when you think about the quick-time event alternative), and the ability to ride on the back of giant enemies (this is actually quite awesome).

Graphics - 9/10

The graphics are quite nice. Gabriel (the protagonist) looks very cool in his outfit. The faces do look a little flat and expressionless though. The designs in general for the characters are enemies are quite good (except for the spider...it just looks like a generic spider). The feel of it all is all rather Gothic (consistent with what is expected for the series).

The environments are also quite well designed and showcased too, so you will likely be impressed with the scale of the landscape for the levels.

Audio - 8/10

While the soundtrack isn't amazing, the voice work is excellent. The characters all have a serious somber tone them, fitting considering the theme. Probably the best example of voice work is during the loading screen. The fellow who did the work here really sets the theme for the game, as his tone as well as dialog sets up context brilliantly (apparently this is borrowed from Zelda). It's very well done.

Story - 8/10

The idea of going through all kinds of misery to bring back the one you love isn't a new theme. It's a typical Vampire/Gothic theme. That's just what you are looking at here. Gabriel goes through hell, fights off all kinds of dark demons to bring back his love. The motivation isn't the real thing to consider here though; the game is more focused on how you are going to get there. Your obstacles are a tonne of puzzles and just as many bosses. As I ventured through it, I didn't really care, as the game was a lot of fun to play.

Length/Last-ability - 10/10

This game has so much in it, so many hidden items to find, and so many power ups...it will likely take you quite a bit of time to get through it all. I can easily see myself doing a second or third play-through of many of the levels to get my completion percentage up to 100% of each of the levels. There is also the matter of how many levels there are. While the normal game will easily take you more than 20 hours to finish, trying to do what I mention above will easily double or triple that time. Unlike most games though (e.g. collecting feathers in Assassin's Creed), you will actually want to do it as it boosts up your character).

Overall - 9/10

To be quite honest, if this site allowed decimals, I would give it an 8.8/10, but it doesn't, so I will give it a 9. It's a solid game, even if it is lacking somewhat in original mechanics. With all the games that have come out, I'm not sure that there is much of a need for original control schemes and game-play anymore. Sure it controls like God of War, but that game didn't have dark and light magic usage or Shadow of the Colossus battles (the regular bosses are just as great too - The werewolf boss will be remembered, I assure you). Regardless of a lack of originality in the controls (which is not something that I would mark a game down on), the game needs to be see for what it is: a pretty epic journey which is a lot of fun to go through. This game will take a good 3-4 hours to reach full stride. Once it does though, you won't likely want to put it down.

My recommendation: Definite buy. It's a solid game, and classic in every sense of the word. Believe it or not, classic games are no defined by score, but by how epic and memorable the adventure is...this game is nothing short of epic, and finds itself in company with Demon's Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, and many other epic scale games (despite my nitpicking and how great the game is - truth be told though, the camera is pretty bad).


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/14/10

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


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