Review by jfurioli

"Rich and rewarding game with a bit of a learning curve - Lots of depth and gameplay - Addictive multiplayer"

Not all games are made for everyone to enjoy. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is one of them. It is geeky, and sometimes confusing, and requires focus and attention from the player. It requires also to work with a team of player that can work together, which happens actually quite often.

Gameplay

This is Castlevania elements recycled all over the place. Anyone who has played Castlevania games, or any side dungeon scroller will know what to do. I know there were some critics complaining about the lack of in-game instructions: bite me. It is pretty easy to figure out. In short: you storm through a 2D castle with highly detailed environments and kill enemies, find loot (randomly generated based on your LUCK characteristics), and use money to buy equipment and build up your character. The more you play the stronger you get and the cooler your capabilities. Games are limited to 30mn which makes the experience perfect as a distraction (unless you want to chain up matches).

The single player component is useless. It is not pleasant to go through the castles alone and starting with castle 2, it is not even possible to go through it alone. Even grinding on your own is not rewarding as you will see below.

The multiplayer makes this game worth its price: storming the castle with a party not only opens areas that would not be accessible otherwise (someone hits a switch at one end and a door opens at the other end of the castle). But most important, when one finds loot, EVERYONE finds loot. So there is no reason not to cooperate, when you open a chest, you will receive a random object but the others will too (usually everyone gets something different). Also, one of the good thing about level design is that you don't need to spend your time coordinating with your mic what to do, there are usually three or four paths and it is pretty obvious that switches should be hit.

Additional cool features is the ability to zoom out to the entire castle and see where everybody is, and when you zoom in to still see the direction in which everybody went. This is well implemented and does not get in way of the action.

One detail, the quick play does not work well but if you select custom game within your country, you find teams very easily. I am expecting that this will be patched quickly.

Replayability

Huge. Hundreds of items to collect. Beating the first dungeon will take 1-2 hours but you can replay through it to grind with a posse online. The other castles will take 2-4 hours each, and will replay differently every time. One could lose easily 20-30 hours in this game and not complete it all.

Sounds

It's Castlevania. Howling and gothic creaks and sinister laughs and horror music. All good. A bit retro.

Graphics

Ok but not great. The good thing is that the developers sacrificed a bit of detail in order to get a super fluid gameplay.

Overall

One has to play it online at least once with a good posse to be hooked. It is extraordinarily rewarding and addictive to go through and get loot everytime someone opens a chest. Obtaining rare items will get you to cheer and speed through to a "Book" area where you can equip it. Beating the end boss is always epic and goes through a battle that usually does not stay in one room but moves around the dungeon. In short, lots of depth and gameplay for 1200 MS points.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/10

Game Release: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (US, 08/04/10)


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