Video Game Review: “Castlevania: Lords of Shadows”

    While Castlevania: Lament of Innocence didn’t exactly meet the heightened expectations that I had for it. (5.8 out of 10.0) Castlevania: Curse of Darkness helped to wash some of the bad taste from my mouth. (7.1 out of 10.0)

    However, I had more hopes for the franchise than a slightly above average experience. Even in 2010, I was as cheap as I am now. I don’t buy new games often, in-fact, I doubt that I buy a game in the same year as it was released more than twice a millennium. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was the exception, and I purchased it within months after the release.

    Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an action-adventure video-game developed by MercurySteam and Kojima Productions. It  was published by Konami and stands as the 33rd installment in the Castlevania franchise. The game received positive reviews from critics and gamers alike, it sold well, and ultimately, it helped reemerge the franchise to prominence for a new generation. (It led to Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2.)

     The story focuses on Gabriel Belmont’s journey to defeat the Lords of Shadow and revive his wife. A member of the Brotherhood of Light, he begins conquering foes in an attempt to find all of the pieces to the God mask. These include vampires, werewolves, necromancers, ice-giants, and more. Along the way, he meets a fellow member of the Brotherhood named Zobek, (voice-acted by Patrick Stewart, I might add.) who narrates a lot of the journey and occasionally plays a role in his quest.

     While the story draws parallels to previous titles in the franchise, it definitely feels different than anything that we have seen before. Most notably, it feels more ambitious, expansive, and larger than old-titles. Story was never too much of a factor when it came to one of Konami’s oldest properties. The basics were established, elements were cherry-picked from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and of course, the introduction of the Belmont family, however, other-wise, they took a backseat. For Castlevania, it was driven mostly by the game-play. The dungeon-dwelling and cryptic puzzles, the difficulty and decorative scenery, all of that were the ingredients for a lot that we had previously seen.

    Lords of Shadow definitely has a lot more for the story. There are a lot of cut-scenes throughout, and a lot of time spent for the plot. In this circumstance, it’d be fair to say that game-play takes a backseat in-favor of cinematic visuals. There’s definitely a darker approach, Shadow borrows clearly borrows elements from a lot of different hack-in-slash video-games having been released, particularly God of War. Thankfully, the scenery feels inspired and driven enough to stand on its own.

    Some of the scenery is immaculate, and beautifully embroidered. Scenery is definitely one of the driving factors in this title. At the same time, I think it would be fair to argue that it causes it to feel more visual than anything else. Lords of Shadow has an unorthodox layout where everything is separated by levels, which I like, although, oftentimes, it feels like some of the levels are there to look at and everything else was added afterward to keep it from appearing empty.

    The biggest criticism that almost everybody had for Lords of Shadow is that it didn’t borrow much from the last installments. I don’t share the sentiment. Mostly, I don’t care because Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness both saved the elements from the source material and they didn’t exactly blow me away. I was fine with a new imagining of the characters and everything that we had seen before. I like the game-play and controls for the most-part. They are similar to other hack-in-slash experiences that we have had, such as God of War, Dante’s Inferno, and so on. The only difference is I believe somewhere along the line with the use of the whip and dodging, it has more sophistication. There is some aspects of platforming as well and definitely a lot of puzzle-solving.

    I think that is where I have a criticism. I enjoyed some of the puzzles, but I think some of them were a little bit of a nuisance or random. I remember having to steer the blood of one of the bosses as a key, and the godawful Music Box level. Honestly,  I think that Music Box level is some of the worst level-designing that I have ever seen.

    The bosses are a lot of fun. Some drew comparisons to Shadow of the Colossus, and I see it, but I also think they stand on their own. Some of them have a presence, which is always something worth acknowledging.

    If there is one other thing that is worth acknowledging, it’s the amount of bang that Lords of Shadow offers. It offers a very long and expansive experience that couldn’t be held on one-disc  for the Xbox 360. There is Downloadable Content available as well, so it’ll definitely keep anyone busy for a short-while.

     In conclusion, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow isn’t without some minor nuisances. It relies a little too heavily on cut-scenes, and it never lets it all hang out, so to speak. Some of the levels can be a little much, I have heard the nickname “Puzzlevania” more than once. However, mostly, the game-play is enjoyable, and it offers an entertaining experience. Beyond that, Lords of Shadow shines in-terms of graphics and story. One of the finest stories that you can ask for, and beautiful imagery.

    I think that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a great game. 

Rating: – 4.3 out of 5.0