Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review

  • Posted October 22nd, 2010 at 11:37 EDT by Adam Dolge

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

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Castlevania is reborn into a 3D action game that borrows heavily from some of the PS3's greatest hits. However, with so much to experience, thrilling boss battles, and plenty of replay value, it's well worth the investment.

We like

  • The game boasts enormous replay value
  • The backdrops are stunning and the music engrossing
  • The Combat is effortless and engaging

We dislike

  • Plays a bit too similarly to other PS3 games for our liking
  • The platforming and climbing elements can prove frustrating
  • The camera doesn't always serve its purpose

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a surprise. If you are looking for a modern take on the classic vampire-slayer franchise, you will be surprised. If you think it’s nothing more than a God of War clone, you will again be surprised. And finally, if you think it’s only good for one play through, you’ll be – guess – surprised. 

With this latest instalment, Castlevania is reborn in to a 3D action gaming space. Indeed, while developer MercurySteam has bought the series back to its roots of vampires and other nightmarish creatures, this latest endeavor strips away nearly everything we know about the much-loved IP. Sure, you’ll find the same enemies, but you’ll face them in a new way. And, the main character is still out to kill as many dark and devilish ghouls as possible, but he comes equipped with a fresh batch of interesting weapons and magic to wield. 

It’s almost impossible to connect this iteration of the game with previous versions, and perhaps it would be best if the series just started anew. However, it still sports the Castlevania moniker, and with it comes that familiar whiff of nostalgia and for many, a healthy dose of preconceptions. This time around, the plot centres on hero Gabriel’s quest is to resurrect his deceased wife; naturally, things aren’t going to be an easy ride, requiring a fair amount of beast slaying before our hero can accomplish his goal.

Once you dive into the game, you’ll see that this is a dark tale, albeit told in a refreshing manner. It feels fresh, in large part, because of the combat. Of course, while initially feeling inspired by a certain God of War - and it certainly is - once you unlock upgrades to your Combat Cross, you’ll see the game’s true combat potential shine through. You’ll use two buttons for sweeping or heavy attacks, string together easy combos, throw daggers and unleash ridiculously powerful spells. Combat includes QTE-events, boss battles (more on that later) and epic encounters that rival some of the greatest moments in recent action games.

The game not only plays fresh, it looks crisp and clean. Sure, there are the occasional visual hiccups that we find in just about every game, but overall you’ll play through jaw-dropping vistas comprised of wintery mountains, ruined forests, and much more. Indeed, if there are any complaints about the visuals, it’s that there is almost too much action to see what’s going on in the background. For instance, we started to slow down about the second chapter. We realized we were blazing through the game’s shorter levels, without really glancing at what was going on around us. When we witnessed the beautiful snow drifts and flakes that appeared to fall through the screen, we knew we found something worth looking at.

The soundtrack is also beautiful, capturing the strings and deep sounds of an equally dark tale. After a while, the music starts to repeat a bit, especially during combat sequences, but that’s just fine with us as it sets the perfect mood for fighting werewolves and the various beasts you’ll come up against. Meanwhile, boss battles have a strong resemblance to Shadow of the Colossus, such as climbing on top of giant stone beasts or slaying Lycan chiefs. Even if these boss battles are reminiscent of other great games, we loved fighting through some of the more epic moments. Keep in mind, the game is exceedingly tough and will test your skills to the limit. Sure, at the beginning you can get by on just slashing your way through countless enemies, but venture past the first few levels and you’ll quickly have to learn how to dodge, throw a dagger, and use magic effectively in combat.

And, thus brings us to a shining moment in Castlevania: the magic. The game mixes light and shadow magic to give the player greater freedom with how to progress through each level and each battle. Light magic essentially restores your health pool with each successful attack, while shadow magic enhances Gabriel’s strength, turning him in to a true killing machine. Of course, you’ll need to fill up your magic bars, one for each set of magic, by stringing together successful ... (continued on next page)

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