Picking up where MercurySteam’s content-crammed action adventure left off, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 steps things up a notch with a darker, more thought-provoking chapter in the series which focuses on cult blood-sucker Dracula as he battles against Satan’s acolytes and The Brotherhood Of Light across two very different settings: a modern city and his own Gothic castle.
For those who played the first Lord of Shadows game, and for those who didn’t, there’s a decent refresher of events that leads up to the present day where 11th century Knight, Gabriel Belmont, now known as Dracula, is resurrected and yearns to be released from immortality. A deal is made between Dracula and his old ally Zobek, who agrees to help him battle against Satan in return for his death and freedom from eternal life.
At this point, Dracula is weak and needs his strength back, so Zobek offers him a family to sacrifice. In a shocking scene, one of the first things you witness is Dracula killing a mother in front of his daughter, which introduces the dark nature of the game with quite an impact. Despite the blood-bath of killings that follows, the story soon provides food for thought, leaving you wondering whether his mission is about redemption or revenge and whether Dracula really does actually want immortality.
The story is entertaining and well-paced with some slickly produced cut-scenes that brings the best out of the star-studded cast of voice actors, including the return of Robert Carlyle as Gabriel Belmont, who does a tremendous job at adding flavour to Dracula’s character. Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of the cigarette-smoking Zobek is also a highlight as we get to learn more about his character and why he’s so keen on helping out Dracula.
While the narrative kept us hooked to cut-scenes and hanging on every word from the mouths of the game’s two main characters, the soundtrack also plays a major part. An atmospheric, rousing musical score manages to change the emotion of scenes with the likes of brooding piano solos during bouts of exploration adding a dreamy feel, while percussion-driven crescendos ramp up the tempo during tense, frenetic battles.
However, it’s the gameplay of LOS 2 that takes centre stage with a more open-world feel helping to add depth and variety, as well as give players an enticing backdrop to explore. Indeed, gameplay consistently entertains throughout the well-paced, twenty hour-plus campaign with some tactically-engrossing combat, slick platforming sections and rewarding exploration, which also features welcome bouts of stealth play, puzzle-solving and the rewarding hunt for collectibles.
Combat revolves around Void and Chaos powers which replace the magic system from the previous game. The Void Sword allows players to gain health with each strike, while the flaming Chaos Claws can be used to break defences and smash through structures. This leaves players with a dilemma, deciding whether to fill up either their Void or Chaos metres with collected blood orbs. It’s purely a tactical decision as players are required to switch between weapons often depending on the situation and the enemy types they face.