...and now for the bad
Even with a fairly solid 3rd person combat mechanic, Castlevania is far from perfect. The main culprit to causing problems is not being able to control the camera. Usually in action adventure games of this nature you would be able to rotate the camera in 360 degrees around the player with the right analog stick, while the left one handles the characters movement. Well in Castlevania, we have an abandoned right stick with a fixed camera. One thing a fixed camera does is focus you attention on a certain point, which at times can deliver some stunning shots. However, when it's not used for a dramatic one-off, it's hindering to navigation (especially platforming) and combat. Battling enemies can be extremely frustrating because you can't see all action on screen. This is only magnified in large battles, which is not cool and a step backwards. Add a moveable camera and Castlevania becomes much more interesting and less frustrating. With graphics this stunning its a shame the player is limited from soaking in its beauty, or enjoying combat inhibited.
Jump, Swing, Mount
Paying tribute to the “traditional” roots of the series, Castlevania has its fair share of platforming and puzzle sections. Jump around the world is straight forward with missteps causing death. The Combat Cross that is used for battle is also used to explore the world, swinging and rappelling down cliff sides. Moving objects and activating the a-typical switches are also apart of the level progression. The puzzles really provide nothing new and seem more redundant then anything. You won't feel overly challenged in these regards as path finding and jumping sections feel like the easy way out of designing a cohesive level. Not to get down on the level design too much because it is rather good, but it can also be repetitive. Not having a mini-map or objective marker also hurts exploration and it is too easy to get sidetracked. More than once, I had to circle an entire level just to find the one spot I missed, its the small things like unclear objectives unnecessarily make the experience discouraging.
Also added in this new Castlevania is the inclusion of mounts, which are creatures you can ride to successful make it through a level and to help do some big time damage to your enemies. These mounts are always forms of enemies that you have to stun and rope up during battle. For those who don't like spiders, you're not going to enjoy a few sections of the game. Expect some big, nasty, creepy spiders to be crawling all over, and worse, you will have snuggle up real close to them for a little extra help.
In a nice addition, MercurySteam injects some replay value into the game. The main factor to replay the game would be to snag all the trophies/achievements, but you can also earn more points to upgrade you character and search out the secrets you might have missed the first time around... and there are bound to be some missed spots. As Gabriel evolves you will earn new equipment that aids you in your quest and opens the ability to reach areas that you couldn't access before. Once you complete the game and have maxed out your character, replaying the adventure will hold a few new surprises.
Yes, 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadows' sounds a lot like 'God of War,' and that is because it is. But that's not a bad thing, just a point of refrence from another remarkable action series. Sure lots of 3rd person action games borrow from one another and Castlevania is just another action adventure game that uses similar techniques to push its plot along. Although resembling another action game isn't Castlevania's biggest obstacle to overcome, it's the poor design choices like the decision to go with a fixed camera system, the use of lots of quick time events, and an interrupting flow breaking chapter system. Fighting, climbing and jumping while basically being blinded from a poor camera can be frustrating and then you add in the rest of the issues and you have a enough reasons to turn away gamers from Castlevania's crusade against evil. If you can overlook some of flaws, Belmont's adventure is interesting and Castlevania's world has a great deal of weight. While this “reboot” might not capture our hearts like the original 2D side-scroller, I like the direction Konami is headed with the series, and hope they bring Gabriel around for another tale into the dark ages of vampire slaying. Promising.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:8.5, Sound:8.8, Innovation:6.2, Mojo:7.0 Final: 7.5 / 10
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 10.18.10
- Stunning graphics wth large detailed environments
- Great starting point for Castlevania newbies
- For the brief time you're on them, mounting creatures is fun
- Story isn't overly original, but its interesting enough to keep you playing
- Like the use of traditional monsters
- Awesome musical score and voice work
- Cannot control camera -- errr!
- Objectives are not always clear, could have used an objective pointer
- Combat lacks impact
- Up and down pacing that is cut-scene heavy
- Love to hate, Quick Time Events!
- Too glitch friendly -- we restarted a few levels
- Difficulty might be too hard for some
Similar Games: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (7.0) | Dante's Inferno (8.0) | God of War 3 (9.0)