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Jan 04

Game Review – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Xbox & PS3)

I love games that come out where I can gloat and say “I told you so”. Usually it’s when a game gets hyped up and I tell everyone it’s gunna be crap. This time around however, it’s the other side of the same coin. I’ve been telling everyone to get their hands on this new Castlevania game (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow) and everyone that has taken the leap and gotten it have all said the same thing : THIS GAME IS AWESOME!

The Castlevania series stretches back to 1986 on the original NES and has since spawned 26 games with a majority of them being good titles. Funnily enough, the famously terrible ones are the 3D ones so when a new Castlevania for Ps3 and 360 was announced, hopes were not high. That is until Konami, the makers of the game, mentioned that Kojima productions were involved in it’s creation. For those who don’t know, Kojima is responsible for the Metal Gear series and some of the greatest storytelling in gaming history. This truly would be a match made in heaven.

What we have here is a gothic combat adventure with a bit of platforming puzzles and one epic storyline and an ending to make you scream for a sequel.

The combat is thick and fast with your main weapon being a holy cross that extends into a whip. As you dispatch enemies, you get points that you can use to purchase bigger moves and combos to dispatch even more enemies…. yes, I realise this is what EVERY hack and slash adventure game does but what Castlevania excels at is not trying to do something different. It sticks to a tried and tested formula that works. And whilst the gameplay can be considered a ‘Quentin Tarantino’ version of a “homage” (read : complete rip-off) to God Of War , the gameplay actually plays second fiddle to the substance of the game itself.

One thing that all Castlevania games has is a cool character driven story and this one has one of the best I’ve seen in any game over the last few years, expertly voiced by a brilliant cast including Mr Patrick Stewart. The story is so well woven through the events of the game that the character arc really shines toward the end when all is revealed in true Kojima fashion, a 10 minute monologue. Ah well, you have to take the bad with the good I suppose but all the characters have such a heavy burden of some sort and if there were academy awards for dialogue in video games, Castlevania would get at least 1 nomination for the way these pretty collections of pixels truly make you believe that their plight is mighty indeed.

Another thing this game really kicks all others asses in is the variety of enemies they throw at you. Every level there’s a new batch of baddies trying to make your day a bit more crap and they all have different attacks and weaknesses so you are constantly on your toes figuring out what the best way is to not die. And die you will. This game is no push over and considering you are against every mythical creature to have it’s own movie since time began, the difficulty can seem a tad unfair at times but I found this ignited the determination because you know that just a level before, you took down a nightmarish monster in a boss fight that’s sheer scale can only be described as “monolithic” was a thousand times the size of the little imp that’s currently making you his bitch.

Castlevania is not without it’s flaws though and the 1st one that stuck out like a Giraffe in a Koala club is the terrible fixed camera angles. Considering how gorgeously presented the environments are and how much time and effort has gone into the world itself, I can understand why they have opted this way to show off the artistry that this team is capable of but when combat is involved, it sucks to get killed by a monster that’s off screen and, therefore, bloody hard to dodge an incoming attack from. And these cameras also make some of the platforming sections a right bastard to navigate, making a simple jump to a ledge seem completely impossible. Usually after a few deaths, you will find the answer is something the game could have made a bit clearer quite easily.

Now, for the hardcore Castlevania nuts out there like myself who want to know if they will get their nerd-gasm on with this addition to the saga…. no you won’t. There’s only one song from the old (and freaking awesome) soundtrack, but it is used very well, and there is a few inconsistencies with this game to the old ones. The big one being that Dracula is nowhere to be found so you don’t actually go to Dracula’s castle either, which does make the title a tad strange since the blood suckers house is called Castlevania. When you finish this game, it does set itself up for a sequel that would appear to pull itself into the Castlevania lore, somewhat kicking and screaming but it has left me really wanting the continuation as soon as possible. A sequel has been hinted at already, thank god!

So the total package is a very theatrical ride through every magical and mythical monster’s lair you can imagine with fantastic combat and frustrating difficulty that’s easily blamed on bad camera angles. It takes the best and worst of many peers like Devil May Cry, God of War and Uncharted but has more substance to it’s art and story telling, which makes it more compelling than most games out there. At a pretty steady 18-20 hours long, it’s a game that won’t leave you feeling cheated out of your money and since it’s made by Konami, it won’t be around for long before they discontinue it in Australia so grab it soon!

– Stubby

  • . What was unforgivable was the camera, especially in the Titan Graveyard level. How do they expect you to randomly turn to the right in a black cave with no way of looking right? If you’ve played the level, you know what I mean.

  • Anonymous

    I found the camera to be a drag too at times especially as there was no way to look at things stationary from Gabriel’s perspective which I find a useful feature to have in games with platforming sections. However there was many moments I liked its dynamic perspective approach as I do tire of the traditional behind the person viewpoint.

    Still I forgive any of the games faults as I am utterly in love with everything about it, the music, adventure, puzzles, combat/beast riding systems and the DLC is simply amazing. I truly hope Capcom replies favourly to the fan’s cries of “please sir, can I have some more?”