Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a third-person action/adventure title from Mercurysteam and sequel to Lords of Shadow and Mirror of Fate. If you haven’t played the previous games, or missed out on MoF, don’t worry about feeling lost as the game will provide you with a length recap to catch up.
Taking place many years after the events of Mirror of Fate, a weakened Dracula (Formerly, Gabriel Belmont) awakens to learn of Satan’s imminent return. After centuries of suffering, the prince of darkness wants an end to the pain, his curse. With the promise of release from his immortality, he forms a pact with Death and sets out to regain his former powers in order to stop the devil’s return.
The plot is engaging and shows just how far Gabriel Belmont has fallen and changed since the first Lords of Shadow. He is a tortured soul, full of anger and regret, who wants to escape his destiny and Robert Carlyle does a pretty good job portraying this. The dialogue and rest of the voice actors are pretty solid as well, Death (Patrick Stewart) being the real standout. As Dracula moves against Satan’s army and the Brotherhood of light in the modern world, he must also contend with the living blood of his castle that tries everything in its power to keep him from reaching his goal and defying his fate. Sadly there is a nice little twist towards the end that quickly causes you to roll your eyes at how it conveniently plays out, and the actual ending itself was pretty disappointing.
Combat in Lords of Shadow 2 is for the most part, pretty fun. Armed with the Shadow Whip, players will fight against a variety of enemies; from grotesque monsters to armored knights. The action is fast paced and bloody as Dracula combines both direct and area attacks to fell his foes. Seeing as he is a vampire, executing enemies this time around now has the benefit of restoring a small portion of his health, as the prince of darkness rips out their hearts and drinks their blood before tearing them to shreds in gory fashion.
Sucks to be this guy!
The whip isn’t the only weapon in Belmont’s arsenal this time around; as players progress through the game they will reclaim the Void Sword and Chaos Claws. The sword is a medium ranged weapon that is the weaker of the three but replenishes Dracula’s health with each successful hit, something that comes in real handy during the more challenging fights. The claws on the other hand require the player to get in really close but deal massive damage and are great for breaking through enemy defenses.
The mechanics behind these two weapons are similar to that of the light and shadow magic system of the previous game. Landing consecutive hits without taking damage fills up Dracula’s focus meter. Once the meter is maxed out, each additional hit will cause enemies to drop magical orbs. Absorbing those orbs allows you to fill up the light and shadow meters, which in turn allow for the activation of either the sword or your claws (LB for Void, RB for Chaos). Each weapon has their own set of sets to unlock and can be switched to mid-combo, resulting in a combat system that is more fun and varied than that of its predecessor’s. The game also features QTE’s (Quick Time Events), moments that prompt the player to hit the correct button on screen in order to complete the action on screen. Not everyone is fan of QTE’s, so Mercurysteam put in the option to disable them.
Whip it good!
Lords of Shadow’s progression system makes a return, but has also been improved this time around. Each enemy you defeat earns experience points which can be used to purchase new skills and upgrades for each weapon. Additionally you can also purchase relics that aid Dracula in battle, from healing potions to the Seal of Alastor, which unlocks all of Dracula’s skills for a short period of time. Locating special gems hidden throughout the game will see an increase his overall health and magic meters. The improvement to the game’s progression system comes in the form of ‘Weapon Mastery’; using a combo in battle repeatedly will allow Dracula to master that combo, once mastered its power can be transferred into the weapon itself, making it more powerful, resulting in increased damage and extra abilities.
As fun as the combat is, it suffers from a few annoyances. While the player has now been given control of the game’s camera, occasionally it will go bonkers during combat and zoom in on Dracula, obstructing the view of the enemies and resulting in getting hit while trying to fix the problem. Just try your best to avoid getting cornered by the enemy and you’ll be fine, though camera issues are unavoidable when engaging in fights in the small corridors. Another issue comes in the form of the gun-toting enemies you encounter; not only do they just seem out of place in a Castlevania title but getting hit with shotgun fire while trying to clear a large group of enemies is just annoying.
While they are impressive to look at (Due to their sheer size and impressive design), the bosses in this game are not all that challenging. Granted I played on the normal difficulty but the previous Lords of Shadow provided more of a challenge. It feels as though as the difficulty was toned down to appease more to the casual market. The battles last for a little while as they don’t die quickly but if you are a skilled player don’t expect a game over screen to pop up. If you want a tougher experience, I suggest starting on the hard difficulty. Overall despite these few nuances, LoS2’s combat is still loads of fun.
As huge as it is hideous!
When you aren’t slaying all manner of foe, you are exploring the modern city as well Dracula’s enormous castle. Sadly it is during these portions of the game, which they are many, that it loses its luster. The platforming sections are decent enough but the developers decided it was best to highlight where you needed to go next and not give you the option to disable it. This is great for those who aren’t that perceptive and may get stuck but for the rest of us, this blatant hand holding is kind of insulting and it makes the already unimpressive platforming even less entertaining. The experience does pick up a bit, thanks to the new abilities Dracula learns after defeating certain bosses; these new abilities allow him to reach areas that were originally inaccessible. Sadly you don’t earn them until the game is almost at its conclusion.
There are stealth segments throughout the game that requires Dracula to sneak past enemies too powerful to fight head on. Utilizing the shadows, the prince of darkness can transform into a rat to get by unseen, use his blood to posses others in order to pass through security doors or cause a distraction with his bat swarm ability. Unfortunately, while the concept sounds cool the execution is anything but; they aren’t challenging and just plain boring. While die hard fans will most likely turn their nose to the idea of stealth in a Castlevania title, I believe the developers should be commended for trying something new. It’s too bad the stealth segments feel like time wasters; poor attempts to increase the length of the game. The game does feature some puzzles but they are not very interesting or provide any real challenge.
“Another stealth mission? Nooooooooooo!”
Visually Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is quite impressive. The characters look great and detailed but they aren’t the best on this generation of consoles. The environments however is where the graphics really shine thanks to great the amount of detail gone into the designs and the lighting effects. The structures are enormous and the game takes every chance it gets to show off just how large in scale it really is. The sound design and musical are once again top notch; getting you pumped up during the action packed moments and doing a great job of capturing the quieter ones as well.
Replay Value: Moderate – LoS2 is lengthy game but there is plenty to do after you’ve beaten it. There are a ton of collectibles to find that range from artwork and hidden gems to the diaries of dead soldiers that provide more back story for the Brotherhood of Light. There are also combat challenges to unlock. The world is massive and offers plenty of areas to explore, many are places that can’t be reached until after learning certain abilities much like the Castlevania games of old. New game + and higher difficulty levels, offer more incentive to if you don’t mind the lame stealth missions and disappointing platforming.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a fun game and a much bigger title than it’s predecessor. The combat is improved and the story, with the exception of the ending, is an engaging experience. Sadly the disappointing puzzles, hand holding platforming and utterly boring stealth missions harm the overall experience. Unless you’re a hardcore Castlevania fan, you may be better off skipping this title or at least give it rent but there are far better games in this genre out there. Lords of Shadow 2 fails to be the epic conclusion that was promised.
Overall Score: 7 / 10
RGN Rating: Bronze Game
Available On: PS3 | Xbox 360 | PC
Played On: Xbox 360
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of the game was provided to RealGamerNewz by the publisher for the purpose of this review.