Something got lost in the reboot process.
By Kamal Hwail
Remember Castlevania? Okay, now forget it. It may be unbearably difficult but necessary if you wish to enjoy Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Konami’s reboot to the beloved franchise is in some ways a re-imagining of the same that succeeds on hitting many high points. But occasionally within this twenty hour journey, I can’t help but feel something very crucial to what defines Castlevania was lost somewhere only scarring the game from its true victory.
Lords of Shadow tells a tale from the view of a narrator about Gabriel Belmont, a guilt-driven man who only wishes to see his beloved once more. As the end of the world is near, he is promised the revival of his wife if he embarks on an epic quest to destroy the Lords of Shadow, the rulers with demonic power driving mankind to their extinction. For the first half of the game, the story is convoluted and hard to follow. However, as you slowly progress, the gist of the story becomes more focused and builds up to an unforgettable conclusion. Nonetheless, the story simply complements the adventure. For newcomers, it may not seem memorable and engaging as even I at times had my overall interest dipped. Hear me now when I say to fight through until the end. You will not regret it.
The structure of the game is broken down into 12 distinct chapters spanning over a large variety of settings. You spend a great deal of time in lush forests, snow-sparkled mountains, eerie catacombs, and of course, dreaded vampire towers. In transitions, plenty more minor areas will be explored. What make these settings so important, and what perhaps deserves the highest praise of this game, is the graphics and detail that construct these settings. No matter where you are, you can marvel at the large expansive vistas or eye-catching colors beaming through your screen. No doubt about it, Castlevania’s environments match the graphical fidelity to that of the Uncharted series found on the PlayStation 3. It’s just that good. Unfortunately, the settings are also the reason this game greatly suffers. The design of each level is severely restricted in design and camera. This deeply discourages exploration. Don’t be shocked if you are pushing the left analog forward for 10 minutes straight as Gabriel runs straight ahead as a result of nowhere else to go. It should be frustrating enough you are forced to endure through idiotic tutorials that explain nothing for those who have played video games before.Everything else left me indifferent. The orchestral piece that kicks in when you engage in combat is fitting the first time, but then it draws you out half way through. Throughout the game, when I found myself spending a large amount of time platforming through a level, it would be nice to hear some ambient music set the mood. There are far too little of that around. On the hand, voice acting can be solid and convincing as the script holds up and offers them that opportunity.
When I reminisce back to my favorite Castlevania games, it was the deep RPG elements of the gameplay that were addicting. Exploring the hidden spaces, finding new weapons, and comparing stats with new gear were all part of the fun. By far the biggest disappointment of Lords of Shadow is the combat system. Clearly drawing inspiration from God of War as a basis to build upon, it fails to be as deep as its source. All the RPG elements were thrown out the window. The combat is dull and undeveloped as it leaves you with no other choice than to mash the attack button. Every other attacks deem useless and the purchased combos are limited. Soon enough, the game will throw wave after wave of enemies in the same room and will abuse the already dull combat.Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has quite the name to live up to. From the surface, it looks promising. But after hours are expended in this rather overly stretched and bloated journey, it leaves you empty handed. The game desperately fights for my engagement with its larger than life boss battles, jaw dropping visuals, as well as intricate puzzles scattered throughout. In the end, Castlevania is headed into a new direction, but fans deserve better.
Final Verdict: 7.75 “Decent”