Review – Castlevania: Lords of Shadows

Konami’s Castlevania series has been around since 1986 , and is one of the longest running game series around. Spanish developer Mercury Steam introduces the series to the next generation of consoles with ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadows’ and doesn’t disappoint.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a tale of love, despair and hope. The game is set in a ravaged Europe of the middle ages, where souls of the dead are trapped on our earthly plane unable to find peace, and inhuman creatures of nightmare wreak havoc. Gabriel Belmont (voiced by Robert Carlyle), hero of the piece and part of the legendary Belmont clan from Castlevania lore, has witnessed the brutal slaying of his wife Marie (voiced by Natascha McKelhone). Gabriel pledges revenge against those responsible: the mysterious Lords of Shadow, and learns from his one ally Zobek (Patrick Stewart) that each of the Lords possesses pieces of a relic called ’The God Mask’ that, when assembled, can purify the world and has the power to bring the dead back. The story follows Gabriel as he battles the three factions of the Lords of Shadows.

The game play follows a similar formula used by the ‘God of War’ series and ‘Dante’s Inferno’. Gabriel carries with him a ‘Combat Cross’ that he uses to cut a swathe through the enemy, while secondary weapons can also be used against foes: silver daggers to kill werewolves, or holy water to scald and destroy vampires, for instance. In total, the game boasts over 40 possible combo attacks, which are learned constantly throughout the game.

Similarly, Gabriel grows ever more powerful with the use of the game’s Light and Shadow magic elements. During the course of his quest, the hero collects orbs left behind by defeated foes. These can be attributed to either Light or Shadow magic, with the former used to enhance Gabriel’s physical well being, and the latter to bolster his offensive capabilities. Light magic is the most useful since it can be used to regenerate your health by killing foes while it is enabled.

There’s more to this game than just fighting, though. The puzzles will test your brain power while the platforming will test your controller skills. Puzzles vary and can consist of light and mirror puzzles, maze like puzzles where time is very important, and even aligning planets, the moon, and the sun. Also introduced is ‘Vampire Wars’. An unlockable chess like strategy board game that you can play with a friend and two controllers, or just play the cpu.

The platforming itself is challenging, but occasionally the game seems to have Gabriel do things opposite of what you asked for, and that can be both frustrating, and deadly. Rotating some objects seems to have a similar problem when puzzle solving. When a challenge is time based and every second counts, rotating a mirror in the opposite direction than you asked for will cause you run out of time.

The length of the story, with fifty levels of game play, is a rarity these days. Eighteen to twenty hours of gameplay on your first run through wouldn’t be surprising. The game requires at least two play throughs for the completionists out there as some items can’t be collected until you receive certain abilities. There are also trials unlocked for each level once you complete it the first time, and the level must be played again in order to complete the trial. Replayability is definitely there, and you’ll find that the earlier levels become significantly easier as you build up Gabriel’s health and magic.

Add the forty five different foes and you may realize the scale on which the game is played. You’ll face off against titans four stories tall, that you’ll have to climb on to take down. You’ll have to jump onto a flying fossilized dragon in order to face off against the ultimate evil. The details on the foes are great. Seeing a warq climb up a wall with his muscles flexing and claws digging into the wall was impressive.

The graphics for the game are impressive as well. You’ll find yourself stopping Gabriel in his tracks just so you can check out the details of the castle in the distance. This is truly a next-gen title with top notch graphics. It matches games like ‘God of War III’ in level design, detail, and over all look.

If you don’t own a PS3 but want a similar experience to ‘God of War III’, ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadows’ does a great job. Some might say it’s a GOW III knock off, but I beg to differ. There are similarities, but that’s not a bad thing.

The story will keep you intrigued, the game play will keep you entertained and the graphics will amaze you. If puzzling platformers with fighting mixed in is your type of game, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.