Castlevania is one of those games that breaks down the wall between generations and lovers of all genres, with every gamer remembering at least one instalment in the long standing series. Defining just what made a great 2D action, platformed for years to come, Konami simply had a corker in their midst.
Later into its life span, attempts at 3D iterations never really managed to gain as much success (although I still maintain a deep love for Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness) with the series eventually heading back to its more classic roots. That was until, right out of left field, Konami announced Castlevania Lords of Shadow. Created by Mercury Steam, this completely fresh and mind blowing take on the Dracula saga not only put them on the map, but redefined the series for a whole new generation of gamers.
Lords of shadow was all about hard as nails fighting, with some ingenious platforming and epic boss battles. Not to mention being narrated like Tim Burtons favourite gothic bed time story, through the ever so smooth voice of Sir Patrick Stewart (I really hope that when asked about the gig, he simply replied ‘make it so’), I simply loved it as did many of you out there.
After such a change which came with great success, could a sequel ever live up to the hype it was always going to receive? Well I can honestly say that the answer is yes!
The game starts off in the great hall of Dracula's castle, with the darkness himself brooding on his throne, as hordes of the Brotherhood of Light begin hammering down the doors. Not one to run from a fight, this intro gives you plenty of time to polish up your skills and learn some new ones along the way. Gabriel Belmont, or Dracula as he now prefers, fights much like you would remember, flailing a chain all over the shop only this time that pesky cross has been replaced by a much more gory and apparently reliable, Bloodwhip. Yep, thats right. What better way to destroy your enemies than with a hardened string of your own blood!
While you’ll be using this the most, it is hugely fun swirling around as the undead after all, light and dark magic make a return in the form of the Void Sword, which is useful for pinching health from your foes and the Chaos Claws which are great for ripping apart anyone ‘clever’ enough to armour themselves up.
Of course, as you would expect, now that you embody evil itself necks are indeed on the menu. As you fight streams of enemies, at certain points they will look weak and glow yellow meaning their ripe for the harvest! for me, this small addition of such a contextual attack added so much joy to the combat system, you are playing as the lord of darkness so why wouldn't you need to feast on the red stuff from time to time?
Pacing is in now way an issue with Lords of Shadow 2, id even go so far as to say its somewhat of an improvement on its predecessor, as often I felt with the previous game that time would stretch forward as each section, especially the opening hours, took some time to get rolling. Here however, within the first half an hour you’ll have mastered the combat to mascre a stream of attackers, taken on a boss (twice in fact) and topped it off by climbed a titan bigger than your own castle to finish the fight. Phew!
Alas however, this level of extreme power wont last, as due to a series of unfortunate events Dracula falls to a hugely weakened state which leaves you to pick up the pieces. One by one upgrading and unlocking abilities as you go, with your health metre upgraded by finding special gems. Ahh the old gem routine. If only that worked in real life!
In a bid to add more depth to the gameplay, Mercury Steam have tried hard to add some element of free roaming exploration to the over all world. Hiding collectables in the darndest places and even allowing you to take over the body of rats in order to fit through some rather pesky nooks and crannies.
This was the only element of the much anticipated sequel that really didn't fly for me. While its admirable for the team to try something new with there last stab at the franchise, this ‘open world’ is really just as linear as before, while simply using some simple trickery to give you the impression that the space is yours to own. Add in a rather excessive amount of loading screens and you've got a magic trick that falls flat on its face.
Despite this niggle, open world gameplay was never something I felt the original needed anyway. Not every game needs to be Arkham City and I'm fine with that. In fact I'm happy with that. Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 offers up some stunning vistas to see, with castles and modern buildings climbing so high that they're practically driving a stake into the very heart of the moon. In fact, its easy to say that here you’ll see some of the best visuals of this gen. or last gen. Not quite sure how to class it now, but you see my meaning.