Castlevania Lords Of Shadow: Why You Should Care!
By otakuman5000 On 8 Dec, 2010 At 02:12 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 2 Comments

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There is something I want to iterate. Lords of Shadow is a great entry in the Castlevania saga! Please Mercury Steam, give us a sequel! Yet there are some things I’m sure have raised a stink so allow me to address each of them.

LOS is a God of War rip off!

Since the dawn of the industry, games have borrowed from each other. Certainly GOW gave us epic real time events but so did Resident Evil 4. People could argue the tense knife fight with Krauser inspired Kratos’ button mash bid for supremacy. Also, what of Kratos’ signature weapon? Remind you of something? It should if you’ve played Castlevania. The “chain whip” has been used by the Belmont clan for decades and this started in the 8 bit era. Is not Kratos’ “chained blade” about the same overall concept?

Simon did chain weapons first. Not that it matters!

Regardless of who copied who it shouldn’t matter. God of War is a great game as is Lords of Shadow. Enjoy them both for what they are! Personally, I prefer LOS because it offers a long adventure and a more Gothic dark fantasy slant that jives with my preferences better than Greek mythology. However, if you are more into God of War, I will not try to change your mind.

The big issue I take with other reviews is them knocking off points from LOS with the accusation it’s a clone. These games both belong to the same genre so they’re obviously going to run into familiar territory. Secondly, I see other games steal aspects from each other all the time yet they retain high scores. The “clone rant” should be applied fairly across the board or not at all!

LOS is a travesty to the CV name!

Misguided individuals can put forth some really stupid accusations. Maybe someone doesn’t like the trolls, goblins, and fairies in LOS because it’s supposed to be gothic horror.

(Never mind that Symphony Of The Night introduced most of the fantasy elements to the series to begin with. Please say you all remember Alucard‘s fairy & imp familiars as well as the broom riding witches!) “Do those stats looked “suspicious” or what?!”

Others may revert to the tired GOW comparison or accuse LOS of not being constructed from the ground up or critique it for its’ story.

(Frankly the other metroid-vanias were just as guilty for their overly epic, predictable, and cheesy  plot hooks. Alucard is Dracula’s rebellious son! Get it? The name’s spelled backwards! But no one complained about all this silly campy melodrama back then did they? By the way, Igarashi’s Nintendo DS and SOTN works are referred to as “metroid-vanias“ on account they aped off super metroid! So innovative right?)

Any CV tale can be picked apart easily. If a critic is set on scrutinizing an idea it’s possible to make it seem like trash even if it is in fact flawed yet brilliant. Truthfully I adore Igarashi’s work. What I wrote above wasn’t to bash him but rather to show though the metroid-vanias are fun they’re not exactly on the cutting edge either. This is why I don’t mind Gabriel being Kratos’ cousin anymore than I’m appalled  that Alucard is Samus Aran’s pretty-boy metro sexual brother. These are all wonderful and enjoyable titles. Why wage war over trivial bull crap?

What of the game not taking place entirely in a castle? Er, did Dracula’s curse, Simon’s Quest, and Order of Ecclesia limit exploration to Dracula’s fortress? Last time I checked there were forests, caves, ruins, towns, and even aquatic levels adorned with crumbling ghost ships.

Annoying daylight ruins the mood in Lords of shadow you say? Funny, but to me Simon’s Quest added tension by having afternoon and night cycles long before LOS came into being. One of my favorite parts in LOS was defeating vampires emerging from the ground by pulling the curtain ropes in the surrounding hallways with Gabriel’s chain so that sunlight could flood the area. This segment was cleverly done and when darkness finally fell this gimmick could not be taken advantage of anymore.

Not as many enemies!

This is valid. The 2D metroid-vanias have more enemy types. SOTN already had an impressive bestiary and with every new game a few more creatures were added.

However, that’s just it. Lords of Shadow is starting from scratch. It didn’t have the luxury of re-using the sprites in a previous game. Every 3D rendered troll, Naiad swamp arm, grenade totting goblin, relic nabbing Chupacabra, vampire, warg, werewolf, skeleton, giant spider, armor knight, and impressive boss was created “fresh” in painstaking detail!

Old timers like me will also recall that CV 1, Simon’s Quest, Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania 4, and Rondo of blood didn’t boast SOTN’s huge roster of monsters either. There was an impressive amount of variation in the pre-Iga games but the baddie compendium was not as vast.

Truthfully, Lords of Shadow needs a chance to expand. We shouldn’t see it as a stand alone attempt but rather as a positive beginning in a new saga. I know, some fans despise “change” yet isn’t that exactly what SOTN did to the Castlevania formula many years ago?

Knitty Gritty Details

Lush and detailed environments:

It’s hard for me to put into words how gorgeous the locales are! Whether Gabriel is using his whip to repel down cliffs next to waterfalls, is stomping around the rooftops of a huge castle, fighting ghouls in a cemetery next to a church cathedral, or slowly prodding through a murky sinister swamp there’s always a lot to take in.

Beyond a few side paths, LOS is linear; but what gamers should keep in mind is this is more of a tribute to pre-Igarashi Castlevanias such as SUPER CV 4. Besides, as I’m fond of mentioning despite Patrick Stewart’s well delivered narration, CV never was meant to be Elder Scrolls Oblivion. If you want huge free roaming places RPGs are better suited for that style than action platformers are. LOS is still the longest entry of this genre I’ve played. Expect to clock in at least 15-20 hours. You get your money’s worth!Platforming:

LOS has plenty of platforming. Akin to God of War, Prince of Persia, and retro classics such as Super CV 4; Gabriel uses his whip as much to explore as he does to slay creatures of the night. Expect a lot of grabbing onto ledges, jumping to adjacent platformers, utilizing your weapon like a grappling hook, and beating down beasts into submission to ride them thus manipulating their brute strength, animal traits, or agility to traverse zones which were otherwise cut off to you before. Luckily LOS does not suffer from bland repetitive corridors and hard to navigate labyrinths. Challenging  exploration is plentiful but it is in no way unforgiving. The only bone to pick is with the stationary camera. Occasionally the viewing angle you’re given is a blindside resulting in deaths which would have been prevented otherwise.

It’s encouraged you revisit chapters after you’ve acquired additional powers. There are locked away treasures and obstructions you cannot reach or break down until you are more seasoned. In this way LOS is giving a nod towards Symphony of the Night even if it is episodic in presentation!

Puzzles:

The riddles & mini games presented are fun food for thought. That means something coming from me.  I normally hate puzzles with illogical malice! With a momentous act of mercy, LOS gives players the  option to skip these sections if they so choose at the cost of experience points.

What can you expect? In Pan’s temple Gabriel has to line up three stone rings to form a bridge to his beloved Marie. Mistakes lower a swinging guillotine but there is no graphic display of Marie’s severed corpse and if you fail you can try again. Later on a childish vampire named Laura challenges Gabriel to a game of vampire chess. It is part strategy turn-based RPG and part spinning dial of chance. Each player can only use their units that the dial’s arrow lands upon.

There was an instance I got annoyed in Victor’s laboratory. The initial puzzle was fun but the one dealing with the lenses and different colored jewel rooms with tile memorization almost gave me brain aneurysms! Don’t like these tedious sadistic tests of intellect? Skip them! That’s the beauty of the obstacles presented. (Many solutions are so deceptively simple you will over complicate them in your head!)

Combat:

Initially Gabriel’s attacks resemble Kratos’ chain blades. Both are similar so we have to expect based on physics, momentum, power, and speed any weapons with elongated reach and metal links are going to flail about and twirl much in the same manner. If Gabriel blocks at the exact fraction of a second the enemy attacks him, he can do a counter combo. Certain bosses or adversaries do require quick time event button mashing but luckily the system for this is much easier here than it is in games such as God of War.

Not only does Gabriel purchase additional fighting techniques but he also gets two separate gauges for light magic and dark magic. To suck up orbs Onimusha style you must press down the left analog stick for filling light magic and the right analog stick for filling dark magic. When enveloped in the blue light magic aura Gabriella will heal fractions of his own health and recover from being poisoned via doing damage to enemies. The dark magic crimson aura makes him more of a Berserker in which he can dish out a lot more critical high damage strikes yet it doesn’t offer the nice fringe benefit of regeneration.  Monsters are tough and knowing when to switch to what kind of magic can be the difference between survival and death.

Alas, we are forgetting an important detail rooted deeply in the early CV experience. Before any die hard fanatics worry yes, sub weapons make a return! You start with silver daggers, but eventually the ante is upped with holy water, distracting fairies whom bewilder your attackers, and even a terrifying half serpentine demon woman with unsightly scars that emerges from a broken crystal right before she twirls around akin to a hellish hurricane.

Did I forget to mention epic enchanted gear? Cyclone boots make you sprint faster and jump higher. The dark gauntlet allows you to punch heavy obstacles out of your way. Revolutionary? Or does it smack of games you have played before? I’m being contemptuous of course. This dead horse is badly beaten! In retrospect games such as Devil may cry, Darksiders, Bayonetta, and  God of War have a plethora of “epic hero wear”. I imagine it’s difficult coming up with a gimmick that’s 100% unique.

Big baddies: The bosses are joyous to slay. Being a wimp I’m playing through on the squire difficulty but even in lieu of that each formidable foe has a lot of unique attack patterns. You’ll waggle your analog stick to throw eggs back at a giant raven and pluck out the eyeballs of an angry giant using your chain whip. Certain opponents have more than one form or require you rip away their defensive shield or breastplate before delivering the killing blow. Lastly nothing equates to satisfaction quite like driving a wooden timber through the furry gut of a giant were wolf! There are two distinct encounters in which you scale giant animated stone behemoths with your whip’s grappling device having to hang on for dear life as they try to shake you off whilst you pummel their weak points.

Much in the vein of Gabriel’s Enchanted gear the bosses are guilty of those delightful triple A 3D action platformer clichés . Though they do not re-invent the wheel they are satisfying in their gratuity!

Story:
Lords of Shadow’s yarn deceptively wormed its’ way into my heart.  At first Gabriel’s journey to bring his ghostly wife Marie back to life seemed derivative
and that’s putting it nicely. There’s the typical prophecy nonsense. If Gabriel takes the power of the “Lords of Shadow” as his own he can reputedly save mankind which is cut of from the heavens and perform miracles.

Along the way Gabriel is joined by Zobek, a fellow holy knight of his order and Claudia, a mysterious telepathic girl whom is protected by an intimidating metal forged golem. The mythical nature deity Pan is also helping Gabriel but “why” remains to be seen.

I can picture some readers are already rolling their eyes but please stick with it! You’ll be rewarded for the effort. Even if you can already guess the conclusion half way through the adventure it still harbors plenty of surprises all the same.

If LOS was a woman it would be one hawt lil heart breaker!

Presentation:

Robert Carlyle, Patrick Stewart, Natascha McElhone, Emma Ferguson, Sally Knyvette, Richard Ridings, Aleksander Mikik, and Jason Isaacs all do a terrific job with the voice acting. Remember when every 3D Castlevania attempt looked so drab it sucked the inspiration in us completely dry? Forget all that right now! This game “pops” and can stand toe to toe with the greats of the genre without breaking a sweat.

The only offense is many of CV’s familiar tunes are replaced my brand new orchestral compositions. If for whatever reason you’re a fan who adored the older synthesized gothic metal/rock tracks or enjoyed master pieces such as “bloody tears” you should prepare for a subtle snag of disappointment. A music box segment offers a wink to vampire killer in this department but for CV sound buffs it’s a matter of too little too late.

I will testify that the new scores go with the game splendidly. They helped keep me pumped up throughout Gabriel’s harrowing journey!

Personal opinion:

No matter what “opinion” is what a review boils down to. I do not expect my readership to agree with me on all fronts. At the very least I try to keep it real! Anyway, let me summarize my last fleeting thoughts to you on this subject.

Lords of Shadow could very well be contender for my game of the year. Regardless if it has lifted aspects from other 3D iterations in the action genre it does it so marvelously it’s hard not to applaud Mecury Steam loudly for what they’ve done here.

In closing approach this title as a gamer and not as a snob. Want to have fun? Like tight responsive controls, beautiful visuals, an incentive to replay certain missions, and a gripping narrative? If so and assuming you enjoyed God of War, Rondo of blood, and Super Castlevania 4 your next dosage of escapism has arrived in a pretty package!

Pros

1. Great visuals

2. Intricate and viscerally satisfying combat.

3. Sub weapons and both types of magic add a lot more strategy and options during tough battles.

4. Incentive to re-visit older haunts with improved abilities to find hidden paths or treasures.

5. Orchestral epically stirring music gets your adrenaline flowing

6. Top tier voice acting. Not one annoying ham to listen to!

7. Puzzles are usually pleasant diversions but in case they do eat away at your sanity you can skip them.

8. Intriguing overall story telling even if it is slow to build momentum

9. Engaging platforming. Levels are not flat and bland.

10. Mountable beasts and ways to use your whip as much for exploration as it’s used for killing things.

11. Epic grandiose boss battles

Cons

1. Stationary Camera

2. Xbox 360 has two discs instead of one. It’s not an issue for some but others may not share my view.

3. Traditional Castlevania tunes are largely relics left in the past and didn’t carry over into Lord of shadow.

4. Fans with a lot of stock invested in the metroid-vanias could possibly see this as a lifeless GOW rip-off if they don’t put forth the effort to dig deeper.

About -

I am a 44 year old Gamer/Geek/Otaku who has been gaming and watching anime since the late 1970’s. I am a passionate otaku who loves all types of games, anime and comics. I have been writing about games since I was a young man. I am an entertainment retail expert and an avid game collector. You can always find me playing or watching something geek related.

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  1. CharlesNo Gravatar says:

    As a Castlevania addict, I want to play this game. At the same time, I loved the campy nature of the handheld entries, and want to see another one like them. I don’t mind anything being a GoW ripoff (except Star Wars: Force Unleashed, but that might have just been the PS2 version’s fault) as long as I am entertained.

    But this is the most objective review of the game I’ve seen. I want to play it more now that I understand its flaws.

  2. I keep hoping Konami will make a collection compilation disc with Dawn of sorrow,Portrait of ruin, and order of Ecclesia released on the big systems Charles. It’s obvious it would sell like hot cakes!

    Igarashi is important to CV and I hope he gets inspired again too! I have many nostalgic memories tied to SOTN.

    To me LOS is more like a polished Castlevania 4 in 3D than it is God of war but I’m an old timer that’s collected dust. Many people were introduced to the series via SOTN.

  3. I may want to play this..^^

  4. Great look at the game. Also nice points, I’m sure it will shut down the fan boys and KNOW-IT-ALLs of Castlevania. Lord of Shadows is a great game. I’m still an Aria of Sorrow and Symphony of the Night fan though 😛

  5. Jas: It’s going for 40 bones now! Not too shabby!

    Venomous: I do understand most people this generation started with the metroidvanias but some of my favorites include Super Castlevania 4 and Bloodlines. Gamers have to accept CV has never totally been one thing and is truly a creature of ever changing chaos.

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