Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on December 10, 2010 in

When Konami first announced this game they set it up as an original IP using the same mythos created throughout the ages of Castlevania.  This game breaks from the nostalgic, side-scrolling, platforming action of the past to dive right smack in your face with a three dimensional third person action adventure that will test your gaming endurance to its very limits.  Hideo Kojima influenced several elements of the game which must have included the epic saga the player experiences throughout the game.  It is a story that takes the player through all manner of beast and mythical creature.  This game has them all from the Titanic monsters of the Greeks to the pure evil Lycans and Vampires from European and Slavic legend.  Along the way there are creatures and minions galore all bent on grinding humanity into dust.   The Lords of Shadow fall into 3 main factions.  There are the Lycans, the Vampires and the Necromancers.  The man who might just unwittingly save humanity from such a horrible fate is one Gabriel Belmont.  He is a Holy Knight in the Brotherhood of the Light.  He has recently suffered the ultimate loss.  The evil Lords of Shadow who have cast the land in darkness made a tragic mistake when they slaughtered Gabriel’s wife Marie.  Gabriel finds out she is now stuck in Limbo and he has made it his mission to save her and bring her back.  This is the personal quest that has brought Gabriel to this savage land inhabited by all manner of evil.  He is looking for the Guardian of the Lake, also known as Pan.  Pan guides him to his next step in his journey.  Gabriel finds out that there is a mask called the God Mask that is said to have the power to resurrect the dead.  He must find all the pieces to the mask to gain the power.  This is the news he has hoped for and soon he is on his way.

The journey is going to be a heroic tale indeed.  This game is 50 levels of non-stop action and adventure.  Gameplay will test most gamers’ abilities to use all the buttons and triggers on their controllers in an epic battle of nonstop hit-hit-dodge-roll-jump-hit-hit action.  There are also opportunities to test a player’s wits in the many puzzles.  But don’t think the puzzles will stop the action for long.  There are many times when the play must fight off minions while puzzle solving.  Other times the player must use several physical abilities to complete the puzzles.  Gabriel still offers ample opportunity to test a player’s platforming prowess.  Gabriel will need to leap, climb, rappel, grapple, and swing his way around the lad to progress through the levels.  There is also plenty of good old fashioned adrenaline-pumping fighting.  His main weapon is a re-vamp (sorry for the pun, couldn’t resist) of the classic Castlevania ‘Vampire Killer’ cross/whip now called the ‘Combat Cross’.  This is one extremely flexible weapon which has the ability to upgrade throughout the game giving Gabriel even more skills.  As the player earns experience points they can use these points or coins to purchase the 40 available combo’s that make the cross an even deadlier weapon.  These attacks range from direct attacks at one enemy to area attacks to battle the hordes of evil minions.  Gabriel also obtains several secondary weapons such as knives, fairies, and holy water that he collects from fallen enemies or destroyed environmental objects (crates, vases, and statues).  At times throughout the game Gabriel will have to subdue a large beast of one sort or another then mount it, riding the beast will give Gabriel abilities to leap farther, climb otherwise un-climbable walls, or use the beast’s strength to pound through obstacles and squash foes.

There are an amazingly large amount of mini-boss and boss battles that will require even greater player finger dexterity and strength.  The player will need to master extensive quick time events to put the finishing touches on the bigger baddies.  This is shown on-screen by flashing the button that needs to be repetitively pushed.  Another event that has one static white circle with a second larger circle slowly shrinking until it is within the first circle.  The player must press any of the four colored buttons as the circle shrinks smaller that the first circle to progress in the event.  If the player misses the timing then the beast throws Gabriel off and he must try again.  These larger battles and lengthy and challenging but the game does show a bit of mercy.  The Larger battles are broken up into rounds for major accomplishments in the battle.  If Gabriel makes it through one of the rounds then the game auto-saves and the player will begin at the start of the new round if they die and not have to start the whole battle over again.  I have to say that this was a blessing for me.

Gabriel also earns greater abilities by defeating some of the bigger bosses in the game.  He earns relics in the form of gear that will allow him to do things such as leap further and hit harder.  There are also lots of collectibles that will help him gain magical abilities.  There are life shards that he can collect to give him more health, shadow shards to give him more powerful combat power, and Light shards that will help him gain health while in combat.  There are also tons of scrolls that help Gabriel piece together the story of those that went before him.  I know that most gamers hate to read but I have to tell you that reading the scrolls was made worthwhile when I found one that made a strong Portal-esque reference to the promise of cake.  Now that is just fun stuff.  These shards and scrolls are found on the bodies of fallen knights.
Along the path to redemption Gabriel has several guides.  One of the main characters is a fellow Brother of the Light by the name of Zobek.  He also guides the player’s journey as narrator.  Sir Patrick Harris gives voice to this character and adds a solemn yet regal tone to the game’s story.  Zobek is definitely a man of mystery that provides very ominous clues to the ultimate outcome.  After first meeting Zobek they decide to split up to cover more ground.  Gabriel begins in the Land of Lycans while Zobek heads into the Land of the Vampires.  Once Gabriel defeats the Lycan Lord he meets up with Zobek again to travel through the Land of Vampires.  Gabriel then proceeds through the Vampires and into the Land of the Necromancers.  There is far too much story in this game to go into here but I will tell you that Gabriel makes his way through all these lands and beyond to end up in the biggest baddest battle of them all against the greatest evil of all, Satan.  Yes they have thrown everything else at our reluctant hero and the end to this tale may be only the beginning.   For more information on that you will need to patiently wait until after the end credits for a hint towards the future.

This is a story filled with twists and turns that prove that the path of light and the path of darkness are not as far apart as we would like to believe.  The Brotherhood he holds dear was, in fact, founded in the darkness he now fights and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It is a story rich and fascinating to watch unravel.  This is a game that is also filled with incredible graphics.  I loved watching the scenes play out.  I have to admit that I loved playing this game but, at times, I loved watching a friend play so that I could really enjoy the detailed environments Konami has created.  There were the little touches such as the snowflakes hitting the game’s ‘camera lens’ and melting off. This adds to the realism and immersion into the game.

This is a very challenging game but one that I found myself wanting to continue.  The story may seem to throw a lot of disjointed mythology at the player but I didn’t mind.  They seem to create enough of a connecting thread through the story to make the characters believable.  Are you ready to take on a quest of epic proportions?  This is one such quest.  The game is so full that the xbox version spans two disks.  But it is a journey rewarded with great story telling and gorgeous graphics.  I for one felt privileged to join Gabriel on this adventure.

A copy of Castlevania:  Lords of Shadows was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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