Review: Castlevania Lords of Shadow (4.75 stars)

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Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Of course I couldn’t miss a chance to get the Castlevania game for PS3. I still remember quite vividly playing the Vampire Killer on MSX 2 system, which at the time was quite impressive (music and all), and here trailers also looked quite promising (plus I am done with the God of War III and Dante’s Inferno, both of which I also liked).

Well, Konami didn’t disappoint. Views and landscapes are simply superb. I loved the winter scenes the most, with blotches of snow melting on the screen. And while Gabriel’s hair certainly exhibit somewhat odd feather-like behavior from time to time, both good and bad characters are quite detailed, move naturally and don’t show that odd triangular surfacing that was so common just a little while ago. Cutscenes are pretty too, and add a bit of a show to the progress.

Reviewer from Arstechnica hated Patrick Stewart’s “droning”, but I find pieces of story Zobeck’s telling before each chapter sufficiently entertaining, though predictable at times. Certainly helps getting over the loading time.

Fighting system, while “somewhat resembling” that of GOW III is a bit different. I can’t quite get a hang of blocking enemy hits, but that’s probably because I’m a klutz (dodging is much easier). While there are tons and tons of combos, most of them involve holding one or the other button and frankly aren’t very much necessary, basic few hits are good enough.

I liked that magic allows you to restore the health or doing more damage (plus some combos have an expanded impact when blue or red magic is active, as well as some puzzles require you to activate the correct magic). Searching for stones for amulet is a bit of a chore, and magical skills won’t just improve over time as you’ve defeated more monsters, which is not very convenient.

What’s a bit disappointing, is that levels are pretty much linear and forward-only and there’s no way to control the camera. If you’ve noticed a glimmer of some artifact a bit too late, the only option is to re-do the whole level again, though given that upgraded skills usually open new spots (break the wall here, push a statue there) it may be worth re-doing. Due to fixed camera I even developed a bit of a habit to run around the “obviously empty-looking” spots to just make sure there’s nothing hidden by an odd camera angle.

Bosses present enough of a challenge to slow you down for a bit, but generally aren’t very hard to kill on easy setting, which is good. I want to have some fun and see where the story goes, not spend 3 hours killing same monster over and over again. I know some people are complaining that games are getting easier and less challenging, but that’s what the “hard” and “ultra hard” settings are for. I’m fine with being able to mash my way through the levels without spending too much time figuring out the “perfect” sequence of jumps/rolls and hits.

Somewhat predictable outcome of a final battle is followed by the titles and then a head-scratcher of a finale. I don’t know what to think of it, though perhaps we will find out soon enough in the sequel. I’ll gladly put it on pre-order as soon as Konami will announce it.

Overall 4.75 stars, which I am happy to round up to 5 stars. A fun game to play.

p.s. the music box plays tune from the Vampire Killer, and some of the scrolls are poking fun at other games. I guess I need to read those heaps of scrolls thrown around the levels more carefully…

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