Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a decent game, whilst not being a classic. It was generally fun to play and offered great value, with its mix of adventure and combat. This sequel comes late in the life of the last generation consoles, but still hopes to offer up top quality gaming.
You once again take on the role of Dracula, who has been awoken many centuries after the ending of the first game. He wants to be released from is immortal life but to do that he must help defeat Satan. Of course, being set many centuries later, allows the developers to change the overall setting, with the game taking place in modern day.
It is a change that does work, as you actually split your time early on between the modern world and sequences of memories in the old world. It does have an interesting story acted by some stand out voice talent, with the likes of Patrick Steward, Robert Carlyle and Natasha McElhone, with also a hello to Jason Isaacs. By having names like this on board, allows things to feel that little more believable when it comes to performances.
That coupled with some excellent design for the various locations, help make this a very impressive looking game, squeezing as much as possible from the aging XBOX 360. However, it isn’t all positive as the game suffers somewhat by being bettered by other games in the genre.
That battle mechanics are competent, but feel a tad frustrating. It is very simple stuff for the most part, with buttons for close and area attacks, jumping, guarding, avoiding, etc and they do work to a degree, however you then find yourself fighting the camera somewhat, which can leave you open to attacks you simply cannot see coming. This wouldn’t be a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact there are bonuses to be had for chaining together attacks without being hit. One slight hit from an enemy will wipe this bonus meter completely and you need to start again. This only becomes a real issue when the screen is overly busy and enemies are coming from all angles. You do get used to it and start just dodging to move rather than naturally moving around enemies, but it shouldn’t be a case of finding a workaround.
There is more to Lords of Shadow 2 than simply fighting enemies, as the game really wants to show off its stunning design. Much of the game is spent moving between areas to get to the enemies you need to take on. This is fine though, as the level design works really well, with some nice visual cues hinting at where you can go, where you can start to climb and make your way around.
Traversing levels on the whole works well, but again has been bettered by other games, which makes it feel a little stale. However it is the stealth type sections that annoy the most, it just doesn’t fit with the character of the game, especially when you are in the modern world sections. The stealth elements do tie with the story somewhat, but it still doesn’t sit right. You are Dracula, the Prince of Darkness, the sneaking by enemies just doesn’t feel like it belongs, it is somewhat of a bad design decision.
Despite the camera issues that come up on occasions, it is the out right fighting where the game does a good job, boss battles especially which test all the abilities you have learned to that point. Getting through these does feel very satisfying and you do feel as though you have accomplished something.
Levels whilst being very linear in terms of story progression are quite vast in terms of their overall size and the amount of hidden areas and items to find. It is how much you want to come away from the main path, which will decide how quickly you can level up and how well prepared you will be for later battles. But compared to the first, it does feel much more open.
The level design teases you with various routes, with visual clues as to something being obtainable away from the main path. What you will often find though is that the areas you want to get to are often locked off until you upgrade or earn a new skill, which is fine as you do get to explore and return to areas throughout the game.
You can collect stones which will increase you health and magic limits, with every five of each giving you the increase for the relevant upgrade. Along side that you earn XP along the way, which can be used to buy new and upgrade moves that start to make Dracula the all powerful immortal he should be. Much of this can be earned simply by playing along the main story, but it is worth looking around to get those upgrades a bit quicker.
There are a ton of upgrades on offer, from Dracula’s personal skills, to weapon upgrades. These are mainly handled using skill trees. What does work, is that you are encouraged to spend, as you earn what you need to buy upgrades at a decent rate and never really feel like you need to grind too much to afford things.
There is nothing technically wrong with Lords of Shadow 2, it is simply a competent game that just plays if safe. The combat does a job, but doesn’t really do anything to set it apart, the design is probably the most standout aspect of the game, with some stunning visuals, however there are a lot of identikit bad guys to fight through across all the levels, which is a bit of a shame.
On the whole Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a game that does the basics well enough, without ever really setting itself apart. It is a nice conclusion to the first game but nothing more, nothing less. Worth picking up if you enjoyed the original, but hardly essential at the same time.