Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Reviews

AuthorReview
RaajTM
258,205 (156,950)
RaajTM
TA Score for this game: 700
Posted on 13 October 10 at 22:51, Edited on 30 April 12 at 09:30
This review has 50 positive votes and 10 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
First thing you may think when hearing about a 3D Castlevania, from their past games, is "why?" While the 2D formula has worked, especially for Symphony of the Night, it is more of one worded question to a two word question, "why not?" Yes, the previous 3D Castlevania game have had their faults but with what Mercury Steam and Konami/Kojima have cooked up is a game that any Castlevania fan and video game enthusiast should not pass up.

Story
Brief synopsis so nothing shall be spoiled: You assume the role of Gabriel Belmont who was sent by his order, the Brotherhood of Light, to find out just exactly why the forces of evil have become so abundant and tormenting mankind as well as ultimately putting an end to it. Early on your goal is simple, to rid the Earth of the Lords of Shadow and piece together the mask in order to restore peace and bring your beloved back - if it were so simple - are there other unseen forces at work here?

Visuals
I want to say that this is one of the most graphically beautiful games on the 360 today, its absolutely stunning. I am by means no graphics maniac but I was amazed that the Xbox can even do visuals to this scale. The frame rate in some areas such as dark caves with light may suffer a tad, but it is a minor nuisance compared to the rest of the game. There is a lot of attention to detail, especially on the main protagonist Gabriel Belmont. Mostly the gear he holds you can see in crisp detail as well as his battle cross and armor. Other characters aren't so much detailed they seem but rightly so as you see Gabriel more often. Enemies share the same detail, all of them seem re-invisioned from the terrible monsters you may have grown up to know. The environments range from the massive to the quaint, either way you put it you never seem to see the same area more than once. This Castlevania doesn't seclude you to just one main castle, however you are treated to a whole country. Beautifully haunting architecture and environments fill this game making the storytelling and setting seemingly come to life.

Gameplay
The gameplay has been a wonderful mix of action, problem solving, and exploration. While their isn't much with exploration as in previous Castlevania titles, there are still plenty to whet your appetite here. There are areas that usually have more than one path that leads to your goal so you may find yourself backtracking or checking out other areas for some hidden power ups you previously weren't accessible to. The great thing about this is that if you do feel like you passed something up, you are given the opportunity at any time to replay any level within the chapters. With that said, the game is broken up into chapters each have various levels in which you complete it. They can range from numerous levels, such as nine in Chapter II, to just a couple within a single chapter, Chapter III only has two levels.

The problem/puzzle solving is great fun as well. For me, some required some thinking or just plain luck (yes I admit, luck). While you have a little hints from scrolls laying about the levels you are also given the opportunity to skip the thinking part and have the answer or access to the puzzle just by choosing so, however you won't be awarded with EXP.

Boss battles are numerous and FUN. They can range from the incredibly easy to just plain frustrating. I am just so happy to see this amount of bosses, mainly sub-bosses around in a game. Just another thing about LoS is that it gets straight to the point and doesn't beat around the bush for long.

Also, this may not seem major but I thought it to be charming. during the game at certain parts when you go to the pause screen it brings up a book and has a little snippet of a caption at the screen you paused to fill you in on just what the current situation is. Nice little touch.

Combat
The combat feels fluid, as I stated before, if you have played God of War you'll feel at home. There are combos and button sequences to perform advanced combos to lash out on enemies. There are still the occasional button mashing that may be prompted on screen during different occasions but they have also somewhat reworked QTEs (quick time events) so you aren't pressing buttons in sequence a la God of War. They have replaced them with two rings in which you have to press any button at a certain time in which the outer ring intersects or flashes within in the inner second ring. It took me awhile for me to get this in synced but once you understand it, it can be a piece of cake. The combos can be bought through EXP earned by dealing with enemies and solving puzzles.

The combos themselves on the other hand, I felt like they were quite numerous. Although unique and destructive in their own way I felt like there were quite a few that I needed to keep the menu open just so I could remember how to pull them off. If you are like me, you will probably stick to just a handful of maneuvers at anytime, but the option to pull off more is always there. Just felt really rough to have all of these moves in your arsenal to even remember how to pull all of them off without mashing buttons together. With that said, there are a few moves you do need to purchase in order to work around certain puzzles. I recall finally purchasing a combo that was actually needed in the next level I was playing, so use your points wisely!

There is still the use of magic and items, just not the way they were used in the past. First off, you have two types of magic, Light and Shadow, you can tap into at anytime granted you have enough orbs collected to have your magic meters filled. If anyone has played the Onimusha games, absorbing the orbs is almost the same in this sense. You need to press in either or both the Left/Right to consume the orbs for magic to their corresponding meters. Light Magic generally help regain health while attacking enemies while active, while Shadow Magic has a significant damage increase. The magic meter will decrease while in use so it is important to use them sparingly when needed. With that said, you can collect orbs when defeating enemies without the magic activated, through statues scattered about levels similar to ones that refill your health, and by performing well in combat by performing combos, blocking attacks, and not being attacked. Magic isn't always needed for combat as it helps get through certain puzzles or barriers as well.

For the items, you have four distinct items that you can use at anytime given you have them stocked; silver daggers which are tossed, usually deal more damage to lycan werewolf creatures. The dark crystal which is handy in a pinch when all four shards are collected that can easily defeat all enemies on screen at the same time - and also damage certain bosses decently. Then there are fairies which can aid you in keeping enemies dazed or "preoccupied" for a bit while dealing with groups. And finally, holy water, when thrown creates a damage radius that will hurt most zombie and vampire creatures alike. All of these items can be used in other ways while you have Light or Shadow Magic activated, for example - the holy water, when used during Light Magic activation can form a barrier around you as well as damage enemies around you when tossed. Items can be dropped by enemies, satchels laying about levels, or breaking objects around the level.

Music/Voice Work
The music in LoS is phenomenal. From the eerie to the most epic scores you've probably ever heard. Especially during the boss battles, it really immerses you into the game and that is just a huge plus for me. Voice acting is superb, although most of the story is told out while playing it, some of the story is told from another characters point of view before each level. When the next level loads up, it is told to you as if it were a book, you have narration from Patrick Stewart who plays a fellow Brotherhood of Light member in the game.

To put it briefly, the voice work is solid. It is never overdone or over played - it is just right. In fact I found myself waiting to begin levels instead of continuing I'd wait while Mister Stewart finished up his narration, although you could most likely read it before he finishes it - I just had to hear it.

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Conclusion
I am a Castlevania noob and I am not afraid to admit it. However you do not have to be an absolute Castlevania fan to enjoy this new title, Lords of Shadow holds its own firmly. People may consider it a God of War ripoff and they have a point to that, but just how exactly are you going to portray a Castlevania game in the 3D format in today's generation. There a lot of similarities and a lot of differences in which I was glad to see. Even if you do compare it to a God of War game, is that really a bad thing? God of War series has been great and if you are into those games as well, you'll feel at home with LoS.

My only gripes about the game is that their are certain camera angles especially during fighting that seem award. The camera is fixed for the most part and even while platforming you might make a mistake in jumping to an area that you are not meant to jump or you are repealing down the side of a building an you go to far and just fall. Thankfully it'll restart you where you goofed with some of your health damaged as a penalty. Lastly, being a novice to Castlevania, if you like challenges then is so great for you. I found the difficulty curve to be somewhat insane at times even on Normal, but as I progressed and my life and magic bars grew (as well as my combat prowess) it seemed the difficulty was spot on.

The story is pretty lengthy and is two discs worth of content for the Xbox. You should be able to get 40+ hours out of the game if you opt to do most of the challenges and obtain every item you could possibly collect, there is a lot to backtrack and do. The ending cinematic wanted me craving more, without spoiling much, it leaves the game pretty open ended and in a setting I haven't seen in a Castlevania before. The difficulty is just right for me, enough to get by and enough that it poses a challenge.

So again, Castlevania fans and even those who aren't into the series I think will enjoy and be surprised, I certainly was. Give it a try if you haven't already.

Stars
4.5 out of 5

DLC
- Reverie
N/A
- Resurrection
N/A
Will try and update once DLC is released and played through it.

Pros:
+ Lengthy single player game, just about 40+ hours if you opt to unlock everything the game throws at you
+ Beautiful visuals and characters
+ Great blend of storytelling, action, combat, puzzles, and exploration
+ Voice works is done very well, Patrick Stewart anyone?
+ Bosses, so many bosses
+ Music works well with the game, epicness
+ Excellent ending, leaves you with that wow factor

Cons:
- Fixed camera can sometimes be bothersome more than helpful
- Often times you may not see where you need to go next and may jump into the bottomless abyss
- Platforming elements may throw you off a bit in certain places requiring a lot of do overs
- If you are an achievement hunter, this game is going to have you work for them - not always a bad thing
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Introduction
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a 3rd-person action-adventure title from Konami. Mercury Steam handled its development, while Hideo Kojima, of Metal Gear Solid fame, also contributed substantially to its creation. LoS is a 3D adaptation of the 2D side-scrolling titles from the NES days. The Xbox 360 version of the game is spread across two discs, attributable primarily to the vast amounts of FMV data contained within.

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Story
Rest assured: those unfamiliar with Castlevania lore will have no trouble getting entranced in Lord of Shadows' dark, armageddon-themed story, as this is a stand-alone plot. I will not spoil any story details, but as with any "end of days" scenario, the main character (Gabriel) is tasked with halting the demise of the human race, and is further motivated by reasons which will be made clear from the very first custscene. The story served as a memorable companion to the gameplay, and is lightyears ahead of Ninja Gaiden in this regard.

Gameplay
Combat, the core of the experience, is intense, fluid, hardcore and, ultimately, satisfying. Those familiar with Ninja Gaiden controls will feel right at home here, as they are nearly identical. All of the usual suspects are present, including a chain-style blade, magic, and unique secondary weapons. The depth of the system feels just right. Continuous hits without taking damage fills your focus meter, after which all subsequent hits release magic energy. Blocking is a key element, as it more quickly fills your focus meter, and timing it right leads to devastating counterattacks. The contrast between light and shadow magic creates unique combat strategies, as they can be combined with either your primary or your secondary weapons for different attacks. The combos are not only varied, but easy to memorize. My personal favorite goes to the Flame Cutter, in which Gabriel shoots out blades of fire while Shadow Magic is active. The game is also puzzle-heavy in some levels. While most are not too difficult to decode, you are given the option to "unlock the solution" if your sanity is tested.

As might be expected with a title of this length, some levels are less enjoyable than others. A couple of the boss battles in particular are unnecessarily tricky, resulting in mild frustration and tedium. Most of the boss battles are highly satisfying, however, and were my favorite parts of the game. In addition, unlike others in this genre, LoS uses a fixed camera perspective. While this sounds negative on paper, it accentuates the art direction and I only found it to be a hindrance in a few battles and platforming sections.

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Regarding difficulty, LoS can be challenging in the beginning, especially for genre novices. However, as you level up Gabriel with more health, magic, and combos, the game gets progressively easier. Providing some context may help readers better assess its difficulty. In my opinion, Ninja Gaiden II sits at the top of the genre in terms of sheer challenge, and LoS is decidedly more forgiving. Persistent checkpoints and a combat-specific strategy to regain health explain why. Make no mistake: LoS is a tough game (especially on the highest difficulty); it's just not as challenging as the Ninja Gaiden series.

Visuals
In the past, there has been one title released each year which serves to sustain my faith in current-gen console visuals. Dead Space was that title in 2008, Dirt 2 in 2009, and for 2010, it's without a doubt LoS. The environments are highly stylized, and many, jaw-dropping, particularly the outdoor enviros. Mercury Steam and Kojima did a superb job of creating a sense of scale, as the camera sometimes zooms far out from the player in non-combat sections and the backgrounds are alluringly detailed. The lighting is natural and realistic in both daytime and nighttime levels. Additionally, even though the single player is quite long, I never noticed any recycled set pieces as is the case with many games. Gamers can especially look forward to the Vampire Castle, an iconic set piece of the Castlevania series.

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Animation is fluid, from combat to the cinematics that connect chapters and significant events. Even hair texturing, one of the traditionally most difficult elements to animate, is handled very convincingly here. This is critical, as there are over 7.5 GB of pre-rendered FMV across the two discs. The many custscenes look great and play out in an often fantastic fusion of gore, brutality, and flair. Clearly, they rival those of the Ninja Gaiden series. Accordingly, the many bosses in the game are both proportionally impressive and painstakingly detailed. From a visual fidelity standpoint, this is easily one of the best the 360 has to offer and is definitely one game you'll want to show off to your friends on your HDTV.

Technical Specs: native 720p, V-synced to 30 frame/s (both platforms)

Audio
Thankfully, the audio production values are equally as impressive as the visuals. The game was scored using a 120-piece orchestra. What results is an engaging and sweeping musical backdrop that not only provides authenticity to the sound but, more importantly, contributes to the "epic" feel of the story. The soundtrack was included in the limited edition of the game, but can also be found online.

The voicework is about as good as it gets. Along with quality voice talent, the main thing I appreciated is that dialog is not clichéd or corny. Each line spoken is convincing and powerful. The narration prior to each chapter, handled by Patrick Stewart of X-Men and Star Trek fame, is a high point that should not be skipped by players. They really motivate you for the upcoming chapter.

Replay Value
With 12 chapters spanning two DVD-9 discs, the first playthrough took me around 20 hours (without skipping cutscenes). After you complete the story once, trials for each level are unlocked, along with Paladin (the highest) difficulty. It will likely take another 20 hours or more to complete all of these levels again to do the trials and complete on Paladin.

Achievements
The achievement list involves chapter completion, collectibles, trials, and the four difficulties. Since Paladin is only unlocked subsequent to your first playthrough, it takes a minimum of two playthroughs to complete this title. Simplifying all of this is the presence of a level select option, which allows you to attempt individual trials repeatedly. Once again, the difficulty of the achievements is ultimately dependent on how talented you are at this genre. If you've mastered Ninja Gaiden and other similar titles, this one should not be prohibitively difficult. That said, this game is by no means easy.

Conclusion
If not already apparent, I was enthralled with Lords of Shadow. From the immaculate production values, memorable characters, bosses, and cutscenes, gorgeously striking visuals, enticing score, and addictive gameplay, I found it hard to put down. The game offers a nearly perfect balance of difficulty throughout the campaign, and should be accessible to genre novices as well as the more hardcore. Despite a scarce few frustrating moments involving questionable design choices, this is a remarkably near perfect action-adventure game. While I think this should be in every 360 owner’s collection, if you're a fan of this genre, it's undoubtedly a must-own title.

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[As an aside, I'd like to point out that I avoid the practice of assessing a particular piece of media in terms of originality. Nothing is truly original anymore (whether it be music, film, or interactive media), as all concepts are inspired by ones before. Here, the developers obviously drew inspiration from other reputable series such as God of War, Ninja Gaiden, and Assassin's Creed. What's principally important, however, is how enjoyable the experience is, and the combination of inspirations on offer in LoS is exceptionally implemented.]
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Robster80
281,253 (142,805)
Robster80
TA Score for this game: 3,062
Posted on 01 May 11 at 01:10
This review has 12 positive votes and 3 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Castlevania is, at best, a family story - the Belmont Family story. Naturally, sometimes teh story strays to the "cousins" of the family, but at its heart, it is about the Belmont Family, and its relation to the supernatural and the nocturnal. Especially with Dracula.

Lords of Shadow breaks that mold - a new beginning, a new direction...

And it paid off.

Story
In the 11th Century, humans are on the verge of being snuffed out by the creatures of the night - Werewolves, Vampires, Ghouls, Goblins (Oh my!). Humans turn to the Chruch and to God for help, for a crutch to lean on... but the connection between Earth and Heaven has been severed, leaving the humans to suffer their fate.

Enter Gabriel Belmont, a "holy warrior" seeking a way to restore the connection to the Heavens. Guided by allies and a thirst for avenging his dead wife, he embarks on a quest to defeat the three Lords of Shadow, the rulers of the three most powerful monster classes dominating the Creatures of the Night - Lycanthropes, Vampires, and Necromancers

Told in twelve chapters, Gabriel's quest is narrated by a man named Zobek (Voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart) as his journeys take him across Europe to each of the Lords of Shadows' territories. One by one, his enemies fall by his hands, bringing him closer and closer to his goal...

Or someone else's goal...

Graphics
Beautiful! Breathtaking! The designers and programmers went all-out with the graphics of this game, from the landscape and the buildings' exteriors and interiors. Even the weather and how the scenry affects the "camera." You actually see frost or waterdroplets on the camera as you play the levels.

When you first see the castle at the end of Chapter Five, it is shown beautifully even at a distance. In Chapter Eight, Gabriel runs along a GIANT chain betwen oen of the castle towers to a middle platform/room, and then further along to the central tower. ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!

Gameplay
After several attempts at 3D gameplay for the Castlevania series (For the N64 and the PS2), Lords of Shadow shows that the formula does work. Combos can be unlocked by spending experience points, and while there are a lot of combos to unlock and memorize, they add to the kickbutt-ness of the game. Some combos are necessary to unlock parts of the stages to allow progression.

Puzzles and challenges provide an intellectual, or sometimes aggitated, struggle during the story progression. Some puzzles requre shifting platforms or moving objects into proper alignment. Others require striking objects simultaneously or pulling switches and running quickly to timed doorways. After each stage is completed, a trial is unlocked, where the player can replay the stage in order to try their hand at these trials.

The game can be set at four different difficulty settings: Squire, Warrior, Knight, and Paladin (from weakest to hardest).

Four subweapons are unlocked during the game, giving the player additional methods of dealing with enemies. Silver daggers and vials of holy water deal damage to enemies while faeries are used t distract and stun enemies, allowing the player to attack without immediate retaliation. The Dark Crystal, when successfully assembled from four fragments, can be used to eradicate all enemies on teh screen, or weaken most midboss or boss characters. Gathering these items, however, can become tedious as the randomization of items is varied; though dark crystal fragments can sometimes be the hardest of the four to obtain.

The player is also able to utilize two forms of magics - Light and Shadow. Light Magic emits a blue aura arund teh player and striking enemies regain health. Shadow Magic creates a red aura, and deals out extra damage. Both magics are also used in puzzles, where the player needs to tough certain objects with either magics to unlock doorways.

At certain points in the game, a timed "event" occurs, where the player must either repeatedly press a button when the coresponding icon appears on the screen, and/or watch as an outer circle of light contracts around and inside a smaller circle before pressing any button to sucessfully execute a move upon an enemy. Failure to do these sequences results in eitehr an enemy recovering health or killng the player.

While the controls sometimes can be difficult, and the timed events frustrating if a beginner doesn't know what exactly to do, they are simplistic enough for a player to become accustomed with.

Overall
Lords of Shadow is an enjoyable and challenging game, and a moving story. Words, though, cannot truly do this game justice; it is highly recommended.
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Balsin Fase
158,706 (104,053)
Balsin Fase
TA Score for this game: 2,419
Posted on 01 August 11 at 21:15
This review has 6 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Once you boot the game up and start working your way through the long, long first few chapters, schlepping through the woods for hours on end, you start to pick at the game. The controls when you’re climbing seem sloppy and overly complicated. The combat feels delayed, requiring you to dodge what feels like a half-second too early compared to every other game. It almost seems like the developers were going out of their way to depress you, building another lacklustre title in 3D Castlevania history.

I won’t lie. Those first two chapters didn’t quite make me hate the game, but they came really close. If anything can be said about this game, it’s that it starts of weak. The visuals are still amazing, but in that first little bit, you’re learning the new things they added to the combat to keep it fresh, and you’re fighting werewolves. Over. And over. And over. They are mixed in with goblins and trolls here and there, but for the most part, you’re just fighting these dull werewolves.

My problem wasn’t so much with the game as it was with my long history with Castlevania. I’ve been playing these since I was in junior high, so I come to the table with a bit of an expectation. It’s always been about the decrepit castles, haunted mansions, mist-filled graveyards, and poisonous swamps, and when I was met with a sunny forest, I guess I didn’t know what to do. Sure, I was fighting creepy monsters, and the visual were gorgeous, but I guess there just wasn’t enough dark and dreary to get me into the horror feel of the game.

That will come, though. Once you get to the castle, things pick up and never stop. This game’s combat will seem familiar to anyone who played the God of War series, or to a lesser extent the PS2-era Castlevanias. The difference is in that they’ve added two meters for you to charge, one for healing yourself as you hit creatures, and one that doubles damage. As you beat on enemies without taking a hit, you gain orbs that you can use to fill one or the other. For starters, this encourages players, even on lower difficulties, to avoid taking hits to get more orbs. It also forces the player to keep those meters in mind based on how they’re doing, or to take risks in combat. You can try to get healing orbs to protect yourself, or go full-on power and plow your way through the enemies so you don’t need to heal. It’s up to you. This ability to fuss with combat on the fly also gave the developers a chance to deal a little bit more damage to you than they might otherwise. Again, even on easy, there are a lot of monsters that can take you apart in a handful of hits, and while checkpoints are generous, you will be stuck at one until you improve your plan.

As for the weird dodging, the timing is off for a reason. Enemies almost always telegraph that they are attacking, and that’s the moment the developers want you to get out of the way, or preferably do a perfect guard. If you block just as the enemy is hitting you, it stuns the monster and gives you a huge amount of orbs if the meter is full. It’s the way to go on higher difficulties, and is actually a bit easier to do than it should be because of the delay that they put in. They were trying to help. It provides a lot of variety in the combat that used to feel boring, and keeps you adjusting your tactics s you play.

One shame, and it’s a big one for this series, is the music. It’s big, sweeping orchestral tunes are a good fit for the game, but they seem to be far more leaning toward the sort of thing you’d see in a Lord of the Rings game. They skew toward fantasy, lacking that creepy, unsettling gothic sound they used to. The music is good, though, and I did enjoy it, but it just didn’t feel like a good fit for the Castlevania universe. No one will be remixing any of these tunes for a Castlevania game down the road.

The place where this game makes up for any wrong is in the visuals. This is a stunning game, and even when I didn’t really like it, I had to be amazed with some of the vistas they designed. Once you walk up to the castle for the first time, your breath will be taken away, especially on a big tv. The ruins, huge forests, and statue-filled castle corridors will constantly impress you. The castle is by far the best part, giving you everything you could hope for in a Castlevania. I would have been happy if the whole game took place there.

If you give it time, this game will amaze you. It’s amazing visuals and grasp of combat will keep you interested in seeing the story to the end. As for the shaky grasp on the Castlevania’s horror history, don’t forget that this is their first outing. They tried to add something to the formula, and while I didn’t feel that it worked, just the castle section alone tells me that the series is in good hands. If you love this series, go play it.
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Zombiephobia
389,320 (258,330)
Zombiephobia
TA Score for this game: 932
Posted on 30 May 11 at 02:52
This review has 5 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
I've got to say that I did not go into Castlevania: Lords of Shadow with much hope of it being any good, but about 15 mins in I was astounded by the gameplay, graphics, story, voice acting, and puzzles. I've played many Castlevania games through the years (from the original on NES and the awesome Super Castlevania IV to the superb Symphony of the Night and the modern DS iterations). As a 3D successor to these side scrolling opuses, Castlevania: LoS captures the essence of the older titles while polishing the story and character development to a shine. I rented this title but am convinced to pick this up at retail at full price.

The story follows Gabriel Belmont on his quest to rid the world of the Lords of Shadow, to gain their powers and possibly save his one true love who was killed by the LoS minions. Along the way he encounters many monsters from Goblins, Orcs, Werewolves, Zombies, and Vampires to Titans and Satan himself. The chapters are many and varied with numerous collectibles, upgrades, and locales. Multiple play throughs are encouraged as all collectibles cannot be obtained until later powers are unlocked.

The graphics are really well done with glistening landscapes and detailed character models. On my LED flatscreen, I did notice some jaggies when the action spend up but for the most part the framerate is solid. The controls are easy to pickup and takes a short time to master. Powers are introduced gradually and in true castlevania style, they are used immediately to solve puzzles in the surrounding area.

The achievements are nothing special. The usual collectible ones along with the beat X level on X difficulty. The difficulty achievements are stackable which is always a welcome sight. The level trials add some variety to the replay level requirements and they add extra achievement points as well.

I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes a good action title that has a polished story, varied gameplay and graphics, with a dash of platforming and puzzle solving.


Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 8.5/10
Controls: 8/10
Achievements: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
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B1ue Rising
This gamer has had their achievements removed from the site
B1ue Rising
Posted on 16 October 10 at 22:54
This review has 2 positive votes and 2 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Before we head into this review I will warn you that those who are looking for the glory times of an age old Castlevania adventure such as Symphony of the Night will be slightly disappointed in Lords of Shadow however I’d suggest you head into this as a whole new world and a brand new take on the age old classic.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow follows the story of Gabriel Belmont as he sets off on his journey to eliminate the Lords of Shadow in order to gain the power to hopefully resurrect his lost love while reconnecting the earth with the heavens.

The combat in Lords of Shadow is incredibly solid and never disappoints, usually in a game like this the combat would take a back seat to the cinematic nature of the game. Luckily MercurySteam have spent a lot of time and effort with the combat with a mixture of both close combat and focused attacks combined with wide area crowd control it never feels stale. You may also use either type of attack in a combo allowing for a pretty crazy number of combos that can be pulled off and with new combos being added as you progress you will rarely see the same animation twice, unless of course you want to.

The game also implements a magic system using both light and shadow magic, firstly light magic is used to replenish health, when activated each hit you land on an enemy will replenish your health slightly. Shadow magic allows you to deal more damage to enemies with each strike however magic can only be replenished by collecting orbs from enemies and choosing whether you wish to replenish your light or shadow magic or by locating magic fonts scattered throughout the levels. Due to the rationed nature of magic a certain amount of tactics are involved such as weather to sacrifice some damage for health or risk death in order to finish a boss of more quickly.

Distractions are a big problem in Castlevania for instance against the giant titans that this game calls bosses, sure they look amazing and beautiful but your character is so small meaning you have to concentrate on him a lot which leads you to miss a lot of what is going on around you and also makes it very hard to truly appreciate just how amazing the boss you are fighting is. The environments are also perfectly rendered and are so varied from swamp lands to graveyards, however again much of this is lost on you due to the speed at which you are rushed through areas it’s like a whistle stop tour you only get to stay in each area for a limited time leaving a lot to take in and a lot missed.

This also leads to another problem and that is that the game feels slightly to segmented it’s almost like it has been stripped down into bitesized chunks with each area only lasing around 10 minutes before you are sent off to another new and completely different land before you have even had a chance to truly absorb the wonders of your current level, which really takes away from a game that is so beautiful and well designed.

However don’t let the few complaints that I have brought up about the game put you off by any means, the combat and story easily counter balance these little issues. For such a linear world there is more than enough to make it appear fresh and new with each area and keep your interest peaked throughout. Again if you are a pure Castlevania fan looking for the next stage in the series then this may not be the game for you but if you are heading into this with fresh eyes and you are looking for an incredibly solid and well-designed game then this is a must buy for you.
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