Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Reviews

  • JAGERMEISTER TXJAGERMEISTER TX559,623
    15 Aug 2015
    17 1 0
    I do not normally write reviews for games, as I don't really have the time to sit down and word them out well enough to do them justice. However, given that this game has only one other review which seems to be on a witch hunt to crucify this game, I would like to offer my opinion and review.

    A TLDR version will be at the end showing my summary if you wish to skip to the end.

    So, where to begin...

    ***Spoiler Alert*** (I will try to keep this to a minimum.)

    Response to the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow game was mostly positive. In my opinion the two most important things that game did was 1.) it rebooted and created a fresh new story and background for the Belmont Clan and Dracula which was sorely needed, and 2.) in my opinion this was the first 3D Castlevania game that was actually done well. The first great game in the series since Symphony of the Night. The game was great, but was not without its flaws, such as a static camera, a lot of Quick Time Events, and having no sort of openness. It was very linear. Nevertheless I enjoyed it greatly and it is one of my favorites games of that time.

    Moving on...

    Lords of Shadow 2 in my personal opinion fixed a lot of the problems of the first game, but also brought with it its own problems. There was no longer a fixed camera frustrated you at every turn and the world was greatly expanded upon, at least it feels like it anyways. The story of Lords of Shadow 2 is still linear. You go from one place to the next in a specific order to progress the plot.

    There is still only one real path to approaching the game, however, the scale of the castle provides a larger setting to explore and the atmosphere makes the game feel a lot larger than it is. The game world is a lot more open as you can now free roam explore and all parts of the castle are connected and not broken down into chapters like the previous game, making the game feel a lot more fluid in how you transition from one area to another.

    Climbing and scaling objects makes its way over from the first game. I find the amount of climbing to be a nice balance to the game and not that big of a detour from anything. It's placed in areas where it makes sense and adds a nice feeling of size and atmosphere to the game. It's also a lot easier this time around by allowing you to highlight the handholds and also being able to fully rotate your camera. It's there to convey size and scale of the environment and to break up the boring scenario of endless hallways and streets.

    As others have complained about, there are stealth sections to the game that feel relatively weak compared to the rest of the game. These sections were probably intended to provide some sort of break from the mindless killing and make you "think" your way through, but in all honesty it pretty much does nothing but detracts you from the game. Luckily these sections only comprise a small part of the game.

    The combat in Lords of Shadow 2 is tight and responsive, with the combo system being very crisp and visually appealing. As with the first game there are lots of combos you can unlock and upgrade. You are given 3 weapons this time around. You have the Shadow Whip which is the main and default weapon of the game. The Void Sword replaces the Light Magic feature of the first game and is used similarly to heal Dracula. The Chaos Claws replace the Shadow Magic feature of the first game and provide stronger attack which specialize in breaking enemy shields/guard.

    By changing the magic system of the first game and creating the new weapons in my opinion gives the combat a fresh change and presents to you more options to support your own play style. It also looks a hell of a lot cooler visually now.

    There were only two real issues I found with the combat in this game, one of which is probably just my own issue and that is enemies being able to start attacking you even when you're in the middle of beating their ass with a combo. For me that created a problem of not being able to see their attack in order to counter and thus breaking my focus. Perhaps that's just me sucking as a player. Moving on. The other complaint which others have shared is the presence of enemies using guns during the modern time period. The guns pretty much allow the enemy to wreck your focus during combat and provide nothing more than a nuisance to your life.

    The story of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 picks up more or less exactly where the first game ended. Before you actually take control you are presented a cut scene recap of the events from Lords of Shadow 1 and Mirror of Fate. This allows you to refresh your memory of the first game and also helps to bridge the games without the need to play Mirror of Fate.

    If you recall the post credit ending of the first game you know that Zobek seeks out and finds a weakened Gabriel Belmont, now Dracula, who has been in hiding. Zobek is looking to employ Dracula in order to stop Satan's acolytes from summoning him in return for ending his immortal suffering. This presents you with the overarching plot of the game. Regain your strength and stop Satan and find peace in death.

    The plot of the game takes place during two time periods. The medieval period, which takes place within Dracula's castle, and the modern time period, which takes place within the city that has been built upon the ruins of where the castle used to be. During your mission in the modern world you will be pulled back into your castle during the past.

    During these periods in the past is when the humanity of Dracula is greatly reflected in his encounters with his family. These moments really make you feel bad for Gabriel and what has happened to him and his family. Dracula's castle is directly linked to him in that its power is linked to the life of Dracula himself, therefore it is constantly working against him in order to preserve itself and stop him from seeking out his desired death.

    During your time in the past is when you acquire your secondary weapons and most of Draculas former strength as well as encountering most of the bosses in the game. The architecture of the castle is amazing and beautiful. I cannot speak as highly of the modern time period environment.

    The city environment looks rushed and bland, lacking any real kind of depth until you get to the areas where you're transitioning from one area of the city to the other.

    Lords of Shadow 2 sports a nice soundtrack that compliments the tone and atmosphere of the game.

    Overall I greatly enjoy this game and can look past its flaws and find happiness in playing it more so than regret. :-)

    TLDR - In summary -

    Story - 5 / 5

    I love the story. It's one of tragedy and the hope of finding peace and maybe a measure of redemption. Gabriel's story is definitely heart wrenching if you have any compassion as a human being. I couldn't help but feel bad for the poor guy, even as Dracula, during his encounters with his wife and son. This series provides the only real and compelling story in Castlevania history in my opinion. The overall story is about Gabriel/Dracula as a man and everything else is simply a foundation for it.

    Graphics - 3.5 / 5
    The atmosphere and design of the castle is amazing and beautiful. It looks exactly how a Castlevania should look if it were real. What ruins the Graphics score for me is how boring and bland the modern time environments are. If only the developers had shown the same amount of time and care to this time piece as they did the castle. Still, whenever you're playing during a castle section, you can't help but love it and feel immersed in it.

    Audio - 4 / 5
    Fits the game very well and definitely sets the atmosphere.

    Mechanics - 3.5 / 5
    The combat is near perfect. The weapons and combos are spot on. Gun weapons are the only stain on the combat score. Also where this game suffers is from the stealth sections and the occasional glitch in the game (but honestly, what game nowadays doesn't have glitches) such as an object not allowing you to interact with it when it should and forcing you to restart the checkpoint to fix it. The climbing is spot on.

    Achievements - Not a Factor
    Simple and generic. Only one missable. The relaxed achievement list allows you to enjoy the game without having to really worry much about the achievements.

    In closing, I feel this game was a nice addition to the Lords of Shadow series and I'm sad to see Gabriel's chapter in Castlevania come to an end. ;-(
    4.0
  • Danny Dubs 86Danny Dubs 861,242,620
    18 Mar 2014 18 Mar 2014
    11 22 2
    Originally posted on my blog at http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/

    The Castlevania franchise is one of the oldest and most beloved series in gaming, and the newest entry, Lords of Shadow 2, promises to build on its predecessor's success as a solid 3D action-adventure game. Sadly, the latest excursion into the Belmonts' world falls short due to a series of weird plot and gameplay features. The most frustrating issue is that there seems to be an awesome game hiding behind this awkward collection of confusing elements. Here's why:

    NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the original Lords of Shadow game. I will try to keep those spoilers as vague as possible, but it would be impossible to describe my disappointment with this game's storyline without including some specific details of the ongoing plot.

    Lords of Shadow 2 is unique among Castlevania games, as the main player character is Dracula himself. During the game's opening tutorial, you get a chance to explore Dracula's powers while defending his castle.
    While it's cool to see (and control!) Dracula at his most badass right off the bat, the tutorial gives the first hints of something amiss with the overall gamplay. The combat is fluid and a lot of fun, emphasizing the use of a whip as in the original Lords of Shadow, with a number of different ways to dispatch your foes.

    The frustrating part is the surprising emphasis on Prince of Persia-style climbing: you will spend a large chunk of this game jumping from handhold to handhold, and you'll generally do it just to fill time. The platforming itself is rarely difficult, as only a few spots in the game require any sort of timing or strategy (one of the biggest challenging sequences actually appears in the tutorial), and you can always highlight grippable pieces of scenery using an in-game command. All that climbing gets incredibly tedious.

    Back to the tutorial, though - the game's introductory sequence ends with Dracula's ostensible victory over the Brotherhood of Light, defeating an army in a matter of seconds. However, a cinematic indicates that the Brotherhood saw that battle as a victory as well, as Dracula disappeared following the fight, martyring the paladin who led the charge.

    At this point, the storyline has incredible potential - we get a chance to see the Castlevania universe from Dracula's perspective. It could portray him as a tragic villain with some depth (you know, as opposed to just being pure evil), or it could embrace the whole evil thing and give the player control over one of Dracula's conquests (asserting his dominance over some race of evil beings, for instance). I was incredibly excited to see where it would go.

    And then Dracula woke up in a modern world, emaciated from centuries of isolation...

    Yep. It's a game with Dracula roaming streets straddled by skyscrapers. Sure, the world still has a clear Gothic vibe, and the overall aesthetic is generally well-done, but it's quite jarring to think of a Castlevania game in a contemporary setting.

    But the weird doesn't stop there: one of Dracula's old acquaintances appears to restore some of his strength, informing the Prince of Darkness that Satan has finally regained enough power to fill the void left by Dracula's disappearance. In return for removing Satan from the world, Dracula's old friend makes an apparently irresistible promise: permanent death. Looking for an escape from his existence, Dracula therefore searches the city for Satan's acolytes in an attempt to bring the devil down for good.

    Oh, and Dracula's memories try to kill him along the way, so there's that too.

    The basic plot isn't necessarily offensive following Lords of Shadow, it's just really unexpected. The offensive part is that it seems to go too far. It's nice in that it humanizes the main series antagonist, but I felt that it made him too soft to be compatible with his previous appearances in the franchise. While I think it wraps everything up pretty nicely in the end, the generally schizophrenic presentation (jumping back and forth between the modern world and Dracula's memories, for example) makes for a confusing narrative that doesn't really seem to have a strong direction.

    The gameplay, while built on a strong foundation, just doesn't have the oomph to support the shoddy storyline. I've already mentioned the mind-numbing breaks from action due to unnecessary platforming sections, but the combat loses its luster as the game wears on, too. There are some cool features - a nice variety of combos and a nifty weapon experience system which encourages you to diversify your attack patterns - but it falls all too easily into one or two repetitive combos that are the most effective in virtually every situation.

    In the few cases where those combos aren't the most powerful, the game overcompensates by making them completely worthless. Instead, you have to break the enemy's defenses (with a skill that requires magic power, so you may not be able to use it) so you can resume your normal combat strategy.

    Even worse, many of your enemies throughout this nightmare-infested city have guns, so they can damage you from arbitrarily large distances. That makes some battles a serious pain; often I would have an off-screen enemy pummeling me with rapid-fire bullets, and projectile attacks make it very difficult to run from random mob encounters (because you have to do that silly rock climbing to transition between areas, and taking damage will knock you from a wall).

    On the other extreme, boss fights are typically easy, as the only real obstacle to your success is learning the animations that signal specific attack patterns. As a result, the difficulty of the game's combat seems skewed in the opposite direction of what you might expect, and beating down a boss doesn't seem like much of a triumph.

    And then there's the biggest disappointment of all the gameplay flaws: Lords of Shadow 2 has stealth sections. The Prince of Darkness must sneak through some areas of the game (primarily to avoid big dumb dudes with huge guns), and it is abysmal. The stealth sequences aren't very well designed in the first place, but the control scheme also doesn't give enough sensitivity for it to make much sense. A couple of these sequences were particularly bad simply because the path the developers expected you to take is far from obvious - in one instance, I struggled towards a clearly-visible ladder, only to find that you can't climb it; the "correct" path required a very different strategy.

    To be fair, despite all the frustrations, the game has some impressive moments. A couple of scenes are downright visceral, which is pretty sweet, and many of the fight sequences are actually pretty fun. But the good bits make everything else even more depressing; its predecessor's strengths are still there, but they were downplayed in favor of a number of bizarre, poorly executed design choices.

    Achievement hunters will find a bit of a mixed bag with this one. Most of the achievements are pretty straightforward and relatively simple to grind out, partly because there is an in-game method of locating collectibles. The challenges, on the other hand, which are required for 7 of the game's 46 achievements, can live up to their label, with some being quite difficult. There are some solid strategies out there, but even so, you'll need to put in some practice to nab the final achievements.

    Lords of Shadow 2 is one of the biggest gaming letdowns in recent memory. It took the brilliant, successful formula in Lords of Shadow and perverted it to the point that it's rarely recognizable. Fans of the series might get a kick out of seeing more from Dracula's perspective, and it can be genuinely entertaining, but the prevalence of unusual flaws make it a hard one to recommend.

    My rating: 4/10 - mediocre.

    (For more info on my rating system, including overall stats, see http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/p/reviews.html)
    2.0
  • AztecOmarAztecOmar267,284
    11 Mar 2014
    9 23 2
    Despite selling more than any other title in the franchise’s 28 year history, it would be a stretch to say there was a strong demand for a new Castlevania: Lords of Shadow title. Spanish developers MercurySteam paid no heed however, partnering with Konami to fundamentally turn the series on its head by giving players direct control as Dracula for the first time in a brand new, open world character action game. With a new lead, new format and a story heavily cribbing from the decades-long franchise history, it would appear that all the ingredients are in place for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 to become an instant classic.

    In the four years between releases, all aspects of gameplay have undergone somewhat of an evolution. Where the original Lords of Shadow was strictly linear and had players select missions from a list, Lords of Shadow 2 is a far more open world, free to explore as one chooses. Harkening back to the original Castlevania games, progression throughout the map is inhibited in various ways that are overcome with the cavalcade of items and abilities Dracula gains over the game. This freedom, coupled with a new, completely independent camera gives the player the ability to explore at their own liberty.

    This, however, is not without fault. Without the tight, binding linearity of its predecessor, it is significantly more difficult to work out what ledges and grapple points to use next when exploring. To counteract this, squeezing the left trigger when climbing will highlight all handholds within the immediate vicinity. It’s an imperfect system that was clearly shoehorned into the game as a fast response to a problem, but as there are so many collectibles hidden within the game’s nooks and crannies, some players will likely put up with the inconsistencies.

    Lords of Shadow 2 is completely filled with quick time events, as was its predecessor. Quick time events are lazy, unenjoyable gameplay mechanics at the best of times, so to see a title so lousy with them is disappointing. In the very first boss encounter alone, a new one would rear its ugly head nearly every two or three minutes. Failing the incredibly precise timing would frequently lead to death, annoyance and a lengthy reload. Clearly, somebody at MercurySteam felt similarly, as a small amount of digging in the settings menus revealed an option to disable these entirely. When disabled, the background videos still play, however, Dracula is always successful in his efforts. Even though there is an availability to disable them, it raises a fundamental question: if the developers knew they were bad enough they had to be removed, why did they bother making them in the first place? Who enjoys quick time events?

    Combat has received less retooling, instead relying on the strong mechanics already designed. Similar to other character action games, Dracula has a wide variety of options in combat derived from few button presses. With only two primary buttons being used in combat, attacks can either be focussed on an individual, or widened and weakened to attack a group. These attacks can then be modified with two types of magic, replacing Dracula’s blood whip with either an icy sword that restores health, or fiery Chaos Claws that deal extra damage. Successfully hitting enemies and evading builds a meter which provides extra “souls”, charging the two auxiliary weapons and allowing longer use of both.

    Defeated enemies provide experience, which can be fed into the weapon upgrade system for new combat abilities and combos. Combos, when successfully performed in combat, increase their “mastery” percentage. Once it reaches 100%, that particular combo can have its mastery level fed back into the overall weapon mastery. Once the weapon mastery is filled, its strength is permanently boosted. Whilst the weapon can level it’s mastery over and over again, the individual combos can only be filled once, theoretically encouraging greater combat variance.

    Unfortunately, however, the repetitive enemy design and frustrating fragility of Dracula work in tandem to ensure that only a small handful of possible combos are ever truly used. Dracula’s attacks are seemingly ineffectual to Satan’s cronies, most of who simply shrug off repeated lashings from the blood whip like they were nothing but the spores of a dandelion. Though it’s possible to counter enemy attacks and set them up for strong replies, any other enemies in the area will consistently rush Dracula and disrupt any combo being set up. As there are always so many enemies attacking at once and the strength of Dracula’s attacks appear so weak, there is never enough time to set up for his more devastating combos - rather, the same mundane combos are mashed repeatedly with little variation. It would seem that combat mastery is a strong, interesting idea lost in the wrong game.

    The plot of Lords of shadow 2 is a difficult beast to summarise, due to its turbulent franchise past. Whilst there were only two titles preceding Lords of Shadow 2 in its particular story arc, vital plot elements were only revealed in DLC offerings and titles on handheld platforms. Consequently, fans of the original Lords of Shadow who were not aware of this bizarre strategy will discover that the plot is mind-bogglingly bewildering as a result. The previous lead character, Gabriel isn’t even in the game anymore, having become Dracula at some stage between the conclusion of the previous title and Lords of Shadow 2. Hunted for centuries, Dracula murdered his own hidden son, using his blood to transform him into the vampire, Alucard. Years later, after he is bested by a returned Alucard and his own hidden son, Dracula is presumed dead. 1000 years later, Dracula returns again and is confronted by his previous nemesis, Zobek, who tasks him with destroying his other previous nemesis, Satan. It’s a mess. The story is riddled with plot holes and ridiculous contrivances and is ultimately too complex for its own good - a failing maintained from the original Lords of Shadow.

    Aesthetically, Lords of Shadow 2 is frequently a strong demonstrator of just how much can be squeezed out of the previous generation of hardware. Over the course of the story, Dracula is taken to many interesting and beautiful locales with stunning art direction and architecture. Whilst the texture quality up close is not particularly flattering, the faces for the most part are fairly well done and the blood is as good as it has ever looked in a video game - which is lucky, because it is everywhere. Nearly every collectible or point of interaction in the world requires some form of self-mutilation on Dracula’s behalf - running ones wrists deeply on a blade, stabbing sharp spearheads though the palms of the hand, biting one’s own wrists open violently to spill blood on the floor. It is everywhere, it is grotesque and it is spectacularly well realized.

    It would be easy to fill another half dozen paragraphs decrying the awful stealth sections, poorly designed boss fights, confusing double-use of currency or massive amount of collectibles, but it would be ultimately fruitless. I still stand by the original Lords of Shadow as a good game, but there is little to defend here. There are a handful of good, new ideas sprinkled within it’s over dozen-hour campaign, but they are so sparsely populated that they simply aren’t worth the hassle of discovering. A better approach to combat, more intuitive level design and a much better story would make this an enjoyable experience, but as it stands there is simply too much disappointment and damage to recommend this game to anyone. The fundamental fact is this: MercurySteam set out to make the first game in 28 years to have you play as the legendary Dracula, yet they made him as frail and unenjoyable to play as a reanimated corpse.
    2.0