‘A 3D Castlevania game’ is not the most promising combination of words to start any review with. While not notorious for being sub-par, the series’ foray into 3D has not been particularly wonderful. It’s something akin to Street Fighter’s 3D versions; almost inevitably exiting in 2D, but the times when it’s stayed into 3D, it’s only really worth a footnote. Lord Of Shadows is far more than a footnote, thankfully, and provides plenty of enjoyment for veterans of the series as well as newcomers.
Lord Of Shadows is a pretty, if slightly untidy game. There are frame rate issues that affect certain sections of the game enough to be worth reporting on, and the camera doesn’t do a great job of keeping you on track most of the time. That said, it is a beautiful world you find yourself in, and both the environments and animations make up for a slight dip in technical proficiency on Konami’s part.
It’s difficult to see Lord Of Shadows as its own game in the way you might see previous titles in the series, though. There are some almost embarrassing rip offs of any number of titles, with Shadow Of The Colossus, Devil May Cry and God Of War being the main objects of Lord Of Shadow’s flattery. While this doesn’t impact particularly on the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of the game, it turns what could have been truly spectacular into another above average hack and slash title. Still, above average is above average, so the borrowing from other games is far less notable than it could be.
The three colossus fights you have in the game have been ripped wholesale from Team Ico’s masterpiece, there’s no question of that, but their inclusion adds rather than takes away from the whole experience. Sure, they’re reasonably simple, and don’t benefit from the weighty backdrop of Shadow Of The Colossus, but it’s better than simply smashing them up a little in the traditional style until you’re gifted a string of QTEs.
Then, there’s the whole light and dark magic thing. Dante’s Inferno did it around the same time, of course, but it works well, and adds to the flavour of the game. The nature of the Castlevania series is such that you were often given more than you needed, allowing you to choose which weapons and magic you used. This was a brilliant thing, and something somehow missed by this iteration. There’s a fine line between overloading the player with weapons, so that managing your inventory is the biggest challenge – a la Mass Effect or Borderlands – and keeping the lid on the armoury shut until you absolutely need it. The consensus nowadays is to keep that lid firmly shut, and while Lord Of Shadows doesn’t wholly subscribe to that, it’s not as giving as you’d like. This is simply a small symptom of one of the biggest problems with this title, especially for those who played and loved the originals.
You feel like you’re being funnelled through the game. Rather than the developers guiding you through the (insanely long) game, offering a nudge here and there to ensure you don’t needlessly backtrack for hours, you feel like a factory chicken being vigorously manhandled (or possibly chickenhandled) through checkpoints. This is the most profound issue I have with this title, but it’s not one that newcomers to the series will even notice. No, all you’ll see if you’ve never played a Castlevania title before is a warehouse full of delicious, luxurious chicken feed before you’re put through the grinder. The end result is still the same, but without expectations, you’re going to be a happier chicken.
Combat is where Lord Of Shadows really shines, though. While not quite on the Devil May Cry 3 scale, the combat – not to mention the enemies – is cracking. What makes the difference really is that you have to mix it up a little between light and dark attacks. This is what separates it from Dante’s Inferno which allowed you to chose which direction you wanted to skew your attacks toward, then mercilessly punished you for choosing the wrong one at the end. Lord Of Shadows offers immediate benefits depending on the type of attacks you dish out, which naturally makes for more varied combat. We’ve only got one word to say on the camera though: balls.
Castlevania: Lord Of Shadows isn’t really a Castlevania game. It borrows too much for it to be of that lineage. That said, it’s fun, and you get plenty of game for your money. It’s beautiful in most places, and decidedly more atmospheric than it could have been. Mostly though, it’s not a bog standard slasher with the Castlevania title stamped on it – something we very much what we expected.
Given this, it’s an enjoyable romp through a world that the developers haven’t had to think about too much. It’s all there in the series: long, whip-style weapon, vampires, werewolves, zombies etc… so the result is a very fashionable game complete with all the little accessories you’d want, with only a few medium sized niggles. It won’t stand the test of time, like many other Castlevania titles, but it’ll keep you entertained for long enough to genuinely enjoy it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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