Hey folks, Valkor here. 2010 is nearin to a close and I still have much to do in terms of clearing out the Val-cave with old (new) stuff, to get ready for the newer new stuff. Thanks to the folks at Konami who made the task tougher when I know I should be doing one thing, all I really want to do is spend some time playing "Castlevania Lords of Shadow", which is available now on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Also Check out my Lords of Shadows Preview for additional pics and vids.
Lords of Shadow takes the idea of what we know of as Castlevania and slaps on a glorious coat of paint, rebooting the franchise in a new direction. Add one part God of War while tossing in the popular Castlevania series, stir in some RPG and puzzle elements, and to piece it all together throw in Kojima Productions; you know, those guys behind the poplar Metal Gear franchise? Take all that and you'll have Lords of Shadow.
In Lords of Shadow, we follow Gabriel Belmont (Robert Carlyle), member of the Brotherhood of Light, who is on a quest to bring back his lost wife Maria. In order to do that, Gabriel must defeat The Lords of Shadow, obtain the god masks and revive Maria, ultimately saving the world (or does he?). Throughout his journey, Gabriel will come across characters who will aide him on his journey such as Zobek (voiced by Patrick Stewart, who is also the narrator of the story), Claudia (Emma Ferguson), who communicates with Gabriel telepathically, and finally Pan (Aleksander Mikic), the guardian of the lake and the one who kick starts Gabriel's quest. And Gabriel is gonna need all the help in the world because he'll face off against lycans, wargs, goblins, trolls, and all sorts of baddies. And that's not even counting the giant monsters such as the Ice and Stone Golems who'll impede his path.
But Gabriel isn't without his own armaments. In Castlevania style, Gabriel uses a whip to slice through his enemies. Plus he has a bevy of combo moves to utilize. Along the way, Gabriel can upgrade his whip to make it stronger and gain access to areas he normally can't get to. My favorite is the spikes that not only work against cutting stone, but also great against enemies too. Also at his disposable are throwing knives, he can mount larger creatures and use them to not only gain access to hard to reach areas, but they can fight as well. He also has light and shadow magic, which can make his attacks stronger and also heal him up when things get too rough. And finally, after each boss battle, Gabriel will gain new weapons that will not only increase his strength, but give him new abilities.
Lords of Shadows features 12 chapters, each broken down into smaller stages. And getting through most of the stages require not only the quickness of the whip but also of the mind as you'll come face to face with puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress – some requiring more work than others, but as a whole quite easy to solve. So in the end, what did I think of it all?
I would have placed Symphony of the Night as my all-time favorite Castlevania game, which does a great job of meshing RPG elements with the side-scrolling, in an open environment. However Lords of Shadow is about on the same ground, if not slightly above Symphony as it takes what's great with Symphony and tosses in battle elements you can't get with a side-scroller. The animation is amazingly fluid, and the combos go off without a hitch. Hey with Kojima's crew handling this, I wouldn't expect anything less. The story is amazingly dark with a nice twist ending, which you'll kinda see coming as the game progresses. And kudos on the choice of A-List voice acting, especially locking in Patrick Stewart as Zobeck. I recall being very excited when I heard his voice in the E3 trailer back in 2009, and with the volume just right Stewart's voice really draws you into the game. The music works, while not entirely memorable, it does help to enhance the cinematic qualities of the game and each piece works for scene it's being played in. Finally I gotta show some love to the boss battles, which are amazing and amazingly difficult; I'm talkin make you so mad you wanna throw the controllers difficult, but that's not a bad thing as you'll look for a pattern to defeat the baddies and once you nail that, it's all over. Great control, great character, great game, you can't go wrong right?
Ok, what I'm gonna say is more nitpicky than anything else, but I would have liked more Castlevania-esque secondary weapons in the game. The daggers were a nice touch, but Holy Water, given the games heavy religious overtones, would have worked well here too. And it could have been used ala Simon's Quest to break certain objects. This would give more meaning to all the breaking of boxes and crates and coming up empty.
The Lycan Lord! I hate this motherfather so much! You not only have to fight the guy in human form, but as a werewolf too! Why not just the wolf? Regardless, I hate him.
This holiday season, if you're looking for that perfect game to give to that special someone, then absolutely grab a copy of Castlevania Lords of Shadow; if not for them but for yourself, especially if you're a fan of the series. You'll definitely get a kick out of this reboot. And out of TOV 5 stars, I give Castlevania Lords of Shadow 4.5 stars and it's been Valkor tested and TOV Approved!