Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Castlevania : Lords of Shadow Review

I've never played a Cstlevania before. Just wanted to get that out there because most of the reviews I've read have the constant "This is not Castlevania" remark. But frankly, I don't care whether or not this is similar to a classic game from the 90's, I enjoyed, and still am enjoying the game for what it is- a 3rd person hack n' slash with its graphics being the best part of it all.

In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, you play as Gabriel, a Brotherhood member who lost his loved one. Gabriel is on a quest to first seek his loved one and eventually turns into a quest to defeat the Lords of Shadow.

The story is told in a little awkward way that only the patient gamers will get to enjoy. I myself am not patient enough to wait in the now finished loading screen to hear the end of what Patrick Stewart has to say about Gabriel. The story is also partially told through scrolls you pick up from dead body's that also give you hints about puzzles and an easy way out on the expense of the bonus EXP points you get for spending on new combos and moves.
This brings to another downside of the game- too many combos. The game offers a combo purchase menu where you spend points you earned from killing enemies, solving puzzles, completing quick time events and for finishing a level. But the combos that are offered are not add-ons to your current Square mashing attack, but rather different ways to execute an either weak heavy attack that'll cost you more life than you would've lost if you stuck with square mashing, or simply another way to mash the square button. With that said, the game does offer lots of special kind of attacks, or rather dispensable weapons with likes of throwing knives, holy water bottles, fairies to distract and stun foes, or an amazingly powerful daemon creature that kills all enemies that surround you.

Fans of the God of War series will feel most at home with Castlevania's combat, the simple Square mashing combos can be enough to get you through the entire game with a little quick time events to make your life much easier. But despite being able to play with one combo, the game is incredibly difficult. Enemies are very powerful on "Hard" difficulty (2nd hardest out of 4, hardest must be unlocked by finishing the game).
The game does make a good job balancing this with something the GoW fans will be very familiar with- a "Super" form. Castlvevania offers 2 different forms, Light form and Shadow form. Light form replenishes your health with every attack made, depending on how strong the enemy is. The Shadow form is what GoW fans would be more familiar with, an extremely powerful form that deal about a1/3-1/2 more damage than regular attacks. This works very well and replenishing your magic meters consists of collecting "Neutral magic" orbs that are dropped by dead enemies, or if you chain enough attacks together without getting hit you will enter a state where every attack that's landed drops a ton of magic.
The game get easier as you progress, probably due to you getting better and learning enemy patters, and increasing both your life, light and shadow gauges with collectible gems spread around each level.

The games best aspect is undoubtedly the graphics. The environments are so rich and filled with color, you would do anything to see more of them! The character's models look great, with the exception of Gabriel's head being a little to small for his big body. Just sayin'.
The enemies look gruesome and disgusting, just as you'd expect Goblins, Vampires, Demons, wild Beasts, Werewolves and Chupakabras to be. Speaking of Chupakbra, this is enemy is annoying as fuck! What he does is take you on a little hide and seek game around mid game till the end, but the catch is that he takes all your relics and powers making you week and slow.
Back to graphics, Castlevania's landscapes are very detailed and there's nothing like seeing a giant castle starting to show in far distance. The boss fights tend to have you fight a giant statue or creature and using quick time events to either hurt the enemy or stun it so you can go in for an attack. These boss' especially the giant stone/titan boss' look amazing and gorgeous! When you see them from a distance you never think you'll see it from up close, but when you do you'll be amazed from the detail they put into the titan's body and visuals.
The game does have little FPS problems, where it could drop even in a cutscene, but mostly during gameplay. This can be an annoyance at times and a bit distracting but you get used to it pretty quickly,
Speaking of cutscenes, the uses the ingame engine to do the cutscenes and has a very smooth transaction from gameplay to cutscene, without having to sit though a loading screen or even a second of a black frame! And the cutscenes look absolutely amazing, but again, they show how small Gabriel's head is.

The game's sound and voice acting is nothing out of the ordinary, at least it didn't do anything special that caught my attention with the exception of Patrick Stewart narrating during the load screens and acts as a supporting character, Zobek.

After spending hours with the game, and a few moments of frustration I actually enjoy Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and I am planning on platinuming it eventually. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is definitely a game that fans of GoW, Datne's Inferno or even Darksiders should at least give it a try.
With that said, the poor story telling doesn't ruin the experience, you can get a pretty clear idea from the cutscenes alone.

Gameplay: Fun and easy Hack N' Slash combat with needles combos for purchase.- 8.0
Story: Poorly told and only true fans of the series or interested and gamers will get into it.- 5.0
Sound: Nothing special, with the exception of Professor X lending his voice for the loading screen and for Zobek.- 7.0
Graphics: One of the best looking games from a 3rd party developer I've ever seen, the FPS drop doesn't hurt the experience and Gabriel's head is a minor distraction. (No pun intended. Actually it was.)- 9.0
OVERALL------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8.5!

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