There’s no doubt that the first Castlevania game (and by that, I mean the first one of this series of reboots) is one of my favourite games of this current generation. It appeals to every single facet of my game playing personality – it has third person action, a decent story, and voice-acting that wouldn’t seem out of place in a film. It’s the same reason I absolutely adore the games in the Legacy of Kain series, and why it pains me to think that we won’t get another Darksiders game; at least not from the same creative team.
It will be no surprise then, after reading that initial paragraph, to learn that I almost literally jumped at the chance to get my hands on the next game in the Castlevania series; Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. The simplistic naming convention suggests that there’s been no innovation at all, everything is exactly the same, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ll try to write this preview without any spoilers from the first game, because everyone should have the opportunity to experience that ending for themselves, without having some idiot tell them about it, but Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 follows on straight from where the first game left off. So if you haven’t played Lords of Shadow, then you should probably do so before jumping into this second game.
In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, the player once again assumes control of Gabriel Belmont (voiced, once again, by the excellent Robert Carlisle) as he tries to defeat the demons, and other enemies, that are literally knocking on his front door. The E3 hands-on demo of the game started right at the start of the game and gives players the rundown of all of the abilities at Gabriel’s beck and call. In a move similar to how Ninja Theory’s DmC does this, Gabriel has the use of two types of weapons, the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws.
The Void Sword – which is an ethereal blade not unlike the Soul Reaver (the excitement of which didn’t go unnoticed) – has the ability of leeching life from all of the enemies it comes into contact with. It will do slightly less damage, especially to the more armoured of the enemy types, but its usefulness really comes into its own when you’re on your last bit of health: a plethora of enemies drop in, and a few swings of the Void Sword sees you right as rain again and ready to take them all down. The second weapon in Gabriel’s arsenal is the Chaos Claws. These do exactly what you’d expect, in the sense that they do a hell of a lot of damage, but they can be a little bit slow. These weapons are used to take on the shielded enemies, as a couple of blasts from the chaos claws will see any shield an enemy may have brought to the fight, in splinters on the floor in a matter of seconds, allowing the all-powerful Belmont to dispatch of his would-be assassin in any way he sees fit.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game, is the fact that there will be no boss fights in the traditional method. Normally, when it comes to a boss fight in a third-person action/adventure game, you’d play through a couple of levels, then you’d get to save point, a couple of healing potions and perhaps a boat-load of ammunition. You’d know there was a boss coming and, after stepping through a pre-determined trigger location, the boss fight would start. This isn’t how things are done in Lords of Shadow 2, instead, the “boss fight” constitutes a series of levels inside a Titan – which are the “bosses” of the game. Gabriel would then proceed to take down the Titans, piece by piece, from the inside, until the “boss” is defeated. There are challenges along the way, guardians that will attempt to stop you taking down each of the Titans, puzzles – of both the intellectual and skill-based variety – but at the end of the day, what’s most important, is that you’re not going to be bashing your head against a unnecessarily difficult boss only to go back to the normal difficulty curve once the battle has ended – Lords of Shadow 2 is consistent.
The first game in the rebooted series wasn’t a short game by any stretch of the imagination. Every time you thought that the game was coming to an end, another branch of the story would appear and it would lead us down the rabbit hole again for another few hours of game time. Lords of Shadow 2 looks as if it’s going to be going down the same route too, with the quote of “25 hours of gameplay” being thrown around the Konami booth as if it was nothing. 25 hours, for a game that isn’t an RPG, is pure madness, but it’s madness that I welcome with open arms.
It seems that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will be the culmination of Gabriel Belmont’s story. Perhaps this means it’s the last Castlevania game, or perhaps it only means that it’s the last Castlevania game to feature Gabriel as the main character; only time will tell. What I do know, however, is that Lords of Shadow 2 is shaping up to be an extremely good title indeed, and if it is the last title in the series, at least it’s going out with a bang.