Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 – PS3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Developer: Mercury Steam
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Nerd Rating: 7/10
Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer
Have you been asleep for thousands of years? Do you have a thirst for human blood? Perhaps you’re just tired of being immortal? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you and the Prince of Darkness have a lot in common. However, you most likely answered no, which in that case Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (LOS 2) will help you explore all of those questions and more.
Lords of Shadow 2 is the sequel to developer Mercury Steam’s Castlevania Lords of Shadow (2010) and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate (2013). I’ll go ahead and let you know now that this review will contain some minor spoilers from the original Lords of Shadow, so if you’ve yet to play that game then quit reading NOW. It’s important that you play Castlevania: Lords of Shadow first before coming to its sequel. It’s not nearly as mandatory to play through Mirror of Fate, but it will help you better understand the characters and get you more involved in the story. Now, let’s get started. The game starts out in a modern day setting with Dracula awakening in a funk and wondering what the heck is going on. He quickly reunites himself with his old “friend” (arch-nemesis actually) Zobek. Zobek explains some story related plot points that won’t be spoiled here, but in short, Dracula teams up with Zobek and the game beings.
Like in the original Lords of Shadow, players take control of Dracula and use his Shadow whip to battle out the world’s evil monsters. Dracula can call upon his Void Sword, which works very similarly to “Light Magic” in the first game, as well as the Chaos Claws which work similar to “dark magic” in the previous game. Each weapon has its own skill tree that can be leveled up and unlock new combat moves which can be bought with experience points gained by killing foes and breaking objects….a LOT of objects. The more you use a weapon the higher it’s “Mastery” becomes, which basically translates to “the more you use a weapon the stronger it gets.” There are some unique moves for the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws, but the majority of the moves are mapped to the same buttons and are essentially the exact same move. A little more creativity in the combat department would have gone a long way here. Instead it feels like too many of the same moves were just “copied” over. There are a variety of locations in the game spread across Dracula’s castle and modern day Transylvania. The sections inside Dracula’s castle are amazing to look at and have great artistic design. Unfortunately, the Transylvania levels are bland and less inspiring. You’ll fight a variety of enemies from pathetic monster turned civilans to demons from the underworld. The combat is just as satifying as it was in the original Lords of Shadow game, yet some of the boss fights are inconsistent in their make-up with an uninspired and repetitive feel. The game also features some light liner platforming, puzzle-solving, and stealth sections. The puzzle portions are so easy that they shouldn’t even be considered a puzzle, which is a real shame because Lords of Shadow had some unique puzzles that would really test your brain (Vampire chess anyone?). The stealth sections are just atrocious. Yes, there is stealth in this game and it’s just as terrible as Dracula himself paying you a visit. Personally, I’d prefer the latter.
It’s not that the idea of stealth is bad; it’s how it is executed or lack thereof. The stealth sections aren’t stealthy at all and are actually pretty easy and straightforward, which is why they suck. I mean, stealth sections are about choice, right? They’re about figuring out the best way to get from point A to point B without being noticed? Splinter Cell, Metal Gear, Hitman, etc are all good games that are based on stealth alone. Including stealth in the game isn’t where LOS 2 goes wrong; it’s how poorly it was designed. There is practically no choice at all. You transform into a rat and parade around just looking for the shiny vent, glowing hole in the ground, or whatever.
Each object always has that special glow letting you know, “HEY OVER HERE MAN! YES, RIGHT HERE!” which takes all the fun away. On top of that. if you do transform into the rat, the enemies pay no attention to you, giving you no reason to worry about getting caught. Stealth issues aside, there are plenty of other interesting things about LOS 2. There’s a lot of collectibles to find in LOS 2 which leads to the game showing its strength and weakness at the same time. Finding collectibles isn’t so simple, as some of them are within plain sight but can’t be grabbed because Dracula lacks the certain upgrade to access it. See an item floating in the distance but can’t reach it? Well, sure enough as you progress through the game you’ll find an upgrade (story related) that will enable you to reach longer distances. This is the sort of thing that is frustrating and intriguing at the same time. It is enjoyable when you wander off the path and do some exploring and end up rewarding yourself by finding a hidden collectible. You’ll also find yourself wanting to go back and collect items that were previously inaccessible once you’ve acquired the proper upgrade. However, you can also waste a lot of time doing so since so many of the items are “locked” away and can’t be “unlocked” until Dracula has the right tool. You would either need to make several trips back and forth to locations several times to get everything, or just wait until you’ve fully upgraded the Prince of Darkness. A fully equipped Dracula is going to have a quicker time collecting everything, but you might find the game a tad difficult if you skip over some of the hidden items throughout your journey.
Perhaps LOS 2’s biggest flaw is the idea of revisiting old locations. You’ll have to do this some throughout the course of the story, but the bulk of it will come when you are hunting down all the collectibles. At first, it will seem like a fun practice beating up on random monsters you encounter, but you’ll quickly realize they aren’t random at all. In fact, almost every specific location in the game has a specific enemy(s) that will always spawn in the same point. Perhaps you want to revisit the library in Dracula’s castle? Well, EVERY time you do you’ll be greeted by Cursed Vampires. EVERY FREAKING TIME! It’s always the same. Those vampires will always be in the library. It’s so artificial that if you go in, kill them all and simply leave, the vampires will have respawned by the time you return. The worst part is that every section in the game is like this. It’s not always Cursed Vamps in libraries, but each location will permanently spawn the same combination of enemies during the whole game and it gets old real quick.
After you’ve beaten the main game there is an extra mode called Kleidos Challenges. These are similar to the Challenge of the Gods found in the God of War saga. These can either be fun, challenging, or straight up B.S. crap. I could probably rant for days about how dumb some of the challenges are, but you’ll find that the worst part is not the challenges themselves, but that fact that each time you want to re-equip Dracula with more items you’re going to have to exit the Kleidos Arena and endure the two minutes of loading just to buy more items. It’s really annoying at times when you’re stuck on a challenge when all you want to do is quickly re-supply and try again. Depending on how much collectible hunting you do the game itself can be pretty lengthy coming in at around 20-30 hours The story isn’t bad and is probably the best in the LOS trilogy, but it does leave something to be desired. Playing the first game is a must to truly appreciate its sequel, and the game doesn’t do anything to help newcomers coming in blind. Lords of Shadow 2 doesn’t do much to build upon the great foundation that was laid by the previous two games instead choosing to take the safe but similar route. You’re still going to enjoy playing as Dracula to see his conclusion especially if you’ve played the previous installments. In the end, you’ll find yourself having a lot in common with the Prince of Darkness; You’ll love killing all the foes standing in your way and seeing your destiny come to and end, but your going to feel the pains of torture along the way.
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