Games Meet Metal: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: The Riff Review

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: The Riff Review

By Nathan Werp, aka Riff, editor-in-chief

Definition of "trepidation"

1. archaic; a tremulous action: tremor

2. timorous uncertain action; trepidation about a new job

3. the feeling one gets when they are going to play a reboot of a storied franchise, where everything they originally loved gets ripped out.

That's about where I stood with Lords of Shadow before I booted it up. I just had a bad feeling I wasn't going to like the new direction. At first, that seemed like that was gonna be that way.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow casts you as Gabriel Belmont, a member of a brotherhood sworn to kill off things that go bump in the night. Lately, the monsters have been growing in exponential amounts, plus poor Gabriel's wife was killed by said baddies. So now our hero is in search of a way to bring back his girl while simutaneously, killing off all evil to the land. To do this, he must hunt down the monster's bosses, the Lords of Shadow themselves.

Like it was stated before, this Castlevania is different from any other. No Metroid-vania, no Dracula, no super long family history about fighting the forces of darkness. Nope, this is a restart all around. The scariest part here is that it's all in 3D. Poor old Castlevania just hasen't had much luck with 3D in the past. The first form on the Nintendo 64 was a mess, even after a remake came out. It improved a bit for the PS2/Xbox. Lament of Innocence was pretty looking, but was marred by an odd isometric view and clunky fighting. Curse of Darkness did a great job in giving Castlevania III a proper sequel, but so many people were burned by the previous efforts that it went largely unnoticed.

Lords of Shadow glues together a few different influences: chain whipping and wall scaling from God of War, and a few Shadow of the Colossus-style boss battles. At first, you might feel like they're just copying an old formula, but the action in LOS feels quite good, if not totally original. You do have the option of mixing in some sub weapons such as daggers, holy water, faeries, and a super massive crystal monster attack. You also have access to light and shadow magic. Light can help you heal whilst attacking, while shadow ups your attack power. The real fun is when you start using combos and switching between the magics on the fly to earn devastating attacks.

One bad mark against the game is that, aside from the Colossus-like fights, the boss battles can get pretty easy once you learn the pattern. Hit him a few times, roll away from attack, hit again, roll away, repeat until quick-time scene needs to be activated. You can do this for every boss, including the final guy. Another downside is that the learning curve is very steep right from the start. LOS is one of the few games that I recommend you start on easy instead of normal difficulty. Don't worry about having to restart a new game for a different difficulty, as the game allows you to level select any area you've already beaten, with any difficulty you want.

The biggest recommendation I can give for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is its story. I love me some well written plot, and LOS has a mess of it. From notes found on dead soldiers to the spoken words of characters, the story is always ongoing. A real plus is that Patrick Stewart is cast as Gabriel's friend Zobek, and he does one hell of a job. Oh , and just in case any game writers are on hand get a copy of LOS and watch the ending, including past the credits. Let me just say THAT'S HOW YOU DO  FUCKING ENDING!!!!

Closing point: If you've been weary of Castlevania's 3D efforts in the past, then start worrying less. Lords of Shadow is a drastic improvement all around. It does have a few flaws, but you'll warm up to it really quick. Now here's hoping the inevitable sequel hits real damn soon!


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