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4.0 out of 5 stars First Impressions - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, October 12, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Video Game)
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows (from here on out, Castlevania) is not the most original of games. It's combat is heavily borrowed from God of War, but don't take that as a bad sign. There's been a lot done in gaming over the years that make original forms of combat or item management hard to innovate. So, borrowing ideas or methods from other games becomes the norms. As long as you borrow and add your own twist, things are ok in my book. And that is what Castlevania does, it borrows the combat (namely the whip like attack vs. Kratos' chains) and builds upon it.

The combat in Castlevania is one of the biggest draws and something you'll be doing a lot, so thankfully it works well. You hit one button to do normal attacks, while another does a weaker area attack. After slaying enemies, you'll earn experience and can unlock additional moves. Health is earned by finding gems to put in an amulet. When you have 5, you get an upgrade. You also get two forms of magic that you can switch on during battle. This gets a little confusing but bare with me. As you attack people, you build up concentration. When your concentration is at max, enemies begin to drop orbs. If you are hit, you lose concentration and have to start over (usually 5 hits or so build up concentration to max.) You collect orbs by pressing R3 or L3. R3 builds up your shadow magic which makes your weapons do more damage. L3 builds up Light magic which gives you health for every hit you perform (invaluable in my opinion). You switch on the magics by hitting the bumper buttons when you have the bars filled. You can turn them off when you want so the game gives you incentive for not getting hit, you are your own health pack. I really like this feature and it works well. This goes hand in hand with the "building your own upon an existing idea." The combat is very God of War-esque, but this adds a little flavor on top to make it their own.

The game is not entirely about combat though. You will have other obstacles you will need to overcome on your way to the end of the game. Puzzles are placed throughout the game which have you turning levers and moving things. I'm not a big puzzle gamer, but I did enjoy the ones so far. They aren't too tough (at least not yet) and the option to forgo experience in lieu of getting the answer is a nice feature. I've only had to use that once on a crank puzzle that had me at wits end. If you have the internet handy though, the puzzles are all online somewhere.

Besides puzzles, the other game mechanic you will run into are Titan battles. Titan's are basically humongous enemies that require you to memorize a path up their body to destroy weakpoints before tumbling the beasts to the ground. They are graphically impressive, but that's about all. I found myself loathing the second one I hit because it's not all that fun. You just memorize a path up the body and then hit X repeatedly as you bash the weak spot. When they try to whack you off, you move out of the way. If hit, you have the repeat everything (except the smashing since you already did it) and continue up the body to the head where the final weak spot is. It's not bad, it's just not that great. I've done two and I'm not sure if there are any more coming since the previous one I bested was considered "the last Titan." Hopefully that's true.

The story in Castlevania is actually quite good so far. You play as Gabriel Belmont, a warrior of Light who is tasked with bringing down the Lords of Shadow. Recently, Gabriel's wife was killed by the forces of evil so he is fueled by not only righteous fury but cold hearted revenge. You'll begin the journey in a small village being attacked by Lycans (werewolves) and make your way through a forest to meet the old god Pan. Pan will set you on your journey to destroy the Lords of Shadows and your tasks begins. I'm almost finished the first disc (Xbox 360 version comes on two discs, PS3 has one blu-ray) and the story is very good. Some big plot events are taking place and the pace of the game is great. Story buffs, you won't be disappointed.

Something that adds to the story and makes it more believable is the excellent voice work. Konami has spared no expense in getting amazing voice talent. Gabriel, the main character, is voiced by Robert Carlyle, whom you may know from Trainspotting and the Full Monty. Another character in the story, Zobek, is voiced by Patrick Steward of Star Trek fame. The rest of the cast may not be as familiar by Hollywood's standards, but they are all fantastic in their own right. From the gruff voices of the Lycan lords to the seductive vampires, it just works. You'll be thoroughly engrossed in the story thanks to their roles.

Another high point of the game is the graphics. You will see some truly breathtaking vista's and painstakingly detailed rooms on your journeys to defeat the Lords of Shadow. I played both the PS3 and the 360 version of the game and didn't notice anything that would separate the two. I didn't investigate down to the pixel, only through playing.

So, suffice to say the game is a blast based on all the positive's I've listed above. It is, but don't get me wrong, it has it's hangups too. As any action game, the combat can get repetitive. You'll be killing enemies in one area only to move to another and have to kill another horde before moving on. This is just the nature of these types of games and if you aren't into the constant battles in action games, this game isn't going to sway you with any new features. Sure, it has the magic that I spoke of earlier but that's not a game selling point, just a nice bonus.

Another downside to the game is that it's a Castlevania game in name only. This game could have been called Vampire Hunter and been fine. The Castlevania name only depicts that the franchise is going in a different direction. So far, I think it's succeeding and with the announcement of the sequel in the works, we'll be seeing more.

Well, there you have it. My first impressions of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I'm impressed by the game so far and I'm having a blast playing it. It's a very long game too, coming in just short of 20 hours with most people that complete it. Your enjoyment of it will be directly linked to how much you like action games and the supernatural (vampires and werewolves, not so much aliens). So, if have already played the game or are thinking of picking it up, let me know. Also, ask away if you have any questions.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 12, 2010 12:29:06 PM PDT
teejay says:
In my opinion your first impressions are spot on. At first I was a little disappointed in this game and worried that it was going to feel a little too derivative but as I've gotten into it I have to say that doesn't seem to be the case.

A couple quick thoughts to add: the music, while not 'Castlevania-esque' at all, is pretty good. The sound is good in general although on a 5.1 system it seems like the dialog gets drowned out by the environment in a few scenes.

Also, it does seem like this game -could- fit into the canon, even though Konami has suggested otherwise. The timing (1047 AD) puts it before Lament of Innocence, and there are subtle references to that game's story (Rinaldo, for exmample) that don't seem to outwardly contradict anything. Gameplay seems to be in the general vein of Lament, although more refined, which seems like a good thing.
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