Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was one of the most narcissistic and conceited games I’ve ever played.
Mercury Steam and Kojima Productions were obsessed with the game’s looks. It’s gorgeous — technically and artistically — but their vanity got in the way of the game itself. It caused many frustrations and annoyances ranging from performance to pacing.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the only Castlevania game I’ve ever finished; so I don’t what makes a Castlevania game. Is it werewolves and vampires? Crosses and holy water? 2-D platforming? Whips and weapon upgrades? I honestly don’t know. I do know what a God of War and an Uncharted can look like and Lords of Shadow was resembled both.
Figuring out where to go next was insultingly easy when they highlighted the direction and object I had to interact with to proceed. And the combat? There was untapped potential there. Many of the combos and moves I unlocked were underutilized. Toggling between light and dark magic in the midst of a fight was an interesting idea that only appeared a couple of times. Instead they were content with simple smashing of enemies until they were dazed and primed for a quick time event finisher.
In the vain of the “Metroid-vania” style, Gabriel Belmont, picked up new traversal abilities to unlock areas and treasure. I indulged in a bit of backtracking to unearth some of these treasures before I realized it was tedious and unnecessary. Gabriel didn’t need hidden story scrolls to grow stronger.
Gabriel Belmont’s motivations was simple. He lost his beloved Marie and it turns out there’s a magical mask which has the power to bring her back. All he had to do was eliminate the Lords of Shadow and assemble the pieces to resurrect the dead. I dug the story. But I didn’t appreciate how long it took for them to move from plot point to plot point. I can appreciate a long arduous journey, but not a long and drawn out one like this.
Patrick Stewart voiced Gabriel’s stalker, describing what he’s doing and what he needs to do before every level. I like Patrick Stewart. Out of respect for his work, I tried to listen to all the nonsense they hired him to read. Unfortunately, he began to repeat himself so I began to skip his speeches as soon as I could. (To be honest, some of the things he was saying about Gabriel was a bit creepy.)
The artists behind Lords of Shadows crafted one of the best looking games on consoles. Normally, it’s quality or quantity, but this game had both. I’m of the belief that they had too many fantastic art assets and not enough game or story to justify it all. So what did they do?
They added filler chapters and recycled mechanics over and over again. I didn’t think it was possible to grow tired of riding a giant wolf or spider and yet they wore out its welcome by the half way mark. In the end, if they pulled four or five chapters, the game would have been better for it.
At the top of my list of complaints sits my gripes with the game’s framerate. It was smooth, but so is molasses. Image quality at the expense of framerate is one of my pet peeves and Lords of Shadow went out of its way to irritate me their sub 30 frames per second choice. It became a real problem when it affected input response.
Making matters worse was the fixed camera. The desire to show off a level’s looks should not get in the way of progress. I shouldn’t need to hug wall just to locate the path I’m supposed to go down. They highlight an obvious ledge I’m supposed to grab and obscure a crucial progress point with shrubs and fixed camera angles? C’mon. I’m not even going to touch the amount of times the camera aided in the murder of Gabriel during certain boss encounters.
I had many gripes with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and yet I am glad that I played it. I cursed the game frequently when I played, but now I look back on it with a bit of fondness. The light and dark magic play was interesting whenever it was employed and I enjoyed the Shadow of Colossus inspired boss battles. However, the takeaway for me were the game’s final moments. The ending was a genuine surprise and if Mercury Steam was going to follow through with it in the sequel, I can see myself continuing the journey.
Not many games out there can pull off a worthwhile ending like this which is why I think it’s worth a shot. If anything, people should check out how pretty it is.
Worth A Try
For more information on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, visit the official site.