Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a direct follow up to the 2010 game that saw the fan favourite franchise launched into the next generation of gaming. The story of Lords of Shadow 2 follows on directly from its predecessor with the player taking control of Gabriel Belmont in his newly transformed role of Dracula.
The first combat sequence of the game features an epic battle with Dracula at his full potential fighting an army of evangelists. We then have some heavy exposition in the story that sees Dracula depowered and place him on his tale of redemption as he battles Satan’s minions to find the devil himself for the final confrontation.
The world and its environment has been improved since the first instalment, creating an open-world environment where the player can traverse between both historic and modern era settings. Unfortunately, even the time travelling backdrop does little to differentiate the game from feeling similar to the other action adventure titles that are currently on offer. While the option is there for players to go back and explore the world in its open-world environment, the game remains rather linear in terms of where the story and quests places you.
When we talk about comparisons to other titles within this gaming genre we should also talk about combat. Again, Castlevania: LOS 2 is an improvement on the first title. In this adventure, Dracula has three main weapons. His Shadow Whip, the default weapon, The Void Sword which sucks life from its victims on each successful hit, and The Chaos Claws, shield breakers that deal extensive damage. With the Shadow Whip as a default and the other two weapons assigned to a bumper – the traditional hack and slash controls of heavy attack. Light attack and jump take centre stage in combat with the occasional need to hit a trigger button in order to jump or dash from an enemy attack. Unfortunately, like much of the game, the combat is not revolutionary and sometimes walking into a room with a dozen enemies can just feel like a chore rather than the entertainment developers MercuryStream intended it to be.
There is a silver lining with the combat however and where it does prevail is in the epic boss battles that the game contains. Throughout the game, big set pieces are created that see the player pit against huge towering monsters. It was one of the elements of gameplay I enjoyed so much when playing the first instalment. As you attack different parts of the monstrous body you are treated to small quick-time events or button presses that see you take the final strike in chopping off a boss’ limb or dealing game changing amounts of damage. The grandeur of slaying a boss in the Lord of shadow series harkens me back to memories of Shadow of the Colossus on my PS2. For any gamer they should know how satisfying and epic that analogy is and it is a high honour for the Castlevania: LOS series to be given.
Continuing with the high praises; it is great to see some big voice talent reprise their roles for this game. After putting in sterling roles in the Castlevania: LOS, Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart reprise their roles as Zobek and Dracula respectively. In the first instalment, Zobek was the main antagonist, however here he is helping Dracula to fight Satan (voiced by Harry Potter actor – Jason Issacs).
The voice acting is fine but I would have expected more from these talented actors and whether the fault lies through scripting or facial animation I was left slightly underwhelmed. This is the captain of the Starship Enterprise, turned leader of the mutant superheroes, the X-Men, teaming up with that guy from the Full Monty who is now a magical wizard named Rumplestiltskin versus Draco Mallfoys dad. When put like that the scripting talent sells itself.
The graphics work well to encapsulate the mood and feel of the game and visually there are some wonderful moments as the player explores their surroundings, whether that be looking out to the horizon from the castle or as you venture around the pits of hell, but there is still more the game could do to push the graphical capabilities and really immerse the player.
The story works well to hold a player within its 15-20 hour story and it’s a satisfying follow-up to the adventures of the Belmont family that players started four years ago. However, as we progress and move into the next generation of console gaming, Castlevania: LOS 2 feels dated when compared to its contemporaries. It doesn’t do anything wrong, and is a fun game to play through, but it doesn’t do much to rival other titles in the genre or progress the franchise forward. The game has taken four years to launch since the first instalment but there is very little improvements to say that time in development was warranted.
Thanks to Xbox for supplying this game for review.