Lords of Shadow perfects 3D Castlevania

By: Zach Walton

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow takes the 26-year-old franchise out of its comfort zone and into the action genre with mind-blowing results.

Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the storied franchise by taking place in an alternate universe where Dracula does not exist yet, and the world is protected from creatures of the night by an order of holy knights, not just the vampire slaying Belmont clan.

Let’s start with a bit of a history lesson. Lords of Shadow was not originally going to be a Castlevania game. In fact, it was going to be an original action game by newcomer Spanish developer Mercury Steam. Konami, the publisher, liked what they saw, and to increase its profitability changed it into a Castlevania game.

That being said, do not go into Lords of Shadow expecting Symphony of the Night, the phenomenal action RPG on the PlayStation that put the Castlevania franchise on the map for millions of fans. Lords of Shadow is an entirely different beast altogether and is all the better for it.

Lords of Shadow stars Gabriel Belmont, a knight of the Brotherhood of Light, a group dedicated to the hunting and killing of the creatures of the knight. The connection between heaven and earth has been severed and the Lords of Shadow are wreaking havoc across the land. It’s up to Gabriel Belmont and the Brotherhood of Light to stop this new threat and restore peace to the land.

It may sound like a terribly trite and cliche story from the onset but it gets better and better as the game goes on. The story has the pacing of other hits like Uncharted 2, it never lets you go and keeps the player invested in the game until the end.

The story may be good, but how does the gameplay hold up? The gameplay is a fantastic mix of thrilling combat, flawless platforming and mind-bending puzzles. While the gameplay may not be classic Castlevania, it certainly gets the core tenets of the franchise down. Any fan of action games will not be disappointed by the variety of gameplay on hand here. The only real complaint is that the game is a bit too combat heavy near the beginning, but balances out around the halfway point.

Any action game is only as good as its combat, and Lords of Shadow has a system in place that would make Kratos of God of War fame jealous. In place of the usual whip “Vampire Killer,” Gabriel Belmont wields a cross with a chain inside of it. The chain looks like a whip, but behaves like the Blades of Chaos from God of War. With unlockable combos and light and shadow magic to augment the attacks, the combat never feels repetitive and encourages experimentation with the many different combos.

Visually speaking, Lords of Shadow is a wonder to behold. The environments shift from a winter forest to haunted swamps, gothic castles to desert graveyards. Lords of Shadow never makes any one environment outstay its welcome while making them grand enough that any player will want to revisit any of the levels multiple times.

The presentation is also a selling point with great voice acting all through out but Sir Patrick Stewart really steals the show. Stewart narrates the opening of each chapter while voicing Belmont’s mentor, Zobek. There is not one bad voice actor and it makes the game’s story really shine.

Castlevania hasn’t changed a lot in the past 26 years. The major change was going from action/platformer to action RPG with Symphony of the Night. Lords of Shadow presents a bold new direction for the series. A direction that I personally want to see continued. Lords of Shadow is the best action game since Uncharted 2 and any self-respecting gamer needs to play it.