Taking Advice From a Two Legged Goat Never Felt so Good!
Written by DJ Kinsey
Published Thursday, 17 October 2013 13:14
In 2010 Castlevania: Lords of Shadow carried the classic franchise mantle to the consoles in a well received third person action game. Two additional pieces of DLC, Reverie and Resurrection were subsequently released providing additional gameplay and clearing up some of the muddier plot points which were a sore point with some fans. Lords of Shadow and all of its DLC have now been ported to the PC in one big tidy bundle dubbed the Ultimate Edition.
The third person action title takes place during the dark ages, several decades after the turn of the first millennium. The game follows Gabriel Belmont, a member of the same Belmont clan that has been fighting vampires and the forces of darkness since the first title in the franchise began over a quarter century ago. Gabriel as a member of the Brotherhood of Light, is tasked with protecting humanity against supernatural creatures and solving the mystery of why the souls of the recently departed, including his wife, are trapped in limbo.
I fully admit that I did not think this review would turn out too favorably after my first half hour of gameplay. The PC keyboard controls were unmanageable and the third person combat was one dimensional with limited tools to attack a single enemy type. Shame on me. I quickly changed my tune after I switched to a controller and immersed myself in the Castelvania world. Like a tasty crème brulee after a good meal all I had to do was to crack through the tough surface of the game’s opening to experience the richness and pleasure within.
After my first sit-down with the game I began to grasp just how much goblin punching, spider stabbing and scarecrow chopping content there is....Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition delivers a boat load of value. It is always refreshing and appreciated when games strive to offer more than the all too common eight hour experience.
It would be a disservice to the game to simply call the game a third person action title. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition contains similar third person gameplay mechanics to some titles which are amongst the most celebrated in the industry. There are moments of battling titans that shared the same scale and magnitude as Shadow of the Colossus. Gabriel shimmies along ledges and jumps between them akin to a long haired Nathan Drake and the range of Gabriel’s combat cross enables similar striking attacks as God of War’s Kratos. Gabriel is even able to swing between certain elevated points via his combat cross harkening back to my much loved Bionic Commando. With the addition of some puzzle solving elements there are few games that can marry so many mechanics in one coherent effort.
That effort is further fortified via an incredible musical score that sets the tone for each level and encounter. While I rarely fully appreciate what an orchestral accompaniment can add to a title, with Lords of Shadow I made a point to raise the volume. My eardrums were further tickled with the fine voice acting of Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, Star Gate Universe) as Gabriel and Patrick Stewart as the narrator and Gabriel’s companion Zobek. The fine acting chops drew me further into the story and I was able to resist the temptation to try and skip cut-scenes even when they were longer than need be. My largest complaint about the entire audio department is that it sounded as if a different actor provided Gabriel’s grunts, wails and yells during the gameplay action and that Carlyle was only tapped to provide cut-scene voice work for Gabriel.
The Castlevania worlds are varied and fantastical. Quickly departing from the dreary mud soaked levels befitting the dark-ages timeline, Gabriel traverses mountain valleys, enchanted forests and ancient landscapes burdened by ice as far as the eye can see. While the graphics are technically adequate they seem to be generated in such a way that the worlds ooze atmosphere more than their pixel fidelity would imply. This same attention is evident in the animation of the enemies and in particular the brutal bosses. They attack with such a grace and efficiency of movement that you’d almost think giant warthogs and monstrous lycans were motion captured by the developer in the making of the game.
My appreciation for the beauty of the world was frequently jarred as I attempted to traverse it. Often wide open paths could be seen but invisible walls denied my attempts to explore further. With a fixed camera position is would be expected that there should be obvious obstacles barricading areas instead of the game simply not allowing you to travel to a spot that can be seen. The jump controls also felt to lack the acuity and precision to deliver Gabriel to the desired ledges and platforms on my first attempt each time. This often resulted in a low level of frustration when Gabriel journeyed across the land between combat.
The fighting gameplay is relatively strong when Gabriel is tasked with taking on a horde of creatures, which is often. While only starting with limited skills, he acquires combos and blood splattering moves with great frequency through purchases using experience points as currency. I did find the generally tight combat system to let me down when presented with an airborne enemy launching themselves at me. I would have expected to be able to knock them out of the air or at least damage them before suffering a strike. Instead attacking an enemy who was jumping at me felt fruitless and evasion was the only strategy which worked.
After my first sit-down with the game I began to grasp just how much goblin punching, spider stabbing and scarecrow chopping content there is. For a casual gamer the main campaign has at least 20 hours of gameplay with another good five hours for the DLC. Add to this the many doors and contraptions I encountered that could only be accessed on another play-through with an upgraded Gabriel and it is easy to see that Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition delivers a boat load of value. It is always refreshing and appreciated when games strive to offer more than the all too common eight hour experience.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition provided me with many layers of delicious gaming that well exceeded my expectations. The mesmerizing musical score and stunning presentation provided the backdrop for a bounty of gameplay mechanics which were usually well executed. The odd misstep in the combat and level exploration could not detract from the huge amount of content the game delivers. Having not played a Castelvania title since slipping one into my NES I for one won’t let another 25 years pass before immersing myself in this franchise again.
- A huge amount of levels and gameplay
- Multiple game mechanics
- Patrick Stewart + Robert Carlyle = Top tier voice work
- Alluring visuals
- Enjoyable enemies
- Fixed camera and invisible walls
- Minor combat detection issues
- Some jumping could be refined
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