Greetings everyone and welcome to “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn Part 30”. That’s right, we’ve reached 30 parts, which I’m sure is some kind of a milestone. In this case it’s a big one since there are only 7 parts left in this feature series of mine before it retires for good, therefore, I’ll do my best to make them as entertaining and informative as possible. In this week’s article I will discuss the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series. And guess what, this is (kind of) yet another series of games I got into that never quite received a conclusive ending. To be more specific, the ending of the last game was very open-ended and provided very little resolution to the main plot, and it was just plain abrupt and disappointing. Given Konami’s apparent decision to focus more on mobile games and pachinko, it looks like this series of mine will also fade away into oblivion. It’s times like these I wonder why I get so invested in multiple game series. Anyway, I should also mention I’ve never played any of the older Castlevania games, just the Lords of Shadow reboot series. Okay, let’s get things started.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (PS3)
This game was apparently a departure from the usual Castlevania formula of exploring a large, fully explorable castle that is laid out in a metroidvania style and making it to the end to slay Dracula. In this game you are Gabriel Belmont, the greatest warrior of the Brotherhood of Light, who is on a quest to find out who or what cast a spell to cut off the Earth’s connection to Heaven, and to do this he will first have to slay the Lords of Shadow, the three most powerful monsters in the land. However, Gabriel has a more personal reason for going on this quest, which is to kill the one who cast this “isolation spell” because the guilty party was also responsible for murdering his wife Marie. I honestly was expecting more out of this game’s story when I first got into it. Not that the story was bad, it just had a very minimal narrative since Gabriel interacts very little with other characters in this game, it’s a largely lonely adventure for him where he jumps from level to level fighting enemies. He also speaks very little in general, so his character development is quite limited. Instead of actively seeing Gabriel deal with his sadness and rage throughout his adventure (with the exception of the game’s ending), we are mostly told about his suffering through narrated introductions at the start of each mission. At the very least, these narrations are masterfully performed by secondary character Zobek, who is voiced by none other than the highly talented Sir Patrick Stewart.
The combat has sort of a God of War-esque vibe to it, though I personally don’t find it to be quite as good as the combat in that series (though the quick-time events are at least quite well done). The enemies are very aggressive and many are somehow able to attack Gabriel even while he’s attacking them, making many of his blows feel rather ineffective. Gabriel’s main weapon, the whip-like Combat Cross, can unleash a number of different combos and is his most versatile weapon, though it is kind of lacking in sheer force. Gabriel later acquires the Dark Gauntlet, a…..well, gauntlet that lets him hit enemies with charged punches and shockwave attacks, though this weapon is unfortunately extremely slow and is rather useless against many enemies due to its long wind-up time. Very precise timing is needed to make full use of this weapon, which proved kind of annoying for me, to be honest. Thankfully, as you gain more combat upgrades for Gabriel’s weapons, the combat becomes more fun. He can also switch between Light and Shadow Magic to drain enemies’ health when he strikes them and increase his attack damage, respectively. Other relics and items he acquires like the Cyclone Boots let him run at increased speeds, and the Seraph Shoulders are a pair of angelic wings that allow him to double jump.
He also has secondary weapons like silver daggers to hit enemies from a distance, fairies to distract or damage enemies, holy water to greatly damage vampires and other undead enemies, and dark crystals to summon a powerful demon that can destroy weaker enemies and even greatly damage bosses. Upgrades to these weapons (usually the ability to carry more of them) can be found scattered throughout the levels, but they usually can’t be reached until after Gabriel acquires the previously mentioned Cyclone Boots or Seraph Shoulders, at which point you will have to replay previous mission to get these upgrades. It’s one thing to revisit areas in games with more free-roaming environments, but replaying older missions to get upgrades….no thanks, I never bothered with that. As for the enemies and bosses, the variety on hand is certainly respectable, with Gabriel battling werewolves, vampires, necromancers, trolls, ghouls, giant spiders, ogres, zombies, demons, giant golems, etc. A number of puzzles are scattered throughout the missions, and some of them are quite the brain twisters.
The two DLCs, Reverie and Resurrection, add a few extra missions that take place after the main game’s ending, and they also bridge the gap between the main ending and the surprising after credits ending. These missions entail Gabriel and the child vampire Laura making efforts to stop a mighty demon known as the Forgotten One from escaping his prison and destroying the world. Reverie has a strong focus on puzzle solving, and you also get to take control of Laura a couple of times in order to advance through the missions. Laura can attack enemies with a few electric-based attacks, drink the blood of stunned enemies to regain health, and use a Mist Form to avoid enemy attacks and phase through iron gates that Gabriel can’t get through. Resurrection has a strong focus on platforming and combat, with Gabriel mostly doing battle with the very tough Forgotten One himself and a handful of other enemies. All in all, while I wish the story had been a little more engaging and that the missions weren’t so linear, this is still a fun, great game. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow gets a score of 83%.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Mirror of Fate (3DS/PS3)
This game was originally released on the Nintendo 3DS but was later bundled with the previous game in the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection for the PS3. I was kind of nervous getting into this game since it was my first 2D side-scroller since the days of the Sega Genesis, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy that type of game anymore. To my surprise, Mirror of Fate ended up being my favorite game in the Lords of Shadow series. It begins with a brief tutorial mission as Gabriel Belmont that takes place a year before the events of the first Lords of Shadow and before Gabriel himself became Dracula. Afterwards, we then take control of three (sort of) other characters as they make their way through Dracula’s castle in order to destroy him. First is Simon Belmont, grandson of Gabriel Belmont. Second is Alucard, the vampire form of Gabriel Belmont’s son, Trevor Belmont. The third and final character is Trevor Belmont before he became Alucard (the timeline kind of jumps around between the past and the present). All three main characters have basically the same control schemes and use the same whip-like weapons to keep things from getting unnecessarily complicated, but they also thankfully have unique abilities that set themselves apart from each other.
All three characters have the use of their own magic abilities that will only work as long as they have juice in their corresponding magic meters. Simon can summon the Spirit of Belnades to grant him invulnerability to enemy attacks and environmental hazards, and he can summon the Spirit of Schneider who will shoot enemies with magic arrows. Alucard can use a Mist Form to improve his dodging capabilities by phasing through enemies and absorbing some of their health in the process, as well as phase through normally impassable gates, and he can transform into a Wolf Form to increase his attack damage. Trevor, like his father before him, has the use of Light and Shadow Magic to respectively drain health from enemies he strikes and increase the damage of his attacks. All characters also have their own unique secondary weapons and abilities. Simon can hit enemies from a distance with throwing axes and flaming oil flasks. Alucard can hit enemies with a swarm of bats and briefly slow down time with special items called “stopwatches”. He can also use Shadow Claws to climb up certain surfaces and use Demonic Wings to double-jump and glide fair distances; Alucard is also the only character who can breathe underwater. Trevor can hit enemies from a distance with bladed boomerangs and electric bombs, as well as use Speed Boots to increase his running speed and jump very far distances. He can also double jump (somehow) but not glide, and he can use his main weapon to climb up certain surfaces.
With all these different abilities between all three characters, it comes to no surprise that this game is certainly not short on variety. This also goes for the different types of enemies and fun bosses they battle: zombies, hunchbacks, mermen, living puppets, harpies, werewolves, vampires, and the like. And unlike the first game, the entirety of this one takes place inside and outside of Dracula’s castle, and each part of the castle can be revisited after you’ve discovered them. Backtracking is actually essential if you wish to find all the upgrades and bestiary scrolls hidden throughout the castle. Most of these collectibles are easy enough to find, though they usually require a certain ability to reach them like the Demonic Wings or the Speed Boots, and finding them all lets you see the game’s full ending. Fortunately, the ability to leave custom notes that appear on the map makes finding these collectibles much more manageable than if we couldn’t leave messages at all. There are a handful of puzzles in the game, but not many (though one in particular can take a long time to figure out). I even found the story to be better than those in the other games, it certainly had more suspense and a stronger character driven narrative. The only negative I can come up with is that the game can get a little repetitive at times, but it’s still plenty of fun and was a surprise hit for me. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Mirror of Fate gets a score of 90%.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (PS3)
This was unfortunately the last game in the Lords of Shadow series. I say unfortunately because the ending was underwhelming and very abrupt, plus the game itself had some other flaws which made it my least favorite of the series. After the admittedly exciting intro where Dracula does battle with an army of Brotherhood of Light soldiers and their mighty paladin, he finds himself face to face with his son, Alucard. Hundreds of years later, Dracula awakens from a very long slumber in the modern day Castlevania City which was built upon the ruins of his old castle. His old enemy Zobek (again voiced by Patrick Stewart, thankfully) convinces Dracula to team up with him against their mutual enemy, Satan, whose acolytes are making efforts to revive their master and summon him to Earth in order to take it over. Aside from a late game twist in the narrative involving the truth behind Dracula’s intentions, the story is rather straightforward and actually kind of vague with regards to Dracula being able to sort of go back in time to visit his castle as he continues his journey. Having been greatly weakened during his slumber, Dracula spends the majority of the game regaining his former power.
His main “weapon” is the Shadow Whip, which is formed from his own blood and functions much like the Combat Cross he wielded as a human. It is his primary weapon and does moderate damage and has a far reach. His other main weapons are the Void Sword and the Chaos Claws, both of which are powered by magic meters and cannot be used indefinitely. The Void Sword does the least amount of damage, but is capable of draining health from enemies it strikes to replenish Dracula’s health and freezing enemies with ice-based attacks. The Chaos Claws are Dracula’s strongest weapons and are the only weapons capable of burning through armored and shielded enemies, and they can also unleash fire-based attacks on enemies; their main weaknesses would be that they’re rather slow and have limited range. Dracula will also gain use of shadow daggers to hit distant enemies, a Bat Swarm to distract and disorient enemies, a Mist Form to avoid some enemy attacks and phase through certain obstacles, and Demonic Wings to double jump. These abilities can be combined with the Void and Chaos powers to unleash other deadly attacks.
He also has the use of special relics that let him momentarily unlock higher level weapon combos, replenish and momentarily increase his health, and even turn himself into a dragon and obliterate all surrounding enemies. Dracula’s physical abilities, namely his climbing and dodging, are superior to when he was human, and he can take more damage and land from great heights without suffering falling damage. He can even drink the blood of most enemies when executing them through quick-time events to regain some health. Enemy variety is rather fair, though not quite as great as in the previous games. Typically, Dracula battles against harpies, jailers, vampires, Brotherhood warriors, and the like while at his castle, and in the present day he mostly battles demons and soldiers in mech suits, as well as a few other enemies. Very much like the combat in the first game, combat in Lords of Shadow 2 could be a little annoying when enemies are able to power through lots of Dracula’s attacks and hit him, which can be extra annoying when battling multiple enemies. The game seems to push you to fight enemies almost solely through counterattacks, which work well enough, but the combat tends to not flow as well as in other hack and slash games like Devil May Cry, God of War, and Ninja Gaiden. Still, the combat works well enough, especially when fighting the fun and challenging bosses.
There are only a couple of puzzles in the entire game, and instead it focuses on stealth sessions where Dracula must sneak past these clone cyborgs (which are inexplicably stronger than him even towards the end of the adventure) in order to reach his goals. Some of these stealth sessions and other environmental puzzles entail Dracula turning into a rat and crawling through air vents to reach the next area. I didn’t hate these stealth sessions, though there was one in particular where Dracula has to sneak through a garden maze while avoiding its guardian which proves incredibly frustrating. Whoever designed that particular stealth challenge deserves a sound thrashing. Also, revisiting the different areas in both the castle and the city to find collectibles and upgrades can be annoying given the confusing layout and utterly useless map. The DLC Revelations has you play as Alucard in an adventure he undertook before the events of the main game to safeguard his father’s Void and Chaos powers. He has sort of his own unique moveset with his sword the Crissaegrim, as well as his ability to use Bat Cloud to zoom towards grapple points as a cloud of bats, using a time-based ability to temporarily repair destroyed portions of the castle, and a Spectral Wolf Form that lets him phase through obstacles and jump great distances. Aside from Alucard’s abilities and a much stronger focus on puzzle-solving, this DLC is nothing exceptional, but is still fun enough. In the end, this was a decent game, but definitely not a great one. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 gets a score of 70%.
It really is unfortunate that the last game of this series ended up being a bit of a comparative dud and had an unsatisfying ending with little resolution to Dracula’s cursed existence. Since we won’t be getting a sequel, the series will remain in this sorry state. Stupid Konami. They could have seriously done very good things with a current gen Castlevania game with a better story. Join me next week for Part 31 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will discuss a far superior series that had a much better and memorable ending, assuming it has actually come to a definitive end. I speak, of course, about the Batman Arkham series. While you wait for my next legendary article, check out these other articles on our site:
Ian has reviewed the first-person, limb slicing game known as Severed, which you can check out here.
Jorge has reviewed a rather unique shooting (and also first-person) game known as Lovely Planet, so take a look at it here.
New guy Joe Dapling has kicked things off with his own feature series called “In My Head” where he discusses his opinions on any and all things video game. His first article where he compares the PES and FIFA series of soccer/football games can be found here. His second article, which I can personally identify with, discusses his opinion on the lack of great superhero video games, and you can find it here.
Michael shares his undying appreciation for a certain game that most of us “oldies” all know very well and that helped define the first-person shooter genre. I speak of none other than Goldeneye 007. If you loved this game back in the day, then you owe it to yourself to check out Michael’s latest “Retro Respawn” here.