The Gaiden Prequel
Just going to get this out of the way before I begin, I bloody love this game. It is my favorite Playstation 3 game, and this is my review of it.
Castlevania Lords of Shadow was a gamble for the Castlevania series. Konami handed it over to another developer, Mercurysteam as an attempt to bring the Castlevania series to Playstation 3, and that is just what they did. The main character of the game is Gabriel Belmont (Who is voiced by Robert Carlyle) who is fighting for his deceased love, Marie. He is aided by his brotherhood knight ally called Zobek (Who is voiced by Patrick Stewart, who is also the narrator) who guides Gabriel through the task of saving the world from it's own ends by destroying the Lords of Shadow. Gabriels motivation comes from him hearing about the God Mask, which he is told can bring back Marie from death.
In this game, Gabriel uses a variation of the classic Vampire Killer chain whip, now called the Combat cross which is a long spiked chain which retracts into the handle. Use of this weapon is very similar to the Blades of Chaos from the God of War games. In fact, the combat system is incredibly similar to God of War, with close up enemy finishers requiring quick time events and button mashing. There are many combo attacks which can be unlocked about bought, and the Combat Cross attacks can be seamlessly combined with the other powerups obtainable in the game. The combat cross has two attacks which can be combined to different combos. It has a light, fast frontal attack and a slower, but largely wide area attack. But gabriel can also improve his attacks using Light and Dark magic, which will heal him on attack, or increase his damage, respectively. They each have their own bar on the bottom left and right sides of the screen and are replenished by sucking up the yellow orbs that enemies drop
The combat cross is not the only weapon in the game. Like other Castlevania games there are collectible subweapons, however in this game they do not get replaced, but instead each have their own stockpile. The four available subweapons are daggers, which work as they always have, thrown in a straight line at the enemy. The daggers can be thrown rapidly, or if the button is held, several can be thrown. Theres also Holy Water, which also works as it always has, making a large pool of blue fire. Fairies, which distract enemies. And the crystal, which is a screen wide nuke and can also be used as a temporary shield. The hearts based source of ammunition has been removed and collecting more of the same weapon increases the stockpile.Gabriel starts with only the daggers, the other weapons are unlocked as part of the story.
In this game, each chapter will end with a boss, some chapters having multiple bosses, and this is one of the areas that I think that this game shines. The first real boss is at the end of the first chapter, the Ice Titan which towers over the player showing just how colossal it is. The only downside to this boss is that it is a complete ripoff of the first colossus in Shadow of the Colossus featuring the same kind of climbing and destroying specific point of the boss. Despite the unoriginality, it is a really fun boss fight. The many other bosses in the game follow the same fashion, not that they rip off Shadow of the Colossus, but more that they are all so grand and well thought out. Some of my best boss fight experiences come from this game.
The stages in this game are for the most part well made, and a lot of them memorable as they each have their own distinct details to them. It is highly likely that you will notice something new every time that you play them. Each area has a unique feel to it, and the attention to detail is incredible. The stages range from the besieged village which very well sets the stage for events to come, to a large gruelling battle between Gabriel and a giant vampires. The villagers standing aside the monsters and Gabriel, jabbing at whatever comes close. Even dieing if they are attacked by a lycan or warg (This is part of a trial) which are just some of the extra details that this game includes only to enhance the experience. And it is an experience worth enhancing. Very few stages in this game are dull, and they are all a marvel to look at, with vast landscapes expanding the gorgeous horizon and small caves crawling with spiders and corpses which can give a feeling of claustrophobia.
The soundtrack to the game is a completely different style to what we are used to. However, that does not mean it is bad, in fact it is absolutely fantastic. While it is not a very large soundtrack when compared to other games, it is an amazing sounding one, with a full orchestra doing every track, and each track being used to its full extent on every stage further enhancing an already near perfect experience. Each track is well suited to its purpose, with slow, calm tracks for small scale platforming, to loud, yet somehow atmospheric music for the boss fights and large encounters. This game has a soundtrack that is good enough to listen to on a CD (Which is purchasable) that is assuming you like the style of the music.
The story is well written and deep. A story that would be worthy of reading in a book. However the story very rarely twists to something largely unexpected and because of how deep and long it is can become eventually hard to follow. Delving further into the story is done through locating scrolls which are found on dead brotherhood knights which give backstories to characters, hints to puzzles, or explanations to strange areas. Speaking of puzzles (Not that you want me to) this game has many, and rewards you for figuring them out without the game giving you the answer. Of course if you want the game to give you the answer, the brotherhood knight scrolls which gives the appropriate hint can give you the answer at the cost of your reward for beating it. A lot of the puzzles seem to take inspiration from the uncharted games, requiring you to change the environment through floor panels or faces on the walls. One puzzle is in particular interesting because after it has been beat it can be played again in two player from the main menu. This is the Vampire Wargame. It plays very similar to chess except each player only has six pieces, two vampires, two lycans, and two necromancers. The vampires can leech health, the lycans can move faster and hit harder. And the necromancers can summon a zombie anywhere on the board and have a ranged attack. The winner is the one who destroys all of the opponents pieces. This is a fun distraction from the actual game, but near the end of a Vampire Wargame it can just feel tedious waiting to get lucky enough to use the piece that you have left.
The game is sadly not very challenging, which is a disappointment for a Castlevania game. There are a few times in that game that are a little frustrating, but that is all, nothing is particularly difficult, even on the highest difficulty. However some challenge comes from trying to find all of the secrets of which there is a huge abundance of. Every stage has many secrets and the majority are useful to the player. They range from weapon upgrades which will improve on the damage or effect of subweapons, to the three coloured gems, red, green and blue, for life, dark magic and light magic. finding five of a type will increase the appropriate atat. Gems are usually found on dead knights in hard to reach places meaning that if you want to find some or need more to beat a boss, you will have to replay old levels and search them. The stage descriptions shown after you beat a stage show you what secrets are in the level and how many you have found. To add to an already packed game is the trials. Every level in the game has one and each trial is a requirement you must meet before beating the level. The abundance of secrets and trials is a good reason to keep playing, and will appeal to completionist massively.
To sum up. Castlevania Lords of Shadow is not very faithful to the Castlevania series, and spawns its own gaiden series to follow alongside the regular one. The game is not too hard, but has plenty to keep you playing on. The soundtrack and graphics are truly breathtaking, and the story is something we haven't seen for a long time. So I give this fantastic Playstation 3 game a huge 9.5 out of 10.
This has been Zaris. Thanks for reading.