Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Xbox 360 Review

I must say that I was quite surprised when I really got into the new Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I had my doubts going into it (I’m sure everyone else did too), what with the lack of good 3D Castlevania games on the market and the not so compelling story the series has a knack for repeating over and over and over again (Editor’s note: also the fact that Konami wasn’t the head developer). I mean seriously, how many times do I have to shove a stake into Dracula before he finally says “ALRIIIIIIIGHT! Damn! I’ll stay dead already!!” So it should be no surprise that I was a little apprehensive at the thought of reviewing another one of Konami’s Dracula’s Castle Tours. Turns out that Konami decided to switch it up a bit and what they spun out was a pretty fun reboot of an old series that was on the brink.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow keeps its hack and slash adventure and Middle Ages European setting, but other than that, this game is so different that if you’re not careful, it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a Castlevania game at all. The game takes place in the year 1047 during the End of Days.  The world is drowning in chaos and darkness and creatures of evil roam the land, slaughtering all in their path. Apparently Earth has been cut off from Heaven’s grace by the Lords of Shadow, which allows the evil creatures to roam freely. The only one who seems to be able to stop this evil is…you guessed it…you. I agree, you are very unlucky; always being called upon to save the world from evil, you selfless, good-natured bastard you. Well this is no different. You play as Gabriel Belmont (if that last name sounds familiar, then congrats, you’ve played a Castlevania before), a hero from the Belmont lineage, the heroes of the Castlevania series. Gabriel must defeat the Lords of Shadow in order to restore peace to the world. THAT’S RIGHT! No mention of Dracula in any way, shape, or form! It’s not the most original story, but it is a nice turn from the series’ bland tale while still keeping with the Castlevania feel.

Lords of Shadow doesn’t skimp in the looks department. The graphics make for very good-looking landscapes and level designs. The first thing I noticed in the game were the great wind and rain effects. This gives off a good creepy atmosphere for most of the levels. However, for about the first half of the game, the levels were all outside in open areas, waterfalls, cliffs and other such areas. It didn’t really feel like Castlevania as much as it felt a little like something out of Lord of the Rings. It didn’t help that most of the enemies were goblins, trolls, giant spiders (oh come on, J.R.R . Tolkien must have somersaulted in his grave). The second half of the game led you through old castles and monasteries and pitted you against vampires and the undead and I soon remembered what game I was playing, but I wasn’t disappointed.

Speaking of forgetting what you’re playing; a lot of people have stated that Lords of Shadow plays a lot like God of War with all the intricate combos and Quick Time Events (QTE). They aren’t wrong in this department, but this game takes from way more than God of War. First off, the combat is a mixture of God of War and Devil May Cry. As stated above, the intricate combo system is reminiscent of God of War. This isn’t a bad thing, since the combos are all very enjoyable to pull off and it is extremely rewarding to watch your whip beat the snot out of two or three or twenty goblins and vampires, all fluidly and beautifully carried out. You can gain up to 40 or so combos by spending experience points gained from defeating enemies. You also have Light and Dark magic at your disposal. This make for some impressive Dragonball Z-ish light shows. Light magic helps heal you with each attack and Dark magic deals massive amounts of damage. You can buy pretty cool abilities for these as well with the experience you gain. Other than that you have silver daggers, holy water and few other things in your pack to sock it to the legions of evil.

Though thrashing about the peons is enjoyable, the boss fights are where this game really shines. Each boss requires more than just mashing the attack button (which is where those impressive combos come into play). To defeat the bosses, you’ll have to watch their movements and carefully plan your attacks or YOU WILL DIE!! Come to think of it, you’ll die anyway. This game isn’t easy. The boss battles get really immersive when you have whittled away a bit or their health and have to perform several fast paced QTE in order to proceed. This really pulls you in and gets your blood pumping. It’s intriguing that a few of the boss fights are really big mother effers. In order to defeat them, you must climb on to them and maneuver to vital spots on them and stab them while being careful not to lose your grip. If you pictured Shadow of the Colossus just now, then you get a point.

Lords of Shadow’s platforming element adds a bit of enjoyment to getting from place to place.  It is a lot like the Prince of Persia series in the way you leap and shimmy across ledges and acrobatically leap and grapple from cliff to cliff. The level designs complement this method of getting around rather nicely, but eventually it seems like you’re doing the same thing over and over again.

One of the main complaints I have about the game actually caused me a lot of grief. Fixed Camera Angles are really, REALLY ANNOYING! It keeps you from seeing everything that’s going on and can cost you quite a bit of health. It also makes the levels seem extremely linear (which they are, but it’s more obvious with the fixed camera) and makes the grind of “go here find key, unlock door, go in, find other key”….copy and paste ten times…really drag out and makes it worse than it had to be. By the time you’ve almost finished the game, you’re just praying you don’t have to go through any more mind numbingly same levels.

Even though the game can get old with the same stuff over and over, and the camera can get a bit annoying, the well blended gameplay from several successful games makes for a really cool and different Castlvania experience. It helps that before each level, Sir Patrick Stewart narrates the story.  Nothing gets you jacked quite as much as Patrick Stewart narrating your life. It feels so epic. So, give this game a try; you won’t regret it.

Score: 8 out of 10

About Tyler Lee

Freelance video game journalist, published author, nerd.


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