I can’t help but compare Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to Metroid: Other M. Both long-anticipated, 3D-oriented sequels to well-respected, often troubled franchises trying to do a lot at once to please old fans who hold a certain “Metroidvania” title as the paradigm, while welcoming new players used to God of War and Ninja Gaiden.
It’s an unenviable task!
But from what I played of the final build yesterday, Lords of Shadow seems up to it. I picked up the Dual Shock in the middle of someone else’s playthrough, so after taking a few minutes to acclimate myself to the controls I was whipping and dagger-throwing like a, well, like a Kratos or Ryu Hayabusa.
Yeah, the game is derivative of popular action/adventure games of recent years. Even the nonsensical action-halting plank walking from God of War shows up, however instead of planks they’re really thick spider webs. Which brings up a noticeable difference from the God of Ninja Inferno pack — the art design is very much in line with previous titles. The whole game takes cues from Super Castlevania IV, as several of the environments I played through (a spooky forest and a spider-infested cavern) resembled 3D representations of the SNES classic’s levels.
I can’t say anything about the music, sadly. The venue was much too loud (thanks Def Jam Rapstar) to even hear sound effects or voice acting. Hopefully Lords of Shadow lives up to the series’ famous knack for rocking music.
I didn’t get much of an impression of the story either, other than what we know about the premise already. Gabriel Belmont must revive his recently murdered wife and he’ll go through hell, or Castlevania, to do it. Classic Orpheus myth. Whether that means he’ll wind up at Dracula’s castle — it is the title after all — remains to be seen.
The action, although derivative of recent action games, flows very well. Combos feel powerful, jumping feels right and the controls for everything work well. Dodging and timing is invaluable, as well as paying extra-close attention to enemies’ animations to see when and how they will attack. Though it’s 3D Lords of Shadow seems to keep very much in line with the 8-bit and 16-bit games. Especially the difficulty. Normal enemies gave me a tough time (including horrific gigantic spiders — way to tap into my nightmares, Konami) and a Shadow of the Colossus-sized ice titan put me through the ringer. Death isn’t a total bummer as generous checkpoints grant you ample leeway.
I walked away from my time with the game feeling pretty good about it. With its Super Castlevania IV-inspired aesthetic and solid-though-not-entirely-revolutionary action, Lords of Shadow feels like a worthy sequel that ought to stand up to the expectations hoisted upon it, as well as the competition from its Ninja War God May Cry: Other M peers.