I’m posting this first because this was actually the first review I decided to write for myself.
After buying, playing, beating, and promptly trading in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow of the Colossus, whoops, I mean Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, I felt compelled to write down my thoughts.
People curious about playing the game, be warned. There will be *spoilers* contained herein.
I will open by saying, no, the game is not bad. It’s not great, but not bad.
We’ll start with what I liked/enjoyed about the game:
1) The first thing you’ll notice is the fact that Patrick fucking Stewart is narrating your adventure. That’s awesome. But besides Patrick Stewart, the voice acting is, for the most part, very respectable.
2) Graphically, the game looks very nice. The only problem I really have is that, unless you turn the brightness way up, many times, it becomes very difficult to see enemies or even platforms and handholds you need to be able to see to continue the game. But where this game shines graphically is in its character models, specifically that of the main character, Gabriel Belmont. It’s easy to see how the character feels or even what he’s thinking based on his face. And without exaggerating the facial expressions like so many games do. A character doesn’t need to make a goofy face and do all sorts of stupid body motions simply to convey a basic emotion. But just a single look at Gabriel’s face shows you what a sad, contemplative character he really is. And then you go to read his bio in the menu and hey, that’s almost exactly what it says!
3) Simple, fluid controls. You don’t need to be a combo master (like in Devil May Cry) to enjoy the game to its fullest and you can’t just jump in the air and press L1+Square (like in the original God of War) and kill everything. You have to play smart, but not perfectly.
I’ll address more as I go along.
The first thing I want to bring up on the negative side of the scale is the camera. At no point in the game can you actually control which way the camera faces. You look where the game wants you to look, which can become a huge problem in some places. It may become really difficult to judge the distance of a jump. The angle might be so weird that it’s hard to keep Gabriel running in a straight line. You may not be able to see a path because it’s blocked by the foreground or just out of sight. This usually hides a secret but I can think of at least two times where I couldn’t continue the game until I found one of these hidden paths. The camera tends to change suddenly too, making Gabriel run in strange directions and sometimes even right back to the screen you were just in. An enemy might be off camera attacking you and it becomes hard to find because you can’t turn the camera and look for it. I understand the need for fixed camera angles in some instances, but for every angle to be fixed is just archaic! We’re in an age where camera control (especially in an action game like this) is very, very important. And to do something like this just isn’t a good idea.
The most prominent complaint I have about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is the fact that it’s calledCastlevania! You can play through the whole game and never figure it out. From what I can tell, the only connection this game has with the rest of the Castlevania series is the fact that you’re a guy named Belmont (and he wasn’t even born with that name. He chose it!) and you use a whip-like weapon. Not even a whip! But a cross with a spike and a retractable chain (?). The central conflict of any Castlevania game is the vampire, Dracula. Stopping him, preventing his resurrection, etc., with the exception of Lament of Innocence, which took place before Dracula’s rise to power and was more about the beginning of the Belmont clan as vampire hunters. And even that culminates at the end with a vampire that would become Dracula (I think… Konami has yet to explain that). Yet at no point inLords of Shadow is Dracula even mentioned until after the ending credits! And when he is, it’s retarded (I’ll get to it later). They very easily could have called it simply Lords of Shadow and completely removed the Castlevania part and the game would not have changed at all! But no, we have to tack on the Castlevania name to make it sell better!
Now, I know someone will read that and say, “Oh, it’s good that they didn’t involve Dracula. You don’t want to tell the same story over and over again!”. Normally, you’d be right. But in the case of Castlevania, there is a lot of story and history that could be told of Dracula and the Belmont clan. And it could be kept interesting. It’s really a shame Konami hasn’t really taken advantage of it instead of concentrating on making the games more like a fucking anime like the more recent Nintendo DS games (not that they were bad games).
But further, the game doesn’t even resemble previous Castlevania games! Besides the whip-like weapon, of course. Every Castlevania game that I have played previously, though many of the things looked different or played differently, there was still something distinctly Castlevania about it. A gothic, supernatural atmosphere that never let you forget what kind of game you were playing. I can’t fully explain it. Maybe it was the monsters, or the boss fights, or even the music. Even Castlevania 64, the Downs Syndrome baby of the Castlevania series felt more like a Casltevania game than this. Lords of Shadow at no point made me feel that way. At different points, I felt like I was playing a God of War game, an Uncharted/Tomb Raider game, and even Shadow of the Colossus.
Which brings me to my next point. The game seemed to blatantly steal a lot from other franchises. Gabriel fights in almost the exact same way as Kratos from God of War, even causing explosions to erupt from the ground with his whip! All of the climbing puzzles a ripped straight from the Uncharted games! There are three bosses that you fight *exactly* like fucking Shadow of the Colossus bosses! Yes, there are some games where a boss is so big that you need to climb them in order to reach a weak point. But a game in which you have to run around a boss made of stone, or with stone on them, or with stone-like qualities until it uses a move that allows you to get close enough to climb it a certain way to reach glowing runes on its body and stab them multiple times, thus spraying strangely coloured liquid, until it either dies or you have to climb it some more to find another rune is Shadow of the Colossus! Oh, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow too, apparently.
Besides the bosses, even the regular old enemies, for the most part don’t seem like your normal Castlevania enemies. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it just seems to detract from the Castlevania feeling that I was referring to earlier. Even the vampires for the most part are monstrous beings, more closely resembling bats than humans. The game explains it by saying vampires can take on human form as they grow in age and power. This doesn’t explain why you never see these bat-like vampires in any other Castlevania game (all of which take place after this one).
Speaking of which, I still don’t understand the time that Lords of Shadow takes place and the contradictions in the canon that it brings up. I’m under the impression that the events of this one are supposed to explain how the Belmont clan became vampire hunters and how their weapon came to be known as Vampire Killer. It also attempts to explain the origin of Dracula after the credits (I think. It makes no sense). Except they already did that! That’s what Castlevania: Lament of Innocence did! It followed Leon Belmont. He received a whip from someone else which, after sacrificing his love that had been bitten by the vampire, became the Vampire Killer. At the end of the game, he states, “From this day forth, the Belmont clan will hunt the night!” or something to that effect. In Lords of Shadow, Gabriel Belmont’s weapon becomes known as Vampire Killer only through legend. But this begs a few questions:
If this game takes place before Lament of Innocence, then what happened to the Vampire Killer that belonged to Gabriel? And wouldn’t Leon have had some idea about his family history if Gabriel had been killing supernatural creatures? But Lament of Innocence plays as if no Belmont has ever done such a thing?
Please skip the following paragraph if you want to play/are in the middle of playing and want to figure out the story on your own. You can easily skip it by typing in “SPOILERS AVERTED” into your search bar.
The story seems pretty straightforward until the very end. Gabriel is a prominent member of the Brotherhood of Light, which as I’ve gathered, is a group of warriors tasked with fighting the dark forces of the world. A spell has been cast by some unknown antagonist that has cut off the earth from the heavens, and the Brotherhood of Light sets out to kill the Lords of Shadow, each of which carries a piece of a relic called the God Mask,which gives the wearer almost unlimited power. Gabriel’s wife, Marie was murdered and Gabriel sets out to find this God Mask to not only break the spell, but to bring Marie back to life.
So, blah blah, you kill two of the three Lords of Shadow, and here’s where the story becomes… odd. You find out at the very end that Zobek, another member of the Brotherhood and a man that has helped Gabriel several times in combat, is actually the last Lord of Shadow (though they had given no foreshadowing to this effect. It comes out of fucking nowhere) and had used Gabriel to kill the others so that he could obtain the God Mask for himself. Sure, that’s not too weird and ‘the person that helped you was really your enemy’ is a fairly common plot twist. But, before you get to fight Zobek, you begin to hear a voice telling you that it put this idea in Zobek’s head and that it was using Zobek for the same reason Zobek was using Gabriel. Zobek freaks out and bursts into flames. Here, I was thinking would be a good place to bring in Dracula. Perhaps Dracula was the real Lord of Vampires, using the Carmilla that you fight in his place as some sort of decoy. But no, it’s nothing like that. Turns out the person that was behind all of this was…
Wait, what? Fucking Satan?! When has Satan ever been involved in the Castlevania universe at all?! It comes out of nowhere! And the last fight and the ending just become instantly preachy and ridiculous! Some of the shit you do during your apocalyptic fight with Satan looks like shit you see in Dragonball Z!! And it doesn’t help that Satan is naked through the whole fight, covered only by black smoke!
So, after beating the ever-loving shit out of Satan (who happened to be wearing the mask that gives you the power to and I quote, “Challenge God Himself”) with your whip and bare fists (you get to punch him square in the face). Gabriel laments when he discovers that he cannot bring his wife back to life.
Oh, but that’s not all! After you watch the ending credits, you see an extra scene. It involves Zobek walking through a church and up into the steeple (even though he burst into flames and died earlier… ) where he meets with a dark figure. After some dialog, he refers to the dark figure as ‘Gabriel’ (oh, snap!), to which the dark figure replies, “Do not use that name! Eu sunt Dracul!” That means, “I am Dracula!”…So, wait… The first of the Belmont clan is actually Dracula? What?! How can something that important about the Belmont family be lost for so many generations?! That’s bullshit! And it makes no sense!
I’ve even looked up possible explanations to this.
One says that Konami decided to pretty much scrap the Castlevania storyline already in place and start over. And if that’s the case, I have a question of Konami. Why the fuck would you do that?! Why would you take a well-established, widely loved storyline and just get rid of it? Especially one that still has so many stories to be told? And especially for something as retarded and preachy as this?! So, what? Does this mean that every Belmont that you play as in any future Castlevania game is directly related to Dracula, their mortal fucking enemy?! They’re all part supernatural being? But not just any supernatural being, but the very personification of evil! I’m sorry, but I can’t find any way to make this a good idea.
In the end, I just really wished they hadn’t called it Castlevania. I would have enjoyed the game a lot more because, even though it did borrow a lot from other games, when mixed together like it was, it did make for a good amount of fun. They just didn’t need to fuck up the Castlevania canon in order to do it. They’re fucking Konami! They just have to put they’re name on a game and that will automatically up the amount sold. They didn’t have to destroy a story that many of us have grown up with and grown to love. I mean damn, start a new series! It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten an original series from anyone that lasted more than two or three games. The Castlevania series is only about four months older than I am. How many game series made within the last say… five years? Ten years? are still going to be around twenty three years from now? None! Because we’re still going to be making bullshit sequels and prequels to Castlevania and Mega Man and Zelda… and Madden, but that doesn’t count. I think it’s about time someone tried and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a good opportunity to do just that!
I suppose you’ll be wanting some kind of numerical value to be given to this review…
Gameplay: 7/10 (based on it’s lack of originality)
Music: 5/10 (half of the time, I didn’t even realize there was music)
It’s worth a play if you can ignore the fact that it’s part of the Castlevania storyline now. Or if you’re completely new to it.