Thoughts On: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

Since this Thoughts On will be about the upcoming 3D game, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2, let’s start this Thoughts On with my two cents on the very popular Castlevania franchise. I am kind of indifferent to the franchise. I never grew up with it, and have only played a few of the main games in the franchise. I am currently going through Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on my PlayStation 3 and am enjoying it to a certain degree. In my opinion, Super Castlevania IV is the best game in the franchise. Sure, some people have pointed out that it isn’t as good as everyone makes it out to be, but you can basically use that argument on any popular game. To me, the level design and the controls were better, and it was just plain fun. I mean, in the end, if you are having fun, that is what matters, right? I am having fun with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but I had to take my time with this game to enjoy its overall design, and while this isn’t a game with a, “it’s hard to get into, but when you do, it’s satisfying” kind of situation, it takes a little bit to get used to the game. I have played bits and pieces of the DS games, and I know a lot of people like those games, but I got tired of what is pretty much the same game over and over again. It isn’t like Madden, where it really is the same game over and over, but with every game having that Metroid style of design, it got tiring pretty quickly. Why should I play Portraits of Ruin over Dawn of Sorrow? I know, in terms of design, the DS games are different, but it’s pretty much the same game. Even after saying that, they aren’t terrible games by any means. When Konami released Castlevania: Lords of Shadow back in 2010, I read that gamers had mixed reactions to it. It was mostly well-received on one side of the gaming population who loved it for its combat, story, music, and downright beautiful graphical presentation. The other side didn’t like how much of a drastic change the reboot of the series was. In my honest opinion, this was one of my favorite games of 2010. Sure, it had some flaws, but I thought it was a pretty good game. Konami then released a midquel by the name of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow-Mirror of Fate for the 3DS this year to a more mixed reaction. Personally, I believe it’s a solid action game for the handheld. While it had more flaws than the last game, I would still recommend it and would give it a 7 out of 10. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. Now then, Lords of Shadow 2. In my eyes, it is one of my top 10 most anticipated games of this year and has been looking pretty snazzy in the trailers and demo footage. I have a few concerns, but for the most part, I am still quite excited for this title. So, what are my thoughts?

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As usual, let’s go over the story. The story this time stars Gabriel Belmont, who is now Dracula, voiced by Robert Carlyle. If you watch shows like Once Upon a Time, he is the guy who plays Rumplestiltskin. He has awakened many years after the first two games. He is greeted by Zobek, voiced by the ever so awesome Patrick Stewart. Zobek warns Dracula that Satan, voiced again by Jason Isaacs, will return to the world. It is up to Dracula to regain his powers and stop Satan from taking over the world. In my opinion, the story looks promising. It doesn’t just cover the story of Dracula in the modern world, because it also covers what Dracula was like back in the times of knights and sorcery. Maybe it will give us more insight to the story that Mirror of Fate didn’t give us. While I like the idea of stories that jump back and forward from the past to the present, I hope the story is strong enough so the players don’t get confused, lost, or just end up not caring about the overall story. I have high hopes for it since the first Lords of Shadow had a really strong story.

The gameplay looks like it has some depth to it. In the first game, you had sub-items, your battle cross, and two kinds of magic. This game seems to tighten things up a bit. For example, you still have a blood whip to take out enemies from long range to close range, but the magic and other weapons are handled differently. Light magic in the last game helped you get more health back, and in Lords of Shadow 2, the light magic and its functions have been put into the form of a sword called the Void Sword. Shadow magic which made your attacks stronger has been relegated to the Chaos Gauntlets. It seems like they want to make the powers and abilities more focused on three weapons instead of having every single weapon and sub-weapon get involved with the light and shadow magic. The biggest change though is how you will travel from level to level. Instead of being a linear chapter-based affair, which I liked, the entire world of Lords of Shadow 2 will be open-ended, like Batman: Arkham City, where you can come back to earlier areas. From what I can tell, it’s basically going to be a 3D version of Symphony of the Night. Mercurystream has already confirmed that you will be playing as Dracula from the past and from the future, and I’m interested to see how they implement the more open-ended world for both current-day Dracula and back-in-the-land-of-swords-and-sorcery Dracula. A game mechanic that I am happy to see back are the titan fights. I know people complained about them in the last game, as to how they were like the Colossus fights from Shadows of the Colossus. In my opinion, these complaints are flawed. Everybody seems to forget how awkward or awful the controls were in Shadow of the Colossus. You could adjust the button layout, but that didn’t help how clunky the controls were. Anyway, from what we have seen from the E3 2013 demo, mixed with some Uncharted-looking platforming, the Titan battles are being designed like the Cronos fight from God of War 3, where the fight was a level within itself. Hopefully, this will be yet another multi-hour action game that we can sink our teeth into, but no clock tower levels, okay?

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I don’t need to tell you how amazing the graphics look in the game. I don’t care if it’s lighting, textures, etc., it just looks beautiful. I also like the grand scale this game is giving us. I mean, who didn’t feel pumped while watching the E3 2013 trailer? This is something most action games do not get. Even Ninja Gaiden 3 and its update just failed with how non-epic it was. That is the thing about action games, in my opinion. I want to feel detached from reality, be an incredibly powerful guy who lets nothing get in his way, and fight giant monsters or opponents who are larger than life. Lords of Shadow 2 seems to have that epic feel in the scale of the graphics and its combat. The music also sounds amazing. Say what you want about Lords of Shadow and Mirror of Fate, but one thing that was apparent in these games was well-composed music. Heck, the franchise has a big reputation for having awesome music. Even if games like the early Game Boy games and Mirror of Fate might end up with the weaker soundtracks of the franchise, Lords of Shadows 2 seems to have a grand scope to add on to the adventures of Dracula.

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So, any concerns before release? Well, if they are focusing so much on having a huge world to explore, make the exploration worthwhile. There is nothing worse than having to backtrack through a huge area that really has no worthwhile reward. I also hope the enemy variety is much better than the past two games. The past games have had enemy variety up the wazoo, but maybe to a fault. The past two games had a more focused selection of enemies, so I hope the new game has a good, but varied range of enemies so the combat doesn’t get boring. In terms of DLC, if this game has it, make it worthwhile! I might defend the first game and the midquel, but I will not defend Lords of Shadow’s DLC. It was pointless, too puzzle-heavy, and the only thing worthwhile in both $10 DLC packs was the villain, who was pretty cool-looking and had a great voice. Hopefully, they also balance out the combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, since for me anyway, focusing on one thing more than the other is quite the buzzkill in the pacing department.

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In the end, I am probably more optimistic about this game than other people and I’m fine with that. I know some would rather have had Koji Igarashi keep designing the games, but I liked the change of pace of the Lords of Shadow trilogy. Once I get some cash, and they announce a limited or collector’s edition, I will definitely be putting my pre-order down for it.