Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)
Posted 27 October 2010 - 05:30 AM
Castlevania is set in the late year of 1047, in a world that is torn by the Light and the Dark. The land is overcome with the presence of the Lord of the Shadows. A Dark force that has cursed the Earth with a spell that has stopped the dead souls from leaving and has put them in Limbo. The world is inhabited by evil creatures who stalk and kill the living. The main character is Gabriel Belmont, a member of the Brotherhood of Light. The Brotherhood is made up of Holy Knights that defend and protect the Earth from the evil creatures that grace it. Gabriel's wife Maria, was killed at the hands of the Brotherhood and remains in purgatory. She knows what challenges Gabriel must face ahead, and guides him on to save the world from the Shadows. Gabriel teams up with one of his mentors Zobek (voiced by Patrick Stewart) to hunt down the three factions of the Lords of Shadow, and regain the Masks of God and the Devil to bring back his wife.
The game plays just like God of War for the most part. You have your short and ranged attacks with Gabriel's Combat Cross, which extends with chains. Gabriel can upgrade his Cross with couple add ons to make it more powerful with the experience he earns from killing enemies. The combo combinations can be unlocked with xp earned, with a impressive number of over 40 combos. The combos are laid out and presented with a nice touch. The animations are all previewed with a well done hand drawn black and white Gabriel displaying and performing the move sets. You collect gems all over the levels to extend Gabriel's life and magic bars, no different then God of War. His magic consists of Light and Shadow. Killing enemies, Gabriel can absorb the energy to fill up his Light and Shadow magic. With Light magic activated, Gabriel can strike enemies and gain back health while also performing Light magic moves if purchased. With Shadow magic activated, striking enemies causes double damage and is more powerful then the Light magic. Dead Brotherhood members are found all over the Earth, most carrying either Gems or Scrolls. Scrolls have tales of the fallen and how far they have made it on this journey others with keys to puzzles. There is a lot of platforming, where climbing and scaling walls is easy and done very fluently. There is also the use of the chain for swinging across environments, which is used in most, if not all Castlevania games.
The enemies come in a wide range from typical things you would battle in this series. You have your werewolves, vampires, trolls, and all things evil to battle in this game. The bosses come very often and come at you hard in all shapes and sizes. Couple of the giant boss designs are basically a direct rip from Shadow of the Colossus, in which you must scale them and and stab there weak points until they drop. While others are set more like a Ninja Gaiden style, were they are very fast paced with sword play. They offer quite the challenge to you as the player, which is why I enjoyed it so much. The action sequences, or quick time events are played like God of War for the most part. The only difference is one type you push a button combination and the other you would have to wait for a circle to shrink into another circle and hit any action button to perform the move right. The game is set over 12 missions or chapters if you will, set inside a book. Inside each one of this chapters is a set of levels, there are over 45 levels in the game. There is four levels of difficulty to the game, and each level unlocks a trial for that level. The trials consist of different challenges in that level, whether it be beating the level in set time or not using your magic for the entire level.
The graphics in this game are absolutely gorgeous. The vistas and backdrops set in the levels are some of the best I have seen in awhile, and are done with amazing artistic style for the game. They really nailed that one I think. But, what they didn't get right was the frame rate. This really hurts the game if anything does in my opinion. The game can crawl at some spots when in mid fight. For the most part it hiccups, always, when in battle. The game also froze on me on multiple occasions, which is unexceptable. This is a real let down, cause I expect something of this caliber to deliver. The camera is also fixed and can not be controlled by the player. This can frustrating when in mid battle your forced in a corner and can't see, or enemies will be off screen and you can not react properly to their attacks. The audio on the other hand, is composed with some real heart into the game. Every orchestral theme pounds out and sets the tone in this Castlevania universe. The voice over work is excellent, Patrick Stewart narrates the whole story as the game loads and really does a good job. The other voice overs are done well too, the relationship of Gabriel and his lost wife Maria comes together on this performance. Load times are fast and get you right into the action, coming off of Dead Rising 2 this was a real treat.
The overall design and presentation was done exceptionally. Slick menus with other little touches like when you paused the game, the screen would go into the pause menu book and be all done hand draw frame. I loved that. The game featured some awesome variety of puzzle designs too. One puzzle you were shrunk in to a music box and had to play a song a certain way to escape from it. Collecting gems through sets of trapped corridors, different coloured gems played different parts of the song to advance farther in to the song. Other consist of you using your Light and Shadow powers in different sequences and riddles. The game is only a single player experience, which I think is a perfect choice. It almost was twenty hours to playthrough the whole game. I might note that the games ending cutscene was well done, and left questions for a possibly a sequel. Great touch. I was truly impressed. With all the combos and magic powers to be unlocked, the Scrolls and Gems to be collected, and the trials for each level. This game offers enough replay value of that can be matched with some of the great action hack and slash games to date. All the slow downs and freezing that happened when I played this game should have turned me off, but it didn't. When I was done playing through the first time, I just wanted to jump back in and keep going.
Posted 27 October 2010 - 07:48 PM
The game has some very tough spots and some very frustrating camera angles, but I still really loved it.
Posted 28 October 2010 - 04:43 AM
And yes the camera is something else. lol The combos I thought were pretty awesome for the most part, and you should use more of the Light Magic special attacks like The Summersault attacks and the one with the Cross is sick. The one where he does like a giant Hadouken, cleans house. lol