Hands On: Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow

Godless of War.

Third person action games aren’t a rarity this generation, having already been treated to the hack and slash delights of Dante’s Inferno, Bayonetta and, of course, God of War III in the last twelve months.  It looks like MercurySteam (with Kojima in tow) fancied a slice of the action, so to speak, and have chosen to change their normally two dimensional Castlevania series into three, echoing the very best of the genre staples above in the process.

Indeed, by the end of the game’s first chapter, itself split over five levels, you’ll have destroyed a few dozen deathly denizens of Hell, scaled walls the likes of Lara Croft would have been proud of and climbed (and defeated) an icy Titan the size of a Colossus.  Yes, a Colossus.  Lords of Shadow is nothing if not a mish mash of almost every great third person title we’ve played recently, and as yet we’re still to see the usual Castlevania furnishings of an old musty castle and a row of chandeliers.

Which is a good thing, because although lead character Gabriel Belmont looks and leaps the way we’re accustomed to, his surroudings are very different – the opening, rain drenched courtyard soon makes way for dense jungle, ancient ruins and, after a meeting with the mythical Pan himself, a rather cold encounter on a frozen lake.  All this is just an opening, the game teasing its way towards the inevitable whilst setting up the basis of the storyline in the process.

With Belmont’s slain wife trapped in limbo, and the earth godless and desperate, the exposition looks likely to play with gothic sensibilities whilst opening up the series to a fair amount of pseudo religious undertones; and the visuals certainly match the atmosphere – the graphics engine at play is capable of switching from dark and dank to light and lush in an instant ensuring that both hardcore Castlevania fans and those fresh to the series find plenty to relate to.

Lords of Shadow is a stunningly beautiful game, too, the fixed camera affording some breathtaking vistas and set pieces but also managing to show off detail and emotion up close.  Textures are sharp and the colour depth in places is staggering, rivaling anything else in the genre.  The cut-scenes that pepper the action show off the graphics the best, as you’d expect, but it’s fair to say that – in places – Castlevania approaches Naughty Dog levels of brilliance.

The controls, familiar to anyone who’s used to quick and heavy attacks, fit nicely with other games of the ilk, with the left trigger used for dodge, the right to grab and (we’re sampling the Xbox 360 version here) B to use secondary weapons, such as Belmont’s daggers.  Experience points, gained in combat, are used to unlock the game’s additional combos and moves, and the starting weapon, a cross, can be upgraded during the game too, along with the usual health boosters.

Despite MercurySteam effectively building Lords of Shadow from the best bits of lots of other games, it still manages to have its own sense of identity, especially with the environments seen so far – it also looks like there’s one hell of a game to get through in terms of size, and with each level offering up a percentage score at the end completists will get the most out it.  With great visuals and familiar controls, those looking for another Kratos-like adventure will be well served here.

We’ll have the full review as soon as possible.

18 Comments

  1. Well the last 3D Castlevania, on the N64, was great :\

    • This is nothing like the N64 game – from what I’ve played of it I agree with Nofi 100%.

    • Aren’t you forgetting Lament of Innocence?

      And go play the demo if you haven’t already, it’ll change your opinion of it by a huge margin.

    • I was only joking. Obviously this is very different

  2. Having played the demo and getting the classing ‘ Devil May Cry ‘ vibe this will probably be a day one purchase for me.

  3. I’m picking this up tomorrow/Thursday. So looking forward to it. I loved the demo. Great read and looking forward to hear your reveiws ;)

  4. I’m not sure that the opening statement is entirely fair, given that they’ve gone 3D before on N64 and PS2, athough i would understand if they wanted to forget those :)
    I played the demo and i was struck at how beautiful it looks but it made me yearn to be able to control the camera and examine the details up close. Still, i enjoyed GoW despite that. I’m not sure about the gameplay yet but i’m going to play the demo again before i decide. I read somewhere that there is still some issues with the fixed camera(like the PS2 game), with some enemies attacking you while being off-screen.

    • Yes, there is, and the sudden camera moves can make some platforming bits tricky, but it’s still quite wonderful.

  5. I’d have liked a HD remake of the first game, this just doesn’t remind me of Castlevania at all, looks more like some game that’s using the brand name….

    • For me, I’ve never played any in the series, so would be stepping in as a newcomer, and it looks delightful.

      • same here and it looks excellent

  6. Seeing both the PS3 and 360 versions side by side clearly showed that the PS3 version has a much higher framerate. The 360 version was struggling to keep up. The PS3 was the lead version and the 360 was a port. Worth remembering if you have both consoles.

  7. i really can’t decide between this and Enslaved. they both look amazing. i think a little spending spree is in order ;)

    • I would go for Enslaved myself, but then I was a bit disappointed with them demo of this. Cant really say why, it looks great and plays well, but just feels like I’ve been here before..

  8. I liked the demo and I liked the price (£25 from Argos) so it pipped Enslaved to the preorder post for me. Although I will probably get Enslaved too at some point when it goes down in price. Ultimately the reviews for Enslaved put me off a little bit, but the reviews for Castlevania have been very positive…

    • 25 quid?

      Well damn you just saved me about a tenner, cheers for that.

  9. I’m glad they’ve reinvigorated this franchise, the original games on the NES were awsome. After playing the demo I may well have to purchase this.

  10. i played the demo and it was awesome, i’ve played all the DMCs and clones alike but this one is different. i’ve noticed the VO is great unlike DMC or the DMC clones. it’s no GOW (not gears) or DMC, it’s Castlevania, through and through. i think i might pick this up once i get my MOH fix for through out October first though lol

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