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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a game of conflicting duality

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 08:50 GMT By Dave Cook

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 brings Dracula into the modern age, but has Mercury Steam delivered the solid sequel we hoped for? Find out in Dave Cook’s final PS3 verdict.

Castlevania_Lords_of_Shadow_2

CLoS 2

Castlevania_lords_of_shadow_2

Out this week on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Version tested: PS3

Pros:

- Challenging combat
- Oscar Arajuo’s soundtrack
- Patrick Stewart

Cons:

- Horrendous stealth sections
- Modern day setting is jarring
- Camera can be a problem
- Difficulty spikes galore

The ending of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was one of my defining moments of the last generation. It was an incredibly brave finale that took over 25 years of series lore and spun it entirely off its axis, and I can still recall the feeling of sheer excitement as Gabriel flew threw that cathedral window and into the present day. In an instant the studio had written a big cheque, and none of us were sure if the team could cash it.

I interviewed Konami producer David Cox about the ending back in 2011 for another site, and he told me that Mercury Steam was never guaranteed the chance of a sequel, so it decided to go for something truly mind-bending to go out on. That ending has since become canon, and the studio has been given space to elaborate on its story. While the modern setting is clearly at odds with Castlevania’s medieval backdrops – save for the futuristic Sorrow series – Lords of Shadow 2 isn’t all skyscrapers, cars and technology. Far From it, in fact.

Once you get past the game’s rather epic tutorial – which is essentially the demo released by Konami a few months back – the plot begins in current times with Dracula awakening in the ruins of his castle, which now serve as foundation to a vast British city. He’s old, feeble and still reeling from defeat at the hands of his ancestors in Mirror of Fate. So out into the new age he goes, looking incredibly out of place and bewildered by the tattered empire before him. All he really wants is to die and to be freed from his immortality. His old pal Zobek emerges to cut him a deal: halt Satan’s return and he’ll deliver him to death’s door personally.

castlevania_lords_of_shadow_2_1

Gabriel agrees and sets off to restore his lost power and kill Satan’s four acolytes, who have since become great power-mongers in the business world. The first thing I noticed about the game’s modern day components is just how similar they are to those found in Bayonetta and DmC. The environment is littered with menacing gothic spires, intricate stone archways, peppered with neon signs, parked cars and red phone boxes. You’re in Britain, remember? I like the concept of moving to the present day, but there’s something a little jarring about seeing a shirtless vampire lord whipping beasts on a city high-street. This isn’t ruinous mind you; it just takes a little suspension of disbelief.

It’s not long before you start jumping back between the present and past thanks to a vision of Gabriel’s son Trevor who appears before him as a child. If you prefer your Castlevania games set in the dark ages then you’ll appreciate these moments, which see you fighting a range of nasties in the bowels of Dracula’s castle in search of power-ups and Mirror of Fate shards. The contrast between the castle’s former glory and the metropolis it’s now become is quite stark, and if you’re invested in Gabriel’s sorrow and regret, you’ll likely be taken aback at everything he’s lost. That’s only if you become invested.

And that’s a key point, because Mercury Steam really wants you to feel bad for Gabriel; a man who went on a crusade from god, only to become the antithesis of everything he fought for. He’ll often look mournfully at his crumbled empire, or ruffle Trevor’s hair in a rare display of affection while Oscar Araujo’s genuinely beautiful orchestral score rumbles throughout. You’ll feel for him a little, but then in a heartbeat he’s back to his savage, thoughtless and murderous self, biting the necks of innocent human scientists or thrashing beasts with his whip. He’s a hard character to side with, and maybe that’s intentional, but this could stop you from becoming fully engrossed.

castlevania_lords_of_shadow_2_2

When you’re not watching cut-scenes you’re either climbing around the scenery or battling enemies. Platforming is as you’d expect with plenty of hand-holds and dusty old beams to shimmy along. It’s pretty standard, uninspiring fare that is occasionally let down by the game’s free camera. Your perspective does tend to get tripped up in tight spaces, and this is something I’ll touch on again in combat, but because nearby climbing points are flagged by a screeching swarm of bats, you’ll have little trouble figuring out where you’re supposed to go. There was one quite infuriating puzzle involving chains early on, and a few sections involving swinging cages that felt really clunky, but neither were game-breaking.

Stealth sections do bog the game down significantly, and the first example sees Dracula trying to infiltrate a laboratory protected by hulking demonic guards. Your tool-set allows you disorientate patrolling targets so you can slip by undetected, but while they are screaming and thrashing around, their comrades go about their duties within earshot, entirely oblivious to what’s going on. You can even possess a guard and shuffle your way past locked doors unconvincingly or transform into a pack of rats and scurry through vent shafts without raising alarms. Detection results in near-instant death, making these poorly designed and tiresome sections something of an unfortunate feature.

One stealth encounter in Pan’s garden is hands-down one of the most frustrating sections in a game I’ve played for some time, and it smacks of a poor understanding of the genre. As your enemy tries to track you by smell and sound, you must shimmy along the edge of stone fixtures to avoid standing on dead leaves, while hurling daggers at bells to create distracting sounds. It’s fine on paper, but in practice it’s a nightmare. Your pursuer catches up with you all too fast, and there are sections where you can’t help but trample on the dried-out foliage. I don’t know if this is intentional or simple a mistake of design, but you will die here often and curse the studio for it.

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20 Comments

  1. miles97

    i liked the game but story is real mess at times it doesn’t make sense and that ending disappointed me , combat , lore, soundtrack are good

    #1 1 year ago
  2. YoungZer0

    So many amateurish mistakes by what seems to be a competent developer. I think that’s unforgivable. I thought now, that they are on their own – without Hideo – it would get better. They would choose their own priorities, do their own things. And while it is true that the art-direction seems to have gotten a lot better, the rest doesn’t seem to be.

    Granted, I only played the demo, but that alone showed me the duality you seem to have encountered, Dave. While the combat is challenging and at time ridiculously hard, the climbing parts are not at all.

    Again, I can only speak of the demo, but there was so. much. handholding.

    Camera comes in, camera pans around, camera shows you where you need to go.
    Camera pans around, shows you each part of the things you need to destroy individually.
    Again. And again. And of course, all of it is un-skippable.

    What a waste, seriously disappointing.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @YoungZer0 @2 so many of those moments, camera swoops slowly to mask loading times, showing you where to go, and is unskippable. The game loads often, and the way they hid it is naff, usually a slowly unlocking door.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. miles97

    @Dave Cook those doors its annoying , and pans garden that is pain in the *** though , and story wise certain characters are real friendly who are not in mirror of fate , to me mirror of fate has better story than this game .

    #4 1 year ago
  5. YoungZer0

    @Dave Cook

    Ugh, I remember playing the first one and the game would always pan out to show me a certain area. When I entered a new ice area and I could skip it, I did it immediately, thinking there was nothing interesting to show.

    Suddenly I was in a boss fight with an ice giant.

    Great, really, really great.

    I think they need a better engine, as even Mirrors of Fate had ridiculous loading times and we all know what that game looks like.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Ode

    Hey Dave ,how long are those stealth sections(all together)?

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @Ode Not long, but chances are you’ll die often trying to fudge your way through them. Very annoying.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Ode

    @Dave Cook
    That sucks(pun intended)and reminds me of the awful stealth sections in the DLC for the first one.How long is the game?

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Obernox

    I’m having an absolute blast with the game. The combat and music is really the strong points, my only problem is the force stealth sections, but thankfully they’re very few in between and short. I think LoS2 is going to be yet another underrated gem like Remeber Me, Alice: Madness Returns, Gods Eater Burst, and many more.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Obernox

    I’m also vety grateful Mercury Steam didn’t commit franchise rape like Ninja Theory did with Devil May Cry.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. zoopdeloop

    @Obernox +1
    At least those guys at Mercury Steam know how to make a good combat system adding challenging enemies and a good ammount of inspired boss fights

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @Obernox DmC: Devil May Cry was perfectly fine and had better combat than CLoS 2, by some margin.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Mike W

    @Dave Cook

    Now that you played both (DMC and CLOS 2) which one you believe has the better story? Because DMC was pretty weak.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Armitage Shanks

    Was gonna jump straight into this on hard mode,not sure sure i have the patience to do so now,can you max out your life bar and skills and then replay on hard in new game plus or whatever?

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Michael Ireland

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what exactly is this game game doing that’s making it such a low scorer? It seems to be going over my head,

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Hcw87

    @15

    Horrible setting, horrible stealth scenes that have no place in a hack ‘n slash game, boring enemies. That’s what i gathered from reading IGN/Eurogamer.

    It’ll be a Steam-sale buy for me in a few months.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. Mike W

    @Michael Ireland

    I’m trying to figured that out myself. From what I gathered is that it improved on everything that was wrong with the first game.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. Mike W

    @Hcw87

    Why won’t you be judge of the game instead going off other people’s opinion. :D

    #18 1 year ago
  19. Hcw87

    @18

    When pretty much every review has something this negative to say (and the metacritic is so low) i won’t pay full price for it. It’s not that high on my wish-list atm.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Mike W

    @Hcw87

    So you purchase your games based off other people’s opinions and the score it has on Metacritic?

    #20 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    If Elite: Dangerous looks this good on Xbox One we have nothing to complain about. Microsoft revealed Elite: Dangerous is coming to Xbox One this year during its GDC presentations today. We don’t know very much about the port, but I suppose we ought to have expected it; Frontier Developments has a very close relationship […]

  • Battletoads to appear in Shovel Knight Xbox One

    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]

  • Nvidia unveils Titan X as world’s “most advanced GPU” – video

    Nvidia revealed Titan X as “the world’s most advanced GPU” during Epic founder Tim Sweeney’s State of Unreal session a t GDC 2015 today. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage during the panel stating it contains “8 billion transistors,” and has 12GB of RAM. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it was rumored back in January […]

  • Steam sale discounts titles announced for SteamOS

    With many of the year’s most popular games heading to SteamOS, Valve has decided to host sale in celebration. Here’s a short list of titles on sale. The full list of PC, Linux, Mac and SteamOS discounts can be found through the link. The Banner Saga Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Batman: Arkham […]

  • PayDay 2 announced for SteamOS, celebrating with franchise sale

    PayDay 2 is coming to SteamOS, Overkill has announced. Still under development, a release date will be announced at a later date. “Making sure PAYDAY 2 is available on SteamOS felt like a no-brainer,” said Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze in the press release. “With PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition coming to the next generation […]

  • Magicka 2 has a release date and a crazy new trailer

    Magicka 2 has a release date for PC and the PlayStation 4, and Paradox Interactive has released a trailer featuring “Vlad’s latest lyrical triumph,” which is his rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Magicka arrived on PC and PS4 May 26 and the game can be pre-ordered on PC beginning today, with PS4 pre-orders […]

  • Nintendo eShop schedule: Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone, others

    Nintendo has sent over a list of titles heading to the eShop in 2015. The schedule contains titles such as Affordable Space Adventures, Runbow, Swords & Soldiers 2, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Below a preliminary list of games scheduled to launch in the Nintendo eShop on […]

  • Week 8: Can you win the weekly VG247 GTA Online playlist? Play tonight at 8pm UK time!

    We’re hotdogging tonight. I don’t even know what that means. Eight weeks of ridiculous death. Such a brave, true milestone. We’re going to celebrate two entire months of playing weekly GTA Online playlists with VG247 readers with Hotdogging, a set of six jobs I named completely at random. This one ends with a straight-up border […]

  • Puzzle platformer Four Sided Fantasy coming to PC, consoles in early 2016

    Curve Digital and developer Logan Fieth’s studio Ludo Land are bringing puzzle platformer, Four Sided Fantasy, to PC all major consoles in early 2016. Ludo Land are developing the PC version, with Curve Digital handling the console and Vita versions. Four Sided Fantasy tasks players with venturing across “dreamlike levels” by controlling and manipulating the […]

  • Tropico 5 arrives on PS4 in April – video

    A release date for Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4 has been announced. This is the franchise’s first foray onto PlayStation consoles. It arrived in Europe on April 24 and in North America on April 28. A Limited Edition has also been announced, and it includes The Big Cheese DLC and the Bayo Del Olfato sandbox […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Limited Edition PS4 releasing in Asia

    A limited edition Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain PlayStation 4 system will be released in Asia. The system and its DualShock controller were designed in collaboration with Konami Digital Entertainment and targeted for the Asia region, per Gematsu. It will be released as part of PS4 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain […]

  • This video shows Sid Meier’s Starships being played on iPad

    Sid Meier’s Starships will be released on iPad alongside Mac and PC, and to give you an idea on how it plays on the tablet, a new video has been released. Watch below as Pete Murray and lead producer Stuart Zissu show off the iPad version. The 4X space-strategy releases on March 12.

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood announced as standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a standalone prequel to The New Order, will release May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game takes pace in 1946, and and players take on the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he embarks on a two-part mission in Bavaria. Part one, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, […]

  • Observer Mode coming soon to Evolve as a free update

    Observer Mode will be released for Evolve as a free update for all platforms, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced. The community feature was designed to give Evolve players the ability to observe and add commentary as well as livestream, allowing a sixth user to “passively enter a custom game” with the ability to switch […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes and PS4 top Media Create charts in Japan

    The PlayStation 3 and PS4 skus for Dragon Quest Heroes were the top sellers on the Media Create charts in Japan, moving a combined 594,749 units. Elsewhere on the chart, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was in third place with 39,751 units moved, and last week’s top seller, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, […]

  • Watch Hideo Kojima answer lots of your burning Phantom Pain questions

    What’s better than learning the official release date of MGS5: The Phantom pain? Hideo Kojima talking more about it, of course! Hideo Kojima has decided to answer a few fan questions about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, to help boost everyone’s hype to insane levels. He talks about the game’s story, his relief […]

  • MGS5: The Phantom Pain Day 1 and Collector’s Edition revealed

    Konami has officially revealed the release date of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain alongside the game’s Day 1 and Collector’s Edition. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will release September 1, worldwide, as previously leaked. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The PC Steam […]

  • EU Club Nintendo: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack back in stock

    Club Nintendo members in Europe can once again pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. For 3000 Stars, members of the program will receive the double-CD soundtrack which features 89 tracks with liner notes from Ryo Nagamatsu and 12 sheet music excerpts. It also comes with 16 Milk Bar Musician pieces. […]

  • HTC apologises over “confusing” Half-Life VR comments

    HTC has misspoke when it talked about Half-Life coming to VR headset Vive. HTC chairwoman Cher Wang has apologised over the comments she made yesterday about the possibility of Half-Life coming to Vive, the VR headset it’s manufacturing with the help of Valve. Sources close to Valve, have indicated to the BBC that the developer […]

  • What do Heists and Daily Objectives tell us about the future of GTA Online?

    Daily Objectives could be more important to GTA Online than Heists. These theories and more, from a giddy Matt Martin. Yesterday Rockstar dropped a bombshell. Not only is it releasing Heists next week – the mythical 4-player missions for GTA Online – but it’s also going to be introducing daily challenges and more modes to […]

  • Breaking down Hardline Premium, is it worth it?

    Having been announced just a few days ago, the Premium service for Battlefield Hardline has been a topic of constant debate among the Battlefield community. Many look at Hardline as a Battlefield off-shoot that will just tide everyone over until Battlefront comes out in the fall. EA has other plans however, announcing a $50 Premium […]