I’m Playing…Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
When I bought Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the cashier at GameStop warned me that I was buying the worst game ever made and begged me to go back and find another game. Fortunately, I was too lazy to look for another title, and in this situation, laziness saved me from taking terrible advice.
After finishing Assassin’s Creed Revelations, I didn’t want to write a “I’m Playing…” about it, as every game I had written about was negative. I don’t like sounding like a gamer who can’t be pleased. So, I decided to play a game I knew was bad in order to appreciate what is good.
And between 3D Dot Heroes, Duke Nukem Forever and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the latter was the only game I had no experience with. Everyone told me it was awful, but I didn’t know why. If I’m going to play a bad game, I might as well play one that forces me to critically think about what makes it bad.
Unfortunately, I failed miserably at finding a bad game because to my surprise, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has been the best Castlevania game I’ve played since Super Castlevania IV on the Super Nintendo.
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room. The constant criticism of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow from gamers and reviewers was the obvious similarity to God of War’s beat-‘em-up action. And to be frank, it’s true. This is a GoW clone.
But is that a bad thing? It means that players get fluid action and giant, powerful combos. The combat never feels stiff or dull. Throughout the game, thanks to new items and combos, players grow Gabriel Belmont into a terrifying powerhouse of gaming.
And if that name doesn’t sound familiar to old-school Castlevania fans, it’s because this game becomes a prequel to the entire franchise. Why do the Belmonts fight Dracula? Where did the Vampire Killer come from?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow answers all these questions and creates an intriguing mythology to ponder when playing any of the older games.
The game begins with little to no explanation. Gabriel confronts several Lycans in a small village and travels into their territory. By the end of the first chapter, we learn that Gabriel’s wife was murdered by a demon, and the Brotherhood, a religious militia keeping the dark forces at bay, believe that God has been separated from man. Now, Gabriel must steal the Dark Lords’ powers in order to bring the power of Heaven back to earth.
On his way, Gabriel meets a variety of characters, played by powerful voice actors, like Sir Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle and Natascha McElhone. Even if a character only appears for one stage, the production and writing fleshes them out to be believable and exciting.
But this game isn’t tied to the story. Some stages see no talking from Gabriel, relying instead on beautifully designed stages to offer subtle storytelling through various levels of degradation or the scrolls of fallen members of the Brotherhood.
I am a hard critic to video games. I love them, but there is no such thing as the perfect game. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is no exception. There are times when the dialogue sounds stiff, and one chess-like mini game brings the game to a snail’s pace. Not all ideas are explained, and some great characters leave the game as quickly as they came.
However, for those curious about this solid beat-‘em-up, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is easily worth the price of admission and should be given the chance to surprise.